The Fujifilm Experience
What’s different about Fujifilm cameras that make me want to pick them up and shoot with them? This is something that I was thinking about today. I concluded that the experience of shooting with the cameras and the images produced by the cameras are what makes me want to use them more than other brands.
What is the Fujifilm shooting experience? Is it the retro styling? The manual knobs and rings? The optical viewfinder on camera series like the X-Pro and X100? What-you-see-is-what-you-get, perhaps? I think yes to all of those, but even more it’s about the feeling in the moment. That’s a very abstract explanation, so let’s see if I can do better.
When I have a Fujifilm camera in my hands with the retro styling, tactile manual controls, perhaps even through an optical viewfinder or maybe via an EVF showing me exactly what the final picture will look like, the moment slows, and it’s just me and my gear for an instant. I feel the sense of possibilities (as Rush put it in the song Camera Eye). It’s not about quickness. It’s not about resolution—it’s not about any specs of any sort. It’s just that instant and how it feels and that’s all. It feels different with a Fujifilm camera (like the X-Pro1, pictured at the top) because the body is designed significantly dissimilar from most digital cameras. “If I like a moment,” as Sean O’Connell stated in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, “I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera.” I know I just took that quote completely out of context, but for me, Fujifilm cameras aren’t a distraction, but an extension of my creative self, something I cannot say about any other digital camera I’ve ever owned. Perhaps if Sean was shooting with a Fujifilm instead of a Nikon, he would have captured a picture of the cat (joking, of course).
The other aspect of Fujifilm cameras worth noting is image quality. Again, this has nothing to do with resolution, dynamic range, lens sharpness or any technical specs whatsoever. It’s about the feel of the pictures. Fujifilm has a long history with film photography, and they felt it important to somehow infuse some analog aspects into their digital images. You can get straight-out-of-camera pictures from Fujifilm cameras that look less digital and more film-like than other brands. In fact, I’ve seen Fujifilm pictures captured using Film Simulation Recipes trick unsuspecting film pros into thinking the picture they were viewing was shot on film and not digital (true stories!). And, yes, with software and manipulation, you can achieve this with most modern cameras, but I’m talking SOOC, as in unedited. Fujifilm cameras have gotten better at this with time—thanks to new JPEG options, film simulations, and improved processing—but even the early models were quite capable.
To the second point—that the JPEG output from Fujifilm cameras is unique, wonderful, and an important aspect of the experience—I feel that Fujifilm has been on the right track with this, and it’s been getting better and better with each generation. I think there’s a bit of that analog-esque quality going all they way back to the very beginning—every Fujifilm camera has that soul—but the newer models especially have it. I know that some of you might disagree with this assessment, but that’s my opinion.
To the first point, I feel that Fujifilm has taken a divergent path lately, and has pursued pure specs and popular designs over experience—or, at least the experience that I spoke of—with most of their recent models. That’s not to say the cameras aren’t good or that people won’t love them or that Fujifilm shouldn’t have made them, just simply that it’s not going to provide the same experience (which is true); whether or not that is better or worse depends on your perspective. I might mourn it and you might celebrate it, and that’s ok—we can still be friends.
Today I dusted off my 11-year-old Fujifilm X-Pro1, attached a TTArtisan f/0.95 lens, and shot with that combo today. I programmed the Ektachrome Film Simulation Recipe, but to give the images a little more film-like character, I lightly post processed them in the RNI App using the Fuji Astia 100F v3 filter set to 40% intensity (so as to not overly manipulate the original aesthetic… I didn’t want to lose all of the original look, only slightly change it) and Grain set to 25% strength. I don’t normally edit my pictures—in fact, I had to download the RNI App because it had been so long since I last used it—but sometimes I wish the old models had some of the JPEG options found on the new cameras. Funny enough, though, the edited pictures are actually pretty similar to my Reminiscent Print Recipe, so I probably should have just shot with that and saved myself some time. Oh, well—lesson learned.
Even though this camera is ancient compared to the latest models, I personally prefer the shooting experience with it over some of my other (newer) cameras. If the Fujifilm X-Pro1 was my one and only camera, I’d be happy with it. But since I have an X100V, X-E4, and X-T5, which are the three models I’m using the most right now (all of which offer the Fujifilm experience I mentioned earlier—the X100V in particular), the X-Pro1 spends most of the time on the shelf. I happily put it to use today! Below are the pictures:
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