The Tools I Use
A Different Breed
Growing up I never had a big interest in cameras. My first actual use of a camera was a simple 35mm film camera that I used to take on a school trip to Quebec (I don’t even recall it having a battery). I had no idea of composition or ISO.
To me it was:
Repeat step 2 until the film roll was empty
Remove film and get processed
Repeat step 1
As you can see, not very advanced. Though in many ways that’s kind of what we do today only a bit simpler.
Load memory card
Realize battery isn’t charged
Take new picture
Realize picture is out of focus
Take another new picture
Repeat steps 2, 5, 9 or 11 with the possibility of steps 6, 7, 8 and 10 occurring.
Ok so maybe not that simple.
It wasn’t until much later in life that I began to develop an interest in photography. I remember flipping through old family photo albums and seeing the traditional Christmas photos and vacation shots my parents would take. There was never anything artistic about them, just a recording of life and big events. As I learned more about photography I learned how much more powerful it could be. How it could be used for art, for storytelling and for the pure and simple enjoyment of memories.
As my interest grew, I started to learn more about the cameras I was using. My first DSLR was a Nikon D3000 and it came with the 18-55mm kit lens. Everything I learned about ISO, shutter speed and f/stops, I learned on this camera. But it only felt like a tool. Something to use, but not truly something to create things with.
Then I upgraded. I upgraded to something a bit more robust and with a bit more heft. Enter the Nikon D300s. A used camera body, but well worth what it was about to give me. Aside from the far more advanced technical features, I felt much more compelled to use it in an artistic sense. It felt good in the hands and I was ready to take pictures of the world with it. In a sense, it was the perfect camera for me (at the time).
But the, there was this thing called full frame. And so the conversation started (in my head)
”Wait what? Full frame? What’s that?”
”It’s this thing all the cool kids are using, a full frame camera is better.”
“What’s so special about it?”
“It’s better and shinier! And your pictures will be amazeballs!”
“Oh! I must has it!” (says the Gollum in my head)
Enter the Nikon D750. My first (and only) full frame camera. Like other Nikons, this one looked and felt relatively the same. Except it was full frame. So it had to be superior in every way possible. And yet, it wasn’t. It was actually quite lacklustre and not anything I had expected it to be. It was just another camera. Believe me I made every effort to love this thing, but in the end, it just didn’t give me the same feeling as the 300s.
My photography felt a little lost a this point. I was taking pictures with a tool again. Not something I enjoyed taking with me, just something to use when I was out.
Look! It’s a mirrorless camera.
“A what? A mirrorless camera, what’s that?”
“It’s all the rage with cool kids. It’s lighter and look at the old school dials and switches.”
“Why would I want that?”
“It’s lighter and won’t hurt your back and your photo’s will still be just as great even if it’s a crop sensor.”
(yes I know there are full frame mirrorless camera’s too)
“Yeah but my back doesn’t hurt and..”
“You wants it!” (Gollum again)
“You needs it!”
“OK, OK… just don’t eat me”
Could Gollum be wrong two times in a row?
Enter the Fujifilm X-T1.
I must admit, I was hesitant about going from a DSLR to a mirrorless setup. I had gotten so used to the Nikon features that switching to knobs and switches almost seemed like a turn off for me. But once I got used to it, I was hooked. This thing was fantastic. And very soon after I started using it, I quickly forgot all about the need of a full frame camera. It was soon upgraded to the X-T2. Almost identical to its predecessor, it had a few more features that really enhanced my experience. By all accounts, it was a near perfect camera for me.
But then finally something came along that seemed to fit the bill. Something that finally made me stop in my tracks. The X-Pro3.
This time I didn’t need Gollum to convince me. It was a rangefinder-esque design with some questionable design decisions that many found offsetting (of which I won’t bother discussing here). But this… this thing. It was beautiful, it was what I needed my camera to be. Finally, everything I needed from a technical aspect and from an artistic feel.
Now any camera could really do the same for you, but this was something for me. Something I had been looking for for a long time, but perhaps just didn’t know it. It felt right in the hands and it feels right in the pictures. And as per their motto when they promoted it, it was a “different breed”. Yes, it was the right thing for me at the right time.
Shoot with something that inspires you. To get you out there and forget that time exists.
Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.
- Dorothea Lange