11 July 2012

FujiFilm X100 does Paris

(CONTAINS FLASH! Won't work so well on smart phones or iPads. Computers only.)
One of the things my wife and I missed about London while living in New York was the notion of being able to hop on a train to Paris. Now that we are back living in London we decided to do just that.

After gathering enough nectar points Claire quickly secured passage. We would stay in a tiny flat just around the corner from Bastille Metro station. Many of the places we wanted to visit were within walking distance.

This wee film was shot entirely with the amazing little FujiFilm X100.
Previously when the four of us would go anywhere I would carry a big DSLR with a few lenses. This was not only heavy, it was bad for my back, neck and shoulders causing me to be a cantankerous auld bastard to be around. It also meant that I couldn't easily therefore carry the other stuff a family on adventure needs, ie snacks, raincoats, water etc., which meant Claire had to carry that stuff. And that's not cool. On this trip I just brought an X100, a couple of extra cards and two additional batteries. I also had an audio recorder but left it in the flat.

The best thing about this wee camera is the speed at which I can work it. My traveling companions were never help up. Previously I would be chopping and changing lenses and drawing attention to myself which just annoyed them. But not this time. I could even make pictures of them and they'd not be bothered at all. I could do my thing with minimal disruption and fully partake in familial activities and still make my street photography as we went along.

I found too that I didn't miss not having any additional focal lengths to work with. I was stuck with the fixed lens and that was entirely fine. Anything beyond this camera's range just didn't bother me at all. I don't think I noticed, in fact. I was simply in the moment and my photo awareness extended only as far as was useful for this camera and no further.
I didn't have any particular plan for this short film. Instead I was simply looking to make photos. I hadn't thought to use the video function at all, in fact. Instead I was thinking to use my iPod for this trip for shooting fun family stuff. But as we happened upon the performers in the metro station, I knew immediately I had some motion footage that I could use to glue a short film together. It was a fluke, in fact. As I had not gathered any audio as initially planned, ambient sounds from the streets and the like, I knew once we came upon these musicians on our way to the Eurostar for our return to London, that I could now wrap up the pictures I'd made into a self contained multimedia piece.

And that's where this little camera really shines. You get stunning still image quality and rather excellent 720p hd video quality as well.

I don't mind that it doesn't have an audio input as I prefer to gather audio separately anyway. You have more options that way. And more control. It's so easy to just pop an audio recorder into the hot shoe and monitor the sound with a good set of headphones. It's not at all difficult to synch later in post.
I used Aperture to edit the stills and iMovie 11 for the video and to stitch it all together. I have FCPX but my computer cannot run it. I'll need to upgrade soon. But iMovie 11 is perfect for this sort of thing as now the audio controls show the wavelengths and this makes it easy to assemble everything together.

I like to set the focus at 3 metres as on a bright day I have the depth of field I need while making photos on the streets. When in the sun I set ISO at 200, shutter speed at 1/500 and aperture at f8. On the shady side of the street in bright conditions I'll drop the aperture to f5.6 and the shutter speed to 1/250 or even 1/125 if necessary. With these settings I'm ready to make photos instantly with the camera at my eye for but the briefest moment. I also have the camera set in silent mode.

I tend not to use the ND filter for general street photography though I would consider it for portraiture in some situations such as for throwing out the back round.

I would like more manual control in video mode however and I think Fuji can make some big improvements here. Manual exposure control would be crucial as would manual focus control for this camera to be used in a professional capacity for motion capture and I hope Fuji will implement such improvements in a future firmware update. I expect many would also like an increase in the bit rate for broadcast quality. I don't have much expertise on this. All I know is that the video can look sumptuous at times being very sharp, contrasty and saturated. I also like the idea of shooting video in the various FujiFilm settings of Velvia, Provia and Astia. And monochrome too, of course though I have yet to explore this option in detail.
I found that the X100, being as it is a beautiful object, was attracting quite a lot of attention and people were approaching me and asking about it. I found this increasingly frustrating. I used to think I was invisible on the streets but with this lovely object I was getting noticed. I had to do something about that so I painted the camera black. And now that some of the paint has come off, it looks really old and even lovelier but nobody pays it, or me, any heed now. And that's just how I like it. I'm invisible again. I must say, however, that I cannot recommend doing this. I took a risk and it paid off for me. But I was very careful. I knew what I was doing.

Here are a few more stills from my Paris meanderings.

I have several more small, multimedia films I'm working on and will post here as and when I complete them.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to comment.
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