on May 31, 2013
I'm a full time commercial performance photographer who specializes in theatrical, symphonic and dance photography, both for production as well as publicity. I have waited to review the X100S I purchased from Amazon and received on March 28 2013 simply because I wanted to take some time to use the camera before writing a review.
I had purchased an X100 just before the S model was announced and found the image quality to be remarkable. Because I was late to the game in purchasing the X100 many of the 'quirks' others complained about I did not experience due to the numerous firmware updates Fuji had released since the camera's inception. Because the X100S had features that could not be fixed through a firmware update such as the Q button and moving the focus point selector from the left to the right I opted to sell my X100 and preordered the S model. I will say that I sorely missed having an X100 or S model during my two month wait.
I have experimented with the X100S over the past two months using it in both personal and commercial work. Yes I said commercial work. There are several features I find quite remarkable on this camera regardless of a camera in any price range:
1. The sharpness of the images due in part to the elimination of the optical low pass filter
2. The noise performance of the camera
3. Having an (almost) unlimited flash sync speed due to its leaf shutter
4. Built in 3 stop ND filter
5. An almost completely silent shutter (again due to its leaf shutter)
What I would like to see improved:
1. A bit more resistance to the on/off switch
2. Allowing the user to customize the Q menu to allow for ALL camera operating choices
3. Allow shooting in RAW mode to include 100 ISO (200 is currently the lowest ISO in RAW)
4. Allow shooting at any shutter speed at any aperture. (this may not be physically possible...)
5. The camera has a tendency to overexpose by about 2/3 of a stop. Easily corrected with the EV control
6. Even though the X100S has a dedicated EyeFi card menu selection, the transfer speed of small JPGS to an iPad is very slow. Much slower than a 5DIII and in some cases makes using it as a wirelessly tethered camera almost useless.
The OVF and EVF viewfinders are absolutely brilliant. I find that I have used both equally depending on the shooting situation. In very low light I have found the EVF invaluable. In situations where I need to keep an eye on the environment, the OVF is just killer. While I'm on the subject I personally would never consider a camera that does NOT have a dedicated viewfinder. Since I grew up using SLRs and DSLRs I just cannot effectively use a camera where my only option is to use an LCD screen. I'm also not a fan of having to purchase an 'optional' EVF viewfinder for any camera. Just a personal preference.
Did I consider other non DSLR cameras before purchasing the X100S (originally the X100)? Yes, I considered the Canon line for a couple of reasons; their G series has a viewfinder and my primary gear is Canon. Others? Only those that had a viewfinder and I found that those which only have an EVF were a bit too 'jerky' to me. I also tend to put more stock into reviews from people whose body of work I respect. There are plenty of sites on the Web that give tech details and masturbatory reviews of tech specs, but in the end what I produce from any camera is what's more important. I respect Zack's (Arias) work and put stock into how he feels about a camera simply because of his body of work. Although we shoot different types of imagery I trust his and other photographers I respect more than technical sites. A personal view which has served me well.
I have always wanted a camera that is lightweight and compact (relative to my work gear) that I can carry with me everywhere. No the X100S is NOT something I can slip into my pocket, but that's OK by me. I simply wear it across my chest using a Luma Labs Cinch strap and I barely notice it's there. My plan was to use it primarily for street shooting, which is something I have a voracious appetite for and have done quite a lot over the years. At least when I have time! Yes I miss a zoom which I found I depended upon quite a bit for my street shooting. But something that a fixed lens camera forces me to do is to immerse myself into the environment for street shooting. It also allows me to grow as a photographer, to get more context into my shots. I have personally found that using the Fuji at night rather than the day makes it easier for me to street shoot. The ISO performance of the X100S is on par with my 1DX up to 6400 ISO and a tad better than my 5DIII. The f2.0 lens allows me to bokeh scenes in a wonderful way. Of course that all depends on how close I am to the primary subject, aperture, etc but I've found it quite lovely.
One of the most remarkable features for me is the ability to use small hand held flash units off camera as fill flash with the X100S due to its leaf shutter. I was literally blown away that using a single Canon 580II through a modifier could produce results that in the past required me to use a studio strobe and an ND filter to achieve. I love the fact that I can carry a small flash unit in my bag and take almost commercial level portraits. I'll try to upload some examples with this review. I had mentioned that one of my wishes was for Fuji to enable the X100S select any shutter speed with any aperture. Currently they recommend 1/1000th at a minimum aperture of f2.0. If you want to use 1/2000th, then you must use f4.0 or smaller.
I have found that if I'm using a radio trigger to activate the off camera flash 1/1000th and f2.0 works. Anything faster in speed results in funky exposure results. However if I use a cable rather than a radio trigger I can squeeze 1/2000th with f2.0. In terms of flash, milliseconds count so a wired connection is better in some circumstances. It all depends on what you're trying to achieve.
In terms of the 'silent shutter' I had firsthand experience with that feature this past week. I was hired to photograph both a live and rehearsal performance of a major US symphony. Since I use two cameras whenever I shoot production had I not had the X100S I would have only shot with my 5DIII in silent mode during louder passages. I never even considered my 1DX because even on 'silent' mode it is way too loud. And when I was told the last commercial shooter was kicked out by the world renowned conductor due to his camera noise (understandable) and attitude (bad) I didn't intend to make the same mistake. So during passages where the musicians were playing very softly I was able to make images with the X100S. Again, a remarkably useful feature for my work.
