Athena Carey, an IPA (International Photography Awards) Winner 2012 came all the way from Switzerland and joined us at a Photowalk happening near a dam in Ulu Yam, Selangor (about 40 minutes drive away from Kuala Lumpur). Sanjitpaal Singh a friend and amazing photographer, who himself was also an IPA winner last year, was one of the organizers of this event. Fujifilm Malaysia has come in as a co-sponsor, and I was very fortunate to be provided a loaned Fuji X100S to be used to shoot the entire event. All I needed was to bring my own SD card, slotted it inside the beautifully sexy X100S and started snapping away. As I go along this blog entry covering the Athena Carey photowalk, I shall also describe my quick thoughts and initial impressions based on a very brief encounter with the Fujifilm X100S camera.
Photo Credits, Above: Jason Lioh, Bottom: Ronnie Oh
All images in this entry were taken with Fujifilm X100S, unless otherwise stated.
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The lady herself, Athena Carey, IPA 2012 winner.
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Sanjitpaal Singh and Athena Carey, with really nice greenery in the background.
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The banner !!
The participants of the event gathered at Ulu Yam by 2.30pm, and upon registration, everyone received a free T-Shirt sponsored by Smugmug, USA. The attendees were then required to change their shirt to the sponsored Smugmug T-Shirt. Thank goodness the largest size provided can fit me (I do not exactly have a small body). There were close to 40 people who came for this event, and I considered this a rather large photography group outing. Location of shoot being at Ulu Yam, that meant the main shooting interest/subject would be the sceneries and landscape surrounding the area. Weather was not on our side in the afternoon, as it rained prior to the event, and the sky remained ugly white (overcast) throughout the whole event. Nonetheless, that did not dampen our spirit to take out our cameras and work them out, while making new friends and getting to know one another better. In fact, we are all fellow photographers who share the same interests and passion. What better place and time to do so, than in an event having both IPA winners, Athena Carey as well as our very own Sanjitpaal Singh to head the photowalk !! If you were short of motivation to shoot, just chat up with either the charismatic Athena, or the friendly, enthusiastic Sanjit, they both oozed photography inspiration as they spoke and shared their photography knowledge and experience with the crowd.
I was loaned the Fujifilm X100S with a few purposes that I must fulfill: 1) to cover the event with official photographs to be used in official media prints and 2) to have a blog entry to report this event, with photos taken with that said X100S. This consequently posed a few challenges for me, as neither have I never used this particular camera before, nor any Fuji cameras at all. Usually I would spend time getting to know the camera better, to familiarize myself with the shortcuts and menu controls, and know at least how to control some of the most basic and important functions on camera. Not being able to do this, it was rather challenging getting the camera on the spot and having to shoot immediately. Therefore, I shot everything in JPEG for convenience sake as I did not know whether Lightroom or Photoshop has already provided support for the X100S, as it is still considered a very new camera.
Since I was only given 2-3 hours to use the camera, and no additional time thereafter, I will not be doing a full review for this Fujifilm X100S camera. After all, you may find many great review sites out there, such as Steve Huff who is also currently still posting his write-up on the Fuji X100S, and I strongly believe he will be doing a better job, considering he owns the camera, and has plenty of time to shoot with it and get to know the camera better. There is only so much I can do in one location, in a limited time, it is not feasible to do a full review. Hence, I shall share my brief hands-on experience with the Fuji X100S.
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Athena Carey brought the T-Shirts sponsored by Smugmug, from USA !
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Catchy taglines at the back of the Smugmug T-Shirt. Thanks Andy for modelling for me.
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Everyone was required to change into that Smugmug T-Shirt.
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Thankfully the shirt fits well !! It was very comfortable too.
Fujifilm Malaysia provided their highly popular Instax cameras to be used on the spot to create instant photographs, which were then personally autogtaphed by Athena herself on the spot, and handed out to the participants.
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Ronnie and Carol having their autographed Instax photo.
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In case you are wondering, everyone in the photo (except Athena and her son of course) used Olympus as their main gear.
