Blind date in Beijing

Mao watching my Fujifilm X-Pro1 (35mm f 3,6 1/900s ISO 800)

Warning: This is not a review. This is just a personal opinion of an amateur who started photographing by the birth of his son one year ago. In terms of taking pictures of a baby lying, lying, crying, smiling (smiling? OMG he is smiling!!), lying, lying, sitting, sitting, crawling and – yes, proudly! – standing I am a real expert. I tried different cameras, auto settings, manual settings, big cams, small ones, everything. It worked out well, and it worked out not so well. I think it was just a matter of luck. Until one day. One special day when I held the Fuji X100 in my hands. That moment I remembered how I took pictures 20 years ago – and that there were good captures too. I remembered that there is light, iso, aperture, shutter speed and that there can be a soul in a camera. That day (which is eight months ago) I started getting excited. I started reading camera reviews. I started reading books about photography. I started thinking about pictures. And I started getting interested in what you call street photography. (And what I call the next step after taking pictures of your family when you see yourself as ambitioned but you still have no idea how to take good pictures.) In the meantime things have changed. Fuji has published an amazing firmware update for the X100 and is selling the X100´s big brother – the X! Pro! One! Hear the strings and bells? But not everything changed. I am still an amateur. And I´m still excited. So you won´t find pixel peeping, lab tests or zoom-ins of photos that look all the same. I don´t know anything about it, and I don´t care. This post is just about what I have in mind when I think about the Fuji X-Pro1: pictures. End of warning.

There are people who take their holidays as an opportunity to buy a new camera. For example me. But this time I did it the other way round: I took my new Fuji X-Pro1 as an opportunity to buy a few days off. After a quick look on the map and a longer talk to my wife I found myself sitting in a nonstop flight from Berlin to Beijing. Without my family, without a single person I know, without any plans but walking around and taking pictures. One week – no meetings, no phone calls, no ties. Just me and my camera (and 20 million Chinese as I soon found out).

35mm f 2,8 1/90s ISO 200  unfortunately without sound

The guidebook which I already opened in the plane told me that you should never – NEVER – visit Beijing around May 1st because the Chinese also have a few days off which they use for sightseeing. And they take sightseeing very seriously. One more reason to avoid temples.

35mm f 1,4 1/2200s ISO 200  two haircuts per hour

To make it short: It was a great week. I enjoyed watching instead of talking, walking instead of sitting, burning instead of eating and photographing instead of reading reviews or blogs about photography. I managed a whole week with a vocabulary of ten words (yes, no, thank you, this, that, money, taxi, Tsingtao, please) and the awsome Beijing Taxi App. It is one oft the mysteries in history how Marco Polo could travel without it. And I fell deeply in love with the X-Pro1 which I just unpacked and updated the firmware a few days before I left to China. So Beijing and the X-Pro1 were kind of a blind date.

That autofocus isn´t slow. This picture I have taken off a driving ricksha (I know, rickshaws are for tourists
– and for serious camera testers). 35mm f 2,8 1/1900s ISO 800

Because I had read every damn review about the X-Pro1 I was well prepared. I got the 35mm lens and the 18 mm lens with me. I had bought the hand grip and the strap Zack Arias recommends in his great review. I was also carrying the Fuji X100 in my retrospective 5 and the Sony NEX-7. The X100 because I never go anywhere without it, the Sony because I wanted to give it another chance. I am not so excited anymore about it just because the Fujis are so much better. I usually use it to catch my one year old son. The autofocus is (maybe) a little faster, and sometimes I enjoy putting all settings to auto. But in my opinion the image quality of the X100 and the X-Pro1 is much better. The look and feel is much better. And probably it was a mistake to buy the Sony because who buys a Fuji X100 and a Fuji X-Pro1 and a Sony NEX-7? People buy either a X100 or a X-Pro1 or a NEX-7. Although I recommend to have a X100 and a X-Pro1 with you.

I guess it´s prohibited to expose your butt on the Tiananmen Square (35mm f 1,4 1/4000s ISO 200)


Two and a half men (35mm f 1,4 1/4000s ISO 200)


I prefer to photograph police men from behind (35mm f 2,0 1/70s ISO 800)

In Beijing I wanted to test every detail of the X-Pro1. But what happened is, that I have not even read the manual in detail. I just took pictures. Because it was easy (you quickly realize that the X100 and the X-Pro1 are brothers – or sisters). And because it was a joy. I had no issue with autofocus. Not at all. The cam is not too big and not too small. It is not too heavy and not to light. The firmware update solved all the problems with noises. You can take the camera and do what their creators want you to do: shoot.

Of course it is exhausting to be a child in Beijing (35mm f 2,0 1/1200s ISO 200)


Not thinking, just shooting – I was a soldier of the Fuji army (35mm f 1,4 1/3200s ISO 200)

The first day in Beijing I walked around the three lakes near the Beihai Park and I forgot everything. I guess that´s what they call flow. I was already walking for nine hours when I noticed that I was hungry. The camera was such a joy. And the image quality, that I later checked in my hotel room, was as good as expected. The quality of the jpgs was even more than expected, much more. Most of the pictures in this post are slightly prepared in lightroom. Not because it was necessary, just out of habit.

