Fuji Finepix X100 Review

After using the Fuxi X100 for a couple of months I thought it was time to air my views about this lovely professional compact camera.

I bought the Fuji X100 after much research as an addition to my Two Nikon DSLR’s. I was going to upgrade one of my Nikon bodies to a newer model with the criteria ‘cost vs image quality.’

The decision to consider the Fuji X100 was made on the basis that I’m not a camera ‘snob’. To me, photography is all about the subject, image, composition  and the quality of the final product, to that end I’m quite happy using my Iphone 4S when all else fails.

I’d been using a compact Panasonic Lumix LX5 more & more for everyday photography and must admit I liked the freedom of not carting Pro bodied Nikon SLRs around with all the associated Nikon Lenses. Of course, there are limitations of using a compact compared with SLRs, but do we really need to be carrying an SLR around?

Fuji X100 review, review of fuji finepix X100

The Fuji Finepix X100 is marketed as ‘The Professional’s choice‘ and having seen rave reviews about it, I finally bit the bullet and bought one.

So what is it like?

It is very similar to the Leica M6 in looks and modelled on the ‘retro rangefinder’ look. To hold it’s almost perfect, not too small (as you can see by the top image) but it has a weighty, well made feel about it (no plastic here). All the controls are just where you would expect them to be. I was brought up using old manual SLR film cameras so it just feels like coming home.

It is a lot slower in real use than a SLR or modern compact. But I quite like that. It slows me down into thinking about what I am doing and I spend time not wasting shots and thinking about the final image.

A lot of reviews state that the autofocus is a little clumsy. I will agree with that, but I think we are all used to the concept of point and shoot cameras with perfect results each and every time. If you try and ‘snap’ away with the X100 it does get a little confused about focus points sometimes. At first it was frustrating and a little annoying, but I’ve learnt to slow down and live with its shortcomings. It’s all about planning ahead, and going back to my point about being brought up on totally manual SLR film cameras I can see why Fuji designed the X100 in this way. It really does have a traditional feel about it.

It does have a few little quirks. The exposure compensation dial is easy to knock from the ‘home’ position and then you’ve taken a few shots before you realise that they are over or under exposed & the hot shoe has a very sharp edge which isn’t great when you catch it on your forehead.

Image Quality!

Fuji Finepix X100 review, Finepix x100 sample image

In a word ‘stunning‘ It has a 12.3 million pixel CMOS sensor, which is used in Nikon SLRs. Whatever Fuji did with the old Nikon D300 sensor is amazing. The resolution is fantastic. It’s also the best camera I have ever used in low light. Even when you use high ISO’s up to ISO 3200 there still isn’t really any visible noise in the resulting image. It really is that good. The fixed F2 35mm lens is also very sharp and images are free of any fringing and virtually zero distortion. It’s the perfect focal length for everyday photography and great for ‘street’ photography.

Samples

And a Full size section of the photo below for example of the resolution this camera has

Low light Photo taken in black & white mode at ISO3200

Fuji Finepix X100 review, Fuji X100 low light image sample

And for colour & sharpness in sunshine my ever obliging daughter below

Conclusion

Yes the Fuji x100 does have a few shortcomings. It’s not ‘quite’ perfect, but hopefully Fuji will release a firmware update in the future to fix a few minor issues. It’s a little slow on start up & the menu button on the back is a little small to use easily, but that’s all that I’ve found wrong with it.

A far as taking photographs is concerned it is the nicest camera I own. Sorry Nikon, For everyday use the Fuji beats you!  It is an excellent camera that provides excellent results with a fantastic lens & is beautiful to use in low light conditions. It is very discreet, has a virtually silent shutter and doesn’t shout ‘look at me’  It will be going everywhere with me as my first choice camera this year.

