Why should we love limitations in Photography?

The marketplaces of the internet are flooded with a near innumerable amount of imaging systems, consumers have so many choices that making the right one isn't quite as obvious as it may have been a few years ago. Full-frame 35mm sensors have dropped in price since 2011 making higher end systems available to anyone with around $1,000 and some time to devote to google. However no one has ever said anything about how the limitations of a system may actually bring about advantages when out in the field. 

Last year I purchased a Fujifilm X100, the original in what is now a star studded lineup of classically refined digital imaging systems. This camera has a permanently attached 23mm lens (APS-C 1.5x crop making it 34.5mm), single actuation shooting (continuous function is similar to most point and shoot cameras and not really useful), parallax error (look it up), and it just isn't the same animal as my Nikon. This being said the color rendition from the 12 megapixel sensor mixed with the optimized fixed Fujinon optics makes for a take anywhere beast of a manual point-and-shoot system. Small in size,  virtually silent and very unimposing, even the most leery subject has little care about being photographed by the X100. 

The limitations: I love DSLRs, they are purpose built industrial machines designed to be tortured for years. But the Fuji is a small, silent, clunky, and pretty slow rangefinder system. It sometimes takes about 3 seconds to write a RAW image to a higher download speed SDXC Card. The battery life is nothing compared to my EN-EL15 batteries and the system's power draw is not as assured. I won't for the life of me have it knocking around outside my bag in heavy rain, and the noise performance leaves a good bit to be desired.

Why these are good things: When I shoot a strong image on the Fuji it doesn't look the same as it does on the Nikon, it has a totally different feel. It gives such a purity in its light rendition, clear tack sharp focus, low aberration and vignetting, rich colors and smooth skin tones. The images usually require preplanning so naturally I enjoy taking it to the skate park, handholding my flash with wireless triggers and enjoying the challenge. The X100 produces images with an intellectually easy going aesthetic. You may not have seen that building that way, but the Fuji did.

My main point here is that picking up a device purely for its advantages teaches us nothing. This summer for instance I decided to use a 35mm f/1.4 on a D600 and a 5DIII with 300mm f/2.8, inside. It was just to prove to myself and maybe my boss that I could. However I noticed very quickly that all of my shooting decisions were changed. Because that is such a strange spectrum of focal length to be using together outside of a sports event, I suddenly had to think about a classroom of children as if I were at a sporting event. This is a surefire way to add diversity to one's takes as well as to teach yourself to be comfortable or physically conditioned enough to use long-glass. I love running a 70-200mm f/2.8 and a 24-70mm f/2.8 on assignments as much as anyone but I'll walk away with loads of boring mediums and overly distorted close-ups with all around lackluster light, because they don't make me think the same way as bringing an 85mm f/1.8 and a 28mm f/1.8. The limitations innately make us think, not "stuck in thought, missed the shot" think, but decisive, in the moment, perceptual change think that can make a decent story incredible in seconds. Film was all about overcoming limitations, and because we can afford the nicest (or get it at gear checkout) doesn't mean it will be at all helpful to us or most importantly teach us something that we weren't expecting to learn. (Which I hope is everyone's goal while on assignment)

I want to encourage all digital imaging enthusiast of all experience level to limit their shooting capabilities as much as possible. Maybe not at your next wedding or football game, but definitely with portraits or on your next picture package assignment. The point being to break any preconceived notions of "I got this, this is easy" and show yourself that you can make something seemingly impossible and chaotic beautiful and realistic. The fun in photography to me is the never ending challenges that have to be overcome in order to get what I need. No matter how seasoned a photographer is there is still something to learn. (If you feel differently I don't care who you are, toss your camera in the nearest river)The only times I have ever learned useful things was when I limited my gear and had to troubleshoot. It requires some self-confidence definitely, I promise that with time it will make for much stronger images and add much more personality or "personal look" to ones images. 

Get out and shoot something, don't just sit there on Netflix like a stone.