My story with Fuji

Hello!

My name is Stefan. and I’m a 38-year-old enthusiast photographer from Bucharest, Romania.

Seeing other reviews and stories from so many photographers is making me feel a bit like a black sheep when it comes to photography. You see, I didn’t always have this passion. As a matter of fact, I thought about photography for the first time when I visited New York in October 2017.

iPhone 6s . @4.15mm . f/2.2 . 1/30″ . ISO 100 – New York shot on iPhone 6s

Of course, I travelled quite a lot until then, but I was always satisfied with the pictures I took on my mobiles or on a few Canon point-and-shoots.

Upon buying my ticket to New York I realised that I needed a camera. Even though I left the country for about 16-17 trips in the past three years I had no real camera. So, I did what any simple traveller does. Looked at the big brands I knew. Canon, Nikon and Sony.

I never considered buying a used camera so after a short battle with myself I ended up with a brand-new Sony A5000 with the infamous kit lens. Yes, I know what you might be thinking. I could have bought a used Fuji or even a used Sony A6000, but I was cheap. I just wanted a camera and didn’t care much about the lenses that I will be using. 

I had no idea about aperture, ISO or shutter speed and to be honest I think that for New York and the following trips I only used the Sony in Auto mode. I honestly didn’t expect anything from the trip, photography related.

I didn’t know then that my trip to New York would start something that would become one of my biggest passions.

Sony A5000 . Sony E PZ 16-50mmF3.5-5.6 @16mm . f/14 . 1/125″ . ISO 100 – Sony A5000 & The Brooklyn Bridge

So, I bought my camera and took my pictures but without paying too much attention to composition, rules, aperture, ISO, etc.

Basically, I just kept it in AUTO and while I had some decent, nice pictures I sure did ruin a lot of other pictures, pictures that could have been so much better. And let’s be honest here. If you can’t take amazing shots in New York, well, it is clearly your fault, not the camera’s.

Sony A5000 . Sony E PZ 16-50mmF3.5-5.6 @16mm . f/8 . 1/100″ . ISO 100 – New York with Sony A5000 kit lens

Upon returning from New York I had the incredible opportunity to buy a cheap ticket to Thailand and my next destination was set.

iPhone 6s . @4.15mm . f/2.2 . 1/370″ . ISO 25 – Bangkok on iPhone 6s

But in the meantime, I started looking at photography videos, bought some books, some online courses and started being more interested in photography.

I was fascinated by how well some pictures of New York looked and I saw mine in comparison and became a little jealous. I realised that a trip so far from my country might be a once in a lifetime opportunity and I didn’t want to get back with a lot of fuzzy pictures or mediocre images.

Sony A5000 . Sony E PZ 16-50mmF3.5-5.6 @16mm . f/8 . 1/250″ . ISO 100 – Bangkok on Sony A5000

I loved New York and I wanted people to see that in my pictures but since that opportunity passed, I was decided to get better until my next trip. So, I kept reading about photography and watching tutorials until my next trip arrived and even though I still think most of my pictures were crap, they showed a small improvement, so I was hooked.

Sony A5000 . Sony E PZ 16-50mmF3.5-5.6 @16mm . f/16 . 1.6″ . ISO 200 – Night shot in Bangkok with Sony A5000

I started reading more, experimenting more, looking at gear, taking test shots so that when my next trip arrived, I felt more confident.

Andalucia came next and there I got some pictures I really enjoyed looking at. I studied the locations before, I knew what I wanted to photograph and I did a thing I never thought I would do. I bought a tripod. While not world-class I felt good about my pictures from Andalucia and still enjoy them so that’s when GAS kicked in.

Sony A5000 . Sony E PZ 16-50mmF3.5-5.6 @16mm . f/8 . 6.0″ . ISO 100 – Sony A5000 kit lens in Cordoba

First came my Sigma 16mm lens, then came the Sony A6300 (replacing my Sony A5000) and then two more lenses came. The 35mm Sony and the 19mm Sigma.

Sony A5000 . Sony E PZ 16-50mmF3.5-5.6 @16mm . f/5.6 . 1/200″ . ISO 100 – Alhambra complex thru Sony A5000 and kit lens

Then came England. And there I took some pictures that I am proud of. I know you might look at them and ask yourself why I was proud, and the reason is simple.

Sony A6300 . Sigma 16mmF1.4 @16mm . f/9 . 1/40″ . ISO 100 – Broadway Tower with Sony A6300 and Sigma 16mm

While I don’t consider my work world-class, I am happy with how much I progressed, happy on how I started seeing things differently, happy with how I started understanding each scene. If you look at my old photos and my current ones you will notice how they started to look better, to be better composed, to have more details in them, etc.

The UK came also with another first.

Sony A6300 . Sigma 16mmF1.4 @16mm . f/11 . 1/160″ . ISO 100 – Durdle Door with Sony A6300 and Sigma

I took a local photography workshop with a professional photographer from Cornwall. I was already hooked. After my trip to England, though I had a blast and loved my pictures I started thinking more clearly about things.

