Finding the value of X

We all have a story. Mine begins in 1989. Since then my perspective has been influenced by the many places and people I’ve come across. With photography as a medium, I hope to share some of these experiences through the perspective of my lens.

My name is Fabian, born in Neuss, Germany, and raised in Toronto, Canada. I’m 30 years of age, an absolute sports nut, car lover (especially classics), travel as much as possible, work in finance and have an entrepreneurial spirit. Photography has been a passion for the better part of my life, always as a hobby, but has become a more serious venture over the past couple of years.

Photography as a profession has always been in the back of my mind, definitely more so since investing in my Fuji gear, however, it really wasn’t until I got a push from family and friends that I ever considered it a possibility. I’ve been chipping away at this dream slowly ever since.

My first camera
We all have a story. Mine begins in 1989. Since then my perspective has been influenced by the many places and people I’ve come across. With photography as a medium, I hope to share some of these experiences through the perspective of my lens.

My first DSLR was a Nikon D40 – a camera I still have to this day equipped with the 18-55mm f/3.5~5.6. I would have been 15 or 16 at the time. Up until then, I was messing around with disposable point and shoot cameras from an early age, and got my first taste of film SLRs in high-school in photography class.

Most of my spare time during my youth was devoted to sports, it was my outlet and number one love for as long as I can remember. It was mostly during the summer, when I’d travel to Europe to see my Dad that I would constantly be taking pictures. I loved experiencing new places, the culture, meeting new people, learning about other ways of life, and wanted to document these moments.

I can’t say I ever considered myself the “artsy” type, but was often told I had a “good eye” for photography. I also can’t say I was super knowledgeable when it came to using my D40 to the best of its ability, mainly using the scene modes based on what I was shooting. Most of my pictures were of landscapes, cars, and portraits of people I’d meet on the street willing to let me take their picture.

The biggest reason I think I fell out of touch with photography for a while was my relationship with in-camera digital menus, and being overwhelmed by figuring out all the settings. Also with all the technological advancements in cell phone cameras, it was simply easier to run and gun with something you can fit in your pocket – not to mention the image quality seemed superior to my 6 megapixel Nikon by this time.

It made me lazy. Of course, regardless of what anyone tells you, you simply cannot replace a DSLR, and the knowledge you gain from using one. Although I fell out of touch with taking photos with my DSLR, I never lost interest, or my love for photography in general, rather just wasn’t shooting nearly as much. The itch was still there and I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d get back into it.

Why Fuji
It was time to upgrade my D40 which at this point was definitely outdated in a technological sense. I wanted a camera setup that could hold its own in today’s day and age, with the low key plan that it would be sufficient as a professional tool. If you know me, before I make just about any purchase, I really dive into researching as much info as possible before pulling the trigger.

Value being a key factor. I must have spent a year looking into newer Nikon, Canon, Pentax systems etc and at some point came across mirrorless/crop sensor systems. My first thought was that the image quality wouldn’t compete with full-frame DSLRs. It didn’t take long for any of those concerns to be addressed and I also liked the idea of having a smaller set up especially for travel purposes. When it came to mirrorless systems, it came down to the Sony vs Fujifilm debate.

While both systems were impressive in their own right, I saw more value in Fuji (especially considering the price point for their lineup of X Series lenses), the incredible colour science behind their sensors, and above all else – FILM STYLE MANUAL DIALS. The idea of not needing to fiddle so much with in-camera menus (although still have the ability), the film simulation modes, and the overall aesthetic/ode to the old school sold me big time.

I also loved how Fuji updates their firmware at no extra cost. I went ahead and bought myself a Fuji X-T2 equipped with the 18-55mm f/2.8~4, along with my first prime lens, having been the recently released 23mm f/2 at the time.

You can buy any number of cameras that have great specs. But it was the intimate experience of a Fuji system that made me dive back into photography again more than ever. When I’ve spoken with other photographers and asked about what equipment I use, why I went from Nikon to Fuji etc, it’s the relationship to the camera that I always refer to. I compare it to driving a manual car versus an automatic.

You can shoot manual on any DSLR, but being able to do so seamlessly directly on the body of the camera is a different, and in my opinion, a more responsive and intimate experience. You simply get a better understanding of the mechanics at work, and its relationship with the surrounding environment. Fuji really offers the best of both worlds.

Favourite Lens
As mentioned, the 23mm f/2 was my first prime lens. I’ve used this lens more than any other, almost to the point that I never use the 18-55mm – not to say it isn’t an amazing lens as well, and much more than a typical “kit lens”… The 23mm is just incredibly versatile, and my favourite focal length for street photography.

Later on, I also picked up the Rokinon/Samyang 12mm f/2 (amazing value) for landscapes more than anything else, and the 56mm f/1.2 which is the most impressive lens I’ve ever used. The incredible sharpness and depth of field are hard to beat and I felt it really helped round out my gear as I don’t stick to one type of photography.

It is a truly special piece of glass that has given me numerous ‘holy crap’ moments when reviewing my photos on a bigger screen in post process. While I don’t use it as much as my trusty 23mm, I’d have to say it’s my favourite lens.

I generally pack my camera bag with my Fuji X-T2, the 23mm f/2, and either the 56mm f/1.2 or 12mm f/2, depending on where I’m going, as well as my Minolta X-700 with the 50mm f/1.7. This is where Fabian.XMM came about, I shoot with the Fuji X Series, and coincidentally have a Minolta X-700 – all X systems, MM referring to focal lengths (duh).

