Fuji x100s Review :: A Camera Walks Into A Bar
Here is the strangest gear review I have ever written.
Let me set the stage… Picture a bar scene…
There’s a distinguished looking ol’ fellow sitting at the bar. He has silver hair and laugh lines around his eyes. He’s well dressed. Well groomed. Well traveled. You can tell he’s seen a lot in his time. His classic Morgan is parked outside. There’s a pretty young girl on his arm listening to his stories of being a globe trotting documentary photographer. He sips his 50 year old Chivas Regal. His name is Leica. Yeah, he’s the world’s most interesting man.
In the corner we have Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony. They’re in a heated debate about Dungeons & Dragons or something. Sony is smart. He’s a brilliant guy. Ugly as hell. Clunky. Clumsy. Out of balance… but very smart. Olympus is more fashionable than his friends Sony and Panasonic but you can tell he’s just trying too hard. He’s cute, but sitting next to Sony shows he’s not that smart. Panasonic is just staring into his beer. A single tear drops into his IPA. He just released the GF5 and has realized it’s a total pain in the ass of a camera and wishes he could go back to the good ol’ days of the GF1.
“Remember when I created cult followings guys? Remember that? Remember?”
Sony and Olympus share glances and mumble something about the wizard losing his potion. “Hey, at least we aren’t those two assholes over there.” as they point to Canon and Nikon.
Canon and Nikon. They’re the two old men at the bar who are always arguing. You can’t tell if they’re the best of friends, brothers, or sworn enemies. Either way, there they sit… every night… arguing and arguing and arguing. One says he can drive a car faster. One says he got laid at the ’84 Olympics far more than the other. The other talks about how big his lens is. The only thing they ever agree on is they are both sick and tired of all the young kids in the bar these days taking their space. You get a feeling that if they just melded into one the world would be better for it. Please don’t get either one started about iPhone and her friend Instagr.am.
There’s a sound of an old shovelhead rolling up in the parking lot.
A young good looking kid walks in the door. Tattered 501’s. Grease stained tee. Three days of scruff. He walks with confidence. All the ladies take notice of him. The cougar den at the table next to Sony, Oly, and Pana all perk up and freshen their lips and shorten their skirts. His name is Fuji and everyone but Leica avoids making eye contact with him. Leica turns on his bar stool and gracefully nods his head to Fuji. Fuji, knowing he’s in good company at the bar, fires a grin and a wink at the old man. Leica sees himself as a younger man in this Fuji kid. Back before he opened his stupid boutique stores and started a line of t-shirts and baseball caps. (Leica should have never listened to his old friend Ferrari.)
Fuji orders a classic English bitter and starts talking to the two girls next to him.
Phaseone pulls the perfect pint and serves it up. No one serves it up better than Mr. Phase. Phase then tells Polaroid to take the trash out. Polaroid goes out the back door and stops to share a smoke with Kodak. Kodak asks if Polaroid could spare some change. “Sorry man. Not today.”
The young girl that was sitting with Leica heads out the door but not before slipping her number into Fuji’s back pocket.
Fuji sips his beer and quietly tucks it deeper into his pocket so he doesn’t lose it.
And that folks… is why I say Fuji is the new Leica and the x100s is the greatest camera I’ve ever owned.
I’ve just finished three weeks of travel with the new Fuji x100s. Along side the x100s I had my Fuji X-Pro1 with the new Fuji 14mm 2.8 bolted on to it. I’ll talk about that near the end of this post. For now, I’ll concentrate on the x100s. I’ll share some photos, share some measurebating 100% crops, and share a link to an image you can pixel peep to your heart’s desire.
The original x100 was my entrance into street photography. I’ve always loved this genre but I never participated in the “sport” as I call it. I’ve walked the streets with a DSLR and would shoot portraits from time to time but the DSLR either intimidated me or those around me too much for me to get into street work. That feeling of intimidation melted away when I started shooting the x100. It’s small. Dead quiet. Perfect. I just finished teaching two street photography classes in Dubai and there’s no other camera I’d rather have with me than an x100. Now that the x100s is out… that’s the king of cameras for me. It’s fast. Agile. Responsive.
After my frist day of shooting with the new S I realized something. Fuji really listens to all of us. Every single complaint that many had about the original x100 has been addressed. Everything I have seen people request in the update is there. The autofocus is leaps and bounds beyond what it was. Manual focus… get this… actually works! Image quality is fantastic. Same perfect focal length on the 23mm f2 fixed prime. It’s just an awesome camera.
