Before leaving for my annual trip to Thailand this year, I made a decision to leave my Pro Nikon DSLR at home, and instead, bring with me a camera I had only owned for a couple of days: The Fuji X100 Rangefinder. I had been eyeing this camera for over a year, and yes, it has massive retro appeal. But more importantly, it has excellent retro function. Specifically: knobs and dials. I love knobs and dials. Knobs and dials are what make cameras easy to use. I’ve owned several (expensive) small cameras before and they all ended up gathering dust on the shelf for one specific reason: lack of knobs and dials. There is nothing more frustrating to a photographer than having to wade through an impossible menu system to simply change aperture. Granted, these cameras were designed as point and shoot—and I guess they work just fine for that. But if you really want to control your shot, they all fail miserably. And, since I can’t afford a Leica, I was always stuck lugging around my five pounds of Nikon and a bag of lenses. Not a real problem mind you, but I longed for something different. The Nikon always made it feel like I was working.
Then came this Fuji X100. Rangefinder style and function coupled with an excellent digital backbone. It seemed perfect. And it is. It’s a really great camera—perfect for street/travel photography. It’s small and it stays out of the way—even while hanging around your neck. And it takes stunning photos. And those knobs! That said, it’s not an easy camera to use. You really have to have a solid understanding of photography to get good photos out of it. It’s basically a manual camera, though it works in aperture priority or shutter priority just fine. But it’s quirky as hell. Though, once you get it dialed in, you can really have fun with it. I read the manual on the plane ride over, and I should probably read it again to fill in some gaps. But here’s what I shot over a two week stay in Thailand.
The camera itself has really changed how I typically approach photography. I’ve never been much of a street photographer, but I now fully appreciate the appeal of it. Small camera, inconspicuous, waiting for moments. Staying slightly ahead of certain subjects, hiding in doorways, shooting from the hip. So much fun! The camera itself got a fair amount of attention too, and my favorite comment was from an Englishman I was hanging out with who asked: Is that a proper camera?
I’ll still use the Nikon for all my pro stuff. But when I feel like wandering around aimlessly with a camera, the X100 will be around my neck. I even found a used old-timey strap for $5 before I left town.