I was in Japan at the beginning of may. Fujifilm very successfully launched the GFX100 (read my first-look here) at their big Fujikina event. This was the second time I went to Tokyo, the first time being in October 2018. You might have seen the 5-post-series reportage on this site. If not, then you can find the first story here. Just like in October I was there primarily for meetings with the good people at Fujifilm, but again I needed to scratch that itch of shooting street-photography in one of the coolest places on earth to do just that.
When I returned home in October I had shot 1 roll of Fujifilm Superia Venus 800 (that I bought there, and subsequently loved to death) and 1 measly roll of Cinestill! Both shot on my Contax G1 system. When I scanned those images it became abundantly clear to me that I needed to shoot A LOT more film if I was ever to return. So in May 2019, I did! I shot 4 rolls of Cinestill and 3 rolls of Superia Venus 800.
Back in October I did something. I splurged to say the least! I went into a small used camera store in the Harajuku district of Tokyo. And I went out holding the camera of my dreams.
The Fujifilm TX-1
Back then, I already owned the Hasselblad XPan, but I’ve always wanted the Fujifilm version because of many reasons. At the time of purchasing the TX-1, my Hasselblad was back home in Denmark, so I didn’t have any lenses to shoot while in Japan. This agonising situation led me to hold myself to another promise. I would not only go back to Tokyo and shoot more Cinestill and Super 800. I would do it using my TX-1!
Now I’m back home. Films have been developed, and I have kept my promise to myself! I shot Cinestill and Superia Venus 800 using my TX-1.
So for the past couple of days I have been thinking, why not showcase the Japan/Tokyo images, but mix in some of the other TX-1 images from the past 7 months that I spent with the camera so far, and make a review of the camera itself?
I think that would be cool, cause I don’t think I’ve ever used a camera this amazing before!
The Fujifilm TX-1 was produced in 1998 as a special project with Hasselblad. It was at the time, and still is, a very unique and revolutionary product that produce a wide panoramic 65x24mm negative. It roughly equals the width of two standard 35mm frames side by side.
In the western part of the world it was launched as the Hasselblad X-Pan, whereas in Japan it was launched as the Fujifilm TX-1. The lenses for the system was made by Fujinon. Well, basically the entire camera was.
The material of the camera is nothing less than amazing. The body is made of Titanium, and while the Hasselblad X-Pan was coated in a grey/blue/black’ish finish, the TX-1 was launched in the raw titanium finish. This turned out to be quite a wise move by Fujifilm, since the X-Pan had/has a serious issue with paint “chipping off” with very minute usage. Finding an X-Pan in 2019 that looks mint is therefore almost impossible. The Titanium raw finish of the TX-1, however, is very very sturdy and scratch resistant. SO finding these cameras in great cosmetic condition is quite easy. So if you’re into pre-patinated things, go X-Pan (or Leica Kravitz correspondent edition 😛 ). If not, then buy the Fujifilm T-X1.
In 2003 the collaboration also birthed the X-Pan II and TX-2 respectively. This version saw minor revisions such as showing the shutter speed in the finder, as well as removing the front ISO-selector wheel and instead placing buttons near the back-LCD. Hasselblad kept their grey/blue/black colorscheme while Fujifilm decided to paint their version completely black.
Build and Feel
I have said this many times during the past 7 months, and I will gladly repeat it again and again and again.
“The Fujifilm TX-1 is the most beautiful camera ever created.”
I could stop writing about the build and feel after that statement, and just let all the Leica users wipe the drool off their M3’s, but let me just keep going for a little longer.
The camera has the typical rangefinder shape. When looking directly at the front of the camera it has the viewfinder to the far right, and the small “cutaway” at the left side of the top plate where the shutter speed selector, exposure compensation and shutter is situated. There’s also a small LCD that show you the frame-count remaining.
If you look at the shape of the camera, it is elongated left to right to accentuate the panoramic feel of things. The viewfinder window is also wide format, as is the rangefinder frame-line illuminator window.
On the front you have a choice of a wooden- or a leatherette grip. Mine has the black leatherette grip, which I rather like. Three small chromed screws hold it in place and give great balance to the chrome lens release button and the chrome flash sync port.
On the front you have an ISO selector switch. It auto locks in DX mode, but it doesn’t lock in any of the other modes. This is one of my only two gripes with this camera! It should have been a “click/declick” function on the centre button.
