160131 YTD - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

When I don't have anything interesting to talk about, I talk about cameras. I know this about myself, and yet I'm about to do it anyway.

On the left is my Fujifilm XT10, and on the right is my Nikon D800. Both are wearing 60mm Macro lenses designed for their format. I like macros in the 60-90mm range, and these are the lenses I tend to use the most, so this photo shows them each at their best. But I look at these cameras side by side and just laugh – the size difference is absurd.

There are all kinds of quibbly technical differences between the two cameras. The Nikon's sensor has double the surface area and twice as many sensels. The Nikon has a lens hood attached; the deeply recessed front element on the Fuji gives it about equal protection even when it's naked. A bigger 90mm lens on the Nikon would be a better match for the XF60's field of view. The XT10 would be slightly smaller and lighter if I took off the accessory hand grip. But instead of quibbling, just look at that size difference and consider what's really significant here.

Photographically, these two are about equal as long as nobody needs either to do anything absurd, which I usually don't. I can pick up either one and use it to do the same kind of photo, which happens to be the type that I enjoy the most. 

So which one do I pick up?

Looking at my year-to-date Lightroom numbers tells me that I've taken almost exactly the same number of photos with both of these cameras – but I've only owned the Fuji for about three months out of the last dozen. The Fuji even manages to have more photos that merit a place in my star rating scale, and I've used it to produce rated photos on nineteen different dates, as opposed to my D800's fourteen. And, again, that's comparing twelve months with the D800 against three months with the XT10.

Being easier to carry accounts for a huge amount of the XT10's advantage. It has a lens that I like – thanks to the magic of adapters and some good staff discounts, it actually has five lenses that I like – so I carry it for casual with-family occasions, photo-centric occasions, and even to work where it does a lot of impromptu product shots. My D800 only comes out for photo-centric opportunities, and even then only when its size and sound don't outweigh its advantages. Long walks, audio recording, or indoor environments all exclude the big Nikon.

It's too simple to just look at this as Big SLR versus Small Mirrorless. It's more complicated than that.

My most-used camera of the past year is actually my Olympus Stylus 1s, which I bought seven months ago. It has taken more photos than both the XT10 and D800 combined. It's a camera that I don't think about much, but it's the one I carry when I'm doing something interesting and don't really want to carry a camera. It has gone with me on hikes through the ravines, it's seen the salmon run, and joined me on many weekends away; it's been to the museum, the aquarium, and a wildlife park. I've used it for documentary projects, art projects, and even for a trio of soccer matches during the Para-Pan Games.

My three 28mm-e pocket cameras that I tend to use interchangeably – Nikon A, Ricohs GRDiv and GR – account for just as many important photos as my XT10. These are what I carry when I want something pocketable and good, especially when I'm just out with my favourite person and don't want to act like an idiot. Lots of family and event photos here, which sounds dismissive, but they're the only ones that I know will become more valuable to me as the years go on. The GR has also been irreplaceable for a couple of only-important-to-me tasks.

While my two Sigma DP Merrill cameras don't account for many photos, they're vastly over-represented when it comes to creating favourites. My all-camera average keeper rate is about 15%, and the Merrills clock in around double that. Partly that's from them seeing less frivolous use, but the 45mm-e DP2 is what I used to take the product photos for this post, so it's not as if they live a monastic existence. 

So given that these two interchangeable lens cameras make up a minority of my actual photography, the question remains – which one do I pick up?

The Fuji XT10 looks like it will be unbeatable as my workhorse camera. There's no question that it's good enough, and with excellent lenses it's a real pleasure to use. It's my most flexible and versatile camera that still produces excellent quality; there are others that are better, smaller, and/or more flexible, although none are all three at the same time. My little 10x zoom Olympus will be my hiking and incidental camera for a lot of outings, even though the XT10 will undercut it when image quality is more important than more zoom.

And then there's the big Nikon. The D800 is simply an unstoppable monster. It demands respect, and commands sacrifice – or perhaps that's the other way around – but it produces my best results the most easily when I'm willing to make that commitment. And really, when it matters, that's not too much to ask. 

I enjoy using cameras. Many cameras, different cameras.

And maybe I just need to work a little harder to justify all of the collection that I own.


Product photos, Sigma DP2;

Pony Ride, D800 and 60mm macro; Nors China, XT10 and 60mm macro.


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