Zsolt Varanka Photography
Several years ago (in 2008), when I was considering to buy my first DSLR camera I tried out the main camera brands in my hands to decide which one I like most. Then found the ergonomics of Nikon works the best for me. Since then I built a well usable set including pro-grade crop and and semi-pro-grade full-frame sensor Nikon bodies and lenses from 15 to 500 mm focal length, owning nice telephoto lenses, but missing real fast ones (like f/1.4) on the short focal length end, which I really missed for night photography.
During the mid 2010's years I realized I love landscape photography the most, especially doing it by the ‘hike and shoot’ style, which involves 4-14 km mountain hike with my camera backpack stuffed with “minimal” gear (2 DSLR bodies plus 2-3 lenses), filters and further accessories, tripod, rain suit and some food and drinks. This pack often weight over 10-14 kg on my shoulders, which made embarrassing inconvenience, especially, when was hiking in winter time in deep snow. Not to mention hanging a fullframe body with a wide lens on my neck, weighting over 1.5 kg…
Feeling the pain so often decided to look for a lighter, also, a more affordable camera equipment for hiking photography. Tried out various MILC systems and found the Fujifilm crop sensor X system offers the best value for me in terms of the weight-IQ-price triangle. Simple, user-friendly ergonomics and nice IQ (especially of the 3rd generation T-series bodies), also the small, light and superior fast lenses (f/1.2, f1.4 or f/2) with handy aperture ring for the fraction of the price of a quality fast full frame lens caught my interest. As a trial just started with the budget X-M1, then X-T10 with kit lens, and for now I already replaced a significant ratio of my Nikon gear with Fuji one. As a verification experience I took only my Fuji gear (T-20 body and 4 lenses with teleconverter plus filters and usual accessories) to my latest tour to the Lofoten islands, Norway in February 2018. Was happy to experience of sparing significant weight and space, also prepared with fast wide-angle lens (16 mm f/1.4) for the hopeful Northern lights shots as planned for the nights (see gallery for photos)!
Due to my very positive experiences with Fujifilm cameras (fast, reliable AF, excellent IQ lenses, way better ergonomics than a DSLR, easy handling, small weight and size – What You See is What You Get user experience) most likely I am going to fully transitioning to Fuji. Obviously, no camera-lens system is perfect, not my Nikon, neither my Fuji. Enjoyed the higher IQ of the D750 during the past years, but tolerated less and less the FF gear weight and less effective usage when compared to a recent MILC system. Switching back from FF to APSC means acknowledgement of the moderate disadvantages (cca. 1 stop) of the crop-sensor in terms of lower generic IQ, like color quality, a bit higher noise, smaller dynamic range, reduced artistic effect by smaller bokeh balls, less background separation (less shallow depth of field) when compared to the potential maximum performance offered by a full-frame sensor camera, which is coupled with premium fast lenses (f/1.4). The latter I never had in the Nikon world due to their high price tags, also inconvenient lens size and weight – I’m still a hobbyist. At the same time, adding fast primes (f/1.2, f/1.4, f/2) to crop sensor Fuji camera well balances the crops’s disadvantages, actually, for me I feel more advantages than using f/2.8, f/4 and f/5.6 FF lenses, so, the change adds more value. A system replacement also requires flexibility and adaptation. I found myself going for mainly fast prime lenses in the Fuji world, while I was a zoom lens shooter while used Nikon. Now, as I used to the convenience of shooting with a MILC system in the past 2-3 years (WYSWYG, live, color histogram, better controllable AF with focus-check, easily controlled white balance, easy exposure compensation, system weight!!), in general, I find no efficiency and joy in shooting with DSLR anymore. Sad observation, and really surprised to got to to this point. Currently, use DSLR and long/heavy lenses only for wildlife photography from hide, where DSLR has its own advantages (battery life, no camera shut down and waking up issues by a remote control unit).
As I am an engineer-type, analytic, pixel-peeper person, always want to be 200% sure I am right when take a decision and say a verdict on an equipment I often run exhaustive, comparative real-life studies/tests on gear: camera, lens, flash, anything… When I think I can help others by sharing something useful I do it on my blog/review page, where you’ll find no repeat of the same usual technical information copied from other pages and just shared thousand and one more times, rather, provide really new, practical info.
Same as camera/lens equipment prefer to use excellent weight-quality-price ratio tripods, I own couple of size, alloy and carbon-made Induro brand legs. Slik mini II with its cca. 700g is one of my favorite go to tripod for hiking for MILC.
Filters: have couple of square-type resin filters (colored, ND, ND-grad, reverse ND-grads), but found myself not to be so happy to mess with them (storing, handling), also, they are easy to scratch and even the best brand degrades IQ visibly. After all, use mostly 77 mm HOYA glass filters including cir-pol and 3 and 10 stop ND ones, which do the job well for me. I stack them and cover the roll with dedicated threaded alloy filter caps, so 5-7 stacked filters occupy no space in my pocket or backpack.
Flash system: my Fuji and Nikon-dedicated flashes are under replacement by cross-brand Godox flashes, and triggers, which can be used for both Fuji and Nikon cameras (when used off-camera with Godox trigger, this is my almost exclusive way to go). For my studio work (better to say for studio experiments ;)) use medium and small studio strobes, umbrellas, octa and stripe boxes, various size reflectors, light stands and basic backdrops.
2018 Summer update:
Good bye, Nikon! – sold all my Nikon gear and switched fully to Fujifilm X line. My minimal hiking set is: X-T3 and X-T20 bodies with 3 zoom lenses (10-24/4, 18-55/2.8-4, 55-200/3.5-4.8) and polarizer, ND and ND grad filters, generally, have the light Slik mini tripod hanging on me. Feeling the strong need of having other perspectives my new landscape photography tool is a DJI Mavic Air drone!
Since 2018 the DSLR market is shrinking so fast, happy to step out just in time…
My experiences, hesitations, expectations and whether they are fulfilled with Fujifilm mirrorless is summarized in this article:
My way to switch from Nikon DSLR to Fujifilm X mirrorless (zsoltvarankaphotography.com)
2021 Summer update
During the past 5 years shooting with Fujifilm I repeatedly and unresolvably bumped into its system limitations in couple of areas (especially in wildlife photography). Following the brand's struggle on sensor technology and moderate autofocus advancement, also seeing Fujifilm's slowing X-line development pace and focus change to MediumFrame GFX product line I got serious concerns if the X-line ever reach the low light IQ and AF performance of the FullFrame Sony cameras produced back in 2018. So, decided again to switch camera system back to FullFrame, now to the very open Sony E-mount platform.
Find the practical aspects of the second change here:
*Just for fun the background image of this page is still about my former Nikon lenses :)