Saturday, March 8, 2014

My two weeks with the X100

I'm pretty late to Fuji party, but like most parties, it's cool to be fashionably late, right? The X100 has been out for a few years now and to be honest, when it first came out, I never payed too much attention to it. A fixed lens, crop sensor, retro design - mreh is what I thought. I'm not going to write a review because honestly, i'm pretty bad at writing and there are other notable photographers who can explain everything there is to know about the X100, call this my, first impression.

A colleague of mine was thinking of selling his X100, so I decided to borrow the camera off him for a few days just to see how it was and what the big deal was.

The first thing I noticed is how small the camera actually is. I always thought it was bigger, obviously it's not, perfect for travelling.

Personally, i'm a 50mm kinda guy and 9 times out of 10 it's my go to lens, you could call it my desert island lens - if there was such a thing.. I've never shot exclusively at 35mm, the first thing I noticed was the lack of isolation you can achieve with a 35mm. Yes, you can isolate the subject, but you need to be a LOT closer to your subject, you lose the almost short telephoto effect of a 50mm wide open. 

I'll be honest, I struggled to shoot the X100 for the first few days, i'd shoot and shoot with it but never get any shots I was completely happy with. A lot of the photos I was getting looked almost like snap shots, regular boring photos that anyone could get. It took me a while to get used to the 35mm field of view, it just required me to get a little closer than what i'm used to, not much, about a step closer. 

My first real outing with the X100 was at the Nan Tien temple, it was a chance for me to take just one camera, one lens and see what I could come up with, if anything at all. Naturally for a lot of people, the wide angle lens is the go to lens for landscape and architecture, you can fit everything in without having to move. The X100 does not let you do that - at all. If you want to fit more in, you move back, if you can't move back, you try and make it work.

The idea of a camera that makes things harder for a photographer is quite absurd, however it did force me to work a little harder for my shots. The results.. I was pleased with, but of the few hundred photos I took, there were only 10 or so I actually liked.

After my first outing with the X100, I hated it, absolutely hated it, the shutter speed goes in full stops and you need to turn the wheel to get 1/3rd stops, you can't shoot past 1/1000th at f2 in aperture priority mode, so you need to use the built in ND filter, the AF is slow, if you get too close to your subject you need to change to macro mode, the list goes on. 

After my first, not so pleasant experience with the camera, I put it away and didn't use it for a few days. For days it just sat there while I cursed at it for being such a crap and hard to use camera, however something about it made me want to take more photos with it. 

Wanting to give the camera another chance, I started taking it to work with me, I figured it would be the perfect camera to capture spontaneous, non work related photos when on the go without having to use my large and heavy work kit or my iPhone.

The more I used it, the more I liked it. It's hard to know exactly what it is, I mean, the camera is so quirky and flawed in so many ways, but it's so good and right in so many ways too. It took me about 5 days but I finally started to embrace the camera. I understood the limitations of this little silver box and as long as I stayed within those limitations the camera would perform fantastically. 

There's something truly liberating and enjoyable about not having to worry about gear. I am a Nex shooter and I do love the Nex - now alpha series of cameras, however the lack of firmware updates, horrible out of camera colours and lack of lenses had left me a little despondent with Sony and my future as a Nex shooter. 

I bought the Nex as my portable camera kit, a camera that gave me DSLR quality in a tiny camera. It was an almost perfect system, small and light, interchangeable lenses, what's not to like? The problem with the Nex system is that it made me want to always buy more things for it, more lenses, more add ons for it. One of my lenses wasn't wide enough, so I bought a wide, I wanted a 50mm equivalent so I bought another lens, I wanted a zoom lens, so I bought one of them too. I wanted a camera system that could do what my full frame camera system could do, I wanted lenses equivalent to my full frame kit because I was comfortable with it. 

But when using the X100, it all changed. Like someone had flicked on the lights for the first time, it finally made sense to me. Why do I want a camera system to replicate the camera system I already have? Sure it's smaller and more portable, but when you start buying more lenses, more add ons more accessories for your system, it's not very small anymore when you take it all with you travelling. The X100 is just a camera with a lens. That's all. I looked at the Fuji X series of cameras but honestly, if I bought one of the interchangeable lens systems i'd be spending more money buying more lenses and i'd be back to where I started, that is, spending more time worrying about gear rather than just shooting and making pictures.

By this stage, my mild fondness of the X100 became a a huge crush, it made beautiful images, it made me a better photographer - compositionally as it forced me to move and I stopped worrying about buying more gear because frankly, there's not too much you can add on to the X100, except for grips and buttons etc, but they don't count. 

My huge crush became love when I started using that beautiful leaf shutter for off camera flash. 

I love my flashes. That's all I have to say about that. Off camera flash is one thing that the NEX system could never give me, the X100 does it all - and then some. To be able to overpower the sun and shoot at 1/1000th + at f2, it was true love.

This little silver and black box, the same silver and black box that I cursed at the week before had slowly crawled its way into my heart and found a very special spot in there. This camera I despised, hated, LOATHED had somehow made me love it, despite it's highly irritable quirks and down falls, however, after my 2 weeks with it, I was sold. 

So much in fact I went and bought one. My X100s should be arriving sometime next week....