Creative: The Fuji File Three

Yep, I took a selfie. In my own defense it was during test mode. Trying to figure out what all the buttons on the XT2 are actually for. Do you know this camera has autofocus? Wow, news to me. So I was making my way through the buttons and wheels and knobs and gears and came across the multiple exposure dial. Who knew? And due to my dedication you are graced with this image. Probably the best image of all time. You’re welcome.

In the past I’ve done audio to accompany these posts but this one really didn’t require much explanation. Two exposures, handheld. DONE. This is titled “The Fuji File,” so let me provide a bit more info on that angle. The XT2 is the first digital camera I’ve had that I don’t feel is holding me back, making me mad or is too big to carry as a system. I’ve had dozens of digital cameras over the years, including things like the Canon 5DIII I still have, and all the lenses. The Canon system is what I would call a more robust all around system, but it all depends on what you do. If I was working full time as a photographer and needed to shoot everything under the sun I would never get rid of that Canon system. However, that’s not me anymore. Photographically I’m back to where I want to be which is shooting what I want, traveling and doing stories, and for this the XT2 and my three lenses are nearly perfect.(23,35,56) Coming from so many years with Leica the Fuji feels normal to me. Size, weight, lens options and responsiveness are very close to what I had with my old, German friends but the autofocus and low light abilities of the Fuji are a good addition. And the color out of the Fuji is maybe the best of any camera I’ve used. One final thought, the price. Fuji isn’t going to kill you on the prices. Just compared a f/2 Leica lens to the price of an f/2 “Fujichron” and you will probably poop your pants.

I need to add one more thing here. Embracing the Fuji is also about lifestyle. This often gets overlooked in the gear talk but it’s probably the most important aspect. For the first time ever I don’t miss the lifestyle of film. It is SO much easier to travel and move with the Fuji system, or any digital system for that matter. Before, when I was using a digital system I didn’t like, I would gladly carry four different film bodies and matching film stocks. I can remember MANY trips with Polaroid(Impossible), Hasselblad, Leica x2 and Canon and all my audio kit. I had my bags sorted and my system in place, but it got more and more difficult.

Do I get the same images with the Fuji I got with all these other systems? No. But what I get is something new, or at least new to me, and the trade off of ease of operation frees me to do other things. Just to give you an example let me give you a case in point. You are traveling in Australia and you have to do an interview and portrait. You have a roller bag and two backpacks to carry your film systems, film, audio kit, Blurb stuff, snacks, water, etc. You leave the hotel and have to take a taxi as there is no way to take public transport, or ride a bike, skateboard, etc. You arrive, unpack, shoot four systems, do interview and then the person you are interviewing says “Hey, do you know so and and so, we should go over and see them.” “Ahhhh, well, I’ve got all this gear.” You either take it all with, which means you can’t go anywhere out of line of sight of the equipment and it means you can’t move quickly and easily. Again, this might not seem like anything major but it changes everything. Now, I have one small, Atlas pack. Light, mobile, easy. Now, diehards will say “Oh, that’s stupid, just take one system,” but that doesn’t work. Gonna shoot street with your Blad? No. Gonna shoot a square negative portrait with your Leica? No. I built twenty year histories with these systems, and they don’t cross pollinate. And matching my audio files with instant film isn’t going to happen without the Roid.

I guess you could say I’m finally embracing a digital lifestyle. This doesn’t mean I have ANYTHING against film or that I won’t use film again. These are simply two very different modes of operation. I find it fantastic to see so many people doubling down on the film life. It is, however, really funny to see hipsters approaching film as if it was just discovered, and let me be the first to say there is a TON, and I mean a TON of work being promoted simply because it’s film based, and the vast majority of it isn’t good by ANY standard. Just because you shoot with a Contax 645 and TRI-X doesn’t mean your work is good. I think the entire photo community needs some tough love when it comes to being able to understand what makes a great photograph, and more importantly, understanding how rare truly great images actually are.

The only thing missing for me is a second body. When I’m shooting, for real, I just don’t have the time to change lenses, and my sensor is already getting dirty. Yesterday I was emailing with someone about a potential trip through remote Northern Argentina, Southern Bolivia and Chile and my first thought was “Oh man, so dusty.” “If I have to change lenses I’m hosed.” With a second body the 23mm and 35mm would be stapled on. And traveling anywhere with only one body is a risky, risky move regardless of how good the cameras are. I have fielded MANY panicked calls over the years from photographers in remote areas with one, broken camera.(My wife works for Canon.) My first thought is always “You went to such and such a place with ONE camera?”

To wrap this mess up, the key here is USING the camera not talking about it. So get out there.

24 Comments on “Creative: The Fuji File Three”

  1. Having shot film almost exclusively for the last 4-5 years, hoping to get back to basics and reconnect with photography again, I found myself nodding my head in agreement after every paragraph in this post Daniel. I just picked up the Fuji XPro2 and couldn’t agree more about it being more so a lifestyle and what “works for me…” Right on.

    1. Napper,
      Stunned but not silenced. Film/Digital is a lifestyle choice, at least if you have to travel. Milnor is dead to us now.

  2. As usual I share your thoughts. Currently I’m “rocking”, for lack of a more fashionable word, 3 and 1/2 systems. The half is because my film system shares the same lenses than one of my digital ones.
    Fuji changed my perception about APSC sensors, also the colors blew me away, and the handling of their cameras is the second best out there (I like Leica simplicity better). If I had sell my digi Leica (midlife crisis/40th b-day present), I’ll be rocking an XT2 for sure, but I gave another chance to the Germans and now i’m hooked. The third “system” is my Ricoh GR, not really a system, but it is a different camera with different output. But that camera is never going to leave me, it is my desert island, bury me with it, type of camera. Unfortunately 28mm is not always useful.
    I just gave away to a friend all my development tanks 2 days ago. I’m tired of film, love it, but is time consuming. Shit, I have fall asleep many times while scanning negs!
    I think independently the system you use, simplicity is always the key. Also anything that makes you go out there and shoot is great.

