From Voigtländer Vito B to the Fuji X-Pro2

Dave Trewren

"I am an amateur photographer based in the West of England. I almost exclusively shoot monochrome images and am particularly interested in texture and shape - distressed, rusting and things that are rotting are a favourite. Generally I am not so interested in posed or studio work preferring natural forms and spontaneous images."

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It has now been a matter of a few months since I made the decision to go down the Fuji X system road and I thought it would be interesting to describe my experiences to date. I am not a professional photographer; although I have some history of studio portraiture and weddings, I have never actually charged for my work or services.

As part of my Fuji X experience, I thought it would be useful to briefly outline my personal history of cameras and photography up to this year. Although not quite 50 years of age, that birthday is getting very close now (fear). As a young lad, some of my earliest memories are of spending long periods of time in the cramped attic of our house with my dad helping to print black and white images. There is something magical about a wet darkroom – the red safe light, the smell of the chemicals and never getting tired of seeing images appear from a sheet of photographic paper sloshing around in the developer; then later developing the skills to transfer film from the can (in the pitch black) and onto the developing tank spool.
Why is this relevant? Well, working in a wet darkroom teaches one to be methodical, careful, tidy and above all patient. You have to slow down and think what you are doing or things have a habit of going very wrong very quickly; often the result is not recoverable!
I think slowing down and taking things easy is an important part of enjoying photography; this is exactly what the Fuji X system has done for me.

My first camera was a lovely Voigtländer Vito B 35mm film camera that dad bought for me. I took this camera to university with me and put dozens of rolls of film through it. Whilst at university, I got into medium format and bought myself a Minolta Autocord twin lens reflex with a Metz flash. This combination covered dozens of bands down at the student union bar. However, my favourite camera was a stunning Fuji GS645 Pro medium format rangefinder – it was expensive even second hand and I was without beer and on food rations for a while after buying it. So, I suppose it was at that point I fell in love with the rangefinder format. The images on Ilford 645 roll film from the little Fuji were just stunning. It was just so portable and fun to use. It was at this time I started to get asked to do weddings and although the Fuji was fantastic I didn’t “think” it looked the part – not BIG enough to look like a pro. So to “look” more professional I got hold of a Bronica ETRSi; side grip and coupled with the Metz, this was the stock camera for weddings for those who couldn’t stretch financially to a Hasselblad.

For so many photographers and enthusiasts, digital slowly loomed on the horizon. At first, everyone scoffed at the noisy images with poor colour saturation saying digital “would never catch on” and could never rival the quality delivered by film. However, it didn’t take long for technology to indeed catch up and catch on. I decided very quickly that Nikon was the brand for me and Nikkor were going to be my lenses of choice. I was quite late to digital and my first DSLR was the Nikon D90 to which, over time, I added the Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 and the 80-200mm f/2.8. The D90 was my only camera and I used it for everything; with the two lenses of choice, there wasn’t much the combination wouldn’t cover. Like most Nikons, the camera was quite chunky and the lenses looked quite big, impressive and expensive.

Walking around taking photos at festivals and occasionally in a studio, the gear looked the part and delivered some great results. Ok, it wasn’t the best Nikon gear. Over time, all my analogue film gear was sold off for peanuts and some of it even given away. The Fuji GS645 was the last to go and I really struggled to part with it justifying the sale by telling myself it would never get used in a digital world and it should go before devaluing even more than had already occurred. It sounds daft but I really missed that Fuji when it was gone even though I wasn’t using it! Sometimes I used to get it out of the bag and shoot dummy filmless shots just because it felt so great in the hand and the leaf shutter click sounded so nice – yep, selling that camera was difficult but money is money right? Just looking for an image of the Fuji on the internet has been like finding an old friend and it has brought back many memories. Hang on, we are talking about a camera… a bit of equipment… a thing ! Maybe so, but I really did love that camera and that’s an important point that cannot be understated.

Photography is a creative form of art (well I think so) and I for one have an emotional response to the things I like to photograph whether that be a pretty girl or a pile of rotting logs. The camera can be said to be just a tool for turning light into image but sometimes it can be something special and something emotional happens. Some guys love their cars because of the emotions generated when driving – for me it’s a metal box with four wheels which burns money… horses for courses as the saying goes.

So I have this bag full of Nikon gear, even upgraded the body from a D90 to a D7100 but not really sure why I did that. The Nikon is great and never misses a beat. The Nikkor lenses are fantastic in every respect. The gear looks great and performs perfectly.
So here is the million dollar question… why is it sitting in the bag with me not out using it ?
Well, some will say it’s because it is too heavy or maybe it is a bit too physically bulky; maybe it is too conspicuous to carry around… there is a long list of possible reasons why it is not getting much use.

