yet another 'what should i get' thread...

bartjeej

Hall of Famer
Nov 12, 2010
124
bart
I'm about to leave on a 3 month backpacking trip to West Africa, and I'm driving myself crazy with the decision process for a small-ish street / personal experience camera (i will probablt also bring a long zoom camera that is too clunky and conspicuous for quick / street work). Please bear with me as I try to explain my thoughts...

I'm basically doubting whether to get a Fuji X100f with tele converter, Panasonic GX85 with 20/1.7 and 45/1.8, or - less likely - a Fuji XT2 with either 18/2 or 27/2.8 and a 50/2.

My desires are:
- usb charging using micro usb or usb-c (no proprietary cable BS), for reducing the number of chargers and cables, and for replaceability in case of loss or damage.
- small enough to quickly pull out of a non-dedicated waist bag. X100f narrowly wins over GX85, XT2 loses out here
- unobtrusive, or at least not confrontational / exploitative looking; being white, I'm gonna stand out like a sore thumb wherever I go, but at least i'd like people to not feel taken advantage of when i point a camera at them. X100 is the major winner in terms of not looking threatening, although the GX85's and XT2's tilt screen would allow for waist level shooting, as well as ground level creative shots. Both the X100's teleconverter and the Fuji 50/2 are quite the cannon by my standards, although the X100 + tcl still has the film camera look to help it. And the X100 series' quiet leaf shutter really helps in not being obnoxious.
-speaking of tilt screens, i love those and hate fully articulating screens, so something like an EM1-ii is unfortunately not an option
- rugged enough to handle some abuse, dust and occasional rain. Any non weather sealed bodies or lenses would be taped up as much as possible without hindering the functionality. Still, i rate the X100 series above a non-sealed interchangeable lens camera like the GX85. The XT2 body and 50mm lens are properly weather sealed, giving me an option for shooting in the heavy rain that i am likely to encounter on a fairly regular basis towards the end of the trip. An alternative would be to bring a dicapac waterproof bag/housing and try to make that work with the X100 or GX85.
- moderately wide to normal fov; 35 or 40mm equivalent suits me just fine, so long as i can also play with shallow dof. The Fuji 18/2's 28mm eq is a bit wide, but the 27/2.8 on the XT2 has more limited shallow dof than the 20/1.7
- i want to have the option for some more compression in a compact package, preferably 90-ish mm. The XT2 + 50/2 can be cropped down to 90mm quite easily. X100 plus tcl still needs cropping down to 8 or 9mp in order to get 90mm eq (i know the digital teleconverter does a decent job of upressing, but it's jpeg only)
- autofocus lenses only, and preferably one-handed operability. All 3 cameras allow for aperture to be set by the rear dial, which i prefer over lens-based dials. The older X100t, if i remember correctly, doesn't allow this.
- enough resolution for large prints (up to 1m wide). This, and the limitations of curent fake bokeh modes and the poor controls, is why I am not really considering a phone for the wide-to-normal role. The Fuji's 24mp adds a considerably amount of resolution and croppability over the GX85's 16mp.
- dynamic range and low light / high iso performance are very much appreciated. The Fuji's with their modern aps-c sensors easily outperform the aging 4/3 sensor of the GX85
- image stabilisation would be very nice for longer focal lengths and for the occasional video. GX85 obviously wins here. Fuji seems incapable of giving cameras smaller than the dslr-sized x-h1 ibis, which is a real bummer. IBIS also allows the GX85 to claw back some (or all? Any input here is welcome) of its low light deficit to the Fuji's, and makes it easier to do longer shutter speed experiments in low light
- the X100f's built-in ND filter makes shooting wide open in bright light - like around the equator - much easier, although electronic shutters can compensate for this purpose.
- i am starting to experiment with longer shutter speed photography to add an element of abstraction. The GX85's image stabilization obviously makes this much easier, at least at low light. The X100's ND filter makes slow shutter photography during daylight easier, provided i can keep it stable enough.
- i have an instax mini printer for giving small prints to people whose portraits i have taken. Recent fuji models have the great advantage of being able to print directly to my instax printer; with any other brand, I'd have to open the manufacturers app on my phone, connect to camera, transfer images, open instax printer app, connect to instax printer, and then print the image. That would reallly take me out of the flow of connecting to people and photographing them
- oh, and the more i spend on the camera, the less i will have for visiting national parks, concerts etcetera. The GX85 plus 2 lenses is less than the X100f on its own, and the XT2 plus 2 lenses is a couple of hundred euros more than the X100f plus tcl (i buy everything used). One more option i could consider is using an X100T for the wide-to-normal, and a GX85 + 45mm for the compression / portrait role. That would cost about as much as an X100f plus tcl...

