This is a detailed personal history of how I got started, where I came from, and why mirrorless cameras have been a perfect fit for me: the cameras I had been waiting for. I am a very technical and precise person, but this is not a technical review. These cameras have been out for years and there are much better places to read reviews and I've never been into test photos of wine bottles and newspapers. I wanted to write something initially because using these cameras was revolutionary for me, but I also wanted to let the beer goggles dissipate and write logically and dispassionately about the experience so those considering mirrorless systems could get a realistic understanding of what to expect without all the usual superlatives that come from excitement, and also to spare readers the agony of run on sentences like the one you are enduring now.
To back up a little, I am an experienced wedding and portrait photographer, my sole source of income for 19 years, beginning with my first wedding in April of 1999. Since then, I have photographed over 600 weddings myself, in locations all over the world, including India, Thailand, Bali, Hong Kong, Mexico, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, etc. I have been recognized with various awards, including 4 winning images in PDN's Top Knots wedding contest (2004, 2005 and now 2016), 2007 and 2008 The Knot Best of Weddings, appearing on the Grace Ormonde Wedding Style Platinum List, a member of Junebug weddings, Fearless Photographers and The Grey Collective. I received Couples Choice award from Wedding Wire four years in a row (2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018), and have been quoted in Martha Stewart Weddings. I have been interviewed by Shutterstock, Junebug Weddings, InMyBag.net, Martha Stewart Weddings, MirrorLessons, X100 Collective, Minnesota Bride, Seattle Bride, and Wisconsin Bride. I have been a member of the WPJA for years.
My first job (as a dishwasher at a local restaurant) at the age of 14 allowed me to save up and buy my first camera in 1982, the Minolta X-700 with a 50mm f1.7 lens. Two years later, switching from heavy automation to full manual, I became a Nikon user because I loved the ergonomics of their camera bodies all the way back to my first Nikon, an FM2 with a 50mm f1.4 lens, which was completely mechanical and all manual, and taught me how to meter and read light without automation. Ergonomics, reasonably light weight and manual control are major factors in why mirrorless cameras would be such an easy choice for me, but I'm getting ahead of myself. I loved that Nikon's AF system allowed the use of their enormous line of wonderful AI and AI-S lenses, which were not only solidly built, but had physical aperture rings vs the tiny thumb dial on Canon's EOS bodies. The Nikon F4 had a real shutter speed dial and lenses with an aperture ring: Canon's comparable EOS-1 series was layers of menus and no physical knobs and contained a lot of plastic.
A few years after getting my first real camera in 1982 and attending the Minneapolis College Of Art And Design beginning in 1986, I started working at ProColor, the largest professional photo lab in Minneapolis. It was a very exciting time. We would regularly take in film and print orders from local professionals and national photographers like Art Wolfe and Jim Brandenburg. For 8 hours a day, I would see the work of professionals shooting architecture, portraits, landscapes, weddings, corporate work, magazines, personal portfolios, etc. At the time, Kodachrome labs were getting scarce and Fuji Velvia was king, so we also made a lot of Cibachrome prints directly from slides. Interacting with these photographers is what planted the seed that shooting professionally might be possible, but I was young and still full of doubt. I started shooting a direct positive B&W film called Polapan, made by Polaroid. It was gorgeous tonality, but the emulsion was so fragile that the film had to be put in glass mounted slides after processing.
The first photographers to *really* pull me in were Henri Cartier-Bresson and Ralph Gibson, both of which I discovered around age 17 through books. Seeing Cartier-Bresson's mastery of timing multiple elements and Gibson's brilliant, contrasty subtractive and geometric compositions deeply excited me for the possibilities of the medium, and seemed absolutely magical compared to the relatively pedestrian work covered in most high school and college classes about photography. Art education often focuses on landscape masters more than photojournalism. I appreciated Ansel Adams compositions and tonality, but images with people in them reached a much deeper level to me.
