Creative: The Fuji File 1

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I know what your thinking. “What the f%$# happened to the Leica file?” Don’t fear my brass loving friends. The Leica File is alive and well, but I wanted to expand horizons today. You have seen this image before, so not THAT much expansion but please play along. The Fuji File has such a nice ring to it.

I use the x100T, which is what I would describe as a quirky little camera. Now, for a quick rant. Most of the camera reviews I see are created by people who really aren’t photographers. Most of the reviewers are people who love gear and technology but aren’t people who go spend two months in isolation while working on a long-term project. No, they are simply people who review an endless stream of equipment. The photography part of the review is mostly an afterthought, and in some cases it looks like they aren’t even interested in good photography or perhaps don’t even know what good photography is. Enlarged photographs of a wall do nothing for someone actually looking for something that works. Random street images in bad light with no real moments doesn’t tell me anything about a camera. Having said this I know a lot of people love these reviews as evidenced by the puzzlingly high view rate. Power to the people. I also know a few Fuji users I can trust to just say “Yes,” or “no,” when it comes to the “Does it work?” question.(Just got to hang with two of them and also got to fondle their XT2 which is VERY, VERY nice and appears to work incredibly well. I’m still toying with the idea of buying one.)

If you have ever done a people based documentary then you know most reviews aren’t that helpful outside of understanding the menus. What photographers want to know is….“Does the camera actually work?” Now, you might be thinking “Well, of course it works.” “It’s a real camera, released for the pubic.” Doesn’t matter. This is a real question that many cameras of the last decade couldn’t live up to. People bought them anyway.

Does it fire when you hit the shutter? Does the autofocus work? Is there a lag? Does the viewfinder actually allow you to see what you are photographing? If you are bouncing in and out of a scene that is changing rapidly, with tight foregrounds, does the camera search or get confused? Do the buttons get bumped while the camera is on your shoulder? Will it still fire if something gets bumped? If it’s 100 degrees with high humidity and the camera has been sitting in the sun for an hour, does it still work or do you need to take the battery out and let it cool? I know, I know, it sounds crazy. It’s the “I had to ask,” syndrome. These are all issues with cameras that are on the market today. Believe it or not.

The Fuji does work. Not perfectly, but it works pretty darn well. Let me explain, and let me explain this image.

33 Comments on “Creative: The Fuji File 1”

  1. You’re absolutely right about Fuji X, from my experience with Fuji X, I have Fuji XE-1 with 35/1.4 and kit lens 18-55. I can say this:

    Pros.
    1. The size, it’s little and people don’t take you as a pro no matter what. It’s light too.
    2. Once you were described and took as not a pro – people will be more relaxed, means more authentic.
    3. It produce very good files that required not to much of post-production. New mirrorless cameras is more computer than a camera. If you shot in Raw with Fuji X you can develop it right in the camera, setting up different levels of highlight and shadows. Since it’s more the computer than a cam – this development part can be dramatically advanced in a future.
    4. EVF is useful in order to avoid exposure mistakes, saving times on post-production
    5. X100 s/t – is a unique camera and it stands out of from line of Fuji X for the reason of having LEAF shutter and built-in 3 stop ND filter. You can be really lightweight doing strobe or studio work indoor and outdoor at any shutter speed with any strobe or speedlight.

    Cons.
    1. No way to shot dynamic scene as you do it with DSLR. If it’s possible at all. I’m not sure about XT2 Pro2, but with early cameras the lag in 0.5+ sec will be easily seen on every single photos. It simply doesn’t shot when you press the shutter, like it does on Canon 5d3 or any of 1D. You need to be sort of sniper in very very windy condition in order to nail it.
    2. Battery life… you need at least 4 ones to feel comfortable during the day.
    3. Quick snap on switch-offed, forget it, you’ll missed it.
    4. As darker it gets the worth AF speed becomes.
    5. You (myself) always has feelings that Canon 5d3 would do it better.
    6. Video quality and option on early cameras, one’s before XT2, Pro-2 is way way far from you may expect.

    I have lots of my friend who completely switched to Fuji. I don’t think it’s the right way for those who have top of the line Canon or Nikon lens. I do have Canon 24L, 35L and 85L missing “50mm”. And once I thought that I need a 50mm AND lightweight backup cam for the same price of 50L I considered to buy fuji X with 35mm.

    Just my thoughts.

    1. Sergey,
      Man, what a good list. You are on the money. I do know a few people who have really learned to manage the x100T well, and they seem very content. It’s great but maybe not the ONLY thing to have it you are working with quick subjects.

  2. One more Cons to add: there is no feelings that you’re buying “ultimate” camera, like I felt when almost 4 years ago buying Canon 5d3. I got tired of fuji uses words “improved”, “much improved”. “dramatically improved”, “new firmware will fix it and DRAMATICALLY improves AF speed”. All they do is programming you to buy a new version of XT or Pro or X100

    1. Sergey,
      Welcome to modern photography. I remember when the new “body” would come every 4-5 years, cost $1500 new and would last for 40-years. Not anymore….

