My quest for a new camera

I have recently been considering upgrading my camera body from my trusty Canon 40D to a 5D MarkII or 5D MarkIII. I had been settling on the MarkII due to cost but hadn’t yet felt like it was really what I wanted.

I have wanted to get to full frame sensor image quality but I have been reluctant to do so because I already hate lugging my 40D around and FF cameras are even heavier (as are the lenses, though I only had one EF-S mount lens rather than EF). A recent family trip to the Oregon Coast sealed the deal for me: I want a lighter camera setup with FF image quality. It’s a pipe dream, right? I thought so but began researching mirrorless cameras in hopes of finding something to replace my 40D. I was reluctant to do so as it would mean replacing all of my gear and diving into another system, but my frustration with the size of an SLR was at a breaking point, especially when I consider how often I have left the camera at home or in the car, thus missing photographs.

I decided to first check out Canon’s mirrorless offering, the upcoming EOS-M. I thought this would be a contender since I already have EF and EF-S lenses, and I’m familiar with Canon cameras. I quickly scratched the EOS-M off the list of contenders due to two things: 1) Lack of an optical or electronic viewfinder (OVF and EVF, respectively) thus complete reliance on the LCD for all composition; and 2) The pathetic sensor in the thing; it’s no better than the sensor in the Rebel. I want FF quality.

The next major contender was the Sony NEX-7, weighing in at 24 MP in an APS-C sized sensor. That’s pretty awesome and the camera gets good reviews. This, too ended up getting thwacked for the following reasons:

  • It’s made by Sony. Let’s face it, Sony doesn’t give a crap about their customers. They’ve shown it time and time again.
  • The awesomeness of 24 MP in that size of a sensor is quickly countered by the crappy high ISO capabilities of the sensor, a trade-off when sticking that many pixels on a sensor.
  • There is a dearth of quality lenses. Sony isn’t exactly known for quality glass.
  • It’s more of a computer than a camera.

That fourth item was the deal-killer for me. I spend all day on computers and enjoy photography as a way to escape them. I like the idea of old-school simplicity. Did you see that the NEX-6 will have apps built in? Same with the Canon 6D. Twitter and Facebook from my camera? No thanks, I’ve got an iPhone for that. Besides, I’m not uploading some 25 MB RAW file to Instagram. No, I want something with more camera and less computer. Perhaps an old rangefinder would work?

Enter the Fuji X-Pro1 mirrorless camera. In the course of my research I noticed several people extoll its virtues but there were even more people shouting them down due to the camera’s pathetic AF. I initially dismissed the camera due to this meme but came around to taking a look at it after I read some blog posts of real photographers (not gearheads) who absolutely loved the thing. Come to find out, the AF issues were real but were fixed with recent firmware (this alone is awesome since it shows Fuji is committed to the product and their customers). I also read about the new sensor technology, saw the results, and was blown away. The sensor is a 16 MP APS-C sensor but their new technology, X-Trans CMOS, is legit. Check it out and check out the review by Luminous Landscape, especially the 100% view of the lady’s eye in the review. Holy crap! That’s straight out of the camera? Look at the color tones! Oh, my.

So, a retro-looking camera, mirrorless (thus light) design, dedicated manufacturer, FF image quality with unbelievable high-ISO capabilities, ridiculously good glass, and the camera with battery and lens weighs less than my 40D’s body? Sign me up! Better yet, take my money!

Anyway, I won’t recount all of my research but I settled on the Fuji X-Pro1. I had thought about waiting for the upcoming XE-1 but decided the full metal, rugged body, high resolution LCD, and OVF were worth the additional $300. I heard about the quirks of the X-Pro1 but, after testing one out at Pictureline in Salt Lake City (awesome store, by the way), I bought one from them. The “quirks” are learnable and aren’t really quirks unless you’re coming from an SLR and there is nothing wrong with the camera – it just works differently than an SLR.

I’ll keep you updated on my impressions of the camera, but thus far I really enjoy it.