In my teen years, my initial photographs were aimless and uninspired, but the process was such a beautiful mystery to me that I stuck with it until I found inspirational subject matter. I became the photographer for my high school newspaper and yearbook, which was my first real exposure to darkroom printing and film development, something I love immensely. Shortly after that (late 1980s), I photographed a mix of portraits and model head shots with an 85mm lens, and conversely, a lot of B&W infrared landscapes with a 24mm f2.8 Nikon lens and my trusty FM2. I fell into weddings somewhat accidentally, shooting my first in 1999 for a couple after they liked the portraits I did for them. I began my wedding career with the Nikon F5 and F100 cameras, and things really picked up quickly. Soon, I had more work than I wanted and was always shooting, editing images or meeting clients.
After discovering Cartier-Bresson and Ralph Gibson, I decided to give the 50mm a try. Like many, I incorrectly assumed that a "normal" lens could only yield "normal," mundane photographs, thinking I had to exaggerate reality optically in order to make the world look like I wanted. The things about the lens that initially held me off were the same reasons it has become my favorite focal length. It doesn't distort or impart excessive compression. It can do everything from landscapes to still lifes and it works perfectly for portraits. I can and have done entire weddings with nothing more than a 50mm lens. With prime lenses, especially working with one lens, you learn to see exactly what the lens will see even before the camera is at your eye, which is one of the keys of getting the results you want: previsualization.
Once my love affair with the 50mm began, I wanted the best one. At the time, that was the Leica 50mm Summicron. I bought a used Leica M6 and a 50mm Summicron in the year 2000, and the rangefinder way of seeing the world was very energizing to me. I was creating images that resonated deeply with me, and the idea to use nothing but Leicas at weddings was very appealing. For one thing, I would be traveling very lightly compared to the lead weight and shoulder-crushing Nikon F5 SLRs I had been using for weddings, but I would also have the benefit what was then the quietest cameras on Earth, crucial for discretion, being both silent and invisible. (Desiring these attributes eventually would later make mirrorless bodies and lenses so appealing).
Using the Leicas, particularly the all mechanical/meterless/battery-free legend, the M3, taught me how to meter light in my head. I used to always bring a handheld meter, (my trusty Minolta Autometer IV), but quickly realized that there are only a few kinds of light and relatively few settings on the cameras, particularly when the top shutter speed is only 1/1000th. Weddings with the Leicas went beautifully. I shot less because they slowed me down. Focusing manually and setting exposure for every frame, I was deeply invested in each image and was driven by pushing the boundaries of my usual compositions. When you only get 36-37 frames before you have to reload, you learn to choose your moments carefully. One could easily get the impression from reading current articles about photography that AF speed and fast motor drives are all that matter with modern cameras. You don't get better photographs from speeding up; they actually get worse because you are thinking about them less while you shoot.
"Photographers shoot too much. Even a blind chicken can find grain." - Henri Cartier-Bresson
I *never* thought I'd be shooting digitally. I was a hardcore film shooter. I knew it. I loved it. With so many people embracing digital capture, film was part of my identity and my "brand." Film, developing and printing in the darkroom were the magic that got me hooked on photography in the first place. I got my first darkroom experience at age 16 at my high school when I was the yearbook photographer, and took various college photography courses just so I could use the school's darkroom on weekends. I had a studio in downtown Seattle (in the Globe Building in Pioneer Square right next to Elliott Bay Books) with a nice shooting space. The walls were adorned with 15 20x30 B&W fiber prints that I made myself in my friend Daniel's basement darkroom. In 2004, I was a member of a website run by Jose Villa of wedding photographers who were all film based. Apple contacted me to feature me about how I used Aperture and how digital photography was changing photography. I declined, saying I didn't shoot digitally. Turning down what would have been great publicity was probably a dumb move, but I wanted to be known for my film work.