I’ve read the first reviews of the camera and many folks say it’s the same body and layout as the previous but that’s not quite right. It’s pretty much the same with a few tweaks. Here’s the back of the new x100s…
Two MAJOR improvements are here. First, the Q menu button from the X-Pro1 has arrived to the x100s. It accesses a quick menu to change a number of things on the camera like WB, file type and size, film simulation, etc without having to dig into the menu system. That’s a great addition but we all knew it would be there. The greatest update on the backside is the new placement of the AF point selection button. Previously you’d have to use both hands to change the AF point in the viewfinder. You’d push the AF button on the left of the camera and adjust the area on the right side of the camera. Now you simply push the AF button on the top end of the dial and move the AF area to wherever you want it… all with one thumb. I can’t tell you how much this one improvement has made in day to day shooting. That one change is worth an upgrade. Otherwise it is the same body as the x100 with a few tweaks here and there. One nice tweak is the exposure compensation dial is stiffer than the original. It’s not as easy to accidentally bump to a new setting. Oh, see the gaff tape on the read/write light? I put that there because I’m a left eye shooter. When I shoot it starts blinking in my right eye and that’s annoying. It also brings attention to the camera at night so I just gaff tape it.
Leaf shutter lens y’all. I can grab flash up to 1/800th of a second with a Pocket Wizard and a hotshoe flash. The image above is at 500th. The image at the beginning of this blog post is 800th! While I was in Istanbul I had the opportunity to photograph promotional portraits for radio DJ, TV host, and writer, Esin Görür. Want to hear something else that’s interesting? The small flash I’m using these days? The Yongnuo 560II. Or as Rob Milton named it… the Kung Pao 560. Yeah, that’s the name I’m going to run with from now on. I’ve put that $73 flash through workshops and shoots in the last month and it’s… awesome! Anyway. That’s for another time. David Hobby (AKA Strobist) is also a huge fan of the x100s and echoes my opinion on it being the new Leica. Check out his review of the camera and how he’s pushing sync speed further and combining that with the built in three stop ND filter.
As I talked about in a previous post leading up to this review it was this night in Istanbul where it clicked for me.
When Galatasaray beat Schalke and I found myself in a roaring crowd of football fans is when I realized that Fuji is the new Leica. Not once did I wish I had another camera with me. The DSLR is dead to me. Yes, yes, yes. I have a Phase. That’s my workhorse camera for editorial and commercial work. Other than that? Even for some magazine work… the Fuji is it. Buy Canon? Nope! Bye Canon! You see, for decades Leica was the shit for the traveling journalist, street shooters, documentary photographers, etc. They are fantastic cameras with an undeniable heritage. But here’s the deal. The folks who put Leica on the map can’t afford them any longer. They are a boutique camera company. The working stiff can’t shell out close to $10,000 for a body and a lens. Go price out 2 M’s, a 20mm ish lens, a 35mm, and a 75mm. Go price that out. Then price out an x100s, an X-Pro1, and the Fuji 14mm, 35mm, and 60mm lens. You still haven’t spent the price of a single Leica body yet. Let alone two of them. And glass.
Would I use the x100s at a wedding? Hell yes I would. Wouldn’t think twice about it. Would I shoot it on a magazine assignment? Yes. Portrait shoot? Yep. Promo shoot? Yep. And have.
Walking the streets of Istanbul with the x100s, an X-Pro1, and the Fuji 14mm and 60mm made me realize that so much work could be done with a tiny little kit like that. You’re traveling light. You’re inconspicuous. You’re silent. You’ve got a ton of options between these two small cameras and these three lenses. You’ve got kick ass sun killing sync speeds with small flash. Sharp optics. Great sensors. Tough as nails bodies. My X-Pro1 has taken three major falls in the past month. I have two scratches and a shattered lens hood to show for it… oh yeah, and a perfectly working camera. The x100s has taken one good hit to the ground from a table top. It’s fine. Didn’t skip a beat.
What is the soul of this camera? It’s the styling. That’s the first part of it. Then it’s the feel of it. Then it’s that damn amazing hybrid optical viewfinder. It’s attention to details. It’s listening to the community. It’s a perfect camera. I can not wait for whatever is coming down the pipe for the X-Pro. I have no idea. While Fuji has hired me to shoot with their camera, I have not signed a contract with them nor have I signed an NDA. I have no idea. When I left Istanbul my job with them was done. They’re not paying for this review. But, yes. I got paid to shoot with the x100s. So, take that however you want. I know for some of you that paints me as a sideshow salesman. That’s fine. I get that. I’m leery of paid spokespeople as well.
I’m tellin’ you though. From my heart. The x100s is my desert island camera.
Ok. You know what time it is! Grab the KY, fire up the forums, put your glasses on, and start pixel peeping! Let the measurebating begin!
I already see people questioning Fuji’s use of the X-Trans sensor thing in the new x100s. Some love the X-Trans. Some hate it. It is true that Adobe and others have had a difficult time trying to figure out the RGGBYBRRBGYT$SR pixel layout thing with this new sensor that first showed up in the X-Pro1. I can say that Lightroom 4.4 is really really really close to getting the RAW conversion correct. I typically shoot my Fuji cameras on jpg. I know. I know. But you know what? Fuji does it right. They always have. Anyway… I love the X-Trans sensor. It’s sharper than my Canon full frame sensors. So… here’s a picture of the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Straight from camera. JPG. So yes, you are seeing a JPG of a JPG. We’ll all survive.
