gear, photography, fujifilm

Gear

A short introduction to my photography equipment 
and how it changed over the last years

My first try that went beyond snapping with the camera of my mobile phone started with a bridge camera. In retrospective that was a pretty good decision, as a bridge camera offered me a beginner-friendly all-in-one solution: Great haptics (most important thing in the beginning to feel like a real photographer), zoom for all situations in life and of course an automatic mode.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m absolutely sure that you should shoot in manual mode to learn how photography works, but from time to time it’s OK to shoot in automatic mode. Especially when your  pictures don’t turn out that well in the beginning and the level of frustration gets higher, it’s nice to produce some good enough pictures, even if they were shot in automatic mode.
The relationship to this camera lasted exactly 2 month. I produced pictures that were good enough to recognize a difference in quality and creativity to those that I took with my mobile phone. But at the same time the limitations that went along with this type of camera became obvious.
In the first place the small sized sensor is to be mentioned and in connection with it the below average luminous sensitivity. Furthermore I wasn’t a fan of its handling with its P, M and A programs. There wasn’t the ultimate sense of having everything under my control.

After a little more research I found the Panasonic Lumix LX100. A bigger sensor, a compact design, a lens with a very high luminous sensitivity and a fantastic handling that reminded me of analogue photography times. The micro 4/3 sensor and the Leica lens performed very well under faint light conditions and the integrated image stabilization offered 2-3 more stops (which could be manually set via the mechanical aperture ring).
The shutter speed could also be set manually with a wheel which was placed on the top of the camera body (as well as the exposure compensation wheel). Thus I always had the feeling that I was learning and which effects my settings would have on the picture. This way of controlling the camera settings had a profound effect on me.  I used the LX100 a little longer than the bridge camera but in the end even the Micro 4/3 camera wasn’t completely satisfying.

Until now I consciously only used cameras with a fixed lens as I always wanted to learn how to manage the camera body and the basic settings first. Beside that I wanted to dive into the raw image editing with Lightroom. But as soon as I felt a little settled in these areas it was time for the next step. A camera with interchangeable lenses should be my next gear. Facing the question whether it should be a DSLR or a DSLM I quickly decided to go for a mirrorless solution. I found the DSLR too pretentious, too heavy and too expensive. In addition I liked the electronic viewfinder of mirrorless cameras. Having said this, the decisive factor once again was the kind of handling and the feeling while taking pictures.

So my next weapon of choice would be a Fujifilm X-Series camera. The XT-1 would become my first DSLM camera. APS-C Sensor, mechanical aperture ring, shutter speed and ISO wheel. An absolutely stunning viewfinder, great built quality and a broad selection of high-class lenses. Starting from here I quickly found my way over the XT-20 to the XT-2 (not yet greedy looking forward to the XT-3 … probably). Over time I tried many of the Fujifilm lenses (by the way… with regards to Fujifilm and Fujinon camera gear I strongly recommend to subscribe to the Youtube channel called Theoria Apophasis by Ken Wheeler, also known as the angry photographer; highly entertaining and informative content):

-XF 18-55 mm F2.8-4 OIS
-XF 23 mm F2
-XF 35 mm F2
-XF 50 mm F2
-XF 14 mm F2.8
-XC 50-230 mm OIS II
-XF 55-200 mm OIS
-Samyang 12mm F2

So far I kept the XF 18-55 mm, XF 50 mm and the XF 55-200 mm.
I wasn’t pleased with the wide angle lenses, but I guess I will give the 16mm F1.4 a try, as it should be the best available Fujinon lens so far.
For me the Fujifilm X-T2 is the perfect camera. It fits perfectly into my hands, creates pin sharp pictures and the handling is almost a unique selling proposition. If there was one thing that I could wish for, it would be the in-body image stabilization. Unfortunately this also has not been considered in the XT-3.
There is other gear that I strongly recommend to have in addition to your Fujifilm camera and lenses.
I own 3 more batteries (another weakness of the Fujifilm cameras is the short battery time), a tripod, a small camera bag and a rucksack, polarizing filters and ND filters. 

Update March 2019
Meanwhile the X-T3 and the X-T30 have entered the market and so far I'm still with my Fuji X-T2. Instead of spending money on new camera body that offers similar image quality than the predecessor I decided to spend it on travelling and searching for new motives.
Nevertheless I could not completely do without new equipment. I went for a new Tripod as my last and first one was really unsteady. It was light, totally worth the money and for the most part absolutely sufficient for what I was doing. But when doing long exposure photography and when it was windy the tripod reached its limit. My current one is a little heavier but rock solid and still easily packable. I also bought an L-bracket for my camera as it is much more convenient to shoot with it when it comes to landscape photography.
Fujifilm will release its new Fujinon 16mm f2.8 lens. I will eather go for this one or the 14mm (again). My widest lens right now is the 18-55 Zoom lens and I must admit that I probably can't do without a little wider lens. I will wait for the first reviews of the new 16mm lens and make my decision afterwards.

