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GOING THE DISTANCE
"MEMOIR PART 12: A NEW CAMERA"
MY FIRST RANGEFINDER-STYLE CAMERA: Fujifilm X-Pro1.
There have been three constants in my life, beginning at a very young age, and these are, in the chronological order that they took hold of my mind and life:
(1) Photography (1962).
(2) Corvettes (1966).
(3) Harley-Davidsons (1968).
Please note that the years listed don't indicate when I developed an intense interest in these. The dates denote the times when I was able to acquire the Instruments of Intense Interest, that represented my admission tickets into these worlds: The Photography World, the Vette World and the Harley World. It goes without saying that I developed an all-encompassing interest in these three cornerstones of my life prior to buying the specific Instruments of Expression related to each endeavor, but it was the possession of the serious modalities of choice in each world, that represented a confirmation of my commitment to these pursuits. Talk and idle thoughts are cheap commodities, but action speaks volumes about commitment.
There's a reason I use the phrase, "Instruments of Expression" with regard to photography, motorcycles and sports cars. It is because I view these pursuits to be an expression of my soul, each being an external manifestation of who I am and how I think and feel. I believe that riding a bike, driving a performance car and taking pictures with a pro-level camera are artistic endeavors that fulfill an inner need to create.
Doing these things, satisfies my need to create a surely as my writing does. Artistic creation takes many forms, and in my life, they take the forms of motorcycle-riding, sports car-driving and picture taking. I hope this makes sense to you. Think of each as a performance art. Going through the mechanics of riding a motorcycle, or driving a critcially hot-car, or working a camera---is an art. Hey, if they were easy, everybody would do it. That's why I think Hardcore Bikers are a special breed of human.
Photo by Genghis
"SALLY THE BITCH" My entry fee into the Harley World.
To know that I'm rigidly loyal to certain ideas, is to understand me completely. It really is as simplistic as that. You can make sense of what I'm saying, by way of taking a backward-in-time look at all three of my lifelong interests. Let's examine the last of the three of the cornerstones of my interest first, which are Harley motorcycles and the Biker Subculture. I am an admittedly Hardcore Biker going back over forty years. I don't view any of my interests as superficial. I am committed to each of 'em 100%. In this sense, these are not hobbies, but serious lifelong undertakings, to be respected and revered, with a feeling of tremendous gravity.
I developed an intense interest in motorcycles, before acquiring my first Harley, my 1968 XLCH Sportster, "Sally The Bitch." But not an interest in just any motorcycle. It had to be a Harley, man. Harley's best, screw the rest. You know the drill. What I'm tellin' ya about here, is the key to my personality. I'm fiercely loyal to one brand, and one brand only, with respect to motorcycles. I've only owned two motorcycles in my life, and they are both Harley-Davidsons. They are Sally The Bitch and my current, last and Forever Bike, my 1971 Super Glide, Mabel.
It would be accurate to say that If I couldn't ride a Harley, then I wouldn't ride at all---that's how dedicated I am to the Harley Ideal. And it has to be a Traditional Harley, not some crap like the new electric-motor, Harley-In Name-Only junk put out by The Firm. I see this electric appliance as a slap in the face to dedicated bikers. It's insulting. I hope the yuppies that buy this electric bike lose their recharging cords while they're on the road. Screw 'em. Traditional Harleys are the very lifeblood of the Biker Subculture. Without these, there would be no hardcore bikers.
Photo by Genghis
MY SUPER GLIDE MABEL: A serious instrument of interest.
It is said that memoirs are a narcissistic pursuit. This memoir will certainly not disabuse you of that contention. A memoir by its very nature , is all about self. In other words, it's all about me, baby! That's understood by the reader at the outset of reading a memoir. If you're still reading this, then I congratulate you on your taste. Whether it's good taste or not, depends heavily on perspective.
I also applaude your intestinal fortitude. It might mean that you're a masochist. But hey, I ain't complainin'! Read on, baby! It is inevitable that every memoirist thinks that his or her life and thoughts are endlessly fascinating. That's clearly not true. However, in my case, it is true. Otherwise, how would you have gotten this far in this article?
1964 VETTE: Admission to the Sports Car World.
In 1966, I bought my '64 Corvette from a used car lot on Queens Boulevard. This was my entry ticket into the Sports Car World. I'd had an intense interest in sports cars and car racing since the age of 13, but it wasn't until 1966 that I was able to solidify my commitment to this world, when I got my first Vette. I'm firmly committed to and loyal to Corvettes. I like all sports cars, but could only own one brand, and that brand is the Chevrolet Corvette. I've only owned two cars in my life, and they were both Vettes. They were that '64 model, and my current, last and Forever Vette, my '72 Vette Mary.
Photo by Genghis
MY ULTIMATE SPORTS CAR: Mary, loud and proud
You can see where I'm going this. I have a fierce loyalty to one brand in all my interests, to the exclusion of other brands. That is, until now. The area of my life where this ironclad loyalty to one brand has changed, is in my photography. First, some background to set the scene, so you can appreciate the depth of my aberrational (for me) behavior.