In 2003, I took a week long workshop in Vancouver with my greatest inspiration, Ralph Gibson. I was nervous to show him my portfolio, but received high praise and some very specific observations about patterns I didn't even know I was doing consistently. He also taught me to look at images, specifically my own, for over a minute rather than the cursory glance that I was used to doing, thinking I had "seen" something. When you really look at your own work for a long period, both the successes and failures are revealed. You can see how you could have improved by moving in, moving back, changing your angle or waiting for better light. Ralph was an entertaining speaker, full of great stories and quotes. His father assisted Alfred Hitchcock in Los Angeles in the 1930s. One of Ralph's quotes was "Photography is one of the few professions where you learn more from failure than you do from success." Every day we had lecture time, then we'd shoot in specific settings, get our film developed, and the next morning Ralph would review our work and offer critiques. He noticed that I like my images lit from the side and the back, and often had strong diagonal lines, especially in my vertical compositions. This trend has continued to this day! Ralph also mentioned that he'd he buying film even if he had to buy it from the back of a hippie's van. I felt the same way at the time, too, based on everything I'd seen from digital. That would eventually change for both of us, but again, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Around 2004-2005, digital was becoming more ubiquitous and my favorite films were starting to disappear. In particular, shooting low light in color meant Fujifilm Press 1600, which was extremely grainy and had very bland, desaturated color, or using Kodak Portra 800 or Fuji NPZ 800. Both could be pushed to 1600, but the results were often too contrasty, skin tones would shift red and the color would get milky in low light, particularly in the shadows. I preferred working in natural light and shooting with fast primes. The idea of shooting digital was planted because of issues shooting in low light receptions, where the light is tricky (I coined the term "lightmare" for the conditions) and the number of shots that don't make the final cut is higher, particularly when photographing a couple dancing, moving quickly in very challenging light conditions. I had an investment in several Leica lenses (the 35mm f2 Summicron, 50mm f2 Summicron and 90mm f2 Summicron), so when Epson came out with a camera called the RD-1, a Cosina-built rangefinder with a Leica M mount, I was very excited to try it out. It had an all metal body and beautiful analog gauges on the top plate like the Nikon 28Ti. Unfortunately, quality was poor, especially at ISOs above 800 (the whole point in the first place), and quality was so bad that after the third warranty fix I gave up on it entirely and after trying various cameras (including the original EOS-1D and 5D), I ended up with the Nikon D2x and the D300. They were fast, solid cameras, but I never loved the results from digital. The highlights were easily cooked and the shadows were blocked up and noisy. The transitions from shadow to highlight were frequently unnatural and harsh. Bright sunlight was a problem. In short, not good for weddings.
I became a hybrid film/digital shooter about 2005, occasionally going back to all film for certain clients who requested film, but never shooting entirely digitally. I didn't believe in it and I couldn't get the images to look like the film I had been in love with. Getting the digital images to match film was nearly impossible, at least 11 years ago, so I shot B&W film and did my color digitally. I never loved digital: I tolerated it.
Fast forward to December of 2012. My ancient Nikon bodies needed replacement and I was thinking about getting a used D700. Around that time, I had been reading about Fujifilm's new X-Pro1 in various online reviews and was intrigued. I was already smitten with the look of the original X100 and it's hybrid OVF/EVF, and this looked like an improvement on that with interchangeable lenses, plus it was the same size as my beloved Leicas and worked the same way, with real shutter speed dial and aperture rings on the lenses. As a Christmas gift to myself, I bought the X-Pro1 body and 35mm f1.4 online without even trying them out. When it arrived, I loved the look of the camera, but it struggled to focus in low light. Even though the X-Pro1 with firmware 1.00 had pretty sluggish AF, it felt like the digital version of the Leicas that I had always wanted, but had the benefit of 49 AF points that covered nearly the entire frame. It was a fraction of the cost of what an equivalent Leica M9 system would cost. I sold all of my Nikon gear and quickly found used versions of the 18mm and 60mm lenses and I was set. I had about a month to practice using them before I brought them to a wedding. I bought a total of 3 X-Pro1 bodies so I could have the 18, 35 and 60 always at the ready. One on each shoulder, and one on my neck, as I had always done with 3 Leicas or 3 SLRs.
