It’s been a while but the X100t and I took to the streets over the past couple of days after quite a long gap. With an open mind and a fully charged battery we pottered from Liverpool Lime Street down to the Albert Docks with many a detour along the way.
I’m back home now and have just had a little chimp at the back of the Fuji. I’d posted a handful of images Thursday evening to Flickr so knew I had some “keepers” but the acid test will come when I download the files to the computer and have a proper look.
Some of my iPad edits look promising and there are a couple which will warrant a blog post of their own. It wasn’t just the Fuji that I used however so expect a “Street – shot on iPhone” post too. I also explored the RC Cathedral and it’s crypt with a 360 camera before I left so that is to follow in due course I hope.
Most mornings I wander down to the local newsagent for the wife’s paper and sometimes venture as far as the local supermarket. Reading my recent posts it would be easy to think that I only go out with a film camera these days but that wouldn’t be accurate. My Fuji X100t still accompanies me everywhere.
This morning I took the Diana F+ in order to shoot the last six frames of Lomography 400 colour negative film that had been in the camera for months. It’s a camera I will be selling as soon as I’ve confirmed it’s working properly by developing the roll of film. With those six frames completed I pulled the Fuji out of my pocket and shot the equivalent of a roll of 35mm film with that.
The X100t is an old friend and a camera I’m completely at home with. When the X100f came out I didn’t even look at the specifications of this successor such was my total faith with the “t”. The X100v was released recently, with tilting screen and a new processor, but other than briefly looking at the press release I’ve not even considered it – within the X100 series I’ve found the iteration of this camera that suits me nicely. I did buy the original X100 but it’s idiosyncrasies were too much for me and I sold that camera before returning with the third iteration in the guise of the X100t.
So, three images here all captured whilst I walked to the supermarket this morning using the Fuji X100t digital camera that I carry with me everywhere even when primarily shooting one of my film cameras.
This was originally posted in June 2016. It’s taken around three years to move to a full Fuji system so to celebrate I’m republishing a couple of original articles. I am in the process of writing both an updated review of the Fuji X-T3 and also revisiting this post that firs appeared on davewhenhaphotography.com.
It may just be because of my recent researches but I’ve seen a lot of blog posts along the lines of “My journey with Fuji”, “My switch from [insert brand here] to Fuji” or “Moving to Fuji – my story”. So the virtual world probably doesn’t need another such post. But then again I figured that as my posts are read by approximately one and a half people each time perhaps it would be OK to slip this one in under the radar.
I was as it happens a very early “adopter” buying the Fuji X100 when it first came out and I instantly became enamoured by its retro styling and the way it forced me back into a way of shooting I’d last enjoyed thirty years previously.
That however was the honeymoon and whilst I continued to use the X100 regularly as shown by the images above it’s shortcomings and quirks finally led to it being left at home more and more until 2015 when, whilst switching my DSLR kit from Canon to Nikon, I finally decided to part company with the Fuji.
It was a difficult decision, in so many ways it was a joy to handle but it could be a frustration to actually use and despite its image quality (I won a club competition with an X100 image) the fact that it was spending so much time in the drawer meant I wasn’t getting any meaningful benefit from ownership. The major firmware update in late 2013 came too late for me, by that time the X100 and indeed Fuji were rarely in my thoughts and I completely missed the announcements. I did update the firmware before selling the camera but by then the die was cast. I cried quietly inside at how little I got for it but that’s another story.
Looking back this morning I am well pleased with some of the images I made with the X100. On those occasions when I could be bothered to wrestle with it’s idiosyncrasies I was usually happy with the results even if getting there was sometimes somewhat painful. I never used the Fuji JPEGS from the X100 but was always more than happy with the quality of the RAW (RAF) files it produced. From time to time though after selling the X100 I did regret the decision.
