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Migrating from DSLR to X-Series - advice?

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I'm considering migrating from a crop-frame DSLR (Nikon D90) to the well-loved mirrorless world of Fuji X. The impetus is my upcoming honeymoon, where we'll be taking our dream vacation to New Zealand and French Polynesia. I can hardly wait to get my eyes on those beautiful landscapes!

I was looking at full-frame cameras from Nikon and Canon, but after spending an hour with a work colleague who's maniacal in his love for the X100 series, I've changed course. The challenges I face with my current DSLR (bulky for travel/hiking, multiple lenses but never change them, too much effort to let photos happen organically or take the camera out regularly), seem to be addressed with these smaller, but just as powerful, cameras. As I read more, my excitement increased - people are obsessed with the Fuji color, sensor, and engineering.

I do have a few questions before I make the switch.

  • For landscape photography, am I sacrificing up anything major by not going full-frame? Have you been satisfied with your shots in this area?
  • X-T2 vs. X100F - is there one that you would recommend based on my anticipated usage?

About me: mid-30's outdoor lover, photo enthusiast, loves photography for travel and capturing lifelong memories of friends/family/moments. As I mentioned, I'm pretty much sold on the smaller profile since I know I'll use the camera more often (vs. pulling out my phone), just wondering about image quality for this once-in-a-lifetime trip! Thanks in advance.

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Welcome to the community @Kroogle

I have no doubt that you will admire the image quality, not just because of the sharpness or the colors, but the insane dynamic range and lowlight performance. Are you into RAW processing? You'll basically never need to worry about under or overexposing anything ever again, all the data is there, even if you screw up your settings.

DSLR's suck for all the reasons you already mentioned, so we don't have to convince you of the benefits of mirrorless, you already know you hate lugging a DSLR around. Having traveled extensively with an X-T1 and X100T by my side, sometimes at the same time, I will always reach for my X100 camera over any of my other X Series bodies, because it's so perfectly compact that it never gets in the way, and I adore how its 23mm f/2 lens renders things. Did you know it also has a built in ND filter available at the touch of a function button? I use it all the time, I love to shoot at bright apertures. I also love to shoot things backlit, and the ND filter adds this dreamy effect. Oh, it also focuses really close to things, nearly macro level compared to other lenses.

You cannot go wrong with the X-T2, I use one and also carry it often. If you limit yourself to just 2 or maybe 3 lenses (check out the f/2 primes, they're crazy compact and lovely), you can still fit the camera, lenses, and batteries, in an otherwise anonymous shoulder bag, messenger, or backpack, they take up very little room. Don't underestimate the performance of the 'kit' 18-55mm lens either, you might be inclined to take it as your extra lens, it has great IS and overall sharpness, and it is so tiny compared to another zoom. If you like shooting with primes the 23mm f/2, 35mm f/2 and 50mm f/2 would all be a wise investment, and for travel they are again insanely small.

Since you're already open to the taking an X100F with a fixed lens, with a hugely versatile focal length, I think you should embrace the simplicity of it. You will be on your dream vacation after all, you can enjoy the moments instead of worrying about your camera gear or which lens you pick. It's very freeing to travel with just 1 focal length!

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Thanks for the sage advice, @Christopher and @merlin! All great points.

After an hour of playing around with the X100f and X-T2 at my local photo shop, I decided on the X-T2! It just felt better in my hand, the way I was able to focus and make setting adjustments. While I adore the vintage look and simplicity of the X100f, I think the X-T2 will be more versatile - slightly bulkier, but nowhere near my old DSLR. I bought the kit lens since I read it's a good deal if I'll need it at some point, but may get the 23mm as well and shoot mostly with that on our trip.

It arrives Monday, will shoot for a few days and see if I have any buyers remorse vs. the X100f, but I think I'll be quite happy :)

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I will give some generalised advice, not specific to Fuji, about moving from an SLR to mirrorless.

