I tried a few 49mm variable filters with little or no success and because the X100s system is all about simplicity the idea of struggling with step-up or step-down adaptors to attach an ND filter just didn’t make sense.
To this end I found the X100s was my main everyday camera but I had to pack another system if I was planning long exposure captures. Welcome the Lee Seven5 Micro System.
When it comes to filters Lee are the gold standard and their recently released Seven5 micro filter system now includes an option for Fujifilm’s X100 and X100s cameras. I should also make it clear at this point the Lee Seven5 micro system isn’t just for the X100s and I plan to employ it with the X-Pro1 with various lenses.[divider]The Long Exposure (PDF eBook)[/divider] The eBook covers everything from the equipment you will need right through to post-production processing in Adobe’s brilliant Lightroom.
This guide has been written with the beginner to the long exposure process in mind; however, the enthusiast and professional alike may find something of relevance also. The Book comes with 6 dedicated Lightroom Presets. The Long Exposure Ebook
I know a number of photographers who are slightly intimidated by filter holders and pure glass and resin filters and although the system may look daunting and sophisticated I genuinely experienced a much easier process of capture than with my array of screw-on ND filters.
I put the fact the system is easier to manage on the side of rivers (where dirt and water are an issue) down to the fact there is no more trying to match up screw threads with cold fingers.
I’ve lost one or two filters thinking it had locked successfully to the front of the lens when it hadn’t or had to start the process again as all the fiddling with the front of the camera had completely knocked it out of focus. You can take the Seven5 micro system on and off the front of the camera remarkably easily without having the issue of matching up threads or going near the focus wheel.
As with any new piece of gear I naturally included a visit to my regular testing ground on Lough Neagh in County Armagh. I have visited this little jetty (top image) dozens of times with new lenses, tripods and cameras and with each visit I wonder just how much longer it will be there.
Setting up the Seven5 System
I was shooting with the now famous Lee Big Stopper for the Seven5 system. The system is exceptionally easy to set up simply following these four simple steps.
Remove the metal ring around the X100/X100s lens. Screw on the X100s Seven5 ring, attach the holder and insert the big stopper filter in the slot closest to the camera lens.
This process literally takes seconds and the glass/resin filters slide in and out of the holder easily. One thing to note, if your tripod plate is positional on the camera my advice would be to make sure the X100s is as close to the front of the tripod as possible.
I would also advice to alway remove the Seven5 system before taking the camera off the tripod, not only to avoid accidentally hitting the tripod head but also the filters are 90mms and there is no way to set the X100s down without risking damage to the filters, holder or camera. That said the filters don’t feel as fragile as I expected which is an additional reassurance but nothing something I plan to ever test intentionally.[box]All images are Fujfilm X100s. Photographs featuring the camera in action are the Fujifilm XE-1 and 60mm macro lens.[/box]
The Seven5 in Action
As well as the Big Stopper I am using a graduated ND filter with the Seven5 micro system. It was great playing with the different combinations even in situations where you wouldn’t necessarily be thinking of a long exposure, for example this shot of Dundrum Castle. [Note the Big Stopper should always be in the slot closest to the camera lens].
When it comes to using the Big Stopper filter I noticed that if I look for obvious contrast points in the scene the X100s is able to focus accurately with the Big Stopper attached.
I am assuming readers are familiar with the process of long exposure photography so won’t go into the detail. If you haven’t ventured in to the realm of long exposure photography before then you should check out the Long exposure ebook for tips and tricks on capturing the perfect exposure. The ebook includes a rule of thumb for exposure durations with various ND filters attached.
Like any ND filter colour is altered during the long exposure capture process. The Big Stopper produces a blue colour cast which can be easily corrected by shooting RAW and adjusting the white balance. I still correct the colour cast even when planning to convert to black and white with Google’s Silver Efex 2.
In Lightroom you can adjust the temperature to correct the cast but remember it is best to shoot in RAW as this is considerably less effective on JPG files that don’t contain as much information. I was testing the Big Stopper on a very sunny day, probably one of the sunniest we have had in many months and the sky was very blue by default. Just remember to consider this when correcting the cast that the aim isn’t to remove all the blue from the image but to get a correctly balanced image. I took a shot without the Seven5 system attached so I had a better reality of the scene, there was certainly more blue than I would have remembered.
I tend to take my X100s everywhere and the Lee ring, holder and glass fit into a nice little envelope and are a perfect addition to my travel kit. I think I have taken more long exposure images in the last two days than I have in the last month and the Lee system has really put the fun back into shooting.
I should say that the images in this post should really be considered as test shots I have focused (excuse the pun) on getting to know the Seven5 system and the X100s as a long exposure camera so they are not the best I have taken. They were also captured in probably the worst time of day for taking long exposure images 2pm-5pm).
I have gained a real sense than the Lee system is going to open up a new chapter in experimental photography. I was able to create some new dramatic effects mixing a grad filter with the Big Stopper. The fact I was limited to the 35mm view point meant I experimented more on where I positioned the camera.
For example in this shot I placed the camera so the sun was directly behind the lighthouse, there was a surreal look to the image and the walkers along the front of St John’s point. I added a bleach bypass and a little vignette in Lightroom.
As I mentioned early the big problem I faced today was the amount of light. It was remarkably sunny so my long exposure captures were anything from 8 seconds to just twenty. I highly recommend using the start and end of the day for long exposure work, although a ten stop filter technically means you can shoot at the height of the sun in my opinion it simply isn’t worth it.
What about the WCL-X100?
The X100s ring isn’t compatible with the WCL-X100 wide angle lens. If you want to use the system with the WCL-X100 you will need to purchase an additional ring at just under £20. The good news though is the ring will work with any 49mm threaded lens.
After a few days at my local photography locations it is clear (as expected) the X100s is a powerful landscape camera. Some may be put off by the 35mm static lens but it forces you to consider composition, I moved around my locations much more that with the X-Pro1 but creativity comes from challenge.
I am hooked. I love long exposure photography and the Lee Seven5 renews the excitement of capturing at any time of the day. If you want to venture into the realm of long exposure photography and have a compact camera then the Lee Filter Seven5 compact system is without doubt the way to go.
Some photographers may be put off by the initial cost of the system but I am considering it to be more cost effective to run than my previous screw on ND filters.
In the past I was having to purchase separate ND filters for each lens or camera I used but with the Seven5 system you only need to buy the holder and filters once then buy adaptor rings for each lenses size. In short, this means if I get a new lens in stead of £60 for an ND filter I just need to by a new adaptor round at around £19. The example being the 58mm ring I purchased at £18.50 that means I can now use the same system on the Fujinon 14mm lens and 15-55mm zoom lens.
I can’t wait to master the Seven5 system, I think they are really going to open up a whole new chapter in X100s long exposure photography and I suspect additional filters will be my favoured birthday and christmas presents for some year to come.