PARADIGM SHIFT: MY JOURNEY WITH THE X-SERIES

Photo by Rommel Bundalian

I love photography as much as I love the outdoors. I have been DSLR user ever since I started with photography until it became too burdensome to bring and use them during my climbs. The Philippines is a beautiful country blessed with the great outdoors - rolling hills, magnificent mountains, vast plains and of course, beautiful beaches. I wanted to capture all these beautiful sceneries my country has to offer but my DSLR proved to be more of a burden than a creative tool — simply because it was very heavy to carry around. 

In 2012, started looking around for a camera that was small enough to carry around during my climbs yet still produces very good image quality. Back then choices were very limited but I came across an online review of the X-Pro1. The review compared it to a full frame DSLR - the same camera I had - and was amazed that the X-Pro1 matched or even surpassed it in terms of image quality! I was instantly convinced. It was easy on the eyes too – a rangefinder style camera that reminded me of my days with film. 

The X-Pro1 however, was not available in the Philippines back then and so I decided to buy one online. It was a busy month for me when it arrived so I never got to open the box and play around with it until Christmas break. I had a scheduled climb in January and was deciding if I should bring only the X-Pro1. While I was convinced with the images that the camera can produce based on the reviews I saw online, my dilemma was that I only had one lens (XF35mmF1.4) and one battery. I contacted a FUJIFILM distributor hoping to get another lens and an extra battery but to no avail. I was only able to borrow an XF18mmF2 from the manager who at that time, also had the X-Pro1.

I finally decided to bring my X-Pro1 to the 3-day climb to Mount Pulag, the third highest peak in the Philippines, after I discovered that I can switch off the electronic viewfinder (EVF) and the LCD  and stick to the optical viewfinder (OVF) to preserve battery life. I thought it was genius. I felt instantly comfortable with the OVF-only use as it felt like shooting film! 

X-Pro1 AND MT. PULAG

I had about 700+ shoots (RAW+JPEG) from the climb. Technically, that’s just about 350+ shots — and they were all good ones! Had I taken my DSLR, I would have had thousands. It was then that I realised that photography is all about quality and not quantity, and that it was possible to take fewer but better images. The X-Pro1 brought about my photography paradigm shift: to go back to the roots of photography and actually enjoy it.

Mt. Pulag Summit | X-Pro1 and XF18mmF2 R, 1/50s, F2, ISO320
Mt. Pulag Summit | X-Pro1 and XF18mmF2 R, 1/50s, F2, ISO320
Mt. Pulag | X-pro1 and XF18mmF2 R 1/500s, F16, ISO 320
Mt. Pulag | X-pro1 and XF18mmF2 R 1/500s, F16, ISO 320

After that, I was hooked.

Immediately after the climb, I went to shoot the Feast of the Black Nazarene, one of the country’s biggest religious festivals that draw millions of devotees to participate in the procession of the Black Nazarene. Armed with a new philosophy towards my craft, I shot with one camera and one lens and loved all the photos I took with it.

Black Nazarene | X-Pro1 and XF18mmF2 R, 1/60, F3.6, ISO200
Black Nazarene | X-Pro1 and XF18mmF2 R, 1/60, F3.6, ISO200

PASSION AND PROFESSION

My bread and butter, however, was 360 VR Photography. Can my new favorite camera be my professional camera too? I began researching for other lenses FUJINON lenses that I can use for my 360 images. It was then that I was contacted by FUJIFILM Tokyo which introduced me to FUJIFILM Philippines. During Photoworld Asia, a yearly photography expo held in Manila, I was asked to talk about my experience with the X-Pro1. The audiences were all DSLR users except for one who also had the X-Pro1. 

Photo World Asia 2013. Photos by Oliver San Juan
Photo World Asia 2013. Photos by Oliver San Juan
Photo World Asia 2013. Photos by Oliver San Juan
Photo World Asia 2013. Photos by Oliver San Juan

After that I made my first ever 360 VR photo using the X-Series. I was then ready to fully make the switch as the X-Pro1 proved to be a camera that can sustain my passion and profession.

