A few months back, I wrote a short article on my future relationship with photography in general. Fast forward to today, not much has changed, but instead I have done a lot more thinking, and I think now I have a slightly better picture of what I want in the future.
TL;DR of the last article
- Sony a6000 is not for me
- a6000 taught me why the user experience matters
- I might get a better camera in future, but that’s not gonna by anytime soon
- I finally sold a6000 (I still have a Sigma 30mm with a friend of mine, but all the rest of the gear is now with it’s new lovely owner)
- I am now 4 months into my new job (i.e. 10 to 7, Monday to Friday)
- A lot of new camera has been announced/released
- I have spent way too much time thinking about it
In the last 4 months, Canon released the EOS R; Nikon released the Z 6 and Z 7 (and yes, they insists there is a space between “Z” and the numbers, because reasons 🤷); Panasonic + Leica + Sigma join forces for the “new” L mount, in which Panasonic will debut with S1 and S1R later this year; Fujifilm released the X-T3; Sony just announced the a6400 after 2 years of APS-C hiatus; and Olympus is leaking their next sports-focus mirrorless. Literally everyone is doing something, and that’s very cool.
The first (and very obvious) trend is the rise of full frame mirrorless. Everyone probably saw the success of the Sony a7-series, and everyone now wants a piece of that demand. Nikon basically just copy the recipe of Sony in terms of body, while Canon decides to only release 1 body that kinda feels like “jack of all trades, master of none” to me. However, what’s really interesting for me is the lens they have for their new mount: in my short period of time with Sony, what I get frustrated the most is the limited amount of good lens for their APS-C cameras. The whole camera system definitely feels more like a gadget to play with, instead of a tool for creativity. Lens like the 16–50mm kit lens definitely “looks” good in the literal sense: it’s crazy compact, and for someone who was looking for a smaller camera, that’s definitely very attractive. But when it comes time to using it, the distortion pretty awful, it’s not really sharp, and it’s not very comfortable to use either. Things like the little latency for the zooming always throws me off a little bit.
Rant aside, all I want to say is that at least for APS-C, E-mount optics are not attractive. And for traditional optics companies like Canon and Nikon, you can tell they spend a lot more energy on the lens, it’s just that they have different philosophy on what a “Full frame mirrorless” is suppose to achieve: Canon is using the new mount to reduce the physical limitation on the optics, so that they can push it to the extreme, like the huge and heavy but also sharp 50mm f/1.2; Nikon on the other hand, is using the new much less restrictive mount to put the same or even better optics into same or even smaller size lens, like the 24–70 f/4. Due to the fact that the world is still sadly bound by physics, both of them have to make sacrifices: Canon’s RF lenses are big and heavy, while Nikon’s Z lenses have slightly smaller aperture. Who’s right, who’s wrong, it’s still too early to tell.
Another company who made great leap in the last 4 months is Fujifilm, with the release of the X-T3, which finally got me to take a deep look at the X Mount and just Fujifilm in general. X-T3 got rave reviews on the internet, and it’s basically toe-to-toe in every “best camera of the year” competition with the Sony a7 III. In the last few years, I never took deep look into the X-mount system, because I am a superficial asshole, and when I saw that they look like retro camera, I kinda just assume they are for hipsters and people who refuses to adjust exposures with a normal wheel. But after a6000, I realized that my (shit, it’s been) 10 years of camera habit is NOT the only good user experience. I am used to taking pictures with the “standard” control system of 2000-era DSLR, but that does not mean everyone else sucks. And now that I’ve open my eyes to the X-mount ecosystem, it actually looks pretty fascinating: their lens selection has been praised all over the internet, and a lot of people just won’t shut up about all the film simulations. I am definitely interested in trying it out, but after a6000 and realizing I am not as enthusiastic in photography as I used to anymore, I don’t think spending 1900 euros on a brand new camera system is a smart decision, not to mention the lens that I’d love to get (I will talk about it in a second).
And then we have all the gears that’s too early to tell if they are good or not: Panasonic S1 and S1R represents a new chapter for the company, and I have a gut feeling that it is the beginning of the end of Micro 4/3: Olympus has no memorable gear in the last few years, and with full frame camera getting better and smaller, while smartphone camera getting better with computational photography, Micro 4/3 is cornered into videography, which the smaller size of the sensor makes it less challenging to cool the camera down. Now with Panasonic 1 foot in another alliance, I don’t know how much longer can Micro 4/3 hold up. And for Sony, the “biggest” news (for me) is the introduction of the a6400. There’s no way I’m gonna get that camera, because I am not (and have to intention to become) a vlogger, I still don’t like the lens selection of their APS-C lens, and they are really trying to compete with Nikon in terms of the “worst camera naming scheme” award ever.
What’s next for me
While it’s definitely true that I spent way too much time obsession over camera gear, I also spent some more time to figure out what I like to take picture of nowadays. Back in high school days, it’s “pro bono” sports event photography; in university, it’s landscape; and right now, I’m more into cityscape (due to my stupid leg), and for cityscape photography, wide angle lens is probably a better choice of weapon, which explains why I don’t like using the Sigma 30mm that I got for the a6000, and why I tool so many pictures of my window with my Pixel 2.
And now that I know what kind of pictures I’d like to take, and the importance of lens > body, I try to look for some good lens of each system. E-mount APS-C don’t really have any particular interesting lens that I can find; I didn’t spent any time on EF-M mount because all of their camera just looks like Sony-ish style control, which is exactly the thing that drive me away from it in the first place, so even if it has good lens, it probably would just cancel out each other; I did take a look at m4/3, but right now most of their bodies are quite out of date, and the only one with the latest sensor technology, the Panasonic G9, is so huge and heavy, it basically just feels like the D7000 all over again, which is what drove me to bought the a6000 in the first place. They do have some very nice lens “from” Leica, but until there’s a more compact (and affordable) camera, I’ve got to put it on hold; I didn’t look at Canon EF-S lens either, because if I want to use a DSLR, I should just grab the D7000; and for DX lens, there’s actually quite a few, and right now I have my eyes on the Sigma 10–20mm f/3.5. And last but not least, Fujifilm have relatively small amount of lens, but their 10–24mm f/4 got such good review, it just kept me hooked. But again, spending 1900 euros on an X-T3 kit is already expensive enough, spending another 900 euros on that lens just does not make sense for me right now.
The TL;DR of the last paragraph is basically A) Fujifilm 10–24mm f/4 looks great, but jumping into a new camera system is expensive, and B) Sigma 10–20mm f/3.5 looks promising + it’s price point is something more reasonable. There’s just 1 big caveat: the D7000 is back in Hong Kong. If I end up going back home for Chinese New Year, I can grab the camera, and see if the Sigma is what I am looking for. But unless I can magically get the D7000 to Berlin, I will just stick with my lovely Pixel 2, and try to improve my cityscape photography skills.
Long rant finished, and the gist is more or less the same as last time: I need to fall back in love with photography again. But this time, I just planned out a little bit further what I should do if I do love photography again.