At this time, there was some regular frustration getting the AF on the X-Pro1 to work reliably in low light, especially with the 60mm f2.4. It was a tack sharp portrait lens, but the AF was glacial to the point of being nearly useless. It would slowly rock all the way out to minimum focus, then try to determine focus on it's way to infinity, a process fortunately disguised by the long lens hood. I was used to manual focus with the Leicas, so this was not insurmountable. I would manually focus as needed, and the results were worth the occasional profanity from missed focus. Fuji had wisely removed the anti-aliasing filter found on everyone else's cameras, and replaced the standard Bayer color pattern with a new, proprietary design of their own. To my eye, the results were much more vivid colors, especially when using Lightroom to correct intentional underexposure. Out of camera JPEGs were stunning as per their reputation, but I always photographed in RAW to have greater control over the final result and quality, and still found straight digital files to be far too clean for my taste. The Fuji JPEGs are also prone to a waxy skin look that appears to be from some sort of noise reduction in conjunction with their "X-Trans" sensor (a proprietary 36x36 color pattern on top of a Sony sensor) rather than the Bayer color pattern that is universal in everyone else's cameras and now some of the Fujifilm cameras. Once I discovered how to match my film work via Lightroom, the circle was complete. My favorite B&W films are sadly discontinued, but they live on through the beautiful replication of Fuji Neopan 400 and Neopan 1600. Looking at all of those negatives at film scans for over a decade paid off: I knew how to make RAW files look like my favorite films using replications as a starting point. Now my portfolio is a mix of film and digital and no one can ever tell which is which. All that matters is the final result.
The cameras had the fast, intuitive controls exactly like the Leica film cameras I had used forever, they delivered dynamic range that was virtually identical to film, and as an added bonus, my entire kit of 3 bodies and 3 lenses and backup batteries weighed about the same as a Nikon D2X and a 24-70 f2.8 zoom. (Article continues below)
With the passing months, I was getting more and more connected to these cameras. It felt like getting back to basics and enjoying the work even more. I was doing my best work in years and I was coming home from 9 hour weddings without a backache and shoulder pain. Like the manual focus Leicas, they slowed me down. It sounds counter-intuitive, but taking your time to get each shot right rather than the "spray and pray" machine gunning that DSLRs encourage not only yields better results, but spares the photographer from HOURS of sorting through images in Lightroom that will never make the final cut. Fine tuning your eye is a lot more useful and efficient than spending time in post production.
I've always preferred to work alone. It's not only easier for me to be where I want to be without having to navigate another person, but it's also important to my style of being invisible. Another photographer means *another* person in the room at some very quiet moments, as well as another style of photography that may not necessarily mesh with the main photographer's style. For couples who are camera shy, having too many people in the room keeps them from being comfortable in front of the camera. Fortunately, the mirrorless cameras and lenses are much lighter, which means I can carry everything in my Ona messenger bag without an assistant.
Fujifilm also impressed me with something else unexpected: they regularly update their cameras with new firmware, improving AF speed and adding features based on feedback from real photographers. This was unheard of. As my bond with the cameras continued to deepen, the cameras actually got better. With a seemingly unending R&D department, they were coming out with new models and new lenses. The 14mm f2.8, 23mm f1.4 and 56mm f1.2 were even better than the first 3 lenses, and are the 3 lenses I use most now. I also have the various lens adapters, which allows me to use all of the Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander M mount lenses with mirrorless bodies. More about this in a future blog post... (Article continues below)
Fujifilm has also done something I wish Leica had done with it's M bodies: allowed the photographer to change magnification with a single lever. If you have an X-Pro1, the front lever to the right of the lens switches between EVF and OVF, but if you hold the lever down a little longer while in OVF mode, you'll see (and hear) the magnification change, which allows for greater flexibility should you want more or less area around your shooting frame, or if you have glasses. In the Leica line, you have to buy different bodies if you want multiple magnifications, or buy their $200 diopter. They sell 0.58, 0.72 and 0.85 magnifications on their rangefinder bodies. The higher the magnification, the greater the accuracy in focusing the rangefinder. (The M3 was the highest at 0.91, and the only one of their bodies to feature that magnification, making it ideal for the 50 and 90mm lenses).
The cameras are so quiet that you can't hear the shutter at all. As a photographer who earns his living primarily with weddings, silence is golden.