My trip meant carrying a huge backpack filled with camera, lenses, tripod, battery grip, remote, spares, etc on my back each day.

Sony A6300 . Sigma 16mmF1.4 @16mm . f/8 . 1/200″ . ISO 100 – Mousehole harbour with Sony A6300 and Sigma

And my days meant 20 to 25 kilometres of walking. So, you could see how that was a problem for me. The other problem was that I felt uncomfortable carrying such an expensive backpack with me.

You might own a camera that is more than my whole setup but for me, that sum was a bit high.

And my final problem was that I still didn’t have all my focal ranges covered. I was missing a zoom and all my options seemed to suck. I wasn’t satisfied with Sony’s 18-105 zoom or with the bigger ones and I had trouble finding accurate info about a Tamron zoom lens I wanted to try.

Sony A6300 . Sigma 16mmF1.4 @16mm . f/8 . 1/125″ . ISO 100 – Pulpit Rock golden hour with Sony A6300 and Sigma 16mm

Adding that Tamron to my pack would have meant carrying over 2500 euro in gear with me all the time with no backup. That was it. All my gear. No backup. I had no backup camera at home, let along with me. If anything happened, I would have lost all of it. And that’s because unlike in other countries, in Romania you can’t insure your camera gear against theft or damage so if you’re unlucky, then you’re unlucky.

Finally, I realized I have broken my very first idea of buying a camera. I opted for a mirrorless camera due to its size and ease of use. My Sony A6300 plus my Meike grip with two batteries plus my Sigma 16mm lens went above 1,5 kg of weight and that goes well into DSLR territory.

Sony A6300 . Sigma 16mmF1.4 @16mm . f/11 . 1/80″ . ISO 100 – St. Ives beach golden hour with Sony A6300 and Sigma 16

Before moving forward, I must stress one thing. The A6300 is a great camera. I kept reading about it and people only whined about heating up problems and lack of in-body stabilization but let me tell you the simple truth.

The camera is a beast. I loved the way it looked and performed and paired with the Sigma it went fantastic. If you think on buying into Sony territory, then I urge you to buy that lens. It is amazing. All the reviews are stellar and trust me it is the lens I wish I could have taken with me on my Fuji’s.

You might ask yourselves “if you liked that camera and you had great pictures with it why switch?” and here is my answer.

While I do believe the Sony A6300 is a great camera I had no fun using it.

Sony A6300 . Sigma 16mmF1.4 @16mm . f/4.0 . 8.0″ . ISO 100 – Loved the Sony A6300 and Sigma combo for night pictures

I hated Sony menus, hated the layout and hated the lack of a good zoom lens for it. Hate me all you want but it is my true belief that excepting G lenses, all Sony zooms are kind of bad. I know I could have gotten a sigma adapter and put Canon or Sigma glass on it but I think it would have only made my kit bigger not necessarily better.

You noticed me talking up until now how I kept reading and watching tutorials, but I didn’t do one thing, one thing that really helps build a photographer. I didn’t come out to play. And that’s because, well, I didn’t have fun in the process. Sure, I enjoyed the result, but the process was killing me.

Even more, I wanted something cheaper first knowing I will leave for Morocco soon and I didn’t feel comfortable taking my big kit with me.

Golden hour in Chefchaouen with Fuji X-E2

So, one day I traded my 35mm Sony lens for a Fuji 18-55mm kit lens and bought a second-hand X-E2 and that is how I fell in love with Fuji.

Even before leaving for Morocco I started taking pictures. Of everything.

While my A6300 sat in my backpack, my Fuji got all the attention and that is all due to one thing. Ease of use. You see, I just love Fuji’s dials and wheels. I feel comfortable using them. I hated pressing buttons, going in the menus, looking for options in my A6300 but on Fuji, I started customizing my camera the very first moment.

Upon returning from Morocco I knew what I had to do.

Fuji X-E2 . Fuji XF18-55mmF2.8-4 @18mm . f/8 . 1/9″ . ISO 200 – Chefchaouen Streets with Fuji X-E2

I sold my Sony a6300, my grip, my gimble, my lenses and bought into Fuji. I got a used X-T1 and that’s where the party really started. I never in my life had so much fun using a camera. I took it with me to Valencia for my first 2019 trip, but the most important point is something else.

Fuji X-T1 . Fuji XF18-55mmF2.8-4 @35.80mm . f/8 . 1/60″ . ISO 200 – Sunset in Valencia with Fuji X-T1

Not a day goes by without me pulling it out of the bag and shooting something. Books, stamps, my desk, clothes, zooming in, zooming out, outside, it really doesn’t matter. I use it more and more and love it more and more. And frankly I think this is the most important thing when buying something.

It doesn’t matter that the autofocus was better on the Sony. It doesn’t matter that the camera was sleek and clean and new. It doesn’t matter I had better ISO on it.

