I switched from Canon to Fujifilm in the summer of 2015 after being a dedicated–sometimes rabid–Canon shooter for over twenty-seven years. My journey with Canon began in 1987, which is both the year I graduated high school and the year Canon released the EOS 650. The EOS 650 was Canon’s first body to support autofocus lenses and I was shocked to receive one as a graduation gift. Itretailed for approximately $350 upon release ($681.28 in today’s dollars) and truthfully had no business being given to a seventeen year-old kid, dreams of studying photography in college be damned. I shot the hell out of that camera and a 50mm f/1.4, partly because it was a revolutionary piece of kit and partly because when you study photography in the “wet darkroom” years you have very little discretionary income.
Fast forward twenty-odd years and I have finally acquired my “holy grail:” a Canon 5D MkII1. I had coveted a full frame DSLR ever since the release of the original 5D put full frame at a price point where mere mortals could afford them. The 5D MkII had it all: much wider dynamic range, terrific low light performance, and…most importantly…no pop-up flash. This was a real pro piece of kit. I took it and a backpack full of L lenses to Tokyo and fell in love with it. It was everything I dreamed a camera could be.
So why, a mere three years later, did I not only dump the aforementioned holy grail, but walked away from a system that held me in its thrall for nearly three decades?
The answer to that is complex and to do it justice I’ll have to break my answer into several chunks. In a nutshell it came down to:
- Recapturing the Joy of Shooting
As I mentioned before not only did I ditch my 5D MkII, but a bag full of expensive lenses meticulously acquired over many years. I had invested a sizable percentage of the GDP of a developing nation into my system and there was zero chance of getting out of it anything close to what I had paid for it. Furthermore, I knew nothing of Fujifilm. Until the day I purchased the X-T10 I had never even handled one of their cameras.
So selling a collection at a loss and jumping into the unknown sounds like an incredibly stupid idea, right? Well…
In 2013 our family unexpectedly said goodbye to the Washington, DC area and moved to the North Carolina piedmont. My wife, Megan, got an opportunity to work at UNC that she could not pass up, so we loaded a truck and headed south. And while Hillsborough isn’t exactly the frontier, creatively I might as well been transported to the moon.
Gone from my life was not only the large metropolitan area where I had honed my craft, but the subjects I had worked hard on developing an eye towards capturing. Gone were the museums, the monuments, the city streets, the architecture. In its stead was countryside and small-town charm. And while we had countryside and small towns back in Maryland, I deliberately avoided photographing them. I was never good at landscapes, for example, and honestly (and myopically) had no interest in learning how to capture them. I had my cityscapes and monumental structures, after all.
Suddenly I’m surrounded by the very subjects I had turned my nose up at. And just as suddenly my kit seems very, very heavy and large. In DC if I started to feel the weight I could always stash my kit in my car (both are insured) or a locker at a museum or in my office. I also blended in: in a tourist haven such as DC a photographer with too much equipment just vanishes into the background. But in a small town a pro body and a 70-200mm zoom takes up a conspicuous amount of real estate on coffee shop table.
So I did a somewhat stupid thing: aside from four or five gigs for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum I didn’t take photographs recreationally for two years. It just wasn’t fun dragging a heavy kit around and I found it encumbered me in more ways than one.
So Reason Number One for going mirrorless was: weight.
In many ways jumping to Fujifilm looks like a major step backwards. I essentially downgraded from a full frame sensor to a smaller APS-C crop sensor and dropped my megapixel count from 21.1 to 16.3. Plus, I would be giving up those sweet, sweet L lenses and starting again from scratch. If I wanted to downsize why didn’t I just ditch the larger/heavier 5D Mkii for Canon’s ASP-C based Rebel line? Lets take a look at the specs on B&H:
Canon’s competitively priced APS-C camera body, the EOS Rebel T6i, is 555g. The X-T10's body is 381 g. That is a 31% weight reduction on the body alone, which has made a huge difference in the enjoyment I get walking around with my camera.
There is also the form factor: The Rebel T6i is 5.2 x 4.0 x 3.1". The X-T10 is 4.7 x 3.3 x 1.6”. The T6i is 10% wider, 21% taller, and 94% deeper. Again: Fujifilm's APS-C body makes for a much more compact package. There were places I wouldn't take my camera because I didn't want to deal with juggling it and my environment (coffee shops, generally wandering around town). Now I take my X-T10 almost everywhere. It's small, inconspicuous, and doesn't take up much space on a table.
And think about that “94% deeper” measurement for a bit: why, in the increasingly shrinking digital world we live in, does a functionally equivalent camera need to be twice as thick? Simple: the T6i is a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera. An SLR (either analog or digital) uses a mirror paired with a prism to render the image in the viewfinder. It is an inescapable part of the design and thus every DSLR made today is limited in size by the mirror and prism: the “reflex” part of DSLR.
Mirrorless, by contrast, is…well…mirrorless. There is no mirror, no prism, and thus no large mirror box between the lens and the sensor. The result is a camera that is both lighter and smaller. In another post I’ll touch on the technological upside to this.
Let’s get back to weight, because lenses deserve their own moment in the sun. My favorite Canon walk-around lens, the 24-105 f/4 L, was 670 g. My heaviest Fujifilm lens, the XF-16mm f/1.4 is 375 g, or 44% lighter. Even when I toss my 14mm f/2.8 (235 g) in the bag my lenses add up to only 610 g, a 9% weight savings.
Tossing my third lens, the 35mm f/2 (164 g), in my bag: my complete kit weighs 1,178 g. The T61 + 24-105 would weigh 1,225 g. Similar? Well, no, not really. With the T6i I’d be carrying that 1,225 g around my neck all the time. With the X-T10 my heaviest camera/lens combo is 756 g, a 38% weight reduction.
And the 24-105 wasn't the only Canon lens in my bag. Add in the 70-200 IS f/4 L (760 g) and the 50mm f/1.4 (290 g) and my "day trip" kit was hella heavy. This was essentially my load out any time I went shooting and by the end of the day my shoulders would be screaming.
More food for thought: the brilliant Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 (53mm equivalent) is 43.5% lighter than the Canon 50mm f/1.4. Overall, not only my X-T10-based 50mm prime kit is 35% lighter than the equivalent Canon combo, but the body alone of the Canon T6i is 10 grams heavier than my 50mm camera-lens combo!
So: lighter, smaller, with all of the advantages and none of the disadvantages of a APS-C DSLR. It was a no-brainer for me.
- You don’t REALLY want a history of camera purchases spanning two decades, do you? ↩︎