The Elegance of X by Dave Cleland
In the spring of 2011 I found myself frustrated with photography, frustrated, as I wanted to integrate the photographic process into my everyday life, not just the specific projects where the objective was to head out and capture particular images for someone else.
If I wasn’t engaged in a specific photography project I found I was asking the question “Should I bring the camera?” but in reality the real question was ‘could I be bothered with the weight, bulk and responsibility of carrying a camera around all day.?’ The answer was inevitably, “no”.
The frustration was in fact twofold, on too many occasions (when I hadn’t bothered to pack the camera) I found something I wish I could have documented through photography; I longed for a camera that was portable enough to take everywhere but still be capable of delivering the image quality akin to my DSLR.
By chance I spotted a YouTube video from the now historic ‘Focus on Imaging’ of the Fujifilm stand. The video featured a hands-on of the FinePix X100 camera by a Fujifilm employee. Within the hour I placed an order together with the little leather case and a few weeks later I was the proud owner of my first Fujifilm camera since my film photography days.
It would be wrong not to mention the learning curve, there was a transitioning period moving from the digital SLR to the little X100 style camera. There were moments of frustration as my previous ‘aim and hope’ approach of firing off 10 shots in the hope that one would be good wasn’t going to cut it on the X100. To be honest I think the X100 revealed how lazy I had become as a photographer since shooting film, the learning curve (albeit brief) taught me to slow down and consider every aspect of the shot. I ended up taking less photographs but interestingly I was also rejecting far less at the Lightroom editing stage. The X100 offered photography at its purest, a much more creative and enjoyable process akin to my previous approach with film cameras. I loved it.
From 2011 I have genuinely carried an X100 Series camera with me everywhere, (always the silver model in its brown leather case). With each refinement from S, through to T and to F, the X100 has seen additional processing power and features hidden under the retro elegance of vintage styling. Rarely does the X100 escape positive comment or queries when it’s out in public, people are drawn to the vintage look which in itself creates a relaxed atmosphere especially for portrait photography.
The retro styling may suggest retro features to some and as we all know; looks aren’t everything and it’s the sheer versatility of the X100 Series that makes it my everyday camera.
Although I pack my X-Pro2 for landscape photography work the X100 Series will always be in my rucksack as a second body (or sole camera if it’s a quick trip into the hills). Some may consider the 23mm (35mm equivalent) to be a limit but I personally feel 35mm is the ideal general purpose focal length especially if you have something in the frame to offer a sense of scale.
If you need much wider coverage of a scene you will be pleased to know all of the X100 Series cameras to date offer a built-in sweep panorama mode. Simply, slowly sweep in an arc and the camera will capture and stitch a series of images into a final jpg panorama. I love these images and I actually have one of Hare’s Gap in the Mourne mountains printed and mounted on the wall at home.
Long Exposure Photography
Don’t let the compact simplicity of the X100 deceive you, this is a powerful, fully featured little camera. As well as a built-in ND filter the lens ring unscrews to allow additional featured to be used. This next image was captured at the edge of Derwentwater in the Lake District on a later summer evening. The X100 Series shutter button is threaded to take the traditional cable release making long exposure photography that bit easier.
Long Exposure photography can be useful on bright and windy days to smooth out the surface of water.
Documentary & Music
I love using the X100 series for documenting behind the scenes work whether at music events or on film sets. The X100 is a natural performer that doesn’t intimidate a subject in the same way a large DSLR might.
As an additional challenge I now only allow myself a single frame to capture a subject, the portrait below of actor Jim Broadbent (who is as much of a gentleman as one can imagine) was a single capture with the X100S.
I also invested in the TCL-X100 lens adaptor to create a 50mm focal length (as used below). This image was captured with the “CLASSIC CHROME” film simulation, the X range cameras come with a host of film stock stimulations built in that are well worth exploring.
I really enjoy this little TCL adaptor and the good news is that Fujifilm have included a digital tele converter feature into the X100F (35mm/50mm/70mm) when shooting JPG. That said if you own the X100 camera the converters are a great addition, in addition version two of the lenses are automatically picked up by the X100F which removes the need to tell the camera they are attached via the menu system.
The X100 is also great in low light. The dynamic range and clarity offered by the X100 meant it was the perfect companion to capture gritty black and white images on a film set, you can see the artificial rain falling on the right hand side of the image below.
I captured the next image on a video shoot in the Mourne mountains. You can see the crew setting up the next scene on the backdrop of the fog filled tree line.
For me it’s documenting everyday life where the X100 camera has its most important role. All of those photos I missed in the past are ably captured with the little silver camera I am able to take everywhere.
This next image was capture on Tyrella beach on a late winter’s afternoon’s walk and subsequent game of football. This cold October would have been a lost memory if it wasn’t for the fact I had the camera with me. At this point you may be thinking “but sure I will have my phone with me” it’s not a debate I want to get into but I know for a fact there is no way I will have captured this image on a phone nor would probably still have it now.
This next image is one of the first I took with the X100 Series. It’s not even that great a photograph but it captured a Saturday out in Belfast that I able to revisit through the image, as you can see no one bats an eyelid when you are sitting with a little retro looking camera.
The next few images were captured on family walks around Northern Ireland. It’s liberating to have the power of the X100 with such refreshing portability.
From macro style images through to cityscapes the X100 is an all-round performer that makes it, for me, the ultimate travel and documentary camera.
This next image was captured in a summer’s day in the Mournes. We saw every type of weather possible from agonisingly painful hale storms through to burning sun in a single August afternoon. There wasn’t much to capture but the treat came on our way back down from the mountains with a single shot over the wall. I love how the horses almost mimic the contours of the mountain backdrop.
If you are concerned about the image quality for professional work, fear not. Employing the same sensor as the flagship Fujifilm range the X100 series delivers stunning image quality with impeccable colour rendering.
Some of the first images I captured with the X100 in 2011 are in my Getty Image catalogue and this image for the Malojian ‘Southlands’ album cover was captured on the X100T and looks absolutely stunning on the gatefold vinyl LP and tour posters.
For me the X100 Series is special, it’s portable, ideal for traveling light and both the X100T and X100F offer charging over USB so you don’t even need to pack a charger. It’s powerful, the X100F hosts the same sensor as the flagship X-Pro2 and X-T2 cameras and like is larger relations it’s versatile enough to capture stunning images in almost every situation. If was only allowed to own a single camera, without hesitation it would be my X100 Series camera, it’s special and for me it’s the very essence of the FUJIFILM X experience.