Thursday, 26 May 2016

Gear

Gear. Photographers love to talk about it. But I usually refrain, except with a few friends. When most people ask what kind of camera I use, I usually just mumble "Fuji" and get on with my day. (Or if I'm feeling really unlike talking, I'll say that I use a camera and leave it at that...)

Well, yes, I use Fuji cameras. I used to use Pentax and thought nothing would be able to prise my Pentax SLR out of my fingers, but buying a battered old Fujifilm X-Pro1 quickly changed my mind about that, and now I'm a full convert to Fuji.

Why? A few simple reasons: Fujifilm cameras are smaller and lighter than DSLRs due to their mirrorless design; Fujifilm cameras take beautiful photos due to the unique sensor design; Fujifilm lenses are optically superb, and again, smaller and lighter than equivalents for other camera systems; the electronic viewfinder.

The electronic viewfinder is something I didn't think I would warm to before using it. Having used it, I now wonder why people really feel the need for their optical viewfinder SLRs. The Fuji cameras give real-time preview of everything: depth of field, exposure, focus. See all those photographers taking pictures and then lowering the camera to check what they have just taken? Fuji users don't do that. We already know what we've taken before we take it.

Fujifilm cameras are also very well designed, with real photographers in mind, and all the necessary controls are instantly accessible: taking pictures with a Fuji camera is a very fluid experience, which lends them very well to photographers who like a spontaneous approach to photography. And also on the design, let's not ignore the fact that Fujifilm cameras are actually really beautiful to look at. That never hurts...

I currently have three (yes, I know..). The battered old X-Pro1 which I have converted to infrared (for black and white photography). An X-T1 as the main body (weather sealed, with a nice big viewfinder). And an X-E2 as a second body (I usually have both in my bag, with different lenses on).

No neck straps on cameras. The camera is either in my hand or in the bag.

Bag. Yes, choice of bag is important to me, and I've gone through a lot in the years. For about six years I used a £15 bag from Uniqlo, which was really excellent, and I wore it out. I've also owned a couple of Domke bags, which are excellent and I can certainly see why they are popular with photojournalists (the F3x and I had a good time in New York), but in the end I've found something even better: the Direct Action messenger bag. Yes, this is one of those shoulder bags that is supposed to look like it's for military use, despite the fact that it's got a stupid padded sleeve for a laptop etc. (Yeah, because everybody goes into combat carrying their Macbook Air....) Well, with mine I cut out the padded sleeve to maximise the space inside, and it is perfect. In grey it is very discreet (I would never carry a branded "camera bag", for many reasons). My main camera and lenses go in light and thin neoprene pouches in the main compartment, with the X-E2 and 27mm pancake lens (a very versatile little lens) fitting nicely in the side pouch. The front pouches carry all the necessary little bits and pieces. Memory cards. Batteries (the Fuji cameras don't have good battery life..). Torches (always a couple - I'm out a lot in the dark). Penknife. Lighter. Snacks. Tissues. Notebook and pen (these are vital for me).

It's a great bag. It is waterproof enough that very heavy rain showers haven't made the main compartment damp, and it is sturdy and light. Sadly, it seems they've stopped making them, or I would buy a spare.. I also use a Direct Action large waist pack when I am on the motorbike: it is big enough to hold a camera and three lenses as well as other necessary items, and the very secure waist strap secures it while on the bike, and then it has a sturdy shoulder strap which comes out to be clipped on, turning it into a camera bag.

You'll notice that there is no tripod in the photos below. Yes, I own a tripod, and it's a neat little Manfrotto BeFree which will hopefully last for many more years to come, but the fact is I rarely use it. I only ever take it with me when I am pretty much 100% certain I will really need it. And no, despite what a lot of people might believe, there are not really that many situations where you actually need a tripod.. It doesn't hurt that the Fujifilm cameras' high ISO results are excellent (partly due to the image noise looking very much like film grain).


There is certainly no such thing as a "correct" set of gear, but this all does very well for me, as somebody who I suppose is a bit of a hybrid between documentary/landscape photographer.

The X-E2 is not pictured, because it is taking the picture..