This article was written for Fujilove Magazine, and originally published in August 2018. I had a regular column for the magazine for a year between 2018 and 2019, and am reproducing these articles here for posterity. All Fujilove archive posts
I don’t use a lot of gear. Being nomadic, I live out of a bag, and having to carry your life around quickly teaches you to be selective about what you bring. Dragging heavy bags around gets old fast. And I’m talking about both my clothing bag, and the one that comes on the plane with me, containing my brick house of a laptop and its power supply, back up drives and of course, camera gear. It’s a decent load, always hitting the 10 kilo mark, although the least of it is the camera.
Being minimal about camera gear was never a problem, because that was how I started. When I set off on my traveling life in 2013, the only gear I owned was an X-Pro1, with the XF 35mm F1.4. It recorded everything encountered for a couple of years, and in those heady, honeymoon days of discovery, I didn’t feel I needed anything else.
But we always want more in the end. G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) is a highly contagious and mostly pleasurable condition. Five and a half years down the road, I’ve been through a few bodies and lenses, but my essential kit, the one I do most of my work with, remains spare:
- The X-Pro2
- The 35mm F1.4
- The newer 23mm F2, and
- Occasionally, the 56mm F1.2, which is a little heavy, but f/1.2 is totally worth it.
Like a lot (most? all?) of photographers, my work involves long hours on my feet, carrying all necessary equipment with me. For this, Fujis are a big load off the shoulders. Like so many or you, my Fuji story involves ditching the DSLR because mirrorless was easier on the body – or in my case, a troublesome back. A small camera that delivered pro quality files was a revelation, and in many ways continues to be, as I find myself doing more with a camera than I’d ever considered in those first days on the road, where making pictures for sheer joy was the only thing on my agenda.
I’ve shot all kinds of things over the years with an X-Pro body and one or two lenses: music festivals, weddings, landscape, street, and everything in-between. I’m a steadfast fan of Fuji rangefinders, and will make video with them too (see here and here). They fit my primary requirements of gear: that it’s light enough to carry around all day in a shoulder bag, small enough to be unobtrusive, and robust enough to stand a bit of rough use. All my cameras and lenses fit this description, from the ones mentioned above, to the spares: an X-E3 body, 27mm F2.8 and 35mm f2 lenses. They’re all compact and aside from the weight advantage, also offer the benefit of looking like equipment no one needs to take very seriously. This is incredibly valuable.
I’m really happy with the equipment that I have, and will be the first to admit it’s all I need. It’s been a while since I’ve really wanted anything more, with the last serious attack of G.A.S. being in 2016, when the 23mm F2 came out. It’s a gorgeous lens and was absolutely worth the months of obsession.
But there is another bout of G.A.S. growing. I think I want-need another lens. No, none of those fancy new ones Fuji recently released. It’s another small prime, six years old, an original XF lens.
I want the XF 18mm F2.
I’ve been told it’s optically not quite up to par with the newer Fujinon lenses, but that doesn’t bother me, and I love it for all of the reasons I love my other gear:
- It’s a tiny piece of glass – a pancake lens without its hood.
- It sits as balanced on the little X-E3 as it does on a bigger body like the X-Pro2.
I borrowed it from a fellow photographer for the first time in 2013, to shoot at a music festival. It’s way wider than the 50mm field of view I’m used to, but I did find myself liking it a fair bit. And I like it better, every time I’ve borrowed it over the years. I had to get closer to who-/whatever I was photographing, so my work was different. Good-different.
I got the 23mm F2 in late 2016, thinking it would help with getting closer. It has to some degree, but not enough. I want more in the frame! Barrel distortion! I want the 18mm F2, dammit!
I continue to use and love Fuji cameras for their combination of stellar image quality in a compact package. It’s a combination that’s vital to what I do and how I do it. I’m hoping that Fuji keep making smaller lenses for those of us who like cameras with a low profiles.
In the meantime, I’ll be obsessing over that 18mm F2.