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Inspiration

Inspried by Titanic, Challenged by Fujifilm X100F

· 20.April.2019

Little did I know about Belfast, but a business trip luckily brought the opportunity to investigate the history of Titanic built in Belfast. When Queen Victoria visited Belfast in 19th century the shipyard was already busy but nobody could have forseen the doomsday of Titanic in April 1912. Nomadic, the little sister of Titanic, is still afloat and can be visited.

My trip to Belfast had been put off four times but finally I landed in good spirit and drew a plan of three fully packed workdays. God was generous slicing off two hours to complete a dedicated photowalk before sunset. Google Earth, local maps and YouTube videos made it easy to familiarise myself with what the city can offer, so I was pretty well prepared and could concentrate on my composing.

We often test lenses and cameras to chase better ones in the hope of taking more compelling pictures. In fact, my photowalk happened to be the exact opposite while I felt Fujifilm X100F was challenging me. The weather was changable since after one hour of beautiful, but harsh afternoon light, dark grey clouds rolled in abruptly and I ended up being in a 15 minute snowstorm. Well, the least I can say it was not boring. Belfast did not disappoint and my trusty X100F easily coped with cold, rain and snow. It got wet, but touch wood, no problems. Though my partly frozen fingers were shaking, the physical dials made it easy to set the desired primary parameters.

Pre-visualization, pre-meditation and surprising weather conditions all played a role in taking a series of memorable pictures, while X100F has proven to be a close to perfect companion again.

Do you need a better camera or lens? You may or may not, but it is worth noting that the 35mm equivalent Fujinon lens in such a compact body reliably delivered what was just needed.

Now let’s take a look at the technic, a simple amateur photographer’s way of how I take my pictures.

I must admit this tiny beast has truly changed my workflow and this is why:

  1. I take much fewer pictures than I used to with a large DSLR system before
  2. I have gotten overall more keepers
  3. ACROS black and white film simulation has opened up a new world of seeing the light and tones of grey
  4. The electronic viewfinder is a game changer (you get what you see)
  5. Post processing has become less

In fact it feels like X100F got me to find my style. It taught me one cannot have everything but what one finally takes is of higher value, so less is more.

Super-simplicity

My approach to X100F may be described best as super-simplicity that some people call liberating limits. The question is what this term means in real life and what the benefits are? Imagine you have no camera with you and your vision and creativity fly driven by curiosity. No weight on your shoulder, no bag to carry, it’s all about embracing and scruntinizing your environment. All technicalities are excluded. You have found your potential subject, composed your frame and the moment of perfect light or movement has just come. No time for hesitation, no time for changing lenses. Then you just instinctly push the shutter button and you rarely miss a shot. But you need to be prepared technically as well. And what I mean by that is the followings.

Preferred settings of primary functions

One of the biggest advantages of Fujifilm cameras is that the primary functions (aperture, exposure and ISO value) can be set by analog dials. In practice it means you can not only reach for any of these functions by one movement but you can do it even when your camera is switched off. No need for digging in menus. You just take a look at your camera and you see your settings instantly. How could it be simpler?

Aperture

Most of the time I shoot in aperture priority mode letting the camera chose the exposure automatically. To prevent camera shake the longest exposure I set in the Menu is 1/60 sec.

Exposure

Manual setting is needed only when I take pictures of children. Then exposure value 1/500 sec is a good compromise that is quick enough to freeze the motion but long enough for the camera to keep the ISO in range of 400 -1600.

ISO

To make life easy the ISO dial is set to Auto except when I take long exposure pictures on a tripod at night. In those cases it is set at minimum value of ISO 200. If you want to take star trails you can get better results at ISO 1600 or 3200.

Exposure compensation

It is by far my most favourite dial. Just turn it either way, see in the viewfinder the result and you get what you see.

Acros, beutiful Acros

Well, it is difficult to describe how the Acros JPEG files look like. I am a kind of addicted to it as it has never disappointed. It takes some time to get used to it, but then you apprecaiate the skin tones, see and feel the richness of both details and highlights and enjoy the superbly emulated midtones. In case you shoot in RAW you and use Lightroom you can apply the Fujifilm emulations at Camera calibration / Profiles.

Focus and recompose style

I use the single focus mode and set the single-point focus area in the middle of the picture all the time. Though such a focus and recompose technic may not be the fastest, being consistent it delivers sharp images reliably. I would think too many options often confuse the photographers and when the decisive  moment comes the most important is to act quickly applying a system that has become your second nature. For me this is focus and recompose.

Picture style

I shoot mostly in black and white by setting the picture style to Acros (Yellow or Red). This way I can see the black and white picture in the electronic viewfinder in real time. My preferred picture quality is JPEG fine + compressed RAW.

JPEG or RAW

This is a well discussed area. Having had shooting experience of 15 months (over 10.000 pictures) with X100F, I dare say one does not need RAW for general purpose. Unless there is a specific reason to have the RAW file, the quality of JPEG pictures are more than satisfactory. I have not found any practical difference between RAW uncompressed and RAW lossless compressed either.

ISO performance

Chasing superbly fine details at high ISO numbers seems to be a sport today to justify the need of a full-frame camera. Pixel peeping for me looks like an industrial approach that has got nothing to do with art. Noise-free shadow details and zero burnt out highlights do not necessarily translate to pictures that are aesthetically pleasing. The 24 MP Fujifilm crop sensor performs over your expectation and would never limit your creativity. The results are excellent up to ISO 1600, they are very good at ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 is still usable after post processing. One should not be obsessed to get minimum noise as grain can in fact add a kind of atmosphere. This statement reflects an amateur photographer’s personal opinion.

Night and low-light photography, do you need IBIS?

Some people do not even consider buying a camera without in-body-image-stablization. My practical approach is the opposite. I set manually f/2.0 at 1/30 sec and leave the ISO dial on Auto. The exposure compensation is set to negative 1,5 in order to have fine details in the bright areas. The actual ISO values are going to be in range of 400-1600 and they would rarely exceed ISO 3200. You will love the results. Certainly you can still use a tripod that I rarely do for any lamp post, tree or bench would proved some support even at 1/8 sec – 1/15 sec.

I consider the long time exposures as a specific area that need experimenting.

Closing thoughts for beginners

There is nothing wrong with shooting in full Auto mode, however experimenting with Manual settings has never been easier. Just turn the dials and see your results. Professionals have all made plenty mistakes before having learnt their way and found their own style.

And have fun!

Istvan Peter Bokor

Istvan Peter Bokor

Istvan is an amateur photographer based in Hungary. He focuses on travel photography and cityscapes. His latest projects gave him opportunities to explore abandoned buildings, castles and churches. Lights and geometry are usually the heart of his voice that lately depicted in black and white photos.

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