In a way, this post is a follow-up to “Impromptu” (click here) in which I documented a night out with the guys. And in another way, it’s a follow-up to my review of the Fujifilm X100 rangefinder-style camera (see right here). In that review, I chronicled my mixed emotions about this wildly popular (and still really hard to find) camera. In subsequent related posts, I professed my growing affection for it.
Turns out I’m not alone. Internet forums and photography blogs are full of exhortations on the pros, the cons, the bliss-inducing and the frustration-provoking characteristics of the beast. Great street shooter… yes. Underperforming autofocus engine… sure. Delightful decisive moment instrument… yup. Overpriced and excessively hyped machine… oh yeah. It’s a sea of paradoxes. And it’s a camera I can’t get enough of.
A couple of talented and fairly famous photogs, who also happen to blog, sum up the extremes:
Zach Arias tells readers: “I can state with confidence that this is my favorite camera I have ever owned. Period. End of story. Done. Best. Camera. EVAR. OMG.”
Thom Hogan offers: “I’m not going to gush over the X100 and marry it as some have proclaimed on their Web sites… This is not a camera that will adjust to you. You’ll adjust to it, or you’ll return it for store credit.”
They’re both right.
If pressed… go ahead, press me… why exactly do I like this camera and why am I willing to, as Thom Hogan states, adjust to it? For the answer, I turned to my bar buds…
First off, meet the guys:
This is Fred…
During one evening recently in a local pub, the six of us mixed it up. OK, maybe the five of them did the mixing while I did the shooting. 197 photos worth of shooting, in fact. I set the camera to stealth mode (no beeps, completely silent shutter, no autofocus assist beam flashing in everyone’s eyes). The camera, though not materially smaller than a beginner Nikon DSLR, does have a way of blending in. And though the room was fairly dark, I didn’t find autofocus hunting to be a problem. This is not a DSLR and so no one should expect that the camera is going to rack in and out as instantaneously, but it’s no slug either.
After the fact, I had a chance to touch base with the guys. The dialogue that follows points out exactly what the X100 is meant to be and the kind of setting in which it excels. It helps answer the question of why I’m more inclined to agree with Mr. Arias than Mr. Hogan.
My first question had to do with whether they were aware of my constant shooting and whether that negatively impacted the evening.
Anujeet: “It was very noticeable in the beginning… but it was a non-factor for me for the evening.”
Terry: “Early on, there was that awareness of Rey taking pictures. Rey was on the opposite side of the table from me and the tendency from years of posed photos is to look over to the camera and smile. But as the discussion ranged from movies to religion and politics, I kind of forgot he was doing it.”
Dan: “No impact.”
Next, I asked them whether the fact that I was shooting with a relatively smaller and definitely quieter camera made a difference at all in how they answered the first question.
Fred raised an interesting point regarding whether a bigger and louder camera may have prompted me to stay further back physically from where they were in order to not be as intrusive. He contends that that would have also left me further away and less a part of the conversation.
Anujeet: “My bias would be yes, I think it would make a difference. A larger and louder camera could be somewhat more challenging when you are sitting across a twenty inch table. It might be less of an issue at a bigger table.”
This is a key point here. I definitely felt more comfortable moving in toward the center of the discussion by virtue of the X100’s size and silence. The relatively wide fixed 35mm equivalent focal length also necessitated that I move forward in order to capture proper compositions.
Terry: “Yes, I think if the whirring or the clicking were audible it would have been a distraction. I would have felt more self conscious and attempted to pose or try to look good. At least I achieved not looking good!”
Dan: “No, it was still quite obvious you were taking photos which led me to throw a napkin at you at various times throughout the night.” (Editor’s note: True story… he threw napkins.)
Finally, I asked the guys about the final images as originally posted. Specifically, I wondered about the stylized black and white renditions and whether that added or detracted from their impression of the images.
Terry: “The pictures did seem to capture the people and the spirit of the evening. I like the black and white images. In a bar setting, it gives the shots a timeless quality and I think the bar background, especially in the (original) picture of Dan looks terrific. Also, I think that it helped in that you are not necessarily fixated on what people are wearing, or colors, but on the facial expressions of each person.”
Dan: “I agree that they captured in some way the essence of all of us but, no offense, I’m not sure whether it was because the photographer was skilled or whether our faces are a window to our souls.” (Editor’s note: It was because the photographer was skilled.) Dan continues: “The black and white made all the difference. Not sure why, but I am certain that it made the bar really look like a bar as opposed to what it really looks like – – a dentist’s waiting room.” (Editor’s note: Fun fact – Dan’s living room was, at one time, a dentist’s waiting room. Really.)
Anujeet: “I think the black and white helps. It’s my impression that it helps one to focus more on the individuals and their expressions, demeanors, personalities.”
When asked about whether the final artistic rendering impacted the integrity of the photos, Dan stated: “It certainly increased the quality, but not sure what you mean by integrity. The images are not a realistic account of the night. An outside observer of that conversation would have seen it in living color and not in the fragments captured by the film – – yet the fragments capture the essence of the night – – a very diverse group of guys who love each other, debate, console, and poke fun at each other, and who had a great time.”
Well said, Dan. And thank you guys…
Posted by Rey