An open monologue, a rant, and a question

Discussion in 'Fuji' started by otse, Mar 25, 2012.

  1. otse

    otse Rookie

    Feb 19, 2012
    This is my camera. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

    Chicago -> Dusseldorf -> Paris -> Nice -> Florence -> Tunis -> Marrakech

    That's my itinerary from mid June to mid August. It's a much needed solo backpacking trip, a great break from the 9-5, and chance to reflect.

    A chance to wake up every morning and live like a local. You'd think with two months I could do more, but no tourist attractions for me, I'm here for the city and the people.
    I want routine in a foreign city. Be a regular at the local bar. And most importantly, be completely invisible.

    Just a backpack. A decision and an effort any minimalist would gush over the very idea. Just clothes, dop bag, a journal, my Kindle, and a camera.

    A camera.

    Choosing the right camera for a trip like this is to me just as important to taking the trip all together. If it's one thing I've learned we photographers all share, is a frame of mind. It's a way of looking at the world through small and wide aperture blades. I want something thoughtful, simple, and something that can give me creative freedom.

    My first instinct is to bring two cameras: my Nikon D80, complete with a fast prime, wide angle zoom, and maybe the additional purchase of a telephoto. Then, I'd invest in a quality serious compact (pun intended) like a Canon S100 or Ricoh GRD.
    However, the idea of bringing a big DSLR body and lenses, ruins my minimalist vibe, man. Less is more. I want to be free. Plus, pulling out a big lens pointing at someone's face isn't the easiest thing to pull off when you're trying to act like a local.

    I don't want to invest in a new smaller interchangeable lens system, not at the expense of getting a smaller sensor than my DSLR, with even lower low-light capabilities. Sure, I could get adapters, but frankly, I've grown to appreciate auto-focusing lenses.
    I've definitely looked at the Sony NEX system...slimmer than most micro 4/3rds, but dramatically more expensive... a cost that puts me nearer to the Fujifilm X100... which let's me honest, is a killer camera, no matter what you currently shoot.
    Then there's the new Canon G1X and the other similar bridge cameras. Jury's out on those.

    So my question to the forum is how have some recent members dealt with traveling light for long 2+ month escapes? What did you bring?

    Has anyone left the DSLR at home and gone full monty with the X100? What about the X10? Alternatives? Did you bring a smaller compact?

    Lets keep things under $1200 if you've got other recommendations.

    • Like Like x 2
  2. winginkris

    winginkris Veteran

    Dec 15, 2011
    I love the x100 and have taken a couple of short trips with it, but nothing like you're about to embark on! I'm so jealous! For myself, I do miss having different focal lengths, but that's just me. For a trip like you're about to take something like the x10 sounds like a pretty good choice. What a great adventure you're about to take! Good luck!
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Crsnydertx

    Crsnydertx Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jan 21, 2011
    Houston, TX
    If I were contemplating such a trip and wanted flexibility, decent photo quality, and light weight, I would pack my X10 and GRD III - the same gear I take along on mundane business trips today. Or, as an alternative, I might opt for the X100 and the Canon S90/95/100. Each pairing has one fixed focal length and one zoom - hedging bets against not being able to do it all with one FL. Good luck on your journey!
  4. adanac

    adanac Veteran

    Sep 30, 2011
    Vancouver, BC
    I did a three week trip with the X100 as my primary camera. Light, easy to carry all day long (in a small shoulder bag for me) - on paper it was ideal and in practice it mostly lived up to that ideal, save for two issues.

    1) I discovered that being limited to one field of view wasn't ideal, for me. I'd have preferred slightly wider if limited to one lens (I like 28mm), but for three weeks on the road my real preference is to have at least one another perspective available - normal or short tele. This was a minor problem in the grand scheme of things... you just shoot what you have.

    2) My camera failed during the trip with the sticky aperture blade issue. Big time bummer. This was a very significant issue.

    Had I been more aware of the potential of the SAB problem, I would have brought a small film camera as a last resort backup, my minuscule Rollei 35 TE. I'd actually prefer that to using a small digital DSLR which is what I had on hand for a fall back, fully expecting never to use it once (we were not travelling light on this trip). Today... I think I might choose a GRD as both a backup and useful second camera, but definitely would take a film Rollei compact over a DSLR, travelling light or not.

    In your shoes I would not take the GXR and a bag of lenses because I don't think you could achieve as much with your 1200$ budget while also including a backup. In my shoes I'm happy taking a GXR and two lenses if travelling "light" but the GXR and two lenses and M mount still adds up to about 1,000 grams give or take.

    My story won't help you with gear selection. I share just to urge anyone to bring along as small a backup as possible that you can be happy with relying upon as your *only* camera if something goes completely wrong (broke, stolen, whatever) with your intended primary camera.

    Some of us bought into "serious compacts" no doubt as backups for other systems we use; to me it feels a little funny now contemplating a small backup for a compact used as a primary camera. A DSLR used to be the small backup for my medium format gear. A GRD makes a nice backup for a GXR shooter. I guess an iPhone could be a backup for a GRD. What backs up a James Bond watch-cam?
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    I'd go with the S100 or a G12 (more external controls and both offer lots of focal lengths) and some extra batteries.

