This one will be a subjective post, but I will not make it a praise piece for my camera brand of choice. Instead, I'm talking about the pain points that led me to a particular brand over any other.
The camera system I use is not perfect for everyone. But for me, the pros of my camera system far outweigh any shortcomings. I have been through quite a bit in my career as a photographer. I started photographing my friends on skateboards and BMX bikes in my teens, around 2005. The photography scene was very different then. Digital was becoming mainstream and affordable to the average person, while some were still shooting film. I'd been photographing with film and processing it at a lab that would supply me with a CD of digital images, a hybrid approach.
Starting in Digital
After having my trusty Canon film SLR stolen from a backpack, I was ready to buy into my first digital system. I saved my pennies and purchased a Nikon D70s. One ley selling point that swayed me in this direction (rather than the Canon option, the 350D) was the 1/500 flash sync speed. I shot lots of flash then, and this extra stop often allowed me to overpower the sun when I couldn't otherwise. This was way before the days of high-speed sync. My love affair with the brand was born, and over the next 10 years, Nikon would be my camera of choice.
I still have a soft spot for that camera and would love to use one again. It's the camera that shot my first ever paid work and on which I started to find my footing in the industry that would consume my working life.
Eventually, I needed money, and bike magazines could have paid better. So, my work became increasingly more commercial and studio-based. I dabbled in fashion, but I would spend most of my time shooting model portfolios for a few agencies alongside whatever bits of work I could: headshots, interiors, menus, corporate events, products, etc. Only a little of this was exciting, but my Nikons served me well.
After the D70s, I upgraded to a D200, then a D700, followed by a D750, with which my time using Nikons would end.
A Turning Point
But why did it have to end? In 2016, I decided to leave the studio and transition into weddings, and those cameras were heavy. A few months after this decision, I was finishing a wedding day and feeling pretty exhausted.
I packed my backpack: two full-frame DSLRs, a 24-70mm, a 70-200mm, and a couple of flashes. I even had a laptop in there. I popped it on my back and stood upright before falling under the bag's weight again, straight to the ground. The guests were undoubtedly laughing more than I was! The only thing I hurt was my ego, but I knew something had to change if I was going to do this regularly.
I'd been looking at some mirrorless cameras. I knew the systems could be a little lighter, which brings me to the first time I would cheat on my Nikons.
In 2017, I headed to The Photography Show, a big trade show in the UK that most brands attend to show off their products. My specific aim at the show was to find a lighter camera system or some lighter lenses for Nikon, perhaps some primes.
Finding Micro Four Thirds
This shopping trip had one objective: I was putting my camera bag on a diet. I'd heard through the grapevine that Sony mirrorless cameras were great.
But things could have been better on our first date (arriving at the Sony stand). I picked up their latest offering, probably an a7 II, and something didn't click. As impressive as I knew the camera probably was, it just didn't feel right to me. I also recall a huge lens attached to the front of the body, and I was on a weight-saving mission.
My wandering took me to the Olympus stand, where I'd be well and truly impressed. Their cameras were beautiful, and I particularly loved the styling of the OM-D EM5 Mark II. It was not the most elegantly named, but the retro look appealed to me. One of their ambassadors at the time, Robert Pugh, talked me through his camera bag for weddings.
I watched in awe as he unloaded his wedding bag: a small Think Tank shoulder bag containing two camera bodies, a vast selection of prime lenses, a speedlight and even an iPad. Here was a guy shooting weddings for a living, just like I wanted to. He used a camera kit that seemingly weighed less than one of my Nikon bodies.
Within a week, I was the proud owner of two new bodies and a couple of lenses.
Using Olympus Cameras
I know what you're thinking. Those little Olympus cameras aren't for professional work. I need to disagree, though, as they served me perfectly well at the time.
I shot some of my favorite photos, even to this day, on that camera system. It changed how I work and allowed me to adopt a more documentary style of wedding photography, something I'm very passionate about today. The system also drove a love of prime lenses, which I keep.
I was happy in my micro four-thirds world for a while, but things weren't perfect. My list of requirements had surpassed what the system could give me. First, of course, I wanted to keep my camera system light. I also needed multiple card slots, a faster camera to work with, better autofocus, and, perhaps most importantly, better image quality. Importantly for me, too, was that I still needed to enjoy using the system. Cameras were released to address some of those concerns, but the sensor remained the same.
Don't get me wrong, the files from the small sensor were often more than acceptable in good light. My issues came when the sun went down, and after a fully booked winter season, I craved a camera with better high-ISO performance.
An Almost Perfect System
Whatever was I to do? I didn't want to use Sony for reasons I couldn't put my finger on. Canon's and Nikon's mirrorless systems were in their infancy, and I knew that full frame would mean returning to heavy lenses.
What about Fujifilm?
The Fujifilm X-T3 camera had been on my radar, but I'd never handled it or looked into the system. Was this the one for me?
These cameras have beautifully designed, retro-styled bodies. They had rapid start-up times, good battery life, and a selection of small but perfectly formed prime lenses. Two SD slots were the cherry on top.
More importantly, although the low-light performance wasn't at the same standards as some other brands, it was much better than I had been using.
After handling some of the lenses in my local camera shop, I left with two bodies: a Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2 R WR lens, and a Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 R lens. And oh my, I was smitten! I finally felt like I had found the system I could shoot with forever. Of course, a few things could have been better, such as the autofocus, but it was an improvement for me and was only going to get better.
And so, we were close to perfect for me. I had cameras that were fast enough for me with image quality that was almost there. I could shoot up to around ISO 12,800. They were small, light, and a dream to use.
Making It Perfect
That's my rather drawn-out story of how I discovered my love for Fujifilm through multiple minor pain points that Fujifilm eventually ironed out for me. But was it perfect?
The release of the Fujifilm XF 18mm f/1.4 R LM WR lens and the XF 33mm f/1.4 R LM WR lens brought this dream closer. I've used them for around 80% of my work since their release. My trusty 56mm and a wider XF 14mm f/2.8 R are in my bag if needed.
The icing on the camera-shaped cake came this year: the new bodies! The Fujifilm X-H2S and Fujifilm X-H2 brought with them two new sensors and a whole host of new magic. However, the body for me was the brand new Fujifilm X-T5.
I've not written a review on the newest addition, but plenty are available already. After collecting two bodies, though, I've already shot two weddings with them.
The X-T5 camera takes everything I love about my older X-T3s and improves almost every aspect dramatically.
Now, I'm using the perfect camera system for the first time. It might not be perfect for you. Perhaps you're a full frame purist. Maybe you prefer another brand's colors. If this is you, you will undoubtedly disagree with me in the comments, and I can't wait to read them.
I look forward to hearing if your camera system is perfect. The great thing about having all these camera brands available is that our favorite gear is almost as subjective as photography can be. We can all love different brands and systems, which keeps our gear-lusting world interesting.