It’s been a few years since I’ve been interested in taking photos. Last time I really used my Sony A6000 was when I studied abroad in Colombia in the fall of 2019. Since then, I’ve grown complacent with photography, using my a6000 to take photos of finished sewing projects, but not much else. All other photos happen on my iPhone, and spoiler – they’re all photos of Tepals (my dog).
With my month long trip to Korea coming up in May, I am again thinking about photography. Despite the shortage of Fujifilm X100V cameras, I started considering if I wanted to track one down used or an older version, like an X100F. Aside from how aesthetically pleasing the Fujifilm cameras are – I was mainly interested in the film simulations that are in-camera (i.e. I hate editing photos in post). But, because these cameras are in low supply and high demand, I found myself unwilling to pay more than the MSRP for one. Even an X100T with cosmetic wear is about $800. At that price … I could buy a really nice lens.
And, that got me thinking that the camera I have is the best camera for me. One of my long standing goals or values is to consume less; and to appreciate and use what I already have (which is more than enough). And while buying new things for my camera is consumerism, it felt aligned with the spirit of my goal and I had always meant to buy a different lens from the kit lens. So … down the rabbit hole of research I went!
What Do I Even Want in a Camera?
When I reflected on why the film simulations available in the Fujifilm cameras felt desirable, I also reflected on what would make photography feel fun for me again. Those things were:
- Small, compact camera that is easy to carry and use on a moments notice
- Understanding what in-camera settings and other accessories I can utilize for a more film-like look to my photos
- How to bring some of the experimentation and mistakes to digital photography that made film photography fun for me in the first place
- Less is more! Honestly, I’m a lazy photographer
The Sony a6000 is already a compact camera as a mirrorless camera, also known as a micro four thirds. When reading up on lens recommendations for the Sony a6000, I came across the Sony E 20mm f/2.8 pancake lens and thought “Here’s a way to make my camera even lighter and more compact!” I think there’s something fun about shooting with a pancake lens, as it adds an element of limitation with no zoom. I’ll have to move closer/further to the subject and experiment to get the shot. And while f/2.8 is enough to create a shallow depth of field for bokeh or background blur (which are styles I like in photos), it’ll likely struggle in low light situations (as opposed to having 1.4). That’ll force me to use a longer exposure and/or higher ISO = more experimentation! Lastly, to my unknowledgeable self, this lens felt akin to the lens on the Fujifilm X100 series – as a fixed or prime lens, similar f-stop range, similar focal-length though that depends on the sensor & aspect ratio too.
How to Get a Film Look
While I Googled tirelessly, it seems that Sony Creative Styles can not be used fully to the effect of Fujifilm simulations. No surprise. What I did learn was what makes a photo look digital versus film – namely the sharpness of digital photos and how highlights look. Per this helpful article by Ritchie Roesch on Fujixweekly, I learned,
“The biggest difference between film and digital is how highlights are handled. With film, there’s a gradation to white that’s often graceful, but with digital it is much more abrupt.“
A common accessory to get that gradation or remove that sharpness is to use a diffuse lens filter. Also in Roesch’s article, they share example photos using the Cine Bloom filter. The other favorite that I found was the Black Pro-Mist 1/4. The main differences between the two being that the BPM has more contrast and saturation while the CB has more hazy/dreamy look with a warmer tone and less contrast. I Googled countless more comparison articles, so I could look at more example photos and specifically street or travel photography examples. While both lens filters look fun to experiment with, I decided I’d try the Cine Bloom 20% as I wanted a dramatic difference and found myself drawn to the warm tones the Cine Bloom leans towards.
Aside from a lens filter, I did learn that using different Creative Style settings in-camera can support a more film-like look. Most people recommend turning down sharpness or detail (all the way down to -3) as this can always be edited back in post. Also, this article recs using the “Autumn Leaves” style to get pastel colors or intensify warm colors and avoid neon green tones. But, in all, yes I will likely need to do a little editing in VSCO or Lightroom if I want a photo to be stylized in a certain way.
On the topic of not enjoying editing photos – I did come across a useful book recommendation via Becky Lang’s accessories for Sony a6000 article. She recs the book In Camera: Perfect Pictures Straight out of the Camera which is very affordable for the Kindle version ($2.99!). I read the first couple of pages via the preview and found it to be helpful and interesting – which surprised me because I assumed I’d be too bored to read/learn how to take better photos! I’ll share more about what I learn after I’ve read the book (and more important, some photos!).
New Camera Strap, Who Dis?
The last thing I updated was my camera strap. Being that the aesthetic of the Fujifilm X100 camera was part of the appeal for me, making an aesthetic change to my camera, like the strap, made sense. Also, as a Libra (i.e. I care about aesthetic beauty), I’ve always thought that brown leather straps look good on cameras. I searched for a minimalist camera strap and came up with Evergreen minimalist leather strap. I’m surprised how much more comfortable the Evergreen strap is than the stock strap that can with my camera – who knew!