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X100s One Small Camera, One Big Heart

X100s in action!

X100s in action!

It's been an awesome past two weeks with the Fuji x100s - wow is all I can say! A huge shout out to the kind folks at Fujifilm South Africa for letting me test this specimen out. I want to stress that this is by no means a technical review; there are plenty of resources out there that cover those aspects in-depth. I will however, highlight a few things I found interesting and thoroughly enjoyed about this camera.

After looking forward to shooting with the Fuji x100s for so long, I'll admit that I was slightly bummed -within the first five minutes of switching the device on I wanted to toss it against the wall... There - I said it… One can forget just how accustomed you become to using a DSLR, which I can pretty much operate with my eyes closed. After fumbling around with the controls and dials for a little while it all clicked (ha - pardon the pun). I was particularly impressed with the menu layout and the Q button (a real life saver); which allows you to access some of the most used controls. 

Anyway, rocky start aside, the x100s has a quick learning curve and is ergonomically very logically laid out. The amount of customization is astounding; in a couple of minutes everything was set up to my specifications. It was at that very moment that a gold ray of light shone upon me and the x100s (A-Ha moment possibly). This suddenly felt like a photographer’s camera. I managed to set up three different custom profiles that I could access on the fly. I got pretty close to my usual Photoshop look just by tweaking white balance and curves clippings. If you prefer the old-school vibe there are three focusing modes to choose from; standard, split screen and the Jedi-like focus peaking mode - which is the best thing ever. Accessing the menu without removing your eye from the viewfinder is genius thanks to the optical viewfinder (OVF), which is good news for all you chimpers out there - no one will ever know your secret antics.

Once I set up my profiles, I roped in a stylist- Leila Saffarian for a quick collaboration to put the x100s to the test. I popped the camera into macro mode to get a tight, square crop and a quick focus check using the focus peaking mode (just because I can) - it worked flawlessly. I also had no problem triggering studio strobes with the little camera.

RAW Series - X100s with studio strobes. Styling:  Leila Saffarian

RAW Series - X100s with studio strobes. Styling: Leila Saffarian

The x100s is small…stealthily small, silent and oozes retro sexiness! Funny how so many people mistook the x100s for a film camera - dismissing it as a serious camera is a big plus for any photographer. It’s nice to work on a scene without getting noticed. I'm sure this will quickly change as people become more aware of these retro styled cameras. I spent a very short amount of time with the XPro1, another fantastic camera. It would be ideal for more serious jobs; I would definitely reach for it with its interchangeable lenses.

X100s with a 3 light studio setup.

X100s with a 3 light studio setup.

I thought I would prefer the XPro1 to the x100s for everyday use but I'm a sucker for the latter. Apart from the x100s being a very capable camera, the x100s can fit perfectly into my personal workflow. Imagine this; behind the scenes with the x100s partnered with an Eye-fi card shooting directly to your phone/tablet where you are able to 'spam' all relevant social media channels with epic images - keeping your audience in the loop of your current projects. You can even set up a square mode to upload directly to Instagram.

I've created more personal shots with this camera than I have in a very long time, as it travelled with me daily. Not having to ponder what lens to pack is a big plus in my books, a fixed lens frees you up when shooting, so that you can actually focus on what matters... your subject. And boy is the 23mm F2 Single Focal Length Lens a crisp little gem! The images look great out of camera and on screen. I was constantly reaching for the Fuji when I was out and about; it truly is an everyday companion.

In closing; the x100s is fun and easy to shoot with, stick with it and embrace its limitation and you will be rewarded for your efforts and time spent with it.

Old School x100s

My Old School x100s - Yashica Electro 35 GSN

I rarely develop gear lust, but I have been obsessing about the superb Fuji x100s for some time now. I mean what is not to love; retro design, fixed lens, stealthy rangefinder like operation. Although it is no rangefinder, I am sure Henri Cartier-Bresson would have loved shooting a bit of street with the x100s.

I have made peace with the fact that the x100s retails for an arm and a leg, a bit ridiculous for a ‘backup’ camera. I have decided to go all old school again. My last Yashica Rangefinder, the Minister D died on me a couple of months ago, but I have had my eye on the Yashica Electro 35 GSN; a cult classic among some die-hard film shooters. It has the looks, great light meter and a decent piece of glass. After finding a replacement for the now discontinued mercury battery, the electronics and camera mechanisms are all in working order. Another gem added to my vast growing analogue camera collection. I will post some images once I develop and scan a few rolls. I can already smell the fixer…

The Black Box

Holga 120 CFN shot on Ilford FP4 Plus film. Processed with Ilford Ilfotec HC.

Considering this being my very first blog post, I feel it would be somewhat fitting to talk about what rekindled my passion for photography. Now I know what you are thinking and no, it is not a new piece of glass or some über retouching technique. It was much more simplistic than that. It involved a black box and some light sensitive emulsion…

Late 2009 I found myself in a creative rut. Fortunately, part of my studies involved quite a lot of large format film photography. Oh, how I relished the opportunity to pop inside that small, crammed cubical to process a few rolls. A typical visit to the dark room is usually accompanied by a fair amount of foul language and mostly ended with me on all fours; fumbling around in complete darkness trying to locate my dropped- and now scratched film. I can still remember my first print appearing from the developing tank, and the nervous excitement of processing a fresh roll of Ilford FP4 Plus 120 Black & White film, not knowing if anything will come out or if I mixed the chemicals correctly.

That was it. Somehow, the limitation of the equipment and simplicity of the black box made it all clear.  I started collecting medium format cameras, all in working order of course. There is nothing more satisfying than cranking the film advance and firing the obnoxiously loud shutter, “clunk”, ahhhh yes bliss. Film has taught me that creativity comes when you distance yourself form the clutter of the latest equipment, focal length choices, lighting setups and post processing. The slow contemplated process allowed me to focus on what mattered, the craft. What are you waiting for, load up a roll and get inspired.