Honest reviews: Fujifilm Finepix X100

In hindsight, taking this as my only camera during my first visit to New York was a pretty bold move. I had never used it before in any serious capacity and the camera was, for all intents and purposes, untested. However, it did a pretty good job under some difficult circumstances, and I would consider it again.

Overview
The X100 is a compact system camera – a high end point and shoot. It is mirror less, which means that as opposed to SLR cameras which have a mirror/prism system that takes light from the lens up into the viewfinder then flicks up at the last second to expose the sensor when you press the shutter release, there is no mirror, but the viewfinder is simply a hole, albeit, a very cool one. It has a range of advanced shooting modes, P, S, A and M. It’s small, built extremely well and enables you to take great photographs.

The build

Bright-6

It did get considerably more scuffed and scraped at the bottom of my bag. The brushed metal doesn’t play well with other metal things! 

I love my DSLR, but it’s all plastic as Nikon tries to save money and entice more people into photography. The X100, on the other hand, is wonderfully finished. All metal, the top and the lens have a really nice premium feel to them, as does the leather that wraps the body. The machined external controls are a great touch, and really help you get to know how the whole thing works.

One reason I opted to bring this travelling over my DSLR was the size. It is considerably smaller and shallower than the body and lens(es) of my Nikon, meaning I’m much more likely to throw it into my bag on my way out. The best camera is the one you have on you, and so having something small you carry around with you all the time is quite handy. Furthermore, its size allows you to shoot pretty inconspicuously. If you’re on the street and raise a big black box at someone, it changes everything. The shutter also makes a pretty audible click (I did miss this!). With this, you simply point, shoot and move on.

The The viewfinder is nice and large, but as it’s a mirror less rangefinder, it is offset from the lens itself. This means that whatever you frame in the viewfinder will always be slightly different, but the hybrid OVF technology does go some way in making up for it, projecting a virtual viewfinder onto what you’re looking at, which lets you properly frame the shot.

Shooting

The camera has a fixed lens. This has both positives and negatives. The upside is that it’s a good lens, and you don’t have to faff about with carrying around a whole bag just for the camera, as that option is taken away from you. The downside is that it robs you of versatility. The 23mm f/2.0 is nice and wide, so you can get lovely big street shots, and good portraits, without having too hard about the frame, because chances are it’ll be in there anyway.

When closed, the results come out nice and sharp

But it gets a bit soft at f/2

The sensor is also a bit of a pain. In low light, you’re going to be at 1/30 most of the times, with the ISO cranked up pretty high. Noise isn’t really noticeable until 2500, but it’s still quite a drag having to shoot at such a value.

One cool feature of the X100 is macro. This allows you to take super close up shots, closer than you would with a standard 23mm prime. The macro button is on the back, and turns on with ease. You can use the live view for this, or the electronic view finder (EVF). It’s like a tiny LCD that drops down over the viewfinder and shows you exactly what’s hitting the sensor, getting rid of the problem of offset. The colours do look somewhat washed out on the EVF compared to the OVF, however. This can be used for regular shooting too, by flicking the switch up front (I only found this out a few days ago!), but it’s a lot less enjoyable and takes up too much battery. Anglia-26

All this makes a pretty good all rounder. In the daytime, it’s pretty much the perfect point and shoot, giving good portraits and landscapes without much effort. In low light, you have to be more careful with how you’re taking your shots. Because of the short focal length, however, you can avoid blur by taking a big breath. The burger was at 1/4!

Other features

The X100 is also able to film video clips of up to 10 minutes. Helpfully, there’s a virtual level on the screen and EVF to help you keep the frame. It’s nothing special, and the films can be very shaky. Furthermore, once you’ve started recording, you can’t change the focus, so you’ve got to be happy with what you first saw, or use your feet.

Conclusion

Fuji managed to make a pretty good piece of kit. It’s lovely to hold and shoot with, with a decent prime lens that’s good for most day to day jobs. The autofocus could be faster, and the battery could be longer, but if you’re looking for something small, and are willing to be inventive with your shots, this is the camera for you.

B

Advertisements

The one I’ll miss the most

My last few days were spent in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a small little area adjacent to Williamsburg. After stressing over this, E managed to find somewhere called the Greenpoint LodgeBright-23.

For what we paid, it was amazing, and I was constantly kicking myself as to why we hadn’t found it earlier! The area around us was lovely, with a huge park where we sat and watched some baseball.

