In the autumn of 2013, having just returned from a trip to Thailand with my Nikon D7000 and an assortment of lenses, I visited my local camera store ready to say goodbye to the bulk and weight of a DSLR and move to a lighter and more nimble mirrorless kit.
I intended to look at the Fuji X-Pro1, and if I liked it in person as much as I liked it on paper, to come home with it, the 18mm f/2.0, and the 35mm f/1.4 primes. As luck would have it, they were sold out of the X-Pro1, but the Olympus OM-D EM-5 caught my eye. Micro Four Thirds wasn’t even on my radar, but when I held that camera and realized how little an entire kit would weigh (and cost), I was sold — and so began my mirrorless camera journey.
The circuitous path leading from then to now is a story unto itself, but suffice it to say that in the past 8 years, I have moved from m4/3 back to a DSLR (a Nikon D610), and once more to APS-C mirrorless before finally deciding that it was ok to keep a foot in both camps. My choice for mirrorless over the past 5 years has been Fujifilm. I currently have an X-T1, an X-H1, and recently added an X100F. My single DSLR during that time has been the full-frame Nikon Df.
The most recent chapter of this story began in April when I took my beloved Df out to shoot some spring flowers at our local metro park. Looking at the last images on the memory card, it surprised me to realize I hadn’t taken it out for nearly a year, apparently preferring to use the Fujis instead.
I felt a little guilty that I hadn’t picked it up in so long. After all, I’d always loved the satisfying heft of a DSLR, its optical viewfinder, style, build quality, generously sized buttons and controls, and especially the images that its 16MP sensor — the one from the D4 — produced. That sensor has a unique and special look to it and is a low-light, high-ISO beast.
I went out with high hopes for getting reacquainted with it but came away from the experience mildly frustrated and disappointed.
Having started my days as a photographer with film, I compose and shoot with the viewfinder on all of my cameras most of the time, using the rear panel LCD only occasionally. In fact, the absence of a viewfinder is one of the few deal-breakers for me when buying a camera. While the optical viewfinder in the Df was big and bright, I missed being able to see my picture before I took it like I can with the EVF in my Fuji bodies. Instead, I had to take the picture, take it away from my eye, chimp on the LCD, adjust, re-shoot, and re-evaluate.
The analog controls of the Df — inherently hampered by the fact that Nikon had to make the camera compatible with their G lenses which lack an aperture ring — fell well short of what I was used to on the Fujis.
The images right out of camera were ok but hardly special. The bokeh when shooting blossoms wide open was busy and distracting, which, to be fair, was a limitation of the lens, not the camera. Auto-focus when shooting up close was hit or miss. When I bent down to shoot some flowers near the ground, I immediately missed having a tilting LCD panel. I had to dig into the menus to switch picture profiles.
I wasn’t getting the images I wanted — the ones that I knew I could have gotten had I brought one of the Fujis along instead. But worse still, I wasn’t enjoying the experience. I wasn’t having fun.
Until that day, I had never considered selling the Df and my Nikkor lenses, but I asked myself why I was still holding onto them. Part of the reason was that I always felt the Df was a rather special camera — and it really is. I’d also convinced myself that I had a decent investment in the Nikon F-mount system, and that too was true. And then there was a sentimental reason, as one of the lenses was a gift. But were any of those sufficient justification for holding on to all that gear?
After many weeks of thoughtful deliberation, I decided they weren’t. I talked to the person who gifted me one of the lenses to assuage any guilt, and his blessing to move on was the last push I needed. I decided to sell off all of my Nikon gear minus the AF-D and AI-S lenses that I could also use on my FM-2 film body.
I made enough money on the sale to buy a new Fuji X100F with plenty left over to put in the camera slush fund for some future purchase. Like the Df, the X100F is a beautiful piece of kit and has an optical viewfinder for those occasions when an OVF is advantageous. Unlike the Nikon, it is light, portable, a joy to use, makes beautiful images right out of camera, and inspires me to carry it with me wherever I go.
DSLRs have their place. There are situations where they are a more effective and suitable choice over a mirrorless camera. But for the type of photography I enjoy — landscape, nature, street, urban, candid — mirrorless is a better and more enjoyable choice.