Photographic Retreat with the X-Pro2 or: How to choose a camera?
Last time we had a good time (and a laugh) having a conversation with the X-Pro2. We received great feedback for which we are both very grateful.
Today we will continue to cover this new camera but we’ll approach the subject in a slightly different way. Each time a new camera hits the market the Internet goes berserk. There’s a plethora of reviews, technical comparisons and samples being shared and discussed (we share in the blame). Interested buyers visit technically oriented websites where cameras are being compared. It is common to show two cameras side by side where all the possible technical details are compared. Resolution? Check! Video? Check! Panorama? Check! And so on.
There is no question that many people like it this way. Not only do we find such comparisons misleading but we believe that they do more harm than good for buyers. For many photographers, a camera is much more than just a physical object. As the facilitator of the creative process, a camera should not only complement but support the photographer in this difficult but highly rewarding endeavour. Therefore, a well-designed camera will make the interaction between photographer and camera intuitive and fluid.
With all these things in mind, how do you pick the right camera? This is how we “tested” the Fuji X-Pro2 (please note that this process could be applied to any brand; you may well decide that other cameras work better for you).
No, we didn’t run outside and shoot hundreds of photos of hydrants and flowers. No, we didn’t photograph our dog and watch the images at the 100% crop on our computer. We did something different.
Kasia and I packed up and took a photographic retreat with the X-Pro2 – away from the computer, crowds, opinions and all the daily noise and kerfuffle.
Our choice was rural eastern Oregon where we had ventured before and had fallen in love with the welcoming people, historic little towns and pleasant countryside. We stayed at Wilson Ranches Retreat Bed and Breakfast run by Nancy and Phil. What a great place to calm your mind and focus on imagery!
We have stayed at many B&Bs before but this one is special, thanks to the wonderful owners. The moment you step into this original 1914 Sears Roebuck kit home you know you are in a different world. Not only do Nancy and Phil make the house feel welcoming but a display of family history makes you feel you are part of it. We immediately knew this was going to be a great place to uplift our way of seeing and bond with or divorce from the X-Pro2.
After settling in, we decided to drive into town to grab a bite. As usual in such a small town there was only one place open. While we were eating, the waitress asked us if we were staying at Wilson Ranch. When we said yes, Nancy (one of the owners of the ranch) showed up at our table and welcomed us with a big hug. What a coincidence!
Back at the ranch, we enjoyed a relaxing evening soaking up the total silence occasionally interrupted by the howling of a pack of wolves. What a setup for our photographic cleansing and exploration! With the troubles of our daily lives out of the way we could sit down in big comfortable chairs and let photographic thoughts percolate through.
Is the Fuji X-Pro2 the right camera for us? How does it fit with the way we see and photograph? Where is our photography going? Does this new camera fit this vision? Is it worth buying? When one question was answered, another was just around the corner. This mental wondering and searching put us in the right mind-set for early morning photography.
I woke up early and walked around the house. The silence of the hills, the grace of a giant tree and the calm of whispering grass made me feel strangely awake and alive. All I had to do was to raise the X-Pro2 to my eye, feel, visualize, see, compose and capture.
It is not that the X-Pro2 form was new to me. I have been shooting with the X-Pro1 for many years. The new camera, however, felt slightly heavier than the previous generation – I would say more solid and firmer. I also liked the firm grip – a noticeable improvement. It is especially important to me as I never use straps.
As I raised the camera to my eye, I immediately noticed the much more fluid, quick but small viewfinder. For the last two years I have been shooting with the X-T1 and I’ve got used to its huge viewfinder. I had to adjust to a slightly smaller window in the X-Pro2. Its placement – on the left side of the camera – exposed part of my face, unlike the X-T1 where my face is hidden behind the camera. With the increasing amount of documentary work we do, this arrangement allows better contact with my subject. It’s a definite plus.
The quietude of the place made me turn my attention to the X-Pro2’s shutter sound. Yes, it is new and different but I immediately liked it. Kasia and I often photograph conferences or church events when a loud shutter click is distracting. Of course, the X100-line noiselessness is ideal in such situations but if I need to hear anything, I want this sound to be subtle and smooth.
Then, as my the fingers on my right hand wandered around the buttons – now all at the right side of the camera – one new addition immediately became a must-have. That’s a joystick. Choosing the focal point has always been a hassle for me. I’ve never liked playing with buttons. Now, not only does the joystick’s distinctive shape attract your fingers (no need to search for it), but getting to the right focal point is fast and easy – so easy. If I had to choose one improvement that makes the biggest difference for me – that would be it!
As I was wandering around the ranch taking photos, Phil, the owner arrived at the guesthouse. After a welcoming chat he was kind enough to pose for a few photographs.
Then it was time for breakfast. While Phil had to continue with his daily routine, Nancy, Kara (Phil and Nancy’s daughter) and a few other guests joined us for a fabulous breakfast. Breakfast is one of the favourite parts of our trips. People from many parts of the world sit down around a table sharing a meal. This is where all the barriers are broken, stories are shared and friendship initiated. It’s also where I can get to know people I often photograph later.
During breakfast, a joyful and charismatic Kara led us to a truly amazing lady with a steely character, who once qualified for the US Olympic swimming team with an incredible life story (look for our next post!).
After breakfast, I took a few portraits of Nancy and her daughters. During this mini photo-shoot I noticed how casual the whole experience was for my subjects. We could talk and laugh the entire time as they saw most of my face when I was taking photos. The small and unintimidating Fuji X-Pro2 allowed the interaction.
During our stay at the ranch I had the chance to do some documentary, landscape and portrait photography. The X-Pro2 didn’t disappoint and turned out to fit my way of shooting perfectly. Especially when paired with the XF 35mm F1.4, the camera is such a joy to hold and work with. For me, bonding with a camera, scrutinizing its inner workings and finding out how it fits into my own way of shooting is an essential part of the decision making.
Sure, a later examination of image quality, dynamic range etc. plays a role but I believe that it is only part of the process. Today with so many cameras offering a great image quality, this “fitting” into your own personality and shooting style must be a priority. It cannot be done in a store setting or through online chatrooms.
All images taken with the Fuji X-Pro2, the XF 35mm F1.4, XF 14mm F2.8, XF 50-140mm F2.8, Classic Chrome (CC) or Provia (STD) film simulations.
Stay tuned for more coverage.
2016 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.