I try and resist gear acquisition syndrome. Often known in the photography circle as GAS. But this really is a bit of a GAS talk - cause Fujifilm X100 series has raised the bar yet again! But why do I not talk about GAS? Because I've learned by losing lots of time and thousands of dollars that no camera will ever be perfect. That perhaps is another blog post for another time. But every now and then when a really well-engineered camera comes along - it's worth taking a little step back to appreciate the beauty that has been put behind the well-crafted machine. I'm talking about Fujifilm's newish baby the Fujifilm X100F that was released about 3 months back. I did write a review here.
It's not a technical review but more of an honest feel of what I like/dislike about this camera. Thanks, Kevin Mullins for your tweet.
I decided to do an interview with Shannon - an awesome photographer. Shannon's every day is a Leica M9. We met in Hanoi, Vietnam at Eric's course in February and often spoke about the impending release of the Fujifilm x100F. Fast forward a few weeks -- when I got back to Sydney I soon had a brand spanking new black Fujifilm X100F in my hands. I sound like a gearhead - I know! Very lucky to have had one this early as others had to wait months! I did my best to tease Shannon with some X100F gear porn just as good friends do! Rest is history! Over to you Shannon!
Who is Shannon Atkinson?
Shannon is a fascinating photographer from Thibodaux, Louisiana. He loves the world of Leica. We spent about six days running around hilly terrain of North Vietnam. I had the Fujifilm X-Pro2 with the 23mm f/2 while Shannon sported is much-loved M9. I could tell Shannon has been using Leica for a long time. But at the same time, he was very knowledgeable in the world of Fuji X100 series having owned one many years back. When I found out he'd jumped ship to the Fujifilm X100F for his every day, I thought this would be an interesting interview to give non-Fuji X users an understanding why this camera is making waves in the street photography scene. So here goes.
Hi Shannon, awesome to start with series with you! Could you tell the viewers how we met?
Earlier this year I decided to travel to Vietnam and attend a workshop held by Eric Kim and Neil Ta. Amit attended the same workshop and I quickly became a fan of his work and of him as a person. Something about Vietnamese coffee and exploring the backstreets of Hanoi creates a strong bond between photographers. I left that workshop with a lot of new friends and a lot of inspiration from some fantastic photographers. It was a humbling experience.
What draws you to photography Shannon?
Photography has always been a big part of my life. As a kid, I have memories of my dad shooting a Polaroid Land Camera and I remember the anticipation I experienced while waiting for the pictures to develop. My dad was superhuman to me, anything he did I wanted to do too. He used a camera to document oilfield equipment as part of his business and being around the camera so much, it was natural for me to start making images of my own.
When I was experienced enough he started hiring me to take pictures for his business, it was a great way to make extra money and learn how to use a camera. Later I decided to pursue a career in the medical field but never lost my love for photography. It has always been a part of me and is great therapy. Even in my professional life photography has benefited me. I've been hired multiple times to take promotional images for doctors, even being able to shoot documentary images in surgical procedures at times. It seemed that having a camera and being able to use it has often opened doors for me and still does.
For me there is still that sense of anticipation and excitement every time I go out shooting, waiting to see what I am able to capture... good or bad doesn't really matter. It's the same as when I waited for the polaroid images to develop as a kid and I still love that feeling.
Could you tell us a little bit about your Home town and the photography scene there?
I grew up and currently live about an hour outside of New Orleans, Louisiana. The culture here is a rich melting pot of interesting things to photograph. Parades, festivals, the music. There is always something interesting going on and always something interesting to capture. I spend a lot of my free time at these events and really enjoy photographing them. Like most documentary and street style photographers, I am happiest blending into the crowd with a camera in my hand.
Finally, the elephant in the room -- Why did you pick the Fujifilm X100F?
In late 2011 a friend loaned me what he referred to as his "X100 point and shoot" for a weekend getaway. At the time I was still shooting DSLR's and immediately noticed the Fuji's autofocus seemed pretty slow. The camera also seemed uncomfortably small compared to the Nikon gear I had been shooting for years. I used it for snapshots all weekend and gave it back on Monday.
A few days later I uploaded the images and although the image quality was pretty amazing, I was more impressed by the difference in the interaction with the individuals I had photographed. I couldn't put my finger on it at the time but there was a different interaction with this small camera. After reading that people are often less intimidated by smaller cameras I became convinced this was what I was seeing in the portraits. Shortly after, based largely on this experience, I bought a digital Leica and never looked back at the Nikon gear.
Earlier this year, travelling with a group of photographers in Northern Vietnam, several people were shooting the X100S and x100T. I had been thinking of buying a more compact camera that I could carry with me daily and I was more than impressed by the improvements made from the first generation. When I returned home I immediately put my name on the waiting list for the X100F.
What gear do you currently have and how long have you been using it?
For the last 6 years my primary camera has been a Leica M9. I have several other cameras and still shoot film, but the M9 is my most used camera.
What is your current gear not delivering that made you consider x100F, Did X100F deliver? How long have you been using it now?
The X100F is just easy, that is the best compliment I can give it... "easy". It can be used totally automatic as a simple point and shoot. I can hand it to my 10-year-old son and he can get great, in focus and properly exposed images. But when I need it to be, it is a very capable, pro level tool with just a couple of adjustments. It is also small enough to fit in my jacket pocket so there is really no excuse not to have it with me at all times. I have been using it for a few months now and I keep it with me everywhere I go.
What is that you can do with the X100F that you couldn’t with your previous one?
My original interest in the camera was primarily because of it's size. I wanted a small, light camera that I could keep with me at all times, and the X100F fits this bill very well.
I've discovered that the high ISO performance is better than that of my Leica M9. At low ISO's the M9 is difficult to beat, the glass to me is unmatched. However, when you push the ISO above 1600 I find it starts to fall apart, that's where the Fuji shines. I find myself using the Leica as my first choice, but when the light gets sketchy I now have the option of going for the X100F. I find the two cameras greatly compliment each other in this way. I do have to admit that the Fuji is slowly growing on me and it seems I'm using it an awful lot regardless of the light situation.
The live view on the X is something I didn't think I would use, but it has actually come in handy many times.
One big difference between the two cameras for me is the manual focus. I don't care for the manual focus system of the Fuji. I've been shooting true rangefinders for a long time and I love that focusing system. I realise this isn't a big deal for most, but for me, it's been difficult to adjust to. To get past this I zone focus or use autofocus, something I haven't done in years.
Any tips you might like to share with your us that users should consider if they were to jump on the X100F?
The first few weeks I shot the X100F on Jpeg. I switched between the Classic Chrome filter and the Acros filter, both were extremely impressive. However, lately I have been shooting RAW and I am finding that what I am getting is more along the lines of what I want in a final image.
I would encourage anyone coming from another camera to spend some time finding the sweet spot in the post processing for this camera. At first, I applied the same Lightroom settings that I use on my other cameras and was disappointed with the results. It was only when I started from scratch that I got results I liked. It's a different animal and needs to be treated as such.
Can you share some of your photos with your new camera?
I spend a lot of time photographing the music scene in the New Orleans, La area. This usually means low light, high contrast situations and often I finding myself shooting backlit subjects. The X100F does really well in these challenging situations. The musician images are from a few projects I'm currently working on. The individuals in these images are not the front men that we all know, but the guys who have toured and backed them up for decades. I find the size of the X100F in these situations to be an amazing asset. I feel my subjects aren't as intimidated and this allows me to get away with more than I would using other cameras.
I also shoot a lot of festivals and events in the area. I used the X100F to capture a recent New Orleans twist on The Running of The Bulls. The event is a run where the participants are chased by "The Bulls" (Roller Derby Girls with wiffle ball bats). It's a typical Nola event with lots of chaos and bright colours. The Fuji was fantastic to use due to its small size and light weight, allowing me to move through the crowd and get up close with minimal effort. I felt sorry for the guys shooting the big DSLRs at this event.
What would make the Fujifilm X100F better?
I'm impressed that Fuji fixed the "focus to 2 meters when powered down" issue so quickly. Their last firmware update fixed the biggest issue I had with the camera. It shows me that they are listening and take their photographers seriously. That level of dedication is hard to find in the camera industry.
I'm not a fan of the ISO knob. For me, it is less than ideal, especially in low light situations. I find it cumbersome and counterintuitive at times to pull up and turn while trying to see what setting I'm currently on. I know that it can be assigned to the command dial but you loose the ability to go to auto ISO when it's set up this way. Not a deal killer, just an observation.
I find the inability to transfer images taken in RAW mode to your smartphone a pain. Although I don't use this feature often, there have been times when I wanted to share an image and since it wasn't shot in jpeg I was unable to do so.
I do have to add that Fuji always seems to be two steps ahead and the more I dig the more I find workarounds and better ways to do things. I'm still very much learning this camera, but Fuji's ability to stay ahead of the issues is mind blowing.
Do you have any advice for the new Fujifilm X100F users?
Big 'aha moment' for me when I realised pressing the toggle returns the "point of focus/exposure" to the centre position.
I highly recommend spending time getting to know the camera in full manual mode. It is capable of a lot more than it seems at first.
Although the auto settings are fantastic, in tricky light situations I find auto settings on any camera is easily fooled.
I also recommend using the camera in manual focus mode and using the AEL/AFL button when you want to autofocus. This gives you the best of both worlds. However, when doing portraits I have found the facial recognition feature while in autofocus mode to be incredibly accurate.
THANK YOU, Shannon, FOR YOUR TIME AND WISHING YOU THE VERY BEST. Dare I say welcome to team Fuji! :)
Please check the URLs below and follow Shannon's amazing work both on Leica and Fujifilm inspiration.