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In Pursuit of My Perfect Digital Camera

Over the course of the last four and a half weeks, I have rented and used several camera bodies, all different makes and models, and taken out upwards of 10 lenses, both prime and zoom. I am not a professional. Before this endeavor, I had never used or even held a mirrorless camera and when it comes to the intricacies of aperture, ISO, and shutter speed, I simply fiddle around and see what I can do to achieve the look I want from a photo. However, the rentals department at Paul’s Photo truly changed my world and helped me see the full capacity of what I could create.

Canon R5

I took out the Canon R5 with an 85mm, f/1.2 prime lens for an entire weekend. This was not only my first mirrorless camera excursion but my FIRST time working with a prime lens, I was excited, nonetheless. The ability to change my ISO, aperture, and shutter speed with the spin of a dial was incredibly helpful for every single shot. I was baffled by the crispness of the photos, even at higher ISOs. I will say there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to prime lenses, but the aperture capabilities drew me in. As a beginning photographer who just wants to shoot everything and not have to be over 8 feet away at any given moment, I will hold on to my zoom lenses for now but in the future, I will absolutely invest in a prime lens for the sheer crispness and clarity I achieved.  Not only could I capture all the visuals from the bonfire I attended, but I somehow managed to capture every mood of my cat, ‘Lullah. I was genuinely impressed with the quality of the photos I captured of the flames in front of me. I finally understood the analogy of a phoenix rising from the ashes looking back at my photographs!

Nikon Z9 & Nikon Z6II

After my canon adventure, I decided to peer through the viewfinders of TWO different Nikons, the Z6II and the flagship Z9. I used the Nikon Z6II and the Z9 with a 24-70mm, f/4; that zoom lens came in incredibly handy because I shot everything and anything! They are versatile, but the aperture left me with photos that did not have incredibly blurred out backgrounds the way the prime lens did, a classic trade-off.

The most exciting thing for me about the Nikon was the user interface. There was a leveler on screen, a clever focus bar in the viewfinder that tells you whether your focus is closer or further using a flower at one end and an infinity symbol on the other, and the Z6II used a standard SD card which was great for me, a person who has basically collected every brand, size, and capacity of SD card over the last 15 years, but the Z9 required a newer bulkier and more expensive CF Express Type B card. The only downside I saw was changing my ISO. I had to go the extra step of pushing a button, not a huge deal at all but slightly less convenient than including a dial on the frame. While I used the Z6II mostly for lightwork, I used the Nikon Z9 for a weekend capturing my youngest cousins and their many attitudes.

Fujifilm X-T2

Between using the two Nikon frames, I tried out a Fujifilm x-t2 with three different lenses – 12mm f/2.8, 18-55mm f/2.8-4, and 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 – that Paul’s had in the used section. I had never thought about buying a used camera, but I realized that the options Paul’s Photo has, in tandem with the multitudes of lenses they have, allowed me to explore all my options while also finding what was best for me AND my budget. The best thing I found about Fuji was the sheer amount of customization I had. Everything was on a dial, the ISO, the shutter speed, the number of shots taken (from singular to continuous high), and the f-stop was part of the lens which made it MUCH easier for me. I like to feel everything, and I knew I was doing that with the Fuji. Not only were the pictures amazing, but the user interface was by far the best I had experienced to that point. If you like the feel of a manual camera, you will love Fuji.

Sony A7 IV

The last brand I was able to try out was Sony. I took out the Sony A7 IV with a 24-70 mm, f/2.8 lens overnight and was able to see why so many people rave about the quality of this camera. While this is not Sony’s current flagship camera, it performed well, and I loved the fact that it was lightweight yet had enough heft to feel sturdy. Also, the focus features on this camera were something I have never seen – not that that’s surprising – but the fact that what is in focus shines BLUE on the screen really helped me to accurately decide what I wanted my shot to capture. Usually, for me, focusing is a bit of a guessing game and I love the fact that this took all of the guess work out of it – just remember which way increases and decreases and you’re golden! Not only was the interface intuitive, but I was able to easily switch between my shutter speeds and capture what was in front of me. I didn’t have it for long, but rest assured I will be taking it out of our rentals department again as soon as I can to navigate it more.  

At the end of this entire experience, I am happy to say: I FOUND MY PERFECT CAMERA! I went with the Fujifilm X-T2 along with three lenses, and yes, one was a prime! Overall, my experience was fantastic. Not only was I able to utilize the Rentals Department at Paul's Photo, I was also able to utilize the USED Section. Everyone was incredibly helpful and insightful when it came to choosing the camera body and lenses. I was able to talk through what I was planning to capture and what fit my budget. Each person gave me an honest answer without pushing me in any particular direction which allowed me to form my own opinion. I fell in love with the X-T2 the moment I took it out for a test. While I am glad that I was able to work with each of these cameras in turn, the folks on the Sales Team really made the experience great and helped me decide on the Fuji! I love the dials and how it looks and feels like a cute vintage film camera with all the convenience of shooting digital. It's a great camera to learn the fundamentals of photography without having to shuffle through all kinds of random unknown buttons and menus to get the job done. I also get lots of compliments on it everywhere I take it so that's a plus! I will definitely shop here again when it's time to upgrade to a new Fuji body or lens. Maybe an X-T4 lies in my future. Thank you for all the wonderful help!