The Fuji Finepix X100 Website

A brief musical history of how I ended up as a Tuba Player

Music must have been deeply rooted inside somewhere with me from an early age. Both my grandfathers were amateur musicians. I was born in Nottinghamshire & brought up in South Yorkshire. My granddad on my mothers side was a proper northern working class man. He had served in the RAF during the War & afterwards had gone to work at t’pit. His sideline was playing the piano in the traditional northern working mens clubs. I have subsequently heard that he actually played piano on the regular ‘stripper’ nights at the King of Diamonds local ‘establishment’.

However, my grandparents looked after me quite often & Maurice ‘my granddad’ would always be in the kitchen listening to jazz music on the ‘wireless’.

He always listened to the great jazz pianists. Art Tatum was a favourite of his.

School Guitar group c.1981

My dad always had a guitar, he was a big blues fan & I was brought up to the soundtrack of Jimi Hendrix, John Mayer & Eric Clapton.

I was given a guitar I think for my 7th birthday and that was it… I was off. I learnt all the old rock & roll tunes, The Shadows Hank Marvin stuff. In fact, my guitar was red and just looked like Hank Marvins Fender Stratocaster, although I suspect my guitar wasn’t as good as Hanks!

At this time I was at school in Derbyshire. My junior school had an active choir & a brilliant music teacher & choir master. His name was Malcolm Lees. He was very respected in choir circles. I was roped into singing in the choir & he soon realised that I was actually quite musical and learnt the tunes and songs really quickly. During that time the Brookfield School choir Shirebrook entered all the East Midlands schools choir contests and I remember winning a contest singing at the Opera House Buxton probably in 1980? I also was the ‘understudy’ to Joseph in the schools monumental ‘teatowel headgear’ production of Andrew Lloyd Webbers Joseph & the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.

I was used to uniforms: From the Scouts to the Grenadier Guards

I played in recorder groups, sang in choirs & played guitar in all many ensembles during those years, then my parents moved to Nottinghamshire where I was put in a new school which had another positive music department. As I was ‘a whiz’ at guitar I became the ‘authority’ on all things musical.

There is a video still floating around somewhere of my solo singing debut at that school around the early 80’s!

Then & Now

I was the off to Secondary school. Or off t’comp as we knew it. Once again the Dukeries School Comprehensive school had a well established music department run by Malcolm Bevan, who I believe is still the head of music there today. I was involved straight away with the guitar groups & was taught double bass as I was quite a big kid. (see photo above on left)

They must have spotted my musical ability as they advised me to also learn a brass instrument. Once again, being a ‘big lad’ there was a tuba chucked at the back of the cupboard so I got stuck with learning that. I used to struggle walking the 20 minutes back & forth to school with it & got some ridicule!

Dukeries School Band: Playing ‘Tuba Smarties’

I was lucky really to have gone to the Dukeries School as they had a very good band. We used to play lots of concerts & county shows and also went abroad to Germany to play at music festivals. (Where I had my first taste of the musicians life of getting involved with beer & wine festivals)

I joined North Notts Music school on Saturday mornings & was also selected to play with Nottingham County Youth Wind Orchestra. I played with local brass bands in the evenings during the week & had private music theory lessons at home. You could say that’s all I did. Real school was rubbish!

It was at this time when I played for Nottinghamshire County Youth Wind band that I had my first introduction to the world of Military Music. The Conductor of that band was Lt Col George Evans who was director of music of the Blues & Royals Military Band in London.

It just so happen that I was also playing with the championship section brass band Ransomes and started talking to a cornet player called Ian Greaves who was in the Household Division Life Guards Band in London.   I went down for an audition with the Senior Director of Music Guards Division Lt Col Derek Kimberley when I was 15 and was offered a place in the Grenadier Guards Band as soon as I was old enough.

army scholl of music, corps of army music
Army Junior School of Music Band 1989: I’m on the far right!

 I signed my life away to the army in 1987 and joined the Guards Depot Pirbright in September as a junior musician in the Grenadier Guards.  I won’t describe what hell I went through during my time in training. (That would be worthy of an article of its own). I spent 4 months in basic training then progressed onto musical studies. I was then having lessons from professional teachers on Tuba, Double Bass, Guitar, Piano, Music Theory & Orchestration.

