6 Months into One Camera One Lens with the X100V

Last May, I ended up putting my X-T2 and interchangeable lens collection up for sale on eBay. Not because I was dissatisfied with them but because I was considering something daring. Something that had been on the back of my mind for nearly 6 months before but I didn’t dare try.

I came to realize that I was spending way too much time reading about camera technology. If I spent as much time shooting and watching tutorials as I did browsing tech specs, my portfolio would be fantastic.

And I realized that by using an ILC I would never truly feel like I had enough. There would always be some other lens to tempt me, to whisper about possibilities still uncaptured. “What if you had the 16mm f1.4? Imagine a shallow depth of field on a wide-angle!” Or “why did you sell the 35mm f1.4?…Remember the magic pixie dust? Looks like there’s a good deal on a used one on eBay!”

So I decided to take a break from the lens treadmill. Weather resistance had been the one thing keeping me tied to my X-T2 because I definitely put it to use. But when the X100V was announced as a weather-sealed compact, I realized I finally had no excuses left. One camera, one lens, one year, and a big stack of batteries. Why not? Everyone who I could find that tried it said it was fantastic for their photography.

“One camera, one lens, one year, and a big stack of batteries. Why not?”

When my new camera arrived, I immediately put it through its paces. It was a substantial adjustment for me because I’m much more at home with a comparatively tight, clean 35mm prime like the XF 35mm f1.4 than I am a 23mm. Still, the extra bit of width was appealing because it let me include that little bit of environmental detail, challenging me to consider composition in a different way.

I’m still shocked by what the exercise has done for my work. The X100 series really is something special. The size of the camera ensures you’ll never have much of an excuse not to bring it with you. While it’s not truly pocketable like an X70 or a Ricoh GR, it still fits snugly into a side satchel or coat pocket.

And the image quality is top-notch because the X100 series uses the latest generation Fujifilm tech. The V is basically a miniature X-Pro3 with a fixed, redesigned 23mm f/2 lens attached and one less card slot. I suppose that’s enough camera for me to work with…

As a documentary photographer, I was concerned that a fixed prime compact camera might not be up to snuff for field work. A good zoom or a series of quickly swappable primes really is ideal because sometimes you just can’t zoom with your feet. But I quickly discovered why the 35mm equivalent is considered the classic photojournalist’s field of view.

It is incredibly flexible. Crowds, portraits, architecture, and anything else fit into the frame very naturally with easily controlled perspective distortion relative to wider lenses. There were very few times I was held back from capturing a specific shot because I’ve always preferred using normal focal lengths anyway with my work. They create a sense of place and intimacy that telephoto focal lengths don’t. That said, I don’t shoot war photography, otherwise I’d have to reconsider.

During the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s shooting, I found the X100V to be well up to the task. The lens focuses and tracks quickly, is sharp and contrasty, and the onboard flash adds just the right amount of fill light in TTL mode. When working in the heat of the summer, I was concerned about the warmth it generates but not once has it ever overheated or shut down, even with constant use in the sun.

I’m still unlocking the possibilities offered by the leaf shutter as flash photography has never been my strong suit. Being able to shoot at shutter speeds faster than 1/250ths of a second allows me to shoot daylight portraits wide open at f/2. And of course, there’s the built-in 4-stop ND filter to make f/2 shots in broad daylight even easier.

The number of tricks this camera has under its tiny hood is incredible really. While there isn’t a polarizing filter Color Chrome Fx/Blue helps tease out additional tonality in most scenes so long as you don’t mind using the in-camera JPEG suite.

The hybrid EVF/OVF is a nice trick as well. I haven’t had an OVF since my last DSLR. But covering a couple night protest marches in Kenosha reminded me just how useful they can be compared to an EVF.

I think the greatest shift over the past 6 months has been how much closer to my subjects I tend to get using this camera. The small, unobtrusive size of the X100V and wide-normal view encourages me to move in, giving my images an impact that I think was lacking before.

If I’m being honest though, there were times I did crave a 50mm or 28mm equivalent. I found the X100V’s 35mm equivalent tight for crowd work especially. There were rare moments where it simply wasn’t possible to back up a step or two. Still, I went into the challenge knowing there would be those times so I can’t complain.

Far more importantly, it’s fun walking around with a small camera. I wanted to recapture the feel that I had when I first started photography. 20 years ago, before I cared about money and people liking my work, I had a simple digital compact that went with me everywhere. I took photos of anything that caught my eye. It was a style that was innocent and playful.

