One camera one lens one year. That is my goal. I’ve just hit Month 4 of using a fixed lens compact camera. No swappable or zoom lenses. And I have to say, it’s been a marvelous journey and one of the best ideas I’ve ever had.
Because I’m a huge gear nerd and I’m constantly reading up on the latest and greatest tech out there. “Oh, the 16mm f/1.4 is sooo sharp, I need that one!” (I actually bought and sold this lens three times, I’m ashamed to admit) “I do love my 35mm f/1.4, but what if I had a zoom? that would be so much more convenient…”
Eventually, I realized I was spending way more time reading reviews than actually shooting! As much as I love tech, I got sick of the G.A.S. (that’s Gear Acquisition Syndrome, for readers who don’t have tech-oriented hobbies). Unfortunately, I know myself well enough to know that I lack self-control - so long as I had the choice and the disposable income, I’d eventually give into GAS.
So I removed lenses from the equation entirely. Still, when I gave up my interchangeable lens X-T2 for a fixed lens X100V, I was worried I was making a huge mistake. That I would hate the 35mm field of view and constantly miss out on shooting opportunities.
But what a playful world I’ve re-discovered! When I first picked up a camera nearly 20 years ago, it had a fixed zoom lens but it was a very small, very basic camera. I took that little Sony everywhere! Museums, parks, school…I just had it out shooting; I wasn’t thinking about the latest and greatest sensor or lens that would up my game.
It was such a relaxed, intuitive way of shooting but I lost it once I started getting better, started making money through photography, and started building a bag of gear. I missed the playfulness of a sturdy compact and hoped that returning to something good yet simpler would bring that experience back to me.
And I’m happy to report that this has absolutely been the case since I picked up the Fujifilm X100V! I don’t really look for zoom or wide-angle opportunities anymore. I see pretty much all 35mm opportunities so there’s no regret at not having a different piece of technology around.
Best of all, the X100V has all of the latest tech baked in so I’m not sacrificing image quality in any way. I use it for my documentary and casual images alike. Though I think it’s worth mentioning that I’ve never made a personal distinction between the two. ALL of my work is playful, even if what I see is painful, anger-inducing, or confusing.
I also firmly believe in creative constraints as an inspirational booster for art. By removing options you can eventually learn to get better using your tool of choice; in this case, a 35mm view fixed prime lens. It’s like choosing to specialize in charcoal if you love to draw or vases as a potter. You may not get better at ink or bowls but you’re going to be damn good at your chosen style!
When I first started, I was worried that it would be too wide and that I would miss a good 50mm portrait…Well, I do miss a good 50mm portrait still but I absolutely love the context that I can squeeze into a portrait with a wider view!
Today I took a photo walk for a few hours around downtown. Since travel is mostly a no-go due to COVID-19, I tried to capture the ordinary here in Milwaukee. Trying to find new things to shoot in your own neighborhood is tricky - you’ve really got to try and see with the eyes of a child.
But I have managed to pay more attention and find interesting scenes that would have escaped my notice a few months ago as I pined for temples in China or the mountains in New Zealand. Re-learning how to see is a spiritual practice for me. Or as my previous therapist once said: “if I gave out prescriptions, I’d stick one onto your camera.”
I remember how fresh everything was as a child and I really do feel that photography is meant to lead me back Home. So I always take time to be mindful and quietly observe the continuous play of Life, hoping some dancing leaf, bird song, or loud argument sparks a Satori.