Recently however I’ve been looking again at the Fuji X100, now in its third iteration as the Fuji X100T. I initially started looking at classic film rangefinders with no intention of reentering the premium large sensor, fixed prime lens digital market. However, wherever I looked the Fuji X100T kept cropping up in articles, blog posts and discussion groups. Which naturally meant I followed the threads and dug deeper. And deeper. And yet deeper still.
So deep in fact that the X100T entered the house and I have very quickly embraced this newest iteration of the X100. The handling is the same but the user experience vastly improved. Using this style of camera needs a different approach compared to a (D)SLR, more akin to a traditional rangefinder, but as with everything the secret is in getting to know your kit and actually using it regularly. I’ve used the X100T daily since I got it and the mechanical side of things is starting to become intuitive; muscle memory is being formed and changing settings is becoming easier through repetition. I think that is the secret with any camera, practice, practice and yet more practice. Several of the buttons on the camera can be customised and I’ve been through three separate formations so far, each slightly more helpful to my way of working than before.
Getting to know the camera hasn’t been without its frustrations of course but I’m already feeling at home with the X100T and the quality of the images who I get it right make the effort very worthwhile. Two main things stand out art present. Firstly, the camera tends to under-expose to my taste in most situations, not a major problem as I now keep the EV dial on +1 most of the time but I do need to keep an eye on exposure. I will experiment further with exposure modes and see if that helps in this regard.
The X100T is great for candid photography and the image quality at ISO 6400, when exposed correctly, is superb. No complaints from me. The image above was shot at 1/60th second at f4 and ISO 6400 from a distance of five feet or so with the camera sat on my leg.
Which leads me to my other frustration, which I would stress is down to my handling and NOT the camera, and that is the number of blurred shots I acquired when street shooting due to the shutter speed being too slow. My bad as they say but I have been setting far too small an aperture for street candids I think. As a landscape photographer I am used to defaulting to f11 as my go-to aperture. When shooting portraits I often use f2.8 or even wider on occasions. Out on the streets of London last week I set the X100T to f8 or f11, auto ISO (with a maximum of 6400) in aperture priority and manual focusing. Looking at the images this morning far too many are blurry and when I dig deeper I’m seeing shutter speeds of 1/15th second or less. When moving on the street I suspect that even 1/30th or 1/60th of a second might be too slow. This is NOT a fault of the camera but it is something to be aware of and for me it is a case of getting used to a smaller, busier viewfinder and keeping my eye on the shutter speed.
Looking back through the images, an aperture of f4 would be ideal with the 23mm lens of the X100T when shooting candids or street photography. This was indoors and 1/100th sec at f4 ISO 1600 with camera to my eye.
Last weeks experiences on the streets of London have taught me a lot about this style of shooting and also given me the confidence that insofar as I am concerned the X100T is going to be the perfect tool for the job.
But of course, I didn’t stop at the X100T as you will know if you’ve read any of my recent posts. A flurry of activity online, selling my Nikon 16-35 lens and the entire EOS M3 kit amongst other items, has provided the budget for a new Fuji X-T10 and four lenses (8mm fisheye, 12mm, 18-55mm and 55-200mm).
One thing I have been very conscious of more recently is the weight of my Nikon kit. It is less of an issue when out in the fells for the day with one of my photographic partners but for a day out with the family it is frankly a liability. However, spending five days away, as we did last week, I prefer to have some options other than just a DSLR and 24-70 zoom. But it is not practical, my full Nikon kit is bigger than the suitcase we use for a start! So, whilst researching the Fuji X-series I realised I could put together an excellent system which would mean I could cut down on bulk and weight without compromising on versatility.
Spoiler alert: I bought the X-T10 as my lightweight alternative to the Nikons and at this stage it is not my intention to ditch the DSLRs so don’t expect a “Road to Damascus” moment later in this post because there hasn’t been one … yet.
