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Fujifilm X100F review by Shannon Atkinson

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Flickr:https://www.flickr.com/photos/shannonatkinson/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shannonatkinsonphoto/
Websitehttp://www.shannonatkinsonphoto.com/

Shannon's Fujifilm X100F Gallery

Fujifilm Lightroom preset

UPDATE: 26 Feb 2019. As of today this is no longer as a free download. Please use the link here to buy and download the preset for AU$10.00. Thank you.


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If you use a Fujifilm camera and use RAW files to shoot your image, your files will come up looking flatter when you import them in Lightroom. I have created the standard in-camera Fujifilm Presets for your RAW files. All Fujifilm cameras are set to Provia by default. If you use preset simlulations like Classic Chrome, PRO Neg Hi, PRO Neg StdProvia, Velvia or Acros(R/Y/G filters) in your camera all you have to do it apply the appropriate preset to your raw file in Lightroom. Download the Fujifilm Lightroom presets below. You can apply the required preset during import or while developing your images.

UPDATED: 20 March 2017 The download now contains addition Fujifilm profiles eg: PRO Neg Hi, PRO Neg Std & Acros(R/Y/G filters)

Purchase and download your in-camera Fujifilm lightroom presets.

Installing your Lightroom preset

To install, follow these steps sequentially:

  • Open Lightroom

  • Go to Develop mode (shortcut is ‘D’)

  • Under Presets module right click your mouse.

  • Click import and select your freshly downloaded presets from 23-NORTH.

Apply on the RAW Fujifilm files to see the image change. It will look exactly as it did inside your camera. Enjoy.

A view of the RAW image with 23-NORTH Velvia preset applied on the left. And on the right we have the same images with no preset applied.

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Street photographers photographing the homeless

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Photographing the homeless

Every city and town have homeless people. Sad that it is but that's just the new reality we all live in given rising costs and low affordability worldwide. They have fallen on hard times, are homeless with very little to no money, little clothing or protection from the elements. They are probably at their very lowest point in life. As a photographer, do you think it is ethical to photograph the homeless?

Exploiting poverty for your personal gain

As fellow human beings with far more favourable conditions to the homeless, instead of showing kindness toward these men & women a lot of photographers(particularly street photographers) exploit their situation discreetly. Some, of course, have a chat and offer help. But those are far and few between. The internet has millions of these exploitatory images. Even somewhat conscientious photographers don't bat an eyelid to this unethical etiquette.

If you are a street photographer and you shoot the helpless people living hand to mouth I have two questions for you:

  • are you that desperate for a shot that you couldn't do better than to rob a frame of the homeless man who has no place to go and no money to earn. Their helplessness, squalor and state of despair goad you to shoot without any moral dilemma?

  • are you are so lacking in faculty and courage that you cannot approach people and rather settle for the victims who are voiceless and timid. You shoot the meek to avoid confrontation?

Are you one of them? No, really, are you one of those photographers? You then go home,  process and post your photos letting the world know how terrific a photographer you are! In my opinion, if you are out on the streets having the urge to photography a homeless soul to further your portfolio - that's not really photography. The more fitting word is -- you lack respect for others, you are just another opportunist.

If however, you are photographing the homeless for a reason, there is a project you are working on, I do hope you approach them for permission and help them out with some money, food or shelter.

How is photographing the downtrodden to further your portfolio a moral thing to do? All you do is take from them their discomposure, their bashful state, their humility to gain more personal popularity in your photography.

  • What are you contributing to the world in doing so?

  • What are you contributing to these homeless people?

If you are a street photographer, you ought to know better than this.

Have I done it?

Sadly yes. I have probably done this two or three times and it didn't feel right and I do regret it.

I have an aversion to looking at other people's work who do this unashamed day after day. In Sydney alone, a number of photographers - wait! Scratch that… a big number of  STREET PHOTOGRAPHERS shoot the homeless to further their portfolio. This is a very common activity worldwide too.  This kind of exploitative photography is demeaning to everyone. And it speaks loads about you as a photographer. It embodies objectification.

The rule is simple, when in doubt, stop and ask a question in your head. Reverse the situation and ask yourself - would you be party to this? By all means, capture the truth but be gentle and respectful of the less fortunate. It is not that difficult to be kind to fellow human beings!

Kindness is a choice

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Kindness is a choice

“One day you will understand that kindness is harder than cleverness.

Smart is a gift, but kindness is a choice.”

-- Jeff Bezos

The kindness on this lady's face is beyond words for me. I approached her and asked to make a portrait. We kept talking for a bit as I kept shooting. She was sitting on a bench in the Strand Arcade in Sydney. As we both got a little more comfortable during our discourse on life I got a little closer and kneeled down and took this photo.

There are so many beautiful emotions in this photos for me. It is one of my favourites frames of 2016 because I feel I've captured her soul. There is so much love, sorrow, hope, despair, kindness and benevolence in her face. I felt double rewarded when Eric Kim said it was one of my best photos during our assignment in class.

Is stealth mode a necessity in street photography

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Is stealth mode a necessity in street photography?

Not always, but it definitely helps frame better expressions. This obviously depends on the kind of photography you intend to do. I ask people for making their portrait sometimes, other times I don't. Street photography is a very generic term and there are many sub-genres in it. But, I definitely don't recommend being sneaky with your camera in public. That is clearly creepy and unacceptable. Its the same as taking photos of kids without their parent's permission or the homeless. Be kind to people even when you make portraits. But I definitely think being somewhat discreet or invisible in the crowd while being respectful - helps frame natural expressions on people's faces. And these natural expressions are what make photos steal a moment in time! That's what gives me happiness in street photography.

