The Photographer’s Camera

Along with digital photography came a new way of thinking. Old concepts and designs were abandoned and new, high-tech designs emerged. I remember recently talking to someone who had just bought the latest SLR and started reading the manual. He was in awe – his camera could take photos even faster than he could blink his eye. His camera could make movies, share photos, communicate with devices, design photo albums … the list went on and on. This camera could do it all but … at a cost.

Light, composition and subject were moved to one side – they were no longer relevant. It was the camera that had now become the centre of attention. Menus, options, pixels and speed were the new game in town. And we all started playing it. As a result, we used large cameras with unintuitive, complicated and cluttered menus. We learned to fiddle with the camera in order to set up something that should be at your palm, like the shutter speed or aperture. We got used to a shutter click that might have given my grandma a heart attack and certainly all the wildlife racing for the horizon. We got used to the way these cameras were made and we stopped asking for better.

Then the Fuji X100 arrived. This camera could happen because those who designed it started from scratch. They didn’t want another “me too” SLR-like product. And it became an instant classic. We (photographers) suddenly woke up and knew what was missing and how things should be.

When I first held the Fuji X100 in my hands I knew that this was what a real photographer’s camera should be like. In an instant, we became one. We merged. Only then did it occur to me that since the outset of digital photography we have been fed technology for technophiles, not photographers. We have been cheated out of real photography.

In the last few weeks we’ve received a constant stream of news, camera announcements and rumours. The rising popularity of the photographer’s camera couldn’t be ignored anymore.

By now, you probably know that I have become a user and fan of Fuji X-series cameras. But this is not the only camera manufacturer I am cheering for. I also appreciate what Sony is doing. Instead of following Nikon and Canon in their biblical “me too” race, Sony decided to innovate, to change, to challenge the industry. Even though I admire them for what they are doing, my hands and mind never found solace in their products. For me they have been too techno, too complicated – but then again, maybe it’s just me. Nevertheless, I compliment Sony for its bravado in releasing the first full-frame mirrorless camera. We all knew it would happen; we just didn’t know when.

Fuji! Now Sony! Nikon was incensed! They couldn’t take it anymore. Nikon woke up from a long sleep and decided – maybe we should make a camera for actual photographers. Maybe our old designs were not so bad after all. In a few days, photographers will be able to see Nikon’s new retro-styled camera. This camera is most likely to have the key dials at your fingertips – a return to the basics. There is also a rumour that there is no video! If this turns out to be true, I know there will be many technokids shouting from the rooftops – what, no video! (Sorry kids, there are plenty of toys out there for you!). Of course, we haven’t seen this camera yet but from early rumours and teasers this could be the first Nikon product for a long time that photographers should be excited about. “It’s in MY HANDS again.” Nikon teases with “Pure Photography.” I say: FINALLY!  

I have been always longing for a simple, minimalist camera, not for a video/ Photoshop/ techno/ pixel-grapher but a photographer. We can only hope that camera manufacturers will continue to simplify all the menus and allow creativity to flow and the eye to focus not on the menus but the light and subject.

This brings me back to Fuji. Fuji – you started this revolution. The Fuji X100s is still my favourite camera but the competition is catching up. The ball is in your court.

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© Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

17 thoughts on “The Photographer’s Camera

  1. You mirrored my thoughts pretty much :) Also, I think every photographer who uses x100 has that urgent feeling to say nice things about it ;)

  2. Nice shots! As a pro photographer for 25 years the fuji X-1 was really going back to what it’s all about. In the film days I did a lot of work with Hasselblad, Nikon and Leica Rs. The Leica R8 broke to often by the way, but nice lenses. Then I went digital and Canon was the thing for me, but still after 11 years I’m still not getting used to the dials, and a display to show me shutter time and aperture. And since I’m not a dentist or lawyer Leica M is not for me. And I never got to learn the manual focus on the M system. But then came the Fuji X-1. And I love it! And can it be used for jobs? Sure! I’ve did the official portraits of the Danish minister for economics with the Fuji, and a lot of other stuff as well and the files are in the top end. I did some jobs in black and white both Fuji and Canon and in some cases the fuji files are a lot better. And about the dials, it is so much faster to read a dial and aperture ring compared to digital numbers. The same goes for a watch or reading the speed in a car. Some call it retro-style cameras, could be for some it’s just what’s works best. And then it is lightweight, I do a lot of photos from my bike cycle, and a whole day with a Canon 1-DX and 3-4 lenses is kind of exhausting.

  3. Well written and thought of comment (and funny with the heart attack shutter noise) as well as beautiful images. Well done.
    I have a Fuji XE1, the very first thing I love about it is a speed dial and an aperture ring, back to photography not playing with buttons and menus.
    Keep up the good work

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