Shrinking the Camera Bag

My camera bagSo, a few months ago I sold my Canon EOS DSLR and all six of the lenses that I’d bought over the preceding ten years or so.

The DSLR gave me incredible flexibility - the six lenses ranged from super wide angle to telephoto, with prime lenses for macro and portrait work, and several different zooms. I captured many many images with this kit. What an amazing capability to create photographs.

What could I possibly have been thinking of to sell it?

Well, it’s simple enough - I just wasn’t using it.  It hadn’t left the house for months.  Fully packed, my camera bag weighed a fantastic amount, and selecting a subset of lenses to take out on any given day was sheer torture.

Whichever lenses I selected for a day out, I would always end up wishing that I had the others. I would waste time wondering which lens was best for which shot, and yet more time swapping them around. It was this process of constant choosing that was the real killer. I had too much choice, and the pain of it eventually induced a kind of photographic paralysis.

Photography was weighing me down both physically and mentally. It wasn’t fun any more. When I realised that I was using the camera on my iPhone 4 much more than my “real” camera, I knew that the DSLR had to go.

It’s hard to downsize. At least, I find it hard. I really didn’t want to sell up. It had taken me a lot of time and money to get my photographic tools up to this level. I knew when I was creating my eBay listings that there would be no going back. I’d have to start again, and it would probably take another 10 years to get back to this level.

All that being said, there was no idea in my mind of giving up photography. I just needed to rethink - to consider what was important to me about photography, and what was not, and to let that drive the selection of the tools that I used.

This thought process, inspired and informed by @Documentally and others, has led to a very portable lightweight collection of photographic kit that I now carry with me almost everywhere I go.

Fujifilm FinePix X100The camera at the heart of it is the Fujifilm FinePix X100. This is a lot smaller and lighter than the DSLR was, with a non-interchangeable lens of fixed focal length. In other words, it’s not a zoom lens, and you can’t swap it for a different one.

Its focal length of 23mm, which equates to 35mm in old money, is slightly on the wide angle side. If I want to zoom, I have to do it with my feet. There is much less choice. Some shots, I just can’t get any more.

The controls are very tactile, operation is almost silent, and I have things set up so that my interaction with menus and screens is minimised, leaving me worrying about just the core parameters of photography - shutter speed, and aperture. What a difference! To top it all, this camera delivers absolutely stellar image quality - it has rekindled my love of photography.

My new (and much smaller) camera bag also contains a tripod, a remote shutter release cable, and my iPad for editing and uploading the pictures.

The most effective way to illustrate the difference that these changes have wrought is to look at the history of my Flickr stream. Since switching to the X100, I have uploaded 60 pictures to Flickr (out of a capture average of around 220 shots per week). On the day that the X100 arrived, it had been over nine months since the last DSLR picture was uploaded and that, I think, says it all.