Focusing: In good light, there is little difference in focus performance.  As light levels drop, focusing slows due to the different focusing technologies in SLRs and Mirrorless cameras, and typically mirrorless will not be as fast as a really good SLR.  However, since mirrorless focusing is off the sensor (rather than via an AF distance array in the DLR prism), focusing tends to be more accurate with fast aperture lenses such as 50mm f1.4 type designs and similar when compared to SLRs.  I had lots of problems with consumer grade SLRs and fast lenses as the build quality and tolerances were not high enough to ensure no focusing errors with SLRs.  With mirrorless, its slower, and in very low light may completely fail, but if it does focus, it is generally very accurate.  For landscapes - probably not an issue.  Mirrorless also makes manual focusing easier than an SLR viewfinder as some models offer focus peaking and magnification of a small area, so you can see what you are focusing on more easily than an optical viewfinder.

Viewfinder: you will have to use an EVF.  Some people don't like them.  They are better in very low light as they brighten the image based on the exposure, whereas an OVF in an SLR becomes very dark.  They often have a slight lag between what is happening in real life and hat you see in the viewfinder, which can be an issue for action - but some mirrorless cameras have less shutter lag than SLRs (e.g. using electronic front curtain from the sensor rather than having to open a mechanical shutter), so you gain some responsiveness too.  The viewfinders allow zebra stripes to show highlight clipping, a histogram, a level guide and other refinements over an SLR OVF.

Sensor size: my own opinion is that larger sensors are better than smaller ones.  Modern APS-C cameras offer the kind of performance seen in full frame models from 5 years ago, but cannot match the latest full frame sensors for dynamic range and noise management.  Noise is probably not an issue for landscape work - dynamic range may be.  You can check DXOMark and compare various sensors (but not Fuji sensors) to see how various camera models perform relative to each other.  More dynamic range means greater ability to lift shadows or recover highlights.  Fuji sensors don't break the laws of physics because they are made by Sony and therefore perform very similarly to similar Sony sensors in other cameras (e.g. X-T2 is equivalent to Sony A6500) - what you can see is dynamic range, colour depth and noise management are very good, but not as good as the best modern larger sensors. 

It really depends how serious you are about your photography?  Do you print large or just show on your phone or web page?  An X-T2 costs more than an entry level full frame mirrorless camera, is about the same size, is probably better at continuous shooting and focus tracking, but isn't quite as good at landscapes and portraits etc due to a smaller sensor size.

If portability and weight are critical, there are other mirrorless systems that maybe smaller and lighter than some combinations of Fujis system, or full frame.  I know several photographers, including some very serious travel and landscape users, who shoot with Sony E mount (formally "NEX"), others use Olympus m43rds system.

Another option would be to replace your D90 with one of Nikon's latest entry level SLRs, which are very small and light, and then choose appropriate lenses for travel.  Fuji lenses, particularly zooms, won't really be any smaller or lighter than APS-C SLR lenses.  If you prioritise portability than an entry level small SLR body and a couple of decent "kit" zooms which offer very good image quality may be the cheapest solution (SLRs now are often much cheaper than fashionable mirrorless systems).

Edit:

One thing I would say about Fuji is that the raw files are different to other cameras, and historically haven't always offered the very best pixel level results - particularly when processing the raw files with software on your computer (e.g. Lightroom).  Previously when I looked closely at camera jpegs and developed raw files, very fine organic random detail was often not rendered particularly well and looked a little like impressionist or watercolour paintings.  Other owners here should be able to advise if these effects still exist.  It would be a non issue if you don't pixel peep or never print large.

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You are going on a honeymoon not a photo shoot. Unless your fiancé is also a photographer taking a heap of photo gear is probably not the best way to start the marriage. In 5,10, or 20 years you will be wanting memories from the trip and the honeymoon not a gallery worthy photo series. 

The D90 is an excellent although now somewhat outdated camera but my suggestion would be to take that along with two reasonable lenses say a 16-85 DX Nikon lens and maybe something like a 55-200 DX lens. This kit would not be substaintially larger than the Fuji equivalent. Add a X100 series as your walk around take everywhere/backup camera and you will be set.

Something else to consider in NZ and Polynesia is the outdoor element. You say that you are keen on outdoor pursuits and NZ would have to the the capital of the world for that type of activity with Polynesia a place of sun, sand and lots and lots of water. An option to use instead of the X100 would be a ruggedised camera from any of the manufacturers. Fuji make a very good XP series (XP120 is the current model) but Olympus, Nikon and Canon also make products. No standard camera be it X series or any DSLR will be able to be used whitewater rafting, jet boating, sailing, snorkeling, mountain biking, or any other of the outdoor activities you may wish to do on the trip.

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