In Focus: Fujifilm X100F

In an effort to produce more photography content (and also, perhaps, to trick myself into thinking more critically about tools and their uses), I’m going to try out a series of blogs exploring the various cameras I own or have owned: what I bought them for, my experience shooting with them, why I got rid of the ones I ultimately sold. The intent isn’t to review—there’s plenty of that elsewhere on the Internet—but to focus more on the camera’s real life use, the intangible elements that make it something I want to pick up and create with.

I figure the most natural place to start is with my everyday companion over the past year: the Fujifilm X100F. While there may be no such thing as a “perfect” camera, for my purposes, Fujifilm’s X100 series is as close to perfect as any manufacturer is likely to get.

The X100F is the fourth iteration of Fujifilm’s X100 series of cameras, a line that wraps decades of camera design and technology into one should-be-impossible package. It packs the same sensor as Fujifilm’s professional bodies, yet it’s small enough to fit inside your jacket pocket. Fuji’s analog legacy is apparent here in both form and function; the X100F relies on manual knobs and dials to change its settings, and the gorgeous rangefinder design is often mistaken for a film camera when out in public. As someone who also shoots film and appreciates the feeling of being connected to the process of making a photo, picking up the X100F feels right at home.

Honestly, if live music weren’t such a big part of what I shoot, I don’t think I would own another digital camera at all. Not because the X100F isn’t capable of capturing shows (I shot most of Lady Lamb on it and all of Mitski), and certainly not for lack of love of my main shooter, the Fujifilm X-T3 (an incredible camera in its own right… a feature for another day).

But I’m a person who values simplicity, and simplicity is the X100F’s bread and butter. More than any other camera I own, it’s entirely unobtrusive, weighing next to nothing, more an extension of my eye than a tool I have to consciously think to use. It takes away the unnecessary bells and whistles and turns the focus to simply creating—and isn’t that what photography is ultimately about?

And yet… as I sit here typing this, I’m preparing to sell off my X100F to fund the purchase of its successor, the Fujifilm X100V, which was announced at yesterday’s Fujifilm X Summit event in London. For as much as I adore the X100F, there are a few niggling things that sometimes detract from the experience: the softness of the lens when shooting wide open, the lack of an articulating screen, and particularly its susceptibility to dust and weather damage. Based on early reviews, the X100V improves upon all of these things. If we’re talking “desert island” cameras here, the X100V could very well be the one for me.

Still: as the first camera I owned in the X100 series, the X100F will always have a special place in my heart. It might not be the camera I reach for when I’m being paid to shoot, but it’s the camera I reach for in almost all other circumstances. For travel, for run-and-gun shooting, for capturing moments, there’s nothing else like it on the market, and no tool I’d rather have on hand at all times.

It’s the camera I use to capture my everyday life, and that makes it the most important camera I’ve ever owned.

Caroline Rose @ Club Cafe (September 11, 2019)

Oh look, another horribly belated blog post! I’m skipping a few other recaps to get here, but c’mon… Caroline Rose always takes priority.

September’s show at Club Cafe was the band’s first headlining Pittsburgh set since March 2018, where they and I first met and our ardent love affair began. One could say things have picked up since then, if Caroline’s follower count is any indication (7k pre-LONER versus 21k as of this posting).

Caroline claims to have a “Pittsburgh curse”—see this tweet in reference to the aforementioned March 2018 show—though you wouldn’t be able to tell from the sold-out crowd and the several eager yinzers who brought Yuenglings (read: Pennsylvania water) to the stage immediately upon request.

Seriously, y’all, someone printed a banner with Caroline’s face on it. That’s painfully Pittsburgh in a way I can’t quite articulate.

There’s not much I can say about this band that I haven’t already said. The Club Cafe show was very much in line with every other Caroline Rose gig I’ve been to: shenanigans ensued, tequila was consumed (on my part anyway), much fun was had by all.

Club Cafe marked their second-to-last headlining gig of the year, and then it’s full speed ahead to the new album in early 2020(ish). If the “little taste” they’ve been playing live is any indication, it’s going to rip.

So who knows how long it’ll be before the next show? Only time will tell. This band deserves a break more than anything, so for as eager as I am for new music, I’ll keep spinning LONER a few hundred times more to keep myself occupied in the meanwhile.

P.S. - Someone bring batteries for poor Chelsea. Her onstage sass is sorely missed.

Soccer Mommy / Kevin Krauter @ Mr. Smalls Theatre (July 12, 2019)

I promised that I’d catch up on some missing show recaps and dammit, I’m here to DELIVER.

Show number two for Pittsburgh City Paper was Soccer Mommy, the stage moniker of Nashville wunderkind Sophie Allison. Like Mitski before her, Sophie went from playing a 250-capacity former Pittsburgh lesbian bar in 2018 to playing an 800-capacity former Pittsburgh church in 2019. Which maybe says less about the artists in question than it does the City of Pittsburgh’s taste in music venues, but hey, that’s neither here nor there.

Sophie was sick the night of this show, to the point where she couldn’t quite manage the trademark “ooohs” in “Cool,” but that didn’t deter her from putting on a great performance. The audience was all too happy to lend a hand and fill in wherever she couldn’t.

What I love about Sophie is how utterly unpretentious she is. Her shows carry echoes of the kind of dreamy bedroom vibe where she made her first recordings as Soccer Mommy. Listening to her perform feels comfortable, conversational, like you’re at a sleepover sharing “chill but kinda sad” songs with a good friend.

The personal highlight of the evening, for me, came when I was shooting from the balcony as the band left Sophie to perform a few songs solo. A few chords into “Still Clean,” a song which unmistakably inhabits the sadder spectrum of breakup anthem, the older woman next to me started to tear up. And alone on the balcony, she kept on quietly crying the whole way through the song.

I’ve shared this anecdote a few times now and have worried each time that it might come off as disingenuous, or worse, mocking, when it’s actually quite the opposite. I found it to be a genuinely beautiful moment that illustrated how music can connect us, keep us going even through our pain.

I felt that, sis, I really did. And wherever you are in the world, I want you to know that I’m rooting for you.

And then there’s Kevin Krauter, an artist I was sure I didn’t know until he opened his set with “Rollerskate” and I had a distinct moment of “WAIT A MINUTE, this is my JAM!”, and ended up feeling the music so hard that I almost forgot to take pictures. But don’t worry, I recovered. I’m a ~professional~, remember.

Two more shows to catch up on now before a whole slew of good stuff through the rest of September. High-ho, Silver, AWAY.

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