Earlier this year, before the whole World getting up-side-down, Fujifilm unveiled one of the most awaited cameras in their line-up so far, the X100V. Seriously, there was a ton of speculative stuff around the fifth generation of the X100 series; and some of those included some really wacky designs and odd features. Fortunately for us, Fuji stuck to the classic design, and decided to please us with one of the most fantastic cameras ever being made!
Sure, we know that you'll likely have already seen countless reviews and read tons of stuff about the knots and bolts crafted inside this mighty piece of gear. Therefore, we decided to share with you about the personal experience this camera imposed in my life as a photographer and as a human being.
The Seduction Stage
I'm not an early-adopter of the X100 series, but I recall feeling allured by the look of this particular camera since quite a while now. I remember being waiting for my dad to finish some errands at a mailing company in my country when I stumbled into a professional photography catalog from a pile of soggy magazines. I'm sure the girl on the counter noticed my sparkling eyes while browsing the pages of that thing because she told me that I could take it with me if I wanted to. Of course, I couldn't deny that.
Thanks to that little brochure, I came to meet more brands beyond the Jap-fellows starting with C and N, as well as some really interesting lenses and photo-studio lighting stuff. And in a small corner of a humble single-page section, there it was, the Fujifilm "FinePix X100". Thankfully, they got rid of that goofy name after a few months, and the simple X100 stuck for life.
By that time, I had a huge DSLR swinging by my side, just like the big-boys were intended to have. But something in my mind was always ticking me about that beautiful looking camera from the catalog. And it was just until the release of the X100T (third generation, hence the T) in 2014 that I switched to the small and compact format, and never looked back.
The Experience that Changed my Photography and Life Forever
I'm not going to lie, and after 5 years of shooting with DSLR cameras, switching to such a "limited" camera was quite a challenge that made me a bit nervous. And trust me, many of the photographers near me were extremely dramatic about the change. After all, I was refusing to use any kind of optic for a fixed 35mm equivalent f/2 lens, forever.
It was 2009 when I started seriously in photography, and I was in for pretty much everything but macro and boudoir photography. Weddings, portraits, products, maternity, stock, social events, you name it. I always liked the photojournalism or documentary approach, especially for events, but really what made me happy was street photography. And now I was able to carry a camera with me on a daily basis for my street shots.
Beyond the portable size of the X100T, and the swift ergonomics of it, what really changed in my images was the presence of color. Since my early days, I was always trying to mimic a specific type of color, and I was never able to do it. It was a "film-like" color, but I never knew how it was called or the reason for it. After getting that camera in my hands, I discovered it.
Fujifilm cameras come with built-in profiles that simulate film like nothing else on the planet. No preset can beat what these cameras are capable of doing inside of them. The color that I was looking for is the one that the Kodachrome 64 transparency film was able to produce, and this camera produced it natively!
After that, my street and documentary photographs became to change, and I was no longer a solely monochrome photographer, I was starting to finally produce more and more color photographs thanks to it.
On Stealthing Up the Already Inconspicuous
Even when it was roughly built, it's size made me quite nervous, and felt like I needed to keep my camera protected in a functional way. I needed something that was both easy to carry around, and quick for drawing it out. So the search began and I stumbled into some really nice leather cases that reminded me of the vintage camera holster my film SLR came with. They looked incredible, but for some reason they were extremely expensive for my recently beaten up credit card. That's when I found MegaGear, and after some proper review scouting I made my call.
These cases allow you to take off one half of it, while still holding (and protecting) pretty much the whole camera. As a street photographer, this is crucial for avoiding missing the shot. Something that happened to me a lot for keeping my camera inside my bag while commuting, driving or even eating at any place. Leather cases like this one make you feel comfortable because you are guarding your camera while at the same time is ready for the action. Another great feature they offer is a bit of extra grip, which you tend to miss when just switched over from a chunky DSLR to the compact X100 system.
By that time, I wasn't considering getting another camera strap at all; but the one that came with my case made me realize a very important thing, especially when talking about street photography. Anything that you can do in order to make your camera less attractive will allow you to get better, closer and more candid shots.
This blew my head off when I remembered that story of Walker Evans painting his Leica camera all-black so it could become less intrusive while taking photos on to subways of New York. What yells more for attention than a huge brand on a camera strap? My camera was already black, but it could be less attractive by simply using a regular-non-branded strap.
The very Well Deserved Upgrade
After unveiling the magnificent GFX100 beast and the almighty X-Pro3, Fujifilm really had to come with something brilliant and ingenious in order to keep their own par. Hence the built-in goodies in the X100V. This new model was quite an upgrade from the aforementioned T version.
