Wednesday, 4 September 2013

New toys! Fujifilm mirrorless cameras

There's been a lot of talk over the past year or so about the 'mirrorless revolution' in photography. All the major brands are releasing mirorless cameras with fairly large sensors and decent digital viewfinders.
Even some pros are picking up the Fujifilm X-Pro range instead of their trusty 5D MkIII or D4. I always felt this wasn't for me, I like the reassuring 'thwack' of a mirror slapping out of the way, I like the weight of my 7D with a big L lens on the front, I like holding my camera to my eye and seeing out of the lens. Most of all I love the quality of images that a modern DSLR with decent glass on the front can produce.

But sadly we all have to fly with budget airlines occasionally and my kit bag sits at about 15kg with no spare room for so much as a toothbrush!

I was on  shoot earlier this year and one of the camera guys showed me a lovely retro-styled Fujifilm X100s. He told me that he went travelling around India and left the DSLR at home, relying entirely on this compact camera to catalogue his travels.
It was a thing of beauty with an optical viewfinder, a fixed 35mm (equivalent) lens and an APS-C sized sensor (same as my 7D). I immediately wanted one!
The Fujufilm compacts have been built to look like retro rangefinders or old Canon AE-1 SLR cameras.

The Fujifilm X100S is a thing of beauty

The following day I went to my local camera shop, Cameraworld in Chelmsford, with a desire to acquire the Fujifilm X100s, for all those occasions that a DSLR isn't suitable for, or is just too big to lug around.
I held it, played with it and was completely sold...
...until the gentleman behind the cash register told me it was £1000.
Now as beautiful (and arguably practical) as it is, there was no way I was going to pay DSLR money for a jumped up compact with a fixed lens!

I was deflated. It's not the price itself that bothered me, but the value of the camera. It's not worth £1000 to me. It's got a decent sized sensor, a fast, very sharp lens and full manual control (and it's so pretty) but it's not worth that kind of money to me as a 'toy' camera for BBQs and daytrips.

Fortunately there was a successful local photographer in the shop who overheard my semi-rant about the price vs. value of new toys.
Now here was a man who owns 2 professional camera bodies and spent more money on lenses than I care to imagine.
He actually agreed with me, the 'value' of this camera to him as a toy didn't justify the £1000 outlay, no matter how pretty it is. So he told me that he'd bought the smaller Fujifilm X20 and he loves it!

Fujifilm X20; just as pretty, less than half the price!
The X20 has a smaller sensor, but has a manual zoom lens that covers 28-112mm (4x zoom), full manual control and a built in flash. It also has the retro styling and optical viewfinder. It's also significantly smaller, lighter and only £400.

So I ended up with a smaller (but equally pretty) camera that's cheaper, more versatile and is much more 'valuable' to me.

This camera has been with me all summer, sometimes as a backup to the big 7D and sometimes as the only camera on my person.

I can't really fault this little camera at all. There's no noticeable shutter lag, autofocus is swift and precise. The lens is sharper than I had expected and the top mounted exposure compensation dial means you don't have to fiddle too much to get your exposure just how you want it. The X20 also shoots video at full HD.
Low light with no flash is noisier than I'd like, but it's much better than a mobile phone camera and if the situation requires, I've got the 7D with off-camera flash and lamps galore.

As a backup it's a great camera. As a BBQ / days out camera it's perfect for my needs.
It's got a nice sized rear LCD screen and an intelligent fully-automatic mode so it's family friendly for those "can you take a picture of me please" moments. But it's got all the manual and semi-automatic modes you'd find on a pro camera for maximum creativity.

The next problem will be trying to justify to the missus why I need "all that camera kit" if I keep taking the little camera everywhere...

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