Travelling Light: The Benefits of a Compact Camera When Exploring.

Sometimes carrying three lenses, two camera bodies and a flash gun just isn’t practical. A more compact camera (such as a digital mirrorless system) is lightweight, discreet and flexible to use, however it can sometimes give you that anxiety of missing out a great shot because you don’t have your highest grade equipment on you. This is an anxiety that I have a lot of the time when I’m without my growing family of professional cameras, and it took me a while to get over it. I always felt that without using my main camera, I wouldn’t be getting the highest quality images I could at all times possible. I want to talk a little about how I let myself embrace limiting myself and how it changed my approach to my personal photography.

Firstly, I had to come to terms with the fact that quality isn’t about how fast or flexible your camera is, it’s about what the final images becomes. You could easily have a sharper image and a higher resolution, but would you have got it if you had to change lens or brought out a camera that was so obvious that it made everyone look right at you?

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Perth, Australia. June 2016.

I tried to get over these initial worries by intentionally limiting myself with what I had. When I was travelling, I would usually always take my main camera everywhere I went. This was an absolute pain in the backside due to its weight, so I decided to dedicate a full day here and there where I leave the big camera in the bag at home. At first this was really frustrating. I’d see things that I’d know for a fact I could get with a wider lens or a faster autofocus, but slowly you become familiar with what you have and adjust to it accordingly.

Having a compact camera (I use a Fuji X-Pro1 but there’s a huge range to choose from) gives you a balance of having something that gives you the flexibility of a fully manual mode, but is lightweight and discreet enough for you to get some interesting street photography. I’m not going to lie, it takes a while to get used to grabbing that image on something that seems like it can be working against you at times, but it really can make a difference to your photos and, of course, your back pain! There seems to be so many benefits to using lighter system, but believe me there is definitely some drawbacks.

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Glasgow, Scotland. September 2016.
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San Fransisco, California. October 2016.

The autofocus is slower, and in darker conditions the camera will underperform in terms of both focus and ISO handling. A problem I find with the X-Pro1 in particular is that the manual focus is almost impossible to get right, especially when shooting at f/1.4. As much as a drawback as this is, one upshot is that it will bring you out of your comfort zone and demands that you capture images that you wouldn’t usually bother attempting. For example, when it’s too dark for the camera to take a well exposed photograph, I look for silhouettes or other focal points that are near a dim light source.

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Glasgow, Scotland. July 2016.
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Gothenburg, Sweden. October 2016.

A compact camera comes in handy for so much more than simply travelling. It can make for some great pictures when you’re just out and about with friends. Sometimes you can get it into places that usually a professional camera wouldn’t, such as music shows. As I’ve said, the autofocus can be your worst enemy in these situations, but patience, practice and experimentation are your closes allies in mastering your techniques in these situations.

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Sigur Rós, Edinburgh, Scotland. August 2016.
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Glasgow, Scotland. July 2016.

As much as I’ve fallen in love with my mirrorless camera over the last year or so, there’s definitely times where taking my higher-end equipment is more beneficial. I still find that when shooting landscapes I’ll always favour my Nikon, and the same goes for events such as street festivals or architecture shots, but having something to hand when you maybe wouldn’t usually take your five tonne camera bag is always going to produce something interesting.

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Iceland. April 2016.
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Berkley, California. October 2016.
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Brisbane, Australia. July 2016.

The Fuji X-Pro1 has become a staple part of my travelling and social life now, and although it’s not perfect, it’s let me work out what I’m really looking for in a compact system so when the time comes where I can upgrade, I can get something that’s completely suited to my needs.

All images on this blog post were taken on my Fuji X-Pro1 with a 35mm f/1.4 lens.

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