Fuji X Falling In Love

I've done more than a bit of reflection on my on-again, off-again affair with the Fuji X cameras. Last time I blathered about the last time I used my Nikon system prior to going all-in and getting rid of everything except my film cameras I've had for 20 or 30 years. The reality is that similar things happened far before that day.

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I've had a few email discussions with various people that stumble across this set of random notes regarding a few things I dwell on and constantly remind myself…

  • When working with people everything counts
  • Various portraiture topics, effects, rapport, etc I've dropped here and there translated to lets say a more "mainstream set of circumstances"
  • Fuji vs. Nikon etc when applied to the above.
  • Fuji X ILC 23/1.4 or 23/2.0 vs X100 whatever.

I thought it may be illustrative or amusing to share a bit of those email discussions in the context of way way back when I was still seeing if I could possibly live with an X100 camera when I decided to skip town and make random pictures for just me. Of course being the paranoid type as well as not having really proved I could be happy with just the X100 (X100S specifically) I took my Nikon bag with me as well for a lot of those get out of town trips.

Early Morning

The photo above is one shot made with my Nikon full-frame and 50/1.4. I made this early in the morning while Anastasia and I were having that first cigarette after waking up. All of the other drapes and shades were still drawn as everyone else was asleep. I could set stuff up like this in terms of lighting, etc all day long. In fact I do when I host various workshops. I can also dress it up and optimize whoever is in front of the camera with hair, makeup, wardrobe, choose a more appropriate backdrop, direct things until everything is just so, etc. etc. Not at all what I am after for my personal work.

If you knew A. you might understand why this first frame is so, so rare. As evidenced my Nikon cameras or just about any camera are perfectly fine under exactly the right circumstances to grab moments like the one above. In many circumstances what happens next counts a lot. What do the following moments look like, how does the person respond? What frequency of occurrence do the moments and expressions you are looking for happen. What do those camera awareness moments look like and how often do they happen vs candid moments.

The next two shots are hours later with my X100S. Some other people are up and about, fewer shades are drawn. A. has done a bit of street makeup and decided to mess with her hair a bit.

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Still in curlers and only that sweater at least we're in the post coffee stage. Here's one with complete camera awareness.

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The point I want to make is very subtle and impossible to illustrate with anything that would give anyone complete confidence in what I am about to say. It's not a matter of complete camera awareness or lack thereof. It's about how moments look and frequency that one can feel when making photos and see after the fact but it takes more than a few miles under many different circumstances to get a grasp on. This particular long weekend hanging out with a few friends I hadn't seen in months was definitely an inflection point where I really started to feel that the X100S was giving me many more opportunities for all of those moments I was after for my personal work with people.

Much Later Afternoon

I had big plans going into the weekend. Loaded up with two shopping bags full of raw material Carly and I (Carly's place we were crashing at) were going to use her sewing skills and machine to make/fake some high-end fashion looks with cheap stuff. Then came the hurricane and power was out most of the weekend. Guess what didn't happen. Now sewing, no lifestyle-y setups in the studio below, no out-and-about backdrops of old-twon DC, nothing. Instead we spent the weekend drinking and goofing around. This was the day we all were a bit stir crazy but still gloomy and raining and iffy power.

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Carly's place was a mess, so was A.'s hair at this point. I made this picture at 4:46 PM. The curler's effect was long gone and Carly was busy packing as she had to move out in the next two days to her new abode. During the hours prior to this shot I A. and I made a bunch of stuff, played dress-up, some goofy stuff, and some more fashion-y kind of stuff in what were very dark circumstances. Most of those pictures were spilt between the X100S and my Nikon's. The X100S was all my "BTS" stuff and the Nikon's for the "real pictures". Here's the thing. From this frame onwards I ditched the Nikon and only used my X100S.

At this point A. was just goofing around with mixing and matching crap that was laying around. Note, see any difference in attitude, expression, and gesture a bit of wardrobe and shoes make?

I've included a few random shots from what turned out to be a bunch of extremely informal pictures we made before the amount of light went to zero.

The thing that struck me afterwards was the massive difference in frequency of moments I was looking for when using the smaller,quieter, X100S. It's hard to say but I probably felt that throughout the day when using the little Fuji as well. One way or another I decided not to use the Nikon from the point mentioned above.

It's not at all that one cannot make similar pictures with just about any camera. Sure you can, it's more about what exactly you as a photographer are looking for and getting a feel for what things produce or influence those results more consistently or more frequently. Definitely not something as blatant as one camera or approach producing completely different results 100% of the time on every single frame.

I think I've mentioned before that it turns out to be more a matter of choice. I would much rather me making decisions to influence my collaborator a larger percentage of the time than my gear doing that for me or at least tending to. Even if that effect happens to be just as much due to adjustments in my own psychology and behavior, it all counts especially with humans as subject matter.

It's one of those things that can only be decided on, felt, and seen making a large number of frames across a diverse set of circumstances.

X100 vs XPro-2 Etc.

I've not made a move on my plans/thoughts regarding the ILC 23mm/1.4 vs a smaller solution yet. I'm definitely still gravitating towards the X100T/Q or whatever instead of the 23mm/2 but after years of making pictures with the X100's, the XPro-1, the XT-1, now the XPro-2 I am confident in the following set of statements. I'll get to the qualifiers after.

  • The X100 cameras are overall a better experience for the 23mm than any of the ILC X cameras and 23mm options.
  • The XPro-2 is a better overall experience for the 18mm and the 35mm than the X100 cameras with lens adapters.

Of course there are qualifiers. Money being the biggest in my mind. If money is no object and you already have an ILC X camera then the X100 is probably the better overall solution assuming you value the OVF, size weight, silence, etc over absolute lens performance wide open. If you can't spend $1200 or so for a 23mm option and already have an ILC obviously the 23mm/2 will do fine.

Having bought and tried both the WCL and TCL for the X100S without a doubt the ILC cameras + 18mm and 35mm and especially the XPro-2 with OVF is a far better solution and experience. The only reason to even consider ether of those is if you happen to have an X100 and budget is a large concern. The TCL is a horrible solution compared to any of the ILC cameras and either 35mm. Sure it works, sure it's not horrid image quality but it kind of obliterates completely why the X100 cameras are great in the first place and doesn't really have an upside beyond budget. The WCL does the same just to a lesser extent but definitely is not even close to the XPro-2 and 18mm. Of course I am assuming you want the OVF option and RF viewing option.

End Notes

All images but the first one made with the Fuji X100S wide open at f/2, ISO 1600+. Processing via Lightroom CC with a random gritty, grainy preset of my own applied.