Oh, But it’s Sad When a Love Affair Dies

This weekend I sold all of my remaining Fujifilm kit. You’d think after being a Fuji shooter for nine years it would be a tougher decision, but it wasn’t.

The truth is: I haven’t been enjoying my Fuji kit for a long time. What drew me to Fuji was the size. I came from the full frame Canon world; a 5D MkII to be exact. I loved it. I loved my bag of L lenses. My first real trip with the 5D MkII was to Japan and I cherish the images I captured with it.

But it wasn’t exactly what you would call svelte. With my beloved 24-105 f/4 L it came in at a whopping 1,520 grams. And yet: this was my walk-around kit. When I wanted to get up close and personal I’d bust out the 70-200 f/4 IS L, pushing the combo to 1,610g. After a while I stopped taking photos. I couldn’t articulate why at first, but after one too many, “Nah, I’ll leave the camera. I’ve got my phone” moments it became clear that my iPhone 5 was a handier tool than my beloved.

My X-E4 in happier times

It was around this time I started to investigate this “mirrorless” thing in earnest. I first ran across the term when I bought the 5D MkII and briefly considered it, but two things held me back. First, I was admittedly a SLR/DSLR/full frame bigot. It is where I got my start in photography and I was convinced it was The Way Things Are Done. Second, the technology was in its infancy and downsizing seemed risky. I was, after all, on a tight budget and couldn’t afford to invest in a system that could die away within a few years.

Eventually the weight and inability to put my camera on a table in a restaurant got to me and I decided to explore a break-up with Canon. By 2015 the format was starting to show some legs. Sony had already proven the viability of full frame mirrorless and would release the A7R II by the end of that year. Fujifilm’s X100 had proven to be an instant success and the X-Pro 1 and X-T1 were lighting up the photography press with their retro aesthetics. Olympus and Panasonic’s micro four thirds format was putting out some very interesting tech, though as a full frame bigot it was too tiny to be seriously considered (boy, was I ever wrong. More on that later). And in June Leica would release its answer to the X100: the Leica Q, a $4,250 fixed-lens mini-masterpiece for people with more money than common sense. More significantly, professional photographers were embracing the format and becoming brand ambassadors for whichever brand they wanted to have holding their leash.

I had recently moved to Hillsborough, NC and after decades of dealing the Washington DC-area camera shop scum I was feeling pretty jaded about trade-in potential. I’m not wired for person-to-person selling: I’m generally pretty risk-adverse when it comes to money, not having had a lot of it from time to time, and so the thought of being scammed kept that option off the table. Then serendipity led me to Southeastern Camera Carrboro. This is a gem of an old-school camera store, with an excellent selection of modern kit and an almost museum-like collection of used gear. I walked in expecting to be low-balled, if not outright ignored, and walked out with a shiny new Fujifilm X-T10 and a Fujifilm 16mm f/1.4. I was in heaven. Not only did I have a kit that weighed an almost-impossible 756g, but I was now able to reinvent myself as the “prime only” ‘tog I had longed to be. Buh-bye, zooms!

How significant of a size/weight change was it in real life? Just look at the difference:

Comparison courtesy of https://pxlmag.com/db/camera-size-comparison

Flash forward nine years and the bloom is off the rose. I won’t go through my Fujifilm camera and lens history, but the first signs of cracks in the relationship came in Spring of 2022, when I walked into Southeastern Camera looking for some last-minute accessories for the following week’s Disney World trip and walked out with a used Olympus E-M1 MkII and an Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40 f/2.8 PRO. I took 2,200 photos with that setup that trip and fell in love along the way. The killer feature? Image stabilization that lets me take photos hand-held at 4-5 seconds.

E-M1MarkII | 17mm | 5sec | f/5.6 | ISO-250

I came back from that trip and was smitten with Olympus/OM System. I went back to Southeastern to rave about the performance of the E-M1 MkII, saw a new (and hard to find at that point) OM-1 on the shelf, and traded up right then and there. For an ex-full frame bigot, going micro four thirds is possibly the least likely outcome I could have expected.

But I genuinely love the format and the capabilities of these cameras. I own two now: the OM-1 and the OM-5, which is my work travel workhorse.

With the OM-1 in hand, the Fuji kit saw less and less work. I downsized a lens, then a couple more, leaving a trio of formerly beloveds. Over the next two years 2/3 of those lenses would see no action and the third would be reserved for backup duty during a session. Meanwhile Olympus lenses kept multiplying like rabbits.

But it wasn’t just the new hotness that doomed the relationship. Here are the other reasons that contributed to the lack of interest:

Lack of compelling cameras. This is the #1 reason. Since the introduction of the X-T3 in 2019 there have been zero Fujifilm cameras I have been interested in. Or rather, that have grilled my cheese in the long-term, as I have owned three of them (and two of them twice!). I almost instantly regretted trading in my X-T2 on an X-T4, which was significantly heavier and less ergonomically friendly. I ditched that for an X-T3, because I found one new and on sale for a few hundred more than a used X-T2. So if we’re really being honest, there have been zero Fuji cameras I’ve been interested in since 2016.

