Last year our family booked a two week summer vacation to southwest Ireland. I struggled for what seemed like weeks to figure out what gear was going to make the final cut for the trip. I'd been a loyal Canon shooter and had a full kit consisting of two bodies (6D/7D2) and six lenses as well as speedlites, tripods and bags… everything that comes along with years of being an advanced amateur with major GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). I was resigned to take one body, two zooms and one prime. After laying out my smallest pack with this gear it still seemed like too much for an international trip. What troubles might possibly result from multiple trips through airport customs? This was a family trip after all, not a photography assignment. Was it time to switch?
Sometimes letting go leads to new adventure
Backing up just a bit… please don't get the impression that my Canon gear was letting me down in some way. My first DSLR was a Rebel T1i paired with the Nifty 50, 28-70 and 70-200 f4 IS. This combo got me hooked on photography. Online photography forums introduced me to the supposed ‘magic' of a full frame sensor. Saving up some money and timing it right I purchased a refurbished 6D from the Canon online store for an excellent price. Shooting architecture and landscapes primarily didn't require 10 frames per second nor blindingly fast auto focus so this body seemed to be a perfect fit.
Eventually I did find myself wanting to shoot more sports and wildlife and the 7D2 seemed like a no brainer. I could use my current lens lineup and both bodies used the same batteries. As time went on the chore of hauling this two body system around, along with a large tripod and ball head, just started to weigh on me (pun intended). Going anywhere required me to do an inventory in fear of leaving something key behind. Is this the crutch that would lessen my interest in photography? The gear? The very thing that gets me excited about it in the first place… how could that be?
Doing the research
A few friends had acquired mirrorless bodies and were creating beautiful work with them. The full frame ‘magic' just didn't seem as important to me anymore. I just wanted to shoot comfortably and be confident with the results. I went to my local shop in Portland and held most of the options to feel how they fit my hands, but none of them felt as nice as the familiar Canon bodies. A few events were coming up that I'd committed to shoot and the last thing I wanted to do was a paid gig with new gear. This put off my decision for a bit. And the early rumors were that the upcoming 6D2 might be Canon's first full frame mirrorless body. I was so excited!
The 6D2 finally arrived and the lackluster initial reviews pretty much sealed the deal for me. Also a Canon full frame mirrorless body would be AT LEAST another year before release. This is when I made the decision to make the big switch and go mirrorless. After reading in-depth reviews of the various options I finally decided upon Fujifilm X series for three primary reasons… manual controls on top of the bodies, lens selection and excellent feedback. The retro look of the bodies also won me over because of my tendency for items with great industrial design; the retro cool factor really helped.
The Big Sell Off
I sat down and inventoried ALL of my photography gear making a list with estimated values. I spent a fair amount of time looking at Craiglist and various online forums to get a good idea of what it was worth and what might be a fair asking price. It was shocking how much I had acquired over the years. Gear really adds up fast. Next thing you know you have three cameras and five bags! Most all of the gear was sold over the next few weeks by first letting my Canon shooting friends have first dibs. A few of the lenses and speedlites went quickly that way. It was really tough letting my babies go.
Next I listed on one of the online photography forums that I frequent. Forums are a great place to buy and sell gear. People have knowledge about what they are buying and if they have good feedback you should be confident that they can be trusted. The downside is that they are very savvy on current used pricing and you will not usually get Craigslist or eBay prices. All in all this works out fine because you will not have to spend the time meeting locally to make the transaction. This can take time and sometimes lead to bad experiences. You will also have to accept funds online and be able to wrap and ship the item properly.
A good amount of cash was now burning a hole in my pocket and instead of going crazy I decided to take a more conservative approach and just get a few items. Fuji just happened to be running a promotion so I purchased the Fujifilm X-T2 bundle that included a 18-55 f2.8-4 lens and power booster battery grip for just under $2k at my local shop. The experience gained on the Ireland trip should lead me to what pieces I might need in the future.
I held off on a wide angle purchase because the current Fuji 10-24 is not weather sealed and it's size/weight negated my want for a small travel kit. Luckily for me a friend offered up his 18-135 to try out for the duration of the trip. A week later I bought the 35 f2 prime, a Sirui T-2205X travel tripod and a L bracket. My kit was now AT LEAST half the physical size and weight of a comparable Canon kit.
All of this photography gear fit very nicely in my f-stop Gear Guru backpack with PLENTY of room to spare for batteries, chargers, memory cards and such. There was even some room left over for toiletries and personal items. The smaller size of the Guru allowed me to stow it under the seat with me. That along with the one bag in the overhead compartment for my clothing meant that I avoided having to use my one allotted free check in for myself. We could then bring an extra bag for the family.
Flights to Dublin from Portland include one stopover and one day is gone due to travel. I used this time to read the Fuji X-T2 manual from front to back to familiarize myself with the body. The menu system on Fuji was new so going through each setting was key. The autofocus system has quite a few options and this is very welcome coming from the very limited 6D.
Hauling this smaller kit around the south of Ireland for two weeks really gave me a great appreciation for this new system. I didn't feel like it interfered in the day to day activities of the family at all. The smaller bag is stealthier and probably not an obvious target for thieves. The lighter weight really made it easy to carry everything for the entire day and not be fatigued, something I could never do with my DSLR kit.
Final thoughts about the switch
The EVF (Electronic View Finder) and Exposure Compensation dial is an entirely new experience. Seeing the true exposure through the viewfinder or back LCD is a game changer for me. I'll now take less photos and save time culling upon importation to Adobe Lightroom. Another huge benefit to me is Focus Peaking. No more Live View x10 zooming on the small LCD screen to check focus. I always felt that I might be a little off making my landscape work a slight bit soft. Now I can let the Fuji software do the heavy lifting.
It's funny but I don't really miss my Canon gear that much. Sure I miss the beautiful rendering of the 135L and the tack sharp detail of the 70-200, but the more I use the Fuji X lenses the more I love the system. Recently I bought the XF 50-140 and absolutely love it! It's smaller and lighter than my Canon 70-200 and the results amaze me. Flash is one area where Fuji is not quite up to task with the excellent Canon RT system that I was so used to. I did recently purchase a Flashpoint AD200 package that included the R2 trigger and I'm ready to try it out and see how it compares to the Canon system. I have high hopes that Fujifilm will release a radio flash option in the near future.
Any regrets with the switch? No, not really. In fact I'm excited about the possibilities and learning the new system. It's a challenge… but I think I'm up to the task.