My three Fuji X cameras on a photo tour : 10 things I like about them


My three Fuji X cameras on a photo tour : 10 things I like about them (Part 1)

Published in FUJI X. Scoop-it Magazine

I organize photo tours and I own three Fuji cameras: the X-100, the X-Pro1 and an EX. I recently purchased a Nikon D-600. I love the Fuji X-Pro1 and my only regret to this day is the fact  that it can’t be the only camera I use in my work.

With the Fuji X-Pro1 I won (and then lost) the 2012 National Geographic Photo Contest and ended up as a finalist of the Sony World Photography Awards , besides two Juror Awards of Merit at the Grand Prix de la Découverte 2013. I really cannot speak ill of the camera...

Why, after twenty years of staying put, am I selling a Canon 5D, buying three Fujis and then a Nikon? It's been something gradual and from my point of view, something necessary.

Harry Fisch, viajes fotográficos, photo tours
Harry Fisch.- Boxers. Award of Merit. Grand Prix de la Découverte 2013

The Fuji X-100.- An Experiment.

The X-100 was an experiment. I needed a second camera, something lightweight and compact that would allow me a totally manual mode with a high-quality optical viewfinder for a photo tour to Benares. I could not afford a Leica and much less a range of lenses of that brand. I was fed up, sore and tired with the weight of the 5D and its lenses. Travel photography usually involves different stages, transfers. Weight is an important factor and I dreamt of reducing the weight of my traveling backpack.

The Fuji X-100 more than fulfilled its role, with outstanding image quality and the inconvenience -often commented on- of its relative slowness in focusing. The manufacturer's software updates greatly alleviated the focusing problem and convinced me of the brand's commitment to develop and improve the X saga.

On a photo tour to Benares, I fell, camera in hand. The unfortunate incident finally convinced me, since the smashed lens of the Canon forced me to make the rest of the photography tour with the X-100. And with excellent results, by the way.

Despite the success with the camera I still would not consider it as a replacement for the Canon on my photography trips: with only a fixed lens and a certain slowness in focusing, I could not dispense with my Canon 5D. I waited and after a few months the Fuji X-Pro1 was announced. With its interchangeable lenses feature and the promise of faster focusing, I purchased it immediately.

Harry Fisch, viajes fotográficos, photo tours
Harry Fisch. Before a vodoo session. Havana.

The Fuji X-Pro1. Love and (a bit) of hate.-

Experience with the Fuji X-Pro has been described by other people as a love-hate relationship. I subscribe to this, but adding that finally, and after a long time of cohabiting with it, love has overcome hate. As I have progressed with it, I have fallen in love -but not unconditionally- with the camera.

I'll tell you what attracts me the most to finish confessing what I like the least about the device in question.

  •  Its weight, size and feel. Feel is important on a photography trip and having the Fuji in your hand feels like having a good device. It is a discreet camera. It causes no impression on the subject photographed. It is almost always confused with an old camera. By adding the ballast of the additional accessory, its weight is reassuring and conveys quality, the same way as a Rolex on your wrist. Reliable, safe, solid. At the same time it feels as discreet and comfortable as a pair of worn jeans. The camera is part of you in a way a single-lens reflex camera can never be. Its size is just right. It is neither too big nor too small.

  •  The location of the dials. Located on the outside of the camera in an “old-fashioned” way, very “analog-like” they somehow force you to think about what you are doing. This conveys again that feeling of being exactly the right device.This is an advantage, but sometimes also a disadvantage. There are times when you wish the controls were more intuitive, somewhat less apparent and obvious. Especially when their location on the camera forces you to take the camera away from your eyes to change some function or dial. 

Harry Fisch, viajes fotográficos, photo tours
Harry Fisch. Shot in Havana.

