With our teenage daughters becoming increasingly more interested in german history we decided to spend this years easter vacation in Berlin. Germanys capital has a wide range of places worth visiting covering the last 200 years of german and european history.
In an effort to fight GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) and carry a lighter camera bag I decided to limit my photography equipment to the Fujifilm X100T and the two converter lenses WCL-X100 and TCL-X100, thus covering 19mm, 23mm and 35mm APS-C focal lengths.
We had a nice apartment just outside Berlin city limits, it took less than 30 minutes to get to the city centre by public transport. We planned our days with light activities in order not to overload the kids – we still managed to exceed our daily Fitbit goals by far ;)
We started the tour on tuesday visiting Checkpoint Charlie where two germans in US uniforms will pose for/with you in front of the once famous border station between the American sector and the Russian sector of Berlin. We visited the Berlin Wall museum which documents the history of the split city with all kinds of escape vehicles and stories on display. Considering that not only the people of east Germany were imprisoned in their country, but children in West Berlin also grew up unable to get anywhere past their city limits made me wonder what kind of effect it must have had on youth culture.
We continued with a walk to Potsdamer Platz, a modern area with the impressive roof of Sony Center and lots of shopping opportunities:
The next day began with a visit to the Reichstag where the german parliament resides. The roof has been modernized with a glass dome that can be visited and serves as natural light for the parliament room below.
Passing Brandenburg gate we piad an extended tribute to the Holocaust Memorial and the very well done information center below it. The dark black and white image hopefully captured the somber mood that can be felt around the place.
Thursday began with a trip to Hackescher Markt, a market area surrounded by an apartment block with fascinating back yards that are linked to each other.
From there we continued to Alexanderplatz where we saw a “Spring Market” that much more resembled a christmas market, and onwards to Kurfürstendamm with the famous KaDeWe shopping center, Gedächtniskirche (and the Apple Store).
Friday was the day I anticipated most. We rode the S-Bahn to Olympiastadion first and walked around the arena. The history of the area goes back to 1936 and is worth reading in detail.
This is where I took my favourite shot of the trip, a panorama stitched together from 33 images. I had no tripod with me, I simply took a seroes of shots with identical exposure and threw them at my favourite piece of panorama software, Panorama Stitcher (new version just out at doscount price!).
The result turned out better than I could have hoped for:
The afternoon had my personal highlight of the week: a guided tour through the remains of NSA Field Station Berlin Teufelsberg. I can’t recommend the historical guided tour enough, even my wife was very happy with the afternoon. The only minor complaint would be that the path through the forest to the gate of the station is not exactly easy to find…
The guided tour had tons of information on the past and recent history of the site, presented in an easily digestable manner so that even the kids enjoyed it. One bit that I didn’t know was that all the voice communication of Russian fighter jet pilots was recorded with the intent to be able to forge malicious communication in the event of an attack to confuse pilots with misleading messages of their own people.
Wi finished the week with another visit to the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate and Siegessäule where my daughter wanted to take of few more snaps (I hear “SnapChat” is a thing with kids nowadays…). This presented me with the opportunity to play with my crystal ball which I had carried – in vain – in my bag all week.
So, getting back to the post title: what did I learn?
Well, first of all, the little Fuji X100T is the perfect travel and city camera (but then we knew that already, didn’t we?). Even more, it was really all I *needed* to come back with awesome images! (Gadget lust is a different story…)
- From the 167 images that I came out with 138 were done with the WCL-X100 wide angle lens on – this seems to be how I see things mostly. I took 20 with the standard 23mm lens, and only 9 with the TCL-X100 tele lens (which I probably could have avoided).
- At no time did I miss a zoom lens. I can’t think of a single occasion where I thought “if only I had this or that lens”.
- Before the trip I put on an Artisan and Artist neck strap. This was a mistake, I should have stuck with my Gordy’s Camera Strap. Taking the camera out of my backpack and holding it with one hand would have been a lot easier.
- A single battery was enough to get through the day, easily. I had 2 spares just in case ;)
- I *really* like the Classic Chrome film simulation. I used to be a sucker for Velvia, but now Classic Chrome is what it is.
- Having to switch between the different converter settings to get the EXIFs right is a PITA. The converters need contacts.
I did not really use the X100T’s special features like the optical viewfinder, the ND filter or USB charging, though. This makes me consider going back to the X-E2, which I can hold more easily and *does* offer a bit more versatility for other use cases.
When we passed the Sony Store at Potsdamer Platz I was tempted by a EUR 599,– offer for the Sony A6000 Kit – but only for a second. Fuji produces results, effortlessly, that would take lots of time to re-create with a different camera. I can’t really put in words what it is, though, but these images are instantly pleasing to my eye. I’ll stick with Fuji for a while…
Here’s a link to the full Flickr album with 63 images: