I received my order of the brand new Fuji 35mm f2 in the mail today. This lens has a lot to live up to, as its older brother the 35mm f1.4 is widely considered to be one of the most magical lenses around. Multiple Fuji artists (Zack Arias, Jonas Rask, Ken Rockwell, and others) have praised this lens very highly. I’m in the process of switching out my systems, which essentially entails converting from Canon to Fuji, and I was in desperate need of a 35mm (~50mm on a 35mm/full frame camera) lens for my Fuji X-T1 for everyday work. I opted for the new 35mm f2 instead of the much-lauded, but older 35mm f1.4.
The addition of a new lens to my arsenal got me thinking about how I’ve been approaching my photography lately. In the course of transitioning to a more travel-friendly but less powerful camera system, I’ve been faced with needing to make a lot of uncomfortable compromises. My current power camera system (the biggest and baddest body and arsenal of lenses for when I’m not messing around) is the full frame Canon 6D with two Canon L lenses, a Sigma ART lens, and a Rokinon astrophotography wide angle lens. This system is absolutely incredible and I feel like I can do just about anything with it. The only thing I might be missing is a top-end portrait lens, but I never shoot people or weddings, so this doesn’t ever restrict me.
That last clause is the key. My system doesn’t restrict me. I’ve been approaching my art from the perspective of coming up with ideas and choosing the gear to support the ideas. Want to shoot astrophotography in the desert? Grab my 6D and Rokinon 14mm f2.8. Want to shoot street photography in the alleys of Chicago? Grab my Fuji X100S. Want to shoot wildlife in the Colorado Rockies? Grab my Canon 6D and my Canon EF 70–300mm f4–5.6L. The gear follows the inspiration.
I think this is a great approach in many ways. I don’t want the gear to get in the way of my art, and in that sense this approach makes a lot of sense. I’m fortunate enough to have some disposable income to spend on developing a comprehensive system like the one I have. However, as with anything else, it’s possible to fall out of balance with this approach. When you’re obsessed with something the way I’m obsessed with photography, you’re always looking for some new trick or perspective or…piece of gear to take your work to the next level. Lately, I’ve noticed myself looking for the absolute perfect piece of gear for an idea I have rather than being content with the pretty darn good piece of gear that I already own. This is a natural inclination, and I don’t want to stifle this line of thinking completely – after all, it’s this line of thinking that brought me my Rokinon astrophotography lens that has been absolutely incredible. However, I can sense myself falling out of balance a bit. While I believe this latest piece of new gear is justifiable (switching systems and all), I still can’t help but feel the gear obsession closing in on me and starting to smother my obsession with the art of photography itself.
To combat this, I’m starting a photography project that limits my gear usage. For the next 30 days (11.18 to 12.17), I will post one image per day taken with my brand new Fuji 35mm f2 (mounted on a Fuji X-T1 body), and I will not take or post any images with a different lens.
The goals of this project are:
- KNOW THY LENS. I want to get to know this lens at a deep level and get a feel of what it’s capable of in a variety of scenarios. The lens is equivalent to a 53mm focal length on a 35mm/full frame camera, which is roughly equivalent to the classic 50mm focal length that is notorious for being a great all-around focal length. As mentioned above, I often find myself lusting for more equipment so I have the perfect lens and body for every situation. As someone who does everything from street photography to landscapes to astrophotography, having the perfect lens and body for every situation would be…excessive. Through getting to know this one lens very deeply, I will be forced to internalize how just one lens can produce great images in a variety of scenarios. This is a lesson I hope to retain after the project ends.
- FOCUS ON JUST ONE BRICK. This project will initiate creativity in my photography. Sometimes giving yourself boundaries can unleash creative potential that is otherwise hidden by the avalanche of possibilities. “Should I grab this lens or that lens? Should I take both camera bodies? What about a tripod?” And so forth. These decisions can lead to a mental fatigue that may end up resulting in not taking ANY pictures (it’s too much effort just to think about it…). For this project, these decisions will largely be eliminated, as they have been predetermined from the start. All that’s left is to take pictures! Furthermore, the enforced consistency of shooting and posting every day will force me to create even when I don’t initially feel inspired to create. This may seem like I’m forcing things, but in reality we often need to work our way into inspiration rather than wait passively or inspiration to arrive. Sometimes the days, weeks, years, and even lives pass by before the inspiration visits.
- PROMOTE ART. While embarking on this adventure, I’d love to also provide a real-world review of the lens. This is certainly not my top priority – I’m doing this project for myself and my creative health. However, the nature of the project and the newness of the lens overlap in such a manner that others may find it helpful when trying to decide whether to purchase the lens to assist in their own art. I won’t be pixel peeping or doing comparisons to other 50mm lenses, but I will offer thoughts on how I interacted with the lens over the duration of the project. My hope is that this will help supplement other reviews for those trying to decide whether to pull the trigger. While it’s quite likely that I’ll be gushing about how excellent this lens is at various points throughout the next 30 days, my hope is that readers will also consider the impact of limiting one’s gear options and just making art with what you already have.
I’m getting inspired already!! Better set some rules before I get too carried away…
- I will post one picture per day that was taken with the Fuji 35mm f2.
- While I must post a picture every day, I don’t necessarily need to take a picture every day. Unfortunately, shooting every day is not feasible, as I have a full time job and wouldn’t be able to fit every day shooting into my schedule.
- While I may post pictures from prior shootings within the 30 days, I cannot post a picture over a week old. This prevents the situation of shooting a bunch in the first couple days and then not shooting any more and just posting images from those first couple shoots. This behavior would not live into the goals of the project.
- I will not take a picture with any other camera/lens during this time period, nor will I post a picture from any other camera/lens. Not even iPhone snapshots! I want to be extremely strict on this rule so that I’m forced to take this lens with me pretty much everywhere.
- While not a rule per se, I will attempt to post a variety of shots that demonstrate the versatility of this (or any?) lens.
And that’s it! We’ll see what happens over the next 30 days, but I’m feeling very excited about this project. Before I run off to start shooting, I’ll leave you with the first shot I ever took with this lens. I took this shot about five seconds after snapping it to my X-T1, and it was just supposed to be a test shot. I never intended to share it to the world. There’s a certain poeticism to posting the first shot on the first day of owning the lens on the first day of this project, though, so I’m going to go with it. This is a straight out of the camera (SOOC) shot – there was zero editing done on my part. Enjoy the simplicity and poeticism of this shot, but please hold me to a higher standard of art over the next 30 days… 🙂