The images above were all taken with the Fuji X-T10 on a day spent in Kew Gardens, London. I used three lenses during the day, the Samyang 8mm fisheye, the Fujinon 18-55 “kit lens” and the Fujinon 55-200mm. As you will have worked out I had a full-frame equivalent of 27mm through to 300mm at my disposal (if you exclude the slightly more esoteric fisheye) which compares more than favourably to the 24-70 I would have restricted myself to if I’d brought the Nikon DSLR on this trip. Weight-wise I didn’t get the scales out but my shoulders reported no more strain from the Fuji and three lenses than it would have from one lens plus DSLR Nikon set-up.
It is too early to make any detailed conclusions about the X-T10 although I have already fallen for the quality of JPEGs from both Fujis. I used the X-T10 mainly on a walk along the South Bank one afternoon and for a full day in Kew Gardens. It was in my bag at all times though and so did get a brief outing in the West End as the image above shows.
First impressions are very positive though both in terms of handling and in terms of image quality. I was very happy with the Canon EOS M3 I was using recently but have to say that the Fuji experience has been far superior so far. That is not to say the M3 is poor, far from it I still rate it highly, but the Fuji’s have so far provided an even better user experience so I am more than happy with my recent purchases.
Whether or not it becomes a DSLR-killer remains to be seen. I am not even going to entertain the idea of ditching my Nikons until I have used the Fujis for a good six months, which takes us into 2017. I feel confident enough with the X-T10 though to have invested in a Lee Seven5 starter kit and will be testing the system out on my next couple of landscape shoots. If all goes well I will take both systems to Skye in November and use the Fuji for those days when the walking is mostly steeply upwards. But that is jumping head.
At present my introduction to the Fuji X-series has been a very positive one. From having mixed feelings about the X100 in 2011 I find myself in 2016 with an X-T10 and X100T feeling very positive about the system and looking forward to exploring the Fuji X-world further over the coming months.
… when we work out was normal is. Well who can resist adapting a Douglas Adams one-liner in the morning?
Blogging has been a bit erratic recently due to an unusually heavy load of domestic commitments followed by a two week holiday but normality, whatever that is, is slowly returning. I’m sat in a backstreet cafe in Halifax with a small black coffee awaiting my scrambled eggs and pondering on matters photographic. This should be the “blue hour” but is rather a dismal “grey-several-hours” so a spot of breakfast is called for.
The main thought occupying my mind is Fuji vs Nikon. And not the brand wars crap indulged in by so-called enthusiasts that I hate with a passion; both systems are brilliant and to my mind each has a separate place in my kit bag. Or at least that’s what I’m starting to think. I used Canon for over thirty years before deciding to have a change and switched to Nikon for no other reason than I wanted to experience more than just one system in my lifetime. I think both systems are fabulous and for the large part equal to each other. I miss my Canon 24mm tilt and shift lens and the 5x macro lens but am having great fun getting acquainted with a new system and the 14-24 f2.8 lens is a photographer’s delight. The [insertbrandhere]-haters should try using a different system for a year or more, it should make them ashamed of such pettiness.
But, not for the first time, I digress.
When we packed for this two week holiday, visiting friends and family in Wales, England and Scotland, I decided to pack light photographically. The Fujis were the logical choice and I managed to pack all three bodies, all five lenses and my filters in a small photographic backpack that long ago got banished to the cupboard for being too small for my DSLR kit. Most days I just took a small shoulder bag out with me containing two bodies, two lenses and my filters and on several occasions just the X100T in my coat pocket. For those days when a tripod was called for I either took a small table-top Manfrotto tripod or a travel tripod made by MeFoto.
The bottom line I think from two weeks travelling is that at no point did I feel I’d compromised on kit or that I had missed a shot. Arguably in fact there were shots I did get that I would never have attempted with a big DSLR, such as the portrait of the young couple taking a selfie in Bourton-on the-Water. I challenged myself over the two weeks to work differently, to use less kit and to think differently. That day in Bourton-on the-Water was one such example. I took the X100T and a spare battery. Nothing else. Just me, the camera and a location. It’s a tourist hotspot even in October and I practised my street skills. The X100T is superb for this, something I had already found out in London but reaffirmed last week in a different location. I still shoot RAW+JPEG but the RAWs are just for insurance really as the out of camera JPEGs continue to astound me. The fact that the RAW file can also be processed in-camera using the same JPEG presets is a fabulous bonus and I was able to shoot in B&W[R] knowing that I could produce a colour JPEG to post to Facebook if the mood took.
