What is it that makes monochrome photography so alluring? The street masters shooting Leica? The chance to see the world in a way our eyes cannot? Or is it simply because capturing light and shade is so darn aesthetic it’s almost impossible to not love it? For me personally, it’s definitely the latter two reasons. I don’t practice street often and I certainly don’t have the confidence to take candid portraits more or less against the subject’s will, but that’s just me; power to those who create the compelling images I could not. My Huawei phone has a black and white sensor, which feels liberating – not having to shoot colour and desaturate afterwards. I definitely make regular use of Monochrome because of that feature.
My Fuji X100F has the Acros film simulation, with colour filter options and whilst it is not a B&W sensor, the camera has been engineered to capture light and shade in a most beguiling way. I find it difficult to shoot in colour with this camera, because the pull of Acros is so strong. The contrast, the dynamic range. Even with grain effect set to weak these are lovely images. I’ll attempt the odd street shot, I’ll point it at daytime clouds. I’ll find quiet nooks with beams of light, just for the heck of it. It’s just the perfect digital camera for mono photography.
However, colour is useful. Colour can inspire emotions just as well as black and white. More upbeat, vibrant emotions. A sunset in mono would be wasteful of all that natural splendour. A tropical sea would be rendered in fifty shades of grey with none of the Moana charm. So with Velvia and Astia film simulations, Fuji cameras offer colours that really pop. Colours perfect for the occasion. I prefer Velvia, as it is saturated but retains the clinical look of monochrome. Astia smooths in the way the film might, which would be nice to try on a misty Autumnal morning no doubt. In Velvia, I have a camera setting that pulls me from mono, but in essence, offers everything I enjoy about black and white. The tonality is there, the contrast. The rich, hard to quantify appeal is there. Some people would call it micro contrast, perhaps. Whatever it is, between Velvia and Acros I have found the camera that inspires the creativity in me as much as my old EOS 20D with Sigma 10-20 did a decade ago.
As I wrote in the first part of this article, there are cameras I admire and those I truly love. In the Canon G10 I had one that really sparked my imagination and was dependable for a long time. It was an extension of my creative process almost, as I would use it every time I didn’t need the Sigma 10-20 on my trusty EOS 20D. They were great times, a one-two punch from the Canon camp that offered me everything I needed. Fast forward a few years and my aging gear was joined by a Nikon (gasp!) and thus started a slippery slope of upgrading that has now blossomed into a real eclectic arsenal – but more on that another time.
This process of upgrades led me to purchase the Sony RX100iii to replace the G10 as my work camera, because I didn’t want to compromise too far and it seems a lot more impressive than the Canon offerings (a similar feeling that saw me get the Nikon D3300 when I needed a new, budget friendly DSLR). It’s well built, has decent Dynamic Range and a modest zoom that doesn’t interfere too much with my prime lens sensibility. It also shares part of its model name with my one true love – the Fuji X100F.
Is it a coincidence two solid, attractive and somewhat compact cameras share a larger sensor and a good reputation? Of course it is, but humour me. The Fuji joined my collection only a few months ago, but it instantly ingrained itself in my affections. It is built like a tank, takes beautiful images and looks like a Leica but better, in my humble opinion. Of course, I went for all black rather than the silver option, because the Zenit Soviet chic is way more aesthetic. I genuinely can’t find fault with it.
And this is something of a problem in itself, as there really aren’t any cheap alternatives with fixed focal lengths on sale right now. I know Fuji make one, but it’s still nearly £500 and because it isn’t an X100F I would only cast it in a harsher light. So I chose the Sony for my work bag and I appreciate that it’s capable and I accept I’ll never love it, and that’s OK. It performs a role and means I don’t risk the Fuji. That is the kind of balance I look for when buying cameras. Every one has a purpose.
One way they do share a similarity is I shoot JPEG only on them both. For the Sony, it’s for convenience. On the Fuji it’s an aesthetic choice and I’ll touch on that in another post. However, its refreshing in 2018 that we have reached a point where JPEG is just fine and RAW isn’t a necessity. It’s very freeing.
