Hello. My name is Nick Wade and I’m an amateur photographer from London with a particular passion for street. I shoot mainly with the Fuji X100 which I bought about a year ago. At the time it was a big departure from my previous approach with DSLRs with multiple lenses and frustratingly underpowered compacts. I was never entirely happy with the handling of these cameras or with the results. Having just one decent tool for the job was necessary as part of a new attitude of getting on with it. Now I just grab one camera and head out.
The combination of a very good 35mm (equivalent) lens and decent sensor are ideal for me. These vital aspects are beyond criticism so I never worry about what I might be missing out on with other cameras. It’s a flexible setup that can handle high ISO and produce gorgeous bokeh if you want it. This suits my style which varies a lot. However, other aspects of the camera are very deserving of criticism but I think I’ve found workarounds for most of the issues.
My favourite spots to shoot in London are Shoreditch and Soho. Shoreditch is especially good at the weekend for a long walk round the markets and backstreets. Soho works best as it gets dark with all the bars and entertainment. I like to find new and interesting details, and these areas are vibrant and constantly changing. They’re also ideal for coffee and beer lovers, like myself.
My setup and a whole bunch of tips:
I think the most important thing about the X100 is to accept that there is no ideal setup. The interface seems rushed and subsequent firmware updates hint that there is no real intention to fix everything. It’s not a camera that has been designed specifically for any one purpose like street photography, so you’re just going to have to adapt to its way of doing things. The good thing is that they’re aren’t too many options so it’s realistic to play with all the settings and really master the camera.
Power – This used to be a stress, but I have 4 batteries now. Each lasts about 3 hours with fairly heavy usage, i.e. round my neck on near constant standby taking about 100 shots, reviewing etc. The term “usage” is too debatable as to what actually drains the battery. If the camera is on then something will be using power. Don’t worry too much about this and instead buy more batteries. They’re small, and cheap generic versions are available which work fine. The most important thing is that the camera is ready to use and set up as you want it. When the battery is low there’s hardly any warning – so if it goes red then switch batteries, don’t wait for it to die.
OVF/EVF/LCD – I shoot through the viewfinder for most shots using the OVF (which saves on battery), and switch to the EVF when focus and framing is important. I use the LCD for shooting info, so I can check the settings without bringing the camera to my eye. In OVF mode I tend to have most the custom display options switched off so there’s few distractions, but in EVF many of the aids are switched on. This gives a distinct purpose for each mode since it’s very easy to switch between the two. Be careful if you have the camera dangling around your neck against your chest, as it simply assumes you have it placed against your eye and will ready the viewfinder – if the EVF is on, this can be a big drain on batteries.
Focus/Aperture – This is fiddly. If you want to capture the “decisive moment” then the only realistic solution is to zone focus. The autofocus is ok, but a little slow and unreliable when it’s critical. For zone focusing I use F8 or F11 with MF pre-set to 3.3m or 2.5m to take advantage of the hyperfocal, allowing most things to be in focus in a workable range. The DOF indicator on the X100 is conservative, you’ll actually get a much broader distance in focus. Be careful as the focus ring is sensitive and jumpy. It’s near impossible to approach a subject and then expect to focus manually – it has to be pre-set but you can still use the AFL/AEL button to autofocus if you need it and make fine adjustments (I think this is referred to as the focus button method). I’ve started using a rubber band to stop the focus ring from getting knocked too easily, it actually works quite well.
Metering – Multi is fine for general work. Spot is a little unreliable but better when the subject is lit differently from everything else. Worth considering a light meter (Sekonic are good) if you want anything more accurate, or just experiment and check results. I’ve noticed recently that spot metering adds to shutter lag, so if you are shooting in full manual use multi.
ISO – Quality is excellent up to 1600, and very acceptable at 3200. It can be useful to have Auto ISO on so that you can retain more control over aperture and speed. I have mine set to 200 with a max of 1600, and minimum shutter speed of 1/30th.
Shutter speed – Increasingly I find that this is the most important conscious choice I’m making. It affects the whole mood and flow of the shot. I use auto only when I know how it’ll behave and can trust it.