Bringing my X100V to the grocery store, the park, the gas station, or wherever else I’m going opens up chances to take photos of daily life that are uninteresting to anyone but myself. But by taking those images, I’m honing my artistic vision just that little bit more, even if it’s just a street portrait, leaf, or cigarette butt.

I’m officially 6 months into my project and looking back, I can happily report that I rediscovered the fun factor I was craving. And when I do documentary work the X100V enables my creativity even better than my X-T2 ever did.

It provides everything I need and then gets out of my way. ND filter, flash, customizable buttons and menu, dedicated exposure dials, top-shelf sensor… The camera is such an extension of my will that I can mostly operate it without looking.

Despite this glowing review, I’m actually somewhat ambivalent on whether I will continue. On the one hand, I’ve captured some of the best images of my life and found out that a bit of wide-angle really is lovely.

On the other hand, I do miss the classic tight-normal view, especially for portraits. While I see better with the wide-ish native lens than I did before, I sometimes peek at the digital teleconverter, just to see how it looks.

6 months in I still frame more naturally with the tighter view. Do I swap back? Grab the TCL-X100? Stick it out another 6 months and see how I feel?…Decisions, decisions…

But for now, with winter at hand and few projects to work on, the X100V remains my daily companion. Every day, it encourages me to get out and simply look for beauty. To simply pay attention to what’s happening in the moment and think less about “if only I had X lens.”

I’ll probably always crave a different view, a newer camera. I’m still a bit of a gearhead. But it’s harder to pretend now that I actually need said gear with such a capable companion in my bag!

After discovering a love at a young age for digital photography, Earl Goodson has kept a camera in hand throughout his years of world travel. Documentary, travel, and street photography are what captivate him: the human experience in all of its permutations and expressions. And the closer he can get to his subjects the better.

19 Comments

  1. I’ve read of the one camera, one lens, one year exercise and every December I think of starting on January the first for a true calendar year. My problem is the amount of money that I’ve spent on lenses and bodies the last couple of years… 9 Fujifilm lenses and 3 bodies, with $3000 spent in the last few months.

    It would take so much discipline to ignore the gear in the closet gathering dust for 12 months. You obviously did it right by eliminating that temptation by selling your gear. I can never sell anything, personality trait (or flaw).

    Well, three weeks to January. Maybe your article was the kick in the butt that I needed. Now, which lens…?

    1. “It would take so much discipline to ignore the gear in the closet gathering dust for 12 months.”

      Exactly. I actually tried doing so the previous year with my X-T2 & 35mm f1.4 but I couldn’t ignore my other lenses. Since you have quite a bit of $$ invested you could always mail them to someone else so it at least takes some effort to get your gear back.

      I hope you give it a try! Even if you go for only 6 months I’m sure you’ll see some marvelous results!

  2. Superb photos and text ….. solution to your situation is simple
    I use the X100V and its brilliant but I also carry a XE3 with a 35mm f1.4 They have similar layout on the back so they integrate really well … the ideal combo!

    1. I’ve come to a similar conclusion. I think carrying an X-T2 + 35mm f1.4 would give me the best of both worlds. Still, I really enjoy how tiny my bag is right now…Maybe I will see if I can come to love the digital TCL instead!

  3. Excellent article…I love both the x100 and x70 series cameras…I have owned a couple versions of the x100 and most recently an x70…though I do not have either as of this writing, I have been scouting the market for an x70…I tend to see in the slightly wide realm. The high sync takes me back to my medium format film days…
    I can be content with a pair of pocket strobes a trigger and an x70.
    Rock on!!!

    1. I still need to learn how to make the most out of the high sync flash speed but I’m slowly learning. These cameras have so many tricks, it’s like having a studio in your bag with the right gear! I might add an Instax printer next year.

  4. Really enjoyed your perspective, having done the same with my Fujis, twice. Didn’t sell my gear, but I did take a long Europe trip with only my F, and I also did a photo-a-day with the 35/1.4 on my X-E1.

    Your photos are very similar to what I ended up with – fairly close in, small things, details, people. What struck me in the end though was that I missed much more than I got – you cannot achieve a spectacular rendition of the inside of the dome of Rome’s Pantheon, nor that Marbled Godwit 200 meters out on a sandbar with a 35mm equivalent.

