The second camera system - Fujifilm X100VAugust 30, 2020
Sometimes two systems seems at best an indulgence and at worst, just an obsession with gear. As I have said before, I love photos and photography more than cameras, although over the years there is certainly some equipment I enjoy using more than others.
As long as photography has been around, different systems have been chosen for different purposes - in film days there was little crossover between an 8x10 or 5x7 camera, a medium format system, or a “compact” 35mm SLR. They were not competitors. Although the shooting envelope of modern digital cameras is now very wide, I am still amused by the argument of whether one “full frame” system is subjectively “better” than another micro four thirds system, or a 1 inch sensor camera.
Most of the time I can remember having two camera systems at any one time, for a long time alongside my Nikon DSLRs I used Leica film rangefinders - the DSLR for photography oriented outings or where highest image quality was my preference and the smaller camera for travel, or sometimes just because I was still “preferring” film to digital.
Later I was using a Leica X typ113 alongside my Nikon D750 - they were good complementary cameras, I really liked the X but it had frustrating limitations, particularly around speed and the lack of a built in viewfinder, however the idea of a good fixed 35mm equivalent lens with an APS-C sensor always seemed sensible and stuck in my mind.
I moved to Olympus micro four thirds from my full frame Nikon D750, it was a great compromise for most situations and for the first time a single system seemed to fit everything pretty well. I missed the D750 very little in fact and it easily replaced the Leica X 113, being very close in size and significantly faster.
Several years later, I purchased the Nikon Z 6 for the handling and Nikon ergonomics. It is a step up in image quality, partly because of the sensor and partly the lenses - the PRO prime lenses on the Olympus were very good but price and size were the same or more than the Nikon Z lenses but still a stop or two behind on light and lacking the depth of field control for those occasions when it was needed.
This left me happy with the Z system for general photography, the Olympus with my remaining non-PRO lenses, a 17mm f/1.8 or 12mm f/2 being my normal choices for street photography and travel. It was a good combination but the small primes lacked weather sealing for street - important in the UK - and true “pocket-ability”. I came close to getting a used Pen-F instead on a couple of occasions, this certainly would have given me a smaller package but along with the small primes, still lacked weather sealing.
It was only recently that I read the latest iteration of the X100 from Fujifilm was weather sealed (or at least sealable with the addition of an adapter ring and filter*). The Fujifilm X100V is truly pocketable, image quality seems on par (at least) to the OM-D E-M1 Mark II. It seems like the better, more modern version of the Leica X, minus the flaws, or at least modernised.
If I had to have just one system, it may well still be based around the Olympus EM1ii - one size fits all - it is a truly excellent body with a great range of lenses available. A jack of all trades but would become an expensive master with the f/1.2 PRO lenses that I briefly owned. The Nikon Z 6 was just so compelling, although not a “take everywhere” camera and combined with the new Fujifilm, I think I have all situations covered.
Handling of the X100V is good, more like my Leica M3 than either the Nikon or Olympus. If anything my teething issues with the Fuji are around the very many additional control dials and buttons in addition to the manual exposure controls - there seem to be many ways to access the same things - physical controls, control dials, regular menus and the Q menu shortcut.
Then there is the optical viewfinder, although there are limitations compared with the EVF, I prefer it - in fact I love it. In many circumstances it does make it feel more like my Leica M than either a Leica Q or Leica CL with their electronic viewfinders. Other notable things for me are the good implementation of manual focusing with a decent focus scale view - manual zone focussing on the X100V is easily usable. I also love the ability to set and adjust shutter speed, aperture and ISO without even having the camera turned on. The leaf shutter is virtually silent - perhaps the focusing sound of the lens is actually louder, I’m not sure.
Aside from the button settings and general configuration, the learning curve for me also includes getting used to pre-applied RAW profiles. I am a Capture One user and there is no doubt in my mind already that this matches well with the Fujifilm sensors (and in fact I prefer Capture One to Lightroom with both my Nikon and Olympus photographs).
Film simulations seem to be a big driver for purchase of Fujifilm’s cameras, certainly a selling point for the brand, but for me I am looking for a simpler, flatter JPEG for reference as I still will shoot RAW and produce my own export files for print or storage. This means the workflow is a little different as I have to get used to a film simulation based pre-applied RAW profile as a starting point for editing. This simulations can be more “intense” than the standard Phase One starting point I am used to. Perhaps I will opt for that as a default longer term, but for now I am working with the ProNeg Standard, Fuji Monochrome and Provia options rather than the very popular Classic Neg and Acros that I initially configured.
Two articles have helped me understand how the film simulation works, one is from Capture One covering the implementation of the profiles within their handling of RAW files, the other from Fujifilm with a good description of each simulation.
I have used the Fujifilm X100V a few times over the last week, it’s certainly a camera I can have with me all the time, so far so good.
UPDATE: Thoughts a few months on, in Part II
*For weather sealing I have used the extension ring and superb hood from Squarehood, together with a 49mm B+W X-Pro UV filter. I normally go with Heliopan filters but the B+W had been tested for fit, so seemed sensible.
Photographs on this page with various camera systems!