#609. Interview: Adam Bonn

#609. Interview: Adam Bonn

Adam Bonn. A Brit living in Portugal. Fuji user. Mad Fuji user – 80,000 words proves it

 

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50-odd blog entries about a camera. That makes you a serious fanbooi, nut job, or worse, a worrying fetishist. Which is it and should I be sitting further away?

 

Ha! Yeah I wouldn’t get too close; I’m wearing Fujifilm aftershave for one thing…

 

Yeah, it was a joke. Seriously, I’ve been hugely impressed by the depth of your knowledge and insight. Could this be a thesis in the making?

 

Thank you. Well it’s actually about 80,000 words so already long enough to be a doctorate thesis… I can’t imagine any educational facility being very interested though. However, it must be the longest camera review in the world by now!

 

 

 

So, the weather’s great, the light is fantastic, you’re ready to go. X-Pro, tick. Lens choice?

 

XF35F1.4 – as an all-rounder lens Fujifilm never beat that recipe in my opinion, it’s fast (1.4), the IQ is sublime; it has no (or virtually zero) native barrel distortion and is physically very small.

 

If I recall correctly, you used to be a Canon shooter. All that gear gone now? Do you miss it?

 

It was Nikon, all gone and no – not in the slightest to be honest. Most people here wheel out the ‘mirrorless is so much lighter than my old Canikon’ rhetoric, but for me the Fuji is just so much nicer to use and feels better made. I feel that when we enjoy our cameras then we use them more and in a better way. For example I used to own a car and a motorcycle. The car I drove when I had to go somewhere and needed to take a car, the bike I rode for pleasure. I had a relationship with my Nikon like I had with my car.

 

 

 

 

Looking at your Flickr Photostream, your seem to be essentially a street photographer with a strong interest in the everyday life that surrounds you in your home town of Porto. Does that satisfy your photographic itch, or do you hanker for more?

 

I’m quite a compulsive shooter. Move me into a featureless white room, and my Flickr is going to be full of featureless white pictures! I’d love to travel more, and especially revisit places I’ve been to in the past. When I was 15, my Dad thrust his Pentax K1000 into my hands, gave me 3 rolls of film and sent me on a trip abroad. Ever since then I’ve always enjoyed shooting everyday life from different countries.

 

Living where you do and your oft mentioned liking for SilkyPix as a post-production option could easily paint you as something of a photographic outlier – is that fair, or do you feel closer to the mainstream?

 

I’m not sure if I’m a photographic outlier (my street/documentary style is hardly avant garde) But I’m definitely a real life one! I live in a place where I don’t speak the language, will never be a “native” and the whole place looks and feels very different to the country I grew up in (the UK). I feel this does very good things for one’s photography… When your travel location becomes your home location you start to see things and feel the place in a way that you’d struggle too on a vacation.

 

Re SilkyPix… Well I got it cheap!! Seriously though, everyone seems to use Adobe and I’d rather try and find my own path with something a bit different, and besides – I like quirkiness, hence the whole X-Pro thing!

 

 

 

 

What would you change photographically if you could?

 

That’s a bit open! You mean like ban selfie sticks?!! Or you mean about me? About myself; I’d have to say broaden my photographical horizons a bit, more variation, also I’d like to have a more humanistic component to my work; I don’t come close to measuring up against my own photographical ideals…. But I think this is a normal feeling.

 

I think that’s the thing with photography, to bastardise Oscar Wilde; “Taking a photograph is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?”

 

 

 

Last question; you’re already a Fuji Ambassador(?). There’s a new camera in the planning stages and the marketing/tech teams send you a blank canvas. Rangefinder mirrorless? SLR? What would it look like? APS-C? FF? What functionality might it have that is missing in today’s cameras? How would you specify the photographer’s Fuji?

 

I’m not a full on ambassador – I’m what Fujifilm Portugal call “a known friend and collaborator of Fujifilm” As I don’t speak Portuguese they’re unable to make me a full ambassador…at first this was a bit disappointing… but I suspect I’ve got the best deal: most of the perks – but I don’t actually have to do any work for them in return!

 

I’d only feel comfortable talking about an X-Pro3 type design… and yeah I’ve a few ideas!

