This article was written for Fujilove Magazine, and originally published in November 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 always have a camera on me. This is a fact of the last 10 years. I don’t always use that camera but it’s there in the bag – a comforting bulk that makes a picture possible.
Well that changed for a little while. I’d left all of my cameras in Iraq, since I’m going back there next year, and returned to Singapore with no gear at all.
38 days with no camera.
I’ve been somewhat bereft. Much of my waking day involves doing stuff around imagery, but with no instrument to actually make images with, this side activity felt pointless, even though I knew that the lull is a temporary one. It’s a strange thing, this need to have a camera in hand, and how altered the world feels without it. Like many of you, I, too, have a habit of finding images wherever I happen to be, whatever I happen to be doing. All of this is based on knowing that the picture could be made if desired. Not having the option to fulfil that desire makes the appreciation of the way light falls on anything sadly hollow.
Yes, I’ve been experiencing major withdrawals.
I’ve had a smartphone on me, which has a camera, but I’ve never enjoyed using the damned thing to make pictures. I like using the phone for many things, post-processing being one of them, but photographing? Ugh. It’s always an unpleasant and annoying experience: a device that begs to be dropped because it’s stupid to hold, and that wants to do all these things I don’t want it to do… a right bloody pain. Using a phone removes much of what I love about using a camera – a tactile process of decision-making that involves buttons, dials, lenses, etc. At the end of all of that, the picture that results might not be the one I was after, but it makes achieving each desired frame infinitely satisfying.
(I know, I get to hate on shooting with my phone all I want, precisely because I normally have sensational camera gear. If I didn’t, it might be a different story but at this point a phone camera is not a real camera to me.)
The camera drought ended a couple of days ago, when I arrived in Copenhagen. Among the many early Christmas goodies waiting for me was a brand spanking new X-T3.
I’ve only had the X-T3 for a couple of days while writing this, so I haven’t been shooting much, as trying to acclimate to winter is taking a bit of my attention. But it’s the first camera I’ve touched in what feels like forever, so while this is no review (go and read Jonas Rask if you’re after one of those), it is a bunch of impressions that come with the easing of my camera withdrawal.
I’ve been a dedicated rangefinder user since 2012, when the X-Pro1 entered my life. I owned an X-T1 for a few months back in 2015, but the X-Pro2 emerged shortly after and has been my go-to since.
So why an X-T again, after all this time? It’s pretty simple: going forward, my work is going to involve a lot of video and I need a camera that’s a little more capable in this regard. I haven’t shot with an X-T body for years and, on picking it up, several things hit me all at once:
1. Ye gods, that glorious, insane electronic viewfinder! The size, clarity and superb refresh of the thing is wigging me out completely.
2. Instant start up – this thing boots in no time at all.
3. I’m really liking those locking dials
4. As much as I enjoy having an EV dial I can rotate with my thumb on the X-Pro2, I’m actually kind of enjoying having one I have to be more deliberate (read: use two fingers) about moving. And I love that it stays at the prescribed setting, instead of doing the merry-go-round the X-Pro series EV dials do.
5. And I’m really enjoying being able to operate all those dials with gloved hands. That was always a little harder with the X-Pro2 with its sleeker profile.
I was surprised also by what a pleasure it is to use. My vague memories of my old X-T1 all those years ago recall a lot of good functional aspects but none of the touchy feely goodness that I’ve always experienced with an X-Pro or an X-E.
I’m having a lot of fun with the X-T3. Whether it’s ogling that viewfinder, enjoying the fall off at f/1.4, or just the noise of the shutter when I hit the release (which I’ve been doing a lot of these couple of days, because it’s a crazy good sensation to be taking a picture again). Mostly it’s a feeling of completeness, of having a camera in hand, doing what I’ve come to think of as something I must do, come hell or high water, whether anyone else knows it or not.
It’s good to feel like a photographer again. And very fine to have such great tools at my disposal.