Gas Street Basin, Birmingham

Welcome to my series on cameras, lenses, advice and taking those all-important pictures.  So which camera do you use?  This is a common question that I am asked when someone sees one of my pictures.  It is if the camera took the picture not the photographer!  There may be an element of truth in this, although there are a lot of factors that go into taking a picture and the camera is only one of them. 

FujiFilm x100v
FujiFilm x100v

To kickstart this series, I am going to talk about my ‘go-to camera’ which is the Fujifilm x100v.  The story is that I wanted to buy myself a new camera to replace my Sony RX100 V.  My requirements were many.  Simple to use but requiring the level of complexity below the surface when needed.  Weather resistance was a desirable feature.  I have had several compact zoom cameras over the years, and they have worked well.  Often the zoom mechanism has not been robust despite the camera quality with grit getting into the zoom mechanism.  Therefore, a fixed lens appealed to me.  As I grew up on 35 mmm cameras, like many reading this blog, I love the idea of owning a Leica, but the cost is prohibitive.  More realistically, I looked at alternatives and in early 2020, the release of the Fujifilm x100v came with positive reviews.  I did my homework and researched it. My decision was made after I looked at pictures people had posted and read reviews on the camera in the photographic magazines.

FujiFilm x100v buttons
FujiFilm x100v buttons

The Fujifilm x100v was waiting for me on Christmas day morning.  I unboxed it and started taking pictures.  With a new camera, I oscillate between starting to take pictures and reading the camera manual.  There are a few internet articles and YouTube videos that got me started.  One of the first differences was the position of the buttons compared to my Canon and Sony.  The tactile feel of the buttons gave me more control of my picture taking.  The buttons are traditional analogue designs and not digital.  Gradually I got the hang of the camera and then starting to use it in serious mode.  I read the manual more and more discovering even more buttons! 

I tried out the different colour settings and settled on the weak chrome colour.  Using the camera in aperture priority, I worked through the options.  My first pictures were a little hit and miss but the jpg quality began to impress me.  My confidence grew and it started to come most places with me.  In the morning whilst walking the dog, it proved to be a useful camera to record details on the high street especially during lockdown.  It is not a replacement to the big camera (Canon D5-mkIV) but it certainly does its job of delivering remarkable pictures.

What I like
In no particular order, here are my favourite things about this compact camera. 

  • The flash settings are easy to use and understand.  It gives good portrait pictures with the flash on.  This is quite something considering it is a camera mounted flash.  I use a manual setting of 1/64 sec often for a fill in.  The flash does not create many red eyes either.
  • The exposure compensation button is easy to understand and is set up next to your thumb.  I found this very useful and quick to select.
  • Some may consider it a gimmick, but the selective colour is so easy to set up and use.  If there was one fun element to the camera then this is it.
  • The double exposure is straightforward and offers three settings depending on which picture you choose to be the main feature of the setting.
  • The jpgs are stand alone, high quality and need little adjustment.
  • The back controls are easy to use and the tilted screen allows for flexibility in the framing of the pictures you take.  This includes being able to get down low.
FujiFilm x100v
FujiFilm x100v weather proofing at a price and convenience.

The camera is also cool to customise.  I added a thumb rest and changed the strap.  I did add a shoot button but then found it much better for my shooting technique when the button was clear. The pictures also show a half case for the lower half of the camera body.

What I do not like

  • Connectivity is poor over the wireless and the app design is poor.  So one is reaching for the iPhone if you wish to quickly upload pictures to BBC weather watchers or want to get that picture sent to family and friends as soon as possible.
  • It required an extra £100 to add the weather proofing and then I could not use the Fujifilm lens cover that came with the camera. So ended up having a black plastic cover! I wish I had brought the NiSi weather proofing as then I could have used the original silver camera cap that came with the camera.
  • It took time to work out the focussing and the switching between the settings.  This is maybe the learning curve that I have got to get through including using the manual more.

Best Pictures

Canal bridge at Acocks Green
Canal bridge at Acocks Green

My first picture that I published with the camera.  It is a canal bridge in Acocks Green, Birmingham.  Catching the two people under the arch added interest.

Hatton Locks
Hatton Locks

Hatton locks – All the lines caused by railings around the lock made for an interesting pattern in black and white.  I did have the traditional picture of a boat going through a lock, but this was more intriguing.

Takeaway reflection
Takeaway reflection

Takeaways are doing well in the Pandemic and here is one customer on their way home.  I was able to get down low for the reflections (the picture was published in the Amateur Photographer letters’ page)

The Night Train to Birmingham
The Night Train to Birmingham

The night train to Birmingham taken on a very cold night on the Dorridge footbridge.  There is much to see and discuss and the colours and light add to the atmosphere.  All picked up by the camera. The picture reminded me of the following song.
Down on the night train,
feel the starlight steal away,
Use up a lifetime looking for the break of day
Night Train – Steve Winwood 1980

family portrait
Family support bubble

The Support bubble of daughter and grandson and the camera produces some good details on portrait pictures

Dandelion Clock
Dandelion Clock

I was going to take a landscape photograph and came away with this dandelion clock.  This is cropped from a much larger picture and then edited in Black and White.  The effect is quite nice but the detail that remains after heavy cropping is amazing.