Bright-22 Bright-21

This was our breakfast, at the Manhattan inn. A quirky little outlet, with a skylight and a piano for entertainment. The pianist was wonderful, but the environment slightly awkward, as if we were too close and were expected to be watching rather than appreciating the food and our own conversation. Bright-39Bright-37

This was probably one of the best bits of street art I saw in my whole time there. And believe me, there was a lot of it.
Bright-29 Bright-30

Bright-38The are around us was wonderful. There aren’t many things that would make me want to live in America, visit, maybe, but this neighbourhood is just so lively and amazing.
Bright-25

Unlike manhattan, however, Williamsburg and Greenpoint do sleep. At night, it can get kinda ropey, and I wouldn’t advise walking around too much on your own, but if you’re willing to brave the streets, you’ll be rewarded with an entirely different borough..

Bright-26..offering stunning views of the city such as these!

Bright-27And these!Bright-31Bright-32The next day was brilliantly sunny, and so I decided to brave the right hand side of the road on a Citi. They’re the more expensive facsimile of the Boris Bike – just as heavy and unwieldy! However, they are a marked improvement to my own two feet when it comes to moving around. After a while, I got the hang of the whole opposite side thing, and the road down to the Manhattan bridge was wonderful, I wish we had cycle lanes like this!

At the bottom of the island, just beneath the bridge, is a large skatepark. Some of the people there were absolutely incredible! I must have sat there watching for a good hour. Apparently there were some famous skaters there too, going by the reactions of the people around me! Bright-24

Add some family dinners, relaxing nights in, top banter and you’ll have yourself a week never to forget.
Bright-28Catching the flight on the following morning was an extremely sad affair, not helped by the fact that I’d not slept since the previous night due to an extremely hectic day of last minute prep. I was sent off, however, with this glorious sunrise that peaked from behind the manhattan skyline. Everyone in the waiting room was caught by surprise, incredulous as to whether that was really the sun. And just like that, I was gone.

Goodbye America, see you on television.

B

 

 

The one where we were almost homeless

Working with kids 24/7 means it’s really hard to figure anything out, especially when a lot of other people are involved. This was made even worse by the fact that we had no reliable internet. The result was ten people sat in Tempest trying desperately to figure out where we were going to sleep that night! As you can imagine, this all became rather stressful, tensions ran high, and so did the bill! The taxi ride there was 

We eventually managed to track down an apartment in downtown Manhattan, right next to Times Sq. After my last stay in Manhattan, I wasn’t particularly keen, but at that point we didn’t really have much choice. It’s much harder to be social when everyone is separated off into rooms as opposed to all sharing one huge house.

The apartment building was nice enough. The beds were lovely, and the maintenance guys were fixing the roof, so they left the fire escape open and we got a rooftop view! Bright-20Bright-2

 

The first night was pretty quiet. My favourite part about the hotel was that there was a Food Emporium nearby (think: small,  worse M&S). I may have gone on a slight spree and bought everything in sight. This was to make, probably the biggest meal I’ve ever made, serving over ten people a decent bolognese and fresh bread. There was plenty to spare too! Cooking it in a tiny hotel apartment was a nightmare, however, as the fire alarm(s) would go off every five minutes!

Bright-3

We decided to hit Chinatown! It was, unsurprisingly, incredibly crowded with tourists and hawkers at every street corner. We had lunch at the New Malaysian Inn, which was decent at $10, but the food was a little too greasy for my chopstick-incompatible fingers, forcing me to retreat to the familiar comforts of the fork. Bright-4 Bright-5
Bright-6 Bright-7MoMA, and other large galleries, I believe, offer free entry one day a week. Thanks to UNIQLO, we got in for nothing, and it was pretty cool! I wish I could appreciate art on a deeper level. Mostly I just like looking at all the architecture and design stuff. Paintings are breathtaking but a lot of it just goes over my head. The photography exhibit on the third floor was also quite good. E, my photographer friend, said some of the photographs brought her to tears. If you’re in NYC on a Friday afternoon, it’s definitely worth the line to get in, just don’t bring a big bag, unless you want to wait another hour! 
Bright-8 Bright-9 Bright-10Tribute to a fallen hipster 
Bright-11 Every saturday on the East River State Park, Williamsburg plays host to the Smorgasburg, a very large artisan food market. It was wonderful, and the food, albeit rather pricey, was delicious! Definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area. 

