This post is really special to me and has been a long time in the making, so I do hope with all my heart you like it as much as I do.
Benny, my best friend, and I have quite a bit in common: a.o. our love for our families, photography, whisky and Scotland. He recently was blessed with a second child, the lovely Lucy, baby-sister to the now 3 y.o. absolutely adorable Jules.
In order to celebrate our birthdays (both in July, only about two weeks apart), we decided to take a short trip together in June to the amazing city of Edinburgh.
The main focus of this trip was to have a brilliant time, combining sightseeing, photography and various culinary expeditions ;-)
Equipment-wise, we both traveled (relatively) light. I had only packed the Fuji X100S and the Fuji X-E1 w/ the XF60mm lens, while Benny brought his Sony Alpha 77 and (my constant infatuation with the X-series cameras may have something to do with this) his newly acquired Fuji X-20 :-)
Usually preferring zoom lenses for this kind of adventure, I was quite a bit nervous at the thought of having to rely exclusively on the 23mm fixed X100S lens, with the 60mm X-E1 as a backup for some light tele shots. I can’t tell you how many times in the week preceding our trip I packed the excellent XF18-55mm lens, only to remove it from the bag a couple of minutes later. No safety net!
We left Luxembourg on Wednesday, June 12th around noon and flew to Edinburgh via London. The trip took about 6 hours (for two not even one hour flights...). I had both cameras with me as carry-on luggage and although the ThinkTank Retrospective 7 did a great job, I got really fed-up when I had to remove both cameras with batteries and chargers for the umpteenth time during airport security checks.
We stayed at Motel One Edinburgh Royal, just between Old Town and New Town (next to the Bank Of Scotland’s head office, perfect spot!) and directly headed for the Royal Mile after checking in.
As I had booked a table at the Secret Garden Room in The Witchery By The Castle for 7.30 p.m., we just strolled up and down the Royal Mile to get a first impression, had a pint a Deacon Brodie’s Tavern and spent about a good hour snapping happily away outside and inside of St. Giles’ Cathedral.
The X100S was just perfect for this amazing experience. I was able to fully enjoy the visit, without having to worry much about the camera. Just popped it into ISO auto mode up to 6400 and fell in love with how stealthy I was with the silent leaf shutter in this small and beautiful, unassuming body.
Unfortunately I was fighting a headache since getting up in the morning and it had only gotten worse for the travel. When our starters arrived at the restaurant around 8 p.m., it had gotten so bad that even my stomach was getting upset, so I decided to call it quits for the day, apologized to Benny and left him at the table with a barely touched crab salad and a steak on the way. Back at my room in the hotel, I took something for my headache and something for my nausea and spent a terrible night, but felt strangely refreshed in the morning (up at around 5 a.m.).
The second day though was infinitely better. We had a quick breakfast and headed towards Scott Monument.
We then made our way over to Calton Hill with a prolonged stop at the old Calton Cemetery, went back to the Royal Mile, followed by Greyfriar’s kirkyard and finally strolled down to Grass Market where we had lunch at the White Hart Inn.
Feeling adventurous, Benny even ordered Haggis, but we both had some Cranachan for dessert :-)
We spent about two hours there and finished by grabbing some souvenirs at some of the Royal Mile tourist shops (also checked out Royal Mile Whiskies and two other shops, but the prices are far higher in GBP than what we pay for in EUR in Luxembourg...).
Back to the hotel to get rid of our souvenirs, included a small stop at the pub next door, the Malt Shovel, and back up the Royal Mile to partake in the Real Mary King’s Close guided tour, which we absolutely loved!
As we were ravenous after this, we headed to the Whiski Restaurant (also down the Royal Mile) and enjoyed a fantastic dinner.
This was followed by a second trip to Calton Hill, just in time for a spectacular sunset :-)
We also took some additional pictures on the way back to the hotel, before turning in after a last nightcap.
I got up again at around 6 a.m., quickly hopped into the shower and set off on foot alone (wanted to let Benny sleep) towards the National Museum of Scotland and Princes Street Gardens.
Eventually, I set back towards Calton Hill where I continued past the old Scottish Parliament Building and took a footpath down past Holyrood Palace and the magnificent new Scottish Parliament Building.
Didn’t stop there though as I had something different in mind: Arthur’s seat! The climb was quite... how shall I put this? Interesting... Nay! Taxing, after a day and a half of... thorough exploring. Once at the top though, it was all worth it!
I took some pictures, got back down to Holyrood Gardens and went back up the Royal Mile to return to our hotel, just in time to meet Benny for breakfast (8.30 a.m.) and have a chat with a very nice couple from Switzerland whom we had only just met.
As all good things come to an end, we had to pack our bags afterwards and took the Airlink Express bus back to the airport.
As a side note: we expected some rain, so we carried umbrellas with us everywhere we went. Fortunately though, we had two gorgeous days with not a single drop of rain and temperatures around 18 °C ! :-)
The only thing I really missed was my little family, but I’m sure they’ll accompany me on some of my future visits to “Auld Reekie” ;-)
Two days is all it took, I have fallen in love with Edinburgh and can’t wait to return. “Haste ye back” as the display at the airport says…
While Scotland is absolutely fantastic, I have to admit that I was also pleasantly surprised with how well I actually got along with only the two primes at my disposal. Sure, I missed some shots, but the ones I took more than make up for the ones I didn’t.
Finally, here’s a few additional thoughts on the X100S and the X-E1:
- Focusing on the X100S was fast and accurate, while the X-E1 was barely alright. Please bear in mind that the XF60mm never was a speed demon and this was before Fuji’s big Summer 2013 firmware update, which hugely improved AF for all available lenses.
- If there’s one thing I don’t like about the X100S, it’s the in-camera stitched panoramas. I’m a big fan of the X-E1 panoramas, but the X100S ones suffer from heavy banding issues.
- Also, battery life is an issue. I got about 300 shots per battery (X100S + X-E1)… On the other hand, you can always carry a couple of spares ;-)
+ The dynamic range of the Fuji RAW files is really impressive, allowing you to recover quite a considerable amount of details from the shadows.
+ This has been said time and again, but the X100S leaf shutter deserves another special mention. It’s not only useful for candids / street shots, but also priceless for places of worship, museums and other noise-sensitive environments.
+ While I mentioned that AF performance of the XF60mm lens was not up to catching your rugrat zipping around the living room, the IQ you get out of it can be spectacular.
+ The weight and size of both cameras is another huge plus. Although I always had the two cameras with me, I never felt overloaded, nor did I have any pains and aches related to strains or sore muscles at the end of the day(s).
+ The FunFunFun-bonus! This may be an intangible point, but as much as I do like shooting with other cameras, handling a Fuji X-body is a very special kind of experience. It genuinely puts a smile on my face and although I thoroughly appreciate the fact that I can rely on my Canon to focus perfectly and swiftly in a pitch black room and still pump out very usable files at ISO 12.800, it’s just not as satisfying and creatively stimulating as playing around with the Fujis :-)
Alright, if you’re still reading this: THANK YOU! :-)
Benny’s gallery can be found by following this link. He didn’t create a special Edinburgh gallery, but rather included them in a travel collection on 500PX.
That’s it, guys! I truly appreciate you taking the time to read this, and hope to see you again for my next post :-)