The newest model from the X100 series comes with a 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans BSI CMOS 4 sensor, which is just the same one you can find inside the X-Pro3 and the still relevant X-T3. Don't you just love how consistent these guys are? Amazing! Same sensor, different purposes.
As expected, the camera behaves magnificently under scarce lighting conditions and is capable of shooting a couple of extra frames in burst mode (11 vs 8 from the previous model). Another feature that blew my mind away from this camera is the improved focusing system (which wasn't that good on the T to be honest, which gave a lot of back-focusing problems). The X100V features an astonishing amount of 425 phase detection points, virtually making a 100% area of the sensor capable of precise focusing. And last but not least, I was really comfortable (even empowered) by having ±3 EV on the T, but this bad-boy features ±5 EV…
One of the most impressive things on this camera is that after attaching the AR-X100 Adapter Ring and the proper 49mm Protector Filter, you get a nice and perfectly weather sealed camera. The previous versions were not sealed, but they still behave quite nice under iffy weather conditions (now you can go without the umbrella under heavy pouring conditions).
Ergonomics: Before Anything Else
From the tiltable screen to the generous electronic viewfinder, and from the powerful joystick to the buttons and knobs dispositions, this camera is a completely different tool. I wasn't a fan of touch screens on cameras until I got to start playing with the X100V's one. I know that this isn't super groundbreaking, but as a TLR occasional-shooter, I know how this benefits street photography, and the touch-capabilities are quickly translated into the best focusing experience I've ever had in my life, period.
Beyond getting a camera inside your eye-balls, there is no better way for achieving candid photographs than when shooting from the hip with a tilt-screen. So yeah, this could have been the only improvement while still remaining the whole X100T system, and it would still be an incredible camera worth of the upgrade.
On That Strong Legacy Lens
A lot of people have been asking over the years that the X100 could be capable of lens interchangeability. And thankfully, Fuji said "no no" to that request again. Something like that would cut off the beauty of this camera, and for all the people asking for that kind of camera, the X-Pro3 and XT-4 (even the XT-3) seem like a better option to go with.
The Fujinon 23mm f/2 (35mm equivalent) lens is pretty much the same, but it has a completely new optical design, featuring eight elements, six group design and best of all, two spherical elements that promise a considerable reduction to both aberrations and distortions (which frankly weren't noticeable under regular conditions on the previous models, but...).
Thanks to that wise layout, this camera is perfect for using it everyday, and even on serious assignments from weddings to photojournalism. Pretty much any photographic genre that could benefit from getting more candid frames, has room for this amazing piece of technology.
If you need an extra wider approach, or a more "portrait traditional" one, you can always rely on the WCL-X100 II and TCL-X100 II conversion lenses respectively. These tools literally transform the fixed 35mm (equivalent) into a 28mm or 50mm (equivalent) respectively. Just don't forget to tell the camera that you have attached any of them before shooting because the camera won't recognize them like a regular lens since they are screwed more like filters do (or how camera lenses were attached to camera bodies back in the early twentieth century, so don't panic).
The Neoprene Sleek Look
Street photography under the rain is always a joy, and with such a tough camera anyone could easily think of simply skipping the case, but I still need to protect my camera from my own goofiness. Earlier this year, before the whole lockdown situation, I was surrounded by constant rain, so I knew that leather wasn't the wiser call for constant water conditions. Therefore, I decided to go with the Ultra Light Neoprene Camera Case from MegaGear (black, of course), and everything ran fantastic for my beloved Fuji X100V.
Facing the New Normality
As things are beginning to slowly settle down, so are the capabilities of photographing on the streets coming back to normal again. Society has changed forever, but our photography shouldn't suffer from this. Using a small compact camera changed my photography forever a couple of years ago; and now that this fixed-lens system has become part of my everyday corporeality I know that it's time to embrace this new normality in a more creative and safer way.
I'm avoiding public transportation as much as I can, I'm walking more and more as days go by, and my camera has become my best companion after the latex gloves and the face-masks. I must recognize that I haven't really tried landscape photography ever in my life before, but I'm strongly considering it nowadays. And although I know that there are more sophisticated ways of doing it (like the aforementioned medium format beast perhaps, or maybe a nice Sony A7 full frame mirrorless camera), I want to start embracing nature with my small Fuji X100V from here on. Social distancing has proven right for being the best way of staying healthy during these Corona-days, and maybe landscape imagery could be a nice way for keeping the eye properly-trained.
Whatever you do, remember to keep yourselves and your cameras safer than ever.