For me, the answer has recently become clear and it is quite simple – I have no emotional attachment to the Nikon kit. I am not using it because I don’t really care very much about it and when I do use it, there is not that feel good factor. This may sound completely crazy to some people and I fully expect to be ridiculed in certain circles but it is the conclusion I have personally come to.

I wasn’t looking to change camera system – only just bought a new Nikon and put it in the
bag. In fact, I wasn’t even aware that there was a Fuji X system. I knew absolutely nothing about the product range, the camera or lenses until earlier this year. Other than my beloved GS645 I had owned no other Fuji based products at all – so what happened?

I was on Facebook wasting time (as you do) when I saw a fantastic image taken by a chap (Phil) I kinda knew him and we had met a couple of times a long time ago (friend of my brother). Phil is touring India and taking amazing images of Indian street life, markets… really great stuff. I just loved the images and there was a real emotional content, texture and depth to them that grabbed my attention and caught my eye. Of course, Phil is a very experienced photographer with years of field experience and so his images were going to be excellent but there was definitely something there I couldn’t quite put my finger on – and something that still alludes me.

It turns out Phil is using an X Pro2 and his prime lens of choice is the 14mm. As I mentioned, I had no idea what the X system was so decided to do a bit of research having not really looked at cameras other than the Nikon system for a very long time.


Now here is the odd thing… normally camera or system reviews bore me to within an inch of my life – endless talk of buttons, menus, functions, features, accessories, software, firmware… of course the Fuji X system had its fair share of such reviews and they are useful. However, in amongst all the gear/tech talk there was a different kind of language taking place that I had not personally come across. Guys saying how the X system had changed them as photographers, how they had fallen in love with the system, how after years of being dormant they were out shooting again and guys selling thousands of pounds worth of Canon/Nikon gear to focus on the X system. The same story kept cropping up over and over again and it seemed to me that people were getting a bit (dare I say) emotional about X system.

I must have watched just about every YouTube video and review there is out there on the X-Pro2 and X system. The fact is it is not cheap kit and the lenses are not exactly small change either. I am not a camera equipment junkie (not rich enough) so before investing in new equipment I really like to do my homework. Like I said, I watched every review out there but by far my favourite reviews on the X system were hosted by Ted Vieira. Even if you are not planning on investing in Fuji or are not looking to review anything, just check out Ted’s channel and watch his videos. I digress from topic but if you have had a bad day and need to chill – watch some Ted!

So how do I conclude this rambling story? Well, yes I bought a Fuji X Pro2 with a 35mm f/2 screwed to the front. I don’t intend to review the camera or even mention any aspect of its technical specification; the internet is covered with that detail so there is little point reinventing the wheel.

The X Pro2 is a thing of beauty and it feels solid and fantastic to pick up and shoot with – every aspect of the camera and lens screams quality; the output has something about it I can’t quite put into words but makes me smile (that was my technical review by the way).
At present, I wake up looking forward to picking up my camera and going out and taking photographs – if a camera or system evokes this emotion then, for me, it has fulfilled its purpose.

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  • Richard Wakeford

    I started with an Olympus OM1 in the early 70s. My brother in law had the darkroom and I developed my own slides. I then lapsed and bought a Canon 70D to rekindle my love of photography. I ended up not doing much with it though as it was just too heavy and didn’t feel “right”. I then saw someone using an X100T and saw the results and how he spoke about it and so I bought one having read the reviews. Suddenly I was in love with photography and properly for the first time. I then read about the X-Pro2 and, like you, looked at all the Videos and read all the reviews and bought one at the first opportunity and, like you, with the 35m f2. I have since bought the 16m f1.4 as well and take photos almost every day now. I love the X100T for its size and portability but the X-Pro2 is such a joy to use in every way that it’s my camera of choice and so light with the 35m. Thank you Fuji.
    Richard

    • David Trewren

      Hi Richard, sorry for the slow response only just realized the article was live ! Sounds like we have had a similar schooling – I had the Olympus OM2 SP for a while. Like you I have recently bought the Fuji XT 16mm f1.4 ….. oh my lord, what a lens ! It’s weird, with the Nikon gear I was always going longer and longer lens wise – very close crop portraits. This Fuji 16mm has completely changed the way I look at things. I completely love the way you can get just inches away, be at 16mm and blow out the background at f1.4 – just amazing. Take some photos and write something down, that’s what I did and they printed it (shocked).
      Cheers and have fun, Dave

  • phil m

    Glad to see I have been of some help to some people there Dave 😉 It’s true what you say, they seem to make products that talk to me. It’s something that should not be overlooked, but cannot be found in the manual or a spec sheet, the X-Pro2 has magic inside _ Phil M

    • David Trewren

      You speak the truth Phil – although new to the X system I can see it clearly has been sprinkled with pixie dust. Hope your future assignments go as well as India – look forward to more articles from your travels you lucky devil !

  • Charles Pike

    I started with Nikon gear back in the late 70’s, later it became just a tool, a really good tool but just a tool.