When I got the Fujifilm X100s around 8 months ago, I knew I was getting a great tool for street shooting, travel and general-purpose photography with my family. However, I also wanted to be able to do landscapes. So I built up a little kit that has enabled me to do landscape photography using long exposures and various filters, all within a lightweight and compact package that I can literally carry with me wherever I go. I will share that kit with you today, as well as some photos taken with it.
Let’s start with an overview shot of the whole kit:
1. WCL-X100 – The first thing I found is that the 35mm (equivalent) field of view of the X100s sometimes isn’t wide enough. That’s why I picked up the Fuji WCL-X100 wide angle converter. It gives the X100s (and original X100) a wider field of view, converting it from 35mm to 28mm equivalent focal length. While that doesn’t sound like much, it actually makes a noticeable difference. It is an excellent converter that doesn’t decrease image quality. You can also set the camera to automatically correct distortion etc, when the converter is attached. This gives you a pretty cool 2-lens mini system to work with.
2. Mechanical cable release – I love this for its classic feel and simple functionality. It’s the same cable release that has been used in manual film cameras for decades. It screws right into the X100’s shutter button and allows you to press the shutter without shaking the camera and keep the shutter open for as long as you want on B (bulb) mode. The best thing about using this on the X100s is that the elapsed time of the long exposure shows right on the camera’s LCD.
3. Cokin P-Series filter kit – I’ve had this kit since I started doing photography. I always found the P-series to be a bit small for use with DSLRs, but it’s the perfect size for mirrorless lenses. The square filters go in the holder, which is attached to the front of the lens by an adapter ring. The rings come in different sizes depending on your lens. The optional modular hood helps shield from unwanted light. Tip: you can get really cheap adapter rings, holders and hoods from eBay or Amazon. The build quality is quite comparable to the original at a fraction of the price. Get original filters, though. Speaking of filters…
4. Cokin P154 Neutral Density (ND) filter – cuts down light by 3 stops to enable longer exposures. Long exposures, of course, allow you to capture silky water, light trails, cloud movement, etc.
5. Cokin P153 Neutral Density (ND) filter – cuts down light by 2 stops. Little brother of the P154.
6. Cokin P121S Soft Graduated ND filter – shaded part cuts down 3 stops of light. It basically does the same thing as the P154 except only on half of the frame. It’s commonly used to cut down the exposure in the sky, making for bluer skies and avoiding blown out areas. You can slide the filter up and down to match your horizon.
7. Cokin P160 Polarizer – this cool little filter removes reflections on surfaces and makes colors richer. It works especially well to make skies bluer, foliage colors richer and remove reflections on water. It can be rotated independently of the holder for greater control. This filter also cuts down light by 2 stops.
8. Cokin P007 infrared (IR) filter– this specialty filter only lets infrared light through, making images with wild false colors or interesting black and white photos. Because it is a very dense filter, it is very prone to reflections bouncing between the lens and filter. This can be remedied by tying a cloth around the filter holder to block out light (see photo below).
9. Horus Bennu M-2531T tripod and LX-28T ballhead – Horus Bennu is a Korean camera gear manufacturer that may not be as well-known as others. I have found that their products are quite good at reasonable prices. This aluminum travel tripod by them only weighs 1.02 kg (2.2 lbs) and folds down to 31cm (12.2 in). This is a real tripod that can fit inside your bag. It’s maximum load capacity is 12kg (26 lbs), according to the manufacturer. Although with a mirrorless camera like the Fuji, I doubt you’ll ever get anywhere near that. The tripod is quite sturdy, especially when you hang your bag from the hook on the center column. It’s not the tallest tripod, but that’s not really the reason you’d get one of these. I got this one for less than $100. There is also a carbon fiber version that will save you about 140 grams, but it’s almost twice the price. The Horus Bennu probably isn’t widely available outside of Korea, but the popular and highly regarded Me Foto Backpacker seems to serve a similar purpose.
Miscellaneous: I used to use a Joby Gorillapod as my main travel tripod, but I found that it was inconvenient for many situations. Also, since the 3-stop Cokin filter has the most stopping power in their line, I once tried a cheap 3rd party Cokin-compatible “ND16” from eBay. It worked, but there was a very noticeable color cast from the filter, so I stopped using it.
Putting it together:
The above image is a typical setup for when you want to capture long exposures in bright situations. In this example, I’ve stacked the polarizer and 2 ND filters. Add the X100s’ built-in 3-stop ND and that equals 10 stops (3 + 2 + 2 + 3).
When using very dense filters, particularly the IR, you will sometimes (usually) get reflections between filters and the front of the lens caused by stray light. In order to avoid this, I wrap a cloth around the filter holder, like this:
Packing it up:
A big part of the job in landscape photography is getting there. That’s why the way you pack your gear is crucial. Instead of using a dedicated camera bag, I use an insert that can be placed in any regular backpack or shoulder bag. This particular one is a Horus Bennu HD321022. In this photo, I packed the camera, wide lens, cable release, filter holder assembly, filters, charger and two spare batteries. The filters go in a Cokin plastic case or filter wallet, both available from eBay. As you can see there is plenty of room to spare (and I’d love to fill it with an interchangeable Fuji X system soon 😉 ). Using an insert keeps your photography kit discreet and flexible. When it’s all packed and folded, it looks like this (note the soda can for size reference).
And finally the images…
Graduated ND filter, handheld:
ND filter, Graduated ND, cable release, tripod:
Neutral Density (ND) filter, Polarizer, cable release, tripod:
Infrared (IR) filter, cable release, tripod:
And my favorite, #nofilter 😀 , cable release, tripod:
I hope you found this post helpful. I have really enjoyed shooting and traveling with this kit over the past few months, so I thought I’d share it with everyone, especially those looking to downsize their gear. On the last trip I took to the Philippines, I didn’t even have any check in baggage. 🙂
Overall, this has proven to be a very easy-to-carry and versatile kit for many kinds of photography. I do admit the X100s’ two focal lengths may feel limiting. I have found myself wanting wider or longer coverage at times. But most of the time, I am very happy with it. The limitations actually make me think a bit harder about composition and making the most out of the gear I have.