I then mentioned that it would be the only camera I am taking to Pebble Beach for the Concours as part of my post on work life balance.
So how did it go and what do I think about the Fuji X100s after three full months of use? Read on to find out.
Let me set the stage by saying that this was an unusual week for me. I went to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance primarily as a car guy and much less so a photographer. That’s new for me. Usually it’s the other way around. I go to places and then am hired to photograph this or that and as time allows, I see and do things I enjoy as part of the overall experience. On this trip I had only one client and one small job so the vast majority of the time spent was my own.
It was a very freeing experience to be able to enjoy all the fun things at car week without planning everything around my camera/photography. The only camera I took was the Fuji X100s. I brought a tripod but never ended up using it. I did everything hand held. I shot from sunup to sundown with the X100s.
After three months of use I feel pretty certain about how to get the most out of this camera. I know its strengths and most of its weaknesses. But I learned one new weakness at Pebble Beach I had been unaware of. I’ll get to that in a minute.
Let’s start with the good stuff. The first thing I noticed was that I was not as tired or stressed at the end of each day. After all I wasn’t carrying 40 pounds of gear everywhere I went. The freedom of just tossing the X100s over my shoulder made me very happy. I was also MUCH less intrusive to the people around me. In past years at Concours I got plenty of dirty looks as I blocked people’s views of the cars or pointed my large DSLR with big lens and flash at them. Using the Fuji X100s I was hardly ever noticed. And when I was noticed, people just assumed my little camera was no threat and things carried on. And that’s the real secret sauce to using a camera like this. It doesn’t cause people to REACT. They are much more natural and not nearly as threatened by it as they would be if it were a big DSLR rig. I realized that this (while not a statistic you can print on a brochure) is a feature of the camera (and cameras like it.) It allows you to be better at telling stories because your subjects are more relaxed. This is something that you usually have no control over. But when you choose this camera you are influencing that decision and I promise you it makes a big difference.
I was shooting cars, locations and people standing next to folks using the same gear I used to bring to Concours. Several came up to me and asked about the X100s. They were pretty jealous that I could get such great image quality out of such a small, transportable camera.
I set the X100s to shoot both RAW and JPEG but frankly, most of the time the JPEGS were fantastic. I could have easily just shot in JPEG mode and nobody would be the wiser. Now I do know what I am doing and what the camera is capable of. Combine that with lots of experience and knowledge of the camera’s operation and it tilts the scale so that I can get things right in camera 80-90% of the time.
The battery does die quickly but I never needed more than two batteries in any shooting day. The camera was responsive and did everything I could ask it to. Then I started doing something I rarely do. I shot at night.
I had the good fortune to be invited to the Jaguar party co-hosted by Playboy Magazine. The Playmate of the Year received a Jaguar F-Type (same color as mine but a V6) as one of her prizes. You can bet I wasn’t going to miss getting a shot of her. The party started about 30 minutes before sunset so during that time, there was more than enough light to shoot anything I wanted. I often handed the camera to other people to get myself in the shot. Something I’ve never done before with a DSLR and something I am very comfortable doing with the X100s.
Once it was dark I noted the first time the X100s let me down. The autofocus became useless. The camera had lots of trouble finding focus and would hunt quite often. The camera was also slower in most respects and the automatic popup flash didn’t fire in auto mode when I thought it should. I fixed this by simply setting the flash to always fire once it became dark. But the only way to fix the autofocus was to not autofocus. I switched to manual and things worked fine, but in the dark, with my old eyes, manual focus was better but not the perfect solution.
I thought back to the last nighttime Jaguar event I shot in November of last year. I was using a Canon 1DX with an 85 f/1.2 lens and the autofocus never failed me – not once. It was fast and accurate. So in this regard, the X100s isn’t the best tool for the job.
Everything else I expected from the camera I got. I wouldn’t take it into a nighttime setting where I had to make lots of fast moving shots again. But in just about any other place where a 35mm lens (EFL) will do, I will have no problem using the X100s.
I guess it goes to show you that no camera is perfect. And no tool can be expected to do EVERYTHING well. But the X100s comes close and more importantly, it allowed me to be a car guy first, and a photographer second during the largest car show in the world. And that suits me just fine.
P.S. For those in the audience who consider themselves car nuts, you really do owe it to yourself to visit Pebble Beach for the Concours once in your life. It is an amazing experience, no matter how many times you go.
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