Kalye Crisologo, Vigan, Ilocos Sur. UNESCO World Heritage Site
Kalye Crisologo, Vigan, Ilocos Sur. UNESCO World Heritage Site

The camera and I have been inseparable since. I have shot one of my most memorable images with the X-Pro1 and the XF35mmF1.4.

Binondo | X-Pro1 and XF35mmF1.4 R, 1/500s, F1.4, ISO320
Binondo | X-Pro1 and XF35mmF1.4 R, 1/500s, F1.4, ISO320
Coastal Road | X-Pro1 and XF14mmF2.8 R, 1/15s, F22, ISO200
Coastal Road | X-Pro1 and XF14mmF2.8 R, 1/15s, F22, ISO200

X-PHOTOGRAPHER

From there I was offered the opportunity to become one of FUJIFILM’s ambassadors here in the Philippines. I chose to focus on Street and Travel Photography because of my love for the outdoors and how well the X-Series suits these genres. I knew that my newfound joy with photography that was brought about by the X-Pro1 must not be kept to myself. It must be shared. And so, along with other ambassadors, we started organizing photowalks and workshops.

FUJIFILM Nationwide Photowalk, June2015
FUJIFILM Nationwide Photowalk, June2015
Photography Workshop, October 2015
Photography Workshop, October 2015

We definitely have come a long way since that Photoworld Asia 2013 talk with only one X-User in the audience.

And then new models were introduced - X-E2, X100S, X-T1, X100T, X-T10 - which are great cameras. I had fun shooting with them, opening up new styles and methods in my photography while still delivering that same image quality that FUJIFILM is known for.

Jones Bridge | X-E2 and XF18mmF2 R, 1/350s, F11, ISO400
Jones Bridge | X-E2 and XF18mmF2 R, 1/350s, F11, ISO400
Quiapo | X-E2 and XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, 1/180s, F5.6, ISO3200
Quiapo | X-E2 and XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, 1/180s, F5.6, ISO3200
LRT Depot | X100S and WCL-X100, 1/60s, F2, ISO800
LRT Depot | X100S and WCL-X100, 1/60s, F2, ISO800
PNR Magallanes Station | X100S and WCL-X100, 1/125s, F11, ISO200
PNR Magallanes Station | X100S and WCL-X100, 1/125s, F11, ISO200
Roxas Blvd. | X-T1 and XF14mmF2.8 R, 1/180s, F13, ISO250
Roxas Blvd. | X-T1 and XF14mmF2.8 R, 1/180s, F13, ISO250
Downtown Cebu | X-T1 and XF14mmF2.8 R, 1/180s, F1, ISO250
Downtown Cebu | X-T1 and XF14mmF2.8 R, 1/180s, F1, ISO250

FULL CIRCLE: X-Pro2

However, I have never been as excited with the launch of the X-Pro2. It is like coming home to an old family house that has been newly renovated. It has that all too familiar feeling of old warmth infused with the energising feeling of the new. It is amazing how FUJIFILM can move forward technologically without forgetting its roots. The X-Pro2 is so advanced yet so tied with its heritage that I feel so much at home with it. Probably because, like film, X-Series cameras particularly the X-Pro series, have soul. 

X-Pro2 and XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | 1/1000s, F16, ISO200
X-Pro2 and XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | 1/1000s, F16, ISO200
X-Pro2 and XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | 1/2500s, F22, ISO200
X-Pro2 and XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | 1/2500s, F22, ISO200
X-Pro2 and XF10-24mmF4 R OIS | 1/200s, F20, ISO200
X-Pro2 and XF10-24mmF4 R OIS | 1/200s, F20, ISO200
X-Pro2 and XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR | 1/500s, F11, ISO200
X-Pro2 and XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR | 1/500s, F11, ISO200

I have come full circle with the new X-Pro2. The X-Pro1 brought about my paradigm shift and surely, the X-Pro2 challenges me to once again evolve and take my photography to the next level.

X-Pro2 Rommel Bundalian Video

About the author

Rommel Bundalian is a FUJIFILM X-Photographer, award-winning graphic designer and photographer that has been featured in local and international magazines. He specializes in 360 VR Photographer. He is also a faculty member of Philippine Center for Creative Imaging (PCCI). He has been DSLR free for four (4) years now.

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