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How Fujifilm got me back into Photography

Fujifilm X-T1 black

People often ask me why I shoot Fujifilm, rather than maybe follow the trends and go with Sony or any big full frame… Funny enough, this started by pure chance. I was not looking to buy a new camera, let alone move to a new system. But I’m very happy it happened.

My Nikon years

I started shooting digital just over 20 years ago,. Photographers were still debating whether digital was even a viable option. I had used film since I was a kid, though nothing serious. But I was working as a Designer and I wanted to complement my work with some photography. I was fed up with using stock photography in my designs. I rather wanted to offer my own photography instead.
Without much information (Internet was a very different place 20 years ago), I asked my friends and decided to go with Nikon.

I’ve had 3 Nikon cameras: a Coolpix 5700, a D70 and a D200. And I loved them. They were perfect for my needs and a pleasure to use. I shot commercial work with them, portraits, weddings, ecommerce, travel… They made me love photography so much that I even converted a spare room in my house into a small studio.

And I was getting my fair share of rewards with them. I was regularly featured in the Italian edition of Digital Camera Magazine (to this day, still one of my favourite mag); the Wall Street Journal and some national newspaper published my photos… I also won a few awards. In 2007 (ages ago!), I won best photo blog of the year with my own food blog, where I was posting photos of my own dishes.
Looking at those photo now, they make me laugh a bit. Food photography is an industry that has evolved so much since then.

But yeah, I had great fun with my Nikon.

The Hasselblad experience

Together with Nikon, I had a brief experience shooting with Hasselblad. While working with Centrica in Italy, we were using an amazing Hasselblad H5D-50 medium format camera (over 10 years ago, that was worth about 50K Euros). Our work involved taking several high-resolution photos and then stitch them together to produce a super hi-res image (we’re talking Gigapixels here). We then published this images online using a proprietary technology and viewers could experience them down to the minutest detail.
That started way before the Google Art Project. But you probably know Google better than you know Centrica…

Nothing beats being alone in one of the most famous museums to take photos of its masterpieces – and to such details

I had the pleasure to photograph some of the most amazing masterpieces hosted in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence with this technology, as well as art worth millions in other galleries. An experience that I still very much cherish. Today, Centrica continues to operate in this hi-res image space and you can see an example of their work here: https://www.centrica.it/en/portfolio_page/artcentrica/. I love these guys, credit is due.

The Hasselblad was a beast of a camera but my DSLRs too started feeling a bit of a hindrance. I was carrying around all this heavy equipment… Even on holiday, my backpack was filled with gear. I was beginning to feel the weight, not just physically but also mentally. It was so exhausting that the fun side of photography was quickly drying out. And so I decided to quit.

iPhoneography

When the iPhone 4 was released, it was the first time a decent quality camera was mounted on such small device. It was such a radical change from the reality of heavy and cumbersome DSLRs, I was intrigued. So I thought, let’s do this.

It was the right time to try this approach as well. Instagram launched a few months later and around the world people started believing that “the best camera is the one that’s always with you”. It was the sparkle of a revolution. One you can nowadays see the outcome of.
Of course, the quality was never on par with a DSLR, but I felt it brought back the fun.

For the next 3-4 years, all I had was my iPhone. With every new model, the camera got better and better. Even used it a few times for commercial work. And I was glad I didn’t have all the gear to carry with me when I moved to London.
I had my first exhibitions with iPhone photos. They were good but it was also novelty so art galleries were jumping on the bandwagon. I published a book and I caught the press’ attention with my empty Tube stations (it was only @missunderground and I back then). I even created my iPhoneography course. It was great.

I then purchased a small compact Canon for its long zoom lens (and to film in full HD, before the iPhone 5S), but 90% of the times I was still carrying only the iPhone around.

The iPhone travelled with me to various countries and I never felt I needed anything else. My photography was more like a hobby now and only at times a complement to my work. And the iPhone was perfectly capable to deliver.

Until I went to Iceland.

The discovery of Fujifilm

I visited Iceland with my mate Fabrizio in 2014. We departed from London 2 days after the release of the iPhone 6 Plus and I had that in my pocket. Apple had just used shots from this country to promote the new phone, so I was extremely excited.
And quite frankly, I brought back amazing photos shot with the iPhone. Good enough to be beautifully featured in an A4 photobook.
Looking at those photos now I’m still surprised at how much has changed in such little time: when I was there, it was completely empty, no tourists in sight. Even Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss, Vatnajökull or Kirkjufell… Empty. I don’t think it has ever happened again.

a panoramic shot taken with the iPhone 6 Plus – in daylight, no problem at all

But back to photography. My mate had the Fujifilm X-T1 (yep, this is how got to know Fujifilm) and we were constantly comparing our results. The colours of iPhone were always a big surprise to both of us. This small device was perfectly capable to match a professional camera.
In daylight.

I knew a smartphone would always struggle with low light (it’s only improved in 2019) and I was fine with it. But I’m sure you’re all well aware of this one peculiar event happening in the sky at night in Iceland… It’s not that the iPhone wasn’t capable of taking pictures of the Northern Lights: it couldn’t even see them! Any attempt resulted in a mushy and noisy dark void.
On the other hand, we were using the Fujifilm X-T1 with the XF35mm 1.4 to simply point at the sky and follow the Lights (it was cloudy the whole time and they were hard to spot).

A matter of love

In my time away from professional cameras, a lot had changed. When I left, I had almost never heard of mirrorless cameras if not for a few experiments. In Iceland, I had time to play with probably the very first groundbreaking one. As far as I know, the Fujifilm X-T1 was the camera that paved the way for every other camera company. The X-Pro1 was already causing a storm with street photographers, but it was the ease of use of the X-T1 that changed everything.

But I did go with the X-T10 first, because I didn’t really feel the need to go back to cameras and I wanted to experiment with it a little.
And boy, I loved it.

All the issues I had with the DSLRs were gone. All the bulk, the weight… This was a camera smaller than the palm of my hand (and I have small hands), with all the fantastic ergonomics of my old Nikon and producing even better colours! I started using my iPhone only for quick snapshots for social media. The Fujifilm X-T10 was now my main camera and I was back into Photography, big time. And since it was a new era for photography as well, with these mirrorless cameras, I felt once again part of a revolution.

Where I am now…

I pre-ordered the Fujifilm X-T2 as soon as it was announced. And got a second one a year later. This is the camera that helped me become the photographer I am today. It produces amazing colours and the experience of shooting with it is simply a joy (and this stands true in comparison with any other mirrorless). But most importantly, it’s a camera that is never in the way of my photography. The way it is designed, I lift my arm and move my fingers on the dials and I can take my shot. I don’t have to fiddle with menus, I don’t have to feel the burden of a heavy equipment. It’s there, attached to my wrist, always ready.

When I host my workshops and people come with their DSLRs, they are always impressed with this small powerful camera. And I know I managed to convert some of them by letting them try it. Not because Fuji is simply producing the best cameras. Many competitors have better features (although none produce better colours out of camera, in my humble opinion). It’s the user experience that is second to none.

… and where I’m going

Early next week, according to the distributor, I will finally hold my new Fujifilm X-T4. I skipped the X-T3, even though I was in Tokyo the day it was released and I could have taken advantage of the better price, but I couldn’t skip this one. I’ll probably unbox it live on my YouTube or on Instagram, I need to think about it. But this is an exciting upgrade for what it brings to video capabilities, and I can’t wait to play with it.
I’ll have to make do with what I can shoot at home during these disrupted times, but I know I will once again have great fun with a Fujifilm camera.


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