There is a saying that as you get older, you become unimpressed by a lot of S.H.I.T. (super highly irrelevant things). I wonder how this principle applies in photography, because we are also growing up in our photography skills, styles, needs and vision. Our way of making photography changes, starting with the switch from taking snapshots to making photographs. We change the gear we use, or give up using some lenses, while discovering new lenses; new focal lengths will become our favourites, while others will lose our interest. This is how I have moved from an ultra-wide angle fish-eye lens, which was capable of capturing not only too much, but basically almost everything, to narrower focal lengths, useful in isolating what is essential, against the disturbing and often unnecessary background.

Samyang 8mm fish-eye + EOS 60D vs XF 56mm F1.2 + X-T1

When I was using a Canon 60D DSLR (more than 6 years ago), I was in love with a Samyang 8mm fish-eye lens. I also remember listening to the advice of a fellow photographer (way better and more successful than me, back then) that the 35mm was very uninteresting, when used on a 1.5X crop format camera. I was somehow trapped into believing that a 35mm lens (the equivalent field of view of 52,5 mm in terms of full frame photography) is not wide enough for my needs and not long (or tele) enough to get closer to my distant subjects. It seemed I had my priorities very well defined. However, at 8mm, the depth of field of this fish-eye lens is immense. It was too easy, even if this was a manual focus lens: I just set the focus ring between 3m and infinity and practically everything I photographed was in focus 99,9% of the time

After a while, I realised I was just using and abusing my fish-eye lens, having fun while playing with the artistic barrel distortions on the edges of the frame. How did I get this lens? A great photographer had this lens and during a photography workshop with him, I tested it and said: “I want a lens like this for myself, too.” It is so comfortable to copy what other successful photographers do, hoping that if your photo bag is identical to their bag, then 90% of your success is already guaranteed.

Samyang 8mm fish-eye + EOS 60D vs XF 16-55mm F2.8 WR + X-Pro2

However, time goes by and we grow up. We learn different things, we acquire new techniques, the new photo gear can have an influence on our changing style of photography and our changing style will influence the type of gear we choose. It is a constant synergistic process where photographer and tools influence each other in this flow of creation. Our life is filled with different events and these will certainly alter our overall experience and vision. The rhythm of these continuous changes is unique for every individual.

Since my beginnings in photography, many things have happened. Moving from a compact Panasonic pocket camera to my first DSLR was my concrete decision to get serious into photography. Afterwards, getting married, raising children, moving to another country, meeting new people, living in a different culture, interacting with photographers from all over the world, visiting interesting countries, has certainly left a maturity imprint on my life, my vision and, consequently, on the philosophy I apply to my style in photography. I am undeniably not the same person I was when looking to buy my first DSLR. My style and needs in photography have changed.

Samyang 8mm fish-eye + EOS 60D vs XF 16-55mm F2.8 WR + X-T1

Getting back to the story with the fish-eye lens vs. a 35mm prime lens, now, after these years, I find myself crazily in love with the Fujinon XF 35mm F1.4 (together with the XF 56mm F1.2). Under no circumstances, I would accept the idea that I could possibly get another fish-eye lens. This is just an example, to show how we change, how we think differently and need different things after a considerable period of time. This may look like growing up. Back then, while travelling, I wanted to capture a lot within my frame and having a narrow focal length lens mounted on my camera would only bring resentment. Now, I can comfortably travel with my 35mm prime lens on my Fujifilm X-H1 without being frustrated by the lack of an ultra-wide lens. I should mention that I have the amazing XF 14mm F2.8, which is a very sharp lens with almost no distortions and it is more than enough, in terms of “going wide”.

Samyang 8mm fish-eye + EOS 60D vs XF 16-55mm F2.8 WR + X-Pro2

Talking about focal lengths, there was an interesting thing I did a while ago, while visiting Japan in 2015. I was using my XF 16-55mm F2.0 WR standard zoom for almost all types of situations. Going back home and selecting my favourite photos, I was curious to see what focal lengths I was using and what prime lenses should I use, for those specific photos, if I would need to bring only prime lenses. The result is here, but it was genuinely relevant for me, for my style, for that type of photography, those shooting opportunities, visiting that country and for that level of maturity (or lack of it) 🙂

Samyang 8mm fish-eye + EOS 60D vs XF 35mm F1.4 + X-T1

I think it is an interesting exercise to review your old work made some years ago and see what focal lengths you were using, what type of composition and what style of post-processing you have applied. Because all of these will change, in time. Some people might evolve in the way they post-process their files, applying different techniques or using new software. Nevertheless, some people might take the minimal approach and give up shooting RAW in favour of enjoying more time while shooting more in JPEG format, if their photos are better / ideally composed and exposed. As I am not a commercial professional photographer and Fujifilm offers incredible high levels of IQ in their JPEG files, I enjoy shooting in JPEG a lot and I use RAW only for specific needs and situations.

