Fujifilm X100V

Beauty, it’s said, is in the eye of the beholder. To me, Fujifilm’s X100 series of cameras is nothing if not beautiful. It’s also said that true beauty is more than skin deep. The latest iteration, the X100V is especially so.

When the original X100 camera was released in 2011, so too was a Japanese promotional film. As far as ads go, this film — less than a couple of minutes long —is a work of art. Its implied message: this is a camera for artists, for modern-day Moriyamas and Franks.

Fujifilm Finepix X100 video copyright 2011 Fujifilm Corporation

I badly wanted an X100 back then, but that beauty was flawed, and it wasn’t until the third iteration, the X100T, that I bought into the series. It served me well for a time, but the X100V has further refined the original X100 concept to achieve something remarkable. More so than any other camera, it’s a chameleon. Within its sleek compact form exist a number of cameras. It can be used in its purest analog form, with its optical viewfinder, exposure triangle and focus dials and rings to approximate the tools of Cartier-Bresson and his generation. It can be used as a modern touchscreen imaging device, the dials and buttons all but ignored. Or it can offer various blends of the two. The camera’s interactive choices are unparalleled and with a little customization it can become the camera that many different photographers want.

This blog doesn’t often touch on camera gear and I wouldn’t consider myself a gear head but I love good industrial design, and this latest version of the X100 is something far greater than the sum of its parts. As good as it looks in photographs and its specifications and design choices look on paper, it’s even better in the hand. The finishes, the ergonomics, the tolerances, the features, all perfect. It’s a highly complex technological imaging device wrapped in an elegantly simple body. It’s a seductive piece of industrial design and shooting with the X100V is nothing short of delightful. It’s quite possibly the best compact camera ever made; it is a truly beautiful camera.

Process

DSCF0896

This was such a Tokyo scene: the dramatically sunlit high-tech architecture, the sharply dressed businessman with his headphones and briefcase. I had to take a photo.

Initially I did very little processing on it: some exposure and color adjustments and some slight cropping: the photo above. I returned to it some days later and, looking at all the shapes and shadows, thought the image was too busy; it needed to be simplified. I decided to do a monochrome conversion. This looked a lot better to me; stripped of color the scene had greater focus and drama.

The white screens. On Tokyo‘s streets it’s rare to find such blank space as on those screens. They would typically be plastered in — or digitally screen — advertising. These thoughts led to me consider creating a double-exposure image using advertising imagery. The twin screens‘ resemblance to a pair of glasses started to suggest eyes — and I felt that, while obvious, this was a strong concept. I looked around the city streets for appropriate imagery to shoot. In the end I added some manga-inspired eyes from images decorating the front of a pachinko parlor. I experimented with the idea of combining color eye imagery on the main photo, but it is quite busy visually with its interplay of architectural forms and shadows, even in black and white, so I converted the eyes to monochrome and kept the overlay blend very subtle. I’m happy with the final double-exposure image. I think the modified screens add an evocative futuristic and enigmatic atmosphere to the scene, opening it up to a wider range of interpretations. It should make a nice print.

DSCF0896 Double