Ever since I saw the first Fuji X100 it stirred my soul. Reminiscent of my first camera, the Agfa Ambi Sillette, (and my desire to own a Leica M series) I thought it might be the perfect “small companion” camera for me to take when I didn’t want to haul my DSLR’s around. There seemed to always be something else needing the money, so I never got around to picking one up.
Fast-forward another year. Business had been decent and I was once again lamenting that I had a small camera to carry about. The little Olympus EPL-1 PEN that Sharon has does a fine job, but I much prefer an optical viewfinder for most of my shooting over trying to compose or focus using the screen on the back. I also like having dials to make adjustments instead of resorting to using a menu, finding it much more intuitive (and I like the tactile feel!). When the opportunity to purchase the new X100s coincided with money in the bank, I jumped at it!
Now that I have owned it for a month and have been using it on almost a daily basis, you may wonder if I’m more in love with this digital beauty or is the honeymoon over? The short answer; yes to both…. And no. It is pretty obvious that the X100s was not designed for my 2xl hands, although it feels great to hold it, and the menus and buttons are fiddly and somewhat oddly placed for what I’m used to. The image quality can be sublime, but there are times that the camera can get a little schizophrenic with focus and you do have to take your eye away from the finder to make some adjustments. Others have talked about the Q menu, which is a nice feature, but is not customizable for layout.
No zoom or interchangeable lens
Many people have asked me about living with a fixed lens camera, and some even have a hard time relating to the term “zooming with your feet”. The 23mm f/2 Fujinon (equivalent to 35mm on full frame) lens is fast, sharp and virtually silent with an internal leaf-shutter, a true delight when not wanting to call attention to oneself or introduce additional vibration at low shutter speeds like a focal-plane shutter. For the past 30 years or so, I find that I am more of a “50mm” shooter than the 35mm field of view, and find myself wishing for the slightly longer focal length most times.
I’ve been mostly shooting JPEGs instead of RAW for a couple of reasons. The first is that the 16-megapixel RAW files are huge! At a whopping 33+ megs each, they are eight megabites larger than the RAW files generated by my 21mpx Canon 1Ds MkIII or 5D MkII. Quite cumbersome for storage and post processing! The second reason is that the out of camera JPEG’s are beautiful and Fuji nailed it with their film simulations. I really enjoy shooting in Black & White, and the X100s makes it a joy with standard B&W, Yellow filter, Red Filter and Green filter, so that you can create without having to add filters on the lens and can see the effects in real time through the EVF or on screen.
Since it has a fixed mount lens, you’d think it would have the lens hood already attached or at the very least be included. Au contraire, not only is it an additional expense (for those of us that like actually using a lens hood!), but you need to remove the small thread protector before attaching the filter / hood adapter…. Then you can finally attach the lens hood. Now where did I put that thread protector…..?
First the boring, techno stuff; Fuji has come up with a new sensor that no longer needs an anti-aliasing or low-pass filter, which results in extremely sharp, crisp images. “What does this mean in everyday terms for you and I?” you might be asking. It basically allows the sensor to capture light without a softening filter that prevents moiré and therefore the image doesn’t have to be digitally re-sharpened as most digital files require. Less work, better images… ‘nuff said.
Day to day use….
I find the little X100s to be a delight to work with, though it is not a fast camera, as it makes you take time to create rather than “point & click”. I am an optical viewfinder kind of guy (actually prefer the waist-level finders on medium format!), so I rarely use the camera’s LCD for composition unless I am shooting from ground level or above my head. The X100s gives you the best of both worlds and adds a bonus; the hybrid viewfinder, which at a flick of the lever, goes from optical to electronic mode showing you exactly what the camera sees. This also applies to the look of any of the film simulations & filters, and allows the user to keep their eye at the finder. Cool stuff, indeed!
Will the Fuji X100s be the end of my search for the perfect small camera solution? I think it’s too early to tell, but so far, it is a contender!
Please enjoy the images and watch for part two at the end of August, where we’ll see how good of a traveling companion is!