Bright-12 Bright-13This hot chocolate was from a place called Bakeri, on Wythe ave. It’s a small and unassuming patisserie, with, what I can only describe as a moody, adolescent Cath Kidston feel inside. The hot chocolate they served doesn’t look like much, but it’s one of the most unusual I’ve tasted. It was rich and warm, spiced with cardamom, normally used with coconut milk and cauliflower in some curries. It remained delicious to the very last drop. 
Bright-14After this, we packed up and moved to the next hotel, using Uber! It was one of the coolest things ever, you order a taxi through an app, and like a video game, it shows you, as a little icon, your cab coming towards you, and plots your entire journey. The payment comes off your card, and is, mostly, a lot cheaper than a normal NYC cab. Their customer service is also excellent, having both my issues resolved with money back too, I’d wholeheartedly recommend them if you find yourselves in the city. 

 

That’s all for now! 

 

 

The last one

What struck me most about the third was the fact that I was super emotional watching the kids go.

I had quite an odd tent, with a mix of seven and nine year olds. This was initially quite a challenge, given the mental age gap between the two, but they have been absolute angels in comparison to the other two sessions. Don’t get me wrong, there were still times where J and I got mad, but they were just being kids!

I felt like a proud dad when one of my kids passed his blue level swim test, allowing him (and us, finally!) to swim in the deep – the first time it’s happened in years. I also managed to teach two kids how to ride a bike for the first time with no training wheels which filled me with relief more than pride as biking with the young ones often involves us doing 95% of the work whilst they sit there enjoying the ride.

We were also the first little johns in a long while to have an entry in the talent show! They all got together and did a cute dance to Bruno Mars. If I’m honest, in comparison to the other entries, ours wasn’t great, but I’m just amazed that this was something they really wanted to do and pulled through with it, despite nerves and tantrums.

The talent show this session was actually one of my favourites. Despite the circumstances of some of these kids, there is some absolutely amazing talent. I’m struggling not to use the diamond analogy, but being pressed in at all sides does sometimes yield gems!

These were some of the Sherwood boys

I loved this because it was so different from the other dances. It’s rare kids this age would try contemporary!

This was my favourite act of the night. One day during music, JJ, the girl, started singing this song. T, the guy, then hopped on the piano and started singing and playing along whilst another girl made a beat tapping on the acoustic guitar. The result was enchanting. We had a talent agency visit from across the way a few days ago. They loved his music so much they donated a piano as he only has a chance to practice on sundays at church. His passion for music is absolutely astonishing.

The banquet that follows was also one of the best. Our unit leader staged a wedding with the unit leader of the oldest girls’ hill as everyone said they should get married. It was hilarious, and genuinely would have made a lovely real wedding ceremony! sherwood sherwood-2

I didn’t really expect to get so attached to the place when I first arrived, treating it more like a job than camp, but everyone is genuinely like one big family. Yes, like any family, it has its cracks and flaws, but then you have moments like this when everyone gets together to have fun. Those are the memories I’ll be taking back with me!

B

The one with the cabins

Everything is really hectic at the moment. The season is coming to an insanely quick end, and classic Bryan has left all his planning to the last minute. As it stands, I still have very little idea of what I’ll do after the next four days, ha!

For our last day off, we went to a camp up the road on Seabago. It’s odd thinking I’m leaving one camp and going to another (out of choice!) but with no kids around, it was serene. We had a really nice group of people who were up for just relaxing, making it one of my favourite days off. And It would have been too, had we not been forgotten by the staff who came to pick us up five hours late!

NY

Their lake was gorgeous

NY-2

We found some coal and had a beach fire

NY-3

And used the rest in the cabin. Falling asleep to a roaring fire is one of the most comforting things ever.

NY-4

Silence, no one needing to pee, having nightmares, falling off beds, nothing but the sweet chorus of nature tells you its time to get up

NY-5

The deer sure are a lot nicer without hundreds of kids running around

NY-6

So are the hummingbirds!

Blogging has been slow and laboured, there are a lot of posts to catch up on, hopefully they’ll come soon, but that’s all for now!

 

B

 

The one with the Ottoman

 

 

 

it’s pretty customary to have a little rummage around when you first move into an apartment. Next to my bed was an ottoman, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to open it and see if there was anything inside. And I struck gold! Well, mainly coppers and a few quarters. But deciding it was probably the previous tenants’ savings for a rainy day, I pushed the thought to the back of my mind and satisfied myself with the pleasure of the whole thing.