  3. Very relevant review of the X100. Couldn’t agree more. I like the external controls but it is too slow for street work.

    1. Alan,
      I’m guessing Fuji will take the autofocus system of the new XT2, or something similar, and build out the x100T or whatever the new model is. THAT will be nice. But, they make plenty of other more pro models.

    2. Well actually I find that it’s plenty fast enough for street work. The secret is to use zone focusing, which btw I also do on my Leica.

      1. Jim,
        I zone with Leica but not with Fuji. However, there is SO MUCH depth with the camera it does work well.

  4. Hi Daniel, good Fuji-File: I have the X100T and I agree with all you say here. One thing that some people love about the camera is that it has a leaf shutter, so it can sync with flash at any speed.

    I’m waiting impatiently for the new Leica digital M to be announced. I’ve used the M, both film and digital, for many years and I’ve probably been spoiled by the experience. The film M is the best camera in the hand, for me. It is not perfect for every use, but for long-term, people based photo essays, it’s pretty close. The current digital M is bloated in comparison. If the new M is film M sized… it just might be perfect for me. Otherwise it’s back to film M or maybe Fuji XT2.

    All photographers are gear-heads, but having the right camera is very important, as your post explains so well. It’s the little things, plus it should inspire you to go out and shoot. I find it hard to be inspired by digital cameras, too many buttons!

    Mike.

    1. Mike,
      XT2 is great but I might just stay with Leica film as I’ve got it, and it’s not like I get loads of time to shoot. The x100T is great for color filler. And I miss using the Blad. So I’m a mess basically.

  5. Nice to see you’re branching out and trying new “files”. I enjoyed the Fuji-file. I agree with what you’re saying regarding the X100T. I find Fuji does small incremental updates and no camera is “just right”. But no brand is just right. It’s the one that you feel most comfortable using that’s the one for you. I got rid of my Fuji’s a while ago and went back to Leica simply because it was the beast I understood most. And most importantly the colour rendition appealed to me more than any other brand.

    1. Dominic,
      Yes, branching out. Hope to keep a stream of Fuji snaps coming. The incremental thing started back in the late 90’s when the American public proved a willingness to buy more than one new camera per year. That was it. BOOM. Why fix everything when you can fix ONE thing and then release a new “thing.”

  6. It’s great to see the Fuji File launched – this is a really nice image, look forward to more stories behind some of your Fujifilm images.

    How boring it would be if someone made the perfect camera that would work perfectly in every situation – what would we talk about?

    1. FBJ,
      The perfect camera was made a long time ago. And it still works. It’s called the Disc Camera! You should get one!

  7. Some of the finest street photography to date was NOT done with an AF camera. It kills me that some people think that ‘response time’ is now the camera’s job… it’s not BTW. I am not just talking about Leica, there were other rangefinders and SLRs that were used to great success and none of them had AF, some didn’t even have auto modes of any kind.

    I’m reminded of an old axiom that had something to do with a hack that could have been a rock star if only they had a better guitar.

    Learn to use and trust your gear, not depend upon it to create the image or the opportunity.

      1. Sorry Daniel, I meant to mention that I thought your article was very fair and well written. My reply was more to your audience at large that imply that missed opps are the camera’s fault.

        Salgado does not credit it gear for his successful images, nor does he blame it for the failed ones.

        We are all hacks 🙂 and the image at the head of your article is stunning!

        1. Bhamp,
          I was just busting your b#@#. No harm. I didn’t take it that way. You are correct. It’s easy to blame the box when most of the time it’s user error. I grew up with cameras that always fired when you hit the shutter, no matter what. Consequently I have tons and tons of images of my feet, the floor of my car, the Earth at strange angles. The funny part is that some of them are in focus which always prompst a look at the negative and a “What was I looking at?” question. The new cameras don’t always fire. x100T included. This has burned me several times on what could have been serious images. But I know now so I don’t try to use it in those situations anymore. Live and learn.

  8. Well Dan,
    I gotta say that I agree pretty much at 100% in everything that you said. Ok ok, just to be safe 99.9%.
    But yeah i have the same camera, i have used it quite extensively as a daily shooter in the beginning and to photograph models after, once I got comfortable with it. Using the monstrous 50mm converter let me get around to do some portrait work with it (besides the distortion). But yeah in a really fast changing situation it is not the best option.
    Funny thing, now that i’m not doing the same type of photography anymore (at least for awhile) I’m back at shooting film, this time with an M4-2 and I’m falling in love again. No instant gratification. No bleeps. No menus. No batteries and chargers … Shit, not even metering! I develop my own film (no dark room so no printing) … Every time you take a photo you have to manually wind the film. Do you guys remember that feeling?
    I love the darn Fuji for many many reasons. But at the end of the day I just want to take photos and I don’t want to think if the camera will do this that or non of the above.
    Back to my cave.

    1. EB,
      Me too. Using both. I can’t do the darkroom anymore, at least for now, due to health issues, but I miss it. I wound film yesterday! I like it even when you hear the scratches happening.

