My New walkabout camera
I used to try to bring my Canon 5D Mark II with me wherever I went. But with the best walkabout lens, the old 24–70 f2.8L mounted on the camera; it became a pain just to carry the beast around. Only the glass weights 1.1 kilos, and with a battery grip with dual batteries, it’s a complete monster. I still use it because of the great optics and the quality when shooting with it, but I no longer use it for street photography.
My First Camera
My dad had a period in the late sixties, early seventies when photography was his primary interest. That interest changed to ham radio instead in the 70s, so he had all these great cameras in the closet. A chrome Leica M4, Canon Pellix, Hasselblad 500CM and a 6X6 Rolleiflex camera. I used to borrow either the Leica M4 or the Canon Pellix to shoot on black & white negative film and process it myself in the bathroom. After getting a Leitz enlarger, I started to develop my prints as well.
I loved that Leica M4 but I didn’t appreciate what a beautiful camera I had as a sixteen-year-old beginner. My father used to say, “Buy the best gear you can afford because when you fail, you can’t blame the equipment!” Harsh advise, but true. I could barely afford film for it, and I had to be very restrictive with how many shots I took. The best way of keeping the cost down was to buy film in larger cans and fill the rolls myself.
I eventually traded the Leica M4 for an expensive lens. Yeah, I know, I’m stupid. I’m still regretting it.
When I started to photograph again, now in the digital age, using my Canon 5D Mark II, I still wanted something like the Leica M4. Easy to carry and quick focusing in darker places. I guessed that Leica would finally release an affordable rangefinder camera first and sell a boatload of them. But someone beat them to it.
Enter the digital age
So about two years ago I heard about a new rangefinder camera from Fujifilm called X100. It looked like my old Leica M4 and had everything I need for a camera that I could always bring with me. But I didn’t have the money.
Not being able to buy the first iteration of the X100 was fortunate, because the new Fujifilm X100S that replaced the X100 was so much better. I’ve owned mine now for seven months, and I’m totally in love with it. If I go somewhere, I try to remember to take the X100S with me. It’s light and well-built so that it can stand up to some abuse. Last week I spilled a beer on it during a wedding (yes, I was drunk!) but after using electronics cleaner and some PTFE oil, I got the On/Off switch working again.
My favorite pictures have always been images from such masters photographers like W. Eugene Smith, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Christer Strömholm, Anders Petersen and Diane Arbus, so a small silent camera that doesn’t look professional would work wonders for my street photography.
And the Fujifilm X100S delivers. The 35mm f2 equivalent lens is tack sharp even at full open. The lens is fixed, which is excellent. Small and flat and you have to reframe by moving around. That’s a great way of training new angles of a subject. There’s an auto-ISO setting that is perfect. You just set the slowest speed you accept and then set the exposure dial to auto and then just adjust the aperture to what you need.
The menu system is complicated so it takes a while to get used to, but once you know the camera, it’s fantastic. I wouldn’t recommend this camera to someone who is not technically inclined; there are more accessible cameras available If you want a point-and-shoot. But if you are intrigued enough, learning the Fujifilm X100S is worth it. I usually set time to automatic and auto-ISO with a minimum of 1/60 of a second as the slowest speed. So now, all I have to do is to choose the aperture I need, and the electronics in the camera does the rest. Because the camera handles high ISO so well, this has worked out as a great way of being quick and getting the shot. Very seldom do I need to alter the exposure compensation, but when I do, it’s straightforward with its dial.
I always have my iPad Air with me. I’ve got an SD-card reader with a lightning connector so now I can sit down in a café, download the images I shot during the day, edit them and have them on 500px, Twitter or Facebook within minutes. Naturally, I use Geotagr to add geolocation to all my pictures. And now with Pixelmator for iPad, I can do some serious editing as well.
Raw or Jpeg?
Typically when I shoot with my Canon 5D Mark II, I always shoot in RAW, but the output from the Fujifilm X100S is so good that I hardly switch over to RAW and rely on the jpegs directly from the camera instead. Only occasionally do I use RAW. Adobe (with the help of Fujifilm) does now include the film emulation settings in Adobe Lightroom so you can apply them to your RAW files if you want to.
The camera doesn’t come with a lens hood. Don’t buy the Fujifilm one; they are way to expensive. You can find one for one-tenth of the original price on Amazon (Amazon link), and together with a high-quality filter (Amazon link), you don’t need to put on the lens cap, just wipe off the protective filter when needed.
So if you want a light, rugged and silent camera that’s great for street photography, look no further. There is a newer version now, called Fujifilm X100T that has further improvements but retains the excellent sensor and optics.