I passed out of Pirbright in December 1988 then went to the Royal Military School of Music: Kneller Hall for a year in 1989.

My Tuba Teacher there was Patrick Harrild: Principle Tuba player of the London Symphony Orchestra.

Adrian Snood Tuba, Corps of army music
Me & my Tuba

I arrived at the Band of the Grenadier Guards in 1990 and had to learn quickly about all things ceremonial. I’ll always remember my first trooping the colour as all the experienced members of the band kept shouting at me for getting things all wrong!

As you can imagine I’ve done probably thousands of Changing the Guards at Buckingham Palace, Investitures,, Royal Garden Parties, The State opening of Parliament, Royal & state visits, Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph, 18 Trooping the Colour Parades & of course the Royal Wedding last year!

corps army music, Guards band tuba section, Adrian Snood
Household Division Bands Tuba Players 2010: I’m in the centre!

Over the years I’ve also played at the Festival of Remembrance at the Albert Hall (numerous times), The Edinburgh Tattoo, Royal Ascot, Henley Regatta & the band has toured the USA, been to Australia twice & visited places such as Germany, Holland, Italy, Belgium, Bosnia & Switzerland.

I have just finished with the Grenadier Guards Band as principal Tuba Player & Double bassist & leaving a career that has been ‘interesting’ to say the least!

I still have my Tuba. I still have guitars & I still have a piano!  What comes next is anyone’s guess? but i’ll still be playing!

*Summer 2013 update – I’ve been happily working as a Social Media & Marketing Manager, whilst still taking lots of photographs at events & festivals. As for the Tuba … well, It’s a shame, but I don’t play it any more due to time constraints. However, the guitars are still very much part of my life.

Guards Bands, CAMUS, Corps of Army Music
Massed Bands of the Household Division

Thank you for reading – If you got this far.

Joining the corps of army music as a musician

A Cold Wet Day in March on the Shropshire Union Canal

As the whole family were together for a Sunday, we thought that the 6 of us would hire a small narrow boat / day boat and take to the waterways as the weather had been seasonally warm and quite pleasant.

We had seen the weather the day before we went and had not been too impressed, but after all, how bad could it be ?

Our Boat for the Day
Our Boat for the Day

We hired a traditional 32ft narrow boat from Norbury Wharf Staffordshire.

After the obligatory Bacon rolls in the canalside cafe we had a quick demonstration of the basic controls and we were on our way for the rest of the day.

The Shropshire Union Canal: Staffordshire
The Shropshire Union Canal: Staffordshire

The weather was dreadful! We had to take it in turns to pilot the boat as it was raining & sleeting and we were getting cold rather quickly at the helm. We had a 14 mile round trip to make in 7 hours, turning the boat around at the pretty village of Wheaton Aston.

Me at the Helm of the boat : in the rain

I did a little research and found out that the canal (Built as part of the Liverpool to London canal system) had been in use since the 1830’s and was one of the last major civil engineering feats of the great Thomas Telford.

Amazingly at one point there is a raised embankment at Shelmore where you can look down over the fields & woodland. This little section took over 5 years to build and was constantly slipping and collapsing during construction.   It just shows how our historical engineers built things to last!

The Shropshire Union Canal

After a soggy 3 hours of cruising down the canal, past many annoyed fishermen we arrived at our turning around point and moored up for lunch. We would have gone to the nearby pub to warm up but feared that we may run out of time for the return journey so we sat on the boat with our sandwiches, lit the stove for some warmth and got some well needed coffee on the go.

We set off back to Norbury junction at 1pm as we had to have the boat back to the yard by 4.30 pm. Luckily the rain had stopped and had been replaced by some sunshine, however it had now become breezy & bitterly cold. Even though it was cold it was lovely to be outside, out in the countryside with just the sound of the diesel engine chugging along.