 

The build quality on the X-Pro2 is, in my opinion, very good – but I think it could have a more premium build; basically a luxury product feel, as I think people tend to buy and keep the X-Pro range for longer and have more of a pride of ownership relationship with it

 

I’d love to see further innovation with the hybrid viewfinder, perhaps it’s possible to combine focus peaking and the optical view finder, so that you’re looking at real life (not EVF life) but the things in focus can have a red line around them

 

I’d like “my” X-Pro3 to have less fat and bloat features – save all the video and multiple AF tracking modes for the X-T line, but instead in-between stops on the SS dial, a locking EV wheel and less menu items, and ISO – why not 50-3200 rather than 200-12800?

 

I’d like it to be FF (because I’d rather shoot a 28 than an 18, not any concerns about APSC per se), but I suspect that won’t ever come to pass, I’d also like Fuji to make a small range of manual focus only lenses, and these lenses should be quite old spec, not full of ASPH glass and coatings so that they render with more character.

 

Now I’m sure everyone who read that, just thought “Adam, you’ve just described a Leica M”

 

But that’s my point… Leica user often have an M and an additional camera (perhaps a Leica SL or a A7) and I think that Fujifilm should be able to make a camera that truly offers the best of legacy photography (the MF glass and a great OVF) and the best of their modern cameras (auto focus XF glass and an EVF) in the same body.

 

I feel that’s a dream that ends when the alarm clock goes off to be honest – if anything Fujifilm seems to be moving the incumbent X-Pro2 closer to the X-T2, not further away!

 

 

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You can find Adam’s Web site here.

 


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9 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Vlad. June 21, 2017

    What I would like to se in my X-Pro2 is a Dust detection function Like M240 and M10 does have. Sensor can be than cleaned as required. It is very useful features that detect sensor dust and would save tedious task removing those pesky spots in PP. Please mention it to your mates at Fujifilm next time you see them Alan.
    Regards, Vlad.

    • Avatar
      Adam Bonn June 21, 2017

      I think I’d need friends at Fujifilm Japan for that Vlad, great idea though – and after the pixel mapping function we have already, might not be beyond the dreams of man….

      At the end of the day if Fujifilm ever did listen to me RE a new X-Pro it would have about 4 dials and 2 buttons and hardly anything in the menu, so probably best they keep the existing design team!

  2. Avatar
    philberphoto June 21, 2017

    I must be daft. I just don’t “get” this Fuji “thing”. I tried one or other of their products 3 or 4 times, and it left my brain as devoid of any noticeable activity as usual. No influence on BP either. It must be some kind of deafness or blindness. And blindness is not good for photography, I guess. That said, Adam displays some really cracking shots, corkers that i would have been proud to shoot myself, so who’s arguing?

    • Avatar
      Adam Bonn June 21, 2017

      Thanks for the kind words RE the shots Phil, I found the trick with the Fuji was too ignore as much of the menu as possible

      The very early Fuji X Cameras were erm how shall I say… particular and rewarded a manual based approach, the newer ones and newer lenses are all much more polished, but I’ve stuck with the way I’ve been using them

    • Avatar
      Adrian June 28, 2017

      Philbert, I owned the original X Pro 1 from the time of release, and found it a fairly hateful experience. At the time, the camera firmware was full of defects and bad design decisions (e.g. In manual exposure or exposure lock mode the end didn’t show the actual set exposure!). Focusing with the 3 original primes was slow, partly because of the camera and partly because they are external focusing designs not really suited to mirrorless focusing systems. The shutter speed dial was on the top plate and couldn’t be reached from a picture taking grip. When I first saw it before release at a photo shoe, it reminded me greatly of my Konica Hexar AF, a 35mm f2 fixed lens AF rangefinder camera with a very Leica-like lens. It pushed emotional buttons about “proper” cameras, although ironically I had always been an SLR user with a penchant for fixed lens cameras (Minolta TC-1, Rollei QZ, Monica Hexar etc). Unfortunately, the X Pro 1 just got in the way of the photographic process too much because of all its operational foibles and poor focusing, and in the end I had to make a decision to invest more money with Fuji in the hope things would be better or move on, and I chose the latter. The camera body cost the same as a full frame SLR but failed to live up to its “pro” nomenclature, and the raw files were just not that great (we could have an entire discourse about how Fuji’s “cure” for more appears worse than the disease with all the problems it introduces, and the heavy performance load the demosaicing requires). I still don’t understand the often near evangelical tone of some Fuji users, and any discussion about handling just seems to come.down to the presence of an aperture ring and a shutter speed dial, but ignores many other functional nd ergonomic.issues some.of which I referenced in another thread here recently (e.g. It takes 2 controls to get shutter speed settings between full stops). If other people like using the cameras then its none of my business and I’m glad they are happy, but after 2 years of painful ownership, I too just don’t “get it”.

