["Open Mike" is the self-indulgent Editorial page of TOP. It appears on Wednesdays except when it's snowing, raining, or clear.]
I'm going on four years now with my Fuji X-T1. Want to buy it?
I usually keep my cameras for three years; also, I've been thinking for more than a year now of switching to a system with IBIS, because my handholding skills (at one time superhuman and legendary...well, okay, let me rephrase that: at one time fairly decent) are deteriorating as I continue to ruin my formerly superb athletic skills by exercising only my typing muscles.
I've also been thinking of two other changes, too:
• One is to accept the iPhone 7+ into my photo equipment kit, deliberately. That makes me shy away a little from 1" and Micro 4/3 cameras. Too close. Those solutions are great if you want a do-it-all jack-of-all-trades camera system, but with the iPhone filling in the lower position as the always-with-me "note-taking" camera, it seems logical to head in the other direction, to something with a little more IQ firepower, at the other extreme—FF or medium format—to counterbalance it. Of course I'm not sure this is logical; maybe it just seems logical.
• The other is that I want to experiment with a longer zoom. This would be new for me. I once wrote a review of the Nikkor 180mm that was sort of jokey and tongue-in-cheek. The article's conclusion was that nothing is far enough away from me that I need a 180mm...not even the moon.
But, as I've mentioned, up here in the Finger Lakes, my former hard-hearted attitude is softening. Pictures do seem farther away. I keep noticing things that might make good pictures that are much smaller crops of the visual world than I'm used to organizing in my mind's eye. I explained that here (ignore the Fuji-loving bits, which are still true. I still do love the Fuji. Never didn't. Don't hate it now. In fact, if you are looking for a huge bargain in a high-end camera, the large amount of depreciation on the X-T1 makes it a stellar money-saving choice right now. You can get a good body for less than $500 if you look around, and it's a hell of a $500 camera. The X-T1 is the Jaguar XJ Supercharged of cameras).
Of course, this consideration directly militates for a Micro 4/3 or 1" camera, because longer tele work is among the strengths of smaller sensors.
So: IBIS, possibly a larger sensor, and availability of a practical longer zoom...all these things together are complicating my choices. And, probably, clouding my judgement.
Recently, I've been investigating the Pentax K-1. According to B&H Photo's cataloguing filters (Pentax brand—>full frame), there are a dozen Pentax lenses available new for the K-1. Twelve. And several of those are legacy lenses designed for film. Some film lenses are not quite ideal for digital, for several reasons. One of those reasons is that film designs often left the innermost element uncoated, because reflection back from the film was not much of a problem. Digital sensors, on the other hand, are reflective, so you can sometimes get anomalous flare when using lenses designed for film on digital cameras. [UPDATE: See Keith B's comment below. —Ed.] That's not to say any of the older Pentax lenses won't work, or won't work in most situations, just that not all of them were specifically designed for digital cameras.
Compare this with 94 lenses that show up when you filter B&H Photo for "Nikon brand—>full frame." That might include a few duplicates. It would take too long to check.
Of course, there's no Nikon DSLR with IBIS.
I'm probably overthinking things. I usually do when it comes to cameras and lenses. I should probably just go with a K-1 and a 43mm, and add something like a nice Tamron 70–200mm zoom. No, actually I should probably just get an Olympus E-M5 Mark II (you can leave them in snowbanks, I hear) and a 12–100mm ƒ/4. (Except I'm officially frightened of Olympus cameras now...they are now more complicated to operate than my formerly impressive hominid brain can handle.) In the meantime I shall go on using my Jaguar XJ Superch...er, my trusty, much-depreciated Fuji X-T1. (Really, you should check out that Jaguar video, it's funny.)
As you can see, I'm no better at camera-buying decisions than you are. As my wise brother Scott once pointed out (he was talking about stereo equipment, but I think it applies to camera gear too), "You're good at giving consumer advice to other people, but bad at knowing what to do for yourself."
Scott knows me better than almost anyone.
So actually, what I will probably do is...just keep using the Fuji X-T1, as I've been doing since I started thinking about replacing it more than a year ago. The paralysis by analysis will continue until I just say the heck with it and buy a GX8.
(Thanks to all the people with dozens of lenses who made me feel better about myself yesterday)
Original contents copyright 2018 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Denise Ross: "The Pentax K-1 is the best camera I've owned. No contest, film or digital. Works perfectly in FF mode with all but the widest angle APS-C lenses. Beautiful with some of the old classic lenses. Great battery life. Funky, but wonderful, display screen system, especially if you do a lot of verticals. With a pancake lens, it's not even particularly heavy. Otherwise, however, it can feel like a beast. Still, I'm about your age and I'm pretty sure I'll be happy to tote it around for at least another ten years."
