rey spadoni

It’s an odd mix, actually.  Two radically different destinations within days of each other.  One is the seat of sophistication, culture, the finer things.  The other is vast, wild, untamed.  And the photographic requirements of each reflect that diversity.

Paris, France.  Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, South Africa.  I’ll be in both places next month.

But, which camera to bring?

If only Paris, I’d bring along a rangefinder-style mirrorless shooter.  Discrete, light, refined and perfectly suited to the Parisienne scene.  Like Cartier-Bresson, I’d breeze about Le Pont de l’Europe appreciating life on the street, and as long as I had a sufficiently wide lens, the architecture and cityscapes that artists have captured for centuries.

If only a South African safari, I’d favor the fast acting DSLR, with precise autofocus, weathersealing, longer lenses and a proper grip.  I’d want to sling it over my shoulder as I rode and then hiked into the brush, waiting for the pounce (preferably not upon me), the stare, the charge, the very wild of it.

Why not both you say?  Because of the weight restrictions on the smaller flights and a concern for carrying too much gear into unknown terrain, I’m going to try to stick with just one.

Here are the candidates:

1. Fujifilm X-E1.  If you read my review (click the name of the camera to the left), you know that I love this camera and system for all the reasons I gushed on about.  The longest lens is the 55-200 though and it isn’t exactly the toughest camera on Earth.  The AF speed is good enough for many things, but the faster pace of wildlife shooting isn’t one of them.  Just offered firmware updates (bless you, Fujifilm) are said to improve AF performance.  We’ll see.

2. Nikon D600.  This is a top shelf full frame camera.  It’s somewhat heavy but with capable focusing and a tougher than average build (still not as good as Pentax though).  Good long lenses are readily available for rent.  Image quality is top shelf.  This is the workhorse of the family.

3. Sony Nex-6.  See Ed’s two-part review by clicking the name to the left.  In my view, this is more computer than camera (remember, I’m partial to the Fujifilm experience) but its expanding line of lenses and great sensor performance make this a real contender.  And, with Sony’s LA-EA2 adapter, regular Sony A-Mount (i.e, SLR) lenses can be used on the NEX.  Most importantly, you also get improved DSLR-style autofocus speed and tracking with this adapter.  But the clicky wheels and goofy menu system?  Yikes.

4. Micro 4/3.  Smaller bodies, smaller lenses, smaller sensor.  While I liked the Olympus OM-D E-M5 quite a bit, I’ve come to appreciate the fact that the bigger sensor cameras do deliver better pixel level quality and low light performance.  Still though…

5. Hybrid.  This goes against my one-and-only-one camera desire.  But an X-E1 for short stuff and a… uhm, a… uhm… something else… for longer stuff might just do the trick.

6. Something I haven’t considered (but could perhaps rent).  I’m all ears.

What would you do?

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15 Responses to Which?

  1. Rey,

    Allow me to be the first to weigh in. As a guy who now shoots D600 (exclusively), I’d opt for the big gun (DSLR). A small(er) lens, ala Nikon 28mm f/2.8 or the 18-35mm G should do you well. The 18-35mm is a wide angle and while sharp, has a fair amount of distortion. The 28mm prime is sharp and clean…plus it can double as a macro lens. They are both small enough, you could take them both. These would be perfect for Paris. For street photography, the 28mm is ideal…for those architectural prints you’ll soon be publishing, I’d use the 18-35mm.

    One final lens, if you can only take one…the 28-300mm. It’s a big boy…but…you’d have a moderately wide-angle (28mm) with the reach for just about anything. If you go to South Africa, THIS is the guy.

    I have all three and shoot them all regularly. And yes, I LOVE the D600. I did sell off the OM-D, and opted for a new lens and filters (the 28mm and a Singh-Ray). My fiance just traded up to the Canon 6D (FF)…yes, we have some great conversations around the dinner table.

    Enjoy your trip. Can’t wait to see what you bring back…

    Frank V.

    • Rey says:

      Thanks for posting your thoughts, Frank. Compelling rationale in favor of the Nikon. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts down the line regarding the 6D vs. D600.



  2. Eunice says:

    I can’t help out as not that long ago I shot with film and my Pentax now with small tiny cameras I am in a much different world I am sure you will choose correctly for YOU and the things you want to capture.

  3. RMW says:

    I wish this was my dilemma, let’s see…. Paris…. South Africa…. hmmm…. whatever equipment you take, as you know, it’s your eye that will provide the winning photos… I’ll be looking forward to seeing them!

  4. Prentis says:

    Eunice hit the nail on the head. What are your photographic objectives of these disparate destinations? Clearly the African adventure is the more challenging of the two environments. Shooting wildlife dictates big glass and nimble focusing…advantage D600. The D600 with a small wide prime can do Paris where the mirror-less gear will be hard pressed to handle a safari.

    As you know I was recently in Paris and you can’t avoid being noticed as a tourist no matter the camera. While most are shooting Iphones and P&Ss’ (mostly of themselves in front of something), you also see lots of DSLRs around people’s necks. What you don’t see are a whole lot of Leica cameras a-la Cartier-Bresson (although the X-E1 would come close if you were to bring it along).

    Whatever you choose to take along, it is going to be good stuff. It is the person behind the camera that counts. We’ll be watching.

    • Rey says:

      Hey, thanks, Prentis. And for your recommendation on the Belloy. I’ll be sure to post when I’m back.


  5. Ben says:

    I would say the NEX 6 – it’s the only one I’ve owned but from your descriptions it sounds like the best compromise. Something lightweight and less conspicuous for Paris but with the ability to stick a long lens on and have a decent autofocus on for the safari.

    • Rey says:

      The NEX-6 is absolutely THE best compromise camera. Seems to tick a lot of boxes and Ed loves his. Definitely high on my list as I’m current evaluating it (vs. the X-E1).


  6. Rey says:

    Thanks everyone for the suggestions. I’ll be sure to let you know what I decide (and why)… and I’ll definitely post the results when I’m back.


  7. LaRee says:

    Interesting dilemma. Actually an envious dilemma, but a dilemma none the less. I’d go with the D600 myself, just because of the South Africa leg of the trip. I’m afraid you’ll be frustrated with anything else there. I’ve never used it but I’ve been drooling over it since it’s release. Interesting to hear you say it isn’t built as well as my k-5. I picked up a Fuji x100s and although it is a fixed lens and takes some time to get used to shooting, it is a perfect city walk about camera. I actually use it as a wide (although granted it isn’t that wide) when I have a long lens on my k-5 and need fast shooting in a broad range of focal lengths. It is compact and produces the image quality I’ve come to demand. I think you’ll have to think long and hard about your options. I don’t know much about the NEX 6 but Ben’s vote goes there. In the end I’m afraid you are going to have to choose Rey and even with all this input it still isn’t going to be an easy choice and there will have to be a trade off somewhere.

  8. Pingback: My decision | 2 Guys Photo

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