Besides me, Fujifilm Malaysia also loaned their latest cameras to Sanjit and Athena. Sanjit got the X-Pro 1 and Athena got the X-E1. Also, their staff were present to shoot around with the Instax cameras, creating instant prints, which were then hand autographed by Athena herself. Kudos to Fujifilm for the effort spent to make things really interesting.
Basically, everyone was free to shoot anything there. As soon as the briefing conducted by both Sanjit and Athena was done, everyone started to snap away to satisfy their itchy fingers. What better way to spend your Sunday afternoon than shooting in the outdoor with a group of photo-crazy buddies?
Since one of my main tasks of the day was to have photographs to cover the event, I spent a great deal of my camera clicks shooting the participants in action, and getting shots that are needed to report this event. However, I did take some time off to shoot stuff for myself, which was not much. I have to admit, having a new camera to play with did get my hands extra itchy, and I was too, curious to test it out as much as I can within the time frame I was given. I started to shoot along the waterfront, some landscape and scenery. Then I decided the landscape shots would lack drama due to the gray, overcast, ugly sky. The view was also clouded with haze, and it appeared somewhat, unappealing. That did not stop me from shooting more, as I looked around me and found some victims to shoot. There were people visiting the place to have picnics, or simply to try their luck fishing from the lake. Those make very vibrant and lively subjects. Yes I did manage to squeeze in one or two close-up tight head-shots, as I always did when I test out cameras or lenses.
So what are my initial impressions/thoughts on the Fujifilm X100S?
I do think the camera looks really, really sexy. The rangefinder-styled camera is beautiful in every single part, and Fuji has won many hearts just by the retro appeal of their latest camera range alone. Some may argue that they tried too hard to replicate the "Leica" feel, but I would differ in opinion. I think Fuji knows strongly that there is a strong market for a smaller sized camera with that professional rangefinder look that screams attention, making a statement that the camera means serious business.
Back to Basics: Mechanical Controls
I really like the mechanical feeling of the camera, in so many ways. I know this may not all originate from Fujifilm, but having them implemented in this camera is definitely something unusual, yet I find usable and practical at the same time. I like the exposure compensation and shutter speed dials to be fully mechanical, with physical clicks as you turned them to control the desired settings. That mechanical aperture ring around the lens in front of the camera, with marking of aperture value change for each click positively made shooting experience a rather different one. Although this Fujifilm X100S is a fully digital camera, having those manual physical controls on camera for the most basic functions (Aperture ring and shutter speed dial) just made shooting a whole lot more fun. You actually "feel" the settings change with real "clicks", rather than just everything changed from the menu or button pressing. The X100S has got user experience closer to basics, and I think after all the leaps and bounds in technological advancement in digital photography world, going back to square basics has become a strong necessity.
Balanced Size/Weight, and Good Handling
I love how the camera was sized. There are smaller cameras on the market that are more pocketable, but expectedly this will have some compromises in shooting comfort, especially not having enough grip for proper handling as well as insufficient weight for steady shooting. There are of course the larger cameras, which are much heftier, and more difficult to lug around. The Fujifilm X100S feels just right, as it hits the right balance of size and weight. I really like how the camera feels on my hands. It felt rather solid, and good. It was also light enough that I do not feel any strain on my wrist, or on my neck as I left it dangling there.
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Lonny Chin, who just acquired her new Olympus PEN E-PL5 !!
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Marcus, and his amazing Fujifilm XS-1
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Fujifilm fans showing off their gear
Sony, Canon, Nikon, you name it, any camera brand, they were all present in this photowalk.
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Camera and action
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Sanjit on high ground, doing the briefing before the photowalk commenced
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Athena in a happy mood!!
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The huge crowd who attended this event!
Now Fujifilm suddenly, out of nowhere made a bold claim that their Fujifilm X100S has the world's fastest AF. That is a very dangerous claim to make, especially in times when all camera manufacturers have pushed their autofocus speed limits in an exponential rate in comparison to what was previously available one to two years ago. While the AF speed of the X100S is fast, definitely much, much faster and improved in comparison to the predecessor X100 (man that machine is SLOOOOW, sorry if I offend anyone, but seriously, the original X100 AF is a turn-off for me), the AF capabilities of the X100S still does not compare to anything from the Panasonic, Olympus or even Sony newer camera offerings. I am not sure how the technical guys in Fuji came up with the speed claims, but usually in practical shooting conditions when not everything is perfect (dark areas, places with less contrast, strong backlit situation, etc), AF may not performed optimally.