As we were preparing to head out to grab some stuff for dinner, I found another ottoman in the master bedroom. Excited by my previous discovery, I sought my fortunes a second time. Boy was I not prepared for what came next – $420.

This huge roll of cash was just there, in plain sight, staring at me in the face. So many conflicting thoughts were running through my mind. It just so happened that there were seven of us, making it $60 a piece. It was such a dilemma!

On the one hand, the guys in the apartment beforehand left it there, and as it was cash money, no one could really pin it on us, as it could have gone missing anywhere, really. It wasn’t difficult for us to just take it and leave.

However, it was still someone;s cash, I tried placing myself in that position, having kept a stack of cash handy for when I needed it. Perhaps they were tourists, like us, who were sick of carrying their travel money around and thought it a good idea to stash it in the old ottoman. Taking it was also super dishonest, as it would involve having to lie at every turn from then on to save my own skin. Enter the quandary.

Making the decision is theoretically a cakewalk. The obvious answer is to leave the cash. However, on the ground, with your share in your hand, the crystal clear resolve becomes decidedly murky. Leaving the cash does’t mean the person gets back the full amount, in fact, they wouldn’t get it back at all, as someone else in the group would split it out amongst them. It would also mean the weekend’s room would be all but paid for, a large consideration given my financial situation! Thoughts of all the things I could buy raced through my mind, a nice lunch, those S. Perry boat shoes from Journeys, maybe a pair of Roshi’s or Free 5.0s.

I could also have given the money away, that way I wouldn’t have kept it, and it would have gone to a worthier cause than my own indulgence. This avenue still didn’t rid me of the fact that it wasn’t my money.

Looking back on it now, I would like to think thatI wouldn’t have kept the money. That’s the last thing that was going through my mind before I heard that the true owners had called up to claim the wad. The landlord could have botched it, he could have taken a cut himself, but, I guess, the main thing was that it wasn’t, isn’t on my conscience, which would have been a massive killer; the extra sixty bucks would have been nice, but the price was too great.  NY-15

The one in Brooklyn

This intersession was spent in Brooklyn, one of the boroughs of New York City.

In all honesty, the prospect of staying in “the hood” chilled me to my very core, but we left planning to the last second, booking the apartment less than 24h before we left. I was expecting a dingy flat in a neighbourhood filled with people that look like they could eat you up for breakfast. I was mostly wrong, mostly.

NY-17NY-51NY-52

With some chocolate from Duane Reade, the only corner shop that stocked more than Hershey bars, this happened! Put some hot chocolate on a double boiler, add milk, stir until it’s all dissolved and the result is this incredibly indulgent drink that warms you to your very core!
NY-53

The apartment itself was stunning. for $40 a night between us, it was an absolute bargain. Having a bed of any description, after sleeping on a creaky bunk for two weeks feels like a cloud. And don’t even get me started on real showers. The real bonus, however, was the fact that we’d have a kitchen and could cook food for the first time in five weeks! The neighbourhood itself was pretty sketchy, however. The sort of place that you wouldn’t want to walk through alone at night. But we did. 

This was breakfast for the first day – the sketchiest pancakes I’ve ever made, no measuring cups, cylinders, just a little bit of everything in a bowl. Plus syrup.

Williamsburg

Brooklyn is a fair way away from the hustle and bustle of central manhattan. It’s had its fair share of rough times, but we got to find gems in the borough, one of which is Williamsburg. In a similar fashion to many areas of East London now such as Shoreditch, Hoxton and Brixton, once rough, now the hipster capitals of their cities!

There was such a different vibe from the whole place, everything was smaller and weirder, there is a complete change in pace compared to the city – no yellow cabs in sight but everyone cycles and longboards; I was home.

NY-18

The first thing we saw when we hopped off the Subway was this junk shop. These are about a dime-a-dozen in this district, but we decided to give it a look. Inside were these two huge bins filled with old photographs.

Christmas, birthdays, graduation family shots, scenery, everything! It was really surreal being involved in so many different people’s lives, to be privy to all these different moments in time. Some were absolutely beautiful, and made you wonder why someone would ever let it go. Others had lovely messages to a loved one or a family member, like a picture of this woman to her lover during the war.

