In my opinion the Fujifilm X cameras have the best controls and the best image quality and the best lenses for the money. My current X-E1 satisfies my needs better than any others I have owned; but I am now wondering about the future.
Lately I have had multiple problems that are putting a damper on my photography. The arthritis in my hands has been particularly bad, I had a touch of the flu, and the weather has prevented me from walking, so I have used my time to concentrate on the arthritis issue since it is the only one affected by the camera and the others will resolve themselves in time.
At one time I owned a Pentax K-5 and multiple large lenses; but I sold it and went in search of a lighter camera due to the difficulties I was having holding it. After a few trials of other cameras, I finally arrived at the Fujifilm X-E1 as being the best compromise in quality vs. ergonomics vs. cost … with the image quality and cost being the decisive factors. It weighted a lot less than the K-5 and my hands quit getting any worse.
Now that my hands are bothering me a lot more, I am realizing that I’m on a one-way trip and that they may continue to get worse in a non-linear fashion. I decided that I should look for something lighter with better ergonomics. I have over the years tried lots of smaller, lighter micro 4/3 cameras. They were easier to hold due to their size and the much reduced weight of their lenses, but I did not like their low light image qualities.
One obvious realization was that most of the weight and handling issues with current cameras are the lenses. That is what makes micro 4/3 such a good camera if you are not photographing in low light. When I started looking for a camera with better low light capabilities, I found that I needed to stay with APS size, or larger, sensors; but they all need larger, heavier weight lenses. One solution is to adapt your photography to shorter focal lengths; i.e. give up the longer, heavier zoom lenses and switch to a few prime lenses. I have tried that. In addition, at one time I had a zoom lens with an effective 600 mm focal length capability. I am now down to an effective 300 mm and am using it less and less. My current most used lenses are prime lenses with effective focal lengths of 40.5 and 52.5 mm … my 27 mm pancake lens and my 35 mm lens for my X-E1. I use them due to their smaller size and lower weight and partially compensate for their shorter focal length range by zoom-cropping a lot of my images.
My current problem is that I have already exploited the above solutions. What is next? I could also give up some low-light capability but I am reluctant to go very far in this direction since most of my photography is in low light situations. I could also switch to using a tripod with longer shutter times but that is not very feasible because of my conditions and shooting style.
I decided to take another look at several camera systems. Seeing that the lower cost DSLRs had nice hand-grips and cost a lot less, I have tried the Pentax K-50 and the Canon T3i. I liked their hand grips, especially since the cameras also cost less than the X-E1, but I returned them since I wasn’t sure either of them was the one for me. What I did decide was that I could handle a heavier camera with greater ease if it had a good hand-grip.
When Nikon announced the new lightweight D3300, I decided to order one and try it. My objective in trying it is to be able to pair it with the very good lightweight 35 mm prime lens and then increase my ability to crop zoom with the 24 MP sensor. If it works well enough for me, I could keep it along with the X-E1 and primarily use the X-E1 in the low-light indoor situations and during the times when I need to hang it from around my neck under a jacket … at least that is my current plan. I probably won’t get the D3300 for another 3 or 4 weeks, but I at least have something to think about while I’m waiting for warmer weather. Below is a table that shows the differences in the factors that can be quantified. The weight and price include the camera and kit lens and the camera weights include batteries and cards.
I also need to point out that these cameras have different strengths and weaknesses, but the benefits are hard to quantify. If you go to this web site, camerasize.com, you can pick various cameras and not only compare their weights and size but also different views. You can see how the hand-grip and location of controls, etc. might affect your own needs.
After I have tried them all, I’ll let you know how, and hopefully why, my selection works for me … and maybe you. I will be making my decision on how easily I can hold them, their image qualities, and their cost. But, I have two strong conditions to overcome that probably don’t apply to your case. I already have an X-E1 and thus the cheapest solution is to just continue to use it. Second, I have a strong preference to use just one make of camera due to the advantages of not having to learn two different systems and then switching back and forth. If I obtain and keep any of the others it has to overcome these issues.
We had another snow late yesterday and early this morning. After the snow stopped, the temperature has been steadily dropping. It was 10 degrees when I took the above picture at 7:46 this morning, and the forecast for tonight is one degree. As you can see above, it has also been windy and the snow is drifting some.