Fuji X-T1 . Fuji XF18-55mmF2.8-4 @20.50mm . f/18 . 8.5″ . ISO 200 – Valencia night with Fuji X-T1

All that matters is how you feel about the camera and how often you want to take it out and play with it. Because that is what will make you a better photographer. Not autofocus, not ISO, not shutter speed, etc…

Practice, practice, practice.

If you have a modern, expensive camera that you use just on your trips you won’t get far in this craft. But if you play with your camera daily, regardless of what you shoot, you will become better.

I just love turning those dials, seeing how the histogram moves towards that perfect exposure, controlling my aperture fast, from the lens, having dials and buttons customized easily.

In watching YouTube or reading reviews you’ll just see tens of guys rambling about specs, often reciting them without even testing the camera.

Fuji X-T1 . Fuji XF18-55mmF2.8-4 @39mm . f/7.1 . 1/600″ . ISO 200 – Old man and the sea in Valencia with Fuji X-T1

And that’s just useless. You need to feel the camera, play with it, see if you like the weight, the buttons layout, the lenses, etc… And, for me, Fuji is that joy. Even if I’m not photographing something, I love taking them out of the backpack, testing shots in my room, experimenting with different focal lengths, etc.

So, my journey with Fuji started and I kept buying lenses, trading them, playing with them and just enjoying the process of taking pictures.

My current kit consists of a Fuji X-T1, a Fuji XT-20 and four lenses. A Fuji 18-55mm lens, one 50-230mm, the 23mm f2 and the 35mm f2. Excepting the X-T20 for which I got a killer deal, all the equipment was bought used and so far, it has been holding off wonderfully.

Fuji X-T20 . Fuji XF18-55mmF2.8-4 @24.30mm . f/11 . 0.6″ . ISO 800 – Castel Sant’Angelo and my small Fuji X-T20

I couldn’t part with the X-E2 so my girlfriend is using it now and she too, really enjoys that beautiful camera. Adding to those above I also have one big and one small tripod, 2 backpacks and 5 spare batteries. And that’s it.

Due to airplane baggage rules my first and big Manfrotto bag pack was not allowed on a carrier that I’m flying with a couple of times this year. So, I bought a smaller bag for that carrier. My second bag is a small, shoulder bag, perfect for a camera and an extra lens. I took that for times like one-day trips or going out in the city shooting.

As I am writing this, I am looking at my gear and trying to see if I forgot anything.

No, that’s it. Maybe my 3/4 SD cards but they are too small and light to make a difference when packing for a new trip.

And I am sure that many more will laugh when I say that I truly think that what I have can last me for the years to come without ever facing a problem when it comes to shooting.

Fuji X-T20 . Fuji XF18-55mmF2.8-4 @18mm . f/2.8 . 1/125″ . ISO 200 – Love in Rome with Fuji X-T20

I downgraded from Sony not due to the lack of quality but to how expensive the kit was, how I hated the zoom problem and how I disliked the menus and settings. I can’t say bad things about photo quality because I truly think that I got some good-looking pictures with it.

Yes, I find colours to be better with Fuji but I can’t honestly say that Sony has awful colours. Do I love my Fuji’s more? Clearly yes.

Do I love playing with them more often, experimenting, taking pictures often, trying to know the camera better? Clearly yes.

Do I miss the better autofocus on the Sony? No. Because as you have seen from my pics, I shoot mostly stills so I don’t need that so much.

Fuji X-T20 . Fuji XF18-55mmF2.8-4 @32.90mm . f/11 . 4.5″ . ISO 800 – Full moon in Pisa with Fuji X-T20

Do I need the superior A6300 video specs compared to my X-T1? No. I never shot a clip in my life on my camera.

Being in love with travelling also was a bless with using Fuji. 

While this is something I never considered doing with Sony on Fuji I started using presets and split my workflow in two. If I’m visiting a city or if I’m shooting street photography in 99% of the cases I will just adjust the SOOC jpeg a little in Lightroom mobile and that’s it. 

That’s what I did in my last trips to Lefkada, Rome and Pisa and honestly, I am so in love with the results. 30 seconds edit and boom, the picture can go up anywhere on Instagram or on Facebook.

If I’m shooting landscape or taking night photos, then I will be using raw files and process them with Capture One.

Fuji X-T20 . Fuji XF18-55mmF2.8-4 @22.30mm . f/11 . 1/125″ . ISO 200 – Patterns of light and Fuji X-T20

My take on photography is simple. You should find joy in what you are doing. You should find joy in the gear you use and mostly find joy in the places you visit.

And I found this in Fuji.

Fuji X-T20 . Fuji XF18-55mmF2.8-4 @18mm . f/11 . 1/80″ . ISO 800 – Reflections in Pisa and Fuji X-T20

"My name is Stefan Panaitescu, I am 38 years old and I am from Bucharest, Romania. I work in sustainability and corporate social responsibility and I love my job. I am an avid traveler and in my spare time I run a travel blog and I try to get out as much as I can and shoot with my Fuji cameras."

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