On the backside of the camera it has a nice soft rubber cover that is really comfortable to hold and handle. It has a small thumbgrip that together with the front grip gives you great handling control. Leica could indeed learn a little something from this.
The eyepiece is nice and big, and has replaceable eyepiece diopters that slide and click into place. Right next to the eyepiece is a small selector switch that switches this camera into standard 35mm mode! – That’s right, it pulls metal blinders from each side of the frame masking off the full exposure area inside the camera. I never use that feature, since that is not what I bought that camera for.
The back LCD will show you the ISO chosen until you start interacting with either the shutter speed selector or half press the shutterbutton. Then it will switch to showing you the shutter speed. It also show you the battery level.
Underneath the display there is an AEB button, a display illumination button and a force-film-rewind recessed button for the tip of your pen.
The TX-1 also has a small see through window to the far left so you can see what film you have loaded.
The strap-lugs are square, and using straps with rings is not easy, but doable. On the left side there is a standard screw in cable release, since the shutter button doesn’t feature the hole for it.
At the bottom you have a standard thread mount for tripod mounting, and the battery cover that covers 2 CR2 batteries.
When you lift the TX-1 you will instantly notice the quality of the build. It feels hefty, solid and beautiful. The materials play so beautifully off each other and the mechanics and dials click with just the right amount of resistance.
The precision and care that went into making this camera just oozes from it. Easily the worlds most beautiful camera to date.
Functions and specifications
When you open the back cover to load your roll of film, you are greeted with the widest shutter curtains you’ll ever see. The shutter is a focal plane variant, and the maximum shutter speed is 1/1000. You have flash sync at 1/125s and minimum shutter speed at 8 sec as well as Bulb mode.
There’s a self timer mode with a 10 sec. delay if you’re in the holiday selfie kind of mood.
When you load the film, the camera winds the entire film onto the spool inside the camera. Then as you shoot it actually advances the film back into the canister. This is because you are able to switch back and forth between 24×36 and 24×65 at any time by using the format switch. This has another advantage. If you accidentally open your camera mid roll, the shots you took so far are perfectly safe inside the canister. Pretty damn clever!
When shooting panorama format you can fit between 20 and 21 exposures onto a 36exp 35mm film. In C mode you can shoot 3fps in standard 35mm mode, and 2 fps in panoramic mode.
The shutter sound isn’t quiet, but it isn’t too loud. It doesn’t sound all that special either.
The TX-1 is a rangefinder just like the Leica M, Konica Hexar RF, Mamiya 7, Bronica 645RF etc.
What that means is that to obtain focus you turn the focus ring manually on the lens. It moves physical mechanical parts within the camera housing which through windows and alignment is set to triangulate focus distance.
All you need to know is that you have a little centre spot with content in your viewfinder that “moves” when you focus. When the images overlap, then you’re in focus.
The rangefinder viewfinder also have framelines. These change according to which lens you attach to the TX-1.
And speaking of lenses. For the TX-1 you have a choice of three lenses.
- The 45mm f/4
- The 90mm f/4
- The 30mm f/5.6 (requires external viewfinder)
The 45mm f/4 is the standard lens of the system. It’s very compact considering that it has to cover such a huge image circle. It’s basically a medium format lens disguised as a Leica Summilux 35mm. It is a very very sharp lens with very little light falloff at the corners. It’s probably one of the best lenses I’ve ever owned.
Field of view is a little tricky with these. On the wide end it equals a 28mm lens if you were to “squeeze” all that scenery into a single 35mm frame, where as vertically it correlates to a 45mm. Very weird math indeed, and something that you shouldn’t spend too much time obsessing about. Lord knows I don’t!
The 90mm f/4 is an equally great lens. It’s the portrait lens of the system. I had it for about a year along with my X-Pan, but I sold it off because I simply never used it. Portraits in this wide FOV is very tricky, and somewhat of a speciality. I just never got around to it much.
The 30mm f/5.6 is so insanely expensive, that I will never ever own it. I just cannot justify spending that amount of money on it. I has quite a bit of light fall off at the edges of the very wide 24×65 frame, so Fujifilm made a centrefilter for it. Basically it’s filter where the centre is darker than the edges so as to even out the exposure across the frame. This means that you loose another stop of light. So you end up with a 30mm f/8 lens. Going rate is above $3000USD – so yeah……. That will not be happening anytime soon!
