#595. Two (and a bit) weeks, two cities and just one camera

#595. Two (and a bit) weeks, two cities and just one camera

What if it breaks down?

 

What if I want a wider view?

 

What if I want a longer view?

 

"But I don't want a selfie"

“But I don’t want a selfie”

 

Breakfast choices, Queen Victoria Building, Sydney

Breakfast choices, Queen Victoria Building, Sydney

 

Waiting for the ferry to Parramatta

Waiting for the ferry to Parramatta

 

I almost succumbed and packed an X-Pro and a couple of lenses. Even as late as the morning of our departure, I reasoned that there was plenty of space in my carry-on, lots of room for another body and a lens or two.

 

There was just time to once more look back at my own photographs, those taken on the streets with the fixed lens X100T and to (once more) convince myself that I didn’t need another camera.

 

The X100T was replaced a month or so back by the newer X100F, a truly wonderful piece of kit and with it I took three spare batteries – all the new Fujis share a single battery model – a charger, a lens hood and a spare 64Gb SD card.

 

In use 24 hrs

In use 24 hrs

 

I'm getting a tat - Haji Lane, Singapore

I’m getting a tat – Haji Lane, Singapore

 

Coleman Street, Singapore

Coleman Street, Singapore

 

Untitled - Haji Lane, Singapore

Untitled – Haji Lane, Singapore

 

Against all reason, I opted to try shooting just JPG. I was prepared for several Fuji styles, but settled on the special colour of Velvia and in more appropriate moments, the spectacular Acros black and white emulation. In all my years of digital camera ownership, I’ve never done that before and within 24 hours, I’d reverted to RAW+JPG.

 

Maybe I missed the way the white balance slider worked, maybe I enjoyed my own interpretations. It didn’t matter. RAW+ JPG it was.

 

The first stop was Singapore. For us, this followed a decade of previous visits at different times of the year and it has to be said that there isn’t a cool month. Last year, we visited in March and nearly expired at 39C and off-the-scale humidity. This year’s average for May was 31C, a little easier and yet, I still spent our almost five days in the city like a glowing, sodden mess of wrinkled clothing.

 

Unlike me, the X100F worked flawlessly.

 

Artistic pipework, Ann Siang Hill

Artistic pipework, Ann Siang Hill

 

Untitled, Darlinghurst - Sydney

Untitled, Darlinghurst – Sydney

 

Autumn colours, Surry Hills - Sydney

Autumn colours, Surry Hills – Sydney

 

Bike in a patch of sunshine, Surry Hills - Sydney

Bike in a patch of sunshine, Surry Hills – Sydney

 

I’d siamesed the exposure and focal point, shooting with exposure measured at spot values, adjusting what kind of exposure I wanted in the EVF. That took an extra second or two, but to be honest, I didn’t really really notice.

 

Our four full days quickly passed with visits to favourite places, restaurants and hang outs. If you know Singapore, the area around Ann Siang Hill is being gentrified at pace, the old edge of Chinatown feel vaporising by the moment, ushering in the new. Interesting, but still new. In many ways the change that hit old Hong Kong after 1997; the mom and pop stores and open air markets being swept aside for air conditioned underground malls and climate controlled skybridges is happening here too. Better for one’s comfort, but the extraordinary history is disappearing from every corner as they are razed to make way for the startling architecture of the new.

 

It’s hard not to love and be impressed by it, but equally hard to lose the ability to wander into an unremarkable eating house and feast on the most exquisite Hainan chicken and rice (a staple), or stare (read photograph) at the centuries old furniture, collections of ancient medicine, collectibles, or just the tat left over from decades of trading in the same spot.

 

On a whim, we did just that on the Saturday afternoon. Heat shocked and sopping wet, we wandered into and plunked ourselves down in a fish grill house in a street between the opulence of Raffles Hotel and Little India. Up came a sea bream of such perfection that nothing was said until we had eaten our fill and a whole lot more.

 

Sea bass...

Sea bass…

 

And I managed it all with just one camera.

 

Hmmm. Onwards.

 

Most of the long haul flights seem to depart Changi late at night, largely I think, as the air is cooler(!) and better able to lift a 500 tonne, fully loaded A380 or 747 into the air. Our flight to Sydney was one such – rammed with around 400 other travellers, the Singapore Airlines A380 took off just after midnight and flew us flawlessly to Sydney, arriving at an almost acceptable 10:10.

