What's In My Bag - Part I

 

Guess what's the most frequently asked question on the internet! At least among photographers it's without any doubt the famous and undisputed "what's in your bag" topic. We all love gear talk. Well most of us. But look at some cameras from all the different eras and tell me what you see. Like any aficionado of anything would let you know, be it cars, musical instruments, even computers, those things are more than the sum of their parts. We see the craftsmanship that goes into and derives from them, we see memories and future possibilities, the good times we had and the potential for our unfulfilled plans. I know, I know, photography is about the photos, not about the cameras. And I absolutely get that! But still, I have to give some credit to the cameras and all the tools I use to take those pictures, because in the end they still play a role. A good tool is one that's not in the way, that gives us the ability to focus on what we want to accomplish. But in my book, the best tool is the one that goes beyond that and instils us with inspiration and creativity. For that to be possible though we need to be able to appreciate the tool as being more that just that, a tool. And I, for one, think I have found the right tools for me.

Enter the Fujis.

My first Fuji, the X-E2. Nifty little thing!

My first Fuji, the X-E2. Nifty little thing!

You read the title, this thing will have more than one part. That's because I want to start somewhere else! I'll actually begin with what was in my bag. In February last year, I bought my first Fujifilm camera, the X-E2, together with the 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 kit lens. This was after I had sold all my Canon gear that included a 5D Mark III and some of their best lenses. If you'd like to, you can read all about that big step right here. As I let you know in that blogpost, I didn't even bother to really try it out beforehand. I was at a make-or-break point on my photographic journey and I bet my shirt on that move. Wow, what a thing to say when you think about the fact that photography is only about the photos! But see, the problem is that my work tool at that time, the king of the hill, the 5D Mark III, happened to just not me the right tool for me. And so it actually killed my passion for something that had been such a fundamental part of my life. To be fair, I guess I also had one of those nasty photographers blues phases. Yeah well, that may have played a part too. Anyway. I guess I got over it and the move to the Fujis played an important role.

It could have gone either way, new camera, same problem than before, no photos, no passion. But it actually worked out! If you'd look at my photo archive right now, you would see some sporadic folders from the past couple years, then, starting February 2014, a folder for almost every single day. A trend that still remains unchanged today! I loved to shoot with that new little camera, it fit into my bag and would be with me all the time. I loved the little rectangular format of the thing, its simple aesthetics. I loved its easily understandable handling and above all that, I loved the pictures it - or rather I was able to capture with it. The quality this sensor delivers is still breathtaking.

The so-called kit lens, the XF 18-55mm. In its class it's a shameless overperformer.

The so-called kit lens, the XF 18-55mm. In its class it's a shameless overperformer.

I am a professional photographer though and I must say, that is where I began to have some issues with the X-E2. I tried it out on a job as a second shooter together with my boss. The quality of the pictures, the noise in the higher ISO ranges, around 3200 to 6400, was not a problem at all. To my and my boss' surprise we didn't see any big differences between his 5D Mark III's full frame and my Fuji's APS-C sensor! But there where two things that bothered me while shooting the event. In low light situations it really struggled to lock focus. That was something I had never known from my DSLRs before. I missed some of the moments I tried to capture. It felt like I couldn't completely rely on the camera to do it's job so that I could concentrate on mine. My second problem was that the handling of the camera, which I liked when I was shooting for myself, felt slow in these more demanding and hectic situations. I was used to being able to adjust my settings instantly, to not having to think about the camera at all, which the X-E2 on the other hand forced me to do. I felt not up to the task, sluggish and unresponsive.

Here's the funny thing though: the pictures I'd taken weren't all that bad! Back at the studio checking my photos, I found that though I had more out of focus pictures than I would have had with the DSLR, all in all there where way more keepers than I would have guessed! In the end, the camera felt capable, but still somewhat unreliable. Despite these throwbacks, I was far from giving up on the Fujis. I loved shooting that little camera way too much.

Next up, I bought some glass: the 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 to cover the tele range and the 35mm f/1.4 to have a good low light prime for those dark moments in your career. Heh, yeah thanks. Well I ended up nearly never using the 55-200mm. It's a great lens, don't get me wrong, sturdy build, stabilized, great image quality. But I was used to a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS, you just can't compare that to a lens with variable aperture. I can see why someone would like it though, it's less expensive than the 50-140mm and it's (for now) the only option to go up to 300mm equivalent without extenders.

As a little side note I'd absolutely recommend to get the hand grip for the X-E2, especially to handle some of the bigger lenses. Though I guess this was probably only a problem with my model, The screw that's holding it to the body broke, so that it's virtually useless now. Didn't find the time yet to see if the screw is actually replaceable! But again, I don't think this usually happens, so I'd still recommend it. It definitely improves the whole experience of handling the camera.

The official hand grip for the X-E2. Absolutely worth it. Except when it's broken. Which it is. 

The official hand grip for the X-E2. Absolutely worth it. Except when it's broken. Which it is. 

The 35mm f/1.4 on the other hand immediately became my always-on lens. Small size, great focal length I could completely relate to, good focus, great sharpness even wide open. Most images in my portfolio are shot with that lens. You own a Fuji X camera? Go get this lens, you won't regret it. It's just that good. Also, I think that these small cameras show their best side when combined with small primes. Together, they are an unbelievably capable package that is so much fun to shoot with. There's no other way to describe it: it just feels right. 

Here we're already scratching on the second part's content, because unlike the X-E2, the 18-55mm and the 55-200mm, the 35mm still remains in my bag to this day! I keep the X-E2 as a second body and the 18-55mm for that moment Fuji comes up with a camera that's capable of shooting decent video, but that's also the reason why it's not in my bag for now. Great, now I'm in next weeks part again! To wrap it up, I'd still recommend the X-E2 to anyone. It is a great camera and I loved using it. I just feel like I've outgrown it somehow, the controls just aren't up to speed with me, like it's slowing me down in some situations. So stay tuned for next week where I'll talk about my current kit. Spoiler: the X-T1 and the holy trinity! Darn, now you know already. Well, you'll still want to read it I'm sure, it's gear talk after all!

Fujifilm X-E2 with grip, kit lens, XF 55-200mm and some filters. Great kit to get startet in the Fuji X system.

Fujifilm X-E2 with grip, kit lens, XF 55-200mm and some filters. Great kit to get startet in the Fuji X system.

What's in your bag? Do you have some photo gear you would never leave home without? Let me know in the comments and don't forget to share this blogpost on your networks. Oh, and thanks for reading!