While the Fujifilm X100S may not be the fastest autofocusing camera out there, it evidently is very, very fast indeed, and I would say, sufficiently fast for most shooting needs.
However, instead of speed, I did encounter some issues of the out of focus images occasionally. I was sure to set the focusing point to the right location, and in rare occurrences, the camera did fail to focus. A quick re-focusing or shifting the focusing point elsewhere instantaneously solved this problem. Out of all the shots I came home with, there was a handful (about 10%) that were not fully accurately focused. I shall not immediately conclude this to be the camera's fault, because me not getting used to the camera's operation was also a factor not to be overlooked. The focusing was fast and reliable enough for demanding shooting conditions,, I also believe it can be improved even further. It is not as snappy and nearly fail-proof as its competitions.
The 23mm F2 lens (about equivalent 35mm focal length in full frame 35mm format)
I have mentioned a few times before in this blog that 35mm focal length (in 35mm format) is not my favourite focal length, or choice of lens when it comes to general shooting. I often find it being neither here nor there, being not wide enough for wide angle shots, or being too wide for any decent close up shots. At 35mm, perspective distortion can still be a problem, especially when shooting people subjects, and the problem exaggerates as you go closer for tighter framing. I wish Fuji includes a zoomable lens, but that would take away the important characteristic that many people who originally loved the X100 for. After all, it was just me (a very rare few) who disliked the 35mm focal length, where most other photographers, especially the old school folks would live and die by their 35mm lenses.
I find the lens to be a good match to the camera, with very well control against technical imperfections. The chromatic abberation was almost non-existent, and can only be seen if you zoomed in the image at 100%, with very minimal traces. I saw no corner softness (not to my eyes at least) or vignetting problems, even if they did exist, they should not pose any real issues, unless you are really that kind of picky photographer. I find the lens to be generally very sharp, but shooting wide open at F2, it was evident that the lens was rather soft to begin with (I have a few examples in this blog with 100% crops to show the softness). Stopping down to F4 or F5.6, you achieve the optimum sharpness. I somehow did wish Fuji included an F1.4 lens, or at least an F1.7 lens, instead of a modest F2 lens. Having an F1.4 lens will open two important possibilities: ability to shoot better in low light conditions, as well as generating better background blur (shallower depth of field).
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Athena's loaned Fuji X-E1 with Xume Adapter attached. If you want to know more about Xume adapters, do visit their website here (click). The winner of the photo contest held for this photowalk will receive a Xume Adapter !
Athena doing some demonstration on how the Xume adapters work, as well as sharing some landscape shooting tips and tricks with participants.
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Ok here comes my ermm... headshot portrait. 35mm focal length is not the ideal coverage for this tight shots, but hey, lets complain less and just shoot more.
Image Sample 1
100% Crop from Image Sample 1
Shooting nearly wide open, at F2.8, it was not as sharp as I have hoped for.
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Image Sample 2
Instax camera love
100% Crop from Image Sample 2
I can see myself in the reflection !!
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1/45sec, F4, ISO200
They can climb
Image Sample 3
100% crop from Image Sample 3
I did not have enough opportunity to torture the camera, especially shooting in less favorable conditions, eg low light with high ISO settings. Nonetheless, in my brief hands on encounter with the X100S, I can see how this camera has gained such high acclaim when it comes to great color output, and good JPEG engine. I shot everything in JPEG, with Fine setting, and NR set to the lowest setting (if I remember correctly, it was -2). The dynamic range control of the sensor was quite remarkable too, retaining good amount of detail from both highlight and shadow regions. There were further in camera settings to optimize the highlight retention as well as shadow details, but I did not explore further into that (would have made things too complicated). Ultimately, shooting RAW would give you the best flexibility and ample headroom to squeeze out even more details. Generally, I like the overall color balance, very natural and pleasing skin tones (very close to Olympus' rendition, if you ask me) and I must say in an overcast weather condition, the Fujifilm X100S still managed to make the images look lively, which is a great thing.
