My take on photography

My take on photography

For the past couple of weeks I kept watching a website, looking at two lenses for my Fuji, lenses I really desire but have almost no use for.

You might think I am crazy but hear me out first.

I have talked a bit about gear, photography and downgrading in my articles but this is the first time I will tell the whole story.

And I will tell it because of a few reasons:
1. I was in the same boat myself each time i bought gear.
2.I think that there are a few important lessons that everybody needs to consider when buying photo gear
3.If you follow my Instagram account you saw that I shot with four cameras until now, 2 Sony’s and 2 Fuji’s so maybe if you are looking at one of these brands you will find this valuable.

First things first. I started getting into photography about 14-15 months ago after my trip to New York.

Up until that point I never had a camera with interchangeable lenses so even though I took some pictures on my trips, they were all taken on point and shoot cameras or phones.

Just before my trip to New York I bought a Sony a5000 with a kit lens and that was my first camera ever.

While I know there are millions of photographers with tens on years of experience on the internet i ask you to consider what i am writing in this article because i write from my experience and I am not sponsored by anyone.

After playing with a few Canon point and shoots, 2 Sony mirorrless cameras and presently owning 2 Fuji mirorrless cameras I can honestly tell you that most reviews on the internet are full of crap and the huge number of fanboys help do just one thing.

Make life difficult for a honest buyer who just wants a camera for his personal use.

Before dwelling deeper into this subject I will run you by quickly on the cameras and gear I used and currently use and give you some info on my take on photography.

I won’t get into technical details for this article because this is not what I want from this post. A battle of megapixels or a war on auto focus or stabilization.

When searching to change from my Sony kit I watched YouTube and read for weeks hundreds of articles and under the mountains of insults and repetitive things and fans protecting their brand I could little info that could be used.

Everybody kept banging on the same subjects but nobody touched other aspects, aspects that I find relevant when buying a camera or even other things for yourself.

I also hope to save you from GAS or Gear acquisition syndrome as it is well known on the internet.

My first camera was a new Sony a5000. I bought a new Sigma 16mm DC 1.4 lens to get better pictures then I bought a new Sony a6300 with a new Sigma 19mm 2.8 lens and a new Sony 35mm 1.8 lens.

And I kept writing new because I paid up a lot of money for that kit and even though I sold it pretty easily and without losing much on it, I still feel sorry for spending so much money.

Then I bought a second hand Fuji X-E2 and traded my Sony 35mm for the 18-55 f2. 8-4 lens. Then I bought a 50-230 lens and then a Fuji X-T1. All second hand. The only thing I bought for new was a Samyang 12mm 2.0, a lens I kept my eye on ever since I owned the Sony’s.

So basically I had one new kit, sold it and bought a larger second hand kit and ended up with money back.

I will cover some things that I consider mandatory also in this article and how I think photography can be a joy or can be something you end up disliking.

The main reason why I kept watching clips, reading reviews, trying things is because I did not found a honest article on which I could rely before buying my gear.

And trust me, once you start with a system, it will be hard to change, sell all you have, take the loss and invest in a new system.

That’s why I think you should really open your eyes, read as much as you can and even test something before buying.

Because I live in Romania I did not have much chance in testing gear before buying it but if you have the chance rent something and use it then rent something else and see what fits you better.

Passing from a two thousand euro kit to a second hand kit that is half the price thought me that the hard, expensive way.

Before leaving to New York I knew I didn’t want to end up taking pictures only on my iPhone there.

I don’t know about you but for me, getting back there is a real hassle that would surely ruin the rest of the year in regards to travel due to how expensive it is.

So I wanted a small, portable camera to help me capture some nice pics, some nice memories I will keep forever and look at them from time to time, smiling and remembering how nice it was there.

And right here, at this very first moment, I made my first mistake. I was cheap.

There are times when it pays off to be cheap but this wasn’t that case.

If only I would have bought the camera that everybody loved from Sony, the a6000, I could have still been shooting Sony to this day.

