• Finn Calander

Shooting with the original poor man's Leica


Fujifilm X100 : 1/80 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600

The Fujifilm X100 retro style camera

WHEN THE X100 was announced around the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, I was hooked. The styling of the camera was perfect. It just looked great. The hybrid viewfinder was such a great idea, and the fixed 23 mm (i.e. "35 mm") lens seemed to me to be the right choice of optics for a street photographers camera. Plus the manual working mode it seemed to offer. In November 2011 my wife and I went to New York for a week, and I, of course, made a visit to B&H store, to have look at and a feel of the X100. The camera looked ok, but B&H didn't have any in store for sale, som I couldn't by one then and there. And, as I already had a Panasonic Lumix LX3, I wasn't quite sure that I really needed the X100. But sure as h*** I was tempted.

Then, at the year-end 2012/13 the upgraded X100s was intruduced on the market. There had been a lot of rumours abot this a couple of months before, so when the s-model was sure to be released, the price of the original X100 went down by aprox. 50 percent. And then I bought one from Amazon. Since the introduction of the X100, the X-series models from Fujifilm have been a huge success. And no wonder – these are excellent cameras.

The poor man's Leica

Around the time I got my X100, Leica introduced the M(9) Monochrom. The X100, with its "rangefinder" style hynbrid viewfinder, had been nicknamed "the poor man's Leica" as it was looked upon as a street shooters camera in the Leica M tradition.

Fujifilm X100 : 1/1700 sec, f/8.0 ISO 1600

The Monochrom was such an outlandish idea, I just had to embrace. But, at the time I hadn't the financial means to buy this odd Leica M camera anyway, so I was content to shoot with the X100.

A somewhat quirky camera

The original X100 is a quirkey camera. The autofocus is not to be trusted as it often sets focus behind the object. The manual focussing ring ("fly-by-wire") is reacting rather slow, and as there are no end-points indicating infinity and maximal close up points, there is no way of physically knowing what focus distance is set. And, like any digital camera at the time the X100 had a lot of menu settings to chose from. One thing though – te X100 is as silent a camera as there is. I have turned off all electronic sound effects, which means that the only sound the camera makes when an exposure is made, is the mechanical sound the shutter makes. And in everyday practice, it is inaudible.

Fujifilm X100 : 1/80 sec, f/5.6 ISO 1600

X100 vs Leica M Monochrom – my settings on the X100

Happy circumstances made it possible for me to purchase the Leica M Monochrom in the summer of 2013, together with a Summicron 35 mm, f/2.0 asph lens (read about shooting with the Monochrom in a selected blog post). There is no doubt that the Leica is the faster and more easier camera to use for street photography. This is due to the Leica's overall almost 100 percent manual way of working, and the fully "mechanicaly" tactile handling of it when shooting. Nowdays I use the X100 – a great camera in its own right when you've found your way of shooting with it – as my everyday camera, and the Monochrom when I've a 100 percent focus on photographing on the streets. So, here is how I set up the X100 for street photography.

Fujifilm X100 : 1/80 sec, f/2.8 ISO 2500

I set the ISO to 1600 or more, choose aperture priority and manual focus mode (as the autofocus is too slow and inaccurate), and save images in RAW + jpeg in black and white mode. I turn all sound effects of, and also turn the LCD screen off. When I go out, I set the focus to around two meters, just to be prepared to the photo opportunities that might present themselves. If I need to change the focus setting, I don't bother turning the focus ring on the lens as that is not working at all when it comes to shooting in real life. Instead I point the camera to the object, and press the AFL/AEL button on the back to set the focus, and then shoot. It works 99 percent fine. Manual focussing on the Leica is an entirely different experience. It's smoootht, precise and fast, but when you've come to grips with the workings of X100, it's not bad either.

Fujifilm X100 : 1/180 sec, f/16 ISO 1600

Conclusion

The original X100 is a nice camera delivering great image quality. Today you can buy a used original X100 for about SEK 2000 (€ 202, $ 224, £ 153). If you can handle the camera's quirkiness, it's a bargain. It's a beautiful and well made camera, and great fun to use. And, no, mine is not for sale.


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​© 2016 by FINN CALANDER | Monochrome Photography

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