I also have a Vivitar 75-205mm f/3.8 Macro lens. Funny story. I saw a Minolta X-700, with the original owners manual, 2 f/1.7 lenses, the Vivitar lens, a Gemini lens (?), shutter release cables, flash, and vintage leather camera bag posted on Ebay for $50 USD. The camera was untested – seemed like an estate sale, but clearly the owner was into photography, and who, like me, keeps all the original boxes, manuals etc.

Put in the minimum bid for $50, completely forgot about it until I got an email from eBay saying “awaiting payment”. Couldn’t believe the haul. I had been looking at Canon AE-1, Nikon F2, and Minolta X-700 listings. All great cameras, some obviously more expensive than others (in good condition). The Minolta X-700 was pretty advanced for its time and so I placed a minimum bid.

I would have paid the $50 for the camera bag alone, never mind the rest of the lenses and gear. I was the only bid and happily received my new film gear. The untested camera simply needed a new battery!

Of course, down the rabbit hole, I went experimenting with different types of film which I hadn’t done since high school. Favourite film – Ilford HP5 Plus 400, Kodak Portra 400, FujiColor Pro 400H, Kodak Gold 200. Kodak Ektar 100.

I was recently given a Cine-Kodak Relian Camera 8mm, equipped with a Cine-Ektanon 13mm f/2.7 Lumenized lens. I haven’t got any film for it yet but am excited to get it going. Original box and manual – super vintage and old school cool.

Photography in the Digital Age
The digital age has made it easier than ever for creatives to gain exposure through social media. You simply can’t deny it, and I definitely have a love-hate relationship with it. I’ve found and followed countless creatives and photography communities which I don’t believe I would have ever come across otherwise. The ability to share your work instantly and use it as a business tool is remarkable.

On the other hand, I feel it pulls some of the focus away from the art form itself. We’ve all spent considerable time organizing our photos, themes, layouts, stories, hashtags etc to appease the social media algorithms at work. This is definitely the best practice and necessary if you’re looking to promote your portfolio.

On the other hand, it simply can’t replace seeing a print in person, or flipping pages in a look book, magazine etc. Admittedly, my social media game presence is lacking! I just want to shoot, print, and share with people when their attention span is less divided. The way your work is received is just more organic.

I’ve been shooting a lot of film lately. I find it has really helped me get back to the roots of what made photography such a great art medium for me. I find shooting digital can sometimes lead me to taking a buckshot approach. Camera gear is improving so rapidly and it seems as though every other day we’re told we need a newer FASTER lens.

Part of why I love film so much is the methodical approach. Starting with choosing film for an intended purpose, and already needing to think about your environment prior to loading your camera. You are shooting with a manual focus, and have a set amount of exposures before the end of the roll. Not to mention the element of surprise in not being able to see the end result as soon as the shutter clicks.

You pay closer attention to your exposure, composition, depth of field, gaining a more in-depth understanding which is often lost in today’s day and age especially amongst those starting out. It’s a different experience for sure but one that can really enhance your skill as a photographer as you’re more cognizant of the elements you’re attempting to incorporate in any given photo.
Shoot more film!

GEAR
Cameras:
Fuji X-T2
Fuji X-T10
Minolta X-700Cine-Kodak Reliant Camera

Lenses:
Fuji 18-55mm f/2.8-4
Fuji 23mm f/2
Fuji 27mm f/2.8
Fuji 56mm f/1.2
Rokinon/Samyang 12mm f/2
Minolta MD 50mm f/1.7
Vivitar 75-205mm f/3.8

Accessories:
Meike MKXT2G Handgrip
Godox V860II[F]
Godox X1T[F] Trigger

"My name is Fabian, born in Neuss, Germany, and raised in Toronto, Canada. I’m 30 years of age, an absolute sports nut, car lover (especially classics), travel as much as possible, work in finance and have an entrepreneurial spirit. Photography has been a passion for the better part of my life, always as a hobby, but has become a more serious venture over the past couple of years. Photography as a profession has always been in the back of my mind, definitely more so since investing in my Fuji gear, however, it really wasn’t until I got a push from family and friends that I ever considered it a possibility. I’ve been chipping away at this dream slowly ever since."

3 Comments

  1. I don’t comment often, but I really like your style. The first photo in particular really grabbed me (which I saying something, since I live in Montreal). Nice work. Hope to see more around soon.

  2. Hi Fabian, excuse me, I’ve read your interesting article on Fuji X-Passion https://www.fujixpassion.com/2020/10/27/finding-the-value-of-x/ and I have a doubt about the Fujinon XF 23mm 2.0 you say it’s your main (or one of your main) lens: I see it can give you very sharp images, with “saturated” or cool colors, but don’t you find at the same time it gives you some sort of “flatness” in the images? I mean, it seems to me the images with it aren’t so “threedimensional” as with other Fujinon lenses.

    I’m talking having in mind my Fujinon XF 35mm 1.4, I don’t still have the 23mm 2.0 (but I’m going to buy the 16mm 2.8).

    Thanks a lot!

    Marco

  3. Hi Fabian, I like the photos and I think you’re my photography doppelgänger. My first DSLR was a Nikon D40 with the 18-55mm f/3.5~5.6 lens. I own a Fuji X-T2 and a Minolta X-700 with MD Rokkor-X 50mm f/1.7 which I coincidentally found and bought on Facebook Marketplace from an elderly photographer who was retiring and moving somewhere warmer. I enjoyed using the X-700 so much that I shot three rolls of film in one day.

    Recently I have been spending a lot of time on Etsy, window shopping for vintage lenses for my Pentax and Minolta cameras. A FotodioX adapter makes then useful on my Fuji X-T2 as well.

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