I do own a Fujifilm X100S mirrorless camera. This is not that typical kind of technical review of a small camera, but a brief description of my attitude towards a camera with attitude. The web is full of such technical stuff – I tell you, there are some excellent reviews out there and I, too, have read them and helped me make a decision, when choosing this X100S.
What is it?
It is a small and unique mirrorless camera, made by my favorite digital camera producer Fujifilm, with a revolutionary X-Trans APS-C sensor, without the anti-aliasing filter, delivering outstanding images with rich details and great colors in a 16 megapixel resolution. It has a fixed 23mm F2.0 lens, delivering sharp images with great bokeh. It has a built-in flash too, very intelligent and works great when you need a fill light on the go. And with that hybrid viewfinder? It is a camera built for photographers.
What I like?
Many things. It is small, it fits in my pocket (Jeans? No. Jacket? Yes ), but still retains some great ergonomics. The compact design comes with some of the greatest aesthetics I’ve ever seen. That retro look with plenty of elegance makes me enjoy it more and more.
I love to have a good camera with me and when I wear a suit and shirt, I kind of like to have a camera that matches the occasion, that is compact and elegant and helps me blend into the crowds. Some people just ask me if I shoot film. Sometimes I do, with my dad’s Zenit.
Having a DSLR on you it’s like wearing a big sign on your chest mentioning „Photographer”. I just don’t like people to see me every time as „the guy with the camera”. A DSLR puts you in a specific corner : if it’s a DSLR, it better be as huge as possible, Full-Frame, with a huge cannon-like lens, so even if you’re not good enough, at least you still can impress some people. Joking!
With a Fuji X100S, I look more like an amateur than a pro, so at least I could put the blame on the camera and its limitations for not having all my images top-notch. Bad joke!
I have this camera for its :
Superb IQ, thanks to it’s unique APS-C sensor. Sharpness and colors? From Full-Frame world. Fujinon lenses are simply stunning. I am continuously amazed how sharp and fast (F2.0) is this lens, considering such a small size.
Great performance at high ISO. Very nice dynamic range, too.
Fuji style film simulations. You know Fujifilm has been „for a while” in the industry of film. They wanted to preserve (Thank God!) those film looks here in the digital era. You can choose from ASTIA (softer color and contrast for a more subdued look), VELVIA (for rich and punchy colors), PROVIA (which is the standard color profile), SEPIA, MONOCHROME with Green Filter, Red Filter, Yellow Filter, pure BLACK & WHITE, PRO NEG Standard (good for portraits), PRO NEG Hi (with enhanced contrast).
Built-in ND filter. When you need it – it is simply there.
Fantastic leaf shutter. I could photograph inside a church in perfect silence and nobody hears me and my „mirror” slapping into the quietude. Having a leaf shutter let’s you work with even 1/2000 sec flash sync speeds (Big punch for a pro DSLR and so many other models)
Image quality, great sharpness with nice bokeh from a 23mm F2.0 lens (Did I just said this again?) JPEG files SOOC are just beautiful. If you really know how to deal with exposure settings and your composition ends just as you wanted, there is little to nothing left for you to post process. Leave the JPEGs as they are. They are gorgeous and if you want to post process them, a Fuji JPEG has a wider latitude for processing – more information, more details.
Maybe the most beautiful and elegant mirrorless for my taste. Great metal body – it feels wonderful in hand. Some say this Fujifilm camera could be a poor man’s Leica. Well, let me tell you what I think. It looks at least as good as a Leica, it costs a lot less than a Leica, it has optics very very close to what Leica has and it is technically way more powerful than a Leica. Your choice!
Superb hybrid viewfinder. What is that? You get the best from both worlds. A great Optical Viewfinder with plenty of info displayed on it. Why? Maybe you just came from the DSLR world and „optical viewfinder” is what you’re used to use. Maybe you prefer the natural look, when composing a scene. Maybe you just need to preserve battery life and some other reasons. Then, with a gentle touch of a switch, you get the Electronic Viewfinder with its 100% coverage. What you see is what you get (WYSIWYG), great when shooting in very low-light situations and the optic viewfinder doesn’t help you anymore. All the essential info is displayed upon the electronic image of your scene, helping you previewing the exposure settings and have the best composition you want.
Auto white balance. Wonderful! If you leave it on Auto Mode, Fujifilm cameras can really “guess” the light temperatures on most shooting occasions in such a way I didn’t see it in any other camera from other digital camera producers.
Manual dials. Retro, elegant, practical, wonderful. One dial for Exposure Compensation, quick and easy, as it should be there for everyone (Hello, DSLR world!), one dial for Shutter Speed with Auto, B and T modes, too. And my favorite : aperture ring on the lens. Of course, this thing works by-wire, but it is such a pleasure and it’s so easy to just dial the aperture ring and set your aperture just like back in the old days with film cameras. You have apertures from F2 to F16. A real joy to use them.