Joe: "While you've discovered that you could go a little more telephoto in your lens choices, I've discovered that I need to go a little wider. My favorite walk around lens used to be the classic 85mm ƒ/1.4, but I discovered that I tended to frame everything too tight. And no matter how many times I told myself that, when I framed through the viewfinder, I never took a few steps back. Only when I got home and looked at the images on the big screen did I see what I should have done. Finally I decided to force the change, and I started carrying a good 50mm ƒ/1.4 (the wonderful Sigma Art) instead of the 85mm. And sure enough, it made a big difference. It made me give my subjects more breathing room, made things more environmental. It worked.
"It's just funny that it took a hardware change to make it happen. Kicking myself wouldn't do it."
William Cook: "This would be amusing if I weren’t going through the same angst myself right now. By the way, word is that Panasonic is about to announce the GX9...."
Mike replies: I looked into the Japanese source, translating it via Google Translate, and it only says Panasonic is "testing" a camera called the GX9. It mentions nothing about an announcement, and nothing about whether the "GX9" being tested is a refresh of the existing GX8. And I've learned over the years not to wait for vaporware, because our minds are too suggestible...in the absence of evidence, we end up believing what we want to believe.
So, I dunno, could happen, but I dunno.
Jim Simmons: "The OIS on the Fuji 55–200mm is quite good. Consider that. This desire to shoot at longer focal lengths could just be a fad for you. ;-) "
Stephen: "I would actually be pretty interested to read a series from you documenting your transition to using a longer telephoto. I know how far from your normal preferences that is. I think it'd be fairly interesting to see what it was like for you to get used to using one."
Mike replies: I did this a couple of years ago with the 14mm (21mm-e) on the Fuji. I had never photographed with such a wide lens, never made friends with the focal length. I ended up keeping the lens more or less glued to the camera for six months or so and really made friends with it. And yet for some reason I seldom use the 14mm now. The experience emboldens me to think that I could learn to use a 70-200mm-e and make friends with it, but I'm not sure I'd end up using it as a go-to lens. The proof is in the experience, of course, not in talking about it.
Dave: "LOL...you realize in 15 days Fuji will be announcing the X-H1, with IBIS. You can read about it here. And it will take all your XT1 lenses. :-) "
Mike replies: My belief is that it will be larger than X-T2, cost $2k, and be video-centric. Intended to compete with the GH5. Not sure it will be for me. We'll see.
Cliff Lee: "Borrowing one of the ‘Rules’ of cycling: Rule #12: The correct number of bikes to own is n + 1. While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n + 1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s – 1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner. Replace bike with lenses, and I feel the rule would apply just as accurately!"
John McMillin: "Go for the Pentax, you won't regret it. You liked the Sony a900, and this is the perfection of that, with every feature plus more, and a much better sensor, of course. It won't fire ten frames per second while focusing on a speeding bullet, but that's not your style, either. Fret not about any lack of lenses. Between the few digital-designed lenses and those ancient manual lenses folks gab about, there are wonderful choices, not limited to the lovely Limited lenses. I've relied on the late-film-era F series Pentax lenses, which are sharp, small and well built. (I've never seen any trace of rear element flare on an image. I think that problem is situational, or theoretical.) Then, I've gradually traded up to even better lenses from the current line. If there are sharper lenses than the 28–105mm or the 300mm ƒ/4, I have no use for 'em. The biggest holes in the Pentax Lens lineup come under 20mm and beyond 300mm, but there are third-party choices. Oh, the 300mm crops to 450mm ƒ/4, and still fits in a jacket pocket.
"Knowing Mike's preferences, I think he'd be happy with the 31mm and 77mm Limiteds. The K-1 crops them easily to 46mm and 115mm with the twist of a dial, and can you say SQUARE FRAME? Sure you can, and you can see the results in the finder, too. Once I remember this 'Rolleiflex feature,' my compositional choices blossom."
Keith B: "Mike, I just recently noticed a photographic lens-themed meme propagating on the Interweb, Digital Photography Division: That the rear elements of many common camera lenses are not anti-reflection coated. Remember the one about how 'lenses with fewer elements give better 3D'? This one is even more demonstrably false. Go try to find one [a lens] that isn't [coated on the rear element]...I'll bet that neither you nor anyone else can. As a 62-year-old lens nut who has personally taken a close look at the rear and front elements of many, many hundreds...maybe thousands...of photographic lenses in the past, well...45 years or so, I can tell you that the number of post-WW2 interchangeable camera lenses that had un-AR-coated rear elements probably number between three and five. It just isn't true."
Mike replies: Thanks Keith.