Fuji film X-Pro1 and SOOC pondering

Posted on February 23, 2021

Just pressed reset on another new old camera.

First there was Lumix GX7, then the Sony a7s, (a huge investment at the time) then the Fuji x100s, then the x-E1, now the x-Pro1. The trend is towards older cameras, although the x-Pro1 is only a year or so older than the Gx7. For folks who like to manual focus there is very little need for the latest and greatest.

I still have an x100s, but I want a manual shooting experience that includes focus. Focusing on the x100s, even when you haven’t accidentally added superglue to the focus ring, is awkward (focus by wire).

I’m still working out what type of photographer I want to be. I’ve outlined that I like shooting JPEG and don’t want to edit a lot. But I’m still facing a quandary.

In recent years I’ve been using apple photos to edit jpegs – very convenient as the edits are synced to the cloud and you just don’t have to really think about anything. When I could be bothered, or am feeling particularly artsy, VSCO on iOS has been a go to tool. I plug in the standard Fuji Provia jpegs and find a simulation that brings out what I want in a photo, add a border for aspect ratio agnosticism, and usually that is that.

I love the creative borders I can add in Affinity Photo using the crop tool.

A part of me though wants to to SOOC forever. But that part of me doesn’t want the standard Provia – it wants the more interesting film emulations. The problem is that part is in direct conflict with another, adjacent part, that wants consistency. Obviously one film emulation is not going to cut it across the range of scenarios. Velvia might be fun in lower contrast, daylight situations, but it will crush the blacks mercilessly at night.

Night shooting requires less contrast, maybe Provia or Pro Neg Standard. I like the atmospherics to be visible at night: gently lit particles hanging in the air; the very subtle light falling even in dark areas of the shot.

I started writing this article before doing a lot of experimentation with the x-Pro1’s film simulations. I now think it’s possible to shoot indefinitely with them. It still leaves the consistency question hanging, but if I can narrow it down to maybe two or three, that should be good.

I’m torn over Velvia. I love it when it works, but I’m scared to shoot with it because it can be so destructive.

I was experimenting with ‘recipes,’ custom settings which are based on Fuji’s simulations but take it to the next level. You can tweak highlight, shadow, white balance, dynamic range, etc., to achieve specific looks and save those to camera.

All of these recipes I’ve tried are very situational, there’s no way I could stick to one or the other and I’d rather apply the said tweaks as needed and as the situation demands, or even on a creative whim if I am feeling contrasty on a particular day.

One thing I’ve found myself doing a bit is using Velvia, but overexposed.

Velvia, overexposed on an overcast day.

SOOC appeals to me because it’s like choosing a film, and puts so much emphasis on the shooting process.

All this for some kind of conceptual purity. VSCO is fun – but wouldn’t be as fun as if I achieved the look I want in camera. So I guess, I need to think about what look that is.

There is a niggling voice saying that if i need settings to be a particular way or another then my photos are shit.

But I think what this is about is me wanting to enjoy the act of taking photos, which is not necessarily a quest to create something that will be priased or acknowledged (I am not opposed to this). And when I say I want presets and things, it’s not completely to make something funky or more a cartoon version of reality. It’s more like getting the scene to look how it felt, and communicating the aspect about the scene that I felt was interesting. For my type of photography, where the meaning and subject can be very subtle, and not seen if not looked at a certain way, this is crucual. I have relied on third party tools for this but I think doing it in the camera would be cool, if not a cool challenge.

I also want my work to have some kind of consistency to it. So using two or three ‘flims’ (JPEG recipes) makes sense from this aspect.

Frozen soybeans. Meant to be soaking. Altering the exposure on this shot to keep the bubbles in the ice separate would have been hard to to SOOC, if for no other reason than it’s hard to see that kind of detail.

So sadly I think I can renounce my VSCO membership. After all, they have deprecated their journals feature which was perhaps the best thing they offered, and their experience now is not unlike Instagram, albeit a harder to use one that attracts minimalists. VSCO is cool for the borders feature – you can set photos of any aspect ratio within a square, great for posting on instagram especially as carousels. But I can do that in Affinity without duplicating the photo in my Photos app.

I may renew my Flickr membership, after having culled many photos from my photo stream. I just need to find out if I can have photos in an album that are not on the photo stream (your effective homepage). But wait, it’s 10 a month, making it 100 more expensive than VSCO… so I guess I have to ask myself what the purpose of that would be. Maybe I should create my albums on Alidark.com. That would be cool too, I guess, as I could accompany them with a bit of rambling such as this.

So, I have more or less settled on a way forward. I’ll shoot SOOC without strict presets but keeping an eye out for a favorite ‘recipe,’ ditch VSCO and it’s filters (look for another way to get borders around the photos easily), and post collections on the website as journals.