So, if anyone managed to read through my brainfart here, i'd love to hear your opinions. Which factors make a real practical difference, which do not? Am I missing obvious candidates? I don't see the lenses I would want (in terms of focal length / size / speed balance) for Sony's APSC line, and lenses for the a7 series get big and expensive very quickly, or are manual focus.
 

bartjeej

Hall of Famer
Nov 12, 2010
124
bart
Thanks Luke! You're right in that there was only a limited number of situations where the old X100 wasn't up to the job. Very low light was one of them. The inability to charge via usb and the inability to send images to my phone or printer via wifi are my main reasons for leaving the original X100 behind this time. And I really have begun to appreciate the moderate tele range...
 

KillRamsey

Super Moderator
Jun 20, 2012
124
Hood River, OR
Kyle
My thoughts...


1. There is no single answer that satisfies all of your wants. Acknowledge it, let it settle in, and make peace with it.

2. The question then becomes “which of these wants… do I want the LEAST?” And that is the issue you sacrifice on.

3. Some generalized wants I heard: “unobtrusive / non-threatening to the locals,” “small,” “Medium-ish focal length with options on longer,” “more resolution is better than less,” “IBIS,” “cheaper is better,” and “easy to Instax with” among others.

4. The Fujis do most of these better than the Pana. So park the idea of the Panasonic, and decide which Fuji path gets to a happier shooting experience.

5. Shooting with the X100F is almost undoubtedly going to be the smoother, slicker, faster, simpler, less-threatening-looking shooting experience. No lenses to change means zero time spent thinking about lenses. You’re also stuck with (assuming you don’t take the TCL off, ever) one focal length, which to some sounds limiting, but in capable hands (ie, yours – I, too remember your last trips’ photos, you know your $hit), “only one focal length” becomes a little super power. Before you’ve even lifted the camera, you’re already seeing in that focal length. You already know what you can/can’t get, before you look through the eyepiece.

So for my 2 cents, try to be rational about it up front, but then once the answer presents itself, get in bed with it and don’t look back. “This is what I’m using. Period.” The danger that you won’t get really good photos because you didn’t bring _____ lens are pretty slim. The danger that you won’t get really good photos because you over-thought it and/or didn’t commit is much, much higher. Trust yourself to go get good work done with whatever you bring. If it were me, I’d probably spend a full week agonizing over X100F -vs- XT2 + 27 pancake + Circ Pol filter. And I think the X100F is probably the better-er choice, so if I could afford to get one, that’s probably what I’d wind up doing.
 

bartjeej

Hall of Famer
Nov 12, 2010
124
bart
Thanks guys! You make some excellent points...

One of the reasons for me to be looking at longer focal lengths is because I feel that much of my photographt has been of the "postcard / national geographic" variety. Saul Leiters work really resonated with me more strongly than any other street photography I've seen, and I'd like to add some more abstracted, strongly graphical people photos to my "postcard / NG" photography. I have tried this with my original X100, but it's not easy. (I know, the fact that it's not easy to make something look as good as one of the great artists in the history of photography must come as a shock to you all ;-P )

I know that longer focal lengths make abstraction and strong graphics easier; I also know that the X100 can give me fantastic shots, and indeed I can pretty much see the world in a 35mm equivalent focal length by now. What I don't know yet is whether a longer focal length would still allow me to capture my own "point of view" experience as naturally as a 35mm field of view.
 
Aug 27, 2013
124
Talent, Oregon (far from the madding crowd)
Miguel Tejada-Flores
The Fuji X100F sounds great to me.

But I've also shot extensively with the 20mm Panasonic pancake lens and on a small Lumix body, it's so diminutive that the whole thing becomes borderline pocketable - and almost an ideal one-lens solution.

Obviously the XT2 is a great camera but once you add a few lenses, you have a lot more volume or bulk to carry around with you than either of the first two solutions.