I won't go into the things I 'love' about this camera since that is all relative to each user. I also won't ever be able to completely replace my commercial gear with only mirrorless cameras. Because I shoot dance and live theatre the X100S along with other cameras of this type are just not fast enough from a focusing/shutter release standpoint. But for portraits and publicity work I have and plan to continue to use it for client work; it's that good.
Who should buy this camera? Who am I to say!? I can only say (in no particular order) that with its remarkable shutter sync speed, image quality, hi ISO performance and build quality I'm very happy to have purchased this little camera. It's THAT good. And like any tool (rather than looking at gear as a 'jewel') it's perfect for the right job. Will it make you a better photographer; nope. Only improving your skills and executing your imagination will do that.
UPDATE June 18 2013
I have had my first image taken with the X100S published commercially. When reviewing imagery my client is not made aware of the camera I've used and bases their selection strictly on image quality, feel, impact among other factors.
UPDATE June 30 2013
I recently utilized a wired solution to obtain faster sync speeds than 1/1000th of a second using an off camera flash. I purchased the following system through Amazon: [...]
I have been successful at using shutter speeds up through 1/4000th at f2.0 using a WIRED off camera flash. The reason I chose this particular tethered option was twofold. First by having the ability to use regular CAT 5 Ethernet cable I can select what length to carry with me rather than being confined to lengths offered by other off camera flash cords.
I also prefer straight cords over coiled because coiled cords tend to tip over my light stands if I stretch them. One of the most remarkable features of this system is the ability to attach up to three cables to the very same controller on top of the camera. I find I'm often using two flash units whenever I take a shot and having this option in one unit is just brilliant. Also since the sockets are on both left, right and front of the controller I can use the two side sockets and not worry about having to hold the cable away from the lens like other single cord off camera cables.
I never use TTL so only having one TTL feature available with multiple flashes attached does not affect me.
I have posted my commercially published image for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's 2013-14 season which was printed 11x17 and mailed to all current subscribers.
One of my publicity images was printed at 18x80 feet for Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The image was shot with my X100S.
on April 1, 2013
You can look at my Amazon review for the x100 and see how desperately I wanted to love the camera. I gave it three stars, for all the wonderful things it could do, but I was let down by its slow auto focus and abysmal manual focus.
But I kept it and used it for almost two years and got some fantastic images despite the quirks. FYI, "quirks" are what you call flaws in most cameras, but because of the stellar image quality of the x100 you call them quirks to be forgiving. Though I learned to live with the x100, I eagerly awaited what I thought would be the x200. Instead Fuji delivered the x100s and it really is all that I hoped for. Every major flaw that kept me from loving the x100 have been addressed. In short, the camera is fantastic.
The image quality is superb. The colors are slightly different but not any better or worse. I appreciate the extra megapixels, but I'm not wowed by them. Though I am very appreciative that the extra resolution didn't introduce any extra noise. In fact, I think the S is better with noise than the original model - high praise.
In good light, the auto focus is quick, very quick - just shy of lightning quick. The x100 doesn't even come close to the S in terms of auto focus. In low light, the AF is good. Not great, but solid and definitely very usable.
The manual focus is infinitely better than the x100. The original camera's manual focus was so bad that I simply never used it. It was a huge oversight on Fuji's part. The new focus ring isn't a mechanical connection, but the feel of it is so much better than the original. But more than that, I really appreciate the split focusing. I find it incredibly useful. It also offers focus peaking, but I don't find it as useful.
The EVF is amazing. My Amazon review for the x100 expressed my disdain for EVFs. The S changes my mind. All of my past experiences with EVFs were awful. The S has a beautiful, crisp and fast EVF that it really makes me want to use it. For the original camera, I almost always left it in optical mode. Now, I can easily see myself splitting my time between the two modes.
As an added bonus, the video mode no longer sucks. Honestly, I don't know a lot about video, but I know that the x100 couldn't keep focus on even the slowest moving objects. The S is very usable.
I feel that the x100S is a generational camera. That is, I see myself keeping it for a decade or longer - like really great 35mm cameras from past decades. My father used his Pentax K1000 for 20 years, I hope to have the same relationship with the x100s. In five years I may look back on this review and laugh as I shoot with my 3D holographic camera. But currently, I really do feel the x100S is that special.
The x100S has fine enough image quality and speed, in such a reasonably sized package, that the next generation of camera doesn't appeal to me. The x200S could have twice the resolution and twice the speed and I simply wouldn't care. I'm not suggesting that the x100S is the pinnacle of fixed lens digital cameras. But I am saying that Fuji has achieved such a balance of features and performance with the x100S that I can't reasonably see myself upgrading or switching for the foreseeable future.
I love this camera.
on September 25, 2013
You know the photographic cliche that "the best camera is the one which is currently with you"? Well, this is the best camera to have always with you - so by extension, this is the best camera, period!
What I mean is, it is small, very well built, and takes extremely good pictures with a sensor which is big enough to take prints at large sizes and provide some DOF control (though really shallow DOF can only be achieved on close focusing/ very wide apertures on a 'wide-normal' lens such as the one on this), and a lens which is very sharp across different apertures (more later); it is very versatile, and looks sexy. you won't want to leave this at home to give your shoulders some respite like I know you do with your DSLR (I own a D600 which is hardly the heaviest DSLR out there; and a 24-70, f2.8 and a couple of primes; but I find carrying such a kit a pain for just casual walkabouts around town).