Openness to strangers

People seem to live in an alarmed state of panic. I don't necessarily think this is a good way to be. Yes, there are a lot of bad things that happen in the world. But there are equally good things happening all around us. This often goes untold. We need to celebrate these little miracles too. I wonder how many more beautiful moments we would all capture if we were more open to change and accepting of people we don't know. Being open to the idea of strangers taking photos of you takes photography to another level. Giving street photography and street portraiture a chance to grow and showcase the cities you live in or visit.

An uncomfortable incident but with a good outcome

Two weeks back, I was happily shooting the streets of Sydney when two plain clothed policemen (man and a woman) decided to approach me. Little did I know I was being watched. And I'm guessing they had been watching me for a while. As I crossed the streets and got to the other side where the police officers were... they stopped me. The policeman showed me his badge - the policewoman didn't. Shecoughed constantly. A smoker perhaps? I was baffled. And for about two seconds I was indeed gobsmacked. Are you serious?

Nanny State Sydney. Aren't you charming!

They wanted to know why I was taking photos and observing people. Well, how else does a street photographer take photos? I tried to explain street photography and explained why it's important to take a photo in a candid mode to capture the real human feelings. I showed them the last 10 - 15 frames. At this stage, I could sense they had lost interest in my rant and even my photos! The policeman luckily had a sense of humour and said he was more than happy as long as I didn't take a photo of him. Ha!

On a side note... do you even know how many street cameras monitor people and take their photos everyday? They are at nearly every street corner, lifts, supermarkets, banks, shopping malls, parking places, schools, libraries, offices, parks and cinemas. The list goes on and on. And you question me when I take photos on the street!! Oh, the irony!

Being yelled at is not fun, but it happens

Well, this is not the first time I've been yelled at with camera in hand. It started in Brunei back in 2008 when I was photographing construction workers on the street. Few uncomfortable moments being followed around by a street hawker in Hoi An after I took her photo. She followed me around everywhere in Hoi An the next two days and even knew where we were staying. Yes, Hoi An is a small sleepy yet picturesque town. Sadly though for me, I was glad to get out of Hoi An. Don't get me wrong - I do love Vietnam.

This was followed by many a yell in India over the years -- the one I clearly remember was while trying to take a photo of a wireless tower in 2010. The irony is I grew up about a ten minutes walk from this wireless tower. There are many childhood memories associated with this particular landmark. In the end, I didn't take the photo since the guard yelled at me relentlessly! Reasoning would have failed. Only money works in India and I was determined not to pay. I shouldn't have to pay someone to take a photo of my own hometown landmarks! And now Sydney in 2016.

What can I say -- It's a badge of honour. But, this is to be expected a little doing candid photography! Challenges like these make one grow and be more determined to work the scene and shoot better photos with passion. Obstacles are nothing but pillars of growth.

Be a good messenger

If you are a street photographer, chances are you are going to be stopped one day too and asked to explain what you were doing with a camera on a crowded street. The answer is simple: Do as I did. Be humble and honest, don't fight it or tell them what the law is. Explain why you shoot the street, show them what you do with your camera. Be a good messenger for streettogs. Talk to them about street photography if you still have their ear.

People that question you are not always ill-intentioned. They are probably uninformed or plainly curious. Help them understand you better.

Happy streettogging!

Street Photography with Eric Kim

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Eric Kim's Sydney workshop

No matter what I write here about Eric Kim is going to fall short of the man he is. Be warned this is going to be one blatantly biased post but also a very truthful one. Very blessed having met Eric Kim and even more to have his friendship.

It's going to be difficult to surmise the few days spent with Eric, Greg and the amazing gang that had signed up for Eric's workshop in Sydney. There were people from across Australia and as far away as the Middle east and Paris . There were some from the presentation Eric had done a couple of days prior to his Sydney workshop. And boy oh boy! Can I just say I have not met a nicer group of photographers!  Humble, open and inclusive.  This post clearly is not going to capture the essence of what the group experienced in these few brief moments. But I do have on good authority that Eric is nostalgic about his Sydney workshop. :-)

I have done a few photography courses and nothing has come close - not even by a quarter to what Eric's workshop has been. In Eric's course alone, I've learned things  I haven't in the last five years or more. Eric gives without the thought of return. This is why he is such an amazing teacher. His honesty to walk his talk touches every soul that meets him. He is beyond a teacher - he creates little streettog Yodas and inebriates them with the fire and passion of street photography. You cannot read about or buy in a store -  only experience the energy if you are open to learning.

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Why do I stress on real teaching?

Having been a teacher and a trainer myself, both in India and Australia, I know when a teacher fails. I know when a teachers greed for affirmation and ego dictate their very being. There are many around you. I'm sure you know some.

I have met some outstanding teachers in my time. Sadly, I have also met some really awful ones. I am talking about my combined school, engineering days and adult life here in Sydney. I've been very fortunate to have an English teacher Rashmi Ashtikar that made school oodles of fun. During Engineering, I met Shraddha Oza who taught me Electronics and she made me fall in love with every electron particles in matter. And now for the third time - I met Eric Kim. The purity for his vocation is real, contagious and downright charismatic!

I feel a huge sense of gratitude and love and thank you, Eric, Greg, Neil, and the entire group both at the workshop and presentation for making this an experience beyond words.

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