One other minor note about the 20mm pancake lens: at f/1.7, it's more than fast enough for low-light interior candid photography - but it's field-of-view is equivalent to 40mm lens - wide enough to be almost a semi-wide-angle - but closer to a 50mm perspective than your standard 35mm FOV, which allows it to occupy an interesting middle ground.

And I think Kyle is probably right - there is no one single 'best' answer. I honestly believe that whichever you choose...will be great.
 

agentlossing

Veteran
Mar 23, 2015
104
Andrew Lossing
You ought to add the Ricoh GR III into your mix for a small unobtrusive camera. The image quality bests the GX85 and probably the X100F too due to the sharper lens, and for unobtrusiveness it can't be beat. The 28mm lens will allow you to pull more of the environment into the shot. Plus it fits in about any pocket, a benefit not to be dismissed.

Otherwise, I think the 20mm is a better lens than the one on the X100 but the higher resolution sensor makes up for it. Having the 45mm along might be nice however. It comes down to what you intend to be shooting. The GR for example does very well when shooting at the 35mm in-camera crop at 17MP, but offers a wider image than the X100 is able to shoot.
 
Jan 31, 2011
164
Newcastle, Australia
Sue
Thanks guys! You make some excellent points...

One of the reasons for me to be looking at longer focal lengths is because I feel that much of my photographt has been of the "postcard / national geographic" variety. Saul Leiters work really resonated with me more strongly than any other street photography I've seen, and I'd like to add some more abstracted, strongly graphical people photos to my "postcard / NG" photography. I have tried this with my original X100, but it's not easy. (I know, the fact that it's not easy to make something look as good as one of the great artists in the history of photography must come as a shock to you all ;-P )

I know that longer focal lengths make abstraction and strong graphics easier; I also know that the X100 can give me fantastic shots, and indeed I can pretty much see the world in a 35mm equivalent focal length by now. What I don't know yet is whether a longer focal length would still allow me to capture my own "point of view" experience as naturally as a 35mm field of view.
What you did on your last trip seemed to capture your unique point of view very nicely. I just think that the X100f is probably the way to go, based on your previous trip, and your desire for faster, and low light. Don’t really think you could do better with the other options. Also, backpacking with multiple lenses? Don’t even consider it. Although... maybe with a TCL and WCL...
 

bartjeej

Hall of Famer
Nov 12, 2010
124
bart
I've also shot extensively with the 20mm Panasonic pancake lens and on a small Lumix body, it's so diminutive that the whole thing becomes borderline pocketable - and almost an ideal one-lens solution.

One other minor note about the 20mm pancake lens: at f/1.7, it's more than fast enough for low-light interior candid photography - but it's field-of-view is equivalent to 40mm lens - wide enough to be almost a semi-wide-angle - but closer to a 50mm perspective than your standard 35mm FOV, which allows it to occupy an interesting middle ground.
Yeah the reason i am looking at the GX85/20mm/45mm combo is that it's tiny, the 20mm lens is like a the x100's 23mm with some of the width cut off, and the 45mm is, to my knowledge, the best combo of size, weight, speed, price and image quality in any system at the 90mm equivalent focal length.
You ought to add the Ricoh GR III into your mix for a small unobtrusive camera. The image quality bests the GX85 and probably the X100F too due to the sharper lens, and for unobtrusiveness it can't be beat. The 28mm lens will allow you to pull more of the environment into the shot. Plus it fits in about any pocket, a benefit not to be dismissed.

Otherwise, I think the 20mm is a better lens than the one on the X100 but the higher resolution sensor makes up for it. Having the 45mm along might be nice however. It comes down to what you intend to be shooting. The GR for example does very well when shooting at the 35mm in-camera crop at 17MP, but offers a wider image than the X100 is able to shoot.
For some reason the GR series doesn't pull at my heart strings quite so hard. The lack of evf and the telescoping lens don't help its cause for me.

GX9 gives you a 20mp m43 sensor in about the same space as the GX85. I personally would be happy with the GX9, 17/1.8 and 45/1.8. The lenses are each tiny.
The added cost isn't quite worth the additional 4 mp for me, especially since i would always pair the GX85 with 2 lenses anyway, so the need to crop heavily isn't really there. That, and the 1,25x crop in 4k filming just annoys me, especially if the widest lens i'd carry for the bodt is already a 40mm equivalent.