Did I actually say 'versatile' to describe a fixed lens camera? Yes. This is why: With a Fuji x100s, you don't waste time thinking about which prime to pull out of the bag (you in fact now don't even carry a bag, remember?), you just shoot. If you were used to zoom lenses, now you don't have to spend much time thinking about what focal length to compose at - again you just shoot - or you walk back and forth. the X100s also has quite an adept macro end performance - may not have the magnification and good working distance of dedicated high-focal length macro lenses, but again, versatility is the key here. Besides, most fixed aperture good quality zooms are very heavy and you wouldn't even be carrying your camera to half the places would you find yourself carrying the x100s.
Specific Observations -I will concentrate mostly on issues you may have on your mind reading other reviews.
Autofocus - I had no problems with it - it is very effective and pleasant to use. The D600 equipped with the 24-70 f2.8 (and I use only the central AF-point) is probably as fast as autofocus gets, south of the high-end pro bodies. The fuji x100s obviously doesn't reach such rarified speeds, but you wouldn't notice any difference in normal shooting conditions - unless your normal shooting conditions involve shooting pictures of a plain wall at night without lights on.
Bottom line is: if you are worried about AF performance. Don't. It is fantastic; and the AF is VERY accurate, even more so than any DSLR I've used. I don't want to compare the speed with other systems like the Ollie 4/3 cameras like the EP-5 and the OM-D series because (a) I don't own those cameras ; and (b) its not about split second differences; its about whether the AF is fast enough for wide range of normal uses (Yes!) and deadly accurate (Heck yes!).
I generally use the AF-S (single point auto-focus). the AF-C mode is not that useful since the AF tracks when you are NOT half-pressing the shutter (which is kind of counter-intuitive for DSLR users) and locks when you do - which means it is useless for shooting moving objects in burst mode (which is mostly when we need continuous auto-focus). If you need to get one shot of a moving object - you follow it WITHOUT pressing the shutter and then press completely at the decisive moment. It usually gets the focus right - but puts a huge onus on choosing the right moment. Also you can use only the central AF point in this mode. I agree the AF-C mode is not very useful.
Manual focus - I've heard many complaints about the x100 manual focus. I never owned one so can't comment on that. But in case you are worried about any such problem on the X100s - don't. Manual focus is a real pleasure. It is not a mechanical MF system like in DSLRs so it requires more turns (though it covers focal distance quite fast between 1.5m and infinity), but this is actually a big advantage for macro work and precise focusing (which is precisely the only time you should be using manual focus in an AF camera!). Further, there are two amazing focus confirmation methods (the digital split view which gives you a B&W patch in the center a little like a rangefinder focusing patch; and a focus highlight which make the focused areas sparkle like vampires in bad teen literature) - these tools make manual focusing much easier and more pleasurable than in modern DSLR systems (where there is no split prisms, and you have to trust the focus confirmation dot, which is not always accurate).
Conclusion: MF is perfect and tailor-made for uses which generally require precise MF - like macros and precise focusing for still-lifes/ portraits. Similar in effect (though not in implementation) to the manual overide system in some high end DSLR systems, you can do a hybrid autofocus cum manual fine-tuning for very precise work. To do this, press the AF/AE-Lock button when on manual focus - it auto-focuses; after that if necessary you can fine tune! so this is a good sub for manual override.
between f2.8 and f11 it is superb; f2 is perfectly usable regardless of what CNET tells you (the largest apertures are always slightly softer but there is very little noticeable loss of sharpness at f2 on the x100s) and above f11 there may be some diffraction induced softness (this is the usual range for APS-C sized sensors); but f11 will give you enough depth of field for most purposes with a 35mm equivalent lens. Don't worry about sharpness; it is superb (owning to removal of the anti-aliasing filter we are told, but those are for nerds - the results are all I know personally).
The image files are just superb - the jpegs look great enough right out of camera for casual use; and the raw files yield superb images with my workflow (Lightroom 4.x, PS6 and Nik Software Collection).
This is the reason you will want to buy a Fuji. I read about it but didn't believe it. But when I saw the pictures - yes, even the out-of-camera jpegs, I was a happy soul. There is just something pleasing about them.
I like the jpeg picture settings - they are not generic and soulless 'vivid" "standard" "Potrait" etc., but very unique looks, wherein saturation, contrast etc obviously vary, but the result is a cohesive artistic whole and not just a result of tweaked settings. Yes they are named after popular films and that's a bit of a gimmick really (it really doesn't look the same - which is why I am still shooting film - an actual film look is just different!) but these are still very well done, IMHO. Just don't expect the results to look like actual Velvia or Astia slides seen through a slide projector (they different, not qualitatively worse)!
The high ISO images leave any other APS-C sized sensor I've used in the dust (I've owned the D90 and D7000 and have used my Dad's Canon 550d). Granted, these are not the latest APS-C DSLRs but the x100s' high ISO performance matches even those from my D600 so I guess it probably outshines even modern APS-C sensors. I am quite confident the pictures will have way less noise than any micro 4/3 camera can produce - just on account of the size of the sensor and the qualities of the X-trans processor. So would you rather have a slightly faster low light AF or ultimate pictures which have much less noise?
My philosophy with high ISO performance is that you don't judge results by peeping at pixels of photos of diverging lines for noise (like review sites do). It is more useful to see how much detail one can preserve once one applies proper noise correction software such as Define2 or even the built in LR or Capture NX noise tool. With the Fuji, I can preserve as much detail as with my larger sensor-ed D600 and that makes this is a real winner for me. I can happily shoot at ISO 3200 and get usable files (hint: you get much better files shooting handheld at ISO 3200 and shutter speed of 1/40 then with ISO 1600 and shutter speed of 1/20). 6400 is quite usuable for casual uses though I am not sure about prints (I'd be amazed if ISO 6400 yielded good prints in any camera).