If you own either camera and enjoy them, feel free to comment and start a dialogue. Thanks for reading. Cheers, Matt.
One of my recent purchases has been a Sony RX100 iii, which appealed for several reasons. Aesthetically its industrial design and metal build feels substantial in the hand and that is always a positive trait for any camera. For the longest time I’ve held a sweet spot in my heart for the Canon PowerShot G10 simply because the build quality and handling were so impressive. With the ravages of time, the image quality is lagging behind high-end smartphones, so I felt an upgrade was needed. With its 1-inch sensor, the Sony RX100 family of cameras seemed the most suitable. Being a prime lens advocate, zooms are not my favourite choice. So, with a modest 24-70mm equivalent focal length and generous f1.8-2.8 aperture the Mark 3 lens appealed more than the 28-100 featured on the previous models. Considering they all retail concurrently and the prices range from £330 to over a thousand for the latest, 6th iteration, the 3 obviously has a middling RRP. I managed to get it for a price closer to the original, which makes it a bargain amongst its stablemates. It will become my work camera, sat inside my backpack ready for the sights I see whilst driving.
The G10 performed this role, but now I fear it will reach semi retirement like numerous others in my possession, brought out once in a while to fawn over, maybe use for nostalgic purposes. Either way, it provided nearly a decade of service and when it was new, I genuinely felt it was the best camera I’d ever own and certainly one to be treasured. Holding a camera in such reverence is something I will touch on in a later post, but suffice to say, the G10 was babied for a long time. Do I feel that way about the RX100? No, I can safely say I do not. It lacks the G10’s style and that camera’s manual EV compensation and ISO dials and like many Sony cameras, its menu and button operation is often obtuse. If they ever nail this aspect of a camera, then Sony will have made a big advance. As a solid, dependable every day camera it ticks plenty of boxes, but I’ll be surprised if I ever love it.
In Part 2 of this article, I will talk about another camera with 100 in its name that surpasses the Sony and Canon in my affections in every way. Until then, thanks for reading. Cheers, Matt.
Welcome to Apertura, a blog where I intend to share images I’ve taken and write articles on cameras and photography in general. My style is as broad as my choice of cameras; I regularly use Canon, Nikon, Fuji and Sony as well as my Huawei smartphone, so there’s no real bias from me (except Fuji is the best of course…).
I see quite often that photographers claim the camera is just a tool, but it’s so much more than that for me. Depending on the type of body, I will shoot a certain way, aim the lens at a certain type of image I might not choose with a different one. As a visual artist, the end product is not my only reward. I like to enjoy the experience of making the image and this definitely includes the camera itself. So if I have a DSLR and a tripod, I will almost certainly be out purposely to take landscapes and/or long exposures. If I hand hold a DSLR with a vintage manual lens, then I will mostly be looking to take irreverent images such as signposts, neon lights et al. My Fuji will most often see me taking monochrome images, but not strictly street or documentary photography. I guess you could say I’m eclectic and I enjoy that, embrace it. My instagram will attest to that. you can find me on there as @lantographer BTW. Feel free to see for yourself my latest works.
As much as I like to get it right on camera – and that should always be the aim really – I accept that editing has always occurred, via the Darkroom. I don’t photoshop my images to add things that were not there and if I did, I always add full disclosure because the intention is to enthuse, not deceive. I do use the RAW editors provided by Canon and Nikon respectively, whilst I shoot JPEG on Fuji and Sony, with slight adjustments in Apple’s Photos app. On mobile, I am very fond of Snapseed and for abstract work, I find Chromalab and Mirrorlab to suit my tastes. Editing is to be embraced in the way the camera itself is; they’re both facets of the whole experience.
So, that’s my intro and an insight into my photography and the process behind it. I hope you enjoy Apertura going forward as it grows. Cheers, Matt.