I would recommend getting out on the water to anyone that hasn’t done it before. I have been on many canals in the past and love the freedom, love seeing the wildlife & enjoy the scenery and the canal engineering feats of a bygone age. I had a brilliant, but chilly & damp day out on the water 🙂

Sunshine on the return journey on the Shropshire Union Canal
Sunshine on the return journey on the Shropshire Union Canal

A Musicians Guide To Dealing With A Chemical Attack!

Clutching a guide to CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological & Nuclear) acronyms the band sat down in a comfortable lecture hall for an introduction to the events during the week ahead in Winterbourne Gunner near Salisbury.

The guide numbering over 500 acronyms was soon needed as we were informed of the tasks that we were to undertake during the training course. Within the space of half an hour we were introduced to IPE, CDA, RVD, ID, COLPRO, CAM, LCAD & MCAD.

band of the grenadier guards, corps of army music
The Grenadier Guards Band : not as you would normally see them!

My notepad resembled a 4 year olds school writing book as I struggled to make sense of all these initials and their relevance to course.  The fact that the whole afternoon was taken up with PowerPoint presentations; and as anyone who has sat in a classroom and tried to take in hours of PowerPoint presentations after a substantial lunch can attest, concentration levels were suffering a little.

The next morning, having worked out the correct order of dress for the day which was 3R (we should have known even getting into uniform for the day was subject to an obscure code) all became slightly less murky thanks to the great training staff that we had for the course. There were still a few confused faces when shown how to use the PDRM testing equipment with blinking lights of different colours depending on whether it was switched to H or G.

Lessons soon moved to the RTF (Respirator Testing Facility) or Gas Chamber in old money, to put our Gas Masks…  sorry… ‘Respirators‘, to the test and check that they were fitted correctly. All went well and the band proceeded to next step of the course,

Setting up the CDA. The CDA (Chemical Decontamination area) is an area where personnel, in event of a chemical, biological or nuclear attack would be decontaminated and then moved on to be treated beyond the contaminated or “dirty” area. The band were taught various decontamination roles of when and why they should be used.

This all taken on board the band were split into 2 groups and told to prepare for the next days exercise. Half the band would be the decontamination team, the other half casualties. The decontamination team was broken down further into roles such as Commander, Medics, Cutters & QM’s department. The teams were instructed to make a list for the next day of everything that they would need to set up a CDA.

This list was debated over at great length that evening in the camp mess over several refreshing drinks and soon, the ever expanding list was spilling onto the backs of several beer mats.

After a comfortable nights sleep in the modern accommodation at the camp, the band walked up to the training area and the first decontamination team presented the list of equipment they needed to set up the CDA.  The training staff were a little bemused as to certain items on the list.  The previous nights suggestions to the list had obviously been effected by the refreshing drinks, as on the list were items such as; A coffee machine, Leather Settee, LCD Television & a pool table.

corps of army music
Shane & Me : *note the spooky eyes cut out of a newspaper & stuck behind the eyepieces

The training staff took this in good humour and the exercise began.

Once the decontamination area was set, a bang and loads of green acrid smoke signalled that an attack had taken place and the casualties were soon to arrive.

We had to prioritise the casualties as they came in depending on the injuries sustained. Now remember, we were all wearing charcoal lined suits, thick butyl rubber boots, gloves, a respirator and Kevlar helmets. The conditions, even in the overcast weather was somewhat uncomfortable.

In the casualties came and stretched the decontamination team to the limit.

corps of army music, grenadier guards band
Training Exercise

In the medical area the team were tasked to cutting off  the decontaminated charcoal lined suits and getting the casualty treated and out of the “dirty” area as soon as possible. Several uniforms were sliced and many pairs of shoelaces were cut through as the confusion ensued. It was getting extremely hot in those horrible uncomfortable suits.

band of the grenadier guards, corps of army music
Casualty Decontamination

Several members of the team were then tasked with carrying a casualty on a stretcher to the corner of the field and back to show how quickly your performance would be degraded by extra work.  I was one of those carrying the stretcher. Normally you would use 4 people to carry a casualty but, as it was so hot and tiring in the suits we had to use 6 people just to carry one person.