    Cheers, Jock
  6. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    any serious compact should be fine....I also wouldn't rule out a superzoom if you like telephoto stuff. The Fuji X-S1 would be camera and EVERY focal length covered. But I think the X10 would cover most of it.
  7. Julien

    Julien Top Veteran

    Jan 6, 2012
    Paris, France
    Haven't had the opportunity for such an escape lately, but I "live" with the X100 and find it very well suited for urban settings like you've mentioned: Wide enough to capture urban scenery and skylines, discreet enough to let you photograph "locals" without looking like a tourist.

    Many other good options, obviously.

    (I don't think you should be too worried about a backup camera, even the smallest places you mentioned (Nice & Florence) stock any camera you might want if the need arise).
  8. otse

    otse Rookie

    Feb 19, 2012

    That's some great advice.

    I have a Nikon N65 I could bring as a film backup (why don't they make full frame DSLRs that small and simple?)
    I share your appreciation for film - while planning for the trip I was trying to seriously contemplate whether or not to bring my Mamiya 645 Pro TL - that's obviously not an option now ;)

    Just out of curiosity, what was your GXR kit?
    And did you travel with both your GXR and X100?
  9. otse

    otse Rookie

    Feb 19, 2012

    That's an option I did not consider. Thanks for the tip. I think I'd prefer the X100/S90 combo.
  10. Country Parson

    Country Parson Top Veteran

    Apr 5, 2011
    North Carolina
    On a three week trip to Costa Rica last summer (with a group so not traveling so light) I took the X100, the GXR and a Nikon D7000. When all was said and done I had taken 90% or more of my pictures with the X100. I could have left the other two at home and not missed them. I found a belt pouch that fit the X100 perfectly, and had it on all the time. I used it for videos, pans, HDR, & close-ups as well as straight photography. Hard to beat it for the price.
    • Like Like x 2
  11. adanac

    adanac Veteran

    Sep 30, 2011
    Vancouver, BC
    otse, I bought the GXR last fall, after my trip and the X100 failure.

    I don't want to leave the impression that the X100 was a complete failure. I still managed to make photographs I was happy with, but as the camera unfortunately half way through the trip became a f/2 only camera, in the middle of summer, how I used it became much more restricted.

    What the X100 did for me though was open my eyes to the capabilities compact cameras can offer. Until I went through that experience I'd no idea how far technology had come and in fact right up to mid-2011 I was still mostly shooting 6x6 medium format with a backpack full of heavy gear. No room for food or rainwear, a problem here on the wet west coast where I live.

    Long story short - it was the success I had with the X100 that caused me to realize I should have bought into an interchangeable lens camera system. I checked out the NEX-5N; while good with my rangefinder lenses it didn't quite turn my crank; people here turned me onto the GXR and that's proven to be a fantastic match for me, and a terrific performer with RF glass. Others have bought into the auto focus lens modules Ricoh offers for this platform.

    It isn't a perfect camera; some aspects of it are somewhat dated. But for shooting high quality rangefinder glass, one can argue that it has no equal other than the Leica M8 and Leica M9, and unlike those cameras, can be turned into an autofocus camera with the switch of a camera module. A bit unique, too unique for some. But it works well in practice; Unfortunately it can't work for a $1,200 budget unless forgoing the external EVF is an option. For me that would not work, I do need an EVF at least some of the time, but for others going without is not only viable but preferable for how they like to view the world and photograph.

    Whether or not you need or simply want an optical, electronic, or in the case of the Fujifilm X100 and XPro - a dual hybrid viewfinder is one of the questions you'll need to answer. Coming to serious compacts from bigger camera systems the land felt a little foreign to me at least. For example I never thought I'd care fore tilt screen rear LCD panels but it turns out they are fantastic for tripod and odd angle work; I wish the GXR had one similar to the NEX arrangement. I also never thought I'd take to a removable EVF, which is why I bought the X100 in the first place over a NEX, yet a tilt EVF is excellent again for tripod work, architectural photography in tight spaces -- picture a tripod mounted camera tight in the corner of the room... you can still operate the camera standing to the side with the EVF pointed up. Shooting with a tilt EVF reminds me a little of the waist level finder experience on my Rollei medium format gear. Best to have an open mind about allt hese things, for what might seem like frills or unnecessary features on a camera might prove to be really useful, to some.

    Like you I miss the days of small film SLRs like the N65. I still have my Contax 139, a camera that isn't much bigger than the GXR or some of these m4/3 cameras. Works as well as it did the day I bought it in the early 80s. On the other hand, neither had a tilt LCD or EVF and can't deliver a SDHC card full of images ready to "develop" in seconds. I have to say I am shooting a lot less film these days and am getting just as much enjoyment out of digital darkroom work as I did in a wet darkroom.

