Trading my Nikon D5100 for a FujiFilm X-E1

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I’ve had my Nikon D5100 camera for about a year. I purchased it used from a local wedding photographer who was unloading some gear she no longer needed. It set me back $300CDN with the kit lens. A great deal! At the time, my local brick-and-mortar (where I buy most of my used gear) was asking over $300 just for the body, plus tax.

I’m very pleased with this camera. It’s well suited (even with the kit lens) for the work I need it to do, but I did start running into a problem a few months ago. Outside of the photography jobs I use it for, I won’t travel with it.

I’ve started traveling frequently for another business and I travel light. A minimalist at heart, I’ll do a week-long business trip with a single carryon and a slim messenger bag. I have no room for a DSLR (even one as compact as the D5100) and lenses.

My business trips often include miles of walking, both indoors and outside. I’m already carrying my messenger bag with a couple of notebooks, tablet, pens, smartphone and whatever other important conference material I collected. Adding the weight of a DSLR to the load is completely out of the question.

I have a smartphone and it functions well for grabbing snapshots here and there. But on a recent trip to Dallas, I came to the realization that my low-end smartphone left a lot to be desired when it came to documenting our journey. It hit me hard when I snapped this photo of AT&T Stadium from the upper deck of Globe Life Park. It’s terrible, in so many different ways.


I really need to up my travel photography game.

Now, hear me clearly. I am still growing as a photographer, but I do know a better camera will not help me improve my skills. Maybe a more experienced photographer could have nailed this shot with a phone. But I know if had my D5100, I would have had more options for creating the photo I pictured in my mind.

Later on, touring downtown Dallas, the JFK memorial, the book depository, and Elm Street, I came to another realization that urban photography was where I spent most of my time. Not another knock against my DSLR. Many successful photographers produce amazing street photos with this type of camera, but mine was a thousand miles away in a different country because I can’t spare the room to bring it.

Once again I relied on my smartphone. I hate taking photos with a phone, no matter how advanced the camera happens to be. I was really missing a proper camera on this trip.

Even after we left Dallas, the shot of Jerry’s World continued to bother me. I know there was more there, and I know I missed it.

Once home, I began to consider my options. There are many more trips coming up in the near future, and plenty of opportunities to photograph new places and new experiences. I need a camera that can travel with me easily.

For me, considering options is a lengthy and exhausting process. Read this article from Eric Kim. I am a ‘Maximizer’. I won’t bore you the details, suffice to say that after considering my options (it took three days), I decided to let the D5100 go and replace it with something more compact.

Henry’s was offering a 20% sale on their used gear over the holiday weekend (Happy Easter!), and that sealed the deal. I ordered a Fujifilm X-E1 mirrorless body for $270 after taxes and shipping. DPReview gave this unit a 79% and a Gold rating. It’s comparable in most features to my D5100, except size; the most important feature I was looking for in my new camera.

I listed my D5100 for $280 on Kijiji and expect it will fetch near that price. Most of the other D5100 cameras currently listed are $300 and up.

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It should work out to an almost even swap. A D5100 plus kit lens for a Fujifilm X-E1 body. Of course, I’ll still need to pick up a lens for my new camera, but that’s one of the reasons I was hoping to snag a Fuji. Their Fujinon XF 27mm F/2.8 will be the perfect lens for my X-E1 street photography travel kit. They retail for $599, but I’ve seen them second hand for around $300. So, I’m looking at about $600 for my new kit.

I’ve also got my eye on the XF 18mm F/2 R. We’ll see which lens can be had for the better deal.

I had considered keeping the DSLR and just adding a second fixed lens 28 or 35mm camera. I was leaning towards the Ricoh GRII. At $749, it’s a better value proposition than the GRIII or the Fuji X100F and still a fantastic camera. That would allow me to keep the D5100 for corporate portrait work (one of my photo side hustles) and have a slim unit for travel and street photography.

The Fujifilm X-E1 just happened to be a better deal. I’ve wanted to try a Fuji for years. I’ve experienced Panasonic, Canon, and Nikon, but I’ve read great things about Fuji’s tech (X-Trans sensors) and how they stand behind the products with regular firmware updates. Their X-mount lenses are pricey, but they’re also superb quality. I’ll start with the 27mm pancake and probably source a used 56mm F/1.2 R and step up my corporate projects.

My ‘new’ Fujifilm X-E1 body should be here within the week. I’ll share my thoughts on the camera as soon as it arrives. I plan to find a lens by then so I can get started learning my new camera right away. The D5100 will be off to a new home shortly, having served me well. It’s a great camera and I hope its new owner creates some fantastic photographs.