Tough decisions, some relief, more insight
If you're looking for anything like news, a review or one-on-one comparison you can stop reading right away, I'm sorry. On the other hand, it won't take you a long time to read anyway, so you're welcome to come along, as always.
This post is about my latest decisions regarding my quest for the best "connected camera". Will it help you? Well, I hope so, otherwise I wouldn't take the time to write it all down. But it's way more of a personal story than anything objective, so consider yourself warned. All the pics in this post are mine.
In my previous post you could already read I've been looking for, no: chasing the best camera next to my smartphone cameras (currently I'm really enjoying the Nokia 808 PureView again, next to my Huawei P9 Plus and my business phone, the Lumia 950 XL). It's been quite a ride and for various reasons.
I've become pretty ambitious over the past years, especially after seeing the results I got with way better (system) cameras. Next to my daily job I do write quite a bit, and I wanted to add photography to my freelance business. So choosing the Samsung NX1 and the best three lenses the company ever produced was a serious investment. I kept that gear for commissions - paid but mostly unpaid in the hope to establish a name in my region. And I've been using it for my Facebook project Visiting Amsterdam.
But however fantastic it proved to perform every single time, I noticed I didn't bring the Samsung NX1 as often - and not just because of the fact I dedicated it to professional use. The combination with its amazing 50-150mm zoomlens simply makes it a very heavy combination and cumbersome to bring on a day of shooting - let alone on a daily basis. And after the year had passed which I had given myself to prove my professional ambition (and to justify the investment), I finally decided to sell it after all. Yes, that hurt.
Lesson learned: never offer your services for free or low rates, not if you're trying to establish a serious reputation. After a while you'll notice that the professionals get asked anyway when there is enough budget for a project - so you'll be left with the free stuff. So don't.
A lighter alternative
Since I had reserved the Samsung NX1 for professional use, I was looking for a lighter alternative to use for my slowly growing Visiting Amsterdam project. Why couldn't I use my smartphones for that? Personally, I miss the zoom range - I often like to make portratis from great distance, so people have no idea they're being captured anyway. Don't mind if they do notice (i often ask people to pose), but for the kind of candid portraits i'm trying to shoot I don't really want to get directly in their faces - they don't know me after all.
For city scenery, a good smartphone will deliver very usable results as well. And as for street portraits, I do realize the 808 PureView offers unique possibilities, like its impressive PureView zoom, and of course the possibility to shoot in black and white (which the Huawei P9 Plus does too I should add). But still, I wanted a lighter alternative with a large sensor and dito zoom capacity.
So recently, I finally got my hands on a second hand Panasonic FZ1000 I already mentioned in my previous post. I asked Panasonic to send me a sample years ago so I could compare it with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1. The sheer size of the FZ1000 blew me away in those days and I couldn't imagine I'd ever be wanting something huge as that. Things change.
Didn't take me long to find out I had a winner. Much lighter, 1 inch sensor, 25-400mm zoom range. This is the one I can bring on a daily basis (also since I always carry a bag to work) and use for my street portraits - be it not as inconspicuous as many would like their camera to be for street photography, but that's not what I'm doing at the moment.
If I'd want something much more unnoticable, at this moment I'd be looking for the Fujifilm X70 or Ricoh GR. Is the FZ1000 as good as the Samsung NX1 or a similar system? Definitely not, but it's a lot cheaper and easier to carry.
Check your objectives
But even after finding the FZ1000, I just couldn't stop looking for possible alternatives - it had become no less than addictive and only a pretty nasty flu appeared to be able to stop me. I was haunted by cameras in my dreams. So during one of my clear moments I decided I should definitely have a specific goal in mind before getting any other device - and simply stop thinking about it if I doesn't fit any of my objectives. This is when I decided to sell my complete Samsung NX gear: a bright moment during the flu.
I still love to share the results from my Nokia 808 PureView at my
PureViewClub page on Facebook and if it ever dies on me I'll have to find a replacement or continue with the Lumia 950 XL. I share shots from other smartphones and my FZ1000 at the
SmartCamClub page. And like I wrote, I now use the Panasonic FZ1000 for
Visiting Amsterdam. That's about what I do with photography at this moment.
Is that all I tried during my quest? Afraid not. I've been absolutely blown away by the Fujifilm X100t. Couldn't afford to keep it unfortunately, but like many I consider it as one of the very best compact cameras on the planet. It offers no zoom but with specific lenses, but other than that, look into it if you never heard of the brand.
That's why I'm still interested in giving the smaller Fujifilm X70 another try (I wrote about it earlier
here), but I'm not completely convinced since it lacks an EVF. And I wouldn't have a specific objective for it at the moment either... Also, I've been working with the Panasonic LX100 for a short while, which is definitely worth looking into, but might take quite a bit of getting used to I noticed.
So do I really think that the FZ1000 is my Holy Grail for the moment? I wish, but I doubt it. I think its results are a bit on the soft side and I suspect that will start bothering me after a while. And of course there's temptation just about around every corner in this business. In my case it could be the Panasonic FZ2000, although I understand it mainly brings innovation in video. Edit: just traded my FZ1000 for the FZ2000/2500. Will keep you posted.
Or... the bridge camera Nikon announced during CES last year and is finally about to hit the market if I understood correctly: the Nikon DL 24-500mm looks extremely interesting as well (although it lacks bracketing... Why?). As soon as I can get my hands on that one - or any other interesting compact - I will let you know. As for the moment, I decided to leave the system cameras (let alone DSLR) until it's worth investing in it again.
Yes, that's it. I hope you liked to read about my experiences so far. It's been a while but I created an album on Flickr so you can see what I've been sharing on Visiting Amsterdam so far (in better quality than Facebook offers). If you like what you see and you're on Facebook, please like the page.
My most important suggestion: don't do free work (unless it's out of love for your own relatives or friends). Second: don't strive for what you might be able to afford or simply find too tempting to resist no matter what the cost. First check what you need. What's the kind of photography you really want to be doing and which camera would fit that best?
It's easier said than done though, I know... I discovered my passion for street portraits only after I started using the new system camera I found irresistable. And I don't think my quest for the very best will be over ever either.
Simply couldn't bring myself to sell the Samsung NX1. It's too good and too much fun to work with. Now, I'm testing out a few different Samyang lenses - manual focus but some really razor sharp results so far. Hope to post about that new adventure somewhere soon.