My Desert Island Camera
You might be surprised by my choice. It’s the Fuji X100V and I’ve started to incorporate it into my toy photography.
Yes that’s right — I’m Going Back To The Beloved Fuji X100V!
I’ve owned just about every serious camera in every format you can imagine and I recently asked myself if different gear could spark up my toy photography. I decided the answer was (at least maybe) so I broke out my old (new — read on to see what I mean) X100V and I am glad I did.
So some background before I begin…
I used to do a podcast with German street photographer, Marco Larousse. It was called “WE SHOOT FUJI.” We both loved the brand and the X100 lineup.
Back then, the early X100 cameras weren’t as refined as today’s V — but they were still easy to love (okay and hate a little but mostly love.) Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get any support from Fuji and the show became too expensive to produce given we had to buy every camera we tested so I abandoned it and we went our separate ways. (Marco still does some great photography podcasts on the network we founded together called PPN (Photo Podcast Network.))
I got the job as President of Skylum software and also was named an Olympus Visionary (which meant a commitment to using only Olympus cameras) so I put my beloved X100 series cameras in the closet for a few years. (But secretly, I did miss them.)
When Olympus sold their camera devision to a holding company and the pandemic blew up my plans for just about anything and everything related to my professional photography career, I resigned from my position as an Olympus Visionary and started using other cameras again.
Those who regularly follow me know that during the early part of the pandemic, I photographed my guitar collection. It was mostly just because I needed to photograph SOMETHING and I would have gone crazy without being able to use a camera. I couldn’t travel so I needed something I could do in studio. My guitars fit the bill and I learned some product photography.
One of the first cameras I turned to when that happened was the X100V. I used it daily and it just worked. It worked well. It felt right. It felt good. It felt great in my hand. It even LOOKED good (even though nobody but me was around to notice) and it produced some of the most delightful and beautiful digital files I have ever seen from a camera. The X100 series is so small and light weight and easy to use that I made excuses to use it every chance I got.
I think I have tried just about every top-of-the-line camera in existence, from just about every brand (including Leica) and hands-down, if I could only have ONE camera and lens, this is the one camera I would choose if stuck on a remote island.
In its latest iteration, everything that was wrong with the early versions was addressed. The hybrid viewfinder has been improved. Low-light performance is better (and very, very good.) The new lens is sharp as can be and more importantly has BEAUTIFUL character. The handling is improved. Autofocus is improved. Startup time is improved. Battery life is improved. There’s a flip out LCD screen, etc. etc. etc.
Every time I touch this camera I am reminded of its elegant design. It’s well-made with top quality materials and finishes. It reminds me of older cameras that I trained on and it gives me a general feeling of happiness.
I also want to mention that this camera is manufactured in Japan. Why do I mention that? It’s a hallmark of quality. Japanese workers are well-paid and have good training and working conditions. In my experience, they make the best cameras and lenses although my German friends might disagree :)
The new lens is probably the best thing Fuji could have done with the X100V. It’s a brand new 23mm F2.0, leaf shutter, lens that is perfectly matched to the X-Trans CMOS 4 Sensor. The lens has been enhanced for better resolution, lower distortion and improved close focus performance. However, it still maintains the same overall size and compatibility with legacy WCL/TCL lens attachments, which gives image-makers additional angle of views equivalent to 28mm and 50mm on 35mm Format.
I am using it in a studio environment but it is now weather resistant which is huge for the street photography crowd.
I also LOVE the analog controls. Being an old man who’s been seriously involved with and in love with photography for 50 years, I prefer the use of dials for exposure compensation and shutter speed and aperture. These controls provide a purely tactile experience and contribute considerably to making the photography process an immersive and enjoyable experience for people like me.
While it has old-fashioned controls, there’s nothing old-fashioned about the camera’s ability to create a great image. It is heavily customizable without being overwhelming. And when it comes to image quality, it really is special. It gets better — if you want to make JPEGs straight out of camera that are publication-worthy, Fuji’s incredible film simulations will help you do just that. I tend to like Astia, Provia and Acros.
Now there comes a negative turn to this story but it’s all fixed…
During the pandemic one of my photography friends fell on hard times and literally had to sell everything he owned. He asked if he could borrow my Fuji X100V until he got back on his feet again. So reluctantly, I lent him the camera. I wasn’t using it much after I finished the guitar project so I figured he could get some use out of it while I was using Sony a7C bodies (which are very good.)
Thankfully, the only condition I put on him was that he come up with the money to insure the camera while it was in his possession and he complied.
Well you guessed it. A few weeks ago he dropped it and it was destroyed. The insurance paid $1399 to cover the cost of the camera and I forgave him, (but took the money to buy a replacement.) I then thought I’d just contact B&H and buy a new one. It would be easy peasy and all would be right in the world.
Not so fast there, pal.
You cannot buy a new Fuji X100V — at least not in the USA. They are unicorns. They are on what some camera store owners told me was permanent backorder. Two different camera store employees told me that their Fuji reps said the silver X100V units (my personal favorite) might not ever be coming back. The supply chain, COVID in Japan, etc. have this camera out of stock, everywhere I checked.
I used all my industry connections, and all my influence and all my fact finding skill and nothing — nada. Not one, new Fuji X100V (in either color) to be had. So I looked at the used market and over on Ebay most people are getting $400 to $500 over MSRP for used bodies.
I refused to capitulate to those prices so I waited patiently. Eventually (last week) I found someone who would take $200 for an open box unit. I hated paying that extra $200 but for this camera, I decided to do it. I am very glad I did because from the first second I touched the camera, the waves of happiness and joy started to wash over me. (Okay, I know this reads like an advertisement but I am not sponsored by Fuji and I don’t even know anyone at the company these days…)
So to wrap up…
I am back with the Fuji X100V and plan to use it extensively in my toy photography. It won’t always be the right choice. Although the X100V can do some macro shooting, I will still need a real 1:1 macro lens (and occasionally a little more focal length) so I am keeping the Sony a7C bodies in my workflow — using the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens.
I will also still use my iPhone 13 Pro in cases where I need something between ultra wide and 77mm and have to fit the camera into a small space. It has a great camera system and I have used it frequently as my only camera.
Moving forward, everything I CAN shoot on the X100V WILL be shot on the Fuji X100V. I am really looking forward to using this camera. I have missed it a great deal. There’s something about it that resonates with me and I think it makes me more creative. It does have some limitations since it has a fixed focal length lens with an approximate field of view of 35mm on a full-frame camera. But I find that limitations spur creativity and when the camera is this lovely, those limitations become strengths. And an EFL 35mm lens is a great focal length for a lot of situations. Now that I am retired from my professional bird photography career, I don’t need to worry about really long lenses. (What a relief.)
The Fuji X100V camera MAKES me want to do more photography. That is the highest praise I can give any camera. So be prepared to see lots of images from my V — and be prepared to hear how much fun I am having.
There’s nothing like a camera that you really, truly, love to help advance your vision.
Simplicity, practicality, portability — these are the hallmarks of today’s best cameras. The small form factor in a mirrorless camera that reminds me of the film cameras I grew up loving led me to decide to put my chips on the V. I love the fact that the X100V just disappears into my hand and I don’t have to think about it. It gets out of my way and lets my mind’s eye concentrate on the story I want to tell with each photo.
Let me be clear that just about ANY modern camera can work for toy photography. But this is the one I want to use just — well because I can.
I apologize if this article has created X100V lust in some of you. It will not be easy to find one. But if you do, count yourself lucky and never get rid of it. You’ll always be able to make great photos with it no matter what new camera comes next.
Remember, toys are joy.