Two hours into the exercise now and the dehydration set in. I just could not take in enough water due to the nature of wearing a respirator. It was really unpleasant work.

There were still many light-hearted moments such as when my friend Jim came in as a casualty impaled with a spade and  Shane O’Neill had camouflaged his helmet with a branch from a tree, complete with nut filled bird feeder still attached.

corps of army music training
Jim with a spade stuck in his back

The exercise ended after some 3 hours and we were relieved to get our respirators off, suits off and get some fresh air.

It had been an exhausting afternoon but we had learnt what to do if such a situation should ever arise.

The week at Winterbourne Gunner, learning the musicians secondary role and wearing green was certainly a change from public duties and concerts, but the band enjoyed the chance to do something different and showed the Grenadier Guards Band’s professionalism and team spirit continued in a totally alien environment to the pomp and ceremony of London.

*article originally published for print in 2007*

I was… Hong Kong Phooey

I’d just like to say that this post was prompted by a 3 hour car journey discussing the ‘quality’ TV that was on offer during my childhood.

We had one of those brown TVs which had legs that screwed into the bottom of it. The very same TV that came from radio rentals or some local business that rented home appliances at the time. Our TV had the little black box on the back to put 50p in. We had a 50p pot that was also used for feeding the electric meter in the cupboard under the stairs. (My grandma used to shout “go and put ‘ten bob’ in the meter”)

I used to plan my time at home away from school and weekends by eagerly grabbing the Radio Times and using a felt tip pen to circle all the good programmes that I needed to watch! That; and preparing my beloved tape recorder to record the theme tunes and songs from all the cartoons.

I have pretty early memories of such classics as Mary, Mungo & Midge, Captain Pugwash,  Bagpuss,  Roobarb & Custard & Mr Benn.

I have the Mr Benn theme tune as my ring tone now on my iPhone!

I went looking on Youtube for a few reminders about some of these programmes. I also found some rather disturbing kids TV shows that I remember watching.. namely Pipkins!

I’d go to my grandmothers house at lunchtime from school and Pipkins was often on.  The main character being a moth eaten manky puppet called Hartley Hare.  If you had a Hartley Hare puppet now you would scare your kids to death with it!  I also seem to remember the character ‘Pig’ from the show. Pig had a thick brummie accent for some unknown reason.

The TV highlights for me though were the Hanna-Barbera Cartoons such as Hong Kong Phooey, The Hair Bear Bunch & Scooby Doo!

Hong Kong Phooey

I was Hong Kong Phooey!!  I would proudly consult my ‘Hong Kong Book of Kung Fu’ whilst wearing my dressing gown with the white piping edges and stand on my mums ironing board in the kitchen doing karate kicks. My friends and I often were to be found in the garden shouting ‘Chick-a-Bow’

I loved cartoons! I would do everything I could so that I wouldn’t miss them. I suppose with only 3 channels there wasn’t much choice for the 70’s child, but I was obsessed. I loved Wacky Races, Captain Caveman, Stop the Pigeon & Scooby Doo!

Scooby Doo was changed in later years & I hated it. The original episodes were the best. And they are still broadcast to this day 🙂

The statistical breakdown of villain capture in Scooby Doo

I think that we; the 70’s generation children had the cream of quality TV programming. Not the overly PC, morally correct kids TV we have now!

This is why I think that our generation love the concept of The Simpsons and the brilliant Family Guy!

We are the generation that grew up loving American cartoons 🙂

Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

This morning I thought I would make some bread. The last time I ever came in contact with ‘bread’ baking was when my grandmother used to make it when I was a small child. I assumed it would be an awfully messy job.

I’m quite a foodie & chef but as far as baking is concerned I was somewhat in the dark. I did my research on twitter & asked the question about where to start?

Thanks to @cloudstratuk I had the info I needed about which bread mix to buy!

Dough in early stages of production

I was advised to buy the “Wright’s Baking’ Premium White Bread mix as it was easy to make by just adding water.. This I think I could do?