Image Quality – If you’re going to shoot digital then you might as well shoot RAW. It’s one of the big pluses of digital giving you loads of options later if you need it. Buy a fast SD card (45MB/s or higher) to keep write speed to a minimum as there is a delay/lag between shots. 16GB of storage gives me 830 shots. Continuous shooting is a separate mode altogether which I don’t use – it’s not a great feature, leads to longer write speeds and distracts from aiming for the decisive moment.
General Settings – Silent Mode – off, but all sounds off and AF Illuminator off, these just draw attention to yourself. Image Display – off, avoid chimping. Auto Power Off – 5 mins or off, start up from off is slow on this camera so better to manage this manually and keep it on when out on a session. OVF Power Save Mode – off. Quick Start Mode – on, a small improvement. Function buttons – I have the main one set to ISO and the RAW button set to the ND filter. Focus Check – on (the rocker switch above the AFL/AEL button can be used as a button to zoom in and check the focus). Guidance Display – on. Corrected AF Frame – on, be careful you are focusing on the correct spot. Make sure to take a moment and check all the settings are correct before you head out, and be careful of altering anything accidentally or forgetting any changes you make. Easy things to knock are the EV dial, focus dial and the wheel on the back which fine tunes the shutter speed. Easy things to forget are Auto ISO, leaving macro on, ND filter, and setting the flash to external (when needed).
Flash – This is a whole separate subject. The X100 has an unusually high sync speed which means there are loads of possibilities. On a bright day you can switch the ND filter on, set the aperture wide open and shoot at a high speed using the flash as a fill. The Fuji EF-20 Flash is a great little compact TTL flash worth considering. Nikon flashes are compatible in manual (I use a SB-700), and I think Canon too. For handheld, a wireless trigger is much more fun than a cable (I use a fairly cheap Hahnel Combi TF Wireless Flash Trigger) but you’ll lose the higher sync speeds.
Accessories and gadgets – I don’t use a case or lens cover. I like having the camera always ready for use. So instead I try to protect it. I bought the official Fuji LH-X100 Lens Hood + Adapter Ring, which is overpriced and mainly looks cool, but it does help prevent lens flare and protects against knocks. There are definitely cheaper alternatives which work fine. I also got a clear filter to protect the lens (B+W 49mm 007 UV Neutral XS-Pro Digital) – don’t go cheap on this, good quality is essential otherwise you’ll see some nasty reflections – better to have nothing instead. Strap is a personal choice (Artist & Artisan) – I like the camera mainly around my neck, but it’s important that I can also wrap it around my wrist. I also bought a screen protector for the back as I tend to scratch the screen with my jacket. I have a little bag from Domke, again another personal choice – I only use it on a long day or when I have flash stuff with me. I think being comfortable and carrying as little as possible is vital for street photography.
I bought a few other gadgets recently to help with grip as I’ve been shooting one handed and experimenting with a handheld flash, but I don’t think these are essential. Lensmate Fujifilm X100 Thumbrest+ – it’s light and fits neatly in place. Grip is hugely improved and the design incorporates a protector for the EV dial. However you can’t use the hot shoe at the same time. Really Right Stuff BX100 plate and grip – I bought this for the grip but it’s intended for use as part of a bigger system. It’s good but big, heavy, over engineered, expensive, blocks the ports on the side of the camera and can only be taken off with an allen key. This is meant for a professional with a fancy rig. I’ll only be using this when shooting with a flash or until I find something better. Abrahamsson Mini Soft Release – cute, small, red. With a grip it’s very helpful as my finger doesn’t sit comfortably on the shutter otherwise, but it’s ok you can buy one because it’s cute. I don’t think the science behind a soft release is very relevant on a modern camera and I’ve not found the X100 suffers from any bad camera shake.
Anyways, have fun. I love this camera and it takes amazing photos (and it really is a million times better than a Leica!). Thanks to Bob for the opportunity to turn my rants into something useful, I hope. You can view more of my photos at www.flickr.com/photos/nickwade