Please note that this is not a technical review of the Fuji x100s. There are many great reviews already written by photographers who are technically more savvy than I am. This is simply an account of my experience as I make my first steps away from a DSLR system.
I finally did it! I left the DSLR and lenses behind and boarded a plane to France, via Iceland, with one camera and a fixed focal length lens. I can hear some of you think out loud: “Iceland without all your gear? Are you crazy?” Well… Maybe I am, but I was ready for the challenge and I never looked back! If you’re not familiar with the Fuji x100s, it’s a retro looking mirrorless 16MP camera, fitted with a 23mm lens (35mm equivalent) and an APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor. Google it, everyone is talking about it!
I wrote quite a bit about the power of limitations in photography before. This is not a new thing for me. Even with my Canon 5DMarkII, you were more likely to see me with a 40mm lens recently than a zoom lens. Limitations help you grow as a photographer. Traveling with the Fuji x100s for a month, from Iceland to my home country in France, was very liberating. Not only the comfortable size and weight of the camera was a great advantage, the fact that the camera became a simple tool and did not get in the way between me and my vision was the best part. It was almost like shooting with a camera phone without ever sacrificing control or quality.
I’m not a landscape photographer, I’m an urban shooter. That doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate a beautiful landscape when I’m in front of one. Iceland is like no other place on earth. The thought of my Canon gear, thousands of miles away, did cross my mind a couple of times while taking in the amazing Icelandic minimalist landscape. But, as they say: “The best camera is the one you have with you.” And I had a heck of a great piece of equipment with me on this journey.
Although my true love is street photography, I shoot whatever moves me wherever I happen to be. I can honestly say that I discovered a renewed joy for the craft. I felt like a child at play again. I loved the fact that no one took me seriously by the look of my camera. Being so inconspicuous when you shoot street photography has several advantages. You’ll dare some shots that you may not feel so comfortable capturing with a larger camera. Also, if you enjoy doing street portraiture as well as candids, you will find that people are much more receptive to having a portrait taken in the street with something that looks like a point-and-shoot than a professional looking camera. With a smaller camera, you become a lot less intimidating.
Many photographers have asked me if I would replace the x100s for a model with interchangeable lenses. NO, I wanted something different! I already own a system with the best glass in the world (although I would love to try a mirroless system with interchangeable lenses eventually…) Truth is, the fact that you cannot change lenses IS the reason why I chose the Fuji x100s. If you don’t believe that a fixed lens will help you grow as a photographer, try it for a week. Put any fixed focal length lens on your camera body, get out there and shoot the world around you. It will slow you down, you will take more care in your composition, you will be more creative. With a fixed lens, your feet become your zoom. You will pay closer attention to what you include in your frame, and more importantly, what you decide to leave out in order to make a stronger image. Try it! My workshop students get a little nervous at first when I suggest they shoot with a 50mm all day in Paris and leave the rest of the gear at the hotel. They soon realize that it is on those days that they yield their best work.
What’s going to happen to my Canon bodies and L glass? They are definitely not going to accrue much frequent flyers miles anymore but I’m still using them for commercial shoots when I’m not traveling or teaching workshops. For the time being there is still a place for DSLRs, especially in some specific genres of photography such as wildlife, fast action sports, etc. For most other types of photography, you won’t compromise on quality with a smaller system. The perception from the client’s point of view may be a barrier for a little while longer, but that too will change. As far as I am concerned, I think I already own my last DSLR…
I made a selection of images that I shot with the Fuji x100s over the past few weeks, they include a variety of genres to demonstrate that you can pretty much do anything with one fixed lens. It’s all about taking letting your creative juices flow.
I would love to read about your experience traveling with minimal gear or your fear to give it a try.