(A link to an article on X100C.com where Fujifilm X-Photography Vincent Opoku and I discuss using the X100S for weddings is here)
I am confident using mirrorless cameras for every job. I have now used them for over 3 years with weddings, portraits, live music performances, commercial work and magazines. They are beautiful cameras, so in addition to getting the results I want, they are conversation starters, keeping the client comfortable and curious. It sounds vain to want a camera to be beautiful, but when that beauty is in conjunction with simple, intuitive controls and a well-thought out menu system from a company that actually listens to photographers for product updates, it means you will form an even deeper bond with the camera.
Mirrorless cameras have electronic viewfinders, usually referred to as EVFs, as you don't have a mirror that allows you to look through the lens. The EVF shows you, still through the lens, exactly what you'll get, represented electronically. I set my EVFs to high contrast B&W. I prefer shooting everything in B&W because it provides a layer of abstraction that makes composition so much more instinctive, and since I prefer B&W anyway, I already know what the image will look like without having to look at the back of the screen. You can't do this with a DSLR, and I couldn't do it with film. You even see the depth of field exactly as it will be. Once you get used to the EVF on any mirrorless camera, you can't go back to optical.
Of course, not everything is perfect. Autofocus performance is a common concern for those switching systems, and has been the most discussed issue regarding Fujifilm bodies. For photographers accustomed to DSLRs, there will definitely be a period of acclimation getting used to the controls and how to make the AF work for you, particularly with the X-Pro1. The used camera market is saturated with people who gave up quickly on a variety of promising tools, so you can likely get one these days for about $400 USD. The X-Pro1 uses CDAF, which is contrast detection autofocus. While it is slower than PDAF (phase detection autofocus), it is more accurate and doesn't require calibration. All of the latest Fujifilm bodies use a hybrid of CDAF and PDAF to increase AF speed. The X-Pro1, X-E1, X-M1 and X-A1 use exclusively the CDAF system. The X-Pro1 taught me how to look for a contrast point in the scene to get my chosen point of focus while still maintaining the desired composition. A major revelation was finding that this system works best looking for vertical lines/contrast with horizontal compositions, and horizontal lines of contrast when shooting vertically. I stumbled across this by accident: I was photographing a couple dancing in very low light with a tight horizontal composition and the AF was taking a long time to lock. I decided to do some vertical frames and suddenly the AF was locking on consistently through several consecutive frames. I was focusing on a horizontal line in the back of the bride's dress and the AF reliably found it repeatedly. The takeaway from this is that the AF works reliably in most light levels, but does demand that you understand how it works to get the best results. The first couple weddings were a lot more challenging, especially with the original firmware. Subsequent firmware updates and learning through experience allow me to get exactly what I want without even thinking about it. I lose more shots to the slow wake up from sleep mode than I do from AF, so it's actually faster to turn it off and turn it back on as needed rather than let it fall asleep...
If I have one complaint, it's that the platform lacks a consistent interface from body to body. Because Fujifilm regularly responds to the wishes of their users, the buttons on the back keep changing from model to model. After three years of using three X-Pro1 bodies, I'm *still* occasionally pushing the wrong buttons when I use the X100S. Once I have used the X100S for several days in a row, I'll get hung up on the X-Pro1. It's relatively minor stuff, but muscle memory is key to switching back and forth between different bodies. I guess I have two complaints, because battery life is another behavior that one has to work around. I have 4 batteries for my X100s and 7 batteries for my X-Pro1 bodies. If you use the EVF and review your work regularly, you will get about 300 frames per battery. If you turn off image review, you can get up to 450 frames per battery. When it gets cold, as it does here in Minneapolis in the winter, battery life can drop to about half of that. I guess I have three complaints in that sometimes Fujifilm skin tones can be a little wooden/waxy because of the X-Trans color overlay and the noise reduction in the files that cannot be removed or even lowered.
