‘Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea… the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dikes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes; and the low leaden line beyond was the river.’
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (1867).
Image from the Cliffe Pools gallery.
Following another visit to Cliffe yesterday, I’ve published new work on my portfolio site within two small galleries: Cliffe Pools focuses on the inland landscape of the area, Lower Hope has images shot nearby at the Thames shore. Both sets have been added to the Locations page. Look out for one or two colour images from yesterday too, coming soon here on the blog.
For those unfamiliar with this area, here is a brief introduction. Cliffe Pools are a mix of saline lagoons, freshwater pools, grassland, saltmarsh and scrub. These habitats have developed on old clay diggings and river dredgings. Its RSPB reserve is renowned as a site for wading birds, with massed flocks moving from the Thames Estuary onto the pools on winter high tides, a wide range of passage birds in autumn and spring, and breeding avocets, redshanks, lapwings and ringed plovers. For more information, visit the website of Wildlife Extra.
In addition to the nature reserve, Cliffe Pools have been host to many other activities, present and historical: the Blue Circle Sailing Club, Brett Aggregates and the remains of Cliffe Fort, a Victorian river defence structure. On its Thames shore, at the Lower Hope, a number of derelict vessels can be seen at low tide, such as the wreck of Hans Egede.
Click here to see new images from the Isle of Grain.
Welcome to a journal of my experiences shooting a Fujifilm X-Pro1. My comments below date from March to May 2012 and share my thoughts on shooting this camera, with an emphasis on practical handling and usability. Although I will not be adding to the journal, I will continue to update the list of my galleries, and useful online resources, given below.
I hope this page is helpful for prospective X-Pro1 purchasers and interested photographers. As of autumn 2012, with the release of the XE-1 and new X-mount lenses, Fujifilm continues to develop and refine this exciting camera system.
My X-Pro1 galleries (oldest first)
- Industrial Woolwich, added 18/3/12
- London Architecture, added 19/3/12
- Broadgate Tower, added 24/3/12
- Thames Barrier Underpass, added 24/3/12
- Southwold Beach, added 31/3/12
- Charlton Riverside, added 2/4/12
- Isle of Grain, added 23/4/12
- Dover to Folkestone, added 15/5/12
- Tilbury, added 29/6/12
- Hastings to St Leonards-on-Sea, added 4/7/12
- Canvey Island, added 16/7/12
- North Yorkshire, added 5/8/12
- Dungeness, added 14/8/12
- Cliffe Pools, added 1/10/12
- Newington to Chatham, added 15/10/12
- Gravesend to Swanscombe, added 19/10/12
- Sidcup to Erith, added 10/12/12
- Shellness, added 28/12/12
- Chatham Naval Memorial, added 3/1/13
- Fujifilm’s official X-Pro1 page
- Flixelpix: blog of a Northern Ireland-based photographer
- Gary Tyson f8photography.com.hk: Street Photography with the X-Pro1
- Hand Carry Only: X-Pro1 coverage with Adrian Seah
- Luminous Landscape: rolling X-Pro1 review by Nick Devlin
- Zack Arias: the X-Pro1 on assignment in Dubai and India
- Todd Owyoung: X-Pro1 and X-Mount System review
- Come to think of it: blog of a Finnish X-Pro1 user
- Ephotozine Fujinon XF lens reviews: 18mm f/2 R, 35mm f/1.4 R and 60mm f/2.4 R
- Fuji X-Series forum
- DP Review X-Pro1 assessment
Commentary (March to May 2012)
Please note that this is not a camera review (there are plenty of better qualified people out there) and I will not be analysing pixels at high ISOs or comparing this camera to the Nikon D800, Leica M9 et al.
Why the X-Pro1?
I bought the X-Pro1 because I was attracted by its promise of high image quality, portability and excellent prime lenses. My available time for photography is quite restricted just now, due to work and personal commitments, so I need the immediacy of feedback that a digital (rather than film) camera gives. I still enjoy shooting 120 and 35mm film – and will continue to do so – but the X-Pro1 replaces Nikon DLSRs as my first choice digital system.
Familiarity and method
It takes time to get used to a camera, especially if it’s a system that’s new to you, and the X-Pro1 is no exception. It’s essentially a new template, influenced by Fujifilm’s success with the X100 and X10 models. I’ve come from shooting Nikon DLSRs and medium format film for several years so the X-Pro1 is markedly lighter and smaller than what I’m used to. The camera body is compact, discreet and light. I bought the XF 18mm f/2 lens (27mm equivalent) and it’s almost pancake-like when mounted on the body. I have large hands and the X-Pro1 is the perfect size for me – anything smaller could be awkward to operate. Fujifilm’s official X-Pro1 grip looks interesting (if expensive) and I’ll be checking it out at UK stockists once it arrives.
Apart from form factor, there are settings options and button placements to get used to – it all takes time. The photographer at the scene needs to know instinctively how to alter the exposure or digital capture before the subject shifts or the light changes. My own preference is for simplicity: I tend to shoot in aperture priority mode, tweaking exposure compensation as required. The X-Pro1 scores well here because these key controls are prominent and manually adjustable as you shoot.
