One of my new year’s resolutions was to stop neglecting my blogs (here and on my wedding site). With the slowdown in portraits through the winter I thought it would be nice to start a series called “In the bag” detailing some of the tools I use. So why not start with one of my favorite pieces of gear I’ve ever owned.
My Fuji x100s
I wish I could tell you that this is simply one of the most expensive toys I’ve ever played with and had no real professional value, but that would be a lie. I’ll simply start out by saying I can’t live without this camera.
I’ve made no effort to hide that I’m a huge fan of Zack Arias and his work. Upon Fuji releasing the original X100 readers of Zack’s blog were subjected the constant on and on and on and on about this tiny little mirrorless camera. Honestly, I was getting tired of it. Street photography this. This camera has soul that. Blah, blah, blah.
Time passed. Things were quiet. I was fleshing out my kit with a new 5D Mark iii and then we’re hit with the X100s. Zack went back to preaching, but something had changed.
When you start in photography, it’s because you love photography. The more successful you become the less it becomes about your wants and shifts to clients needs. It seems like the more I shoot for clients, the less I want to pull out my camera for personal use. I constantly call my cameras “the moneymakers” because that’s what they are. I might occasionally take my 5D Classic out for some light shooting, but it’s still a bag full of kit most times.
I heard Zack Arias, David Hobby, and others talk about the X100s being their favorite camera. Not just their favorite camera in the moment, but their favorite camera they’ve EVER owned. That’s a bold statement. These extremely verbose and experienced photographers said it was something they kept with them at all times. Most importantly they claimed the image quality held up against pretty much anything this side of a medium format.
I subscribe to the philosophy of “the best camera is the one you have with you”, but I also live by the rule of not wanting to create a garbage photograph.
I took a leap of faith.
I purchased a gently used X100s on ebay for a slight discount. I knew that I could quickly sell it for little to no loss if I didn’t care for it.
I was sold on this camera the second it came out of the box.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes people love this camera. The photo quality is superb, the high ISO performance is groundbreaking, and the lens is probably worth the price of the whole camera alone. Yes it looks “cool” because it’s vintage, but that’s only a conversation starter (you get a lot of questions when you break this thing out).
When I hold my Fuji I feel like I’m holding a camera. I feel like Ken Oosterbroek, Kevin Carter, Joao Silva, & Greg Marinovich. I feel like I’m supposed to get close to the action and snap some frames.
Most of all, I feel like I’m shooting for me. It’s suitable for portraits, feels like it’s made for street work, and wonderful for documenting events.
As a parent and a photographer I found myself on vacations either bringing too much gear or not enough. Either too far detached from everyone trying to get “the shot” or not getting anything because I was so present I couldn’t capture anything.
Shortly after unboxing this camera I took my family of 5 to Chicago and having something like this gave me the perfect balance. I kept it with me every step of the way and we had a lot of steps. Squeezing in multiple museums, exhibits, tourist spots, restaurants, shows, and much more in around 48 hours.
We tend to come back from mini vacations exhausted because as a family we try to squeeze in as much fun, culture, and excitement as possible. Sleep is a luxury and a minimal necessity.
My Fuji became part of the family on that trip. Using a shoulder strap the camera went unnoticed and the extra batteries went in my pocket or my wife’s purse easily. I believe I snapped around 700 that I’ve eventually cut down to about 500 final photographs.
Were there times I wished I’d had something telephoto? Sure. Did I wish I had something a bit more wide? Probably. Did it matter? Not really. In those moments I was forced to think, move, and be a photographer.
From that trip forward I’ve tried to keep this little piece of photography magic with me and it’s become a go to for a lot of my wedding coverage.
“But Wes, you’ve got A LOT of gear. Bodies, lenses, etc…why do you fall back to your Fuji?”
I hear you. The answer is it’s amazing, small, and does the job.
For telling the story of a couple getting ready for their wedding day, 35mm is solid focal length. It’s wide enough to set a scene and holds up well when you get closer. I probably shoot half the prep and details with this thing.
(The macro mode is very solid.)
It’s generally back in the bag for portraits and ceremony, but will make another appearance at the reception. I do that mainly for the same reasons as with prep, but also because in low light it’s nearly untouchable. I’m a little shaky in general, but I’ve handheld shots down at 1/10th of a second.
While I would never say this would totally replace my DSLR gear or that somebody should just run out and grab one just to grab one, I will say I’ve never regretted having it in my bag.