Going Native with Maru the Circle Brand

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A new camera means a new strap. It’s the law of the land. And since I posted about both Tap & Dye (glued to my X-T1) and Cecilia (ditto on my X-Pro1), I couldn’t go without mentioning this new addition from fellow Canadians, Ottawa-based Maru the Circle Brand.

I actually first heard of Maru on Twitter: someone mentioned them and after checking out their website, I saved it for future reference. Yes I know… Strap junkie here, no question (and bags… Mmm… Baaags…).

The brainchild of skateboarder/photographer Andrew Szeto, The company bills itself as a project-oriented brand and their site is a very interestingly eclectic mix of various collaborations with creatives from around the world. There’s a great vibe going on there and I was surprised I hadn’t found them while researching leather straps — although given the scope of what they do, it’s probably understandable; camera straps really feel more like an adjunct to many, many other things.

That said, they’re wonderful. 

This is the Custom Latigo model. In terms of approach and spirit, these are in the same vein as Tap & Dye: 3/8 inch wide, fixed-length (42 inches), no-nonsense, handmade leather strap with metal hardware — something I’m looking forward to seeing weather with time. Attaching it to the X100T immediately made the camera feel even more like an old friend, something I could’ve been carrying around for 25 years. I know there are more practical camera straps out there, things that slide in and out or provide all kinds of more efficient ways to wield your camera… But I’ll be using simple leather straps as long as I live. It somehow feels completely right to me, however old-fashioned or un-perfectly-ergonomic it may ultimately be.

Maru straps also offer something I haven’t seen elsewhere: custom engraving. Not as an add-on: STOCK. When you choose your model you’re given the possibility of adding a line of text to engrave on the side of it — your name, a quote or total nonsense if you feel like it. They can also engrave logos or create completely custom products on request. Here’s what I went with:

Words to live by?

I think it’s a nice touch that immediately makes the product that much more personal. The fact that it also came with a 4x6 print (depicting a hockey scene in rural Quebec no less) and a handwritten note, shows just how much care Andrew pours into this. The leather feels great, the hardware is top-notch, great crafstmanship all-around.

So how much? Well, that’s the clincher: $32. With engraving. THIRTY-TWO dollars. And CAD… Which is what? Two, three cents US these days? Sorry, had to. But seriously I just think this is an insane bargain. They’ve now added canvas/leather models and there’s apparently more photography-oriented apparel in the works. 

If you’re in the market for a new leather strap and this fits the bill, I can’t recommend these enough. For more info visit maruthecirclebrand.com
Now back to shooting…

Seven. Frostbit.


Shot with the X100T


Princess Toothbrush

"Alright... time to brush your teeth Héloïse."
"Ok... But come with me daddy!"
"Sweetie, you're perfectly capable of doing this by yourself..."
"Nooooo.... You can take PICTURES!"

Honest to God. Does she know me a little? Yup. Is it scary? Umm... Yup. All shot with the X100T. First image lit by an iPad, just playing around for a minute or so. 

A couple of Friday tidbits before we go:

Lastly: a few months ago I was contacted by a very nice guy by the name of Ori Guttin, one of the founders of a photography site called ViewBug, which holds worldwide photo competitions. I've always been a bit uneasy about these sort of things but after seeing the work and having a few conversations, I accepted their offer to become part of their roster of judges. It's pretty impressive company actually so I'm quite honoured. The results of my first judgement are now online for a contest entitled Where I Live. I think the winning image is simply stunning. You can check out the page to see the results and read my commentary on the wining entries.

That's it. I now leave you, as promised, with Princess Toothbrush.
Have a great weekend 



The X100T: a review in five pieces

I longed for Istanbul. Or Madrid, Cairo, Rio. I longed for the circus, for freight trains, for a rush of uncertainty in long and aimless circumambulations; for an assault on the senses and a total loss of balance, making my way through the unknown, sinking in strange quicksand crowds with my eye to a small window.

That was me, waxing poetic during the intro of the X100S review almost two years ago. It may have seemed strange to some that a camera, a simple capture device, could elicit such a high level of emotion; but I believe objects can become more than the sum of their parts. These tools can become an extension of ourselves and when they do, something else happens: they inspire us. To this day when I see an X100 I have an almost Pavlovian response, something I can only describe as photographic withdrawal syndrome: it makes me need to shoot. Anything. It also infects me with a serious case of wanderlust, which I imagine is a byproduct of these cameras being my constant travel companions since the very first version hit the scene; I still own that original model with all its beautiful infuriating faults.