But I was cheap.

So I bought my camera and took my pictures but without paying too much attention to composition, rules, aperture, ISO, etc.

Basically I just kept it in AUTO and while I had some decent, nice pictures I sure did ruined a lot of other pictures, pictures that could have been so much better.

Upon returning from New York I had the incredible opportunity to buy a cheap ticket to Thailand and my next destination was set.

I started looking at photography videos, bought some books, some online courses and took my trip more confident.

Even though I still think most of my pictures were crap, they showed a small improvement so I was hooked.

I started reading more, experimenting more, looking at gear, taking test shots so that when my next trip arrived I felt more confident.

Andalucia came next and there I got some pictures I really enjoyed looking at.

While definitely not world class I felt good about them and still enjoy them so that’s when GAS kicked in.

First came my Sigma 16mm lens, then came the Sony a6300(replacing my Sony a5000) and then two more lenses came. The 35mm Sony and the 19mm Sigma.

Then came England. And there I took some pictures that I am really proud of.

I know you might look at them and ask yourself why was I proud and the reason is simple.

While I don’t consider my work world class I am happy with how much I progressed, happy on how I started seeing things differently, happy with how I started understanding each scene.

If you look at my old photos and my current ones you will notice how they started to look better, to be better composed, to have more details in them, etc.

And while all of these might not matter to you, it is my passion and it matters to me.

After my trip to England, though I had a blast and loved my pictures I started thinking more clearly about things.

My trip meant carrying a huge backpack filled with camera, lenses, tripod, battery grip, remote, spares, etc on my back each day.

And my days meant 15 to 25 kilometers of walking. So you could see how that was a problem to me.

The other problem was that I felt uncomfortable carrying such an expensive backpack with me.

You might own a camera that is more than my whole setup but for me that sum was a bit high.

And my final problem was that I still didn’t have all my focal ranges covered. I was missing a zoom and all my options seemed to suck.

I wasn’t satisfied with Sony’s 18-105 zoom or with the bigger ones and I had trouble finding accurate info about a Tamron zoom lens I wanted to try.

Adding that Tamron to my pack would have meant carrying over 2500 euro in gear with me all the time with bo backup.

That was it. All my gear. No back up.

If anything happened I would have lost all of it. And that’s because unlike in other countries, in Romania you can’t insure your camera gear against theft or damage so if you’re unlucky, then you’re unlucky.

Last but not least I realized I have broken my very first idea of buying a camera. I opted for a mirorrless camera due to its size and ease of use.

My Sony a6300 plus my Meike grip with two batteries plus my Sigma 16mm lens went above 1 kg of weight and that goes well into DSLR territory.

Before moving forward I must stress on one thing.

The a6300 is a great camera. I kept reading about it and people only bitched about heating up problems and lack of in body stabilization but let me tell you the simple truth.

The camera is a beast. I loved the way it looked and performed and paired with the Sigma it went absolutely fantastic.

If you think on buying into Sony territory then i urge you to buy that lens. It is amazing. All the reviews are stellar and trust me it is the lens I wish i could have taken with me on my Fuji’s.

You might ask yourselves ‘if you liked that camera and you had great pictures with it why switch?’ and here is my answer.

While I do believe the Sony a6300 is a great camera I had no fun using it.

I hated Sony menus, hated the layout and hated the lack of a good zoom lens for it.

Hate me all you want but it is my true belief that excepting G lenses, all Sony zooms suck big time.

I know Ii could have gotten a sigma adapter and put Canon or Sigma glass on it but I think it would have only made my kit bigger not necessarily better.

I wanted something cheaper first knowing I will leave to Morocco soon and I didn’t feel comfortable taking my big kit with me.

So one day I traded my 35mm Sony lens for a Fuji 18-55 kit lens and bought a second hand X-E2 and that is how I fell in love with Fuji.

Even before leaving to Morocco I started taking pictures. Of everything.