The bulk of the landscape work was done with the X-T10, the 18-55 “kit” lens and the aforementioned MeFoto tripod. In keeping with the travelling light ethos I took a Lee Seven filter holder with a two-stop hard graduated filter and a Little Stopper with me most days although on the days when I packed the Samyang 12mm lens I also took a full-sized Lee filter holder and three 100mm filters as I’ve found that the smaller filter kit vignettes even given the 67mm filter thread of that lens. I initially thought that restricting myself to just one body and at most two lenses would inhibit my shooting but in actual fact it made me work harder and I’ve come away with some images I might otherwise have missed.
One function on both the X100T and X-T10 that I’d overlooked was the sweep panorama. I found it unexpectedly useful and with a little practice could even anticipate the composition and predict the final image. It only produces JPEGs and I’ve not yet looked at them on the computer but those on my iPad look just fine. My guess is that they will be good for blogging or posting to Facebook but may not stand up to scrutiny when printing or displaying at larger sizes but I’ve not tested that theory as yet.
The third camera I took was an X-Pro1 that I picked up shortly before leaving for the princely sum of £150. It has been a revelation, images shot with the 35mm f1.4 were so sharp I almost cut myself on them [OTT Alert!].
Prior to using the X-Pro1 I was lusting after the newly released, SLR-styled X-T2, but no more. The X-Pro1 feels so much more natural in my hand than any other camera I’ve ever used (I know, that’s a very bold statement). During our holiday I met up with a friend who had the X-T2 with him. With the battery grip attached and the 10-24 lens it is an impressive piece of kit with the dials laid out perfectly at first glance. But in terms of size and weight the body plus grip is not materially different to my Nikon D750 and certainly compared to the X-Pro1 it’s a relative brick. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great camera and at first look it seems to me that it would be a great DSLR replacement for someone wanting to downsize slightly and there’s no doubting the image quality from the images that I was shown that day. I just felt with the two cameras in my hands that for me the form factor of the X-Pro1 suited my style of shooting better. I now need to get my hands on an X-Pro2 although I suspect that when I do my X-T2 lust will be replaced by X-Pro2 lust!
I might write about Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) another day!
So, a very enjoyable two weeks despite all the driving. I managed to spend some quality time with my Fuji kit and am pleased to say that it never once disappointed and often surpassed my expectations. Using the X-T10 handheld in a storm photographing waves crashing over the sea wall was exhilarating and whilst I was careful to keep it as sheltered as possible it handled the conditions well. In fact it’s diminutive size meant that I was able to cover most of the camera and lens with my two hands whilst shooting, a benefit I’d not anticipated. I always carry a tea towel in my shoulder bag and dried the camera and lens immediately after I’d finished shooting.
I’m away to Skye in a few weeks and will be taking the full framed Nikons along with the stunningly sharp trio of f2.8 lenses I saved so hard for (the so-called Holy Trinity of 14-24, 24-70 and 70-200). My fellow traveller that week is also a Nikon shooter and we often share gear plus I enjoy using them and whilst I still have the strength to carry a larger load I will do so. I sense that the weather will call for heavier tripods too so we definitely won’t be travelling light! Following the success of this trip though I shall find a place for at least one of the Fuji cameras and may even take a small kit with me to see how it feels working alongside the bigger cameras.
During a short trip to London recently I used the Fuji X100T for some “street” photography. The camera handled brilliantly but some of the resultant images were a little hit and miss. With the benefit of looking through the files in Lightroom I realise that I could and should have used a far wider aperture. Probably as a result of using full frame cameras for so long I instinctively went for f8 or f11 and occasionally wandered to f5.6. But as the shot above shows even f5.6 on a 23mm lens with a cropped-sensor camera gives far more depth of field than is needed especially when you consider I was not zone focusing but focusing each image separately.