    PS: your sensor is definitely getting dirty, saw some dust spots on previous pics. The way I’ve been cleaning my sensors for years and never had a problem with it, never; is dry air compressed. Like the one you can use to clean a computer’s keyboard. Expose the sensor, give it a good blow with it and good to go. I know people out there might be flipping out, but I’ve been doing it for years and is fast and works like a charm.

    1. EB,
      Just got off the phone talking to someone who cleans sensors and he was telling me about an M10 user who ruined his sensor trying to clean it. It’s one of the issues with digital, for sure, especially if you work in places like….the Southwest. DUST. I use air as well but it’s a house of cards depending on the specific camera.

      1. True, with cameras with in-sensor stabilization it might be too risky, thankfully that is not my case.
        Ok, F-it! Back to film we go!
        Sorry I just listened to your last Dispatches and was thinking in not using electricity and how we would have to go back to film.

        1. EB,
          What blew me away with Esha was the idea of refrigeration, and how solving JUST that one thing could me a serious impact. I use very little energy or water. My bills are so low, but still looking for ways to improve. I think I could easily run most of my energy needs off one solar panel and a small battery pack. Certainly all my laptop, camera needs.

  3. Thanks for sharing…very relatable. My x100 travels so well and is always within reach (with the other big-ole-to-remain-un-named cameras collecting dust in my closet).

    An aside – what’s all this “system” talk. It’s a camera. (just kidding…I think).

    I joke. And I continue to dig your words and pictures.

    1. Hey Scott,
      Ah yes, the system. Body, booster, three lenses. My big camera is also gathering dust. All of them actually. Blad, Leicas, Canon. I just need to quit so I have time to shoot….NOT.

  4. We are on the same dusty path my friend. This spring Fuji sent me an XPro2 body with the 35 f/2 and it sat in the box for several weeks until I realized I needed to use time differently. I wanted to protect time to have with my family, for hiking in the woods, for getting on my bike…. time the would otherwise be consumed in the darkroom. So out of the box came the Fuji. It didn’t take long to acquire the second body and the 23mm. I was so happy with the feel and quality of the images, the familiar feel of my Leicas and most of all the time I had back for other important parts of my life amidst the demands of projects and client work. I love film, but I love life more and I feel like Fuji gave me back my life outside of photography and that actually makes me a better photographer. Q

    1. Q,
      Yep, that’s it. Only Fuji never sent me a camera. I’ll go check my mailbox. Maybe it got lost…..

    2. Quinton – As a film shooter and a new father with our firstborn, shooting more with digital was a no brainer for me. Getting the time back from the darkroom and playing with my soon is hands down one of the best decisions I’ve made photography wise. There’s room for both film and digital in documenting my new family life. Looking forward to see it how it all plays out.

  5. I have been thinking about getting a Fuji for a while. It is nice to read of your praise of the X-T2. I thought you would have been more of a X-Pro 2 guy. You don’t miss the optical view finder?

    1. JB,
      I’m sure I would be perfectly happy with the XPro2. I don’t miss optical viewfinder. And I like seeing precisely what I’m going to get. And I’m about to buy a 50-140 2.8, which I think will be easier to use with the XT2. The Fuji system has changed the way I photograph. Not sure that’s a good thing or a bad thing but I don’t give it much mind. I don’t get that much time to shoot. I also LOVE being able to compile a book while I’m on the road. The Fuji, even though it does 4k, has reminded me how much I love quiet observation, occasional images and copy. I’m dreaming of a long vacation with no plan. Just slow travel making notes and images. No matter how distracted we get with motion, cinemagraphs, drone footage, etc. I think there will ALWAYS be a place for great stills and copy. And I mean GREAT. This style of image is so hard to create but will last the test of time better than anything else. Stills are about what’s NOT included.

  6. Thank you for the info. One more question. Can you monitor video recording through the viewfinder or are you stuck looking at it on the back similar to the 5D3? I agree with your viewpoint that crappy film photography is getting promoted just because it is film. I would submit it is 100x worse in the wet-plate community.

    1. Joseph,
      I don’t actually know. I’m guessing you can, but unless you are on a tripod I’m not sure how you could hold it steady with the camera to your eye. There are a lot of people shooting film who think they discovered it. I was at a lecture the other night and the speaker, someone with a long career, said “You need to know who came before you, what they did,” and some 20-something raised their hand and asked “Why?” Film is great, but the vast majority of images made with it are not. Same as ever.

  7. Love my Fuji gear. My DSLR stuff was sold over a year ago and an X-T2 serves for what little pro work I do, including covering a professional hockey team. For personal stuff, it’s all done with my X100F and its conversion lenses. I also use that rig for concert photography because it’s nice to be able to change lenses without exposing a sensor to fog and smoke in the clubs. The X100F with 2 conversion lenses fits into a compact little bag with room to spare for an Olympus XA if I need a film fix. Instead of a bulky shoulder bag now I have something that looks kind of purse-like. Having just turned 50, I cease to give a damn.

    Best part of Fuji for me though is the look. I shoot it like film, picking a simulation, making some in-camera tweaks and running with it. No chimping the LCD, just decide on the “film” ahead of time and shoot. 95% of my work is camera JPEG because I despise post processing. I’ve never been able to get a look out of camera that I like with any other system. It’s very liberating to not feel like I need to spend hours pixels around on a computer.

    1. Hey Michael,

      Ya me too. I import, edit, apply a preset, export. That’s all I can handle. I love the Fuji. I could sure use a second body.

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