My Full Review of the Fujifilm X70

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My journey with the Fujifilm X Series camera began with the X10. It was so much fun to hike and bike with that little camera; I felt so liberated and I loved the color and look of the images it produced.

Of course, the X10, and the subsequent X20 and X30 had pretty small 2/3″ sensors, so even though I sold a few large reproduction photos to clients I shot with that camera, on the overall scale, it couldn’t really compete on a pro level with the higher end models.

Problem solved. This year, Fujifilm revamped the line and introduced the X70, which brought full X Series image quality and performance into a pocket sized camera. With the 16MP X-Trans sensor, the X70 is essentially an entry level version of the X100, and even though it has a slightly wider lens, it still has the same classic design and produces the same image quality as the X100 and almost every other model in the line.

Being such a huge fan of the X10, of course, I had to get one of these. And guess what? I suddenly felt that same sense of liberation that I felt with the X10, only I didn’t have to sacrifice image quality.

This is huge. As much as I love the compact nature of my X-T1 and X-T10, there are some times when I simply don’t want to lug around an interchangeable camera. It’s super easy to carry the  little Fujifilm X70 in my pocket, which means for minimal effort, I can still shoot full quality photos if I find myself in front of great subject matter or great light.

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Right when I got the X70, I took it out on a glacier hike in stormy weather. I had my X-T1 in my backpack, but it was just so much easier to whip out the pocket camera when I felt like shooting. I got some photos I really like that day, and I didn’t use the “big camera at all.”

ORE16-01178In late March, I took a week long trail running vacation in Oregon. We just drove the rental car around and when we came across a good trailhead, we got out and took off running or hiking for a few hours.

For most of these runs, some of which were close to 10 miles, just carried the X70 in my hand. It fits perfectly in my palm, and it’s always at the ready.

I like to joke that my new favorite camera bag with the Fuji X Series cameras is the strap, even though it’s not really a joke. Well, with the X70, my new favorite camera bag it’s my hand.

I’m a huge proponent that accessibility is the number one thing that will help you get great images- if can get your camera into your hand within seconds, you’ll be able to grab those lighting quick moments that occur. If your camera is already in your hand, well then you’re already halfway there.

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Little

My friend Josh teases me when I refer to it as “The Little X70” in my Facebook posts and stuff. He says that takes away from how powerful it really is.

I totally get what he means, but to be fair, the X70 is indeed little. It’s pretty tiny, and that’s a big part of its appeal. Like I pointed out, it’s an X-Trans sensor camera that fits in your pocket. Or your handlebar bag, or your Revelate Designs Gas Tank. Or your whatever. You get the idea.

At roughly 4.5″ x 2.5″ and only 340g (12oz), it’s the most portable full quality camera you can buy.  To compare, the Sony RX100 is a hair smaller, but it only has a 1″ sensor. That’s quite a bit smaller than APS-C. (This comparison image from Cameradecision.com shows you the size difference)

Most other point and shoots and very compact mirrorless cameras use at least M4/3 and smaller, so ounce for ounce the X70 gives you the biggest sensor for how small the camera is.

Powerful

The Fujifilm X70 is indeed a very powerful camera despite its rather diminutive size. It has the same firmware as the X-T1, X100T, X-T10 etc…, so in terms of performance, you get all the same goodies- the film simulations, exposure modes, advanced filters, ISO performance, menu options, wireless transfer/control, 8 fps CH shooting rate, and so forth.

You also get a Q menu and 8 assignable Fn buttons, which adds to the highly customizable nature of the camera.

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In addition, the X70 has a traditional aperture ring as well as a “Control Ring,” which you can set to control any one of the following parameters: ISO, White Balance, Film Simulation or Digital Tele-Converter.

The Digital Tele-Converter is a new feature and it’s pretty cool. Essentially, it functions like a digital zoom and allows you to shoot at either the native 28mm view, 35mm or 50mm. However, there’s some pixel wrangling computations going on under the hood, and the quality is actually quite good.

Sure, if you’re pixel peeping, you notice that you’ll lose a little bit of sharpness when you zoom in, but the loss of quality is pretty minimal and it’s certainly good enough for any kind of web or smaller print use. There are times when this feature will come in handy.

