Giving the X100 a hard time in Morocco (Part 1)

For years now, ever since getting a copy of Albert Watson’s “Maroc”, i have wanted to visit Morocco and experience the place for myself. Like many people with a place like this, i had many idealised preconceptions of what it would be like so needed to find out for myself. Friends looked at various tour companies itineraries for Atlas trekking trips, and it was decided hat it was possible with a bit of organisation to book exactly the same facilities (accommodation, food, guides, transport) ourselves, achieve the same targets (which was to summit Jebel Toubkal and to trek the High Atlas along with spending time in Marrakesh) and save a considerable amount over the standard tour companies. Everything was booked and after totting up, we had simply managed to knock the 1 of the front of the tour price. Bargain!! Let’s go!!

Friends gave various advice ranging from the loveliness of the Berber people and the scenery, through the madness of the citys through to the seemingly standard advice for traveling anywhere outside of Somerset of “Don’t eat or drink anything, it’ll all kill you”. Although initially dismissed, this should have been the one bit of advice i heeded more than any for reasons i will explain later.

This is supposed to be a camera review rather than a travelogue, so i will explain my thinking for my choices of equipment. For work i use a Canon EOS 5D mk2 with a wide array of L series lenses. The problem with this is that although the image quality is fantastic, it is very heavy (we had a 20kg Easyjet baggage allowance and had to carry a lot of kit whilst walking). Also i feared that walking round Marrakesh, a large camera with a big lens may prove conspicuous and lead to unwanted attention.

After much research, i decided the camera for the job would be the Fuji X100. I had seen excellent reviews for the camera, downloaded and played with sample files that seemed stunning, but for me, a selling point was the traditional approach of the camera, with all the dials and buttons in the right place, just like they used to be on a proper camera. I still like to use my old OM2, so found the aesthetics particularly appealing.

Given we were traveling over new year 12/13, i thought best to get the camera early so i could familiarise myself with its functions and foybals before the trip, so in September, the camera arrived.

The first thing i noticed was the array of functions and settings that for a “professional” camera all seemed a bit pointless and were and still have been ignored. who ever wants to apply in camera sepia effect anyhow?

The first thing i did when receiving the camera was to remove the lens cap and fit the £70 adapter ring and lens hood (who on earth thought that £70 for a hood makes sense is beyond me although there are now after market versions available for 1/4 the price). The main advantage of the hood is to allow the fitting of a std 49mm filter which has proved vital for the protection of the camera. It is ridiculous that you cant use the hood and the lens cap together. I have managed to use an old OM cap for transporting purposes though.

After initial testing, i began to like the camera although the first problem came to light. The battery is awful!! going out on a normal day, with a full charge in the morning the red light would be flashing after half a day or a hundred or so shots. Looking at this, i realised that i would need a spare which was ordered before departure. The other thing i did to save power was to turn off every unnecessary functions such as reviewing on the screen and the flash and simply use it as i would’ve a “proper” camera. this worked and almost tripled the battery life i was getting.

The standard test all my kit seems to get is a wander round the village and / or a quick snap of the dog looking cute. As can be seen from the images below the image quality is stunning, as good as and if not better than any camera i have used before. That was that concern put to rest than. The auto focus is quick enough, not lightening fast, but good enough for this type of camera. The metering was spot on and the composition using the LCD viewfinder was perfect. It has to be said that i found myself using the rear screen as a viewfinder a bit which would not be possible on the trip. I also noted that the manual focus option is to say the least pointless and has obviously just been put in to please the traditionalist. It is so slow to use that it is far more viable to auto focus on a point and then recompose using the AF lock button on the back.

The only other setting change i made was to turn on the shutter sound. as bizarre as this may seem, it was difficult to tell when a photo had been taken on silent and one of the options is convincing enough to be a real shutter.

Everything was tested and we were ready to go.

It was at this point that someone mentioned vaccinations to which the resounding response was “Oh Dear!!”

I the next part, we actually get to morocco and the test (of me and the camera) starts in earnest.

Tilly on Porlock Weir Beach
Tilly on Porlock Weir Beach
St Andrew's Church Congresbury
St Andrew’s Church Congresbury

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