All in all, best high-ISO performance one can expect not counting full frame sensors.
I love this to bits. Both the optical and electronic viewfinder systems have their advantages and with this camera (and the x-pro1) you never wish you had one or the other! The OVF is very usable especially with parallax correction and tons of useful information which is overlaid - I find especially the histogram, the focus distance scale, and image plane level indicators very useful. the histogram especially is extremely useful to figure out whether highlights and shadows will be preserved and the focus distance scale is extremely useful to confirm whether the AF has fixed on the correct object. A common question regarding the x100s and the Fuji X system, as also my concern before actually trying the x100s, was dependable focusing with the OVF (without which the OVF feature is just useless), but owning to the focus confirmation signal (the focus box outline highlights in green) which is mostly accurate unless you TRYING to fool it (i tried and, alas, succeeded), and more importantly, the focal distance scale (which is more foolproof), focusing with the OVF is absolutely usable.
I use the optical viewfinder more during harsh light or while shooting into the light- the nature of electronic viewfinders is such that contrasts are too high to make out details in either the darker or very light areas in these conditions. On the other hand, in low lighting, the electronic viewfinder can be quite useful to avoid squinting at dimly lit objects. Also the ease at which one can literally "switch" between the two (just flick of a lever) makes this work as even better than the sum of the parts as you can use both types of viewfinders to confirm the exposure and compositional aspects of the shot. Of course, for macros, you can use only the EVF which is sensible since the parallax error would be too high to handle for the OVF and you need the EVF to confirm the focus since the distance scale is undependable for such precise requirements (where we are talking about fractions of millimeters when focusing for macros).
Layout and usability
Every camera system is different. Coming from another system (like me), there are some menus and layouts to get used to, but nothing I find too counter-intuitive or frustrating. I think the Q button system which lets one access the common camera settings instantly, including some saved shooting settings, is a very useful tool. Most of the buttons which you need to reach when the camera is held to your eye are sensibly laid out such the OVF/EVF flick, the control toggle, the focus point selector and flash etc (though understand that there are constraints given the camera size -for example, the exposure mode is one of the buttons on the left side of the camera's back and as such difficult to get to because that's usually where one's nose is, when the camera is held to one's eye). Camera ergonomics I believe increase with size and heft upto a certain point - I find my D600 and F100 easier to handle due to their bulk and contoured body; with the x100s the small size and svelte styling causes some fumbling on my part; however my wrists (and shoulders) don't pain anymore after a long day of shooting so win some, lose some. Also note that, while smaller than full frame DSLRs or modern SLRs, it is actually of comparable size or larger than most of its actual competition like the RX1 and RX100, Pen cameras, OM-D cameras or GX-1/GX-7 type cameras. It is also only slightly smaller than my film Olympus OM-4T. Its probably just that I am ham fisted..
I have ordered one of those leather half-cases with extra padding on the grip area - hopefully that will make the camera easier to hold....lets see.
I love the fact that it has proper dials for shutter and Exposure compensation, and that you change aperture with a ring in the lens - to be honest, changing aperture this way is necessarily a two handed operation unlike in a modern DSLR/SLR like the D600 or F100 where you can hold the camera and flick the aperture dial with a single hand, but its a compromise I am willing to make for the vintage feel it gives. I also like that it doesn't have a PASM dial with lots of scene modes or art filters - In fact it doesn't have a PASM dial, period. One selects shutter priority by putting the aperture ring on Auto; aperture priority by placing the shutter dial on Auto and Program Auto mode by putting both on auto - just like an old time RF. The lack of quick access to scene modes and art filters may put off some casual shooters but this camera I think is consciously designed for a more advance users who are aware of how to set up their cameras for different lighting challenges and uses such as "night portrait" "landscape", "parties" "silhouettes" etc by themselves and prefer to apply filters in post processing. I should add that there are some art filters available (the usual toy camera, soft focus etc)- but these are hidden away in the shooting options and don't take up a dial on the top of the camera (unless you want to dedicate the Fn button to that. you don't really - use to it adjust the ISO).
All in all, I am very happy with my purchase. Money well spent. I will be using my D600 for specific projects such as planned landscape outings and portrait shoots and the Fuji for most everything else. Depending on Fuji's roadmap, I am seriously considering switching to the X-system as well when they bring out their next X-pro body.
Enthusiast to professional photographers who would like a high quality camera as a constant companion.
Inexperienced casual shooters looking for a camera for snapshots. The controls and IQ are designed with at least a slightly knowledgeable user in mind. A beginner can definitely use it but there is a slightly steeper learning curve. There are better choices for snapshots, holiday pictures etc, some of which even provide comparable (though not equal) picture quality. I think the NEX or 4/3 system cameras or even the superzoom cameras serve better for such users, and provide a more gradual learning curve.
Scores (these are extremely subjective based on my own experience and not based on clinical test)
Build quality, look and feel - 9 (only gripes: strap feels cheap, lens cap falls off easily)
Picture quality (sharpness, noise, color rendition etc)
JPEG - 9.5
RAW - 9
AF - 8 (points deducted only for not so useful AF-C)
MF - 8.5
Viewfinder - 10 (amazing technological achievement)
Ergonomics and layout - 7 (apart from points made above; would have preferred a dedicated ISO and AF-on button)
UI and shooting options - 8.5 (if you don't need scene modes or art filters)
on April 3, 2013
Got this camera a few days ago after preordering it several weeks back. Let me be clear; I am still learning this thing, but these are my initial impressions.