Autofocus

The X70 has the same hybrid single/zone/tracking focusing system, as all the other cameras in the line and functionally, it operates the same as the higher end cameras. It doesn’t perform quite as well as the focus on the X-T1, and X-T10; it definitely hunts when you’re using the contrast detect AF points; less so when using the phase detect AF points near the middle, but you’d expect some sacrifices from any camera that comes in at this price point.

That said, the AF system is still very good on the X70 and for most things you’ll find it to be surprisingly adequate, if not right on. It will indeed track moving subjects at 8 fps in CH and AF-C mode, but with really fast, or erratic subjects, it won’t perform with the same accuracy as the higher end models.

Once you get a feel for how to use the AF system, though, you’ll get pretty good at working with its minor limitations. Just keep firing away and you’ll get what you’re going for.

Control

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The X70 shares the traditional style layout that have made the X Series cameras so popular. Not only do they have that classic, retro look, they’re very easy to control. With shutter speed, aperture and EV+/- right at your fingertips, you can make quick exposure changes with minimal effort.

All four exposure modes are available (P, S, A, M), and you have an Auto switch that puts the camera into Full Auto mode, which gives you Wide/Tracking AF and Scene Recognition exposure mode.

The easily accessible Drive button lets you select your single or continuous low and high shooting mode, exposure, ISO and Film Sim bracketing, panorama and the Advanced Filter modes.

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Screen

The Fujifilm X70 doesn’t have an optical or electronic viewfinder, it only has the LCD screen. However, it’s the first X Series camera to feature a touch-screen LCD, which lets you focus, shoot and browse pictures with touch gestures. In addition to the normal tilt positions, the vari-angle screen also flips all the way up into “selfie mode.” Or you could call it “shoot behind you mode.”

Lens

The X70 has a fast fixed FUJINON 18.5mm f/2.8 lens, which gives you the classic 28mm angle of view- just a little bit wider than what you get on the X100. It’s great for just about any kind of subject matter, and like all the other Fuji primes, it’s very sharp.

No, it’s not a zoom lens, and that might deter some people. I’m a sucker for fast primes, so I really like the fixed lens aspect of this camera. It adds to the simplicity of having a pocket-sized camera- you with it out, frame your subject, grab the shot and you’re done. There’s no time spent trying to figure out what zoom setting you’re going to use, you just point and um… shoot.

It’s kind of a sweet spot focal length that works for landscapes, portraits, travel, even wide angle action. It’s not a macro lens, but it does focus pretty close too, so it’s decent for shooting details. And, as I pointed out, it has all of the Fuji film simulations and Advanced filters, so even with the single focal length, you have a wide variety of creative options with this little…, I mean “Powerful” camera.

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Overall

Pros: The Fujifilm X70 is a really fun camera; it’s light, small, and very capable. Image quality is excellent, and it does extremely well with high ISO when shooting in Low light. 

The pronounced thumb grip makes it very easy to handle, and ergonomically, it’s quite easy to shoot with one hand. You’ll probably want to use two hands if you need to change any settings, though. And it also charges via USB. Big plus. 
Considering that it has the same size sensor and nearly all of the features of the more expensive X Series cameras, the X70 is a pretty good value.

Cons: The extremely small size might be challenging for big photographers with big hands. Also, if there’s one slight design hiccup, it’s that the left Fn is a little too close to the edge of the flip screen. It’s a little hard to press sometimes, especially with bigger fingers.

Also, the rear command dial is not really a dial, it’s more of a switch. I works like a dial, but it has a lightly different feel than what you might be used to. Neither of these things are deal breakers, though. I just see them as two small ticks against total perfection. On the other hand, with a camera this small, it’s amazing they found enough room for all of the controls. That took some pretty careful design.

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I think the X70 an ideal choice for anyone, (not just existing Fujifilm camera owners) who wants a compact camera. I performs well enough to be your primary camera for lightweight travel or inconspicuous shooting situations, and it makes an excellent second camera or backup for a bigger camera like the X-T1.

if you’re already an X Series shooter, you’ll feel right at home with this thing. If not, it’s pretty easy to figure out. I’ve had a lot of fun with mine, and I think you would too.

Support This Site: If you’re thinking about buying the X70, or any piece of gear, please consider shopping through these links. You’ll still get the lowest prices available and it will help me out with a small commission on the back end. It’s one way of showing your appreciation for the time and effort it takes me to compile reviews like this. -Thanks!

