That's not really how folks talk in Utah but I've only been here for a year, having emigrated from the Southeast USA for work. I'm now at Utah State University where I build satellites for the Space Dynamics Lab. Out of a dozen or so places where I could probably find a job I chose Utah because I love the outdoors, ride motorcycles, ski, hike, etc. And I love taking pictures!
I grew up always dreaming about owning a Canon F-1. I've just always appreciated good glass and fine optical instruments. No way I could afford an F-1 as a teen but one Christmas my girlfriend at the time got me a Pentax K-1000. It was a great little camera I wish that I still had. Match needle metering. 100% manual. Simple to use. That's what I learned on so I became familiar with aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and all that other great stuff. Plus, I used it for astrophotography and studied physics in college. I still wanted an F-1 or an A-1 but I was still poor.
At some point I wandered in to Unclaimed Baggage in Scottsboro, Alabama and found a basically brand new Minolta Maxxum 7Xi. It was like, $200 so I bought it. It was way 'ahead' of my K-1000 and I was impressed with the electronics, but soon came to find I preferred the old Pentax. The autofocus was slow and it ate batteries like nothing I'd ever seen! I took it once on a winter backpacking trip in Smoky Mountain National Park only to find the camera wouldn't work at all in the cold! I had to carry the battery around in my pocket and it was just a gigantic pain.
I finally sold it and found a really nice, used, Nikon FE-2 at KEH camera. I got a good flash and a couple of lenses and used that well into the digital revolution. I was still turned off by the poor performance of the Minolta which was technologically stunning, but a little ahead of it's time. Meanwhile the Nikon was serving me very well, though the cost of film and processing wasn't going down. In fact, digital was driving it up. The writing was on the wall and after a lot of research on the fledgling internet I purchased a brand new Canon Powershot S2iS.
The Canon was a great little camera at the time and I have tons of pictures of my kids on it and lots of movies. The quality was good and it took AA batteries! The EVF left a lot to be desired and the rear screen was a little small, but other than that there was little to complain about. Except, technology didn't slow down and somehow the pictures it produced began to look... worse. I think I was just seeing better pictures elsewhere. At any rate, I strapped it to the tank of my motorcycle and took some video on a curvy road and it never worked quite right again. Thinking back, the vibration probably killed it. But I had an iPhone by then, the kids were older and I just wasn't taking as many pictures. For what I was doing at the time, the iPhone impressed me with how small it was, how well it could do, and how many pictures I could store on my hand-held supercomputer.
But I was also missing a LOT of shots. And I knew what I would gain with a SLR and interchangeable lenses. It took me a long time to get around to reengaging with the leading edge, and part of that was moving to Utah where there's a lot more to take pictures of! So for the last few months I researched cameras that would be good for the things I do. Travel photography from motorcycles, hiking, ski-slopes, as well as family photography and general plinking. So, my main requirements were portability and weather sealing. Other requirements were a fast lens, quick start-up/wake-up, AA battery compatible, and user interface. I delved back in and was thoroughly overwhelmed by the plethora of manufacturers each of which had a plethora of options! It took a while coming from a 15 year hiatus, but I eventually figured out that there were a variety of use cases, features, and sensor size, that was driving everything.
Interchangeable lens vs fixed lens was at the top. Within interchangeable there was the DSLR, mirrorless, and rangefinders. Within that there was entry, mid, and pro. With the fixed lens systems there was SuperZoom, compact, and ultra-compact. And all of these were build around a variety of sensors. Once I began to understand the way they were all laid out, I realized my requirements were a bit off. The chief requirement became the sensor. After all, isn't it all about image quality? If not, might as well stick with the iPhone, right? Next came the lens. I liked a few of the compacts like the Lumix LX100ii and the Sony RX100va because of their fast, moderate zoom lenses. I like a SuperZoom as much as the next guy, but how often am I really going to use a 60x zoom? And physics dictated that either the long zooms were slow, or the sensor was small. So all the SuperZooms as well as the Sony RX100vii came off the list. I'd been hamstrung too many times by a slow lens. I made out a chart of attributes with a bunch of cameras on it and though I really thought about the Sony, the Lumix, and one of the Canons, each of them had a major drawback that annoyed me. Some had no integrated flash, and I had learned to like fill flash. The Sony had that pop-up EVF which I didn't like. The Canon had terrible battery life. The Lumix nearly won out but I began to wonder what I was getting for that big price tag with a fixed lens. I had noticed that some of the entry-level mirrorless were nearly as small and I could actually change lenses. And honestly, mastering these cameras is not a trivial exercise and I don't really have the desire to master a high-end point and shoot, then get a mirrorless, and try to master two operating systems. I do that at work.
So I started looking at the entry-level mirrorless and I Liked what I saw. Particularly the Sony alpha series. They were small and weather-sealed, and the auto-focus is out of this world, they say. But I wasn't particularly impressed with the E-mount lenses. I don't know why, but they are BIG. They offer one pancake that gets horrible reviews across the board. Every lens gets a few 1-stars because there's always "that guy." But the only E-mount prime that gave me the kind of quality and portability I wanted was three inches long!
Somewhere amidst all this searching, I ran across the Fufifilm X-T30. I can't remember where. I think it was on a YouTube video or something. It seemed to check all my boxes except weather sealing. I've always been a fan of Fuji cameras because I had 'heard' that they are for photographers. And while I'm not a professional photographer, and have never taken a class, I am a physicist and cut my teeth on a K-1000. I understand the dials and I like the dials. I also liked the spread of X-mount lenses, of which there are several low-profile primes perfect for street photography. And there are also some really nice zooms that aren't a foot long. Because sometimes you do need 20x. Just not all the time.
I was still split between the alpha6400 and X-T30, though. And the X-E2 is pretty cool too, though why would I go backwards, right? So when I was on vacation last month I was in Palm Springs for a few days and stopped in at Camera West there on CA111 just down from the Bentley/Lambo/McLaren/Aston/etc dealerships. (That was cool!) Best Buy doesn't sell Fuji or Lumix so I went in and spent about an hour with a knowledgeable salesman and held all these cameras in my hand: the X-T30, the a6400, and the LX100ii. The Fuji won hands down. It felt the best in my hand. It had the best build quality. The controls were 'right.' The lens made it small enough for a jacket pocket. And the price was really right: $100 off the silver body! And I've always liked the silver bodies. I also liked the simpler menus. And, I had been right about he lenses. All the XF lenses I looked at were smaller than their E-mount counterparts.
So, now I'm trying to figure out how the _____ to use this thing properly. Getting some extra batteries. Getting a real charger. Looking at protection. Figuring out a good way to carry this thing on a ski lift. On a motorcycle. Walking around. Wondering what zoom to get first. And generally asking a lot of stupid questions. There was a time when I was too cool to ask questions I though others might think I should know the answer to. I've over 50. I no longer give a crap about that. But I do love this little camera. Any advice on set-up and use is appreciated. Feel free to point me to resources. And if I do ask a stupid question, feel free to tell me so. Just tell me the answer, too. 🙂