There are very few, so let me first discuss the few "cons":
1) Obviously, it isn't cheap. Took lots of thinking before I bit the bullet on this one.
2) It isn't really a "compact" camera - its way smaller than my massive dSLR with grip, flash, and lenses, but it's not pocketable - especially not with a hood on (sold separately).
3) Quirky at times - it is generally easy to go through menus, etc, but it takes some training and time before you figure it out. For example, I got frustrated for 10 minutes trying to switch back to the optical viewfinder from electronic before realizing the optical with overlay doesn't work in Macro mode.
4) The optical viewfinder overlay is awesome, but the lens barrel intrudes on the view (none of the reviews mentioned this), and there is the natural distortion that comes from using this type of optical viewfinder.
5) The strap it comes with isn't great - it isn't long enough to comfortably go around your neck and shoulder
Now that thats out of the way, the pros.
1) Beautiful images. Great pictures of things, but honestly the camera shines for its photography of people. Skin tones, etc. are all stunning. The grain pattern is beautiful and truly "film-like".
2) Lens. I was worried about a 35mm fixed lens. But the lens is the perfect focal length and is sharp throughout. I read cnet's review after i'd already used the camera, tried recreating their qualms at f/2.0, and couldn't. Frankly I don't know what they're talking about. Mine is super sharp. ***UPDATED*** - Upon a suggestion from a reply I got to this review, I did put the camera in macro mode and shot a close up object at both f/2 and f/4 at full size. And yes, there is a difference in sharpness - you have to get to f/4 before it is razor sharp. I will say that you can only notice it when "pixel peeping" (i.e., you have to zoom in to 100% and compare the two of them. I've taken tons of pictures in f/2 already while outside of macro mode and have been thrilled with the results. Accordingly, I still take issue with CNET's suggestion that the camera is "unusable" at f/2.
3) Viewfinder. Yeah I complained about it above a bit, but it really is wonderful, both optical and electronic. Use it and forget about using LCD screens.
4) Size. As I said above, it isn't compact - but its kind of the perfect size to actually hold in your hand comfortably and snap away. Any smaller and it wouldn't be as comfortable. Any bigger and it would be heavy and clunky.
5) Satisfying. Strange thing to say about a camera, perhaps. But truly, taking pictures with this thing is satisfying. I am picky - I love my NIkon dSLR and i've tried several other cameras (i wanted a smaller "take around" camera so I dont look like i'm paparazzi). This really is an enjoyable, satisfying camera to use. It makes you want to take more pictures. This is NOT a point and shoot camera - even putting it in auto, you really need to know what you're doing. But with all of the manual controls and options, it makes you want to try things differently than you've done it before.
Great camera, and will likely be my "go to" camera for years to come.
on January 10, 2014
I have over 40 years of experience as a professional photographer and to date I have liked very few compact Digital Cameras. I work with Canon's 1ds Mark 2 (3 & X) or my Hasselblad H5d-60 nearly everyday. All are the top pro cameras in their respective markets, with the latter costing $40,000. I have always carried a smaller "pocketable" camera that I use when I am not hauling around these beasts for work.
Here is the problem: I am used to a high level of picture clarity. It is something I see everyday at work and unfortunately all the digital pocket cameras I have purchased to date have been major disappointments. Before digital, I would carry a pocket Rollie 35 or an Olympus XA. The lenses were nowhere as good as my pro cameras, but the film was the same. It was usable and I could get great results. In fact, in Grand Central Station (New York) there was a famous Backlit billboard with a picture taken from the XA that was over 200 Feet long. The Photographer used Kodachrome 25, and for it's day, it was impressive - Nice detail, Great color saturation. You could walk right up to the image and see all that detail.
Even the best compact digital camera's from canon, panasonic and many others fall short of anything near professional ( Sony of late is the exception here). I have tried them all. It's been a hobby of sorts. Then came the Fuji x100s. The first time I opened an image in Photoshop I was shocked. I heard that the picture quality was good, but I was not prepared for just how good. I thought I was using my 1d X, it was that good. I can tell the difference, of course, but it was minor. After so many years looking at the best images from the best cameras and lenses you can buy, it is very hard to give up any picture quality. I wanted the same detail only in a smaller package. The image detail, skin tones, blacks and Bokeh, are so good on this camera, so clean, that I am not sure the average snapshot photographer can really appreciate just how well it takes pictures. Add to that professional construction and the best, most usable, button layout I have ever seen on a digital camera and you have a near perfect camera. To be clear, the controls on this camera are better than any of my pro cameras. Canon and Hasselblad should take note.
There is more. This camera has a hybrid viewfinder that lets you select between an optical viewfinder( with a nifty digital over-lay guide) or a pure digital viewfinder. It works perfectly. This is not a gimmick - it is an essential photographic tool. It all starts at the viewfinder and this is one of the best I have ever seen. It is perfectly implemented. I thought I would hate the digital viewfinder, but is so sharp and detailed that it is at least 95% as clear and tack sharp as any one of my pro cameras. In fact it is much better for 2 reasons: 1) it is unmatched in low light viewing. Now I can actually check my focus before I shoot. 2) Right after I take a picture, for about a 1/2 second, the actually photo appears in the view finder as a double check. It is just long enough to see if your exposure was spot on. 1/2 second may seem too fast, but it is more than enough time to see this. More importantly, it happens so quickly that it is not annoying or takes away from the speed of the camera. It is just perfect like so many other aspects of this camera.