In 1962, I bought my first flagship Nikon, a Nikon F from Willoughby Camera in The City (That's Manhattan, as we Queens People refer to it---"The City"). Over the years, I've stayed loyal to the Nikon brand---just as I've stayed loyal to Harleys and Vettes. I've been as singularly loyal to the Nikon brand, as I have been to the Chevy brand--and that's saying a lot. Hey! Does Macy's tell Gimbel's? Do New York Jets players wear New England Patriots jerseys on their days off? Doan think so, man. Besides the Nikon F (which I still have, see pictured), I own Nikon's F2 and F3 film cameras, and three Nikon D1x digital SLRs.
Photo by Genghis
PURCHASED IN 1962: Recent photo of my Nikon F.
I was very happy with the performance of my Nikons, but of late, I started playing around with the idea of having a rangefinder-style camera to carry around, that wasn't as heavy as my Nikon D1Xs. If you've ever lugged a flagship Nikon around all day, you know what I mean. In the old film days, this was not a problem, because the pro models weren't as big. Flagship film Nikons like the F3, were not ginormous and heavy, like the flagship digital Nikons of today. The more I thought about the idea of a lightweight pro camera, the more the idea appealed to me.
What previously held me back from seriously considering buying a digital rangefinder of another brand (Nikon does not make a pro-style rangefinder-style, digital camera) was this feeling of disloyalty at the very thought of owning another brand. What I wanted, was a rangefinder-style camera with not only the quality of build, but also the high level of performance of Nikons. This was a tall order, to be sure. However, I found what I wanted.
X-PRO1: Built like a brick outhouse, with stunningly superior images.
So, I took the plunge and bought the Fujifilm X-Pro1. Man, I'll tell ya, this thing's quality all the way. It's made as well as any flagship Nikon, all metal and no-nonsense. Best of all, are the images this camera produces. The images are surprisingly far better than my Nikon D1Xs can generate. The reason is the revolutionary digital sensor that Fuji developed for the X-Pro1, which doesn't require the customary blurring filter in front of the digital sensor. In simple terms, all digital cameras prior to the X-Pro1, had what's called an anti-aliasing filter. This filter sits aft of the sensor, and its function is to prevent artifacts from showing up on the pictures. Unfortunately, it does this by blurring the images. More blurring equals less sharpness and crispness. It's a simple proposition.
Photo by Genghis
WHAT THE FUJI X-PRO1 REPLACED: One heavy mutha.
I got exactly what I expected, once I began using the X-Pro1 a few days ago, a sense of liberation from having to carry the heavy Nikon around. What a sense of freedom I had with the new rangefinder-style camera! I started carrying it every day, with not even a nascent second thought. Those second thoughts were weighing heavily on me (so to speak) with the Nikon. I'll tell ya, the lightweight Fuji feels like nothing, compared to the super heavyweight Nikon. What a joy.
The X-Pro1 fulfills my needs in a pro-style camera, which in my Luddite world, means that I can easily employ manual focus and manual exposure with the instrument. Autofocus? Bah! That's fer sissies and amateurs. Autoexposure? Fuggedabowdit. There is a difference in doing zone focus (setting focus using a distance scale, based on the distance between the camera and subject) though, between my Nikon and the X-Pro1. My Nikon's lens has a distance scale on it, whereas the Fuji lens does not. Instead, I use the distance scale in the X-Pro1's viewfinder to zone focus with. Zone focus is a practical requirement in street photography.
WIDE ANGLE: 18mm Fuji lens.
I've been using a 20mm wide angle lens with my Nikon exclusively, so I wanted an equivalent field of view with the Fuji camera. I found it with the Fuji 18mm lens, an excellent optic as you will see in the photo examples later in this article. A wide angle cannot be beat for street photography. It engenders the intimacy with subjects, that longer focal lengths lack. Longer lengths add a sense of detachment, and a loss of emotion in the pictures.
Photo by Genghis
I''ve been using the X-Pro1 for a few days now, and as you can see, the sharpness and detail in "NYPD Cadet" is amazing. Keep in mind, that I have the in-camera sharpening of these JPEG images turned off, and I didn't perform any sharpening in the digital darkroom in photoshop, such as unsharp mask.
Normally with my Nikon, I would used unsharp masking in photoshop, to overcome the blurring effects of the anti-aliasing filter in the Nikon. With the X-Pro1, I use no in-camera sharpening, and have to do no digital darkroom sharpening with its images. I do a bit of photoshop "levels" to adjust contrast and tone (and I desaturate the images for black and white), but that's it for post-processing. Outstanding! Here are some other examples I've taken this week.
"Ain't Pizza Sam"
"Say a Prayer For Peace"
"Putting the Cart Before the Human"
"Yer a Regular Riot, Alice"
"Was it Heroin?"
"Hospital Waiting Room"
I'm stunned at how much better the images are from my new rangefinder-style Fuji proved to be, compared to my Nikon's pictures. Based on the superior images from this rangefinder, I have no qualms about using this great camera, instead of the Nikon for street photography. What does that portend about my other worlds, my Vette World and Harley World? Nothing. The Harley and Vette are here to stay, never to be replaced. Some things will never change. Later.