Shooting with the Fujifilm X100: A Love Story
Nostalgia—that's the word that will come to the minds of many photographers when they hold the Fujifilm X100 digital camera. I've spent lots of time with it by my side as a constant companion, and the little camera has grown on me tremendously. At the moment, these cameras are a bit hard to get your hands on, due to the unfortunate occurrences in Japan. However, it's a small but powerful camera that is worth taking a look at.
Feel in Hand
The Fuji X100 is a solid feeling camera that harkens back to the days when photo-taking apparatus was made of lots of metal. When you pick one up, you'll feel as if you're holding a modern update to the classic rangefinder. The camera is elegant, discreet, quiet, and well designed.
Every time I picked up the X100, I felt as if I was hand in hand with the quiet, simple, and naturally attractive beauty that myths and boyhood dreams are made of.
All of the dials are in places that will appeal to both modern and well-seasoned photographers. Around the lens is an aperture ring with full F-stops, which can be finely tuned using the scrolling knob on the top-right-hand corner of the back of the camera. Similarly, the shutter speeds are placed on the top of the camera, on a dial that is reminiscent of the olden days. If you want to fine tune the shutter speeds, this can be done using the back scroll wheel.
Those fine-tuning dials will make Canon and Nikon photographers feel as if they're holding something eerily familiar.
The photo above shows what the viewfinder can look like, if you want all that information. You can, of course, compose and shoot your images using the LCD screen.
The LCD screen can also show other information, such as the focusing point selected, the meter, modes, etc. When you put the viewfinder to your eye the LCD screen turns black, sensing that you're there.
Users can switch from the optical to the electronic viewfinder by turning the switch at the front of the camera.
As you can also see, the size of the X100 is on par with that of an old-time Pentax SLR camera.
The Fuji X100 will be right at home in the hands of street photographers, photojournalists, etc. Take note, though, that the design and function of this camera will perhaps appeal more to the experienced user than the new kid on the block. This is because of the way the exposure settings, focusing, and the feel of the camera all mesh together. When you pick it up to shoot, you feel as if you're holding a timeless piece of history—a camera that was well made and well designed to help you get the best images you possibly can.
Since I'm a manual control freak in my metering and composing methods, I often found myself slowing down quite a bit when shooting with the Fuji X100. This went against my photojournalism training, but it helped to remind me that sometimes you need to wait for the decisive moment to come to you because of how slow you have to go at times.
The 35mm equivalent focal length, combined with the discreet profile of the camera, will give you almost no excuse to be afraid of getting up close and personal with your subjects to capture photos the way the old masters like Henri Cartier-Bresson did. (Granted, Cartier usually used the 50mm.) The X100's compact and stealthy design will not cause alarms amongst the subjects you try to photograph. I've felt and experienced quite the opposite when shooting with a DSLR, and have in turn learned to disarm aggressors with a warm and kind smile. In the end, though, do keep in mind that the camera won't teach you to be a better street photographer—the twelve inches behind the viewfinder are still the most important part.
Photographers looking for a lighter package will also not mind the weight of the X100. It's lighter than my Olympus EP-2—mind you though, it is larger. When out shooting, I didn't mind having the camera hanging from my neck, slung around my chest, or with the strap wrapped around my wrist. Having it in my hand at all times seemed to be the most advantageous because of the fact that I often needed to slow down to take the photos.
A word of warning: The camera is slow to wake up from sleep mode, so you'll need to keep this in mind when getting ready to document a candid moment and you've gone a couple minutes without shooting a photo.
Switching autofocus points also requires a bit of work, so photographers that are used to focusing on a spot and then recomposing their images will perhaps be most comfortable with the camera's focusing methods.
Many photographers will appreciate that they can display the histogram in the viewfinder, because it can help them shoot images that are easier to edit.
Photographers that have used rangefinders like the legendary Leica Ms, Voightlander Bessas, Hexar AFs, etc. will find a sense of familiarity in the X100. In fact, this camera feels a little bit like the Leica CL I used to use.
Flowers, Macro Mode and the Neutral Density Filter
I'm not really one to photograph flowers, but when the Fuji X100 is switched to macro mode, it does a great job of capturing some stunning images. To achieve the sharpest possible photos, users will probably want to stop the lens down a bit, as results at F/2 can look soft.
The macro focusing mode is located on the back of the camera, although I wish it were on the side, with the other focusing modes. When you're shooting in macro mode, you'll have no choice but to use the electronic viewfinder. It's in this mode where you actually get a full depth of field preview of your images, and you can see the background fall wonderfully out of focus into smooth and creamy bokeh.
When shooting during the day, keep in mind that the camera also has a neutral density filter. That means you'll be able to get some more detail in the sky.
As an extra tip, users may also want to switch to the camera's Velvia film simulation, so it delivers the most vivid colors. Indeed, Velvia film is still used to photograph landscapes and the like because of the way it renders colors.
High Speed Sync and Portraits
Because of the camera's leaf shutter, the Fuji X100 can shoot photos at high-speed sync. Though it's not what many people may think of using this camera for, it's still quite a nice feature to have. When combined with an off-camera flash and the Impact PowerSync 16's, you can create some very cool photos. The photo above was done with a ring flash and the X100, using high-speed sync.
Is it For You?
Landscape photographers: The Velvia film simulation will appeal to you quite a bit.
Wedding photographers: Yes, this is the perfect compact and stealthy camera for the reception, preparation of the bride, or for capturing intimate candids.
Photojournalists: I can only imagine that the photographers I used to work with back at Magnum Photo are probably drooling over this camera.
Concert photographers: The focusing in low light is very slow. I'm going to have say no on this one, despite the great high ISO output.
Portrait photographers: Use the Astia film mode, and take advantage of the high-speed flash sync mode with off-camera lighting and radio triggers.
Animal photographers: Unless you're photographing close-up portraits of pets, you'll probably want to leave this one in the camera bag.
Party/Event photographers: You'll enjoy this camera.