LANDSHAPED CHIC

Paul Sanders

Paul Sanders

With Gaffer tape, tripod and dark cloth in toe, former Picture Editor of The Times PAUL SANDERS tries using street photographer’s favourite, the Fujifilm X100, with a wide conversion lens for landscapes. From the moment you open the box you know why you wanted the Fuji X100. It comes cocooned in a black box which is an object of desire in itself; slide open the matt black lid and gleaming up at you from its bed of satin-effect material is the camera that everyone seems to be talking about. To be honest I think Fuji should put dry ice in the box, it really is that kind of memorable moment. My challenge was to see if the street photographer’s favourite could become a landscape tool too. And before you ask, this isn’t one of those reviews that takes you though every dial and pixel, this is about the experience of using this camera in a different way.  JACK OUT OF THE BOX To be fair to Fuji, this is the most idiot-proof camera I’ve ever used. All the buttons and menu functions are so simple that they need no extra explanation. I was using the WCL wide-angle converter which turns the 35mm lens into a more acceptable (to landscapers) 28mm and it attaches simply by screwing on to the 49mm thread on the lens. A quick flick into the menu and you can correct for any fall off by selecting the Wide Conversion Lens on function —told you it was simple!  STYLE The style of this camera and the WCL is so old fashioned that people look at you and smile to themselves; it is to photography what the iPhone is to communications. It is simply a lifestyle choice; somehow it makes you feel better. It fits in your hand perfectly and everything is within easy reach of your thumb or fingers. It intuitive to use, it even has a built-in spirit level so you don’ have to suffer sloping horizons. As with all review cameras you have access to them for such a short period time that its quite hard to get used to them before they are gone again. But this one was quite different and, to be honest, I didn’t put it down for nearly two weeks, it went everywhere with me.  TIME TRIAL Of course being a landscape photographer, the first place I found myself armed with the X100 was the Olympic men time trial road race —I arrived to meet a friend for coffee just as Bradley Wiggins hurtled passed at incredible speed. My reaction was nearly as fast. I lifted the camera and fired off a single frame, astounded that I had even got one of our gold medal winning yellow jersey conqueror and the fact that it was sharp made me look again at this camera.  CHILD'S PLAY Armed with my new little friend and its wide-angle lens convertor I went camping in the woods near my home with my seven-year-old son —he loves camping as much as he loves photography. His eye was caught by something shiny in my bag and instantly the Fuji X100 was lost to the woods and a sword fight with his friend. He showed me images that they had snapped of their imaginary battle —so simple a child can use it — yes exactly that, well done Fuji for making my son want the X100 instead of his Canon Ixus! Once the boys had settled down after playfully toasting marshmallows on the camp fire, I watched the smoke drift through the trees towards the picturesque setting sun. Almost casually for me, I started shooting the wood smoke as it formed shafts in the sunlight. It was quite beautiful to watch and even easier to record. I was pleased to note that my idea of correct exposure was better than the auto settings, but you can use the exposure compensation dial in 1/3 stop options to be as creative or experimental as you like. THE FUJIFILM WCL-X100 WIDE-ANGLE CONVERSION LENS The Fujifilm WCL-X100 wide-angle conversion lens increases the focal length of the X100 by 0.8x taking it from a 35mm lens to a 28mm. The optical build of the lens boasts four premium glass elements in three groups to limit aberrations. Fujifilm X100 users must have Firmware 1.3.0, or later, which enables the lens to be selected through the Function or Raw buttons. While on the exposure compensation dial, I will tell you that this is one of only two things about this camera that I think Fuji overlooked —it doesn’t lock. So if like me you carry the camera lens in over your shoulder, as you walk and your arms catch the camera the dial shifts. So when you pick it up again it has always got two stops under — or overexposure dialled in. So annoying — I did Gaffer tape over it eventually. The other annoyance is the battery. It fits in any way around but only works when inserted correctly. I do wish they would thought about this when designing it — it not a huge issue just frustrating.  VIEWPOINT Although the X100 has a traditional range finder viewfinder I tended to use the screen on the back, the finder for me is just a little on the small side and when using it I felt strangely detached from what I was photographing. So I am perhaps the only person I know who uses a dark cloth over compact camera on a tripod! Strange, I know, but it helped and with landscapes you do have time to think about what you doing, well at least I pretend I do.  FILTERS I'm a big user of filters; my Lee ND grads and Big Stopper are essentials to my style of shooting, along with a 10 denier pair of hold-up stockings. I don’t have the Lee range-finder filter set, and sadly they were unable to loan me a set due to the popularity of that range. So I adapted my normal Lee filters with the use of some colour-matched Gaffer tape —I all about style! This worked a treat and using my jacket-cum-dark cloth I could use the screen in an accurate manner to line up the grads. I found the display on the screen excellent although in my opinion the histogram wasn’t always telling me what was going on, but that is more likely my lack of familiarity. For this piece I was too tight to fork out for a cable release, so I utilised my forefinger to keep the shutter depressed during the exposures of up to two minutes when I was experimenting with it. I am fond of the fact that the camera has a stop watch on the back screen during long exposures to enable you to be very accurate and precise rather than count ’.  TURN AROUND I always like to fiddle with my cameras to see if there are any surprises, and one I found that I thought was quite unusual was to turn the wide-angle conversion lens around and screw on the front element. You get a lovely, almost toy camera effect for those of you who like very heavy vignettes. But if you crop the vignette off, it has the effect of a short telephoto too! I did find this out by mistake while trying to show a comparison of with and without the WCL. Nice trick Fuji, I do like your style!  PANO I love the Pano app on my iPhone, I use it all the time. So I was especially excited to discover the Panorama feature on the X100. Basically it a motion pano: you press the shutter once and the turn slowly to cover the image you want to make and the camera does the rest. I didn’t master this feature as I think I turned too quickly, which resulted in some motion blur where the image edges overlapped, never the less with practice it would be a really fun way of expanding your creativity. My usual style is long exposures, a sort of ethereal mix of weather, mood and movement. Could this camera deliver? Well yes —if I had taken the time to get a lockable cable release and if I could have got the ISO down to lower than 200, then I could have got the result I wanted from my last location. It quirky, fun and the quality delivered from the sensor is excellent. Would I buy one? Without a doubt. I like the unobtrusive nature, the retro styling and although it is principally marketed at the street photographer, I think as a lightweight travel option it superb. Dear Fuji can you make an 18 or 21mm adapter too please?

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