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Do What You Love. (And The Money Will Follow)

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About 25 years ago, I read a little book called “The Seven Laws of Money” by Michael Phillips, and it had a profound impact on me.

I don’t usually get into self-help type books, but this one really struck a chord in me. I read it right around the time I went to Nepal with Galen Rowell as an aspiring professional photographer, and  I still live my life according to the insight I gained from this brilliant little 130-page manual.

The first law of the book is based on the whole “Do what you love, and the money will follow” concept. The actual title of the chapter is “Do it! Money Will Come When You’re Doing The Right Thing,”

Now we’ve all heard that saying many times, but it’s important to understand what it really means, and how it can affect your life. First, however, let’s quickly establish what it doesn’t mean.

Just doing what you love isn’t an automatic recipe for getting rich, or finding success. This rings so true especially with photography and any creative idea, but that’s not why we do these things. In fact, if you enter any creative or propreneurial venture with preconceived notions about money or income, then you’re not doing it right.

The whole concept behind being a propreneur vs, an entrepreneur, is that you end goal is not to make money, it’s to spend your life doing what you enjoy, and this, according to the first law in Michael Phillips’ book, is the key to success.

Aerial photos of the Chugach Mountains, near the top of Colony Glacier area shot at sunset. Alaska

“Do what you love and the money will follow,” basically says that money will come when you are doing the right thing. What is the right thing? It’s the thing that you love to do, and the craft, skill or area of knowledge that you’re willing to put in whatever time and energy are necessary in order to perfect.

The notion behind “Do What You Love” is about focusing almost all of your energies on your passion instead of worrying about the money. Sure, we all need money to survive, but if you truly have the passion and commitment to succeed at your skill, then you are likely to be resourceful enough to overcome whatever obstacles get thrown in your way.

Let’s equate this to photography. If you’re smart enough to figure out all the technical aspects of composition, lighting, and are able to find models, master the intricacies of light and expertly operate your camera with confidence, chances are you’re smart enough to figure out how to bring in the necessary cash to keep you afloat along the way. You’ll also be driven to make your life be what you want it to be, which could mean living more frugally in order to make this all work.

Keep in mind, this isn’t really about making money, it’s about finding success, and that doesn’t necessarily have to mean you’re trying to making a living at your creative venture. If you truly love what you do, your passion and dedication will open doors for you in the world, and every new door leads to a new opportunity.

And more importantly, even if you didn’t make money at it, or find success, whatever that means, you’d still be doing this thing because you love it so much. That’s how you know it’s THE RIGHT THING.

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If you want to see a good example of this concept, check out the movie “Julie and Julia.” Based on a true story, the plot revolves around a young woman named Julie Powell who decides to follow her culinary passion by cooking all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s French cookbook and blogging about her experience as she goes along.

(Minor Spoiler Alert) The blog eventually gains a following and in the end she finds a certain level of success and recognition for her efforts. Of course, her road is not without a number of bumps and challenges, but that’s what makes everyones’ journey worth the effort, right?

They key here is that Julie didn’t set out to find success, she set out to complete a personal project she felt passionate about. She loved what she did, just as I love taking pictures. Sure, I make money at my craft, but when I find myself in the outdoors with my camera in my hand, money is that last thing I’m thinking about.

25 years later, my passion and drive for photography is still carrying me, and every year, I achieve a new level of success that has built on efforts that I made in the past. Nearly every aspect of my photography business revolves around carrying forth with an idea in the best way possible, and seeing where it takes me, and every day, I strive to be better at what I do, whether it’s shooting action photos, blogging about photography, or teaching workshops.

And it never ever feels like work.

Ultimately, success comes to those who are good at what they do. If you decide that photography is really what you want to do in life, even if it’s just your hobby and you have no intention of going pro, then focus on being the best photographer you can possibly be. Spend vast amounts of creative and intellectual energy honing your technical abilities, style and knowledge base about photography.

Most importantly, don’t worry about the money.. Be confident that you’ll figure out how to make ends meet. Worrying only saps energy that is better used for your photography. If you’re smart enough to be a self employed photographer, then you’re smart enough to figure out how to pay your bills.

Bottom line- if you pour your heart and soul into your photography, you’ll make the doors open yourself.