The battery died too quickly !! I only managed to shoot about 250 shots and the battery just, suddenly, flat-lined on me. At 200 shots, it still showed 3 bars (full) so I was confident the camera can at least last me through the event. I was not provided a spare battery. But as I was shooting on and on suddenly I saw the red battery indicator blinking, and just a few more shots after that, it died, just like that, with not sufficient warning. Thankfully Marcus' Fujifilm XS-1 shares the same battery as this X100S, and he was kind enough to offer me his battery for me to cover the rest of the event. To ALL camera manufacturers (not just Fuji and Olympus, yes you Olympus too) battery life is IMPORTANT. I cannot just have 200-300 shots and a flat battery. I know it may have to make the camera slightly bulkier, but it is ok, if you can double up the battery life in a single charge to at least 500-600 shots !! A single DSLR battery even for an entry level can last easily up to 1000 shots, I see no reason why these newer mirrorless cameras which you intend to push out hard, cannot match in terms of battery endurance. It is frustrating having to use 4-5 batteries for a full day event, and even more troublesome having to have multiple chargers to charge up all the batteries for the coming day. No, 200-300 shots are NOT enough. We take THOUSANDS of shots per day. And that is the minimum.
Final Thoughts on the Camera
Fujifilm X100S checks the right boxes for many photography enthusiasts, as well as professional photographers who look into smaller camera solutions. What is there not to like? That gorgeous, sexy appeal by itself is enough for most people to whip out their credit card. The improved autofocusing capabilities over the predecessor was a much welcomed upgrade. Also, the operation of the camera in general, including menu navigation, shot to shot delay and responsiveness of the camera have been greatly enhanced. My friend, Nick Wade made a very logical commentary which I did agree with strongly, while this X100S may not be anything revolutionary in comparison to the older X100, but the X100S is the camera that the old X100 should have been. All the flaws and issues from the X100 have been addressed, and fixed in the X100S.
I apologize for not being able to perform a full review for the X100S. I don't think any sane photographers would dare to make a review based on just 2-3 hours usage of the camera. I need to test the camera in different shooting conditions (street shooting, low light shooting, close up shooting, different locations, etc). Therefore, I won't be able to answer many questions, as I have not tried half of the features (the dynamic range optimizing setting, improved manual focusing control, the experience of using the electronic hybrid viewfinder, the high ISO performance, built in ND filter, and many, many more useful and important features in the camera I might not even know of).
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At the end of the event, everyone gets a free goodie bag from Fujifilm Malaysia. Yippie !!
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What better person to give it away, than Athena, the celebrity herself!!
I have enjoyed myself tremendously throughout this event. It was an honor meeting Athena Carey, and being just next to her, I felt even more inspired to shoot and shoot better photographs. Her down to earth personality was something I admire, and she was generous in sharing her tips and tricks. I remembered her saying "we always start off with Rule of Thirds for composition, but as we move along we always break it, and that is when things get even better". How true, and how applicable that can be for my own shooting, because I still see myself always being restricted to Rule of Thirds when it comes to my usual composition. There is much to learn, and much more to improve on. I think that is the fun part about photography, the journey never ends.
It was also fun meeting so many new people, and getting to know such a vibrant and lively group of Malaysian photographers. There is a whole wide world out there, and I have told myself not to restrict myself in just a small group of people. I need to get out more and explore the world, and that means meeting more beautiful people.
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Final Group Photo
It was a success, and everyone had a great time (especially me!!). Lets hope there will be even better future photography photo-walk or events!!
Special thanks to the following sponsors who contributed and supported this event:
XUME Quick Release Adapters - http://www.xumeadapters.com/
SmugMug - http://www.smugmug.com/
RDT Prints - http://www.rdtprints.com/
Fujifilm Malaysia - http://www.fujifilm.com.my/