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In this article (I don’t want to call it a review because) I’ll share my thoughts on why I picked up a Fuji X100F as a second camera alongside all my Nikon gear. And why I love this little camera!
My journey into serious digital photography began in the spring of 2012 when I realized my little pocket camera wasn’t cutting it anymore. After consulting with some friends, my wife and I picked up a Nikon D200 and 50mm prime lens and the rest, as they say, is history.
Over the years our collection of gear has grown to include three Nikon bodies, several lenses, and a host of accessories all of which have come in handy with our family/child/high school senior photography hobby we run on the side. However, after much research and soul-searching (or perhaps you might say goal-searching), I recently added a Fuji X100F to my collection of gear and I thought I’d share some of my reasons why in case you might be going through the same thought process we did.
Almost any time a club, business, or other organization sets out to improve a particular aspect of its operation the key stakeholders involved perform what’s known as a needs assessment. This is a formal process that aims to help organizations understand gaps or areas of deficiency which can be addressed. They help to guide the improvement so that it is done in a way that matters most. In similar fashion, a needs assessment can make all the difference in the world to photographers as well.
When my wife and I bought that D200 years ago we weren’t exactly sure what our needs were, other than that we wanted better pictures of our newborn son. That camera and lens worked beautifully for a while but soon we started to realize that it had some issues which were hard to overlook.
We learned that the 50mm lens was too restrictive indoors and images that were taken at ISO 800 and above were quite noisy which limited our ability to use this set of gear in challenging lighting conditions. These deficiencies led us to buy a Nikon D7100 and a 35mm lens which enabled us to take pictures at wider angles and in lower-light conditions, and once again our needs were met. For a while.
As time went on and we became more invested in the Nikon system, I started to once again see some significant limitations of our camera gear. My wife and I were doing more portrait sessions which necessitated the purchase of an 85mm lens and external flash. But at the same time, we felt as though we didn’t quite have the right gear to take the type of pictures of our kids with which we were really happy.
The 35mm lens was nice, but on a crop-sensor body like the D7100 or D200 it wasn’t wide enough for everyday casual use and I often found myself in low-light situations where the high ISO performance of the D7100 just didn’t cut it. Enter the full-frame Nikon D750.
Bear with me, I’m getting to the Fuji X100F!
As we examined our own particular photographic needs we realized that the D750 ticked all the boxes that we had at the time: great low-light performance, superb image quality for portraits, tougher build quality, a larger image buffer, and the list goes on. The D750 seemed like a good logical choice and over time it has only grown more useful. Even my 35mm lens specifically designed for crop-sensor Nikon DX cameras works fine as long as I shoot at about f/4 and don’t mind a bit of vignetting in the corners.
Ironically, despite getting more gear, the more limited I still felt in terms of taking everyday photos of our kids – which was the whole reason my wife and I got into digital photography in the first place!
My favorite camera/lens combination quickly became the D750 + 35mm and I found myself using that particular setup almost every time I wanted to just go out and shoot candid pictures of my wife and kids. I took that camera and lens whether we were on vacation, in the backyard, or even on a visit to the park.
The problem was that it is so big and heavy I often found myself leaving it at home and using my iPhone instead, which works fine as long as there’s plenty of light. As soon as the sun goes down or you move indoors, the quality difference between a mobile phone and a larger camera quickly becomes apparent.
Professionally, our growing collection of gear brought with it some headaches too. I found myself using the D750 + 70-200mm f/2.8 lens on most of my paid client shoots, but it is really heavy and not at all conducive to close-up shots in small spaces. I had other cameras and lenses but nothing that gave me really good shots with a wider field of view, so for a while, I contemplated getting another D750 and a true full-frame 35mm lens.
However the idea of adding even more gear to my bag, while still not really having a good all-purpose camera I could use with my family, threw me into a bit of a mental slump. I had a clear need that was unmet, but I didn’t want the Nikon gear required to solve the problem.
And then I found the Fuji X100F!