More importantly it meant that the camera was regularly selecting ISO 6400 which is the maximum I have set in Auto-ISO mode. Now that isn’t necessarily a problem as this camera handles ISO 6400 respectably well but I have found that it is vital to nail the exposure on your subject. The image above was underexposed by almost two stops, probably as a result of light bouncing back off the floor fooling the camera’s meter. I had turned the LCD screen off to avoid chimping and also to be more discrete on the streets. The JPEG was unusable to my taste but fortunately I was able to rescue the shot by careful processing of the RAW file. A tick for my RAW+JPEG strategy.
The second image however, below, also shot at 6400 ISO, was properly exposed and as a result apart from a crop this is the JPEG as-shot. No noise issues and almost no post-processing time required.
The third image here is not my finest hour by a long chalk but it illustrates the major knock-on problem of setting too small an aperture. I was stood by the top of the escalator in St Pancras and looking to capture an image which showed the hustle and bustle of such a busy location. This composition pulled together everything in one frame I thought; the traveller with his luggage, businessmen talking but clearly in a hurry to move along and the ubiquitous traveller on the phone as he rushes to his destination. It looked great on the back of the camera. If only I’d been watching all of the information in the the Fuji’s viewfinder though.
The EXIF data for the image above tells everything that is needed. It was a stop underexposed so needed brightening (which at ISO 6400 increased noise). It was also shot at f11 which necessitated a shutter speed of 1/17th second!! Hand held!!! So we have camera shake and a degraded image through under-exposing at such a high ISO. As I say, not my finest hour but some good learning points.
And wider apertures are perfectly adequate for this type of candid imagery. Take the image below, ISO 6400 again but with an almost perfect histogram, 1/45th second which is on the border of what I would typically opt for in terms of shutter speed when handholding and an aperture of f4. The image is sharp front to back, from the edge of the table to the wall socket (which I will probably clone out for the finished image).
So, all in all some useful learning points here and I have added to my personal experience of using the camera. My choice of setting a maximum ISO of 6400 is vindicated but with the important caveat that I need to ensure the shot is correctly exposed as pushing exposure in post production exacerbates the noise present in the file.
The next time I get the opportunity for street photography with the Fuji X100T I am going to try using f2.8 as my go-to aperture, leaving the Auto ISO at a maximum of 6400 and keeping an eye on both shutter speed and histogram.
Someone commented on the OCA student group on Flickr some time ago that they often get side-tracked when researching and sometimes it’s a day later that they realise how much of a tangent they took. The same happens to me regularly – but the outcomes are often very welcome!
One such tangent a year or so back ended with me seriously researching the work of Bill Brandt for the first time. I had purchased a copy of “Bill Brandt Photographs: 1928-1983” sometime earlier and for the first time sat down and read that in full. Before I knew it I’d ordered two more books (must cancel my amazon account – too easy to buy books) and spent several hours reading articles from the internet and watching videos on You Tube including the BBC’s Master Photographers programme broadcast in 1983, the year that he died.
I then became interested in the way his work was actually presented particularly in Lilliput magazine and as well as looking at examples on the internet I found myself on eBay where I purchased a few Lilliput collections in book format so I could see them for myself in-situ and in context. Looking at one of these again this morning I was taken by how often images were presented as contrasting or complementary pairs which is something that Brandt himself also did at times.
Many interesting facts were elicited and bit my bit I was able to build up a picture of the man to complement the photographs I was looking at. A small item on the BBC news website for example included a quote from David Hockney: “Brandt’s pictures survive and enter the memory because they were constructed by an artist.” Brandt was not averse to creating the right scene, often getting friends to pose for him and for him the initial exposure was only part of the story. The print itself was extremely important in realising Brandt’s artistic vision and he routinely made physical alterations to prints to achieve the desired effect.