 

Airport-hotel transfers are always a bit of a gamble and our particular Jack-the-Lad driver was no exception. He was a cross between a gobby, blithering idiot and Nigel Mansell. Hardly what anyone needs after several sleepless hours in cattle class.

 

Anyway, Sydney won and after some jet lag interrupted slumber, we set about a city we’d seen a couple of times already.

 

It’s a great city, although I do find the metro transport options a bit awkward and don’t deliver me quite where I want to go. I suppose growing up in London would spoil anyone on that count and equally, maybe that’s just me.

 

What I do know is that the X100F lives either in my hand, on a wrist strap, or in a pocket if I need to be hands-free. It sleeps after a couple of minutes to preserve battery life and wakes up acceptably quickly. The auto focus is quick and when we (this is a joint exercise, after all) get the focal point right, this tiny powerhouse delivers an image quality that must be bothering the engineers back in Leica-land.

 

Practically, the linking of focus spot and exposure gives fantastic flexibility in use, especially really high contrast situations, where I want a particular look and feel.

 

Wet morning in Darlinghurst

Wet morning in Darlinghurst

 

This picture was shot shortly before 08:00 on a dull, wet Sydney morning. Other than cropping and boosting the exposure by half a stop, this image is exactly as it came out of the camera as an Acros emulation JPG file. If shooting this kind of image is a rite of passage with the X100F, consider me a convert.

 

The additional benefit of tying exposure and focus is a kind of vignetting that really suits some images. Not every one of a thousand or so shot like this would work, but for me, this look and feel make this one photograph of a wet pavement one of the best of the whole trip.

 

Autumn rain in Sydney

Autumn rain in Sydney

 

If I were to be content with the fixed field of view, there’s no doubt I could shoot landscapes with the X100 as well. Fortunately, I have an X-Pro2 and some equally fine Fuji lenses for that and they’ll be put to good use in the coming weeks, but that’s another article.

 

In the meantime, I love this little X100 and am endlessly grateful to those clever engineers at Fuji for being so prescient in developing such an extraordinary camera.

 

More images follow.

 

Tiny shoes, Robertson Quay

Tiny shoes, Robertson Quay

 

Car park, Robertson Quay

Car park, Robertson Quay

 

Food prep at Tangs, Singapore

Food prep at Tangs, Singapore

 

Darlinghurst - Sydney

Darlinghurst – Sydney

 

Untitled, Manly

Untitled, Manly

 

Food prep at Tangs, Singapore

Food prep at Tangs, Singapore

 

Darlinghurst - Sydney

Darlinghurst – Sydney

 

Untitled, Manly

Untitled, Manly

 

Lunch at Tangs, Singapore

Lunch at Tangs, Singapore

 

Burger lunch, Manly

Burger lunch, Manly

 

Autumn sun, Manly

Autumn sun, Manly

14 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Adrian May 17, 2017

    Having been in Singapore a few weeks ago, and last year, I concur whole heartedly with your comments on the temperature and humidity. It makes everything such hard work, saps energy, and turns one into a sudden mess. Not a very pleasant or elegant way to travel!

    Between the Raffles and Little India would be Bugis (I think), a strange “mid town” area that isn’t really one thing or the other. I read it was once a red light district before being cleaned up, but the street still have a sordid air to them that is at odds with other parts of Singapore, but the local hawker centers and mom and pop restaurants you describe and good and very cheap.

    I actually quite like some of the gentrification in Singapore, because it’s often done with a certain style and artiness. The new hotel and entertainment complex opposite the Raffles (whose name now escapes me) was architecturally wonderful, and I was only discussing with Pascal the other day about posting some pictures.

    I still have an X100 original although I don’t use it a great deal now as newer cameras are “better” at some things, although I still have fondness for it. I always found the combination of the auto white balance and film simulations (which aren’t terribly “accurate” or neutral) to produce images that were far to pushed to the yellow orange in south east Asian light. I particularly like your photo of the “no parking” garage doors. Some of the other images you talk about are striking, although they raised a question for me about whether a photo is “good” because of its tonality, contrast, colour etc even when the subject is actually rather “dull” (I’m thinking of the paving slabs as an example). Please don’t take it personally, it’s not that the photos are bad by any means, but their quality is a result of their “look” and not necessarily their content, which raised lots of questions for me. We clearly see and photograph in very different ways.

