The Mirrorless Difference
Its funny how a few years ago I was having the big debate of Canon or Nikon. I'll admit that I'm a techie kind of guy and reading spec sheets is actually fun for me. I saw the Canon was much superior in their megapixels and in video while Nikon seemed to have slightly better Autofocus and more lenses. At that time I had decided on Nikon for probably the simplest of reasons as I can't remember exactly why I chose them. I do know that I picked up my first DSLR because it was being sold in a bundle with a second lens, bag and memory card. So, I figured I'd have everything I'd need for a while.
Many cameras and lenses later I find that I was so very wrong... ha!
Funny enough, right around the same time I was getting into my first couple DSLRs the Mirrorless segment was being introduced as well. But, the hoopla was so minimal that I really didn't start paying attention to the chatter until 2013. Mostly, to be honest, is the continued message that if you don't have a Full Frame camera, you're not really a photographer.
It seemed like many of us were working hard to be able to one day purchase a Full Frame camera and maybe feel better about ourselves. This can happen if you hang out with a lot of photographers.
But, later I found that Full Frame wasn't everything I thought it'd be and although awesome in so many ways I was ready to explore my options.
In comes Fujifilm. Finally, they are on my radar and I really start to pay attention. Raving reviews all over the internet, youtube and people are really starting to pay attention. Me being a techie guy thought, hmm, something very different to what I'm used to, but still able to produce superb image quality. Tell me more!!
I'm the kind of guy that will buy a movie at Best Buy without ever watching it before, just to see if its good. I was at the point in photography where I knew the settings, how to find favorable light, and how to use my creativity. So, I knew I'd be capable of using these cameras. But, there is always the unknown.
So I made the leap to Fuji head first. I started with the X-E1, which I soon returned as I found it slow. I then picked up the X-E2 and it felt responsive and was a lot of fun. I picked up a few lenses and headed out to explore the world around me.
Biggest differences I saw:
No optical viewfinder - As these have no mirror what you see through the viewfinder is what the sensor sees. Sort of like looking at a mini tv screen. To some this is strange, but I took to it very quickly. Possibly because I've spent years playing video games or because I spend tons of time on my cell phone, who knows. Because this is like a tv screen Fuji has been able to make these screens super customizable. I love customizing!! So things like showing you the histogram on the screen are neat, or changing to a black and white display if you are shooting in that mode, to showing you your exposure and on and on.
Knobs galore - If you ever shot film or like the retro styling of using knobs instead of tiny buttons this could be the camera system for you. By using knobs you'll know most of your camera settings even before you pick up the camera and turn it on. Very handy! If you're a hands on person this is great, while others will prefer the buttons their used to on a DSLR. Your fingers WILL have to learn a different way of taking photos. If you're looking for a mini DSLR, this isn't it. But, once you get over that and start getting used to the Fuji it is so much fun!
Small form factor - A lot of people are starting to look at these cameras due to their smaller footprint. Pro DSLRs and lenses are very heavy. I would think that after yrs of carrying around 20 plus lbs would start doing a number on your neck and back. And now, there is an alternative. These cameras are also mostly metal in their construction but do weigh a lot less and are smaller than a full DSLR. Some like to use these for travel or as a backup to their existing gear.
Phenomenal lenses - A great camera doesn't reach its full potential without amazing lenses to pair with them. And, Fuji has really delivered. Their kit lens is faster, better built and produces better images than any other kit lens I've seen out there. They offer 1.4 and 1.2 lenses! All their lenses are metal and have metal mounts. I think there are a few of lower end ones that are part metal and part plastic. Compared to Nikon, most of their current lenses are plastic. The Fuji lenses are also smaller and lighter to the competition. And, Fuji releases a roadmap for up to a yr, so you always know what's coming down the pipeline. And that helps you have time to get your wallet ready.
They keep getting better and better! - When Fuji cameras first rolled out their biggest weakness was slow autofocus. But, Fuji rolled out many firmware updates specific to their cameras and lenses. So, over time, your camera would actually improve. How awesome is that? To give you and idea I've had my gear for almost 5 months now and I've already had one update for each of my lenses and cameras in that time. Not only has this improved performance, but it has added features as well. I'm seeing a trend of them releasing two high end cameras every year and about 4-5 lenses per yr as well.
NOW TO THE X-T1
The X-T1 was released shortly after I purchased my X-E2. I figured I'd probably like it as it had some new features like its massive and quick Viewfinder, weather sealing, better grip, ISO dial and tons of customizable function buttons, but the price difference made me think on it a while. I learned to really enjoy my X-E2 and at the time was wondering if I could afford the X-T1 as I already had 2 X-E2s. I told myself they were just too similar and kept debating back and forth. I even tried it out for a could weeks and my wallet kept telling me no. So I decided I wasn't quite ready for it yet.
Fortunately for me I do make money from this business and was able to book an additional wedding for the year. This helped me to justify the purchase and eagerly ordered my X-T1 (which was actually sold out until the week I booked the wedding!). More and more reports on how awesome the camera was and how it had improved in many areas over the X-E2 had me anticipating the camera's arrival. I thought to myself that maybe I hadn't played with it enough when I had tried it out.
I was right! Without the worries of my finances I was able to put the camera through its paces and I was thrilled. The autofocus was faster than the already great X-E2. The grip helped my larger lenses feel a lot more balanced. The Viewfinder was huge and a pleasure to use. I just felt the overall camera to be quicker. Even small things like the tilting LCD screen on the back stood out. There are times when its nice to be able to see what you're taking a photo of when the camera is way below or above your eye level. The camera feels a little more substantial to the X-E2 and although they share a lot of similarities its clear that its a class above. But, in all fairness, I could photograph anything with either one.
But, these cameras are very complex in their own ways. I'm sure that even 6 months from now I'll discover more neat things I can do with it. And, as more lenses are released there will be a lot more options for people making the move to Mirrorless.
Let's be honest here...
The camera is not perfect and there are still a few areas I hope and know will be improved in newer models, but my Nikon's weren't perfect either!
The key thing to note here is that heading out with the X-T1 is fun!! Looking through the awesome viewfinder and composing your photo, moving the knobs and "feeling" the camera do its job is awesome. Some famous photographers have said how the Fuji cameras have soul and I have to agree. They have their own personalities and will react to different lighting conditions differently to a DSLR. But you can adjust and be creative on the spot and SEE it happening in the viewfinder. It really is hard to explain. The best way to find out what I'm talking about is to go and rent an X-T1 for a few days. You'll probably be frustrated the first few hrs as all the menus, dials, knobs, controls are not where you think they should be, but once you start thinking like a Fuji camera it is nothing but fun!
I recommend you try a mirrorless camera. Fuji, Olympus and Sony are the main manufacturers and all are very different. Perhaps one of them is your next FAVORITE CAMERA!!