So it’s been another week and then some since I’ve posted my first impressions on X1D. I’ve been carrying it on my neck everyday, wandering around Seoul here and there, to capture amazing moments, and also become closer friends with this guy. I can finally say that I’m getting used to using it in every situations. For me, it takes a while to be able to use a new camera at full speed. Not only I have to figure out how it operates, I take time to genuinely ‘know’ the camera. It’s hard to explain the process, but it’s kind of like getting to know your new dog. It takes time until you know what makes him bark, what makes him happy, when to feed him, when to leave him alone, etc. I go through this phase with my camera. It means not only figuring out what it can do but also understanding what it can not do. Only then I can shoot with it in all the different type of situations I encounter on streets. When things happen so fast on the streets, you don’t really have time to think. I think me and X1D is getting there.
I took it to some of old palaces in Seoul, and its vivid colors provided me a chance to see its ability to capture and amplify colors. Using it on low light situations were on my agenda as well, and it performed beautifully on that regard too. One thing I really like is getting those nice lines of lights coming out from streets lights, headlights, etc. This effect usually happens when the shutter speed is slow enough. But X1D gets this effect even at 1/45sec, 1/60sec. Having deep dynamic ranges also abled me to amplify the colors and still maintain details on the images. I am yet to use tripod with it though. The reason, I will explain at the end of this article.
People are always my favorite subjects. Capturing candid moments on the streets involves fellow humans, and testing X1D on them was also a delight and a challenge. I am still getting used to this aspect I think. X1D doesn’t focus that fast or well, and obviously have a little trouble when the subject is moving. I’m figuring out ways to focus fast on moving humans, learning my own little tricks. Again, this won’t be easy for people who’s used to using DSLRs to do street photography. It’s a hassle in a way. But the result, the image quality just blows me away. Maybe it can’t be an everyday street photography kit, but there are certain point and time that it can be used effectively. That’s something I’ll be keeping up on doing.
For now, I am only testing it here in Seoul, a mega city, thus the most common subjects have been the buildings. Seoul isn’t going to win prettiest city in the world award, that’s for sure. But with X1D I’m trying to inject some new perspectives on it. Using reflection of lights have been my primary ways of shooting using X1D in the city. To be honest, X1D focus system suffers when it gets a bit dark. It’s better to manually focus in such times. But I think it’s pretty well designed to be manually focused. I had no big issue doing that. I really like getting a lot of details in these cityscapes shots, even the small objects in the furthest of the frame gets great detail. Again it might not show on resized images, but it’s there. While I’m not really one to obsess over technical quality of my photographs, it is a nice thing to see when you see it.
Few days ago it snowed a lot here in Seoul. While it snowed late at night, it actually gave me a perfect chance to test X1D out. I wanted to see how it fares in extreme weathers. The camera got all snowed in but worked perfectly. Not only that, it showed great ability in capturing snow, and was superb at maintaining those night colors. And I was able to get some of my favorite shots I’ve taken with it, so far.
I’ve aforementioned that I’m yet to try this camera out with tripod on. The reason is that I want to use this camera as it is intended to be used. On hands, out on the streets. I’m baffled in a way when I see Hasselblad promote this camera with photographers using it in the studios, or totally maintained fashion shoot type situations. I’ve seen Fuji Film do the same with their new medium format camera. If you’re going to shoot in the studios, or some kind of controlled locations, you can use bigger, heavier, and better medium format cameras. You aren’t going any where. Let your assistant change lenses and bring ’em to ya. What’s the point of making X1D small if you’re still going to use it for such occasions? The size of X1D calls for taking medium format photography where it hasn’t been. That is out on the streets. Taking shots of candid, unexpected moments are what X1D was born to do. And that is exactly type of photography that I like, that I excel at, and that is what I fully intend to do to maximize its potential.
I’m not saying such shoots are meaningless. I do them too, when my clients ask me to. But the reason why X1D got me excited, and the reason why such a long time Leica M user like myself have decided to take this guy on, is because its size and weight(and price) showed a future of medium format street photography. Been done in film days, I know, but in digital photography X1D is one of the firsts to offer such a possibility. That’s why I plan to make some of my finest works with this guy, in the years to come. Still in an early stages but we’re becoming friends, as you can see in these images. I’ll keep you up with updates. I’ve got to go out there and shoot some more!