On the road with the X100s, conversion lenses and the Instax printer
I just spent 11 days driving through Washington, Oregon and Idaho. I travelled light, with my X100s, the wide- and tele-conversion lenses and an Instax wireless printer. Because I wanted to shoot long exposures during the trip, aside from the more typical observational documentation, I also brought my tripod and three neutral density filters. Oh, I also brought along the cable release. For processing, posting and backing up photos to my Dropbox, I used my iPad mini. Everything, aside from the tripod, fit into a small shoulder bag.* It was awesome.
X100s: the perfect travel camera
I frequently use the X100s for making photos on the street or during short trips, where I don’t want to carry a lot of gear. For this trip, I also brought along Fujifilm’s wide- and tele-conversion lenses. This gave me a 28mm, 35mm and 50mm angle of view (35mm equivalents). For nearly everything that I want to shoot, these lens options were perfect. I used the wide-conversion lens on the street and the tele-conversion lens for close-up photos. I also switched it up and used the tele on the street and the wide for close-ups in the fields, where I wanted to show a lot of the background too.
Optically, the two conversion lenses performed flawlessly. I can not tell any difference in the final files, shot with or without the conversion lenses and at all apertures. I got the same great results that I would expect from the X100s’ fixed, 23mm f/2.0 lens. Focusing performance also seemed on par with the camera without the conversion lenses. However, I was also taking my time and wasn’t using these in critical, have-to-get-that-shot-in-focus-NOW situations.
The only fiddly bit about using the conversion lenses is that you need to switch a menu setting when you switch lenses, so that the camera software can correct for distortion. I wish that it could happen automatically, but it wasn’t a huge hassle, as you can assign the menu item to the FN button. In some ways, using the X100s and the conversion lenses, reminds me of using my Bessa R2A, a Leica M-mount, film rangefinder. When you switch lenses, you have to toggle a lever to the have the correct framelines displayed in the viewfinder.
Speaking of framelines, the optical and electronic viewfinders adjust for the two conversion lenses, so you can use whichever one you prefer. As has become my habit, I use the OVF for working on the street and the EVF for when I need to precisely frame or check the exposure.
Handling the X100s changes a bit when either of the conversion lenses is attached, particularly with the larger tele-conversion lens. That lens sticks out quite a bit, hanging off the front of the X100s, sort of like a 50mm Summilux on the front of an M-mount rangefinder. However, the camera never felt awkward to handle with the conversion lenses affixed. In fact, after working with them for a few days, the X100s look perfectly normal with any lens combination. A nice feature of the wide-conversion lens is that the lenshood from the 23mm lens will fit on it too.
Once again, the X100s proved to be a really versatile camera. As you will read in my note below, if one needs a wider or longer lens option, then you will want an additional camera/lens combo. But for my purposes, the X100s and conversion lenses handled nearly every situation I found myself in while travelling.
Long exposures and conversion lenses
As I mentioned above, I had multiple objectives in this trip. One of those was shooting long exposures. The X100s is a very capable LE camera and the two conversion lenses just made it more versatile. Before leaving on the trip, I made sure I had a step-up adapter ring to work with the tele-conversion lens, which accepts 67mm filters. My existing step-up adapter rings worked with the wide conversion lens as it accepts the same size filters as the X100s’ normal lens, 49mm.
The resulting image quality was everything that I expect from the camera. And, with the internal Neutral Density function on the X100s, I had more stopping power than I could possible need. I think I could have shot a four minute exposure in the middle of the day in Southern California with amount of stopping power provided by the camera and my add-on ND filters.
Instax printer: fun in a very small package
In past travels, I have often wished that I had a way to make prints. In particular, I have wanted to give prints to people who have agreed to be photographed or who have been helpful. On this trip, I took a Fujifilm Instax wireless printer with me and it proved to be just the ticket for my travel needs.
I enjoy shooting with the Instax Mini Retro 90 instant camera, but I wanted to print photos from my X100s and with greater flexibility, so I was very happy to have the wireless printer with me while I travelled.
I got to use it in ways that I expected, by leaving prints with people along the way. I also made prints to share with my sisters, with whom I was travelling for part of the trip.
I loved being able to print colour and black-and-white images directly from my iPad. I can imagine that we will be able to print directly from our X-cameras in the future, but I was pretty happy with my X100s to iPad to Instax printer workflow.
As I was making images with a few objectives in mind on this trip, I shot mostly JPEG, but shot RAW when I needed to. And, as I wanted to insure that I had a backup of the photos and I was only taking my iPad mini and no laptop, I devised the following workflow.
After shooting for the day, I would transfer the images from my camera to the iPad via the card reader. At this point, I deleted any unwanted photos. I would then add the photos I wanted to backup to my Dropbox folder and let the iPad churn away, usually at night, sending photos to the server. I also kept all of the photos I shot on the SD card for the entire trip (I didn’t shoot that much, really), so that I would have them in two places all of the time.
If there were images I wanted to post to Flickr and/or Twitter, or to print, I would edit the shot in Snapseed, before uploading or printing. As I filled up the iPad’s memory, I would delete the previous day’s shots that had already been backed up to Dropbox. If I wanted to work with something I had shot in RAW format, I would generate a JPEG in-camera and copy that file to the iPad, before editing, posting and/or printing.
This proved to be a very workable way to manage my photos as I travelled. Upon my return home, I copied the original files from the SD card into my Lightroom catalog, so that I could properly edit the photos. I will delete the Dropbox versions once I have all of the photos properly backed up.
Light is good
That is, travelling light is good. I have been lightening my work gear load with a greater reliance on my iPad instead of the laptop and by using my X-T1 and X-E2 instead of heavier, full-frame DSLRs. By using just the X100s and conversion lenses on this trip, I further reduced how much gear I needed. I could have made the trip with just the camera and no conversion lenses, but I certainly used them a lot and was glad to have them.
Taking along the Instax printer was also a great idea and I would recommend doing so no matter what mode of transport you are taking. It is the size of a small hard disk and doesn’t require any cables. The film packs are the size of a deck of cards and you don’t need to take more than a couple of boxes as you are probably going to be able to buy more film wherever you might be travelling. Being able to leave behind prints makes taking along the printer so worthwhile.
*Note: As I had two architectural jobs to shoot at the end of the trip and I was driving and not flying, I did take along the X-E2 and the 55-200mm and 14mm lenses. I wanted the long zoom for some landscape photography and the 14mm for the architectural photos. In the end, I used the X100s for all of my travel and long exposure shots and a good portion of the landscape work. The X-E2 and two lenses stayed behind in my hotel room every day, except for shooting those jobs and the couple of days of landscape work. If I hadn’t needed to shoot the two jobs, I would have just taken the X100s.