I’ve been a DSLR shooter for a while, but I’ve recently been finding myself becoming a little disillusioned with photography. I’ve lost some of the fun. For reference I shoot with a Canon 5D MKII and usually carry a lot of gear around with me. In addition to the body there’s my walk around lens, two primes, a wide angle lens and a telefocus lens. These are neatly wrapped in a Lowepro Slingshot that also contains spare batteries, memory cards, a bunch of filters (I use the Lee system) and all sorts of other paraphernalia. It’s a hassle, and it weighs quite a lot. And that’s not to mention the fact that I usually carry round a Manfrotto Carbon Fibre tripod as well.
I wanted to simplify, get back to what makes photography fun. Actually taking photos.
Fortunately, the photography landscape has changed somewhat since I bought my first DSLR. You no longer have to sacrifice quality for portability. When I came to this “back to basics” revelation, I started looking at what was available. Three cameras jumped to the top of the list. The Fuji X100S, the Olympus OM-D and the Sony RX-1.
These are all excellent cameras, with various trade-offs. The issue with the Olympus is that it’s a system, and whilst that offers flexibility and expandability, it’s entirely possible (likely even, given my hoarding instincts) that I’ll end up back where I started this journey. The RX-1 offers a full frame sensor but is more than twice the price of the X100S. The determining factor though was the X100S itself. It provides a really wonderful shooting experience. The hybrid viewfinder, which can switch between see-what-you’re-shooting electronic and cleverly-overlaid-with-information optical. Combine that with some tactile manual controls for aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation and you’ve got a camera that’s incredibly fun to shoot with. It feels good in the hand, the controls are nicely thought out and the image quality is genuinely superb.
Having picked it up a few days ago, I had my first real chance to run it through its paces at the annual Bristol Harbour Festival this weekend. I’ve embedded some shots below, along with some commentary. Click for full size.
So this is what the Harbour Festival is supposed to be about. Boats from all around the world converge on Bristol’s Harbour for the three days. In terms of the X100S, you can see the resolving detail, where it’s picking up imperfections in the paint on the boat and is pin sharp.
A lot of the shots I’ve seen posted by others from the X100S have been in black and white. I put this down to its popularity with street shooters and their fondness for black and white images. Seeing these sweets for sale offered a good opportunity to see for myself what the X100S is like with more colourful scenes. You can also see individual pieces of sugar on the sweets.
One of the great strengths of the X100S is its subtlety. In silent mode, people simply don’t know you’re taking a photo, making it very well suited for shooting on the street. Big DSLRs are intimidating, the X100S is not. I also enjoyed walking around the crowded streets with the X100S in my hand watching others drag around their DSLR kits knowing that my setup can match them for quality. Note the lack of chromatic aberration in the corners even though this was nearly wide open (f2.8), this lens is sharp and controls fringing well.
There are currently 80 Gromit, of Wallace & Gromit fame, statutes placed around Bristol. They’ve become quite the attraction and the one I run past every other day often has a queue of people lined up next to it. Much like the first shot, you can see the detail captured here. The slight paint imperfections can be seen on Gromit’s nose, something I hadn’t noticed in the flesh.
There should have been more shots in the post but there’s a quirk in the X100S interface that meant I accidentally deleted all the photos I’d taken up to that point. If you shoot in burst mode, which if you’re working with JPGs can fire off 6 exposures a second for a very impressive length of time, the playback feature groups those shots together. It’s quite a nice feature, it shows you the first shot with the others in the sequence cycling through in a small box in the lower right hand corner. You can go in to view all the shots if you like, but it makes browsing through your photos much easier.
So with that in mind, this is what happened. I was viewing a sequence of photos and went in to that sequence to view a specific photo. I then backed out and decided I wanted to delete the entire sequence. So I chose delete and was presented with the following options:
- Selected Frames
- All Frames
Because I wanted to delete all the frames in that sequence, I selected “All Frames”, which deleted everything on the memory card. A morning’s worth of shots, gone. Now you may argue that it’s user error, and I should have read the instructions first, but who does that? The issue is that by introducing the paradigm of grouping shots together for viewing, Fuji has changed the user context. All shots to me, at the time, meant all shots in the sequence I was currently in. A UI tweak would avoid this problem entirely.
This, as you might have figured, isn’t a review of this camera. There are plenty of those out there if you’re looking for one. I just really wanted to share my first real experience with this camera. I’m off to London in a few days and this will be the only camera I’m taking with me. No bulky DSLR, no lenses, no bag. This is a joyous camera to shoot with, and I know it’s a cliche, but it makes me want to shoot more.