What if it breaks down?
What if I want a wider view?
What if I want a longer view?
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.
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.
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.
And I managed it all with just one camera.
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.
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.
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.