Striking a Balance in a No Man’s Land


The Narrows, Zion National Park

The Fujifilm X100S is a wonderful artistic instrument that is a small, metallic, rangefinder-styled camera that calls for its user to set the aperture and shutter speed manually and also welcomes manual focusing. My trust in that camera was steadfast; I never doubted the X100S’ ability to capture my compositions. From Gullfoss Falls in Iceland and The Narrows in Zion National Park, to second-shooting at weddings and photographing my peers for my Not Just Humans of Holy Cross project, the X100S performed time and again. 

After three years of using that camera, and in light of my photographic ambitions, I purchased a Fujifilm X-Pro2. I started using different lenses and my post-processing skills developed. The X100S began spending more and more time in my bag, unused.

Gullfoss Falls, Iceland

Try as I might, I’ve never recaptured the magic of the X100S. That camera had never failed me; I developed a confidence, believing that with that camera, I could go anywhere and photograph anything. When I look back at my portfolio, I really do love the pictures I took with the X100S.

So, what’s the problem you might be asking yourself? Why not just use the X100S again? Well, something has changed. . . .

From time to time, I take the old X100S out of my bag and photograph with it, but it’s not the same. By now, I’ve used many other cameras: new cameras, big cameras, shiny and expensive cameras, even cameras with fancy features. When I shoot with the X100S now, the pictures sometimes don’t look as good. They look soft, lackluster, and the compositions are poor.

This is quite the puzzle. I’m still me and the X100S is still the X100S, so why can’t I pick up where I left off? Why can’t I utilize this great little gem of a camera to consistently take pictures that I enjoy viewing?

A friend in St. Andrews, Scotland

Honestly, I don’t know the answer, but I have a theory. The more I think about it, the more I’m starting to realize that a balance may exist somewhere in the no man’s land between the two opposing camps of the age-old photographic-dichotomy: Gear Matters v. Gear Doesn’t Matter.

Gear Matters fanatics will tout the latest and greatest, and if you’re not careful, they’ll convince you that for 63 simple payments of $35.99, you can ditch your current camera and acquire the newest model on the market.

Gear Doesn’t Matter advocates share the melodic messages of studying your craft, avoiding consumerism, and focusing on artistic fundamentals.

Given these two ideologies, I tend to lean towards the latter. However, I’m starting to think that there is wisdom in striking a balance.

For a photographer, the gear matters in so much as the photographer identifies his photographic values and purchases a camera that is most in line with those values. Gear doesn’t matter in so much as the photographer does indeed need to study his or her craft and further his or her understanding of composition, lighting, post-processing, and other important techniques.

Here’s the bottom line: I learned how to use the X100S. That process took a long time. It was a journey of years. I think I struck a balance between the gear doesn’t matter and the gear matters. Regarding the X100S, I’ve lost touch with that balance.

Perhaps I need to head back out into the no man’s land. . . .

Death Valley

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