Being Self Critical Within Your Creative Process

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_DSF5379A number of years ago, I stumbled across an amazingly fun book called A Kick in the Seat of the Pants: Using Your Explorer, Artist Judge and Warrior to Be More Creative. The book’s author, Roger von Oech, who runs a consulting firm that helps companies stimulate creativity and innovation in their businesses, defines the four main roles to creativity as follows:

The Explorer: The role that searches for new information.

The Artist: The role that turns information and resources into original ideas.

The Judge: The evaluative and critical role

The Warrior: The role that puts the creative ideas into action.

When it comes to innovation and creativity, these roles can either be occupied by the same person, or in the case of organizations that have separate departments, they are often filled by different people.

As self employed photographers and artists, we wear all four hats all the time. When creating new imagery and coming up with original ideas about how to make, present, market or sell it, we fill all of those four roles. We are the research department, the creative department, the critique session and the worker bee, all rolled into one. This usually works well for us, because we have an intimate, firsthand connection and personal control with our photography projects from start to finish.

However, what happens if you get hung up on one particular role, or if you start to lose balance between the four roles? What happens when, for some reason, you experience an artistic block, or if you suddenly become too critical of your own work, or if you can’t seem to find the motivation to move forward with your ideas? Your process slows down or stops completely, and you find yourself unable to fully exercise your creativity. 

It takes enough mental effort to be creative, and if you run a business too, that brings even more challenges to the whole process. It’s only natural that sometimes we’ll all experience those slowdowns. Sometimes I return from what I feel was a successful recent photo assignment, but still go through a two-day period of being extremely judgmental about the job that I did. It’s easy to get down on myself thinking about the photos, angles and perspectives that I didn’t capture during the assignment, instead of focusing on what I liked about the photos that I did shoot.

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When it comes to my other creative pursuits like my guitar playing and songwriting, I sometimes find myself full of what I think are great ideas, however, I can’t seem to motivate myself to actually record them. There is probably some sort of imbalance between my Judge and Warrior. During those times, I get through the block by mentally building up my Warrior’s confidence as I plug my guitar in and boot up Logic Pro. Usually that’s enough to get me started, and once I get going, I’m fine.

I always seem to have a strong Judge, but fortunately, with photography, my Warrior sense is usually strong enough to counter any overly self-critical instincts that I might have. I do find that sometimes my Explorer tends to be a bit stronger than my Artist, which often needs strong visual motivation to get things going in that role.

Creativity, innovation and the ability to bring it out of your mind and into real life requires a strong sense of balance between those four roles. If you personify those roles, as Roger von Oech has done, it might help you sustain that balance and work efficiently within your creative process.  It might also help you work through any temporary blockages that you might have. Those blocks are natural, though, so just remember to go easy on yourself when they do happen. 

Question to readers: In evaluating your own creative blocks, which roles are the ones that tends to break down or that take over in your own creative process?

And if you’re into the idea of stretching your creative mind with some fun exercise, I recommend checking out Roger’s book.

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Try Photographing in Black and White for Added Impact

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Here’s a recent photo I shot of Eagle Peak in the Chugach Mountains of Alaska. End of the day, dramatic subject matter, vibrant colors, great light, what’s not to like? A scene like this is the reason we love color photography. Imagine … Continue reading

FUJIFILM TIPS and TRICKS – My 10 Favorite Settings for the X Series Cameras

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FUJIFILM TIPS and TRICKS is a 5,000-word eBook that’s designed to help you get the most from your Fuji X Series camera, no matter what model you own. Not only are the Fuji X Series cameras extremely fun to use, … Continue reading

What Camera Would Galen Rowell Use if He Were Still Alive Today?

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Galen Rowell was undoubtedly the father of modern day adventure and outdoor photography. He pioneered the style of going light and fast with small cameras in the mountains and paved the way for guys like me. Having started his career with … Continue reading

Happy 69th Birthday to My Little Yellow Cessna 120

Cessna 120 parked on frozen Lake George in front of Colony Glacier, Alaska

On April 11, 1947, N3102N rolled off the assembly line at the Cessna factory in Wichita, Kansas. That means my little yellow Cessna 120 celebrates her 69th birthday today. Introduced in 1946, the C120 was one of many light airplanes that emerged the … Continue reading