It must be snowing in hell – I bought a new camera. After much thought, much going back and forth, much of Nasim-nagging with what I not-so-secretly consider to be the most irrelevant questions, I bought a new camera. But that is not what I want to tell you today. All my impressions will come in due time. This time, though, there will be less talking and more viewing, as the first thing I wanted to do with it was… well, photography. Weird, am I not? And what better place there is to try a small, discreet, quiet camera than the narrow streets of my favourite city, Vilnius.
A side note: although everything I say in this article is indisputable truth, I won’t blame you if you don’t take my word for it all the time.
About a week ago, I had the pleasure of finding myself on a two-hour buss ride with a few Erasmus students. After the mandatory questions – where were they from, what were they studying, if they liked our little country few have even heard of and for how long would they be staying – were dealt with, we got to talking about the Lithuanian capital. We had a few laughs about Chinese tourists photographing every corner (I know I am going to do the exact same thing if I ever go to China), and then moved on to what is likely the most interesting part of Vilnius, the center of it – Old Town. Mind you, I never though it interesting when I was still a boy, but now that I’ve learned to appreciate things other than toys and having a lie-in every morning till noon, I think it is absolutely beautiful.
The secret every tourist, every visitor should know, is that before you take an actual tour with a guide in Vilnius, the best thing to do is get to the Old Town, throw your map into the nearest bin and just walk. Anywhere and everywhere. Take every corner, walk into every courtyard. Lose yourself. In all seriousness, get lost exploring those streets and never doubt you’ll find your way again (it’s not that big, see, but hides so many wonderful places). It’s the best, most fun way of getting to know Vilnius.
Take this following photograph, for example. I’ve seen this courtyard before, but the things I noticed last time when passing by (the light in there is always beautiful) were very different from the things I noticed today. Just look at that tiny little door.
Why so small? Here is a little known fact – just a couple of hundred of years ago, Vilnius was inhabited by really, really small people. I mean, Lithuanians are tall now, but they weren’t always as is obvious from the above photograph. Some say J.R.R.Tolkien wrote “The Hobbit” after spending a few months in Lithuanian capital. Coincidence? I think not! Fast forward to 2014 and our hobbit roots are all but forgotten, but one can’t fail to notice Vilnius now loves flowers.
I mean, we really, really love flowers.
I say, the more flowers, the better.
In fact, every window should have flowers next to it. Not having flowers somewhere close-by or on the sills ought to be punishable by law.
If you really love Vilnius, you’ll find a way to bring flowers into your life even if your home has no windows.
Can you spot…? Hold on. I don’t need to ask, do I?
If you’d like me to shut up about flowers, I can. Vilnius deserves a separate article, one I will certainly deliver. Right now, I can tell you a little bit about the camera, although these are just my first, very fresh impressions that might still change completely. Mind you, I won’t stop showing you photographs of flowers, so you will just have to endure.
Fine. Here is a drain pipe. I ran out of flower shots.
Fooled you, didn’t I?
As you’ve already gathered from the EXIF information provided with the photographs, my photo walk buddy was the Fujifilm X-E2 with the 35mm XF lens. The first thing I though when I picked it up was – my word it is small. It really is, at least to someone who is used to D700/D800/D810 and similar-sized DSLR cameras. It is a good thing, but I would not want it to be any smaller. I have a feeling I might find the X-Pro1 to be ever so slightly more comfortable, but overall I am very happy with the size and comfort so far. Some of the things I have not made up my mind about just yet – the EVF, for example. It will take much more time before I know whether I like it or not (and more articles, too, even though we have reviewed the X-E2 already), but I do know I can work with it. I also know I will need at the very least two more batteries if I want to be stress-free about the camera lasting a day’s worth of usage.
What I also noticed is that I wasn’t being noticed. Whenever I went out for some street photography, people would eventually see me photograph. They’d glance at me, right into my eyes, and then they’d glance at the big, black camera in my hands, before turning their gaze – now somewhat different – back to me. This time, nope. Even though I have the silver-black version of the camera, not one person looked at it. They would look at me much as anyone would at people they are passing by, and then just… pass by. I love that.
The 35mm f/1.4 lens is a nice match, too, and even though it is not exactly the same as a 50mm f/1.4 lens is on a full-frame camera, it is pretty close and provides a field of view I am rather used to, as you know. It is a nice, small, lightweight lens, almost the perfect size for such a camera. I got familiar with it very quickly. As the focus ring is not too light to turn, the unusual-for-me focus-by-wire worked well and felt quite natural. The aperture ring, as has been said so many times before by so many photographers, is quite a bit too light and eager, but it is something one will certainly get used to in time.
As nice as the lens is, however, I am as certain as I’ve ever been about wanting a slightly wider focal length as my most-used choice. There is good news and bad news here. Good news is, I bought the X-E2 with the XF 23mm f/1.4 and this 35mm lens is actually not mine but Nasim’s. The bad news is, Nasim has my lens. I can’t wait to take it off his hands.
I was working on this article when I stopped for a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop. I did not have a RAW converter at hand that would read the files from the X-E2, which meant I had to use in-camera conversion. That was refreshing. All of these images are therefore converted in the camera using low-contrast settings. Save for some slight cropping, resizing and very minor exposure compensation tweaks (the latter also in-camera; I did not think to use the histogram even though the back LCD is far from the best way to judge exposure, silly me), you could expect the exact same result in terms of colour and tone if you prefer to shoot JPG. Whether that is a good or bad thing, I will let you make up your own mind. Myself, I am not sure just yet. Perhaps some of the images could do with subtly different conversion, but spending more time on them sort of defeats the purpose – I wanted to keep things simple. Suffice to say, this camera is capable of much more impressive results in capable hands.
I was hoping to receive the X-E2 before my last wedding this season. I did not. And while perhaps it should not be so, I am quite glad I did not. Why? Well, there was no pressure. No commitment, no responsibility. I was free to just walk and photograph. The images might not be my best work – after all, they were all taken over a short period of perhaps two hours or so – it was still the perfect “date”, perfect way to start to get to know my new tool.
Nasim. I want my lens. PhotoPlus can’t come soon enough. While I wait to meet you there, here is a photograph of some flowers. Enjoy.