The more I looked at my needs as a photographer the more I realized I was going about things all wrong. Instead of asking myself, “What needs to I have and how can I meet them?” I was stuck in the mindset that I had to stay with Nikon gear because that’s what I already had. I was putting form (i.e. Nikon) over function (what I wanted my gear to do).
Professionally, I had the midrange and telephoto focal lengths covered but I didn’t have anything on the wider end. Personally, I knew I didn’t have a truly portable go-anywhere camera. I was looking for a way to solve these issues with my mind firmly planted in Nikon’s pastures, all the while not realizing that other camera systems might have a much better answer.
When I discovered the Fuji X100F I realized that it ticked off every single box on my list. Professionally it allowed me to get the kind of close, wide-angle, intimate pictures I couldn’t get with any of my other gear. It was also small and light enough that I could be discrete at events and even carry it as a second body with my heavy D750 and 70-200mm lens doing the heavy-lifting.
The 23mm lens paired with an APS-C sensor meant I would have almost the exact same field of view as shooting at 35mm on a full-frame camera. The wide f/2.0 lens aperture meant that I could get great shots in low light, and even the price was right since the cost of the X100F was less than another Nikon D750 and full-frame 35mm lens.
Personally, the Fuji X100F became my go-to camera for almost any situation I found myself in with my family: birthday parties, playing in the yard, going to friends’ houses, taking trips to visit family, and even going on vacations. Prior to getting the X100F, my D750 and 35mm lens were what I used in almost all of those situations. Not only was it heavy and cumbersome, I also felt highly conspicuous taking pictures in casual settings. It’s hard to ignore someone who is wielding a giant DSLR and pointing it in your face!
As an added bonus the leaf shutter in the X100F is almost silent which makes picture-taking in quiet situations much less worrisome. Further, if you want to be really quiet you can enable a fully electronic shutter which lets you take pictures in complete silence. No DSLR can do that, even in Live View, and it’s something I have really come to appreciate about the X100F and other mirrorless systems.
Finally, the wealth of manual buttons and dials on the X100F has been nothing short of a revelation for someone like me who cut his photography teeth long after digital cameras had supplanted most film cameras. Being able to look at my camera and see separate dials for shutter speed, aperture, and ISO means that I no longer have to hunt through menus or assign functions to control dials to get the shots I want.
Add to this the film simulations like Classic Chrome and ACROS, tough-as-a-tank build quality, and the choice to use either an LCD screen or electronic viewfinder and you end up with a camera small enough to take anywhere yet versatile enough to excel in almost any situation.
I often read articles online about switching from DSLR to mirrorless or vice versa, and there seems to be a persistent debate about which one system better. After my experience with adding a Fuji mirrorless camera to my Nikon DSLR kit, I’ve come to the realization that it’s not about which is better but what gear can meet your needs.
I think the problem that some photographers have, myself included, is that we aren’t good at honestly identifying what problems or needs we have and then working from there to find our answers.
Cameras today are so good it’s almost impossible to not get one that doesn’t have great image quality, autofocus, high ISO performance, dynamic range, and so on. What’s much more difficult is finding a camera, lens, or another piece of gear that solves whatever problem you currently have.
There are a time and place for big DSLR cameras, small mirrorless systems, micro-four-thirds models, even mobile phones and computational photography. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, and each can meet different needs and work fine for you as long as you take the time to find out what your needs really are.
Going forward I see myself using my Nikon gear for more professional shoots and the Fuji camera as a daily driver that will be more for casual shooting, but it’s not an either/or situation. My old crop-sensor D7100 paired with the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is fantastic for getting pictures of my kids playing sports, while the Fuji X00F is ideal for indoor family sessions or times when I just don’t want the heft of a DSLR.
Who knows, my next camera might be something totally different or it might not be a camera at all and instead be some lessons or even just a trip to see and photograph different places.
After hearing my story I’d love to get your input too. What kind of gear do you use, why do you use it, and what steps are you planning to take next to address any issues you might have? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.