    • Avatar
      paulperton May 17, 2017

      Art, we all see and shoot differently. I will be in the Orkneys with two DS-ers next month and one project we’re discussing is for all three of us to choose a spot, shoot and publish our results. Watch this space.

      As far as the X100’s tendency to guild the lily a bit, I’m OK with that. The two images I really liked in the post would have been pretty uninteresting processed from RAW and definitely lacking the grit and tone that makes them so appealing (to me at least).

      As you often see elsewhere; YMMV.

      • Avatar
        Adrian May 18, 2017

        Paul, I sincerely hope you didn’t take my comments as “criticism” – some.of them really raised questions for me as being honest I found the content uninteresting but liked the photo! It’s not how I see, think it work, so it’s interesting and absolutely not personal criticism!

        Does the latest version of Fuji RFC allow you to replicate the in camera film.simulations? Of course if yoi shoot raw the in camera converter gives you endless options to adjust.

        As I don’t know the latest firmware, I believe the settings your describe tie a spot meter to the AF point, and only meter that way (I.e. Bias the entire exposure from that point)?

        I look forward to see the experiment you describe. I am hoping to prepare some often austere architectural and abstract work from Singapore taken at around the same time – very different from your photographs and my reaction to a period of “loss of mojo” as I put it to Pascal.

        Never having seen Bugis many years ago, I find the women beckoning for massages and the rather tatty markets often selling dubious wares to be at odds with other parts of Singapore I know, with a slightly sordid air.

        • Avatar
          paulperton May 18, 2017

          Art,

          I’m actually sitting in a hotel in Singapore once again as I write this. Our flight(s) home from Sydney didn’t connect, so we’ve a 24 hour layover (and a fine lunch) in front of us.

          I’ve not tried siamesing the focal and spot metering together so tightly before and admit I quite like the results.

          Fuji’s film simulations are OK, but if I’m feeling more exploratory, I tend to use Thomas Fitzgerald’s plug-ins or the otherwise excellent the excellent VSCO Fuji product (although I don’t much like their grain simulation). As I’ve said elsewhere, YMMV.

          • Avatar
            Adrian May 18, 2017

            How terrible for you – “trapped” in Singapore (though it may well be quite annoying if you thought you would be on your way home!).

            Most cameras I’ve owned bias programme matrix exposure by af point, which means you need to be careful if using focus and recompose!

            I had a third party filter pack that came with Paint Shop Pro which was supposed to emulate named films, but I disliked them immensely mostly because of the hideous faux gran they added. I believe the rebadged Fuji version of SilkyPix 3 now contains the fuji film simulations which one assumes should accurately recreate the in camera look. I only ever really liked the pro neg recipes, as the others just seemed to yellow, and not always very realistic. When others coo over the Velvia ‘simulation’, I always though it looked lile something the office Junior had been tasked with doing, and was no better than many cameras “saturated” presents. YMMV as you say.

            As a weirdo who uses SilkyPix Pro 8, it has preset colour profiles and can also use “tastes” which you can download or create yourself. Actually the built in colour profiles give enough variety when combined with fine colour adjustments that I rarely stray into downloadable tastes etc. I do find the pixel level detail / sharpness and the noise reduction controls really very good, and it has a wealth of other parameter control they I’ve never seen in other software (how strong the demosaicing process is, how flipping color is handled for hue/saturation and luminance/colour, just 2 examples). Whatever software floats your boat and gets the job done for you is what counts.

            Enjoy your day in Singapore.

    • Avatar
      jean pierre (pete) guaron May 17, 2017

      The climate in Singapore is something one acclimatises to – but that’s harder for Europeans than someone living closer to the equator. Bugis Street has certainly been cleaned up – most of its former foreign clientele now opt for the dubious charms they find in Bangkok. Singapore has re invented itself and it’s been most impressive watching it happen. Some visitors say it’s over-regimented, but it’s one of the cleanest & safest places on Earth, and if they want to eliminate street litter, smoking and chewing gum, surely they have the right to decide to do so. Personally I hate chewing gum and Singaporeans treat the restriction as a joke.

