Gear Theory

Doing my Thing (with a Fuji or two) – By Thorsten Wulff

February 1, 2020

I love my Fuji. The X100s that is. A couple of weeks ago I went to a function at the german parliament. Security is tight, like when boarding a plane you face scanners, bullet proof glass, the works. I just brought my X100s, and the security guys were so amazed by it that they asked if the could put it through the X-Ray twice to see it from all sides. Hamish and Steven just got into some of the details of two of the cameras iterations here and here, so I’ll skip that. But for saying that what I love about the X100 is the size, and that everybody believes it’s your dads old rangefider from the 1950s.

Everybody thinks its analog, and that makes it appear harmless. And the best part, the silent shutter. One of the first things I switched off, right after the AF-light, was all the beeps, clicks and sounds the camera can optionally make. My ususal workhorses are three fat, loud Nikons. So everybody knows that when the clicking stops, the cameras arn’t being used.

But by then I’m shooting the noiseless Fuji and getting the more candid shots. My late friend, the writer Günter Grass, was fond of the X100 exactly because of that silence. One night, celebrating the launch of a huge exhibition of his work, he sat opposite of me and saw the Fuji dangling on my neck. Grabbing my arm he said: “Come on, do your thing!” “Okay” I replied, “light your pipe”. I took two shots with the X100. Grass died soon after this…

On another occasion I went to shoot the writer Haruki Murakami, again just with the X100s. I got stuck in traffic, was very late and almost missed him. While I did my thing, this lady with an old 200 Series Polaroid was shooting me shooting Murakami, ripping the pack film out of the camera after every exposure and storing the images under her arm. Murakami left, we started talking about Photography and New York City, and I had no idea who she was.

She reminded me a bit of Annie Leibovitz, but I was sure it was not her. The walls around us had the oak wood paneling, transplanted from the Times former London building. It was a good fit for Murakami as background, but I wanted something classic. I asked her if she knew a nice white wall somewhere for a portrait, and she suggested the Ladies room. So we went there, and I took my picture of Patti Smith. No problem with the Fuji.

From the first frame I took, I used the X100s in manual focus mode with the optical viewfinder. The camera is set to exposure preview and focus peaking, so that it activates the electronic finder the moment you touch the focus ring on the lens. This has the double advantage of looking rangefinder-style and battery saving through the finder window at all times, plus superfast focusing with the peaking feature. I keep the camera in manual mode, so the exposure preview comes in handy for fast decisions. In this way, the X100s does not get in my way and really helps me to get the picture without any fuss.

For the last couple of weeks I tried out the Fujifilm X-Pro3, you know, the one with the hidden display. While this got a lot of attention on the internet, it was actually not really a topic for me. I never check my images on the X100s display either. One reason is the conservation of energy, the other that the exposure preview in the electronic viewfinder is spot on, same with the focus peaking.

To shoot the X-pro3 I applied basically the same settings: manual focus and exposure. My first outing was to an Berlin christmas market. It was getting dark, so I used the XF 23mm F/2 wide open with ISO 4000. Again, I used the optical finder plus focus peaking, so no problems arose focusing in the very blue hour on a foggy Berlin December afternoon. The angels on stilts were shot at ƒ2 1/250sec:

The X-Pro3 features the same silent mode as the X100 with the electronic shutter, so no one realizes you taking a picture if you don’t fuddle too long with the camera. Just bring it up, focus, and snap.

On New Years Eve I met a group of argentinian jugglers, performing on an highway off-ramp. They were dancing quite a bit around between the slow moving cars, I had to watch my back while taking the pictures. For this I switched the 23mm to ƒ/9 with the X-Pro3 on ISO 1600, and the depth of field scale set on 1,5 meters. This hyperfocal distance gave me enough space to move around safely and to use the finder window just for framing Lucila.

The X-Pro3 is not a camera for everybody, and does not pretend to be that. Fuji got a surprising amount of buzz out of that hidden display, which is certainly not bad for a rangefinder style camera in 2020. I really enjoyed this bold move by the X-Pro design team, it proves that the spirit which gave us the first X100 is strong with Fujifilm. With a couple of settings you can switch this camera to full manual mode and do your thing. Analog or Digital.

Thank you for your time. If you interested in more of my work, you can find it at thorstenwulff.com

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    Bruno Chalifour
    February 1, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    Thanks Thorsten, superb portraits of Grass and Smith.

    • Reply
      thorsten
      February 2, 2020 at 12:48 pm

      In both cases there was not lot of thought process involved, the whole thing runs more on instinct… And while I really like the EVS of new cameras like the Nikon Z6, there is still a difference looking through glass at the world… more or less like this is the only analog part remaining in our cameras today. Please have a look here at this Grass portrait, done with an open 85 ƒ1.4: http://thorstenwulff.com/albums/people/content/guenter-grass/lightbox/

  • Reply
    AC
    February 1, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    What wonderful portraits, Thorston! You certainly know how to get the best of people, a natural rapport!

  • Reply
    AC
    February 1, 2020 at 2:15 pm

    What wonderful portraits, Thorsten. You certainly know how to get the best of people, a natural rapport!

    • Reply
      thorsten
      February 2, 2020 at 12:42 pm

      Thanks, AC, that is very nice of you to say. I’ll just try to make not a huge fuzz about it, talk to you very fast and when you are distracted enough I raise the camera for two or three fast shots, bang done ;))

  • Reply
    Nikolay
    February 1, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    Thank You so much. Terrific post. I knew Günter Wallraff also, so this is perhaps some of the very last – but so generic “Günter” pictures I have ever seen.
    Keep the good work going 🙂

    • Reply
      thorsten
      February 2, 2020 at 12:40 pm

      Thank you Nikolay, the only time I met Grass after that was a theater premiere , a stage prodution of his book Tin Drum in Hamburg, this April he is already 5 years gone which is kind of unbelieveable…

  • Reply
    David Hume
    February 1, 2020 at 10:49 pm

    Thanks for posting Thorsten! Wonderful images as well as great stories and description of your technique.

    • Reply
      thorsten
      February 2, 2020 at 12:37 pm

      Thank you David, it was nice to see our posts back to back with the different approaches we took… and your FM2 looks really hot on leather! I used the Analog 1965 cover for the beauty shot as an in-joke, plus I actually got the issue from Australia.

  • Reply
    George Appletree Photography
    February 2, 2020 at 9:17 pm

    Well done.
    I agree the optical viewfinder is a delight. I recently got another Xpro1 (I got rid of some other time ago) just because of that and enjoying it again. Lovely camera. Beautiful black’s in the Grass shot. So interesting, too processed for my taste though.
    The multidisciplinary singer portrait so good either. I had a look some time to some of her photographs. Yes, Patti should get a Fuji x too instead.
    About the Xpro3, I was in a bit of purchasing it, but fortunately I saved a good bunch and got the 1, despite technology and megapixels. It was too plasticky in my hands, and the hide screen is only a cool device. Avoiding chimping is much purer with a back screen…

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