Saturday, July 5, 2014

Bye bye NIKON, Hello FUJIFILM !

It's been 25 years, since I first clicked the shutter of a NIKON film camera. Over the next two decades,  I remained loyal to the brand and bought a wide range of digital cameras from the Japanese camera maker but it looks like the time has come to move on... What is below is not about a change of camera company, but much more about a change of mentality; all in the interest of creativity! 

Wide-angle view on Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque

MY LAST NIKON

My last NIKON DSLR was the 36.3 million megapixel D800 beast which I ordered the day it officially launched in February 2012. Probably a bit of an impulsive buy, but after all it looked great and the resolution was supposed to be top notch! So why not?

After staying on the waiting list far too long, I eventually got my D800 shipped to my home in Dubai. As I started using it, I witnessed something special happening with my photography. The images I shot per month, compared to previous years, steadily reduced. I blamed it on the huge files the D800 was spitting out. Even the yearly figures were down; I mean really down! From well over 10.000 yearly keepers pre-2012, to less than 6000 in 2012! 

Beside a great solo photo-adventure around Iceland in the Summer of 2012, I found that the quality of my personal photography was also on the decline. How could I get the  inspirational juices flowing again? After all, I just got a great new camera!

A bit of a deeper self-analysis, lead me to the following; unlike in the earlier days when I never left the house without my DSLR, I often found excuses to leave the camera behind. I needed another camera; a smaller one! Being very ware about the common trap of just buying more new gear when getting in a creative rut, I started looking at the mirror less market. It was right around that time that famous HDR photographer Trey Ratcliff, made his controversial post:  "The DSLR are a dying breed". Something that always stuck with me after the first time I saw the post.


2013 Pic(k) of the week 28: Subway ghost in Munich

It was US based photographer Zack Arias who put the Fujifilm X-series cameras on my radar after a presentation he held for Fujfilm Middle East. The next day I decided borrow a Fujifilm X-Pro-1 with three prime lenses (18mm, 35mm and 60mm Macro) from the Gulf Photo Plus (GPP) guys in Dubai. Little did I know that this would change my photography forever!  Even though the autofocus was a bit gimmicky at times, I really enjoyed the three days with the X-Pro1. So much, that I bought a brand new Fujfilm X-E1 with the XF 18-55 lens from GPP a few weeks later

When I picked up the Sexy-1, as I like to call the X-E1, its main mission was to be the camera that is always on my side. Ready to document my travel around the world. It was through this Street Photography, that my personal photography got its much needed boost!

The camera was so light and unobtrusive, that it allowed me to go into places where I would be kicked out with the DSLR in no time!  

Shisha Cafe in Deira

Even though I kept on shooting the heavy Nikon stuff for my Pro photography, the fun I had shooting the little Rangefinder style cameras was beyond comparison!

Breakfast time, NYC

I even started a special gallery section on my site, dedicated to my new love; of Street Photography.


TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY
As the X-E1 matured more and more with some very important firmware updates, I started pushing it harder and harder... The 14mm 2.8 and eventually the 55-200mm Fujinon lenses were added to the lens arsenal. Where was this going to end?

Sydney Opera House by night from Farm Cove

End of last year, I was given a pre-production model of the brand new Fujifilm X-E2 by Fujifim Middle East. As I was about to go off on a two week photo-adventure to the South island of New Zealand, this would be the perfect test to see if I would miss the heavy Nikon gear. 

Bench at Lake Tekapo, NZ

Moeraki boulders

The most famous tree of New Zealand, Wanaka, New Zealand

It turned out, I didn't! One of the things that was most noticeable on this trip was the fact that my backpack was that much lighter; 7kg for two camera bodies and 4 lenses, compared to more than 17kg for a single DLSR and three lenses.

Coming back from New Zealand, I was just about ready to exchange my Nikon DSLR's system to the Fufjilm X-E2. But there was one caveat; the auto-focus did not have a focus tracking feature; essential to photograph fast action like air shows...