  •  Quick focus mode. On a photographic tour, this is just great. You frame what you want to focus on, press the button... and voila: the thing is focused instantly. You might wonder what this is wanted for when you have autofocus. The difference is that you do not press the same shutter button as you do when you focus. You save the camera time. I use it much more this way that in the automatic mode to anticipate the focal point as in “Street Photography”. Travel photography offers many situations where you want to preset a focal point waiting for the subject to reach it, and this system is flawless and fast.
  •  Quality, lens size, weight and… price. I am not going to do a study of optical lenses. Many other experts have already done so. I’m just going to talking about my feelings concerning the actual use of optical lenses on my photography trips. The quality of the lenses I've used, a 35 mm f1.4 and an 18 mm f2, is magnificent. They are comparable to any Canon lens I've ever had and compete favorably with the Nikon I have acquired. With the difference that they take up less space and also weigh much less. If I add their reasonable price and great size and weight, these lenses are absolute winners.

  •  The hybrid viewfinder (optical/electronic).  Why I could not live (now) without it. Before owning the Fuji, I despised electronic viewfinders. I considered them as unprofessional. To my surprise, after using them, today I could not live without the electronic viewfinder. So much so that I miss it on the Nikon D600. It is essential when there is little light: you see the scene much better through its electronic translation. And I do mean very little light, as this type of viewfinder very often allows me to see much more than what I see in real life. Interestingly enough, I purchased my first X-100 because -and only- of its optical viewfinder. On my photography trips I often find myself photographing people on the move, in low ambient light situations. The advantage of being able to see persons or vehicles within the frame “entering from outside the frame” is something only allowed by optical viewfinders. Remember that what you see in a good optical viewfinder is more than what is finally shown in the photograph. On the other hand, in really low light situations on my photography trips -for example a Voodoo ceremony in Cuba held under candlelight- the optical viewfinder lets you see what happens almost the same way you see it directly, without the camera.
  •  The electronic viewfinder through the eyepiece to check the pictures. With a traditional digital camera you have to check the photo looking at the LCD display on the back of the camera. On a sunny day it is extremely difficult to interpret what you are seeing. Besides, this forces you to separate the eye from the body of the camera and to lose reflexes and immediacy. With the Fuji’s electronic viewfinder, you see the image within the viewfinder. No problem at all in full sunlight. And this offers a double advantage: you see what you have taken and there is no need to separate the eye from the camera.

    Harry Fisch, viajes fotográficos, photo tours
    Harry Fisch. Havana-

  •  Histogram in real time. When working in travel photography it is important to make sure that I've captured the most information possible within the “negative”. I use histograms a lot. I think it's great to see them when I look through the viewfinder, whether in optical or electronic mode. Control is much higher. I no longer need to look at the back of the camera after shooting, interrupting my work. Furthermore, the rate of exposure success improves, since checking occurs before or at the same time of taking the photograph. Camera faults producing a false histogram in manual mode really annoy me, but we will talk more about this later on.

  •  The horizontal level in the optical eyepiece. Another function I appreciate and value after having enjoyed it, is the level that appears through the viewfinder and allows me to know whether the camera is in horizontal position. I often use short lenses on photography trips, and with such lenses, level and perspective are especially important because of the distorting effect that occurs. It is true that other cameras such as the Nikon D-600 show you a level if you look at the rear LCD screen, but it's a real pleasure to have this function available through the eyepiece.

  •  The silent shutter. The X-100 is completely silent. The X-Pro1 quite silent, almost imperceptible. During my last photography tour to the churches of Lalibela, in Ethiopia, I shot a series of pictures inside some small stone churches, almost in full darkness. Every noise was amplified significantly. The Fuji is so silent that the few faithful who were inside did not even notice that I was there. A fellow traveler started shooting with his Nikon D-600 in “silent” mode. All faces turned towards him immediately...

  •  The magnificent JPG modes. Before the Fuji X-Pro I used exclusively RAW mode 90% of the time. Since I have the Fuji I increasingly use JPG. The shades, the color settings of the Fuji are extraordinary, so much so as to be a real temptation. Ah! I forgot to say: the winner-loser photo of National Geographic was done in JPG mode.
(Next article: The things I dislike...)

[1] Category Places
[2] Category Low Light