Buddha’s Birthday in Korea – My First Month With the Fujifilm X100s

Every May, temples all over Korea light up with lanterns in celebration of Buddha’s birthday. In over four years of living in Korea, I have never really gone out to experience this national holiday. So this time I decided to do a bit of temple hopping to photograph Buddha’s birthday and the days leading up to it. This was also a good chance for me to extensively test out my new camera, the Fujifilm X100s. It is quite expensive for a compact camera because of its large sensor and fast lens. However, for a family man like myself, having a small but powerful camera that I can take everywhere is definitely a worthwhile investment. As I write this, I have had the camera for about a month and it hasn’t left my side. It is small, fast, silent and the image quality is amazing. I have been able to capture so many great moments with my 1-year-old daughter and I definitely feel the camera is worth the price tag. But I’ll save that for another blog post. For this project, I went to 5 temples in 3 cities to capture the festivities. Thanks to the camera’s small size and excellent performance even in low light, I was able to move through the temples quickly and quietly without a tripod. For technical details, check out the photographer’s corner below. For the non-geeks, please enjoy this look into a very colorful and spiritual day for Korea. Share your thoughts in the comments section. Better yet, go on over to my Facebook Page and give it a Like.

 

Photographer’s corner: All photos in this set were shot using the Fujifilm X100s, handheld. Click the photos to see the settings. Please note that this is not a comprehensive review. These are my personal thoughts and experiences and I will cover the things that I found most important for my needs. If you have any questions, I’d be glad to answer them if I can. Please leave them in the comments below, contact me, or drop me a line through Facebook.

Since I will be using my X100s primarily as a family and street camera, I need to be able to slide the camera up (I use a Blackrapid RS-7 strap), focus, compose, and shoot as quickly as possible. Here are my usual settings:

Mode: Aperture Priority
ISO: AUTO (minimum 1/100s up to ISO 6400)
White Balance: Auto
Metering Mode: Average
Fn button: Built-in ND filter (instant f/2.0 in bright sun!)
Jpeg Color Mode: STD (Provia), sometimes V (Velvia)
Quality: JPEG Fine or RAW
Focus: MF with peaking (yes, manual mode…see details below)
Silent mode: On (except when using strobes)

Usage: With the above settings, the only things I really need to play with while shooting are the Aperture and the +/- Exposure Compensation, which can both be changed in an instant thanks to the physical ring and dial. I love being able to shoot quickly and just focus on composition. On average metering mode, I get a high percentage of good exposures that are rarely over exposed. As an SLR user, I find myself using the EVF most of the time. Optical viewfinder mode is very useful for viewing the actual scene, once you get used to the parallax error.

MF mode = better AF: On my SLR, I use back button focus. In AF-S mode, the camera will want to confirm focus EVERY time, which can slow you down. With back button focusing, the shutter button and AF button are independent of each other, so you can lock focus once and keep shooting one frame after another without refocusing. For more about back button focusing, check out this great article written by my friend Jason Teale. Enabling back button focus on the X100s was a bit confusing to me at first, but I was eventually able to figure it out. I set the AFL/AEL button to “when pressing” and switch the focus mode to MF. In MF mode, The AFL/AEL button works as the AF button. Leaving the X100s in MF mode all the time has given me the best of both worlds: AF with the back button and instant manual focus override with the focusing ring (otherwise disabled in AF modes). It also gives me instant shutter response with every press of the button, resulting in faster shooting. You may also notice that the focusing area square gets bigger in MF mode, but you can still move it around. Lastly, I suggest you enable focus peaking to make manual focusing even easier.

High ISO: I would normally worry about using ISO 6400, but with this camera, I don’t think it’s a problem. As you can see in the dragon picture and others above, ISO 6400 produces sharp details, amazing color and tolerable noise. It has been said before, but this camera can see in the dark!

Minimum shutter speed: Another thing I’ve noticed is even though I set my minimum shutter speed to 1/100 second, the camera will go below that when necessary. For example, in the corridor photo above, which was shot in very low light, the camera went down to 1/15. Because the camera has a leaf shutter, there is no mirror slap to cause shake and you can shoot at very low shutter speeds. However, I deliberately chose to set the default to 1/100 to freeze motion better and avoid camera shake in normal situations. I like the fact that the camera will slow the shutter in extremely low light and I can keep shooting without having to go into manual mode.

Other stuff: For family photos, I shoot jpeg fine and for more serious work, I switch to RAW. The Q menu makes changing settings a breeze. Auto white balance is very accurate, so I let the camera decide most of the time.

Overall, the X100s is an awesome camera and is now my favorite camera ever. It’s, small, dead silent, and just a pleasure to use. It is the only camera that has made me feel like a ninja when shooting. 😀 I will still use my Canon 5D Mark II and L lenses for paid work, but the X100s will always be by my side.

Thank you for reading this far. It has turned out to be a longer write-up than I expected, but there’s just so much to talk about with this excellent camera. I hope some of this information will prove useful. If you have any questions or comments, leave them below and I’ll answer them if I can. Please also check out and “Like” my Facebook Page to know the latest.

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Roy Cruz

Roy Cruz

Photographer at Roy Cruz Photo
Roy Cruz is a freelance photographer based in Tongyeong, South Korea specializing in travel and documentary photography. He started shooting professionally in 2007 and has worked all over the Philippines and South Korea. He is also a dedicated husband, bass player, and father.

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9 Comments

  1. David Whittley

    Thanks for sharing your views Roy. I have an X100s on order and like to read about the different setups. The back button focus and manual focus tip was excellent. I’ll be trying that out if the camera ever arrives.

  2. You’re quite welcome, David! I’m glad you found this useful. Don’t worry, your camera will come. I felt the exact same way while waiting for mine to arrive. Cheers!

  3. Terrific images Roy, astonishing iq at all iso, colors are vivid and saturated, great sharpness, low noise (and great subjects too). I’ve been shooting the x100 (not the S) for a while and love it, but could use the faster focus of the S. Beautiful images, if you have time, take a look at my online portfolio at mlaudisa.500px.com, I would greatly value and treasure your critique.

    Maurizio

    • Thanks Maurizio! Nice X100 portraits on your site. I’ll leave some comments when I can. Cheers!

  4. Akira Yamaguchi

    Great article. The X100s is my primary camera now and it has helped me to relive my passion for photography. I will definitely try out the back button focusing technic.

    • Thanks Akira! I totally agree. There’s just something about the X100s that makes you want to go out and shoot and just enjoy taking photos. The back button focus really works for me. Let me know how it works for you. Have a great day!

  5. Great article. Thanks for sharing your views Roy. Petr

  6. Amazing shots. Thanks for share your experience, it’s very useful. I am an XT20 user, but your setting and those explanation give me more ideas to utilize my camera.

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