Moving on, there is a host of subtle, yet profound features that make everyday use, for a pro like me, so welcome. These were not features that were thrown in to get the feature list up, these were very carefully thought out. One example: If you press the "display" button just a slight fraction of second longer than normal, the camera enters a silent mode and turns off all sounds, the focus light, all indicator lights and the display. Great for times when you need to be discreet. I could go on about these sort of details, but this review would be 10X longer and there are great reviews from guys like Ken Rockwell on this camera already. It is this attention to detail and pure design simplicity that make this, without question, the best, most pro usable compact camera I have ever owned PERIOD. It is that good. I can't find a single MEANINGFUL fault with this.
Some people say a 35mm (equivalent) fixed lens on this camera is the one major drawback - and that it should have interchangeable lenses. If you do think that, you are not the intended user for this X camera. This is a "second, carry-all-the-time, Manual camera for pros" ( and serious enthusiast). It was made that way. There are no compromises, None. That is why it cost $1300. It is steal at that price for this quality. Considering that the next step up is a $6000 Leica M ( without a lens). Somebody at Fuji actually talked to us. These guys are really on it. I think it is sheer brilliance, and my favorite feature, that there is simply one perfect single lens on this. What you get is a contrasty, super fast (f2) tack sharp gem. My old "street" f nikons always had a 35mm 2.8 for everyday use anyway, so did my Rollie and the XA. Even, my on venerable leica MP. I have many lenses for the my Leica, but the fact is, the one I actually KEEP on my camera is my 35mm f/2 Summicron. This lens seems modeled after that lens. I love my Leica, but that said, in many ways the X100s is the camera Leica SHOULD have made - Better viewfinder ( both Optical and Digital), lighter, faster and an the overall picture quality is close to 90% of the Leica (that is saying a lot). I find this camera more enjoyable to travel with. I was impressed the moment I pulled this camera out of it's hIgh quality box, and it continues to earn my respect with each shot.
I have been waiting for Leica to make this camera for 40 years and yet somehow Fuji is the perfect company for this. They seem to make beautiful, innovative, classic cameras that are a quality level between Nikon/Canon and Leica. To be clear, it is a quality level ahead of anything nikon or canon has. This is not just my opinion, anyone that handles the x100s gets it. Quality is just something you have to see and feel in person to appreciate. Maybe it is details like the liberal use of Magnesium, or the machined dials or perfect click movements. Even the camera strap eyelets have a solid chrome insert inside the eyelet. That is just that insane attention to detail I am talking about. Nothing is plastic here save for the battery/memory hatch that is reinforced with a steel plate, or the the thick, tough, high quality, hinged USB/HDMI door embedded in the hard rubberized body. This is not the rubber plug that you see on too many cameras. It opens and closes perfectly. There are no cheap click indents. Everything opens and closes positively and silently. It is designed to last without fail. Clearly this is a very very high end product that will appeal to those that care about this type of quality and about a camera that was designed to last a very long time.
For those of you that are not familiar with Fuji, Fuji has been around in the pro space for sometime (think GX680 6 X 8 ). Unlike Nikon or Hasselblad, Fuji makes all the important parts like: the camera bodies, processor, digital viewfinder, CMOS sensors and all of their lenses! In fact, my $40,000 Hasselblad H5 uses "Hasselblad" Branded HC lenses that are in fact made incredibly well by Fuji in Japan! In short, one of my all time favorite cameras. It has it all - the look, ergonomics, usable features, outstanding image quality (in high and low light ), great materials, Brilliant construction and pro operational simplicity (no gimmicks). About the only problem with the camera whether to get it in black or Silver - Both look great. I have it in silver with a Cognac brown kobe strap made by Artisan and Artist. What a beauty.
on April 20, 2013
Ok, I know the X100S is not a point-and-shoot, but it's just as much fun.
The only other camera I own to compare this with is my Canon 7D, also an APS-C sized sensor. Otherwise, it's image comparisons. So let's compare. I prefer the X100S over the 7D for:
Image Quality (The reviews are correct; SOOC JPEGS are fantastic. RAW shots look fine to me after the LR update.)
Viewfinder is awesome, both OV and EV (So is handling the camera like a P&S and watching the 2.8" LCD on the back.)
Weight (It's about 678 pounds lighter than a DSLR.)
Film Simulation (Astia and B&W's are especially amazing. Fuji color is greatness!)
Cost (Believe it or not, I would have rather spent all this scratch on the X100S and gotten the amazing IQ right out of the camera than spend the same amount on the 7D and then have to turn around and then spend the SAME amount on a lens good enough to get images like the X100S. Don't spend money on a wide L lens for the 7D, buy the X100S, have some fun and fuggedaboutit. Sorry, Canon!)
Fun (Yes, the X100S is a JOY to shoot with. The big DSLR's are like carrying around a baby all day. Does baby need a new 13 pound lens? Aww[...])
Lens (I like the lens on the X100S. It's definitely not the best I've ever used, but I don't see the problems some people say they are seeing at f/2. That said, I'm not a "pixel peeper." I believe a photograph speaks for itself, flaws included. I did get some light leak shooting into the sun, even with the lens hood on.)