    Sorry for the long winded rambling... one last comment: don't be surprised if you aren't shooting the same camera a year from now. ;)

    Welcome to the forum Ollie, I can't wait to see some of your photographs from your trip!
  12. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    On my last long holiday (6 weeks) back in 2010 (eek, that long ago!) I carried a Canon 50D, 24-105 f4 and Sigma 10-20 + 2 more lenses I barely used. If you're prepared to carry a big camera there is no reason not to. Now I would happily do the same trip with a couple of CSC cameras, Micro 4/3 in my case. I particularly like the combination of the DSLR styled Panasonic and smaller bodied Olympus Pen, which gives the option of two cameras as well as providing a backup just in case. BTW, I wouldn't dismiss Micro 4/3 based on low light capability, certainly not compared to a D80. They have actually released some newer models in the last three years...

    I'm currently waiting on a Canon G1X to arrive which was unfortunately too late to try out on a long weekend interstate. Express post, my a**e.
  13. adanac

    adanac Veteran

    Sep 30, 2011
    Vancouver, BC
    Yup, if not for the failure of mine, I would have used it for 95% of what I did. It is a great travel camera. Get a hood.

    Doing it over without the X100, I'd probably take my 18mm and 50mm (27mm and 75mm effective) if travelling light allowed me two lenses. A little wider and a lot longer than the X100, I could be happy with that for everything I'm sure.

    For backup maybe if not the tiny Rollei 35 film camera, I would just use my smartphone as a backup of last resort (eep!). Or a credit card.
  14. retow

    retow All-Pro

    Jul 24, 2010
    Used X100 for USD800-900 for 95% of your shooting in urban environments. Olympus XZ1 or Fuji X10 for the rest.
  15. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    If you're good with a fixed focal length, the X100 is great, as is the GXR-28 if you like a bit wider. Having shot a lot with both, it'd be the GXR for me, but that's all down to personal taste. But, if you want some range with your shooting, I honestly don't think you can beat m43. I travelled all over Southern Europe in 2010 with an ep2 and three lenses, two tiny ones and one that was not large. And if you don't care about super wide, you could do it with two. A 14-150 zoom (that's 28-300 in 35mm terms) that is smaller and lighter than you could imagine for a lens with that range. Or maybe the new 12-50 if you dont care about the long end but like a bit wider at the wide end. And then maybe a small faster prime for low light and/or street shooting - something like the Panasonic 20 mm, f1.7. I like super wide also, and took a 9-18 (also remarkably tiny but great lens), but many wouldn't care. And today you could get a smaller and better body for a lot less money than I spent. Something like an epl3 or epm1 or GF3 or G3 if you really want a built in viewfinder.

    You could probably do it for $1200 if you look for used lenses, or maybe even new, but it'd be a closer call.

    Or you could just take an LX5 and just get on with it. I've taken that on short trips and been ecstatically happy with it. About the most fun to shoot with of any camera ever and if you don't need the ultimate in image quality, it's pretty damn good. Actually, for your criteria, I might take either a GXR or X100 and grab an LX5 for $200-$250 to give yourself a bit more versatility. The LX5 is about as good a little street camera as I've ever used and is versatile as hell and built like a little tank. I'd take it before an S100 in a New York minute, having owned both. Or if Fuji works out the sensor on the X10 (new one expected sometime in May) to get rid of the orbs without losing too much of what's great about that camera, that could easily be an only camera for a trip like you're taking. So if you can wait, it might be worth seeing how that one turns out. but I wouldn't take the current version if you like shooting in urban areas at night, just for the orbs.

    • Like Like x 1
  16. flash

    flash Veteran

    May 6, 2011
    Don't underestimate what a Panny GX1 with the three primes can do. The 12 may be out of the budget but the 20 and Olympus 45 are stupid good, tiny and affordable. If you have an x100 throw that in for the low light work and you're done.

    • Like Like x 1
  17. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Yep, m43 just works for this type of endeavor. Whether primes or zooms or a combination, you can do it with a VERY small kit. And if you have the 20 or 25mm Pany, you really don't need to bring an X100 just for low light - its a bit better but the GX1 and a Pany 25 f1.4 will handle plenty of low light, with the 20 f1.7 not far behind. Add a 14 for wider angle/street shooting and maybe a 45 f1.8 and you've got quite a nice little kit. Getting a little tight at $1200 though. But there are a lot of good options with m43, both in terms of bodies and glass, so something really good should be doable within the budget...

  18. otse

    otse Rookie

    Feb 19, 2012
    That was the ace up my sleeve - my iPhone 4S with Studio Neat's Glif and a cheapo bottle cap tripod ;)
  19. otse

    otse Rookie

    Feb 19, 2012
    That sounds like it's worth the wait... and I had no idea the Olympus and Panasonic m43 lenses were interchangeable. Again, it would seem silly for to invest in a whole other interchangeable lens system - though I imagine I could probably accomplish most of my strobist work with the m43 system when I'm not galavanting in Europe .
    Worth considering, thanks for the input!
  20. Djarum

    Djarum All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    If it were me, I'd probably either take a NEX/mFT/Nikon 1 along with a serious compact. Is this trip soley for photography? If not, and just a holiday trip, I wouldn't worry too much.