Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What The Fuji

By which I mean, I've really been wanting to know, for a while now, what it's like to use one of the new Fujifilm cameras. I'd considered renting the X-E2 and the 23/1.4, but in the end renting an X100S seemed like it would capture the fundamental Fuji experience at about half the rental cost.


The tl;dr version is that the Fuji's sensor doesn't quite live up to the spectacular optics that Fuji is known for. I still love the optics in my Hasselblad Xpan (built by Fuji many years ago).

I really enjoyed the aperture and shutter controls, but there were other little things besides the sensor that simply didn't make sense to me. For instance, if I've got the camera in EVF mode, why does the EVF retract every time I turn the camera off? Just leave it in place. If the on/off switch is convenient enough (eg. Nikon and Fuji), then I'm one of those people that turns the camera off and on between bursts of shooting to save the battery. That's a lot of actuations for the EVF. The Xpan has a similar mechanism for the lens magnification when you put on the 90/4 lens. And you know what, that's the one part of the camera that's totally broken. I foresee a similar fate for the EVF on the X100S. It makes me think that an X-E2 might make more sense since it only has an EVF with no extend/retract mechanism to break.

Don't get me wrong, there were some things I liked about the camera. The fact that I could see what my shot would look like in B&W through the EVF as I was shooting was a revelation that would never have occurred to me if I hadn't rented the camera and tried it for myself. It wasn't an exact translation to what I would later see on screen, but it was pretty good.

Steamer Lane

Another thing that didn't make sense to me was that the Q menu showed up in the viewfinder when I had the rear display turned off. Why would I want to hold the camera up to my eye to change settings like that? Those people that hold up their iPads to take pictures look pretty dumb, and I felt just as dumb holding the camera up to my eye to change settings. Just put the menu on the rear screen, Fuji.

Some of my gripes with the camera might have been addressed if I'd had the camera for a longer period. For instance, knowing what I know now, I would have made more use of the higher ISO's. Most of the time I was trying to keep it in the 200 to 400 range, with an "f/8 and be there" aperture priority setting. However, ISO 800 and 1600 would have produced very usable results, and "f/4 and be there" would have been fine with the smaller sensor.

Even with the vintage shutter/aperture control aesthetic, I still found the camera to be more complicated than it should have been. Still, I'm very glad I gave it a try, and I can see why some people really love their Fujis; if you can only have one camera, it's not a bad choice at all. I think I'll stick with the Leica and Xpan for film and maybe give the Ricoh GR a try for street photography, where you really need digital for all those silent, throw-away shots. I did manage to capture a couple street shots in Chinatown, San Francisco with the X100S though.

On the Move


Leica Store San Francisco

Happy shooting with whatever camera you have in your hand.

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