Fuji is also completing it's lens lineup with several lenses that fill the few remaining holes in the system. Of these, the three I am most interested in are the 16mm f1.4, the compact 35mm f2, and the 90mm f2, all of which have weather sealing. I just got the 90mm f2 and it's wonderful for portraits and for weddings where you need the extra reach. While the X100s and X-Pro1 are not weather sealed, I have shot in freezing rain, subzero temperatures and been soaked by freezing water from Lake Michigan in Chicago and can confirm that the cameras continued to function perfectly. I keep thinking I'll replace the 14mm with the 16mm f1.4 because I would love a fast prime that wide, but then I find a use for my 14mm because it is great in tight spaces and is essentially free of optical distortion.
On the topic of longevity, they have all served me reliably for years and without incident. My cameras and lenses clank together repeatedly from hanging around my neck and shoulders and getting tossed in my messenger bag. I take good care of my gear, but even when they are beautiful, cameras are tools and I would rather see something used for its intended purpose (creating images) and develop some character and patina rather than sit pristine on a shelf like a museum piece. Nothing has ever broken and the paint is durable and wears nicely. I think they look even better with some miles on them...
Fujifilm's most popular body is now the X-T1, which also has it's fastest AF. It was designed to evoke the look of Fujica SLR bodies from the 1970s, especially the Fujica ST-801. With the advent of the popular X-T1 and now the less expensive XT-10, you can get the X-Pro1 bodies for about 1/2 of the $1699 list price from 2012. My hopes for the future with Fujifilm include the forthcoming X-Pro2 to have the OVF that is available on the X-Pro1 and X100/X100S/X100T. Shooting with the OVF allows the photographer to see outside of the frame before the shot, like a conventional rangefinder. I would also like to see the X-Pro2 come out in silver with silver lenses. Photographs leaked of the forthcoming 35mm f2 lens show it in both silver and black, so perhaps this will be in conjunction with a silver X-Pro2 body. I'd like better battery life out of future cameras. I'd like all of the new lenses to have the wonderful push/pull manual focus ring like on the 14mm f2.8 and 23mm f1.4. I was disappointed that the 56mm f1.2 didn't include this feature, although the lens is so good that all is forgiven. For someone used to manually focusing lenses from every other manufacturer, the infinite spin without stops of the other lenses feels unusual. The 14, 16 and 23 have a very nice focusing ring that includes a focusing scale and the movement of the ring is buttery smooth. ALL future Fujifilm prime lenses should have this feature. Now that droves of professionals have ditched their giant DSLR kits for the Fujifilm X-Series, Fujifilm needs a professional repair and loaner service like Nikon's NPS and Canon's CPS. This service could provide reduced rate repair and maintenance, 3-day turnaround, and loaners of new equipment, as well as feedback on existing equipment.
One of the things about photography that is changing are the expectations for the cameras. New models are now expected every two years and the list of features demanded is astronomical. Automation is demanded, but so are full manual controls, and that every camera should be functional for every conceivable use. Fujifilm is making cameras that are fun to use, meet any professional demand, and have quality that rivals (and in some cases, exceeds) full-frame sensors. My hope is that Fujifilm will continue to support it's loyal base and focus on the design details, functionality and image quality that make the system so appealing in the first place. No camera company can appeal to all users, and it appears that Fujifilm is recognizing this by focusing on the higher-end market with the X-T1 and forthcoming X-Pro2, as well as a batch of new, weather-sealed fast prime lenses. Just as no one would can do everything in one pair of shoes (or want to run a marathon in wooden clogs or sandals), one needs to remember that cameras all have their strengths and weaknesses and no tool will be suitable for every job. With their XT-10 and 4.00 firmware updates to the X-T1, Fujifilm might have the AF functionality to really start taking DSLR users from the Canon and Nikon, especially those shooting action or sports. (Article continues below)
As far as accessories, I keep it simple. I use a simple leather strap that I found online because I don't care for the stock nylon strap (it's far too slippery on my shoulder) and also like the way brown leather compliments the camera. It starts fairly firm and softens up nicely with use. You can accelerate this process by crunching up the strap with your hands.
Fujifilm has come out with newer and faster models. The X-T1 is getting all the attention and the X100T is even more spectacular than the X100S. But for now I'm sticking with these old friends because I know exactly how to get what I want from them, and that's all you could ask for in a camera system.