X-T1 the camera that changed it all!
When Fujifilm announced their new top of the line X-T1 in January 2014, their two main selling points were "weather-sealing" and an "enhanced auto-focus system" which included the focus tracking system which I was lurking after. 

The road to the Milky way (UAE)

As soon as GPP Dubai had an X-T1 in stock, I was on my way! I didn't take long, before my Nikon D800 and 4 expensive lenses went up for sale on the second hand photography market. After all they had been used so little since the start of 2014, that they really deserved some new ownership.

The sun is setting over Riomaggiore – Cinque Terre

So is the X-T1 perfect? Obviously NOT! No piece of technology is... I don't like how the 4 way buttons feel at the back, even though I slowly learned to live with it. Battery performance is really nothing to write home about; especially since it is known to drop from being fully charged to being empty in just a few shots. I travel with a minimum of 4 batteries where ever I go. I do however like the camera. It has something which is very hard to describe; like falling in love all over again!

Is the Nikon D800 better than the X-T1? Hard to define what the definition of better is, I guess... Well two things are clear, it weighs double and it costs more than double. Especially when trekking up a steep mountain path the weight is a great advantage for me.  After all the facts that all the gear was getting so heavy, was the main reason I was shooting less and less images for my personal work! Needless to say the image quality is great. That is if one can frame a sharp image without tripod in the first place... To me the D800 had really become a "tripod only camera"; adding to the whole weight issue even more. And then there were the problems with some of the focus points on the side not being fully accurate. Trying to take it in for repairs in the US (where I bought it!) within 6 months, I was told my warranty was not valid as I had asked for the camera to be shipped outside the US! Really?#$%ˆ*& At that time, I started asking myself the question if loyalty for Nikon was going to last...

Manarola at dusk

Very common for all large technology companies, my Canon friends have told me similar stories, I'm under the impression that they really do not care what their customers have to say. Something that can't be said about the smaller companies like Fujifilm where the client (photographer) feedback comes before anything else. The frequency and the quality of the firmware updates of bodies ( and lenses!!!) is a good example of this. When was the last time Nikon or Canon came out with a brand new camera feature on a camera that has been out more than 12 months? They would rather have you buy an entire new camera body right?

When I took the pre-production X-E2 for its two week testdrive to New Zealand, the fine guys of Fujifilm Middel East invited me to give them feedback and guess what... most of the remarks have now been addressed. Obviously not only due to my comments but because of what the worldwide Fujifilm users were saying. Keep on doing this Fujifilm!



DOES SIZE MATTER?
When one makes the big decision of changing camera systems, two size related items keep re-apprearing;

1/ Down-sizing the resolution from 36 to 16 megapixels. Is 16 million megapixels sufficient? Obviously I can only speak for myself, but I have no problem printing my Fujifilm work large; I mean as large as this 1m10 wide canvas print and clients seem to still love it...
Misty morning over the Himalayas

2/ Is the camera not too small? Does it look professional enough? Personally I like the smaller form factor. When using longer lenses like the 55-200 Fujinon lens, I tend to use the optional X-T1 battery grip for added stability. When it comes to what the client thinks... Well I've been into this long enough to know that if a client has a problem with this, that he or she is probably not my type of client anyway. Enough said?


THE END OF THE DSLR IS HERE
I've been vocal about this a few times, but I sincerely believe that by 2020 there will be hardly any new classic DSLR's being sold. Whoever asks me advise about which first camera they should be buying (yes, they seem to be out there every week!), I have over the last 12 months always pointed them towards the mirror less system. What makes it a hard sell to some of them, is the fact that the two largest camera companies turn a blind eye to the whole mirror less market... Wake-up Nikon and Canon or you'll miss the boat, if that is not too late already!

Meydan bridge, Spaceship or bridge?

NIKON, it has been a pleasure working with you, but the future has now arrived. Bye Bye Nikon! Hello Fuji!

PS: In case you are wondering, all images above have been shot on the Fujifilm X-series system. An entire gallery with X-series images ONLY can be found here.

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