Biscyane Beach — Shot on a Nikon D810

For many who know me at the beginning of my career, you’ll know that I used to shoot almost exclusively on a D810. I’ve since sold it and now shoot on the Fujifilm XT-2, a markedly “inferior” camera in terms of specifications in almost every way. The sensor is smaller, less resolution, and less latitude. Fuji has beautiful lenses, but so does Nikon — they’re one of the staples in the photography world, after all.

Some of my peers look at my camera selection with a raised eyebrow and strangers often ask me how old the camera is, and whether it shoots film.

That’s actually not far from the reason I switched, in a roundabout way. I don’t normally talk gear and I try to refrain from recommendations, but I’d love to share my Fuji Journey less to advertise for my camera and more so to highlight my underlying thought process when I approach gear.

It Started With The X-10

X-10 — Straight JPEG with no editing done to it. The limited dynamic range is apparent in the shadows.

I became enamored with Japanese analog photography rather early in my studies. The look always spoke to me, and I wanted to try it, but at the time I had no experience with film, and a D810 is really sharp. It was a lot of work to soften an image down in post. I didn’t really have the skills to do it efficiently at the time and I had more money than sense, so I went on eBay and bought myself a Fujifilm X-10 after hearing about the camera from a YouTube channel that I’ve since forgotten. I was tantalized by the film simulations that came with it.

The very night I got it, I set up a small studio in my parents’ dining room, invited them over at midnight, and shot some stills in a variety of outfits to compare and contrast. The Fuji X10, as expected, was much lower quality, but I actually enjoyed the process of shooting more with it. The image was also closer to what I wanted to do. With those results, I talked to my friends and we set up a beach shoot, which is where this photo came from, and some of the sample images I’ve seen piqued my interest.

The night I tried it for the first time, I fell in love with the look I got straight out of the camera. The JPEGs were more beautiful than I was used to. The short dynamic range in the shadows, the noise pattern, and softer resolution evoked the exact look I was going for. The approximation to the film stocks was amazing.

Shot on X-10

Within the week, I did a beach shoot with some friends that were onboard to help me practice. I brought both cameras and once we found a place to settle, I began taking images with both cameras. I started my usual flow with D810 and once I was satisfied that I had enough for safety, I brought out the X10.

The difference in convenience was immediately apparent, but I’d be lying if I said that’s what impressed me. The JPEGS I captured and previewed in the back of the camera left me with my mouth visibly open. It was almost precisely what I envisioned when I asked to shoo tat the beach. My approach to the subject matter also changed. I intentionally overexposed the images by a stop, rather than underexposing, allowing the highlights to bloom a little.The image had this haziness and a slightly muted color palette due to the simulation I had on. I sadly can’t remember which I shot on, but even the RAWs came out beautiful.

I edited the JPEGS and add a touch of film grain even though the camera was rated at ISO800 and slightly noisy, and the effect was one I fell in love with. The photos are still some of my favorites.

I continued to shoot on the D810 as it was the only “professional” camera I had at the time, but that was the moment my love for Fujifilm began.

Enter the X-T20

Spec shoot on X-T20

A few months later, I’d find myself in Chicago’s suburbs after moving in with my now wife. I brought the D810 with me, but the kind of work I was getting made traveling to it very inconvenient. I was in the market for a new camera. I couldn’t reasonably carry this lugging camera all over the city when I had to commute. For 30 minute headshots in the city, I wanted something more compact for my personal shoots, and leave the D810 for bigger jobs where the dynamic range was needed.

I love the way the sensor of the X-T20 holds highlights. It’s beautiful and reminiscent of film in a lot of ways.

The affordability of the X-T20 caught my eye when I was browsing and after some research, I scooped one up from a Best Buy and immediately began testing it. I started commuting into downtown Chicago with my wife in order to truly pressure test it. This was in the spring, and by the time summer rolled around, I offered to take shots of my long-time friend and her boyfriend to celebrate her birthday. We toured all over the city which had become normal for me, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. The battery lasted me the entire day, the camera was comfortable, and the pictures were incredible, at least what I could tell from the previews.

It was fun, but the magic truly happened when I went into the editing suite and realized that the quality I was getting from the camera was beautiful, even more so than I had initially thought.

First professional shoot from the D810

Something about the quality of the images and the way it would render colors truly enamored me in a way by Nikon never had. Even low-light portraiture was more beautiful on the X-T20, at least to me. That’s when I began to use my Nikon D810 less and less.

My lonely, professional-grade D810 began to acquire a thin layer of dust on my photography shelf back at home as I began to explore this newer camera, and when the fateful day came where Erika hired me professionally for her headshots, I made the choice to go with the Fujifilm camera. That sealed the deal, for me. A few more professional shoots, and I would eventually sell the D810 to pay back the X-T20.

The Monstrous X-T2

Shot on the X-T2

Despite all my love of the X-T20 and the wonderful memories we had together, the day would come where I’d find an X-T2 (the T20’s big brother) on sale, used with a very low shutter count for a price that was actually cheaper than what I had bought the X-T2 for. My mind was made up, and with my Fuji X-T20 now sold as well, I bough what is now my workhorse in late 2018.

It wasn’t that I needed a new shiny camera, but as my professional demands grew, I realized quickly that I needed a more reliable camera, and as I’d decided to shoot a reel for cinematography, I needed a camera with more reliable video options and the X-T2 satisfied every photographic need I’d have for the next year and a half.

A paid fashion shoot done in mid-2019 — Shot on a XT-2 and edited in VSCO

This took place from 2017–2018. 2018 was the year the XT-2 fell into my hands, and I’ve been shooting on it exclusively until this very day. Someday I’ll upgrade, but I don’t quite feel the need yet. The look and quality of the camera, especially at high ISOs impress me to this day. There’s just something about the camera that reminds me of old film stocks by Fuji (which isn’t surprising given the simulations, but even simulations aren’t perfect). The camera isn’t perfect, of course. It has the famous criss cross noise pattern, even if the image is properly exposed and it’s prone to purple fringing with longer focal length lenses, but I wouldn’t give up the camera for anything in the world. Well, maybe except a Fuji XT-3 or 4, but you know what I mean.

I sometimes wonder if I’m crazy to sell a D810 in exchange for a Fujifilm of all cameras, but the look of Fujifilm has fulfilled me both as an artist and as a professional. In a world where we’re getting sharper and crisper, I just love the look that harkens back to the glory days of early color in Street Photography.

And despite the inferior camera specs, my camera gives me all that and more.

Fuji X-T2

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