The X100S was a no-brainer in terms of upgrades: miles ahead in almost every single aspect but form factor which, let’s face it, Fuji nailed on day one. But as great as it was, my close association with Fujifilm Canada as an X Photographer had a strange side effect: I never bought one. I had a review unit for a good while, then I wanted to buy my own but there was no stock available so they graciously sent me another loaner… Then the X-T1 came into the picture … Long story short: eventually it only made sense to wait for the next version which I knew was on the table. 

Enter the X100T.

REFINED

I’m well aware that I’m late to the game so I’m not going to go through all the features of the camera — there are tons of reviews out there already that I’m sure you’ve all read. My quick take? Yes, it’s better, faster than its predecessor. Duh. But although this version is about refinement rather than the giant leap forward of the last upgrade, the subtle changes throughout, the refining of the UI and button layout, the attention to such small details as the texture used on the focus ring… All of it amounts to this being the best damn camera I’ve ever owned. I love the X-Pro1, I love the X-T1 and all the lenses that come with them; it’s all spectacular stuff that still gives me fits of giddiness. But if I could pack my bags and family tomorrow, travel the world and earn a living by shooting nothing but this camera I’d be set for life. I could literally live with nothing but the X100T as my one and only photographic tool. I wouldn’t be shooting eagles, I know that. But I’d have zero problem accepting the visual reality of it. 

I mostly felt the same way about the X100S; certainly in concept. As you know if you read this blog regularly, I shot that camera while traveling in Europe last September and it felt like coming home. But three time’s the charm and this version somehow feels more complete, due to everything I mentioned above but also because of a few new key elements:

  • The new rangefinder OVF mode which further refines (and rounds up) the already stellar hybrid viewfinder. Hard to find anything more versatile out there.
  • Third stop increments on the aperture ring.
  • The back panel with a better layout but also buttons that finally do justice to the rest of the body.
  • The new Classic Chrome simulation that begs for documentary work.
  • The addition of an electronic shutter that opens up possibilities by allowing the camera to shoot at much higher speeds wide open. There are limitations to this feature but combined with the still included ND filter it means that certain situations are now much more fluid than they were with previous models.
  • The same wifi capabilities as the X-T1. Combined with the remote app it’s a surprisingly useful addition.

Are these enough to jump from an S to a T? Honestly, I probably would’ve stayed put if I’d purchased the previous generation. But having shot both cameras close to each other I have to admit I’d have a hard time going back: those changes do matter. They add up to a near perfect little machine. By the way: I've added a lens hood to the camera which you can see in the images above. It's the same one I've had since the X100 days — in case you were wondering.

My one slight negative: we’ve come a long way in terms of consistency between X cameras and the recent releases clearly show how much Fuji is listening to everyone’s feedback. So I now expect software to be identical across the board. The massive 3.0 X-T1 firmware update brought us everything that had been added to the X30 and X100T so I was surprised when I went looking for the Preview Exposure in Manual Mode in the assignable functions: it’s not there. It’s still in the menus of course but it isn’t part of the functions assignable to various buttons. Not a huge deal on this camera because it tends to be used differently, but I expected it to be there just as it is on the X-T1 — we CAN use strobes with this camera so in my mind we should have the same options available. Same deal with custom white balance: on the X-T1 we get to save three custom settings, on the X100T we still have only one. And if we turn things around: the UI, the screens and animations are very slick on the X100T and I admit I felt a tinge of disappointment when I didn’t see them on the X-T1 after upgrading its firmware… But there may be a technical, physical reason behind it. This last one is obviously just form and has no impact on functionality per se, but it just adds that millisecond of disconnect when switching cameras and In my perfect, idyllic reality, all would be the same in one big happy family.

I could talk on and on about details, performance etc… But at this point I feel I’d be repeating what so many others have already brilliantly said, including my buddies Bert Stephani and Kevin Mullins. So this time instead of telling I’m just going to show. I spent the entire holidays shooting nothing but the X100T and below you’ll find 4 short photo stories that will hopefully illustrate what it can achieve and further underscore the importance of this camera in my world.

Two years ago I described the X100S as a coming of age; the X100T is maturity in all its glory.
Long live the King.

The X100T | Christmas

Rituals may seem quaint, even useless. But the older you get the more you realize they provide a sense of place and security. They're notches on a door frame. Every year we bake in the days leading up to Christmas. On the morning of the 25th we open the presents. Then we either go to my sister's house or she comes to us, with her two girls and my mom. We alternate.

This year we were the ones hitting the road.

Our mother isn't well. Her mind is playing dirty tricks, erasing hours and days and people... Entire moments destroyed before having lived at all. I struggle with the idea of capturing her this way because... Well, because it's no longer who she was. And I'd like to remember who she was as long as I can.

In these pictures she appears only as a passing shadow, in a single frame.
It's not by accident.
No, it's not by bloody accident.