High ISO Performance (I bought this camera for my hopes in the ISO. The 7D doesn't even come close and I would put it up against the full-frame bad boys also. I can most definitely use images at 6400 from the X100S. I can use some images from the 7D at 3200, but then I've got to de-noise to the point where people look like they're all in the The Dark Crystal. Y'all remember that one? Dorks! High ISO is amazing, nuff said.)
Camera Styling (You'd better enjoy talking to strangers.)
So, what don't I like?
I don't like the $2.00 strap that comes with the $1300 camera. Why not just give me a piece of twine, Fuji? Or a shoestring... At $1300, a case would also be nice.
Despite Fuji claims, the AF is not the fastest, especially in lower-light. However, it's not awful; perhaps even completely acceptable. It's also not the sports-shooter the 7D is; not that it claims to be.
The camera also seems to have difficulty waking up from sleep from time to time. It's almost faster to turn it off when not shooting.
Some of the menu choices are a little iffy. You can't change the options in the EVF without looking through the EVF. So you're trying to look through the EVF and push the menu buttons at the same time. Oversight? Firmware fix?
I shot a 2-day charity event with the little X100S up against another photographer with a Nikon 800D and another with the Canon 6D (true story.) I was worried about the little X; I had only had her for about 5 days. The X100S held her own against the big boys. Image quality is just THAT good. SOOC. JPEG. I did go through 3 batteries each day of the shoot; I don't like it that auto-shutoff doesn't go less than 2 mins. A small nuisance for the payoff...
I still like my 7D, but the X100S changes the game for me. Digital photography is getting better and smaller. The Fuji X100S is a tiny juggernaut in the world of extremely heavy titans. Bravo, Fuji! Encore!
Addendum: After using the X100S for over two months, I still love the camera. I don't know what it is, if it's the metering system or what, but the camera seems to have trouble locating the correct exposure. I don't know if others have had this issue, but if I shoot anything in auto mode, (aperture, shutter or ISO) the exposure is not ideal, usually overexposed. The upside to this is that the camera is forcing me to shoot fully manual, which is helping me become a better photographer. Luckily, you can set the big 3 very easily on this camera.
I've seen a slideshow with stills from this camera and others on a 46" flatscreen TV; the X100S IQ is just amazing. The photos taken with this camera stand out above the others. I've heard somebody say this camera is a "Leica killer." That may be a reach, but it ain't far... I'd still buy and pay full price for this machine.
on June 23, 2013
For this purchase, I blindly heeded the gospel of David Hobby, who posted a 40 minute walkthrough on the X100s and Zack Arias, who proclaimed the X100s "the new Leica." Initially, I was teetering between the X100s and the X20, a much cheaper alternative and to a lesser extent, the Fuji X-E1. I figured if I was buying a more portable option for my DSLR, I don't need another set of lenses to add to the bulk. Thus, I was all set on the X20, but read minor quibbles here and there, with the slow on/off lag being the most egregious of them. Ultimately, I went with the X100s and I couldn't be happier. Paired with an Eye-fi + mobi SD card, the pictures come out well enough straight out of camera, I can share online without relying on Lightroom for post-processing. Skin tones are spot on and it's got a myriad of filters/features I've yet to experiment with.
My only HUGE complaint, which'd potentially knock my review down a whole star, is the battery meter. Twice now, I've left the house with the meter showing full bars, only to transition to half-bars, which is synonymous with 'you're shit outta luck' because a dead battery follows a minute later. In each case, they were milestone moments for my infant daughter that I had to defer to the iPhone camera. Like Hobby says in his review, I/we sincerely hope Fuji offers a firmware update that'll give a more accurate battery reading. Other than that, this is a solid camera that I can take with me where ever I go, even though it's a little heftier than standard P&Ss, which I'm totally not lumping the X100s in the same category as!
on January 20, 2014
First of all, before reading any more of my review on the Fuji x100s, drop all thoughts and presumptions about what this camera should do. Drop all thoughts concerning auto focus, ISO, and handling performance. Forget that this camera lacks modern features such as image stabilization and NFC. Now with a clear mind look at what this camera is. This camera is all about bringing the photographer back to their roots and hone their skills in the art of image capture.
Let me say this right away, this camera is not for beginners looking for an auto mode and image stabilization to get the job done. That would be an insult to what this camera is capable of doing. They are better off with a point and shoot or a mirrorless alternative. This camera isn't about speed either. When focusing, even with the improvements over its predecessor, it pales in comparison to my OMD.
So it seems like Fuji made a lemon right? Not at all, the x100s is a wonderful camera that can take outstanding photos once you understand its limitations and fully utilize its strengths. The lack of image stabilization may seem to be a deal breaker for some, but remember that image stabilization is an aid to help the photographer. Too often the user is dependent on aids such as image stabilization to get a sharp image. With the x100s, you have to do image stabilization the proper way, with a suitable shutter speed (1/focal length minimum). Fortunately the x100s is happy to oblige with its fast 35mm 2.0 lens and usable ISO range from 100-6400 so that obtaining a fast enough shutter speed is pretty easy. This is what I mean about learning the camera; the x100s is capable of producing stunning images that shames my OMD and other DSLRs provided that you learn how to extract the most from it.
The viewfinder of this camera is simply superb. Fuji's setup effectively merges the benefits of an OVF with an EVF. With the OVF, there is no delay when panning around the scene. However the main issue with using the OVF is that with the uncertain auto focus system, you may not know if the image captured was in focus at all. This is an issue with the x100s, the auto focus system can get confused easily. Good thing that we can review the images and reshoot if necessary. Another good thing is that the manual focusing aspect of this camera in combination of the focus aids such as the focus peaking feature, allows you to focus even when the camera refuses to.
