The Blacksmith with the Fujifilm X100F

Those who read these pages know that the Fujifilm X100/S/T/F camera is my constant companion. I don’t want to repeat the arguments about why this camera fits my seeing so well. However, based on the many questions we receive and those being asked on social media there seems to be some confusion about a camera with a fixed lens.

In my conversations with photographers, I sense the fear of working with one prime lens. What is it with prime lenses that bothers some photographers so much? “With only one lens I will miss so many photo opportunities” is the most common narrative. But will you?

When shooting with the X100T/F, I have nothing to choose from in terms of gear. My camera is set up beforehand and I am fluent with the camera operations. In addition, shooting with one focal length for a long time allows me to train my eye to previsualize and compose without even raising the camera to my eye.

Instead of asking “Which lens should I use?” and confusing my brain with multiple focal views, I focus instead on connecting with my subject or environment, exploring visuals and challenging my seeing. All of the above require an enormous intellectual and creative effort. Adding another layer of difficulty to this demanding exploit not only takes attention away from key processes but also breaks the chain of thought.

With creative and visual effort funnelled into seeing (with one focal length) my connection, observation and visual risk-taking work in tandem to produce an image. Instead of asking “Which lens should I use?” or thinking “If only I had this focal length” my brain is pre-wired to explore and take risks.

I am always amazed by aspiring photographers running around with a full backpack of lenses. After being immersed in photography most of my life, I feel fluent in only three focal lengths, that is, 14mm, 35mm and 85mm. Sure, I sometimes shoot with other lenses but my visual muscles protest at working with different perspectives. If you really care about seeing, mastering one focal length for a long time is a must! I understand that gear and gear choices are constantly being hyped on the Internet (we share the blame) and sometimes you feel empowered by buying a new gear (I have a new lens or camera, therefore I will be able to shoot more) – most of the time such decisions may actually work against you. Keep it simple! Keep focused!   

While shooting Miran, www.bcblacksmith.com, at work at his studio with the X100F, I ran the gamut of choices in regard to positioning in relation to my subject, assessing available light, composition, etc. One lens and one camera meant this process was natural and fluid. All the imagery below was shot with the pre-production Fujifilm X100F, Classic Chrome film simulation, all JPEGs.

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For those of you who are interested in learning in detail about photographic processes that actually matter, please check out our new Simplicity-In-Seeing educational and mentoring platform.screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-10-57-53-pm

Also, consider signing up for our “Streets of Vancouver Photography Workshop” – you can find more info here. (Only 2 spots left!)

Next time…

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2017 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved.

18 thoughts on “The Blacksmith with the Fujifilm X100F

  1. I absolutely agree with you, I was so lucky to have BFA pinstructors who required all students to limit themselves to one camera, one lens, and manual exposure. There was one requirement, perhaps a little off topic, that had an enormous impact on the strength of my photographs: NO CROPPING! This was crucial. WARNING! TMI follows; best to avoid reading! It’s funny, It became such a habit that I literally had not even thought about the option of cropping until 13 years later. I worked as a newspaper photographer for awhile and my pictures were often cropped out of necessity. At that point I realized that I should go through all my old contact sheets with an eye to cropping. But every day new images sneak through my lens, so it looks like I’ll have to wait until after I die – such is life.

  2. Hello Olaf,
    I absolutely agree with your blog post. The most important thing in photography is seeing and not gear! Too much gear (lenses) hinders me in my photographic process. Unfortunately, so many forums and photography sites only care about gear and megapixels.

    For the last 6 months I only used 1 focal length, the 35mm equiv. I got so much better in composing because, like you stated, I can compose the image without even raising the camera.

    I’m glad about your blog post, you nailed it what photography’s about. I also like, that you write more about vision than gear. Keep it up like this Olaf. If I’d live in Vancouver I’d sign up for your workshop in a heartbeat but Germany’s way too far away….

  3. Agree entirely Olaf. When I bought the X100 I loved the dials on top, but then I began to get into the flow and see the world through the lens. Now I have an X Pro 1 and it’s not quite the same but close. I was going to upgrade to the X Pro 2 but now certain it will be the X100F. Thanks for your great reviews. Cheers Andy

  4. Having a bunch of Fuji interchangeable bodies and a whole array of lenses is nice. There is nothing like the simplicity of the X100 series. My X100F cannot show up on my doorstep soon enough!

  5. Olaf, you mention three “fluent” focal lengths: 14mm, 35mm, 85mm. The latter two seem to be 35mm-equivalents, belonging to the X100-series and the 58mm f\1.2 you use with the XPro 2. Since you often list the 14mm f\2.8 as a favorite, does this mean the list should be “21mm, 35mm, 85mm”? Sorry to sound so picky.

    • Bob,

      You have a very good point. Let me clarify: it should read 14mm F2.8, 23mm F2 (X100F) and 56mm F1.2. The same in FF (full frame) terms: 21mm, 35mm and 85mm.

      Sorry for the confusion.

      Regards,

      Olaf

  6. You caught me with the, “full back pack of camera supplies” I used to think wow maybe I should be like that. Well I ditched my dslr package and just use my fuji fim with a wide angle lens. I so love the symplicity of small.

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