To Paris with Prentis Drew and a Fujifilm X100

Photo by Prentis Drew

2 Guys Photo friend, Prentis Drew (more information here) and I were once chatting about the merits of carrying around a smaller but still capable camera instead of a full DSLR kit.  As our readers no doubt know, Ed and I have become fond of mirrorless cameras having moved over completely to them.  But it’s one thing to move to an interchangeable lens compact and another thing entirely to grab but one fixed focal length camera such as a Fujifilm X100 (or now, X100s) with it’s 23mm (35mm equivalent) focal length.  I mean who would ever photograph anything as important, as diverse, as substantive as a trip abroad with just this camera and its ever-constrained singular focal length?

Turns out, Prentis would do just that.

Read on for more of his impressions.

Prentis tell us:

About a month ago we had a little discussion on whether or not it was advisable to take a trip to Paris with only the X100 in tow.  Well we have returned and I have had a chance to go over the photographic results.  It turned out that with only one single exception I didn’t miss the D90+lens one bit.  The exception was at the cathedral in Chartres which is a monster building and very close quarters.  But if I did have a fisheye lens (which is what it would have taken) it would have been ultra-distorted anyway.  So the verdict is, no more international travel with a DSLR for me.  The X100 was more than adequate for the job and it performed flawlessly.

One example is attached (editor’s note: see below).  I used a mini-tripod and three auto-bracketed exposures and rendered them with HDR processing.  It was a ball to have this little camera in hand at all times without feeling like a tourist with a big rig.

Photo by Prentis DrewHaving been sufficiently impressed (yet still sufficiently skeptical) I asked Prentis whether he’d consider sending us a few more images (such as the classic cafe shot at the top of this post) and to describe what it was like shooting with only a 35mm focal length (equivalent).  He notes:

I was absolutely fine with the single focal length.  I did some occasional zooming with my feet but generally the lens on the X100 worked for almost every situation I encountered.  I was also able to virtually zoom by cropping in post.  I used the pan function for a shot of our room (all affordable hotel rooms in Paris are pretty small, just like New York City) but that was about it for wide angle needs.  The low noise sensor and f-2 lens worked wonderfully for night shots.  Nope, the X100 was a joy to travel with.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.

More evidence of joy…

Photo by Prentis Drew Photo by Prentis DrewThese images are of the cathedral in Chartres, which is about an hour drive out of downtown Paris.  That’s the one he wished he had a fisheye lens to capture.

For more images from the trip, see Prentis’ gallery entitled “Impressions of Paris France” here.  A glance at these images will suggest that Prentis has indeed proven his point.

Thanks, Prentis!

 

 

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13 Responses to To Paris with Prentis Drew and a Fujifilm X100

  1. Steven Tryon says:

    My main working camera being a Yashica-D, I find a fixed focal length lens forces me to think differently about what I am shooting. (I do occasionally pull out the 2x adapter for flowers.) Since I can’t zoom in, I have to find other ways of isolating a subject, or look for different sort of shots. Even when I shot with my XTi, I would take one lens. If I took the Tamron 28-300, that was the only lens I took. I found swapping lenses in the field to be an awful bother. Take one and put it to work.

  2. Fantastic images. The cafe scene looks like a hyperrealist painting…the colors so vivid and crisp. Thanks for the photo lesson, as well as introducing us to Prentice.

  3. Prentis says:

    Thanks Michael. I’m considering a big print of that one to frame.
    Note: The link above doesn’t seem to work. The rest of the images can be found here:
    http://www.prentis.smugmug.com/Travel/Impressions-of-Paris-France/

  4. Rob says:

    Wonderful post and the pics are amazing!

  5. Prentis says:

    Thanks Rob. FYI, I shoot only RAW and do my adjustments and JPEG conversions in Lightroom 4 (although I really didn’t have to do much of anything to these). When I find myself in a darkened church with bright windows I routinely set the camera to take an automatic three EV bracketed set (+/- 1stop) for HDR post-processing. The Chartres windows shown here are a good example of this in action. It would be an impossible shot otherwise.

    There is one other thing. Having a small camera with that much capability stuffed in my unobtrusive shoulder bag along with everything else allowed me to have fun with the captures while at the same time not making it the larger purpose of the trip. I could thoroughly enjoy the travel without the camera “getting in the way,” both physically and figuratively. I saw one tourist walking around Paris with a full camera backpack, tripod attached, DSLR in hand and thought, you poor bugger. I could understand it if he were on a safari photographing wildlife or landscapes. But in Paris I believe he was missing the point. And I’ll wager that in the end his shots aren’t much better than mine.

  6. gunston says:

    Nice HDR, would you mind sharing the workflow?

  7. Prentis says:

    Gunston,
    Glad to. The Notre Dame across the Seine River image you see here was shot using a tripod (a tiny tabletop Manfrotto 709BR DIGI that I always had with me) resting on a stone bridge railing. i set the camera to take three bracketed exposures: normal, +1 EV, -1 EV. The camera was set to Aperture Priority, f-2, ISO-640, and triggered with a 2 second delay so I didn’t have hands on the camera. It ended up shooting 1/10th, 1/6th and 1/20th respectively. I tried it again with higher f-stops and much longer exposures but the river ended up looking like a skating rink. That shot is on my gallery too if you would like to see it.

    Using Lightroom-4 I converted the three RAW files without any tweaking to JPEG. Then I processed them in Paintshop Pro Photo X2 which has an HDR merge utility. Selecting the brightness in that process is all I had to do and the result is what you see. The cathedral window shot shown here is also an HDR merged image but had to be hand held. (There are more examples of these HDR indoor cathedral shots in my Smugmug gallery). I suppose I could invest in something like Photomatix software but sometimes those results can get pretty wild looking. I prefer the realistic looking results you see here. You are not really aware that they are HDR and I like it that way.

    Hope that answers your question.

    By the way I highly recommend that little tripod for traveling with smaller cameras. (It will even handle a DSLR if the lenses used aren’t too long.) It is feather light, very compact, solid as a rock, and includes a pretty nice ball head. I find it easier to carry, much easier to use and better support than a Gorillapod.

    • Prentis says:

      I have an addendum from this reply. I was pondering what Rey said in a later post about not using HDR anymore. Here is my reply to Rey on the subject:

      “With respect to lesson 2 (graduating from your HDR phase) your comment has been rattling around my head ever since. It dawned on me that this should be a good lesson if, and only if, you nail the exposure on the first try. To test my theory I went back into my photo files from my Paris trip. There are three shots that I ballyhoo are only possible with HDR processing. (See my Paris with an X100 thread.) So I took each frame of the +/- 1 stop bracketed set from those shots and manipulated them individually with Lightroom to see if I could reproduce my HDR merged image. Some adjustments with shadows, highlights, and exposure and…voi la! You are right.
      As long as the image isn’t overly dark or has blown out pixels you can get there from here. I would only say that if it is a very important shot, bracketing exposures might not be a bad idea. We did that with film all the time. But I’m with you. I’ll just pick a good one and adjust it rather than going through the HDR rain-dance in the future. You have just saved me a lot of time.”

      Two of those shots are above…the river and the cathedral windows. I have been able to reproduce each of those HDR photos precisely from all three of the bracketed shots using only manipulations of exposure, shadows and highlights in Lightroom. You learn something new every day.

  8. Barry S says:

    Prentis:
    You’re still the man ! See you upstairs at the Eldorado Ballroom.

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