Another great feature of this camera is the built in ND filter. Although the shutter speed limitation of 1/4000th may be troublesome, using the ND filter can help get around this issue.
The best feature of this camera is the sensor. I have no issues using ISO 6400 when the lighting situation isn't optimal. Yes the image may not be as detailed my full frame camera, but photography is about capturing that moment and having an image that isn't as detailed nor as clean is preferable to not having the image at all. From my experience, the ISO performance of this sensor matches or is better than my OMD.
So there you have it. From my experience with this camera, it has been wonderful to me. I have been able to capture some amazing photos by learning to deal with the limitations of the camera. Yes I can take amazing photos from my other cameras, but this camera has a specific look and feel that the others doesn't seem to have. This camera is more like a companion camera more than a DSLR replacement. This is the camera you take when don't want to lug around your DSLR with the 35mm lens. This is the camera that you carry around that won't draw attention when you try to discretely capture street scenes. If you decide to get this camera, spend 2-3 weeks with it, shooting solely with this camera. Carry it around with you everywhere. You may initially find the task daunting, but it will be well worth it.
on November 5, 2014
OK, it's pricey. OK, it's a fixed lens. I shot about 200 pictures around a golf course and duplicated every shot with my Nikon P7100. The P7100 is an awesome camera and the 28-120 effective zoom range is handy, but for this outing I set the Nikon to the same focal length of the Fuji, about 35 mm. I shot landscapes with sky dominate, with land dominate, water scenes, close ups of flowers, I shot using both standard and vibrant settings, I used the flash fill for portraits of my wife in full sun, half shadowed face, and full shadow. Result: I like the Fuji color and details in the shadowy areas better. I like the controls better on the Fuji. I like the old time move-yourself-to-get-the-right-composition mode of the Fuji fixed lens rather than the just zoom in or out of the Nikon. You can set it to aperture preferred, shutter preferred, or programmed -- nothing different than on the Nikon, EXCEPT if you go aperture preferred (my preference in order to control depth of field) you move the aperture ring on the lens mount and you set the shutter speed dial to "A" (for Automatic); or if you prefer shutter preferred you set the aperture ring to "A" and rotate the shutter speed dial. On the Nikon, if you go manual or semi manual, the control rings are in places that don't make sense -- in the traditional old style sense. OK, I'm an old guy and have been doing landscape photography since the early 70's, originally with a hand held light meter. Now my main landscape camera is a Nikon D700 and 11 lenses and all the "modern stuff." Still, the Fuji is a neat camera and I felt "closer" to photography by using it.
on May 1, 2013
Currently Fuji x100s is my main camera, I've used it for 1 month and even ordered some prints. I sold Olympus OM-D E-M5 because I have easier time with Fuji x100s skin tones and color. Also low light photos and video is better in x100s. I rated this camera three stars because of my cons. If this camera was cheaper, this would have been a 4 star camera. So I read Zack Arias review on Fuji x100s and he says that not even once he wish he had a different camera with him. In my shooting I found this to be mostly true, the only time I wished for a different camera is in midday sun, see my cons on dynamic range. Fuji claimed fastest auto focus with x100s, really? This is getting close to Nokia's camera phone marketing. This is another reason why I rated this camera 3 stars. Auto Focus is not fastest, it can also be slow, but still good enough for me to sell my OMD. Of course OMD is so much faster, its not even in the same league.
- Very good skin tones
- Great low light images and video
- Very good Built-in flash
- Good 30fps Video
- Stereo mic
- Fast camera performance.
- Small size, fits in most of my pockets
- Auto Focus, still a little slow
- Dynamic Range, it is good but pictures look too contrasty with Auto DR in midday sunlight, in my opinion, this is where i miss Nikon
- Good video but has quirks
Color & Olympus OM-D
The reason people stayed with Fuji x100 is because of the color and skin tones. x100s color is very good but different. I've read Robing Wong's opinion on Fuji x100s and he mentioned that color looks very similar to Olympus color, I agree with him. I have done mini shootout with Olympus OM-D and Fuji X100s, i took pictures of my family. at the same time with both cameras and then showed it to my wife after minor adjustments in Aperture. (this is what i would normally do with my photos) First thing my wife says is that how similar they look and she had hard time choosing a better picture. After i told her to select a better pictures based on skin tones, Fuji won, mostly because OM-D is too contrasty IMO. Also in my opinion Fuji x100s gives me a better image under most conditions that matter to me. in my mini shootout, OM-D actually produced better images few times under some low light shooting. So camera is not perfect, but very good. In general shooting, I feel like i get a little better people colors with Fuji, especially with my newborn. x100 is the best camera i tried for newborns, IMO.
I read complains about Fuji x100s not producing 3d like images, I'm really not seeing that but then again I never shot with Leica. Just turn noise reduction to -1 or even -2. I have seen noise reduction flatten faces a little so I keep mine at -1 and also raw files show plenty of 3d in Apple's Aperture software, not sure how it looks in Light Room.
I only buy a camera if it has stereo mic and a very good video. x100s video won for me vs OMD because of better low light image and color. Yes, you really have to make sure there is no shake and don't shoot 60fps. 60fps produces really really bad video, just don't try it. 30fps video is the reason why i kept Fuji x100s and sold my OMD. OMD gave me a very steady and sharp video but I found color to be better with x100s and less noise.