Basically making bread with this mix was as simple as pouring the packet contents into a bowl, adding half a pint of lukewarm water and mixing all together for 5 minutes. Then leaving on a floured surface for 5 minutes, kneading & stretching for a  few minutes then leaving to stand again!

I even bought a new 2lb loaf tin specially for this ‘baking related’ project today.  After the dough had been kneaded, stretched & beaten into submission, off to the loaf tin it went, covered with cling film (which I had to fight with to get out of the packet) Me & cling film often disagree!

Dough proving in the loaf tin by the radiator

The dough had to be covered in the loaf tin with cling film and be left to double in size for about 30 to 40 minutes in a warm place. In my case I put the loaf tin on a chair by a radiator. I switched on the oven during this time so it would come up to the require temperature.

After 35 minutes the dough had risen perfectly and then I popped it in the oven for 30 minutes.

The end result & perfect fresh crusty bread

Half an hour later & a beautifully smelling flat later. The loaf was baked.

I really can’t believe how simple this was!  I’m a homemade bread convert now & shall be baking more!

Lunch was some lovely organic smoked salmon which was delicious with the nice warm fresh homemade bread!

Wright’s Baking Website

Snowdonia National Park: This is why I love the ‘great outdoors’

Snowdonia National Park is the most visited national park in Wales.  It really is easy to see why!

snowdonia national park, view of snowdonia
A view of Snowdonia National Park: Mount Snowdon in the Distance

As a short camping break last summer we decided to go to Wales & Snowdonia National Park. Yes I know that it would rain, I know it would be miserable & windy & cold. But, guess what? It wasn’t. We were really lucky that it was the hottest few days that we had last summer when we visited.

As most of you will have probably been to Wales on holiday maybe you’ve never been to Snowdonia. If you haven’t then please try at some point to get to the national park. The place is absolutely stunning. It’s one of the few places outside of Scotland that has spectacular mountains to explore.

We camped near to the coast so that if it was ‘hot’ we could get down to the beach and enjoy some ice cream. As it turned out we were drawn into the hills and valleys to walk & take in the grandeur that is this beautiful place.

snowdonia national park, villages in snowdonia
Beddgelert Village: Snowdonia National Park

We camped near Criccieth which is on the coast, whilst still being in the national park. I must admit we did venture into town to grab an ice cream and have a ‘paddle’ in the sea. It’s certainly worth a visit if you are in the area & has a traditional feel.  This was also a handy place to stock up on supplies, namely wine.

Criccieth: Snowdonia national park, North Wales

Obviously our aim as ‘hikers’ was to go up Snowdon. It had been really hot weather and we picked a day when it would be a little cooler. Walking up Snowdon isn’t exactly a stroll in the park. The route we chose to go up the mountain is called the ‘Pyg Track’

This is one of the shortest routes up the mountain but isn’t the easiest as it is very steep & rocky. One of the hardest and most dangerous routes is across a ridge called Crib Goch. We will be using this route next year.

If you are terrified of heights then this is the scary route.  Watch this video clip and you will see why!

We got to a car park early in the morning because in summer the mountain can become quite busy with day trippers traversing some of the lower routes and easier tracks.  In fact, most people that go up Snowdon use the railway that goes all the way to the top. I call that cheating!

If you are reasonably fit then I would recommend going up Snowdon. As a sense of achievement it’s an amazing walk. Just make sure you have a very good pair of hiking boots with plenty of grip, drinking water & don’t forget your waterproofs because the weather can change very quickly on Snowdon.

It took us just short of 3 hours to reach the top where we gleefully sat in the cafe at the top sneering at everyone that had come up on the train. Alas. The mist had come in quite badly on this day that we went up. But it was an exhilarating day.

Walking up Snowdon & reaching the summit

As a final note. If you think it’s hard walking up. It takes just as long coming down and is really hard on the old knee joints.

See below for a winters tale on Snowdon

Snowdon in the snow – a sociable, introspective hike.