There are a lot of rumors about what features the forthcoming X-Pro2 will have, and they'll probably be reliable as we know it will at least go beyond what is already available on the X-T1. Other than everything that is expected like a 24MP sensor and faster AF, I'd like to see an ISO of 12,800, which would be incredibly useful at weddings in conjunction with my f1.2 and f1.4 primes. While I'm dreaming, I'd also love to see a panoramic crop like my old Hasselblad XPAN (sold as the Fujifilm TX-1 outside of the US), which made 24x65mm negatives from 35mm film. The 16:9 crop is nice and the stitched panorama mode can be useful, but the latter only shoots JPEG and the proximity distortion from swinging the camera laterally is more like a Widelux than the XPAN. Shooting panoramas with a viewfinder that shows the exact crop allows you to compose in camera, much better option than cropping existing frames after the fact. I doubt we'll see this feature, but I'm still waiting for a digital version of the Hasselblad XPAN (Fujifilm made the bodies and lenses for the system), which was the one film camera I miss most because it was so unique and delivered stunning quality.
Mirrorless cameras work for everything I need to shoot, both personally and professionally.
UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 2017
After 4 years with the Fujifilm X-Series, I have switched to the Sony A7 line, which work even better for me and the way I photograph and have a number of unique features. The short story is that it didn't come from as much from dissatisfaction with Fujifilm, but rather increased satisfaction from Sony and the additional dynamic range from the larger sensor. Fujifilm's insistence on hiding noise reduction even in their RAW files and the color smearing and corpse-like skin tones from the X-Trans color overlay were my only substantive objections. Fujifilm does a great job with small retro bodies and compact lens size, and I loved the manual controls. I get a lot of private emails asking me about equipment. I have always felt that the most important thing in photography is creating images that pull in the viewer and create an emotional reaction, and that I take the same photographs regardless of the tool I am using, including my iPhone. All that matters is the final image. I am not sponsored by anyone and don't have a desire to "convert" anyone. If you want the best in low light image quality and dynamic range, Sony is the only choice. There is no substitute for real estate. If you want the highest quality in the smallest package, particularly if you like handholding slow shutter speeds, Olympus image stabilization is still the best in the world, and the Zuiko lenses, especially the f1.2 Pro series are top quality. Sony's IBIS is also excellent, moving a much larger sensor. Sony lenses, particularly the Zeiss 55mm f1.8 FE, are world class. Sony's focus lock with face recognition and face registration are revolutionary. You can "register" a face with the camera (your son/daughter, spouse, bride/groom, etc) and the camera will track that person as soon as they are in the frame. You can even prioritize multiple faces. Yes, it's science fiction but it works with jaw-dropping speed. Sony's lens line has now expanded to the point where they are offering small lenses like the 28 f2, 35 f2.8, 50mm f1.8, 50mm f2.8 macro, 55mm f1.8 and 85mm f1.8, with more arriving monthly...
UPDATE: MAY 2018
For the past 6 months, I have been doing a photography podcast with my friend Ian Weldon, a UK photographer known for his candid approach and sense of humor. Each Wednesday, new episodes are posted. You can listen to them by finding Outerfocus on iTunes or via the podcast web page here. We chat with current photographers about their work while we discuss a photographer in history about their impact on the craft of photography. We've spoken with Kirk Mastin, Niki Boon, David Carol, Melissa Breyer, Jordi Cervera, Paul Rogers, Edoardo Morina, Kym Skiles, Steven Bollman, Kirra Cheers, Joao De Medeiros, Spencer Lum, Cameron Neville, Nima Taradji, Gisele Duprez, Facundo Santana and many talented photographers who's work we admire. Upcoming episodes will feature Jonathan Higbee, Lance Mercer, Pedro Vilela, Martin Parr, Charles Peterson (who was THE photographer during the rise of Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, and the music of Seattle) and Sarah Lee.
To see more of my work and to follow me on social media, follow these links:
- My wedding portfolio: http://www.bradleyhanson.com
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- My Instagram personal page: http://instagram.com/bradleyhanson
- My Twitter page: http://twitter.com/bradleyhanson