By Jonathan Katz
Today marks my one-year anniversary using the Fuji FX100F. This tool transformed my professional photography and set me on a path towards a full-time obsession with abstract photography and painting. While I had grown increasingly interested in finding form in everyday objects through the viewfinder of a Nikon D750, things clicked for me within days of using my new Fuji X100F.
The Fuji solved a long-standing problem for me. Previously, I needed to review an image in playback mode to actually see the finished image. Now, while framing shots, I began to visualize images as they would appear in a finished photo on the LCD screen of this compact, fixed-lens camera. For decades I struggled to properly see an edge-to-edge image from the eye piece of an SLR, shuffling my gaze to ensure that I was clearly seeing each edge of the frame. I had, of course, used "live view" with my Nikon, which offers some similar advantages to the Fuji's LCD. In my experience, however, there are compromises involved with "live view" during both the preview phase and while clicking the shutter release. Please don't get me wrong, I achieve many satisfying images with the D750 and its stellar Nikon lenses, and there are, obviously, myriad applications for which the DSLR is a valuable tool. If you take a look at my "Realistic", "Flowers" and Animals" portfolios http://www.streetphotoswithatwist.com, you will get a sense of my non-abstract work with a DSLR. For my street photography and abstracts, though, I find myself struggling and compensating when I am using a DSLR rather than the Fuji X100F. While the Fuji has unlocked a mode of visualization that allows me to better use a DSLR, or even a phone camera, I'm still happiest when shooting with the X100F.
After an of evening fiddling with my new Fuji X100F, I went out the next morning in order start experimenting with the device and to get comfortable with the basics of its operation. I had walked over to a nearby parking lot where there was a collection of garbage awaiting pickup. Within minutes, I started seeing the overall shapes and tones of my subjects in the viewfinder, rather than focusing (literally) on image sharpness as I had always done. Here is the first experiment I performed while I was looking at an old, discarded steel desk with some ugly velcro stuck to its surface while the camera was defocused in manual focus mode:
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Reality ShotSteel Desk with Velcro (in focus) Implied Landscape with Water and SkyCamera in manual focus mode, slightly defocused.
While I soon abandoned the approach of taking out-of-focus images, I now saw images on the LCD in terms of color, tonal contrasts, and overall shapes in ways that I hadn't before.
The ergonomics of this compact camera allow me to frame a close-up composition at a comfortable viewing distance to my eye so that I can realistically see what the resulting image will look like. I hesitated to purchase the X100F because I thought a fixed wide-angle lens might be too limiting. That was before I realized the practical value of carrying a small, light camera that focuses to about 4 inches and allows a viewing angle that approximates the way I look at things with my eyes. I should also mention that the magnified focus feature of the Fuji is activated by slightly turning the focus ring while in manual focus mode. This is a great tool that I simply cannot do without when I'm trying to focus on close-up subjects that are out of range for autofocus mode. Finally, the lens is tack sharp at F16 from edge to edge even when focusing close which gives me a lot of freedom when I am composing an abstract image.
Beyond the ergonomic features I've just described, the X100F has another key attribute related to its LCD Screen. The LCD shows, in real time, a close approximation of the image, including the exposure settings and film simulation mode, as they will appear in the resultant jpeg. For example, if you happen to have the camera in Black-and-White Acros Film Simulation mode, you will see a contrasty monochrome image through the LCD screen. This feature alone could prove valuable to photographers striving to see subjects in black-and-white. Think for a moment how amazing this is!
There is also a second, excellent optical viewfinder which is activated by holding the camera up to your eye. As this is similar to looking through the viewfinder of a DSLR, I don't use that mode very often, unless bright lighting conditions render the LCD too difficult to see. For this reason, I use the LCD/OVF mode activation feature to set the mode to "LCD Only" so that the OVF is not accidentally engaged if I happen to get my hand, body, or camera strap too close to the eye piece. The LCD/OVF modes can be easily selected from the "view mode" button on the back of the camera.
I've touched on some of the basic visualization benefits and ergonomic strengths of the Fuji X100F. In later posts I will further explore and explain some additional aspects of the camera such as exposure bracketing, ISO sensitivity settings and automatic-to-manual focus tricks. I will also elaborate on how I operate the Fuji X100F when I am working to capture close-up images.
Please feel free to leave comments with your suggestions for topics you'd like me to cover related to the X100F or more generally with regard to my compositional approach to abstract photography. Below are some samples of thumbnail images showing my abstract photographic style. All of the images are of everyday objects (i.e metallic dumpsters, concrete, details on cars, heavy machinery, traffic signs, stone tiles) that I encounter while walking around my neighborhood with my Fuji. I have, thus far, limited my finishing technique to Adobe Lightroom and Color Efex Pro. My website, www.streetphotoswithatwist.com , has more of my images on display (and for sale) as well as a link to my public FlickR gallery which shows the full metadata (i.e. exposure, ISO settings, date, title, etc...) for many of my images.
Dark Cloud ExtinctionDumpster scratch Armed PoochAn argument for gun control GuardianI will admit to retouching the end of the object in the hand of the subject to enhance the composition by providing space around the center of interest.