Several weeks ago I ordered the all-black version of the new Fuji X100V, having talked myself into it while updating my article: “The Best Camera for Street Photography 2020.”
The coronavirus crisis escalated, and then, just as The Lockdown in the UK began, the camera arrived. So I have what is arguably “the world’s best street photography camera” but no streets with any people on them. So can I find another use for this wonderful little device?
In fact, the camera was always destined for a number of uses, indoors and out: such as general travel photography and product photography snaps on location. The X100V has the same X-Trans 26.1MP BSI CMOS 4 sensor as the Fuji X-T3 and X-T4, hence I knew the output was sufficient for these applications.
I figure: people will return eventually to the streets of London where I normally take pictures, so maybe I can learn exactly how the camera behaves before that happens.
I’ll take it to the local park.
At the time of writing (March 29), the Government permits us one period of exercise per day, so this sort of activity is socially acceptable, as long as I stay at least a couple of metres away from anyone else. Frankly, I think I’ll make it 5 metres, given the fact that last year’s bout of measles has knocked out a chunk of my immune system.
One of my first shots is at the top of this article. I suppose it was beginner’s luck because I was intending to show the emptiness of the park when the man in red suddenly emerged from the Sunken Garden. A patch of red in the centre of an image is always a cheerful touch.
Incidentally, this shot is an out-of-camera JPEG, with no post-processing whatsoever — not even straightening. Here (below) is a 25 percent crop to give you some idea of the camera’s capability to resolve detail.
I now have to ask myself is that as good as I can get with my full-frame Canon 5D3 and a 40mm lens? Well, it’s not far off. It’s good to know that I can still get an acceptable image, 15 inches wide, after cropping by 25 percent.
Here’s a second cropped image, this time of another lone photographer who is taking a picture of the River Colne that winds through Lower Castle Park.
With this shot I discovered that the Fuji’s out-of-camera JPEGs tend to render silhouetted branches by filling in the gaps between small twigs with a pale shade of blue. This cannot be remedied by adjusting for chromatic aberration but disappears (as shown) if you reduce both the blue and cyan channels with an image editor such as Photoshop. There’s always a solution, isn’t there?
At this point I should mention that I’ve long felt privileged to have this beautiful park a short walk away, along the river path. It has one of the finest collections of exotic trees in the UK. A few years ago I strolled around it with tree expert Christopher Howard who thoughtfully provides a detailed guide that identifies and describes the most notable of them. (Seems to be no hot linking to it — so please Google for “Colchester Castle Park Tree Trail.”)
In the shot above I think I can just see the Caucasian Wingnut Gingko in the distance, but I’m not sure. It’s around here somewhere.
Roman Town Houses
Among the key features of Castle Park are the Roman Town Houses, of which little remains other than the foundations that were revealed and excavated in the 1920’s by the archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler (1890–1976). You can glimpse them in the shot below, to the right of the flowers.
These town houses are among the earliest domestic dwellings in the UK. They certainly pre-date mine.
Below is another view which shows several adjoining houses in outline, with their mosaic floor tiles.
In the Roman era, what is now Castle Park was truly urban, so I think I’m nearly 2,000 years too late to get a decent street photo in this location.
No, It’s Not Really Street Photography
At this point I realise that street photography is pretty much impossible in the Age of Coronavirus. There are very few people about and I can’t use any of my normal strategies for getting the kind of shots I like to take.
Here, for example, is what happens when I venture out of the park on to the street. Nothing! It’s a lovely cobbled path — a great background — but not much chance of anyone walking along it.
Verdict on the X100V
The light weight yet solid construction of the X100V make it a joy to use, quite apart from any other considerations. I love the flip-up screen. On the other hand, I’m still trying to get used to the optical viewfinder with its slightly disturbing view of the lens ring.
It’s clearly going to be a great camera for the street, especially when I add a lens hood (not shipping at the moment).
I doubt if I’ll have the opportunity to take truly urban street shots for several weeks. Maybe I can get a few if I visit the pharmacy next week, with the X100V concealed inside my coat.
Sadness and Joy
In the meantime, the following two images demonstrate the difference between NOW (virus) and THEN (pre-virus).
First is the Bandstand, a few yards away from the Town Houses, taken with the X100V during the lockdown. Like the “Man in the Red Coat” this shot is an out-of-camera JPEG with no processing except, this time, for a tiny bit of straightening.
And here below is the same location during summer, a year or two back, of a Humanist wedding (taken with my Canon 5D3).
I wish I were using the X100V under happier circumstances like those above, but normality WILL return. Until then, I’ll have to dig out some pictures from my archive to continue this blog.