Menus are logical and easy to navigate. I have a „Q” button for quick access to my essential settings like ISO, Dynamic Range settings (DR100, DR200 and DR400), White Balance, Noise Reduction, Image Quality, Film Simulations, Colors , Sharpness and others.
And not the least of things – the firmware updates. Fujifilm is a company that listens to its clients. Why not using your camera for a longer time? It sure is built to last very long, in our era of plastic and consumerism. So with firmware upgrades, carefully prepared by Fujifilm, you get, for free, some new features for your camera and some improvements for the existing features. You keep you lovely camera up-to-date, while other producers repair their flaws by inviting you to buy the new model, after less than a year since you already bought „the last model”. Nice work!
There are some things I don’t like, but who’s perfect anyway?
Unrealistic battery indicator. When it’s full, you have 3 lines, you often shoot with 2 and suddenly, when you get 1 line, it’s time to change the battery. I have 2 spares.
Images are soft at F2.0 (Who cares? They still look beautiful)
Autofocus speed. Slow. The phase detection pixel integration into the sensor should improve the AF performance, at least in good light and it does, but not always. I was expecting more AF performance from the 2nd generation of X-Trans sensors and the 2nd generation processor. One of the main reasons I’ve sold my X-Pro1 and got the X100S.
The rumor/fact to be confirmed that the firmware upgrades for X100S are over. Why? This 2nd generation of sensor and processor will allow for further improvements.
X-Trans sensor and its beautiful colors come with a price. Unless you process the RAW files with the SILKYPIX software (wich is hard to learn and looks unfriendly), you struggle to process the RAW files with some other softwares like Capture One, Photoshop, Lightroom, etc, hoping to get the perfect results, but sometimes (when shooting JPEG+RAW) you see that your processed result doesn’t look as good and natural as the SOOC JPEG. This is why sometimes, depending on shooting/lighting conditions, I prefer to shoot in JPEG Mode only (crazy, isn’t it?) and really take good care of my settings, to ensure I get the best image in JPEG as possible. Or sometimes, if I have just a few RAW files, I process them with the built-in camera Raw Converter. Slow, can’t see a thing on this lilliputian screen, but I have an idea to suggest to Fujifilm HQ*
I love this camera. This 23mm F2.0 lens, offering me the 35mm field-of-view in Full-Frame format is the best all-around focal length on a fixed lens. The hybrid viewfinder is simply gorgeous and helped me a lot to make the transition from X-Pro1, wich was a fantastic camera (perfect shape, perfect size, perfect look), but I had to sell it. X-Pro1 is a camera you should never sell. Never! Excepting when money is the main issue. I had to sell it and I felt bad about it, but X100S saved the moment. It has a hybrid viewfinder (just like the X-Pro1) and it has almost the same retro-stylish-elegant look, so this made a smooth transition for me, from X-Pro1 to X100S (plus X-T1, later).
So when I decided to buy a Fuji X100S I even did not see it in reality. In my town you could not buy a Fuji X camera from a real store. Order online, or travel to some other, bigger city. After reading as much as I needed and having some experience with the X-Pro1, I just knew this is that kind of „love at first sight” situation and I had to let go and simply grab it and cherish it. And it has the Gold Award, too.
For some of us, when making a decision like that, money is the crucial factor. I love the 23mm focal length on APS-C sensor. I had the XF 18mm F2.0 (great lens, very small, light and fast, but there was room for improvements regarding the sharpness – too wide for me for „Single Fixed Lens” photography) and the XF 35mm F1.4 (fantastic lens, very sharp, really fast with its F1.4, quite slow in AF and too narrow for me for „Single Fixed Lens” photography). I’ve sold them both for building a very tight budget. The famous 35mm (23mm for Fuji) was the perfect choice for me. And I had to choose (for the same money) between XF 23mm F1.4, which is a gorgeous lens and the X100S (X100T – too expensive and X100S had a great discount). In fact X100S was cheaper than XF 23mm F1.4. I said to myself it would be great to use XF 23mm F1.4 on the X-T1 (wich I didn’t had at that time), but why not having right now a 23mm lens wich is indeed 1-stop slower than XF 23mm F.4, but has a „great camera” sticked on its back side and having two X cameras would offer me the flexibility and the joy when shooting with a hybrid viewfinder? True, that joy started with X-Pro1.
So, here it is, the X100S, way better than the mind-blowing, new era starter, pioneer and path opener X100, not so weak in front of the new and excellent X100T. For me, this Fujifilm X100S was my best choice, which came from the heart (instead all rational calculations and comparisons). X100S has a strong attitude and it helps me maintain my new attitude. You know, black suit, white shirt, discrete X100S in my hand. Charming!
* Idea for Fujifilm HQ