Last week I made the decision to trade in all my older digital gear for a Fuji X-T1.
I'll admit, it was something of an impulsive decision. If you'd have told me on Monday that by Friday I'd be holding an X-T1 in my hands, I'd have been pretty surprised.
I had been eyeing the X-T1 for a while. Having owned the original Fuji X100 for three years, I was excited at the prospect of getting my hands on a slightly more robust and updated camera from the Fuji line. I won't go into the merits of the Fuji X series cameras here (as it's been done extensively), but suffice to say Fuji has hit nearly all the marks.
This is the first digital camera I've purchased since the Fuji X100. After getting back into shooting film in April 2012, my DSLRs were rarely touched outside of the occasional shoot for a friend, and I'd only grab the X100 when I wanted to shoot without the "expense" of film, or if I needed a backup option. And while Fuji has made what may be the best digital camera user experience available, something is lacking. Or, more accurately, something is present that actually takes away from the experience.
Don't get me wrong; this camera is fantastic, and I'm very happy with it as my go-to digital camera. The move to make all the vital controls available via physical knobs on the body of the camera is huge (and other companies have since followed suit). Yet, I can't help but feel—what's the word? Irked? Annoyed?—when going through the menus. (Those words aren't entirely appropriate for what I'm getting at. It's not necessarily a negative experience; it's just not a positive one, either.)
You see, I'm a hardcore believer in the idea of The Paradox of Choice. I also believe that restrictions breed creativity. And all of my other cameras, the ones I so enjoy using, all of those cameras offer something that the X-T1 does not: Simplicity.
Yes, those cameras are film cameras. Mechanical, manual film cameras.
Load the film. Set the aperture. Set the shutter speed. Focus. *Click.*
You see, shooting film isn't entirely about the results (although that's certainly a part of it). Perhaps my minimalist tendencies are to blame, but there is something viscerally appealing about creating a photograph mechanically, without all the bells and whistles such as focus points and WiFi connectivity and menu screen customization.
What sound would you like your shutter to make?
I don't know, is "MOO" an option?
(Come on, Fuji. Who is this camera for?)
I realize this isn't an experience exclusive to the X-T1, it's the way of things with all digital cameras. Options, options, options. Even the simplest of the bunch, which I believe is the Leica Monochrom, has menus through which users can pore.
I suppose I'm in the minority. I don't think creating "a digital camera for film shooters" is high on any company's priority list. But if it was, here's what I'd suggest: Make it as close to the experience of shooting film as possible. No menus, no LCD screen. Minimal options chosen via a browser-based interface that creates a downloadable "Settings" file which would be stored on an SD card. The SD Card is placed into the camera and the Settings file tells the camera how to behave based on the pre-selected settings embedded in the file. As suggested on the Cameras Or Whatever podcast, maybe a company like VSCO or Mastin Labs gets involved and makes some presets (or have Rebecca Lily do it!). You'd load your favorite B+W film preset onto an SD card and your favorite color film preset onto another SD card, and if you want to shoot color when your B+W card is loaded, you have to switch the cards. You can still shoot RAW, but color information is not captured when shooting B+W. Maybe it wouldn't be true RAW, but some new file type that captures as much dynamic range as possible while still "baking in" whatever preset was used to shoot it.
I realize I probably sound crazy. I'm eliminating choices, stripping away options and forcing users to make decisions in advance without allowing them to change their minds later.
A lot like shooting film.
In the end, I'm happy with the X-T1 because it's probably the best available digital camera at present for what I'm looking for. Yet there remains the potential for progress, and that progress may come in the form of ditching the clutter to arrive at a more elegant camera.
UPDATE: In an amusing coincidence, the latest episode of the aforementioned Cameras Or Whatever podcast discussed a lot of these same points (although not specifically regarding the X-T1). The episode features Kirk Mastin of Mastin Labs as a guest, and he seems to be in agreement with me regarding the idea of simplicity and placing restraints on yourself to fuel creativity (he even mentions the Paradox of Choice). I highly recommend you check out the episode, which you can find here.
Get Kirk's philosophies on shooting film in the video below.