I think the two most important aspects to a camera for me at this point in my photographic journey are its ability to inspire me and its ability to get out of the way for the shot. I feel a little guilty about the former…I sometimes feel like the inspiration should come from virtually everywhere but the gear itself…but I’m trying to be honest with myself. The latter is a probably a fairly common sentiment and it’s probably unsurprising to hear me mention it in this context. But for quite some time I didn’t realize how important that element of a camera is.
When I started shooting seriously about four years ago, I was mostly shooting landscapes and urban landscapes. In these realms of photography, shortening the time between the thought of taking a picture to getting the settings right to hitting the shutter really isn’t a priority. The weight of the gear, the sharpness of the lens, and the dynamic range of the sensor are all far more important.
I started shooting “street photography” (or whatever you want to call what I shoot) simply because I wanted to make more images and it wasn’t feasible with a day job to shoot landscapes every day. I’d just take my camera with me when I’d go on walks to break up my work day. After doing this for a while, I started to get more and more frustrated when I’d miss shots because I couldn’t get the camera settings right quickly enough. At the time, I was shooting in the fast-paced streets of Chicago with a Canon 5D and a Fuji X100S. Switching back and forth between the two systems certainly help with the muscle memory of adjusting camera settings…and over time I gravitated to the knobs and dials (and the Q menu) of the Fuji over the settings menus of the Canon.
Fast forward a couple years. I was shooting 100% Fuji at the time and I had gotten a lot quicker while shooting on the streets. I was comfortable with my cameras and lenses, and I didn’t miss nearly as many shots as I used to. …or to be more precise, I didn’t miss as many shots in the same way that I used to. In solving my earlier speed problem, I had uncovered a new one: I was spending too much time thinking about and changing my camera settings and not enough time engaged with the world around me.
Around that same time I started shooting film. After the initial learning curve of picking up new (old?) cameras and learning how various films behaved, I realized that shooting film almost completely solved my new problem. If my film camera had a meter, I hardly had to worry about changing any settings. Walk outside, set the desired aperture (usually f/8-f/16), zone focus, check that the metered shutter speed would be fast enough for stopping action when shooting in the shadows, and that’s it. Obviously I’d make tweaks along the way, but they’d usually consist of adjusting the shutter speed or aperture one stop right before I shot to make sure the exposure was about right. If shooting on color negative film, I wouldn’t even have to worry about this…just adjust my settings so that I’m overexposing everything by at least a couple stops and go shoot. The lack of possible camera decisions at the time of shooting when using film allowed me to focus almost entirely on the world around me.
Ok…so why am I gushing about film in a gear series about a digital camera? Well, after shooting film for a while I started to get a little annoyed with parts of the process. The cost of the lab, the poor decisions of lab techs when scanning, needing to re-scan the negatives myself, cleaning the dust spots…oh the dust spots… I started to crave a “best of both worlds” solution. And I think the X100F has the potential to come pretty close…
This has become a pretty long post, so I’m going to wrap it up here and continue this train of thought over the weekend. Happy Friday, everyone! 🙂