While my a6300 sat in my backpack my Fuji got all the attention and that is all due to one thing.

Ease of use.

You see, I just love Fuji’s dials and wheels. I feel comfortable using them.

I hated pressing buttons, going in the menus, looking for options in my a6300 but on Fuji I started customizing my camera the very first moment.

Upon returning from Morocco I knew what I had to do.

I sold my Sony a6300, my grip, my vimble, my lenses and bought into Fuji.

I got an used X-T1 and that’s where the party really started.

I never in my life had so much fun using a camera.

I took it with me to Valencia for my first 2019 trip but the most important point is something else.

Not a day goes by without me pulling it out of the bag and shooting something.

Books, stamps, my desk, clothes, zooming in, zooming out, outside, it really doesn’t matter.

I use it more and more and love it more and more.

And frankly I think this is the most important thing when buying something.

It doesn’t matter that the auto focus was better on the Sony.

It doesn’t matter that the camera was sleek and clean and new.

It doesn’t matter I had better ISO on it. All that matters is how you feel about the camera and how often you want to take it out and ply with it.

Because that is what will make you a better photographer.

Not auto focus, not ISO, not shutter speed, etc.

Practice, practice, practice.

If you have a modern, expensive camera that you use just on your trips you won’t get far in this craft.

But if you play with your camera daily, regardless of what you shoot, you will become better.

I just love turning those dials, seeing how the histogram moves towards that perfect exposure, controlling my aperture fast, from the lens, having dials and buttons customized easily.

In watching YouTube or reading reviews you’ll just see tens of guys rambling about specs, often reciting them without even testing the camera.

And that’s just useless. You need to feel the camera, play with it, see if you like the weight, the buttons layout, the lenses, etc.

Yeah, the lens shows a bit of vignetting at f2.8 or some barrel distortion at 16mm but what’s that to you really?

Do you plan to print your pictures? Sell them?

You see, most people do this. Buy an expensive camera, take huge amounts of photos, maybe make a FB album from their trip and then spam Instagram with tens of selfies or poorly executed pictures.

And that’s the truth.

Less than 1% print something, sell something, etc.

That’s the reason I care less for specs and tech on paper and focus more on feel.

99% of my pictures will see only my FB account and my Instagram feed.

If i am lucky, maybe a bigger Instagram account will repost my shot but that’s kind of it.

I don’t expect National Geographic banging on my door soon so carrying and paying extra for stuff I don’t need just seemed redundant.

Yeah , 24mp sounded great on my a6300 but do you really think I can’t pull an amazing photograph on a 16mp camera?

I have seen fantastic stuff on 16mp, on 12mp or even 8mp.

Because you need to understand one thing. From a certain level up camera really doesn’t matter that much. It is all about technique, photographer’s eye and editing knowledge.

I could have the Sony a7iii or the Fuji GFX and I could easily get my ass whooped by a professional carrying an a6000.

So before going on a buying spree and take thousands out of your pocket do take this into consideration.

Yes, camera matters but a good photographer can beat you with a Huawei while you stare at your fancy DSLR.

If you are passionate about this then get any decent camera like the Sony a6000, the Fuji X-E2 and get those first ten thousand shots done.

Then analyse them and see how much you evolved and consider if you really need a new camera or lens.

My current kit consists in a Fuji X-T1, a Fuji X-E2, a Fuji 18-55 lens, one 50-230 lens and a Samyang 12mm prime.

Adding to those above I also have one big and one small tripod, 3 backpacks and 5 spare batteries.

And that’s it.

You might wonder why 3 backpacks and my answer is simple.

Due to airplane baggage rules my first and big Manfrotto bag pack is not allowed on a carrier that I’m flying with a couple of times this year.

So I bought a smaller bag for that carrier.

My third bag is a small, shoulder bag, perfect for a camera and an extra lens. I took that for times like one day trips or going out in the city shooting.

I would have stayed with two(one small and one large) but unfortunately due to cabin bag regulations I had to get a third.

