B&H

Monday, July 9, 2012

Is the Fuji X100 enough camera for traveling? My Copenhagen experiment

I have used the Fujifilm X100 for well over a year now. It was my first serious mirrorless camera as I mainly relied on fullframe DSLR before.

There have been loads and loads of technical reviews posted about the X100 and the fantastic image quality, so let me focus on the question that I read so often in blogposts: Can I travel with only the X100 on my side? Here is my real life travel experience:

 I planned a photo trip to Copemhagen last year and wanted to start an experiment by only bringing the Fuji X100 as my digital camera. As reported in a previous post about my recent trip to Paris with the X-Pro 1 (Traveling light to Paris with Fuji X-Pro 1 and X10) I used to carry way too much heavy gear with me when I travelled. The fear of missing a shot because I did not have the right lens or flash with me was always present when packing the gear. But this time it was different.
Only the X100 - and I did not even have a spare battery at that time. And there was actually some room left in the smallest photobag that I owned! In a last second decision I grabbed my 1953 Rolleiflex analog medium format camera and a few rolls of film to fill that gap - something that I never had space for on previous trips :)

It was a funny feeling when I boarded the train early that Friday morning - kind of scared and reliefed at the same time with the light gear on my shoulder...

Rolleiflex Automat 1953 - on the morning train
The X100 taking a photo of this friendly Rolleiflex Alien on the train to Copenhagen ;)

The trip was planned to mainly visit the Copenhagen Jazz festival and to stroll around the city. But visiting a city without a wider lens than a 35mm field of view? What if I want to photograph architecture? 24mm or 17mm was usually my widest focal length for those trips. Sometimes I even brought the 15mm fisheye...

I arrived in Copenhagen central station and my friends picked me up and took me to the first photographic "must see" location: The famous "Vor Frue Kirke" - the Copenhagen Cathedral. This is one of those locations that screams for a wide angle lens to capture its full beauty. The gear remorse kicked in right away! Great, this isn't going to work with 35mm! Why didn't I bring a different camera and more lenses?

But then I remebered that the X100 has a build in pano stiching program. This is something that I had not really used as it seemed to be more of a point & shoot gimmick to me. But maybe it could get me a decent shot here? The best way to capture the cathederal hallway and ceiling would be in vertical orientation but I had not seen this "vertical panorama" option documented in the owners manual. So here goes the first try:

Vor Frue Kirke - Copenhagen Cathedral - Fuji X100 Pano
Vor Frue Kirke - Copenhagen Cathedral taken with Fuji X100 in pano stiching mode

It did work surprisingly well! This was the moment that would introduce a new style of photography to me :)
Take a look at this post to see really cool panos from Paris taken with a Fuji X-Camera: Cool Panos from Paris

Off to the next challenge - capturing the spirit of the Jazz musicians. I knew that I had to get close to the action in order to get strong images. A 35mm field of view is a first row shooting lens and 12 MPix sensor resolution won't let you crop forever. But the Copenhagen Jazz Festival is a really open and easy going event that allowed me to get almost as close as I wanted:

Passion for Guitar
The facial expression tells it all :)

The outdoor venues were a breeze with the X100. But focusing did get a lot tougher inside the dimly lit Jazz clubs. At the time of this trip the X100 was still in its early stages of Firmware updates. And the contrast auto focus and manual focus was not really up to speed in low light back then. So I did have to do a lot of trial and error, but ended up getting some nice shots:

Happy Bokeh Friday 08.07.2011
Play louder, I can't hear you! ISO 3200

Passion for Saxophone
Lost in music

If James Bond would drive a Volvo it would be the P1800
While moving from club to club I came across this cool looking vintage Volvo.
If James Bond would drive a Volvo it would be the P1800


Nyhavn Copenhagen - Fuji X100 Pano
When I reached the famous Nyhavn canal it was time to try if the pano mode also worked in "traditional" horizontal panorama orientation

Vertical Pano Tower - Fuji X100
Another opportunity to use the pano function in vertical orientation was close by, though :)


And just in case you care to see one of my Rolleiflex photos, this is what I made out of 2 photos (6x6) from my Rolleiflex at the Axelborg staircase:

Copenhagen Eyes
Copenhagen Eyes at Axelborg building - 1953 Rolleiflex with Kodak Portra 160 VC



My resume about the X100 as main travel camera on trips:

I would not hesitate to only take the X100 along when going on a trip - as long as I can live without more zoom than the 35mm field of view that the X100 offers. Croping a 12 MPix image on a good resolving lens gives you some room to enlarge a subject but it is not an endless option.

On the wide side I think that the panorama function on the X100 can easily minimize the need for a wider angle lens.

If you feel that you do need more zoom or a wider angle at times, I would opt for an additional small camera companion like the Fujifilm X10 or a Canon S95/S100 instead of taking a big DSLR with lens(es). This way I have the option to leave one of the two "smaller" cameras (X100 or the compact camera) in the hotel room - but you can't really reduce the basic size of your DSLR camera body.

The X100 is today a much better camera than it was when I traveled to Copenhagen. Fuji has constantly listened to us photographers and implemented improvements in each firmware upgrade. Kudos to Fuji for constantly improving the X100 :-)

Leave a comment below or tweet me @hamburgcam if you have questions

And if you liked my post I am always happy if you spread the word and retweet, like or google +1 it :-) 

4 comments:

  1. I agree 90% with you. Last year I travelled to Australia with a DSLR and a X100: I mostly used my DSLR. Last May, I travelled to Devon & Cornwall with my XPro and a DSLR: I mainly used the Xpro. My next trip to Scotland in August, I will take "only" my X10, X100 and XPro. However, I am not convinced that the panorama stiching mode can replace a wide angle lens, like the XF 18mm or the upcoming XF 14mm... We'll talk about it in september...

    ReplyDelete
  2. The x100 makes a great travel camera. But sometimes I'm missing a wider fov. I've ordered the 28mm adapter, so we'll see how that goes. When I hike, I often bring my 7D with the 300f4 for birds and the x100 for everything else. It's so much easier than switching and carrying lenses, and the x100 IQ is probably a little better. That said, I'm planning on getting the Xpro soon. The IQ will beat anything else I've got, and it's still on the lighter side. I will stick to my 7D/x100 combo for hiking though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How is it going with the 28mm adaptor? I have more keepers when I shot with the 28mm. Perhaps it's because I can capture more and crop what I want later on the computer. That said, the X100 with the 28mm adaptor is not as carry-able as before. I've been looking for a suitable camera bag for the X100 with 28mm adaptor attached.

      Delete
  3. I love the X100 and XP1 for travel.

    Simon Templar, the Saint drove a P1800 (http://www.saint.org/volvo.htm). No need for James Bond.

    ReplyDelete