What Kind Of Gear Head Are You?

Are there different kinds of photo gear junkies? Sure. I myself am a type "R" gear head. What's that? Well I have a bunch of classifications, you can make your own notations up for your own observations. Without going thru the list of all the types and designations I've observed I'll just focus on my own type. Type "R" is pretty simple but very difficult to satisfy. The type "R" doesn't actually give two shits about much in terms of specs, feature lists, and 42,000 differing options. In fact, the type "R" like me would much rather as simple as possible. There is one catch… The type "R" does want to love whatever gear is in use. Not just love one thing but holistically love everything with almost no exceptions. Definitely the type "R" just cannot put up with anything that is a constant and continuous annoyance of any kind.

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Here's the rub; while there is a ton of gear, be it cameras, lenses, lights, stands, lighting modifiers, whatever that I do actually love and have no constant irritating features in certain contexts there's almost no gear I have where that's true in every use context. There never has been. I've stopped looking or even believing this more than 2 decades ago. I think you should to. Oh, one more thing, the type "R" is brand agnostic. Doesn't matter who makes it, it only matters that in use there is actually love. Why not love the physical objects you spend an immense amount of time with? In fact "better-ness" between any given gear is measured only by love not by versatility, etc, etc.

Enter Fuji X Series Cameras

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I started this blog mostly to document one particular set of personal projects that I decided to experiment with using the Fuji X Cameras. I loved my X100 cameras but found the XPro-1 unusable in many ways. After many online photo buddies kept trying to convince me I would like the XT-1 I decided to give EVF based cameras another whirl. Shooting with that camera proved to me I could use an EVF and not throw my timing completely off as I experienced in the past but… I just didn't love EVF's. I did love so much about the XT-1 though.

I ended up with the XPro-2 as my main X series body. Why? mostly I like the optical viewfinder. I may also prefer the overall handling as well in terms of button and control placement. Turns out while I can live with an EVF I really don't love EVF's I love optical viewfinders. I don't mean that I only love optical viewfinders in the obvious case where EVF's just plain suck but overall in every situation I just like them better. Exposure "preview" does absolutely nothing for me.

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I do love the size of the Fuji X System in general. I think it hits a particular sweet spot that's not well done by any other vendor. Honestly I think the Sony mirrorless cameras are just stupid unless you stick to the few small primes available. As soon as you put full-frame sensors together with just about any super high IQ zoom or even wide aperture super IQ prime the size of the body is a nit and makes zero difference in overall size. In fact I hate the handling of the A7 series overall but I hate it even more with any larger lens. I kinda thing the X cameras with the large 2.8 zooms is approaching stupid too but that's me. At least it's smaller than the A7's with anything comparable.

I Am Not A Fuji Shooter For Everything.

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Actually far from it. I have a lot of projects. I do a lot of differing types of photographic work. Truth be told, I probably have more frames shot per year that are not Fuji. All of the screenshots included here are actually shot with, OMG… One of those obsolete, DSLR things that nobody in their right mind would use now. Feel free to download the full-sized screen shots if you'd like to ogle all the pixels at 100%.

The impetus for this post was a reader who emailed me asking my opinion on what camera he/she should buy now that an upgrade is long over due (for this person I agree). That person was absolutely shocked when I recommended a Nikon D500 for what they said was the intended use or uses. In fact his/her email was prompted by borrowing a friends Canon 5DsR for the weekend with a few hunks of primo glass. He/she was so enamored that they wanted me to walk him/her back from the cliff of just buying the exact same rig. My reaction was not what they expected considering I make extensive use of that particular camera.

The fact of the matter is that I love that camera and I love the collection of lenses I use with it. I love everything about it. The only think I don't like about it is when I happen to be more of a fly-on-the-wall, journalistic, up-close and personal kind of shooter and I want all the gear to just disappear. This is especially true when working with people not used to being in front of the camera. Oh, and I hate traveling with it if I am going to bring along more than one or two fast primes. It's huge, in fact the one lens I just love shown in the screenshots is idiotically large and heavy let alone four lenses of the same size.

When Don't I Love My X Series Cameras?

Even with the OVF of the XPro-2 there are many, many cases where I just don't love them. I despise using them with strobes. First off they really don't offer me much. Once you've got lights and stands and reflectors and flash pops the small camera, small lens disappearing and getting out of the way really doesn't count for anything. Truth is I love the sound of my XPro-2 but the sound of the 5DsR is also delicious and not really any louder, or harsher. That's not the hate part though. After many many many iterations the Fuji cameras are downright frustrating when used in dark conditions. Worse, in many cases they don't focus accurately. they tend to focus on anything that is brighter in the background in a ton of typical studio/strobe conditions.

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What's worse is they actually give you a green confirmation that everything is okay. No shit, if you've not experienced this even using the EVF with the green tiny square on the subject you've really not done a lot of strobe shooting in typical dark/modeling light low ambient conditions.

The other case where I hate them is when I need super fine detail. Do I give a shit about super fine detail in many cases — no. When I do the combination of amount of pixels and the x-trans thing is just not great. IQ is a tricky beast as there's a million "quality" factors, the most important being how good does the picture look. The caveat is if you measure IQ in just one dimension of fine detail and resolution the 5DsR with almost any useable glass let alone primo glass will blow any X-series option so far out of the water it's sad.

Last but not least, if I need to tether when shooting Fuji's just suck. Yes, I know they just release an update that allows the XPro-2 to tether at all but all of the cameras just blow when tethered. Especially if you want to use anything bug Lightroom (which I use a lot in situations/jobs where I shoot tethered). Ps. Nikon blows tethered to, just for a different reason.

In a nutshell I am pretty much where I was with film cameras 25 years ago or more. A very Leica-like OVF rangefinder viewing for certain work. An SLR reflex of some sort (typically Hasselblad for most things, and 35mm for anything over medium tele) for other stuff. I'm happy with that. If you want to love the gear you are using but have very different shooting conditions/circumstances/goals it's probably a fool's errand to try to fit all of those diverse conditions/uses into one solution. Sure, it can be done. I do it but not when I know what I'll be doing with a camera on any given occasion. I have a long tele-zoom for my XPro-2, does that mean I want to use that camera for typical long lens shooting? No.

End Notes

All images/screenshots made with a Canon 5DsR and Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4. Processing: Zilch, SOOC Adobe Lightroom import with no sharpening or adjustments. Lighting via Profoto B2, umbrella deep Silver L. Note shooting at f/4 for detail as show is just foolish as there's really no depth of field at all but it is fun to geek out with. This was a stupid test of mine to see if I could manually focus after half a bottle of Jack Daniels sometime after midnight on a Saturday night. I did make a couple actually good pictures after this at like 2am but used AF and a zoom. I'll post some later.