I’ve been excited by the idea of shooting some more film, I love the look of black & white, so purchased a little selection, so I can try out some different stocks. The first one through the camera was a roll of Kentmere 400. Available for the low low price of £4.50 a roll (36 exp) I was intrigued to see what the results would be like (would it actually be any good?). I used to shoot a little bit of Kodak Tri-X, but it’s currently double the price of Kentmere, so I’m interested to see how it compares.
I’m only just easing my way back into shooting some film, so I am definitely not as knowledgable as others, when it comes to the intricate differences between film stocks. This could be a plus, hopefully I won’t notice the flaws in this film, especially as I haven’t developed my eye from years of shooting the premium stuff.
I was pretty happy with the look of this film, nice and grainy, but without being over the top, and not too punchy and contrasty either.
A lot of the look comes down to how the film is exposed. I always err on the side of overexposing with film – I’m not using anything fancier than the in built light meter – and the exposure latitude of the film seems pretty flexible.
I saw these shoes on a telephone wire, and wondered if it would come out at all if I shot wide open, pointing right up at the sky. With a max shutter speed of 1/500s on my Olympus, this must be at least 2/3 stops over, and it has still come out OK.
I’m so used to digital, I found it a little frustrating being stuck with the same ISO for a whole roll. This film could probably be pushed with no problem – but I thought to myself, let’s not run before I can walk – shoot a few rolls at box speed, and learn how it exposes, before trying anything fancier.
I did learn that f/1.4 on my Zuiko 50mm isn’t really an option, everything ends up as a blurry smush. The slowest shutter speed I can get away with is 1/60s, anything slower than that starts getting fuzzy, no matter how still I think I’m holding the camera.
Quick comparison below of this film, compared to the default b&w mode on my Fuji X100S. Lots more grain (obvs) and far deeper blacks. This isn’t meant to be another film vs digital, more just a fun comparison of how they look without any real editing.
My fuji broke earlier this year, and since getting it repaired have I realised how much I missed it. I thought it would be fun to do a blog post about exactly what it is I love about this niche, pretty old camera (by digital standards at least)
First released in 2013, I bought mine secondhand in 2016 with a shutter count of 800 – digital camera prices tend to drop pretty heavily once a newer model is released – but this is still selling for same price on the secondhand market.
I definitely don’t think this is a camera for everyone, but people like me who love it, seem to really love it.
What Makes It So Great?
It is really compact, it has an APS-C sized sensor, and a f/2 aperture, and can still fit in a jacket pocket. It is so small and unobtrusive, I never have to think twice about bringing it anywhere.
The lens is fixed, which means the rear can be built in to the camera body, which means it absolutely tiny. You can see the full size in this teardown here
You are stuck with a the fixed 23mm lens (35mm equivilent on full frame) . For people like me, who like to overthink, this is great. No deliberating over which focal length to use, as you only have one, so you have to just get on with it.
Plus most of the controls are physical dials on the camera, the lens features an aperture ring, and shutter speed and EV can be toggled directly with dials on top of the camera.
Plus I love the look of it, heavily inspired by old film rangefinders, I think it looks great.
Image quality & colours
The lens is fantastic as long as you stick between f/2.8 – f/8, wide open at f/2 is fine, but you will notice softness.
The 16MP sensor is small by todays standards, so can be a little limiting if you want to crop heavily, or want to make massive prints. I’ve printed as large as A3, and have been happy with the results, but you might start to see diminishing returns printing larger than that.
MP arent’ everything, and the the images from the 2nd generation X-Trans camera look great to me. The colours from the RAW files are really pleasing, and the files are really malleable. You can be aggressive with your edits, and the files seem to hold together just fine.
Plus if you are not really interested in shooting RAW, Fuji’s in camera film simulations have to be some of the best. You can even bracket them, and have 3 different options per shot.
I like shooting RAW + JPEG, which I think gives the best of both worlds. Great colours without any need to tweak too much, but then I also have the RAW file as a back up, if it needs something a little more drastic.
If you are worried about being limited by the fixed focal legnth, there are 2 conversion lenses available. A Wide angle 18mm equivilent, and a telephoto 50mm. These are optically great, but to tell you the truth I don’t use them that often.
There are 2 x Fuji conversion lenses available a wide angle 18mm equivilent, and a telephoto 50mm equivilent. With both of these you have the basic focal lengths sorted. They simply screw on to the filter thread of the lens, which can be a bit fiddly, but handily it means you are never exposing the sensor, so I never worry about switching lenses even if the conditions aren’t great.
The optical quality of these lenses is great, but the telephoto is absolutely massive – so good if you need it – but otherwise I don’t bother, as it turns a small compact camera in to a beast.
The fuji has a few unexpected features, which really make it interesting. It has a leaf shutter – which is pretty unusual for a camera of this size – and something usually found in medium format cameras. The big benefit of this, is that the camera can flash sync at really fast shutter speeds. Admittedly I have only really just started playing about with using flash, but blog posts such as this one from Strobist, show what is possible.
To compensate for slower max shutter speed of the leaf shutter, the camera also has a built in 3 stop ND filter. Which is such a useful thing to have, without having to carry an extra filters.
The leaf shutter also means you can the image sharp, even handheld at low shutter speeds. Holding still, I have got sharp images at 1/30s, which isn’t bad for a camera with no in built image stabilisation.
This camera is definitely not for everyone, there are drawbacks – which for me I can live with – but for others could definitely be a deal breaker.
Auto focus, I pretty much shoot exclusively in manual focus, so this doesn’t bother me at all, but if you are expecting DSLR levels of super fast auto focus then you are going to be disappointed.
Weather sealing, it isn’t officially weather sealed, I’ve taken it out in drizzly conditions, and I haven’t had any problems, but I definitely don’t think it would survive being taken out in a storm, or dropped in a river.
Battery warning, battery life is surprisingly good, but the low battery warning is next to useless, you get about 30 seconds between the low battery warning, and the camera completely shutting down.
Durability, as much as I love this camera, I need to point out that it did break. It was way way way out of warranty, and Fuji fixed it directly for a reasonable upfront fee. I use the camera a lot, and often chuck it in a rucksack, so it might have been from wear and tear, or I might have just got unlucky.
There are a few other drawbacks I could mention, but to be honest, most of them come down to the fact this is an 8 year old camera, and technology has come on leaps and bounds since then.
Im currently at 21,000+ shutter count, and hopefully the camera will last for many more to come.