Detail of the Low Lighthouse at Burnham on Sea
The red stripe of the Low Lighthouse at Burnham on Sea. Love the colours and the details.
Gas Street Basin, Birmingham
Boats in Gas Street Basin, Birmingham

This picture is of the boats in Gas Street Basin and processed to bring out the colour. It is not designed to be a landscape camera but it manages such a scene very well.

Where did I buy it from WexPhotoVideo and their service is good. I am not receiving anything for saying this either!

Warwick is a favourite place of mine as it has many hidden delights.  The tourists flock to thee castle and will generally give the town a miss.  Don’t get me wrong the castle is well worth a visit and if you are going there you need to give up the whole day for the experience.  The town has a number of germs and one is the hospital. 

View down the High Street

The hospital was founded in 1571 by the Earl of Leicester but the Chapel had been standing on the site since 1126.  It had a long and varied history before coming under the patronage of the Earl of Leicester in the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1.  It was a place for old or injured solders to rest and recuperate. They were called the Brethren who were under the charge of a Master.  

The Guildhall and the topsy turvy walls

Today Lord Leycester’s Hospital is a place to visit and has an imposing presence on the main High Street into Warwick.  I have visited there before and this time took Sandy with me.  We visited the Chapel, the Guildhall and the Great Hall.  In the Great Hall there is a seat where King James 1st during a three day Banquet in 1617.  I took several overall pictures and the one of the outside of the Hospital made the BBC weather watchers.

The Great Hall with the King James Chair to the left
Details in the Chapel
The entrance to the Hospital
The Courtyard

I took along my Canon Camera 5D with a 24-105mm lens and it dealt well with low light conditions and the wide angles needed in the main hall. Well worth a visit and there is a lot of detail that I did not record as I went mainly for the overall pictures.

My Picture featured on Midlands Today

When the chance came to take photographs from the top of the Rotunda then I was first in the queue. Maybe not first as there were several other keen photographers that wanted to up there as well. Those people with passion, @Birminghamweare organised the visit to Floor 20 of the iconic Rotunda. We had a 6 to 9.30pm slot on a Sunday night in one of the Staying Cool apartments. The city was buzzing as the Velo bike riders were finishing their 100 mile trip around the West Midlands. I thought I would be late for the trip to the top but I found a place to park and made may way to the Rotunda. I have passed the entrance many times but now I was going in and up to the top. We were based in Room 25 which has the best views over Grand Central and out to the west of Birmingham. I met up with my fellow photographers and walked out onto the veranda – viewing platform at the very top of the Rotunda. I took several minutes to take in the scene and as I often do in these situations got my phone out and took some pictures.

Having settled down and after the initial excitement had subsided then it was time to start taking some pictures of the magnificent view. I had brought along my 100 – 400mm Canon lens which was able to pick out all the landmarks. These included Birmingham City football ground, St Martin’s Church, the Bus station, Grand Central, St Philip’s Cathedral. the Mailbox and Snow Hill. So many different views to choose from.

The setting of the sun was very exciting and we were all politely jostling for position to get the best shot in. We all managed to get our pictures of the sunset and then this was followed by the night lights of Grand Central and the surrounding buildings. Another set of pictures were taken. Then it was all over. Three and a half hours had gone so quickly. When I got back home it was such fun to look at all the pictures and also so interesting to see pictures taken by the other photographers from the @Birminghamweare group.

A BIG thank you to Jonathan Bostock and Debra Power from @Birminghamweare for organising this memorable visit. Also thank you to Staying Cool at the Rotunda for allowing us the opportunity to view Birmingham from above. Finally I hope you enjoy all the pictures on show and tune into people with passion – Birminghamweare

I have started to take my wide angle lens out with me when wandering around Birmingham. I usually do this on a Wednesday morning as I have a clinic in the City Centre. I plan different routes around the city but today I went for a route from Snow Hill to Brindley Place. Along the way I took several pictures and at around 7.30am arrived at the NIA. The Iron bridge over the canal is a photogenic leading line and I started experimenting. It was then that a noticed that a colourful sunrise was starting to happen. I overcame the lack of tripod by using the canal wall. The manual settings of the camera were as follows shutter speed 1/13, aperture f/20 and ISO 400. I use live view to check the scene. I also ensured that I focused part way into the picture to find the hyperfocal length thus ensuring all would be in focus. I took a few more pictures and then went to one of my favourite coffee houses Tom’s dinner in the Mailbox. Browsing through the pictures and this one caught my eye. Processing is a mixture of Lightroom – up the exposure, drop the highlights, touch the shadows and a heavy vignette. I use a LUT (Lookup Table) add on to bring out the cinematic effect. Then into Photoshop where I use an unsharp mask followed by adjustment of the levels as the final adjustments. The picture looks good and I have also included some of the other pictures that were taken on my walk.

Cube spotting
Another view of the sunset
Long boat and windows