The end of Kaizen. Aside from the form factor, the thing that geeked me out about Fujifilm was their commitment to Kaizen, a Japanese business philosophy of constant improvement. It amazed me that not only did Fuji keep camera firmware up to date, but they were constantly rolling out new features to older bodies. It was

By 2022 it was becoming apparent that the Kaizen era was over at Fujifilm. Firmware updates were no more than bug fixes, not jaw-dropping new features that kept old cameras relevant. Seriously: look at the Fujifilm X-E2 4.0 firmware update. It took an aging camera and gave it almost the exact feature set of its replacement, the X-E2S. This was Kaizen at its best!

Sadly, that’s gone away. Browse the firmware page and you’ll see.

Size and Weight. This is where Fuji really lost its way. APS-C Fuji cameras have been getting larger and heavier. My first “real” Fuji (I started with the X-T10) was the X-T2, which weighed 507g. I traded it in on the X-T4, which weighed 20% more. That 20% was noticeable, but the X-T4 was also chunkier. Blockier. Ergonomically, less enjoyable to use. With the intro of the X-H1 and X-H2S Fuji has gotten away from svelte and small and as a stills shooter I felt I was losing the reason I moved from full-frame DSLR to mirrorless. Here’s a quick comparison showing how weight is trending upwards:

  • X-T2 to X-T4 = 20% increase in weight
  • X-T2 to X-H2S = 30% increase in weight
  • X-T4 to X-H2S = 9% increase in weight

And don’t even get me started with the GFX line.

Image Stabilization. A significant reason is image stabilization. I come from the Canon world and owned the excellent 24-105 L f/4 IS and the 70-200 L f/4 IS. Even 10 years ago that IS worked wonders. NOT so with the X-T4. The X-T4’s stabilization was so poor that I thought that the system wasn’t on or broken, until I read this comparison. I’ve also rented the X-S10 and owned the 18-55 f/2.8-4 IS and the performance of both was also “meh.” The poor IS performance was one of the main reasons I sold the X-T4.

Here’s how Amateur Photographer describes the X-H2S:

Fujifilm’s in-body stabilisation works well, and I was able to get sharp images hand-held at shutter speeds as slow as 0.6sec when using the 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom at wideangle. This is on a par with cameras like the Sony Alpha 7 IV, although it’s some way off class-leading Micro Four Thirds models such as the Panasonic GH6 and OM System OM-1.

https://amateurphotographer.com/review/fujifilm-x-h2s-review/

The words “some way off” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence. I’m over 50 and my hands are not as stable as they once were, so IS has turned out to be incredibly important to me. You’re looking at a system that boasts .6 seconds vs. one that performs at 4+ seconds, yet the photography press basically makes them seem like they’re in the same ballpark. Nothing can be further from the truth.

Influencers. The last two items are silly personal preferences, but reasons nonetheless. First up: influencers/brand ambassadors. As a newbie for the mirrorless world I was at first delighted about the work that brand ambassadors do in educating the public. It was also validating to see that the leap of faith I had taken had also been taken by photographers that were held in much higher esteem than myself.

After a couple of generations of camera releases, that schtick gets old. I get that they’re brand ambassadors and not reviewers and that fawning for money is literally their job here, but FFS: the lack of anything resembling negativity was so off-putting I’m listing it as an official reason for leaving a camera brand.

Conversions. This one struck me days before putting the Fuji up for sale: I just wanted to be done with converting focal lengths in my head and guesstimating the bokeh (“so my 33mm f/1.4 is actually a 50mm f/2.2…”). With the exception of my brief detour with the Canon 5D MkII I’d spent two decades doing focal length and f-stop conversions in my head. Which was fine until it wasn’t.

Look, I grew up with “full frame” (we just called them “cameras” back then). I’m old. As freakin’ amazing as Fujifilm’s APS-C X-Trans sensor is, I’m just tired of multiplying everything by 1.5. Sometimes you just want a 1.4 lens to be a 1.4 lens.

I traded everything in for a Sony A7R III and a 55mm f/1.8. It’s a 55mm lens. With a 1.8 aperture wide open. And I am thrilled.

“But Chris,” you say. “Didn’t you just rave about your OM System kit?” Why yes, I did. See, the crop factor on micro four thirds is 2x. 12mm = 24mm in full frame. f/1.2 = f/2.4. AND by eliminating APS-C from my bag I halve the amount of math I have to do! That’s called “winning.”

So there it is. No more Fujifilm in my house. While it seems like the relationship suddenly imploded, the truth is we had been growing apart for a while. And while a sizable part of me will miss those awesome aperture and shutter speed dials and the phenomenal film simulations, I have a much more capable camera on the small/packable size and a new 42mp full frame to explore (and it weighs only 39g more than the equivalent X-T3 + 33mm f/1.4). Time to kick the tires and see what this Sony can do.


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