As I am writing this I am looking at my gear and trying to see if I forgot anything.

No, that’s it. Maybe my 3/4 SD cards but they are too small and light to make a difference when packing for a new trip.

As i said in a previous article I know I won’t become the next Ansel Adams. More than that I don’t want that. You can read that article for my reasoning but i will run a few things by you now.

I have a job, a very demanding job that often leaves me drained of power.

My first passion was not photography as you might expect but rather fitness.

I have been lifting weights since I was 18(with breaks in between) and I hope to do that for a long time.

Just turned 37 I realize that on my free time, on my holidays, on my time off when I charge my batteries and clear my head I can’t do the things real photographers do.

I can’t get up at four in the morning, drive for 2 hours then hike to a place to catch a sunrise. If it doesn’t rain or there is no fog or mist or too cloudy.

I can’t go at 2 am to photograph the milky way or climb for hours on a mountain looking for the perfect shot.

I can’t visit a new city and keep my camera close to me at all times, always ready to shoot.

Sometimes I can’t even go out in the evening to shoot some local pictures after a long day at the gym and endless hours at the office.

And that is one more thing you need to consider when buying gear.

How often will that big, shiny DSLR be used?

Be honest with yourself. How often do you think you’ll put it in your bag, strap the bag to your back and go out and shoot?

All cameras these days or almost all cameras will produce great pictures.

You have guys winning contests with pictures taken on phones, on point and shoots, on entry mirorrless bodies.

There is no reason to spend a fortune on gear. Especially if you don’t plan to use it often.

I am sure many people laughed when they read my photo gear list.

And I am sure that many more will laugh when I say that I truly think that what I have can last me for the years to come without ever facing a problem when it comes to shooting.

It is only I who needs to get better and better at this.

The camera is as good today as it was when it was launched.

In the hands of an artist it will pull out art and in the hands of a beginner it will pull out bad pictures.

That simple.

After spending time playing with two Sony’s and 2 Fuji’s I can honestly tell you that 99% percent of what you read or see on the internet is fanboy-ism.

A good photographer will have great results on both while a weak one will mess with both systems.

I downgraded from Sony not due to the lack of quality but to how expensive the kit was, how I hated the zoom problem and how I disliked the menus and settings.

I can’t say bad things about photo quality because I truly think that I got some great looking pictures with it.

Do I love my Fuji’s more? Clearly yes. Do I love playing with them more often, experimenting, taking pictures often, trying to know the camera better? Clearly yes.

Do I miss the better auto focus on the Sony? No. Because as you seen from my pics I shoot mostly stills so I don’t need that so much. Do I need the superior a6300 video specs? No. I never shot a clip in my life on my camera.

You see, it is very important to know what you will be shooting.

I love taking landscape pictures and night pictures so having the world’s fastest auto focus system is not something that interests me. I focus manually most of the times so expecting me to pay extra for that auto focus is nonsense.

I care less about SOOC pictures(straight out of camera) because I like editing my pictures a little. And I do mean a little. There’s nothing I dislike more than cartoonish pictures and unfortunately many so called photographers fill the internet with those things.

My take on photography is simple.

You should find joy in what you are doing. You should find joy in the gear you use and mostly find joy in the places you visit.

I frankly believe that while Instagram helped on some aspects photography it really did real photographers a great disservice. And not only photographers were affected by this but also people, simple people who wanted nothing more than looking at a good photo.

Tens, hundreds of millions of bad selfies, crooked photos, blurry pictures, silly exposures all running for most likes and comments while drowning the real art.

Because that is the truth. For every good picture on your feed you’ll scroll thru mountains of pictures just looking to get some likes with no interest to quality or no story behind the picture.

And that is affecting the real passionate guys and girls who do those things I told you I don’t want to do anymore.

So in the end consider just one thing from this long article. Buy a camera that you love holding in your hands and shoot as often as you can.

Don’t think better gear will make you a better photographer.

It won’t.