The 65:24 format
So far this entire tsunami of words have acted like a long intro to what I’m about to write next. The entire raison d’être for the TX-1. The wide panoramic 65:24 aspect ratio.
You might think that shooting these wide frames is easy because it will automatically seem very cinematic to the viewer, and hence tell a story per association.
But if that’s your line of thought, then you couldn’t be more wrong! – Shooting the 65:24 format is some of the most challenging stuff I’ve thrown myself at photographically.
Yes, it will seem very cinematic right out of the box, but only if you think very long and hard about your compositions. If you only have stuff going on in the centre third of the frame, then you’d might as well switch that lever to 35mm and shoot that instead. You simply MUST look at your corners when shooting this format.
You must also be very conscious about all the lines in your frame. If a line is crooked and out of place in a 35mm frame, it will be downright misplaced in the 24×65.
I love to shoot patterns and lines, so this camera is ideal for me to really explore the boundaries of image composition. But I have to be on my toes every time I shoot this camera, or else the results will be shit. Trust me, you need to concentrate when using this camera.
Once you have your content semi-sorted then you can start to play around with that inevitable cinematic feeling that you get from shooting this aspect ratio. Even though the standard cinematic 2.35:1 aspect ratio is not as wide as the TX-1 format, it will still instantly give you associations to movies as seen on the big screen. If you go so far as to put black borders top and bottom of your frames, you will basically have something resembling a movie-still.
That is why the Cinestill 800T filmstock is so good for this camera. The Cinestill 800T is a tungsten lightsensitive film that is very good for mixed light sources especially when you add incandescent and fluorescent light sources into the mix. It has a very cool colourcast, and it will give you a very “Teal and Orange” look that is so very very popular in cinema these days.
The guys and girls over at cinestill film states this in their FAQ:
800Tungsten is designed for difficult low light tungsten situations. It may be used in many different lighting situations to achieve a variety of looks but due to it’s cool color balance and halation some situations will have a more stylistic look that may or may not be desirable.
Use CineStill 800Tungsten when photographing:
– tungsten/incandescent light
– candle light
– fluorescent light
– mixed tungsten and fluorescent
– mixed tungsten and limited daylight
Ever seen Blade Runner, or Blade Runner 2049? – Yeah, then you know what cinestill will sort of look like.
If you pair the inevitable association to the modern teal and orange cinematic toning that Cinestill 800T gives with the TX-1 wide 65:24 format, and take the combination out on the streets of Tokyo at nighttime, you’re bound to get some frames that look very much like dystopian future movie-stills.
And that is EXACTLY what I wanted to do while in Japan. This was exactly why I brought this combination, and it was exactly the reason why I kept my nights free of appointments (except spending them on the streets with my good good friend, photographer and Tokyo street-ninja Stephan Geyer).
I don’t know if I succeeded in bringing forth what I had envisioned, but I think I came close. And in the process I got to learn my TX-1 a little bit better.
While the prices have soared through the roof on the TX-1 and X-Pans even since I bought mine just 7 months ago, there is no denying that the TX-1 is the ultimate rangefinder dream. For me, and many others, it is the dream. PERIOD.
The build, the feel, the format, the process, the thought provoking nature of it all. It is really the camera of a lifetime.
I’m so very fortunate to own this camera, and I will NEVER let it go. If you’re so lucky as to get a hold of one. Keep it, cherish it. Know that there aren’t always situations that call for this camera to be taken off the shelf, and that it might sit there for elongated periods.
But NEVER, EVER sell your T-X1/X-Pan unless your life depends on it – cause you will end up regretting it for the rest of your life.
Now, let’s just hope that Fujifilm decide to make a digital version of the TX-1. I would buy that in a heartbeat
Below are various samples shot using various film stock. I have labeled which film stock is used where. I have scanned them using my Canoscan 9000f mk2 into Silverfast 8, at a 12000×4500 resolution. I then catalogue them in Lightroom, where I do dust and spot removal as well as contrast adjustments. I then exported them at 3000px on the widest end.
I urge you to click the images to get to the gallery Lightbox. From there you can download the images to your computer if you so wish.