Another reason for writing today was to bring you up-to-date on a few things. For one, I ordered the Tamron 70 – 300 mm lens to try on the Canon T3i but I didn’t like the image quality at 300 mm and I found it too large and heavy, so I returned it. Since one of my primary reasons for getting the Canon Rebel was to have a cheap system to use with a long lens for wildlife, etc., I also returned it. I think I would be better off to go with a micro 4/3, or smaller sensor, with smaller long focal length lenses if I really want a long focal length solution.
I didn’t find any problems with the Canon T3i and I rather liked it. I especially liked the ergonomics. Its only real constraint, for my uses, was the noise at ISOs above 1600. I use my cameras mostly in lower light situations, either inside poorly lit buildings or around sunrise or sunset and it is not the best system for low light. Since its noise characteristics are about the same as for micro 4/3 sensors, I think I would be better off going back to micro 4/3 for longer focal lengths because of the combined camera-lens weight; but it would cost about three times as much so I doubt that I’ll do it. I probably will stick to photography that works with my X-E1 and a maximum focal length of 200 mm. I have not used another camera that has as good low light capability and image quality at any ISO.
Maybe I am trying a cheap Canon because I like being a rebel, or maybe I got it to show that it is good enough for most pictures, or maybe I got it since I am fed-up with all the web hype about the best camera of the year, or maybe it was because I’m becoming a “Luddite”, or maybe it was because of all of these reasons.
I took the above picture using the Canon 18 – 55 mm f/3.5 – 5.6 IS II kit lens. The lens is also outdated and has been upgraded & replaced by Canon in kits with newer cameras. I took this image as a raw file early one morning before sunrise using the “P” mode while zoomed out to 53 mm … and then cropped it to get in closer. I then used LR5.3 to convert it and make a few adjustments before converting it to a jpeg as shown above. For those who wish to know, the ISO was 2500, f/5.6, 1/80 sec handheld, and auto WB. The colors were accurate but the image has less dynamic range than newer cameras. When I tried to lighten the shadows, they were noisier and didn’t have as much detail as my X-E1, but it cost 3x as much.
As I mentioned in the previous article, I decided to try a cheaper DSLR after seeing what I could do with a P&S camera. I first tried a Pentax K-50 since I was familiar with Pentax DSLRs. I had owned the Pentax K2000, K-7, and a couple of K-5s over the years. The K-50 was OK but few people use Pentax DSLRs and I could get a more common, lighter Canon DSLR at a lower cost, so I returned the K-50 and bought the T3i. Canon first announced the Rebel T3i and this kit lens in Feb. 2011 so many newer cameras have come out since then … especially in other brands. I have tried it now for a few days, but you will have to wait a bit longer to see if I keep it since I will return it if I don’t think it is worth the cost.
All I want to do is to take pictures of what is, wherever I am, and present them in a style that I like, as often as possible. The main problem with this is that it is getting harder to find anything new to photograph close by.
I took the above picture with a small inexpensive P&S camera, the Olympus TG 820, an older waterproof camera that I purchased on a whim when they were selling them at a low price and dumping inventory. After converting the jpeg to B&W with Silver Efex Pro 2, I found that I liked the results.
While trying to think about what to photograph in the coming year, I decided that I would continue what had worked for me in the past … photograph what I see around me and achieve as much variety as I can with subject material, technique, and style by using a variety of cameras and lenses if it helps.
One thing that I would like to do is make more slide/video shows. Another thing I am thinking about is using some additional cameras that aren’t state-of-the-art. Seeing what I could do above with a cheap P&S camera with just jpegs got me thinking about doing something similar with older inexpensive, common cameras.
On another whim, I ordered the outdated older Canon T3i DSLR. They have dumped them on the market at low prices. I know that it isn’t anywhere near as good as my Fujifilm X-E1 for photographs but I plan to use it differently. I am going to see if it is good enough for me to use as I try my hand at making videos and more slide shows as well as use it with lenses longer than are available for my X-E1, and maybe even with a macro lens.
I would also like to see how bad, or good, the cheap Canon really is. I have this feeling that many of us have chased better and better cameras while the point of diminishing returns in capability has been reached. It will take me a while to explore this theory, but what else do I have to do with my time?