      The photos are excellent, and a tribute to Fuji as well as to Paul. I laughed at the turn left sign – I wonder whether the church has ever asked them to move it elsewhere!

  2. Avatar
    PaulB May 17, 2017

    Paul

    It is only when we are constrained that we really grow. At least in terms of photographic vision.

    I really like your images. Especially the silhouette of the person crossing the street.

    Do this again.

    PaulB

    • Avatar
      paulperton May 17, 2017

      Thanks Paul. As far as doing it again, I have a commitment to be in Oslo and Stockholm later in the year and am already thinking that it’ll be an X100-only trip.

      That is unless a X-Pro and a couple of lenses don’t worm their way into my bag when I’m not looking.

  3. Avatar
    Joakim Danielson May 17, 2017

    Great photos Paul and very inspirational too since I have an X100F incoming, I guess I’ll soon be a Leica guy with a Fuji 🙂

  4. Avatar
    NMc May 21, 2017

    Paul
    Have you ever tried the conversion add on lenses for the X100?
    Any comments on real world use would be appreciated.
    I would like to know if you think it would be better to have a regular ICL camera, or if the size and weight savings still fit with the ethos of the camera for you (assuming you did not also have your X pro kit).
    Regards Noel

    • Avatar
      paulperton May 21, 2017

      Noel,

      I haven’t tried the supplementary lenses, but arrived in Singapore prepared to buy one (or both if I found myself in photographic extremis) if the X100F didn’t have sufficient reach.

      The reviews I read before leaving were universally positive, the only complaint being the additional bulk. That said, I bought neither and only found one scene I couldn’t wrangle the X100 to give me what I wanted.

      So, would I prefer a more “normal” camera?

      No. I am really attached to my X-Pro and it will be in my bag when I leave for the UK in June. I’ll mainly be shooting landscapes, so while the X100 will be along too, it won’t be getting as much use as the last few weeks.

      Finally, I’ll be fulfilling a long-term promise to Mrs P later in the year and taking her to Oslo and Stockholm in October. For city visits, that will almost certainly be an X100-only trip.

  5. Avatar
    Peter May 22, 2017

    An interesting and timely read for me. My wife and I are travelling in a couple of weeks to Bangkok, Siem Reap and Angkor Wat, then back to Bangkok for several days. I am under wife’s orders to travel light with one camera only, and I don’t have an X100 of any generation. I am in two minds whether to take the X-Pro 1 for its superior OVF in bright daylight or the X-E2 for its superior focusing capabilities. Either way I’ll be taking the 23mm f2, 35mm f1.4, Samyang 8mm f2.8, and maybe a 50-ish lens. I suspect that 90% of my images will be made with the 23.

    • Avatar
      paulperton May 22, 2017

      Peter,

      We did the Bangkok, Siem Reap trip a couple of years ago. I’d say the X-Pro1 wins hands down. The 23 and 35 are essential and if you have a 50-something, take that too. Not sure where you’ll use the Samyang – that’s seriously wide.

      I’d guess daily temps will be in the late 20s and low 30s, so don’t carry too much, although a lightweight tripod will be essential if you plan to get the obligatory Angkor Wat sunrise shot. Use the tripod there and then leave it in the hotel afterwards.

      BTW, get up and get there early – you won’t manage without a guide and he will get you a spot, but remember that there might easily be a thousand other photographers there too.

      Have a great trip – maybe write something to put here on DearSusan?

      • Avatar
        Adrian May 23, 2017

        It’s difficult to recommend lenses without knowing what types of photo and subject yoi like. For me in Bangkok for street a 50mm FF, for tourist visits to temples a 28-85 will do good service, for the city architecture and skyline a 16-35 type lens. For siam reap.assuming also tourist visits, temples etc then a 28-85 or 28/35 + 50 + 85 ish but again it all depends what you like photographing. My most used lens for “travel” is a 24-70mm, then a 16-35mm, then a 55mm.

        Temperatures now are well into the 30s daytime and still high 20s at night, and quite humid, so limiting photo equipment with all the other things you need to carry (guide book, water, insect spray, sun spray, hat etc etc) is a good idea where possible, within the limits of what you want / need to photograph.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up to our newsletter!