      • Avatar
        Adam Bonn July 23, 2017

        Adrian,

        If you set your Fuji SS dial to ‘T’ you can dial in the SS you want with a scroll wheel (just like on a Nikon or Sony)

        There’s nothing wrong with Fuji RAW – but there’s issues with ACR’s demosaicing of it. This isn’t Fuji’s issue to solve and seeing as Photo Ninja, Iridient, On1, Phase One, SilkyPix, RAW Therapee (sp?) have all figured out X-Trans to a satisfactory level, then it’s scandalous that Adobe haven’t bothered

        It’s unfortunate that they chose to call it ‘Pro’ – I usually joke that stands for ‘Prosumer’ 😉

        At the end of the day a pro camera is one being held by someone being paid to press the shutter button, and many cameras qualify

        The original guise of the X-Pro was for a pseudo film camera experience, the lenses sacrificed AF for IQ, the AF system sacrificed speed for accuracy.

        Of course people hated it. You can only justify having an archaic camera that’s expensive if it has the cachet of a red dot on it.

        The later Fujis learnt their lesson and now work like little computers, with fast(er) focusing AF lenses that need software correction to overcome their AF-centric design.

        I’m not particularly evangelical about my Fuji. I like it. YMMV, my site tends to attract people who like there’s more than people that don’t. Personally I mainly see evangelical behaviour from people that dislike a particular camera, more than I do those that like one.

  3. Avatar
    jean pierre {pete} guaron June 21, 2017

    Philippe, as the actress said to the Bishop, it’s not what you have, it’s how you use it. 🙂 We have individual preferences as to the gear we prefer, but t’ain’t the gear that makes the photo! It’s just a means to the end. I’ve seen reviews suggesting Fuji is the greatest – and others saying it’s lagging behind, in developing its product range. But then you can find a similar disparity of views on practically anything in the wonderful world of photography!

    • Avatar
      Adam Bonn June 21, 2017

      I couldn’t agree more with you Jean,

      I’m lucky I really like the X-Pro range, because I sincerely believe when we like something, we use it in a better way!

      Really random and off topic…

      But 20-odd years ago when Ducati released the 916, all the journalists went crazy for it, and one review I read said (something like)

      it’s not actually any better than the Japanese bikes, but it’s so gorgeous, so involving to ride that it inspires you to ride it to the best of your abilities.

      I wouldn’t go quite that far with the Fuji 😉 but if ANY camera can get under your skin, then you’ll probably find you make better shots with it

      • Avatar
        jean pierre (pete) guaron June 23, 2017

        Exactly, Adam – Ming Thein loves his Hasselblads (although I know he has other cams) and produces amazing stuff with them. Pascal does the same with his Sony gear, Paul and Philippe do it with their gear, you do it with your Fuji, I’d like to think I do it with my Zeiss glass. And IMHO, it’s when the cam is an extension of you, as a photographer, that you start producing amazing stuff with it.

        Just for laughs, I sent Pascal a few shots earlier, to see if he could figure what they were taken with – I think I warned him that it was not the stuff of GAS junkies – he seemed to be impressed, but didn’t work it out. In fact, they were taken using a drop of water as a lens. No kidding! So it’s NOT necessary to have a Sigma ART, or an Otus, to take a decent photo.

        Even though my “main” cam is equipped with a range of Zeiss lenses, I get a real buzz out of using my other three cams – they’re less demanding, more fun, and genuinely do take decent photos. Which of the four I grab as I head out is as much a matter of chance as anything else. Actually that’s not quite true – the big monster is better for available light and technical stuff – the PowerShot is great for portrait shots of pets – the half frame is better for moving subjects (the Otuses on the FF are manual focus) – and although smartphone users sneer, the compact is a handy cam to slip into my pocket, and it’s extremely versatile, too.

        Over the years I must have had about 20 cams, not including movie cams. There’s only been one real dud – it was easy enough to use, but only performed well in perfect lighting conditions – which might suit some people but certainly doesn’t suit me. So when people start “knocking” other people’s gear, I’m afraid I lose it. “Each to his own” is a FAR better attitude! And it gives me the chance to enjoy seeing what other people create, with the gear they use.

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