Posted on Mar 08, 2012

Reilly is in fourth grade which means she is studying the California missions this year.  One of her assignments is to visit one of them, and we chose the Mission Santa Barbara.  Before that, we decided to make a 3-day detour to my favorite place on earth…Disneyland!

The first two days were remarkably crowd free and we all had our fill of rides and attractions.  The third day was leap day and the park was open for 24 hours.  We did not know this when we booked, but it was a huge event with thousands waiting at 5am for a chance to enter the park early.  I left Stef & the girls in bed and made my way into the two block line.  I have been to Disneyland many times but have never seen the sunrise there, it was quite special.  I walked the park for an hour and just explored, something I used to do when I went with my parents, but this time of course I took photographs.

I’m proud to say the girls went on every ride we asked them to this time and never chickened out.  Their highlights were the Aladdin stage show, World of Color (an amazing night time show in California Adventure), and the chain swings.  It was a fantastic time.

NERD ALERT Non techies can stop reading now: My Fuji X-100 review starts here.  I know this camera has been reviewed ad nauseum but I thought I would give a perspective from real world use.  Ever since I sold my last Leica M7 years ago I have been searching for an “every day use” camera that I take with me wherever I go(Stef gets quite annoyed when I bring the 5d and a few lenses to dinner).  Most small digital cameras just don’t have the quality or features I like but when Fuji announced the X-100 last year they got my attention.  I won’t go into the features of the camera as that info is widely available and much better described than I could do here. I carried the X-100 every day of our trip and enjoyed using it.  So here is what I liked:

The camera is SMALL.  Having this little thing around my neck was quite liberating compared to my big Canon and a zoom lens.  I saw hundreds of people in Disneyland with a big DSLR/lens around their neck and couldn’t help but smirk a little as they all eyed mine.  I hardly noticed it and it never got in the way on any of the rides.  I knew lighting situations were going to be all over the place so I shot exclusively in aperture priority mode with auto iso.  With a few clicks of the exposure dial, this method worked wonderfully most of the time.  I also almost exclusively used the viewfinder to frame and shoot.  I prefer shooting that way (instead of the lcd) and it just makes me feel more connected to the scene.

Now, this is not a camera for quick grab shots or rapid fire shooting…and I like that.  The design and operation makes you think about your shot and, slow down.  I took easily half as many pictures with this camera as I would have with my Canon, which made things much more enjoyable to go through when we got back.

In use: My main goal with this camera was to document our vacation.  While it did that very well, it was also very fun to use!  Hard to explain really, but I haven’t had that much fun with a little camera since my Leica days.  The act of framing, getting exposure, and waiting for the decisive moment was a great experience for me. The lcd screen seemed just “ok” and got the job done for reference, but it’s certainly not the brilliant 5d lcd.  I found the camera very easy and intuitive to compose and focus, again not lightning fast but fast enough for my needs that week.  The manual aperture ring is right up my alley and in no time I found myself constantly fingering it preparing for the next shot.  While I’m not a flash user, there were a couple of occasions where I just couldn’t take a risk (the girls getting Goofy’s autograph in dappled light).  The little Fuji does a pretty nice job balancing the flash with the ambient, I was quite surprised.

Focus: Apparently this has been quite a polarizing topic regarding this camera but I can honestly say that in the over 700 frames I shot that week, I think about 4 shots missed focus.  Sorry Mr. Kelby, sounds like you got a bum unit.  My method was pretty simple: If I was shooting at f2 and needed critical focus, I used the EVF.  Shots f4 and smaller I switched to the beautiful OVF.  This really worked well for me.  Of course this is a smaller sensor and only an f2 lens and granted most of my shots were at f4 outside in bright light, but I just did not experience any of the reported focus gremlins.

And of course there is the image quality.  I am consistently impressed with the incredible quality this little camera puts out.  So much that I have used it on several professional sessions.  The colors are great and I’m more than comfortable shooting at up to 1600 iso.

So who is this camera for?  Certainly not someone looking for a good point-and-shoot, there are much better offerings for that.  The X-100 is designed for people who value the experience of making pictures.  Using it requires some effort, and yes there are a few quirks, but overall it makes me feel a little bit more analogue in this digital world…something I need every now and then.

  • Dude, those look great! I am very jealous as we have not yet been to CA Adventure. We really do need to go soon! Thanks for the inspiration : )

  • Beautiful pics! We go to Santa Barbara every year. One of our stops while we are there is the mission. So beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

  • I’m so glad that you had such a great time… boy I miss you guys!!

  • I know I’m late but…WOW! I didn’t even recognize Disneyland! I guess it’s been awhile and I’m quite certain there’s been a few updates! Love it!