Samyang 8mm fish-eye + EOS 60D vs XF 16-55mm F2.8 WR + X-Pro2

What would be next? It is hard to tell, but looking back, I try to map my personal trajectory in photography. At least from the point of view of cameras and lenses, I presume a common start for many of us, today, is using the smartphone camera. A following step would be a compact camera, with better lenses, optical image stabilisation and optical zoom. From there, it is only natural to dream about your first DSLR, as the expression of the perfect tool for perfect photos. This path is quite similar to mine, except that when I started to be interested in photography, there were no smartphones, but only phones with primitive cameras.

Samyang 8mm fish-eye + EOS 60D vs XF 16-55mm F2.8 WR + X-T1

From here, many enthusiast photographers would remain at this level. A DSLR is a powerful tool, if used well (and not all the time in Auto Mode, of course). As time passes by, you can play on the variations between adding different lenses, specialised for specific purposes, changing the kit zooms with professional zooms and fast prime lenses and eventually upgrading the camera with a new model. A reasonable and expected step would be upgrading from crop sensor cameras to full-frame cameras. I had this aspiration in mind, as the one solution to solve my image quality issues and step up the game at professional level photography.

Samyang 8mm fish-eye + EOS 60D vs XF 16-55mm F2.8 WR + X-T1

However, something interesting happened: Fujifilm appeared, as out of nowhere, with their path-opener digital mirrorless compact X100, and then the flagship called X-Pro1. Those two cameras were designed as if the Japanese engineers would have probed my dreams, taking elements from my “ideal camera design” and implementing them into their products. The Revolution has started and this is what I have felt back then, 7 years ago, when realising that going to a Full-Frame DSLR would never be the right path for me. Fujifilm with their X-Trans APS-C sensor and their gorgeous lenses would offer all the IQ requirements I could expect from an EOS 5D with some L glass, and maybe more!

Samyang 8mm fish-eye + EOS 60D vs XF 16-55mm F2.8 WR + X-Pro2

Back to my question: What would be next, for me? I think I will stay here (with Fujifilm mirrorless cameras and their amazing lenses) for a very long time. I have started from nothing, with only the desire to step into the world of photography (and an analogue Zenit camera with Helios 58mm F2.0 from my father). Then, from nowhere, one camera appeared. Then some lenses and other cameras and other lenses … more lenses and accessories, hoping that you will be ready for every possible challenge and situation in photography, be it street life, portraits, travel, events, sports, wildlife, landscape, or astrophotography.  During all this time, we live our lives and fight with our personal challenges. We keep learning while our soul is filled with countless feelings. We grow and we change!

Samyang 8mm fish-eye + EOS 60D vs XF 16-55mm F2.8 WR + X-T1

Probably the day will come, when reaching a certain state of maturity and wisdom, when we would like to switch from noise to silence. From very much to only a few, from too heavy (photo bag, included :), of course) to very light. Maybe we could give up post-processing RAW files, in favour of some minimal JPEG cosmetic corrections (or no post-processing at all). Maybe we would replace the X-Pro, X-T and X-H series (with all the zoom and prime lenses that come with them) with a core-centred minimal approach in photography by using just one compact camera from X100 series. Who knows? Only time will tell!

And when we will be ready to complete the circle of our life in photography, then we will also be able to reach the pinnacle of maturity, while letting all go and travelling all around the world with nothing else but a Leica M mount film camera in our hand. May the Light be with you, all and stay inspired! Sometimes it is not easy, but it is always worth it.

Exclusive content, previously published in October 2019 on FUJI X PASSION – Inspirational Photography Magazine (Premium Area) – www.fujixpassion.com

© Sebastian Boatca 2020 / www.sebastianboatca.com

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