I've had a good camera since my daughter (now 17) turned 2, and the cheap digital camera I had back then could no longer "keep up with her". I mean that quite literally: she started to run more than walk, and the slow focus and slow lens on the Sony digital camera I had resulted in blurry pictures where she was mostly out of frame! I broke down and bought my first (digital) SLR, a Nikon D70. Which I eventually upgraded to a D300. And then a D750.
Everyone likes to say that phone cameras are making good cameras obsolete. I don't agree. I suppose if you mostly want to feed pics into Facebook and Google's surveillance machines and collect "likes", camera phones are more than fine. And, of course, it's hard to argue against the sentiment that "the best camera is the one you have with you." When I upgraded to an iPhone 7 Plus years ago, I found myself using my D750 less and less. I had the iPhone with me, and it was so convenient to be able to snap-and-share with friends and family. And the iPhone XS I bought this year is even nicer.
But the thing is, while the pics look great on screen, when it came time to do more with them (create calendars, or framed photos, or whatever), it was hard to shake the disappointment with the actual (lack of) quality of the pictures. A crappy collection of 12 million pixels looks great on a 6" screen, but zoom in to 1:1 level, and it's shockingly bad.
I started using my D750 more around the house again, but I never ended up carrying it with me, especially on trips. After my recent trip to Japan, I decided enough is enough. Surely there are good compact cameras with large sensors and fast lenses out there? Something I could carry with me.
And there are; look up "best cameras for street photography" and you'll find a wide range of choices, and a wide range of prices.
My big requirements were fast lens (at least f/2), large-ish sensor (at least APS-C) and "not too bulky". And not insanely expensive. That narrowed the choices down, fast. I wanted something that would take vastly better pictures, especially in low light, than my iPhone, and I wanted to have the option to actually have it with me. I had no illusions of getting the quality of the D750 in a small size, but wanted something "in the ballpark".
It's the size that proved tricky; not the width and height, but the depth. Most cameras in this class have zoom lenses that give them "quite a bump." I was narrowing in on the Leica D-Lux 7, but I just couldn't convince myself that it was small enough. I admit I also was drawn to the appearance of the Leica, and found the manual dials really appealing, as the "mostly control it by poking at the touch screen and menus" interfaces to a lot of these small cameras is horrible to use.
But, while Leica hides it in their promo pics, the lens is deep enough when closed that it's hard to imagine it in your jacket pocket.
Luckily, I aired my thoughts over on my micro.blog, and Brandon Lee gave me some great feedback and provided a sounding board for my ideas and constraints. Brandon (who knows a lot about cameras, check out his blog, including a recent post about the D-Lux 7) pointed out that all of these cameras I was looking at aren't as fast as I seemed to want, except at the widest zoom (which is way to wide for practical use). Even the Leica drops to f/2.8 by the time you hit a reasonable zoom.
As I tried to articulate my needs, I also realized one of the reasons I love shooting with my DSLR is I only use primes, I never use zoom lenses. Primes are faster, and when I use zoom lenses I tend to waste time fiddling with the zoom to "line up" the picture; with primes I'm forced to zoom with my feet, keeping me in the moment and engaged with the world. And while I like primes, I didn't want another interchangable lens camera; the D750 is great, but part of the reason I never carried it was the temptation to carry a few lenses "just in case".
Brandon suggested the FujiFilm X100F, a camera that shows up on most "best street photography cameras" lists. Up to that point, I hadn't considered the FujiFilm X100F because it has a fixed focal length, non-swappable lens and that seemed too big a constraint.
But after doing some more research, and thinking about how freeing it would be to not have to worry about extra lenses or fiddling with a zoom, that's what I ended up going with. I sold my old D300 and a pile of not-useful-on-my-full-frame-D750 lenses to KEH (yes, I hadn't gotten around to selling this stuff, it'd been sitting on a shelf since I got the D750) and that almost covered the cost of a used X100F they had. (Lucky for me, they had one in the retro brown leather, which I think looks lovely, and I picked up a matching wrist strap from Gordy's Camera Straps to keep it secure and complete the look.)
So, what about those pictures?
Here's a few snaps of the dogwood tree in our front year that illustrate why I wanted to carry a real camera with me, and how the X100F is going to meet my needs.
I tried to focus on the front flower. These were outside on a sunny day. I didn't do any postprocessing (which I could with the cameras, since I shoot JPEG+RAW files on the Fuji and Nikon). I manually set the aperture to f/2.8 on the Nikon and Fuji, since going faster gave more depth of field than I wanted (I couldn't get the single front flower to be most in focus below f/2.8, ironically).
The iPhoneXS picture is "fine", I suppose, if I wanted to post a "Our dogwoods are blooming!" pic on social media. But with no depth of field, ugly artefacts and pretty noticable noise in the shadows, it's not going to be useful for anything beyond that. (BTW, I don't want hear how your Pixel or Samsung or whatever is better. I've looked at their crappy pictures, they're no better than the iPhone when you're comparing to a real camera).
At the other extreme, the D750 is lovely. The 50mm lens pretty much lives on my camera, so I used it here. It captured the most true colors, and the bokeh is as you'd hope, beautifully bluring into the background. Considering the camera body (let's ignore the lens) costs more than either the iPhoneXR or the X100F, I'd hope it was the best!
The X100F is pretty close behind the D750, however, which I'm thrilled with. The color/white balance isn't as good, but leaps and bounds above the iPhone, and easily corrected in post processing of the RAW files (if I have a pic I want to do more with). The camera cost about the same as my XS, but nowhere near as much as the D750. The bokeh isn't quite as nice as the D750, but it's pretty good.
Overall, I'm very happy with the camera so far. I haven't used it that much yet, but I can confirm that it's comfortable to toss it in my bag or jacket pocket, I've already brought it along when I couldn't have brought the D750.
We'll see how I feel over time, if I actually carry it with me and use it more, and how I feel about the one fixed lens. I'm looking forward to it!