  9. Love the photograph… Can’t wait to read or hear the next File! And I agree with you but as Flemming said no camera is perfect. I use currently the X-Pro2 with a 35mm (50mm) for my new Kitchen Night Project and I have to be really quick. The AF is not the best but I learned to anticipate a image. It trained me to observe before I make any picture at a location… But enough I hate talking about gear! It makes me some kind jittery (hope thats the right word)… Haha! See you Daniel!

  10. Daniel,

    Interesting commentary.
    How rarely do we judge the equipment in the crucible of the environment you describe; long term projects, people in close proximity…but more to the point, actually needing to deliver the goods with the camera as a tool. As a means to an end.
    Whatever the majority of the unwashed masses (of which I count myself a member) do with the camera, the camera is not their money maker. We can live with many of the “shortcomings.”

    In turn, this lack of necessity, seems to also breed the life of a perpetual dillettante (again, my hand is raised), flipping from this to that to the next latest thing all in the hope of getting something more. Something different. Different is better right?

    I love that there are photographers (Jeff Wall, Bruce Percy…) that don’t require the breathless delivery of images for what they do, who learned film, shot film, dabbled with digital, still shoot film. The process works, the instincts honed, the results deliver the goods.

    Isn’t it interesting that for all the NASA level tech of the x100T, there still exists a modest, but fundamental gap, in getting what you want, when you want, for the work that you do…and that the Leica might still be the more deft choice. Fascinating.

    1. Aaron,
      Great point you make about having to find something that works if the camera is your moneymaker. Having worked as a photographer, full time, for my living, from roughly 1988 to 2010, this was always on my mind. There were so many cameras I wanted to work but didn’t. So many. The fallback was always the Hasselblad, or EOS1v, or Nikon F4 or Leica, etc. We are getting so much closer to MOST of these things working but the only problem now is most of the industry is gone. Oh well. Photography itself is still great. The Leica is ancient in so many ways, but it will always fire, instantly, no matter what.

  11. I shot with the original X100 for a few years. The JPEGs were the best of any camera I had every used at that time and the monochrome was glorious. It’s also the camera that helped me love the 35mm point-of-view and regain a love for prime lenses. I also really appreciated how Fuji maintained firmware support for it even as it released later iterations of this camera. It was then not a camera for anticipate-shoot-and-go and it sounds like things have not changed much for he X100 series. From your description, it remains a fine camera nonetheless.

    Ultimately, a variety of reasons brought me back to Nikon (none of them Fuji related), so I purchased a used D700 and have purchased number of manual focus prime lenses at prices substantially lower than their AF counterparts to go with the few AF lenses that I have. I find the D700 jpegs as good as Fuji and the RAW files easier to work with. Though, the Fuji influence remains in the 35 f/2 AF-D that I keep on the D700 90% of the time. It’s now an eight-year-old camera and still works fine for me. I grown weary of the new T-S… versions of digital cameras and new ED-XYZ Mark V AF-III latest versions of lenses. Spend $2,196 on the newest Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED Lens or keep my 105 2.5 AI that purchased on Ebay for $125? I’ll stick with the latter.

    Certainly, there may be a pro who earns his or her living that might determine that this lens is necessary, but it’s not for this enthusiastic hobbyist.

    1. Chris,
      The buying cycle is vicious. Or can be. Keep what you have. I realized I won’t have much time to shoot so anything new will mostly just sit in the dark of a bag.

  12. Bought a Fuji X100T a couple of months ago and am learning how to use it. I come from an SLR/Leica rangefinder background so the Leica-esqe ness of the Fuji is comforting. The trick to using it well is reading the manual ;-). You just can’t pick up a digi cam and just start working with it. There are a few settings you must set to start off. Silent mode is one and there is another which removes the parallax problem with the viewfinder frames and the lens….sorta. The only complaint I have is that the built in lens does not have a DOF scale on it. Since I prefer zone focusing to auto, this is a bit annoying. The DOF scale in the viewfinder is wildly conservative. I’m using an iPhone app right now to set the lens when I use it on manual focus. Other than that, I’m really enjoying it.

    1. Jim,
      The Fuji has so much DOF due to the small sensor, even at wide open and close focusing you still get loads of depth. One of the things I’m not fond of. I’ve been using digital since 1997, so I’m fairly okay with using the little things, and for postcard snap shots of things not moving I love it.

  13. Oh one thing I forgot…be sure to update the firmware when you get the x100t to the latest version (v 1.11). Don’t know if that impacts the auto focus speed thing or not.

  14. Dan
    Yeh I updated the firmware first thing. Honestly the autofocus is plenty fast for me. I use an iPhone app to set the hyperfocal distance when I’m doing zone focusing. Oh and I also use the back focus button locking the af and the exposure. That works very well.

    1. Jim,
      It’s not fast enough for me, and I don’t like all the depth of field even at wide apertures. But for snapshots, postcards, Blurb events, etc. It’s fine.

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