Fujifilm launched the X-Pro1 with three prime lenses with the X-Pro1 and published a roadmap of lenses to come. Gary Wolsthenholme has reviewed the current lenses, posting useful data from test conditions, and has appraised each lens positively. I tend to shoot wide to normal focal lengths so I bought the XF 18mm lens with the camera. This is equivalent to 27mm in 35mm terms, due to the crop factor of the sensor. I will probably buy the 35mm lens (51mm equivalent) in due course and I’m also interested in the planned 23mm (35mm equivalent) lens which is a great focal length for my photography.
In addition to Fujifilm’s own lenses, there is much interest and speculation about using Leica, Nikon and other manufacturers’ lenses with the X-Pro1. Indeed, third-party conversion mounts are on sale before Fujifilm has released its own. Though the practicality and wisdom of shooting non-native lenses on the X-Pro1 remains to be seen, it’s good to have options and it will certainly widen the appeal of the X-Pro1. It’s notable that Fujifilm, from the outset, stated their intention to produce a Leica mount; DP Review’s side by side comparison of the M9-P and X-Pro1 bodies says everything about Fujifilm’s aspirations you need to know.
A note on image quality
The images you see here are 1200-pixel jpegs output from Lightroom so they are quite a small fraction of their native file size. Bar some cropping, rotation and highlights recovery, I have not post-produced the images at all. For now, jpegs are perfectly adequate whilst I get used to the camera.
Unless otherwise stated, all colour files posted here were shot in ‘Standard’ mode (analogous to Provia in Fuji’s film range) and the black and white shots used the ‘BW with yellow filter’ setting. All other settings in camera were left at default because I want to see where I’m starting from, before making any interventions for personal preference. In this regard, I’ve tried to learn lessons from Gordon’s experience with the shooting settings on his Leica M9.
In the field
After recent days of overcast weather in London, the sun finally appeared so it was time to head outside with the X-Pro1 for the first time. For practice purposes, I went down to the riverside industrial estates between Charlton and Woolwich Arsenal. I find that there are often good structures, colours and textures to shoot in such places. Bar the odd security guard and worker, industrial estates are generally quiet at the weekend too so you rarely get in anyone’s way.
The images from this trip (my first X-Pro1 gallery) are patchy. I’m a little rusty because I haven’t had time to shoot much lately and it shows, particularly in my inconsistent framing. I find that I need regular photographic practice to improve my visualisation and practical camera skills (e.g. not accidentally shooting with inappropriate white balance or ISO settings).
Sight test: the optical viewfinder (OVF) and electronic viewfinder (EVF) in use
It’s remarkable how many cameras make it difficult for you to see the scene in front of you. Being able to immediately and comfortably examine your subject is, of course, fundamental to photography. Not having used a Fuji X-series camera before I ordered the X-Pro1 from the East, I was taking a gamble on what I’d read about its viewfinders.
I am impressed with the size and clarity of the optical viewfinder (OVF). However, its frame lines (which adjust automatically as different lenses are mounted) significantly under-represent the area photographed, as Nick Devlin has confirmed in his ongoing review. Perhaps this can be improved in a future firmware release. On the positive side, the OVF is fully customisable so that one can tailor what information is displayed when shooting.
I used the live EVF (displayed on the rear LCD) extensively when shooting with a tripod for the Thames Barrier Underpass gallery. This method is very useful to determine precise framing and review exposures with the histogram. I’m really impressed with this option.
Having made several hundred exposures with the camera, it seems prone to over-exposing scenes with difficult or mixed lighting by two thirds to a stop. I will therefore keep this mind in the field and adjust the exposure compensation dial accordingly.
For my second Sunday outing with the camera, I visited two locations. First, Broadgate Tower near Liverpool Street in central London. I’d been past it many times but never ventured in, and a quiet Sunday morning seemed the ideal opportunity. It’s dominated by glass and steel with strong lines and very reflective surfaces, throwing light all around. As it’s open to the elements, I imagine that the light changes dramatically depending on the weather. On my visit, it was a hazy morning, with the sun just starting to breaking up the cloud cover.
Several of the first photographs taken were blown out in the highlights (as mentioned above) so I adjusted the exposure compensation dial. The jpegs seem to have good dynamic range which is promising for the moment when Adobe RAW support arrives. I shot everything hand-held as, although I had a tripod in my car, I did not want to appear too conspicuous on a commercial property. Sample images can be seen in my Broadgate Tower gallery.
As the local area became busier with tourists and shoppers, I headed south of the river to revisit the Thames Barrier. I wanted specifically to re-shooting a casual photograph I shot last weekend of the underpass. My plan was to improve on the first effort and to see what other possibilities might be there. This time, I took the tripod out of the boot (ironically, I was later quizzed by a security guard, but without an issue developing!). Here’s the first shot:
Here is the same shot revisited:
In the first version, I found the intersection of the pillar with the strip light, and the visibility of the passageway, distracting. I added a little contrast (in Lightroom) to the second image. You can see more camera positions of this space in my Thames Barrier Underpass gallery.
On the beach
The past fortnight has seen plenty of dry weather in southeast England and I spent a few days out on the coast. With the sun shining, I especially wanted to shoot some colour with the X-Pro1. So I switched the camera to ‘Standard’ mode which is equivalent to Fujifilm’s Provia film.
Click here to see a gallery of images from the Southwold trip.