For many years I have had two camera systems. I use one system (Nikon) for most of my shooting and a second one for traveling light or for when I need to be invisible. Well times have changed.
During a recent trip to Ohio, I brought both of my Leica M Type 240’s and realized that while their manufacture is flawless and I admire the workmanship, they were not very light. In addition, as my style of image making has changed, my Leicas have been left behind. To elaborate further, I am a left eye shooter and was fed up with my nose prints on the Leica LCD. In addition, while prime lenses are terrific, I wish there were zooms available to increase the camera’s versatility. There are times where my feet just cannot get me as close as I need to be and a 70-200 zoom would solve my problem, Leica’s offering stops at 135mm. Instead, I have been left to crop the image, which is not satisfying
I have had many Leica rangefinders from an M4, M6, M8, and M9 and an M Type 240. In addition I have had 6-7 Leica lenses, whose focal lengths ranged from 21 to 90 mm. All were beautifully made and manufactured but there came a time when I realized that the future is not with the Leica M but with another system. Upon the suggestion of Jeff Mantell, good friend and salesman par excellence of Camera Land in NYC, I purchased a Fuji XT1.
OH MY! I can zone focus like my Leica, I can manually focus like my Leica and I can now also auto focus. I have the option to use Fuji’s superb primes lenses and but now also have at my disposal an equivalent of a 24-70 and 70-200, both waterproof and both at f2.8. At the present time my stable of Fuji glass ranges from approximately 23 to 80mm plus the aforementioned f2.8 zooms. In addition, with the appropriate glass I have a tested water resistant camera/ lens combo. Even the kit lens, the18-55, is very sharp. The Fuji is so small and light that is shares Leica’s ability to blend in for street shooting yet after next year’s release of the 100-400, I will also be able to go to an equivalent of 600mm. The image quality is first rate so now and into the future I will have the best of both worlds
To say that I was surprised about the quality of the Fuji would be an understatement, as I previously had no hands- on experience with Fuji. Not that all is perfect with the Fuji XT1. I do have several quibbles. I find the SD card door problematic. It has a tendency to open while the camera hangs from my UpStrap. It is so light that I barely realize that it is there but my arm somehow rubs against the camera and causes the door to open and I have had to use gaffer tape to keep it closed. While others find the buttons too small, that is something that does not bother me, perhaps because I was used to the Leica, which also has somewhat flat buttons. My other major quibble is the lack of exposure compensation in manual mode but it seems that is being offered in the new June firmware.
I have already mentioned the superb image quality. I also like that the company publishes its road map for lenses well in advance of release and is constantly upgrading the camera’s firmware. Each firmware upgrade is making my XT1 like a new camera and the previously mentioned recent firmware release will remedy other focusing quibbles. The XT1, like the Leica, does not bring attention to itself and I can take it anywhere and no one notices. The controls are terrific, well placed and the camera just fits my hand like a glove. For all these reasons I finally took the step I thought I would never make. I have sold all my Leica gear.
Before saying ‘Sayonara’ I would like to mention a few words about processing. As many know, the Fuji uses an X-Trans sensor with no anti-aliasing filter. It shares the lack of that filter with my Leica’s. The images produced by the camera come out very sharp. However, there has been a lot written on the LuLa forums on how to sharpen them and what software to use to demosaic them. I have tried Lightroom 5 and 6, CaptureOne V8 and Iridient Developer 3. All have their strengths and weaknesses. I use the Seth Resnick/D65 method of keywording/workflow so Lightroom is, at present, invaluable to me as a database. I can find images very quickly just by searching for a keyword. In addition, I do make camera specific profiles using the X-Rite Color Passport. Both Lightroom and Iridient Developer can utilize them, which improves the rendered color. In the end, for images that I plan to print, I will demosaic the specific image in all three raw developers and use the one that looks the best. After selecting the raw processor, I will finish processing in it but then do the final refinement in Photoshop CC. I find that Photoshop is still invaluable prior to printing.
Well I hope you have found this article interesting and helpful. I certainly welcome comments and contrasting opinions.