What you did on your last trip seemed to capture your unique point of view very nicely. I just think that the X100f is probably the way to go, based on your previous trip, and your desire for faster, and low light. Don’t really think you could do better with the other options. Also, backpacking with multiple lenses? Don’t even consider it. Although... maybe with a TCL and WCL...
Yes, for point of view photography the X100 is probably all i will ever need. It's that layer of abstraction that I'd like to introduce, that has me going back and forth...
 

agentlossing

Veteran
Mar 23, 2015
104
Andrew Lossing
For some reason the GR series doesn't pull at my heart strings quite so hard. The lack of evf and the telescoping lens don't help its cause for me.
Not surprising, as the GR has a totally different shooting style and certainly doesn't get by on high aesthetic marks. That said, if you get to know one, it becomes a very powerful tool that can change up your whole method. I look at mine now almost as a ninja weapon, so stealthy but capable of such excellent IQ every time.
 

MoonMind

Hall of Famer
Dec 29, 2013
124
Switzerland
Matt
To take up where @Luke left off, I'd say if you take the old X100, the 17mm f/1.8 is redundant.

Two thoughts: I've just played around with the X-E3 and was very impressed - small, responsive, very unobstrusive; I think it betters the GX8* in that respect. As for lenses, since it's Fuji we're talking about, pick your poison. The X-E3 has the same sensor as the X100F, but is a lot more versatile while being cheaper.

Secondly, I support the idea of getting a GX9 over the GX8*. The 20MP sensor *is* an update, no matter what people say, and controls and speed are nicer, too. As for lenses, why not take the 15mm f/1.7 and the Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.7 into consideration? The 15mm f/1.7 is the better lens than either the 20mm or the 17mm, and by being just a tad wider, it allows for different types of shots. That said, it's closer to 28mm than to 35mm - but if you consider hanging on to the X100, you'd have that base covered anyway. The 42.5mm focuses a lot closer than the 45mm, and it has O.I.S. - which means it opens up even more opportunities than the 45mm, especially in low light, but also in the field. Size and weight are just a little bigger in both cases, but you gain serious advantages, especially on the GX9.

All that said, if you really like the RF shooting and framing style coming from the X100F, just beware that *none* of the cameras mentioned (X-E3, GX8*, GX9) will give you that. I should know: Ever since shooting Leica bodies, going back to the GX9 feels (quite!) unsatisfactory in that regard - the viewfinder feels cramped, colours feel off on all the small bodies (differently so between the Panasonic and Fuji bodies). The X-E3 has a higher eye-point than the GX8*/GX9, though - that's important if you wear glasses, like me. You can get used to the EVF of the GX9 (I have, more or less), but it's nowhere near as nice as the bigger ones found in higher-end bodies.

Nevertheless, the GX9 is a very capable camera, and great for travelling because it's small, sturdy and very responsive - and if you add the additional grip, it plays well even with quite substantial lenses (like the 100-300mm II :)). So, it's a very trusty base for a :mu43: system, should the desire to build one ever arise.

M.
 

rayvonn

All-Pro
Jan 19, 2015
124
the reason i am looking at the GX85/20mm/45mm combo is that it's tiny, the 20mm lens is like a the x100's 23mm with some of the width cut off, and the 45mm is, to my knowledge, the best combo of size, weight, speed, price and image quality in any system at the 90mm equivalent focal length.
I can see you veering that way and if so, you can't go wrong. The 20/45 combo was my first ILC setup and covers pretty much everything for travel purposes, I've gone on holiday with just the pair of them. It covers wide angle too. Yes - doing merged photos with the 20mm works wonderfully wonderfully well.
 

Biro

Super Moderator
Aug 7, 2011
124
Jersey Shore
Steve
A slightly outside-the-box suggestion: Two Panasonic cameras - the LX100 (Mark I or II) and the ZS100. The LX100 gives you a fast, 24-75mm f/1.8-2.8 lens for close-up and low-light work. The ZS100 gives you a 25-250mm f/2.8-5.9 zoom for day light and telephoto work. Here's the best part: They share the same battery and charger, both have EVFs and make a great, compact travel duo.
 

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