X30 Tales: It’s all about winning over a “Wild” little camera

Preface
Gear doesn’t matter, so they say. I had never bought into that idea until five years ago when I met the work of Matteo Ceschi. This talented Italian photographer shoots events, portraits, and even professional assignments with a variety of small cameras, some held by duct tape, with visible signs of good and prolonged use.

Compact cameras like a Ricoh GX100 or a Fuji X30 photographing Sports or Fashion? His images make magazine covers and posters. Exhibitions and photo festivals. Artists and musicians use them on their websites, social media, profile pictures.

But how is that possible? The explanation is quite obvious to everyone, except for us, photographers. Always obsessed with technical issues and new features, we look at the photographs but don’t see them. We look to assess sharpness, dynamic range, distortion. That often prevents us from seeing what is really there, its real content. As they say, can’t see the forest for the trees. And at the end of the day, it’s still all about the pictures.

So what is Matteo’s secret? Why does a simple camera in his hands turn into a highly capable tool? Apart from his natural talent and tendency to get himself right in the middle of the action where everything happens, the explanation is quite direct and simple, he does what all of us photographers should do. He starts by getting to know his camera. He handles it with his eyes closed, he knows all its virtues and, most importantly, its limitations. Then, with millimetric precision, he defines all the settings of his camera so that the output is exactly as he wants. Then he just forgets it, period. And focuses on what’s really important, the photograph, the people, the moment. And that’s when the magic happens.

Hugo Pinho
Co-founder and editor of the Fuji X Passion magazine


I don’t remember exactly when I bought the X30.

Instead, I remember very well how I learned about the X30. I read about Fujifilm X30 in a photo magazine; I was on a flight back from London. Photographers called to test the X30 were initially skeptical about the camera’s potential, but at the end of the test, they admitted it was an exceptional camera.

The reviews by photographers intrigued me so much that I decided to buy the X30 immediately.

The early days with the X30 were turbulent and stingy with satisfaction: the camera was nervous and grumpy as a wild Colorado horse. I struggled for a while to find the right feeling until I decided to give myself totally to her: I became a “wild” photographer!

For six long years, I shot with my lovely and unpredictable X30 practically everywhere: in Milan, my hometown, in Paris, in London, in Sarajevo and in Vancouver on the wild shores of the Pacific Ocean. During this period my hair got a little white, and my “little wild” X30 lost bits and gained centimeters of duct tape and an amazing leather and aluminium Gariz case!

What have I photographed with the X30? Everything there was to photograph… and much more to come!

Some of my professional/official assignments:
• Backstage fashion photography or fashion photography, sport photography
(www.fujixpassion.com/2017/06/27/giro-ditalia-100th-edition-x30-captures-final-individual-time-trial/ )
• Street photography, travel photography, reportages
(www.fujixpassion.com/2016/10/31/sjj-016-postcards-from-a-present-in-progress/ )
• Rock music and jazz photography
(www.fujixpassion.com/2017/08/14/two-fuji-x-sisters-rock-concert/ )

After a long professional coexistence with the X30, I can say that this camera is ready to face any challenge: if you don’t care about megapixels, well, then consider the X30 and its exceptional lens and its pocket size.

I’ll give you some examples where pocket size and a super bright lens can make a difference.

Working with friend photographer and video maker Federico Garibaldi and the Lucio Costa fashion brand as a backstage photographer, I need to gain “some invisibility” on set. No other compact camera has ever given me the sense of confidence and reliability that the X30 has always assured to me with its size and its small and performing 28-112 mm zoom.

In the backstage, there are often troubles and nervousness. But a compact camera is the right choice to avoid creating additional tension, and it helps to capture the best moments of the exciting side of the backstage experience. I usually shoot in black and white directly in the camera to record these moments. And my X30 B&W setting (high contrast) helps me give additional narrative power to the storytelling.

Live music shows, like fashion, need sharpness to balance the play of light and the sudden movements of the framed subjects.

Kurt Vile, Carson McHone, MC5, Mississippi North Allstars, TaxiWars, Grammy Awarded jazz trumpeters Leon “Kid Chocolate” Brown and Ashlin Parker, rapper Hyst, etc… Different locations, different music vibes. The same camera: the X30.

The X30 has never let me down during a live show or a studio session, allowing me to follow the rhythm of the music, no matter what the lighting was. The X30 is a “sonic creature”, at ease with the mood of the night and the feelings of musicians. The artists themselves were often surprised by the frames.

Over time, the X30 has become a kind of special glove that fits my hand perfectly.
Shooting with it becomes natural like all everyday gestures. It does not matter where you are: in the old Jewish cemetery of Sarajevo with stray dogs wandering among the tombstones; or in the liberal and super freak Vancouver; or in a Boeing B777-200 flying over the Greenland glaciers.

Could I give up my X30? No, I couldn’t! I am now fond of my X30 and its high precision lens. I repair it with inches of duct tape. The body flash and macro button are KO. The dust that settled on its solid metal body did not affect the main functions and never touched the sensor.

My advice? Buy a mint second-hand X30! Even 200-250 euros will be well spent in 2020. – Milanese street photographer, essayist and journalist, writes for several magazines and has exhibited his shots in various locations. He is a member of f50/The International Photography Collective.

His latest projects were in collaboration with English photographer John Meehan, founding member of the f/50 Collective, and with Italian fashion brand Lucio Costa. His latest exhibition “Ko.existence” (with the patronage of the Italian Embassy in Bosnia Herzegovina) was in collaboration with photographer Jim Marshall at Public Room Evergreen gallery in Sarajevo.

Matteo Ceschi - Milanese street photographer, essayist and journalist, writes for several magazines and has exhibited his shots in various locations. He is a member of f50/The International Photography Collective. His latest projects were in collaboration with English photographer John Meehan, founding member of the f/50 Collective, and with Italian fashion brand Lucio Costa. His latest exhibition "Ko.existence" (with the patronage of the Italian Embassy in Bosnia Herzegovina) was in collaboration with photographer Jim Marshall at Public Room Evergreen gallery in Sarajevo.

11 Comments

  1. Wow, and thankyou. I was so impressed with your photos using this little camera, I went searching and found one brand new still in it original packing.
    I am learning to use it. It is amazingly sharp. Yes ISO is a problem, so keeping it like you say to max 400 its fine.
    Its getting me out of my doldrums. Covid has taken its toll, but learning to use this tiny Fuji has given me a new lease on life. Its a challenge.
    Once Covid restrictions are lifted I will be out on the streets.

  2. This was great. I just let go of my X30 because my X70 became my go-to camera. I’m tempted by the XQ2, though. Same sensor, more pocketable size. I’m wondering, do you primarily shoot raw with your X30?

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