I looked at this one picture, and asked someone who I thought worked at the shop for the date. He was deaf. What proceeded was a really odd moment where I shrunk back in my awkwardness and aversion at the whole thing, and his genuine attempt to communicate with us, despite our lack of sign language knowledge. I expected him to get on with it and just leave me alone when he found out I couldn’t sign, but he kept going, making a real effort to get across what he was trying to say. He was super knowledgable about all the photographs, and was probably a master photographer back in his day. He then proceeded to show us how he knew it, bringing out the camera that took the picture and showing us how to use it. I didn’t manage to get the make or name, but it was shot “from the hip”, as the viewfinder worked quite like a periscope, and had two of them, for shooting portrait and landscape

NY-19 NY-20 NY-21 NY-22

Lunch that day was a small Italian on the corner of bedford. It was amazing. The first healthy meal I’ve had out in five weeks. I’d had pizza the night before, and admittedly, it was delicious, but in a greasy, carnal fashion. This had considerably less meat, but the combination of fresh mozzarella and basil leaves was a good antidote to all the America iI’ve ingested. To top it all off, every pizza was $10, so we got half and half. Life was good.

NY-23 NY-24 NY-25

If you’re ever in a new big city., check out whether they have a TimeOut, it’s a great way to discover cool things to do. It recommended a place called Mast Brothers – an independent chocolatier that specialises in dark chocolate.
The first thing you notice is the, near overpowering, smell of melted chocolate. Caustic to your nose, initially, then gives way to a warm sweetness that leaves you begging for its source! I have never paid so much for a bar of chocolate in my life, and I’m not sure I will ever again, but my gosh it was incredible. It was 72% with hints of maple – ravishing

NY-55 NY-56
This was the coolest urban outfitters I’ve ever seen. It was in this derelict building along with some other independent brands. There were a few floors littered with the usual UO affair, but at the top was, amongst other things, a photo booth! The results were spectacular!

Just behind was a bar, which led to a further section on the roof. Not the best rooftop bar I’ve seen (that being the Abbey Tavern in Kentish Town) but it had amazing booths. A small problem with NYC is that you’ve got a lot of vertical competition to get a good view in from the roof.

NY-57NY-58 NY-28 NY-29 NY-33 NY-34 NY-35 NY-36 NY-37 NY-38 NY-39 NY-40 NY-41 NY-42 NY-54 NY-59

The street art in this area was incredible! NY-60

I’ve really tried hard not to climb the empire state building. I don’t really know why, but something about having to pay to climb a building really gets to me. Besides, you’re gonna get a much better view of manhattan from outside it! I’ve yet to find somewhere to see the sun rise – maybe next time, After spending almost the whole day in Brooklyn, we crossed the Williamsburg bridge into manhattan. It was absolutely full of cyclists, skaters and long boarders, graffiti and stickers – such an odd image set against the clean and sterile backdrop of downtown. The views were incredible, however, and you got to see all the cool art on the rooftops as you climb over. Shopping in the city is pretty dire. There’s not a Sainsbury’s in sight. Instead, you have lots of “delis” and grocery shop equivalents. They’re usually pretty small and contain sweets,, snacks and beer. Any actual food is hot, from a deli counter, or tinned – you have to look far for fresh ingredients.

NY-43
However, we were really lucky and managed to find a nice Chinese deli which did the trick! It’s still cheaper to cook food than to eat out in the city, it is just a lot more effort. This came out at around $9, but having to walk by Five Guys, Wendy’s, and a myriad of other fast food eateries on an empty stomach because of it was no easy feat. In the UK, machines like this would be like £1-2, but $.25?? Crazy! Safe to say I had a fair few goes, but couldn’t even touch the high score!

NY-46

We hung around union square for a while to see all the street kids. Loads of people were hanging around this huge space, skating, dancing and playing hackey sack, and they were amazing! I’d pay to see stuff like this.

NY-50

The first ever shake shack, incredible! NY-47 NY-48 NY-49

The feel of this intersession break was just so different to that of the last. Less of the deer-in-the-headlights tourism, more relaxed, taking the day as it comes. Yes, I didn’t leave the house until around 2 and didn’t really have much to show for it at the end of our ridiculously long day. No majestic landmarks of complex itineraries ticked off either. But it was a lot more relaxing than trying to go all out.

It’s also a lot more fun when you explore with other people. Logic tells me to get up at 4 to take the metro over to the west side and catch the sunrise over manhattan, return, crash for a few hours and then leave before everyone else wakes up and hit everything the city has to offer as it’s the only way to make the trip “worth it”. One thing that made this break particularly fun was getting to know other colleagues who I’d never normally run into, and the collective discovery of new places and experiences is definitely better, shared.

This was a holiday.

B