It seems like all we can talk about this year is COVID-19. This pandemic has become one of the defining events of our lives for all us today. Many of us have made changes in order to cope with external pressures, simply survive the situation thrust upon us, or put our new found time to good use while staying safe and keeping others that way. For me, all of these have been the case and in the end, it has led me to a journey into the world of cycling. For that, I have to be thankful.
When 2020 began for me, it began like any other year. I was booking a good amount of work and traveling to continue my personal project. This all came to a grinding halt in March, however, and I went through an emotional breakdown that caused me to rethink much of what I was doing with my life. One of the positives that came out of this time was the decision to sell a few possessions and purchase a bicycle.
I quickly fell in love with my new machine and the possibilities it offered me. I could go anywhere at any time for the cost of a few Calories. I could feel my health improving every week and I was seeing the world from angles that I didn’t normally see it. I was able to keep away from crowds while still moving freely around the city, which is a great benefit in 2020! Slowly, the idea formed in my head that I could take on Korea’s cross-country cycling path (633km) after only a few months in the saddle. I’m never one to back down from a challenge, so I spent a couple of extra months preparing and jumped on the bike. Today, I’d like to share with you that journey through the lens(es) of my X100V.
Why the X100V?
There are several reasons why I chose my X100V over my other cameras but the basic reason was size and weight. While I’ve become a much better rider, it would be my first time riding 100km per day over the course of a whole week. I didn’t want to risk having to mail gear home mid-way or be stuck with so many options I wouldn’t be enjoying my ride. You could argue that something like the X-T200 with the 16mm f/2.8, 23mm f/2, and 35mm f/2 would be a similar and perhaps even more capable kit for a ride like this, but I don’t own those! So, the X100V was my final choice.
The size and weight of the X100V with the TCL and WCL converters also means smaller accessories. Not having lenses with large filter rings allowed me to take my Haida M7 kit (M7 holder, CPL, 6-Stop ND, 10-Stop ND, 3-Stop Grad) to save even more space and weight when compared to a larger kit. This kit coupled with my Manfrotto BeFree tripod was small and light enough that I barely noticed it on the ride. In addition to this, I had planned to take my X-T3 with the XF 55-200mm for additional reach when I wanted it but eventually opted for the XF 50mm f/1 instead so I could get a good feel for that lens as I prepare my thoughts on it for review (see next month’s Gear Talk section!).
First Praise and First Gripe
With this kit in hand, I set off on my journey. The first couple of days were foggy in the mornings and hazy in the afternoons but still allowed for some great photography. The X100V’s improved autofocus made it much easier to acquire focus in these low contrast situations. However, it still missed focus from time to time (just like my X100S and X100F would) and I really hope Fujifilm can address this with a future firmware update.
Now that the autofocus speed is so much better with the X100V, I do hope that we can see an improvement in the number of false-positives the system returns. While not nearly as often as the X100F I owned previously, the X100V will sometimes completely misfocus, even at apertures like f/8 in bright, high-contrast light. This is perhaps the one thing that really takes me out of the flow of photography with the X100 series cameras. The autofocus just cannot be trusted to work 100% of the time. Nonetheless, there were plenty of images I loved from this trip and the vast majority were in focus the first time.
Serious but not too Serious
As I continued my journey across the country, I found myself with time to think about my gear choices and whether the X100V was the right choice in the end (there are some boring stretches of the path as well!). One of the other reasons I chose it over a camera like the X-T4 or GFX 50R is that it straddles the line of being a point and shoot toy and an extremely capable high-end camera. I don’t feel burdened to constantly make high-quality images with this camera but know that it is more than capable when called on. Of course, this is entirely psychological. A GFX 50R is capable of exactly the same uses. However, that is beside the point. This is a camera that encourages me to take snapshots of my memories while allowing me to focus on a serious composition when I want to. It inspires me in both ways and I love it for that.
One of the big improvements made to the X100V over previous models relates to just this. The camera now has programmable shutter speeds of up to 15 minutes in length. This is great for when I take out my filters and work on a long exposure. When I needed a break in my day’s journey, I’d often find a nice solitary place along the river to sit and make a few frames of my surroundings while sipping coffee from my thermos (a highly recommended accessory for any long journey). In the case below, I set up an exposure time of two minutes at f/2 (thanks to the built-in 4 stop ND and 16 stops of ND in my Haida M7 kit). This would have required bulb mode and a cable release on the X100F, so I’m glad that was one more thing I didn’t need to carry.
We’ve heard this one before. Heck, I’ve said it before. The Fujifilm X-Series cameras are, for the most part, a non-threatening setup. Just walk into any scene with a giant full-frame or medium-format camera with an f/2.8 zoom on the front and gauge people’s reactions. Do the same with an X100 on your wrist and take a look around. Not a single eye has flicked your way. People don’t feel under pressure when a small, retro-styled camera enters their field of vision.
I was coming off a small mountain trial section of the cross-cycling path and finding my way back to the riverside when I spotted this man sorting beans out the front of his home. I stopped and made a few images of the village and the farmland before walking over and asking him if this was his farm. He proudly nodded and pointed at his house as well. Not once had he looked at the camera in my hand. Anyone who has photographed people in Korea will know that this is nothing short of a miracle.
I gestured that I’d like to make a picture of him and he nodded in agreement. I dropped the ND filter down quickly and dialed my aperture to f/2 to ensure I could get a shallow depth of field for some separation. All of this was done before the camera was at my eye. Such is the joy of the X100 series. This wouldn’t be a closeup portrait, but an image of him, his shed, and his persimmon tree. I still wanted the focus on him, however. I made a couple of frames just to be sure (remember I mentioned that the X100 can miss focus at times) and said my farewells before continuing on my journey.
As I rolled into my final destination at the Nakdong River Estuary Park in Busan to complete my ride, I gave a few moments to think about my choice of equipment. I don’t think that I could have asked for more or less than having the X100V with me for this journey. It performed admirably and allowed me to focus on what was really important – enjoying my time in the great outdoors and seeing new parts of the country I hadn’t visited before. Making photographs, whether they be snapshots or art, is the real purpose of the X100, not fretting about whether you have the right tool for the job. In that respect, it is the perfect camera to have on you for a journey like this one. If you’re interested in more about the cycling paths or seeing more images from the journey, I have an extended post (including images from the 50mm f/1) on my site.