I came away from all this extra-curricular research with a real appreciation for Brandt’s work and also the distinct impression that as Hockney says he was more than a photographer, he was an artist. His photographs seem to me to sit between social documentary and pictorial representations. Images such as The Snicket (yes, I’m back to that photograph) can be read as a comment on the social conditions of 1937 Halifax, an allegory for the uphill struggle of the poor or as a pictorial representation of an otherwise mundane scene.
Why am I posting this so long after the first tangental diversion into Brandt’s world? Well, I’ve gone off-tangent again this morning revisiting Brandt’s work after spotting a chance reference to him on YouTube whilst looking for GoPro reviews!
To be honest I’m quite happy with that. He is a photographer whose work I really enjoy and I never tire of revisiting his work. It doesn’t help with the backlog of images to process on my computer though, which is worse than usual because of my new-found interest in the Fuji-X series! At this rate my backlog of images will still be unprocessed in the year 2525 (to reference Zager and Evans … oh dear! I sense another Google-tangent into 1970’s music coming up!).
A whole eight days without a blog post, no wonder people are singing “it’s all gone quiet over there …”. Or perhaps not, my reader probably assumed, rightly, that I was busy either with a camera or with looking after grandsons.
The Fuji X100T was the perfect choice for a walk along the local canal with twenty month old Ted in his pushchair (see above, all Fuji JPEGs). I remember when Zac was this age trying to push him along the canal with a Canon 5DII and 24-70 f2.8 lens attached in my hand trying to capture images for a college assignment. How I didn’t lose him into the canal is a minor miracle. This time around, with the X100T in hand, I found the whole experience far more manageable and enjoyable. I cannot check to be certain but I’d be pretty confident I took more images this time around and also have far more “keepers”.
I’m using every trip as a learning opportunity and what I learned on Saturday was that I find the Fuji Velvia preset too saturated for people-photography, it certainly did no favours to images of Ted and even seemed to block up the shadows somewhat, something the monochrome preset does not do. Changing presets on-the-fly is a doddle though and I shall remember to do so when out doing a mixture of subjects as I was at the weekend.
It was the X100T that I dropped in my pocket a few days earlier on a shopping trip with my long-suffering wife. I’d parked close to a favourite haunt in Halifax and on getting back to the car noticed that a barrier that usually prevented access to what remains of the Dean Clough railway line had been removed. Not wanting to miss the opportunity but conscious that my time was not totally my own I made a few compositions with the X100T (see above) this time using the monochrome preset. In such situations this camera is really proving its worth and whilst I also have the RAW files for later processing the out-of-camera JPEGs are once again very pleasing to my eye.
Whilst I am unlikely to abandon RAW shooting any time soon I have to say that I am really enjoying the convenience of having good quality JPEGs available for posting to social media or blogging. I would estimate that around 80% of my recent Facebook posts have been processed in-camera using one of the Fuji presets. A further 10-15% have had some minor tweaks via Snapseed either on my phone or if at home my iPad. I had initially considered the onboard wi-fi a bit of a gimmick but have to say that I’ve used it a lot, even uploading to Facebook sat on a hillside with my phone. The Fuji App for iPad/iPhone is very simplistic and a little clumsy to connect but it gets the job done and one virtue of its simplicity is that it is also simple to use.
When I do use the RAW files though I’m finding them full of detail even in high contrasts scenes such as the one above which was taken without the help of a graduated ND filter to retain detail in the sky. I basically “shot-to-the-right” to brighten the shadows as much as possible in the circumstances but without burning out the highlights. Large on my screen the result is very pleasing.
So, the ongoing review of the X100T shows that it continues to grow on me. Annoyances such as the cameras tendency to turn itself on when putting it into my pocket are becoming slightly less irritating as I adapt my behaviour to compensate for them. My liking for the JPEGs continues and I am becoming a fan of the simple yet effective wi-fi capability and the way the mobile App allows me to quickly upload images to my Facebook account.