And the problem with the X-Trans sensor is what again? Someone let me know what the issue is because I ain’t seeing it. Am I supposed to read the serial numbers of the lights up there? Is that what I’d get from a Sony?
Mmmm. Yes. I see. Hmmmmm. It IS perfectly obvious that the third millionth pixel from the left shows signs of herpes. You’re right!
No review is complete without what? That’s right. A squirrel and some kitschy shit that folks on photography forums can argue about.
Now, let’s go ahead and run the x100s up against a Canon 6d, the original x100, the X-Pro1, and heck, let’s drop the Phase into the mix.
Click the image above or click HERE to get the FULL size comparison image. It’ll be up as long as my dropbox account is.
So… technical notes. Each image was shot at an aperture at a shutter speed at the native ISO of the camera used at similar but not equal focal lengths. I did MINIMAL post processing of the RAW files in Lightroom 4.4. Just color corrections. No other adjustments were made. I’ve left little notes throughout the images that can only be read at 100% viewing. Remember you’re looking at a JPG from the Interweb. Hopefully you’re on a good monitor that’s calibrated. If you’re viewing this on your mom’s PC, then, well. Anyway.
Am I happy with the image quality of the x100s? Absolutely. I’d like to see RAW conversions get better. I imagine the good folks at DXO labs will get it figured out first. If I were Fuji… or Canon, or Nikon for that matter… I’d leave the software up to Adobe. I’d give them everything they need and not worry about providing software for cameras. Especially Nikon and Canon. They suck at writing software. Just let Adobe do the job. Anyway.
Check out my 500px x100s set to see more photos from this camera. Click the image below to go to that gallery.
Would I change anything about the x100s? No. Not really. If I had any requests it would be to add an intervalometer for time lapse stuff. Including the lens hood in the box would be a nice touch. I buy third party ones on Amazon now for $12 or something. Built in WiFi / Bluetooth to connect to iOS or the like would be cool. The 6d has that and it’s awesome… until you want it to fire a @#$%#$ Pocketwizard! Jeebus! It won’t fire a trigger in WiFi mode. Seriously? Anyway. I wouldn’t change anything. I don’t need more pixels. The AF is plenty fast for me. Peaking added to manual focus is a God-send! It’s fantastic. Maybe I’d request to be able to change the color of the peaking. Currently it’s white. Maybe red / green / pink would be good options to have in the menu. But yeah, manual focus is legit now. I prefer the peaking to the digital split image.
Oh. Yeah. The 14mm on the X-Pro1? Awesome! Worth the price for sure. Absolutely. My second favorite lens for the X-Pro1 behind the 35mm.
My Fuji X Series buying guide.
x100s – Buy it. Done.
x20 – Nice camera. It ain’t the x100s.
X-Pro1 – The more I use the Pro the more I love it. It’s a perfect companion to the x100. It’s more of a “work” camera since you can change lenses. Now that the x100s has the same sensor they can be switched back and forth on a job without any issues other than the bodies and buttons are totally different. I’d love to see Fuji finalize button layout on the X cameras and make them the same.
X-E1 – Pretty much the same as the X-Pro1 but has a better EVF but it loses the optical viewfinder. It’s “slightly” smaller. I have one. It’s nice…. but…. It’s not the X-Pro1. That optical viewfinder is absolutely worth the price.
Best performing camera in the current lineup? The x100s. Now the X-Pro1 and X-E1 have to play catch up. I have NO IDEA when that may happen.
Is it worth it to upgrade from the x100 to the x100s? I’m with Hobby on this one. If you use the x100 a lot then yes. Upgrade. If you use it occasionally then keep it. It’s STILL a great camera. Hobby and I are asking Fuji to bring some of the upgrades to the original x100. Things like a Q menu (accessible from the Fn or RAW button) and focus peaking. How awesome would that be? Can we do this Fuji? You show that you still love your current client base and they will show you that they love you back.
Thanks for reading! I’ll update this review as things come up. Firmware updates and the like or if I see a lot of the same question. There’s a video in the works of my trip to Istanbul with this camera. Similar to the one I did in India last year. I’ll post it here when its up.
OH CRAP! Can’t have a review without photos of your kids! Jeez! Can the x100s deal with a three year old named Hawke Danger? Yes. Straight from camera jpgs.
Yeah. I know. It’s not about the gear. I know. Yep. Uh huh. Damn I love this camera. And yes. All you red dot lovers… Fuji is the new Leica. I’ll meet you in the back alley and we can fight it out if you want. Kodak could use a little entertainment.
ETA – 3/26 – I don’t think I got my point across clearly enough about Fuji being the new Leica. I’m going to be making a follow up blog post about that next week to spell out my opinion on the matter. Also! I figured out where Pentax was. SHE wasn’t at the bar. She was with another friend of her’s. It’s a sad story. I’ll update all of you on what’s going on with her and her friend. Tragic really.