    These days I’ve shrunk my travel kit down to a body, the 16/1.4 and that 35 mentioned above. The perfect solution for just about everything. And if I have a car, I’ll throw the 50-140 in just in case there’s some owl sitting in a tree. Interestingly, I also picked up a Leica Q2 and because of its monster sensor, you can *almost* get that bird because you can crop it to death.

    Again – great piece.

    1. “What struck me in the end though was that I missed much more than I got” I see where you are coming from. I think if you have the specific desire to capture a photo a certain way, you can’t help but be displeased by the limitations of a single prime.

      I think what I came away with is that there’s no fixed way to take a portrait, a landscape, a wildlife photo, etc. And remembering that makes it easier to let go of an idealized shot. Instead of getting the entire dome of the Pantheon, maybe you just select the most detailed portion with your 35mm, for instance.

      But if you have an ILC kit, I say enjoy it!

  5. A great piece. I’m new to Fujifilm, having just purchased the X100V (Nikon usually, D850 currently, but wanted to try something entirely different.) Thanks for the insights in your work and the project.

  6. Earl,

    This is an excellent article, a great challenge and you are a fantastic photographer!! In early August I purchased a Fujifilm X100V and I absolutely love it. I’m very tempted to try the one camera, one lens, one year challenge. I absolutely love taking photos with that camera. It gets me thinking more about the composition. I do have another Fuji camera it’s an X-Pro2 I bought used with a 23mm f/2 lens and an 18-55mm lens. I do like using that camera with those lenses so it might be hard for me to leave those at home, but I think I could give it a try.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the images and I hope you do give it a try! Simplifying the gear choices helps you stay more in the moment. Rather than “what lens should I be using,” you’re already composing and mastering what’s right in your hands! There’s very little a 35mm equivalent can’t do!

  7. In early 2019, I bought the first generation XF27mmF2.8 lens. Before that, the only lens I had was the XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR. The XF27mmF2.8 has been attached to my camera so often that I’ve almost fallen into one camera, one lens scenario without thinking about it. The only lens purchase I have planned for 2021 is the update: XF27mmF2.8 R WR.

  8. Hi Earl,

    10 months on from this article are you still using just the X100V? I had the X100V but sold it and now regret it. Had an attack of GAS and bought an X-T3 with XF 16-80 and XF 35 1.4 but now I’m considering ditching my ILC and lenses and buying another X100V.

    1. Hi Nick! So currently, no. I sold my X100V a few months back to explore what the Ricoh GR III and Sigma DP Merrill series had to offer. But I have to say, I’m entertaining some serious regret…Even though my current cameras do have some neat tricks up their sleeve, they simply aren’t Fujis. I’ve been thinking about either an ILC or going back to the X100V lately!

  9. I thoroughly enjoyed your article Earl. We’ve exchanged comments on other forums in the past and I have a great respect for your work and your discipline.

    I recently sold my X100V. I’ve gone through this same cycle with four other X100s over the years. I was sure this time would be different because the V checked all the boxes where my previous X100s fell short.

    The problem for me was that whenever I headed out the door, the X100 was the one I almost always grabbed, due to form factor and convenience. But then I found myself not taking a lot of shots as not many of my kinds of subjects fell into the 35mm eq FOV. So a decision had to be made:
    1. Sell my other three X bodies and several lenses, suspecting that I’d end up repurchasing them and losing all that cash in the process, or
    2. Sell the X100V and focus on using what I have (which is way more than sufficient to capture nearly any type of image).

    Now being V-less for nearly three months, I still occasionally miss it, but more in an emotional attachment way. I have other 23mm options and I’ve become reacquainted with my remaining kit with less distraction, and will likely pare that down in the near future.

    We must evolve as we grow.

    1. Hey there Rob! Not sure which forum member you might be but always happy to chat with a familiar “face!”

      Personally, I think you made the right choice for yourself. It does take a certain focus to completely fall in love with an X100, which is hard to do when you have so many appealing choices back at home! But it’s also easy to romanticize the X100 cameras when it’s simply a fact that they can’t capture as many perspectives as an ILC can.

      And sometimes 35mm just doesn’t work quite right for your personal vision. Even in some of my favorite shots with my X100V I’m left thinking “man, I wish I had JUST a bit more width in that frame.” And so on.

      But it’s great that you were willing to experiment with that for yourself. Even if your answer was “no, I prefer having more options.” Too many people are unwilling to even give it a go..!

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