Update June 2019
The longer you are using your equipment the better you'll get an idea of what you like using and what you are using the most. In my case I realized that I was not using the 50mm lens at all. Furthermore I learned that I was shooting 18mm wide very often. So I decided to sell the 50mm and buy another wide angle lens. 16mm wasn't wide enough for me as I have my beloved 18-55mm lens. So I went for the Samyang 12mm again. I got it very cheap, so my plan is to go on using the 18mm focal length and when I find myself in a situation where I need something wider I can switch to the 12mm. Beside, I can use the Samyang for astro photography if the possibility may occur.  With the money savings from the switch of the Fujinon to the Samyang lens, I upgraded my camera body.
I finally got it... the X-T3. I love it and I'll keep it. So far I think that my lens and body lineup is final now. A future addition might be the XF 35mm f2 WR (again), as I like to have one tiny lens in my camera bag that I can put on when shooting street photography and in miserable weather conditions.

Update November 2019
I recently had 2 more chances to test if I’m willing to get into a long term relationship with my current lens line-up.  I’m glad to say “Yes, I will”.

I used every single lens on my last trips to Italy and Denmark with great success and fun and so the amount of new photography related acquisitions will we reduced significantly. But as it is in life, new temptations are just around the corner. I cast an eye on the Shimoda Explorer backpacks for quite a while. I was on the edge to buy one, but the secondary market is almost non-existing here in Germany for that brand and to buy it new it is just too expensive. Anyway, the brand recently launched a new Kickstarter program for their Shimoda Action Series. As this backpack looks pretty damn good, is further improved and comes with a significant discount I supported the brand via Kickstarter. I will probably get my new photography gear in January and as always I can’t wait to get on my first trip with it.

Update May 2020
Within the last weeks and months I made two significant and a few minor changes to my photography equipment. I added the Fujinon 10-24 lens and sold the Fujinon 35mm F2 and the Samyang 12mm F2. I consider my new lens lineup as the holy trinity of landscape lenses. 10-24, 18-55 and 55-200. I got things covered! As future additions I consider the Viltrox 33mm F1.4 and the Tokina 33mm F1.4 as worthy lenses. With regards to tripods I upgraded from my Rollei Ci5 aluminum to the carbon edition. I was super satisfied with my Ci5 and I just wanted to save a little more weight. My new backpack arrived later then expected but I love every detail about it. It is top notch and it will most definitely not be replaced anywhere soon. Together with the new 10-24 lens I bought a new set of screw-on filters (CPL, ND8, ND64 and ND1000). I only need one size (72mm) and I work with step down rings for the smaller lenses. All my other filters have been sold on ebay. I exclusively use GOBE Filters (Now call Urth).

Update October 2020
On my last trip to Denmark I ran into trouble when switching lenses and using filters. All lenses that I own have different filter sizes, so I have to use step down rings to make them fit. In addition I sometimes  needed that little extra focal lenght when using my 18-55 lens.
Back at home I bought the new Fujinon lens 16-80 and replaced my beloved 18-55.
It was a hard decision to make as the 18-55 was the lens that used the most and it was the first lens that I got when starting to shoot Fuji. But from now on I can use the same filters that I use on my 10-24 lens and the 16-80 fulfills even more the function of an always on camera.
But the biggest addition was my new Fujifilm X-E3. The X-T3 is perfect for shooting on a tripod and when it comes to landscape photography. It basically will be my camera for all planned shootings. But it is still to big, heavy and noticeable when just walking the streets and doing other daily stuff. It happened that I stumbled over a scene that I wanted to photograph but I had no other camera than my smartphone. On my research for a additional camera I noticed that the X-E3 can be purchased for a very reasonable price when used.
In addition to that, Fujifilm has the perfect pancake lens in its lineup that fits to the X-E3 and for what I had in mind. This pairing of the X-E3 body with the 27 mm lens would be my mobile and inconspicuous equipment for everyday use and when being in stealth mode.

Update January 2021
I sold the X-E3 and the 27 mm lens. It was worth the try and I sold without loosing money. Its a beautiful camera, but once you've used the X-T3 or X-T4 the X-E3 seems very slow and in my opinion it definitely needs an IBIS system. I always had to switch up ISO to get sharp photos while shooting handheld.
In the meantime and during lock-down I also tried the 60 mm macro lens. Also there, I would recommend using it without have some sort of image stabilization. It is fine when using a tripod, but hard to use when shooting handheld. The one lens that I've kept is the Viltrox 33mm 1.4. What a great deal for such a good lens. Its fast, well build and sharp.
I also upgraded my tripod again. I sold the  C-I5 by Rollei and bought the Lion Rock Traveller L. I needed a higher and more stable tripod with a more comfortable Ballhead and the new one from Rollei was all that.

Update April 2021
I sold my Shimoda backpack and went back to the Lowepro that I got before. I came to the conclusion that the Shimoda was simply to much to have as a hobby photographer. UnfortAlso, I thought it wasn't as comfortable as the Lowepro.
In addition to my Rollei tripod I ordered a new ball head. For a long time I was hoping to get my hands on a highline ball head by the Colorado tripod company. Unfortunately they have such high demand that they can afford to sell in the US only. But once I wrote them an E-Mail they got back to me and made an exception. I'm looking forward to test it out. But so far I'm very impressed by it. It's small yet capable to lift my gear. The lever clamp will also help me to speed up the set up process for my camera on location.
Another addition that I made is a new filter. For years now I only used Gobe filters and I was always happy with the quality and the sustainability approach by the company. They recently got a rebrand and are now called URTH. Under this brand they have launched a new range of filters. One of them is a combination of a CPL and ND 64 filter.  So many times I stacked 2 filters on another to get a that effect. It is time consuming, comlicated and can result in vignetting. Not any more.