Listen to your stomache (35mm f 2,8 1/50s ISO 2000)


More than one reason to eat somewhere else (35mm f 2,0 1/400s ISO 800)


Vegetarians eat the food of our animals. Bastards! (35mm f 2,0 f 2,0 1/100s ISO 800)

Shooting under bad lightning conditions I even didn´t think of setting up the iso (I left it the whole week on auto).

For the X-Pro1 this is daylight (35mm f 2,0 1/50s ISO 320 – no, I didn´t forget a “0”)


35mm f 2,0 1/50s ISO 640


Two on the phone (35mm f 4,0 1/40s ISO 3200)

At the Great Wall I was happy about the light weight of the camera and its lenses. The sun was hot and it was a challenge to climb the wall. Only those poor lambs carrying DSLRs looked worse than me – deep red faces, sweating waterfalls and panting like horses. Chinese business makers were selling water (price depending on the ability of talking and trading. I was thinking of selling my Fuji to one of them. But I didn´t want their Nikons and Canons.

Dust or smog – who knows (35mm f 2,8 1/4000s ISO 200)


35mm f 8,0 1/950s ISO 400


35mm f 16 1/450s ISO 800

At the Great Wall I also put on the 18mm lense which did a great job too. I still prefer the 35mm lense but I have got some nice results. The only thing annoying was the protection cap which I have lost and found about five times that week. At the Wall I have lost it too but couldn´t find it anymore. A few grams less to carry – to take it positively.

18mm f 11 1/1500s ISO 800


Dschingis Khan was here too (18mm f 8 1/420s ISO 200)


The chinese way to climb mountains (18mm f 8 1/420s ISO 200)


Flag reflecting the colour of the author´s face (18mm f 16 1/750s ISO 800)

As I found a shady place I tried out the panorama mode. There was almost no oxygen in my blood – so I was happy that it was that easy. Generally I don´t need a panorama mode but it was kind of fun. Especially when the young couple with the blue umbrella appeared.

Panorama mode view (35mm f 8,0 1/250s ISO 200)


What´s that in the cable railway? A European? Looks funny (35mm f 1,4 1(60s ISO 200)

The X-Pro1 has done something even my wife didn´t succeed in yet: It took me out of bed at 4 am, let me pay way too much for a taxi to Tiananmen Square to watch the “unforgettable” (guidebook) ceremony of raising the red flag at sunrise – usually watched by a handful of patriotic Chinese. Usually. This time I counted about 3.000 people with 3.000 cameras or mobile phones fighting for a front row place. And then it happened: the big nothing. Cheap military march music came out of the speakers, uniformed raised the flag and after three minutes it was over and the masses went away. I was a bit tierd, but my guidebook was right: I will never forget it.

There will be a red flag. Amazing. A red flag. Just as yesterday and the day before (35mm f 2,8 1/340s ISO 200)


18mm f 2,0 1/300s ISO 800

Thinking of China before I had two things in my head: tastes and colours. Tastes I have met on every street around every corner in Beijing. But with colours I have had a few difficulties. More than twenty meters away from you instead of colours you see smog in Beijing. But to see it technically: The X-Pro1 handled it quite well in my opinion – Colours in front, grey mash in the back.

At lunchtime on a warm and sunny day (35mm f 4,5 1/4000s ISO 200)


Colours: yes and no (35mm f 5,6 1/1800s ISO 400)


Colour your life? (35mm f 2,8 1/2200s ISO 200)

The following pictures I converted to black and white in lightroom (no Silver Efex, just a quick klick). I like them, too. And as always I am not able to decide if I prefer colour or black and white. The wonderful colours of the X-Pro1´s JPGs don´t make it eaiser.

35mm f 1,4 1/1100s ISO 200 (2/1100s before she caught me)


The rules of this game are simple: sitting, smoking, staring (35mm f 2,0 1/340s ISO 400)


The bird whisperer was speaking a little louder than the X-Pro1 (35mm f 1,4 1/2500s ISO 200)


Fishing for photographs (35mm f 1,4 1/2200s ISO 200)


That´s what friends are for: sitting at a lake with a bag of pizza (35mm f 1,4 1/4000s ISO 200)


Smog and a bit lightroom in this case (35mm f 4,0 1/1700s ISO 200)

And here a few more imprressions…

I like taking pictures of people. And of dogs, of course (35mm f 1,8 1/2000s ISO 200)


35mm f 1,4 1/1500s ISO 200


35mm f 4,0 1/400s ISO 200


35mm f 2,8 1/850s ISO 400


35mm f 1,4 1/2000s ISO 400

As you already should have noticed: I like shooting with wide apertures. I think the X-Pro1 and the 35mm lense like that too. With a higher aperture it is a bit sharper. But isn´t it brilliant (brilliant enough) with f 1,4?

35mm f 1,4 1/2000s ISO 400


35mm f 1,4 1/4000s ISO 200 auto white balance


35mm f 2,8 1/2500s ISO 400


35mm f 1,4 1/4000s ISO 200


35mm f 1,4 1/2900s ISO 400


35mm f 5,6 1/3200s ISO 800


35mm f 1,4 1/70s ISO 800


35mm f 2,0 1/170s ISO 200


35mm f 1,4 1/220s ISO 400


35mm f 1,4 1/3200s ISO 200


35mm f 1,4 1/4000s ISO 200


35mm f 1,4 1/1500s ISO 200


35mm f 2,8 1/2200s ISO 200


35mm f 2,8 1/340s ISO 200


One Comment so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. A great series of shots! Very charming indeed!! =)

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