February 19th, 2012
A 15,000 frame user report by Damien Lovegrove
My first seven months with the Fujifilm x100 has been mostly a joy although my love affair with this little marvel has had its ups and downs.
On the plus side every time I pick up the X100 I smile. It enriches my life a little bit and that is quite an achievement. It is tactile and quite beautiful. I have owned other compact cameras including the Canon G10 but none have begged to be used in quite the same way. Until my X100 ownership, compact cameras were a compromise that exchanged the bulk and weight of a DSLR for convenience. In the last 18 months my iPhone 4 has become my go anywhere camera.
There didn’t seem a need for a mid sized camera with a fixed focal length lens in my life until I set eyes on the X100 at Photokina. When Fujifilm devised the x100 it set out to create and supply a market when one didn’t already exist, and I like that. Just like Apple did when it introduced the iPad.
My first few months of x100 ownership were not all plain sailing. While I was giving a street photography workshop in Berlin the shutter speed dial became out of sync with the settings. 1/60th on the dial resulted in an actual setting of 1/30th second. Not a big problem I hear you say but it meant I couldn’t access my preferred aperture priority mode. When I dialled in ‘A’ I got 1/4000th second instead. So the camera was relegated to my hotel room for the rest of my trip. It was lucky that I had my Canon 5D mk2 as a backup for the Boudoir workshop the next day.
I duly sent the camera back to Fujifilm and five days later it was returned repaired. This was a great turnaround considering the number of returns that were being reported on the forums. It is worth mentioning that my Canon 5Dmk2 and my Nikon D700 had to go back for minor issues too so my experience with the Fuji X100 is no different in terms of reliability.
The X100 is a joy to use. I love the live view way of composing with a moderate wide prime lens. I love it on my iPhone and it works equally well on the Fujifilm X100. Perhaps not using the eye level finder doesn’t look professional but that doesn’t bother me and neither does the fact I’m using what looks like a cute hobbyists camera. I second shot a super smart wedding in Mayfair in London (working for one of my photographer clients) using the X100 and the shots were fabulous. The clients weren’t put off by the camera’s appearance either.
The focus engine on the x100 is excellent, I know it gets bad press on the whole for being slow but I must say that when the camera declares the shot is focused it is not lying. I wish the same was true of any of the DSLRs I’ve ever owned. I’m so used to a high failure rate of mis focussed shots at f/2.8 with DSLRs I end up over shooting every job or using f/4 as a result. The Fuji gets it spot on nearly every time and at a whole stop wider at f/2. So in short it takes longer to focus but it doesn’t let you down.
Things that are missing or could be improved on the x100:
- Auto ISO and regular ISO settings should be accessible with one touch of the ISO button. I hate having to go into the multi level menus to switch auto ISO on or off.
- External flash should be controlled with the flash button. The external flash menu governs the slowest shutter speed the camera will use in the auto modes so it can’t just be left on.
- Although the Fn button is programmable it cannot be assigned to auto ISO or to switch the external flash function on/off. I use it to access the built in 3 stop neutral density filter.
- The focus switch and the shutter speed dial are easily knocked and could do with interlocks.
- Fuji have learned from these small niggles with the much improved X-Pro1 user interface but there are sacrifices in that camera too. Gone is the high flash sync capabilities of the X100. Features like these make the X100 a world beating camera in my eyes.
- If i could only own one camera and I could choose from every camera ever made I’d happily choose the X100. “What about the Leica M series cameras” I hear you shout. I say that there is no point me having allegedly superior glass if I can’t accurately focus it and trust me I’ve tried rangefinders. Getting shots focused spot on with a lens wide open is nearly impossible. The AF on the Fuji is super impressive because my out of focus shot rate is so low it’s amazing. But as I write this on a trip to Dubai my camera fault has returned. Another 5 days without it is now inevitable. There is nothing worse than a recurring fault especially if it continues to happen outside of the warranty period.
What makes the X100 a fabulous camera to own and use:
- Looks: The x100 is gorgeous to look at from every angle. The material finishes are superb and the metal surface feels silky smooth. I have the Gariz half leather case on my x100 and the camera feels as fabulous as it looks.
- Handling: When it is set up correctly the x100 really is a pick up and shoot camera. I was worried at first because I have big hands but the x100 just feels right.
- Sensor quality: I’m amazed at the image quality at high ISO from this camera. It out performs my DSLRs with sensors twice the size. I can imagine Fujifilm cameras becoming the market leader if their sensor and hybrid viewfinder technology continues to outperform it’s competitors.
- Dust free pictures: The lens and sensor are one combined unit so gone is the tedious task of cloning out dust spots from images.
- Viewing options: The live view rear screen and the electronic viewfinder show real time exposure compensation so there is no need to do test exposures. This alone makes up for the slower focussing system. The eye sensor works well and the hybrid viewfinder is sensational. Seeing an optical or electronic image in the viewfinder with such high resolution is amazing. Being able to view a hybrid screen is miraculous. It’s like a heads up display in a fighter aircraft.
- Colour rendition straight from camera: The colour rendition of jpegs produced In camera is superb. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to recreate the film looks by processing RAW files using Adobe Lightroom. There is a stunning non linearity in the Fuji files that is sublime.
- Silent use: There is an option to switch off the shutter sound. Making the x100 almost silent in use. The Leica M series cameras are very noisy by comparison.
- High speed sync: I regularly use 1/1000th second shutter speed with my Skyport triggered Elinchrom studio flash and portable Quadra Ranger systems.
- Optical perfection: From the +£75,000 big box HD TV zoom lenses you’ll see everywhere at the Olympics this summer to the lenses Fuji make for Hasselblad medium format cameras Fuji glass is certainly among, if not, the best in the world. The lens on the x100 is no exception. Pin sharp corner to corner wide open at f/2. It is not a flat field lens either so a focus reframe method of shooting results in tack sharp images every time.
Lens quality 10/10
Value for money 6/10
My Fujifilm X100 settings in brief:
White Balance – Auto
ISO – 200
Auto ISO – on. Minimum shutter speed 1/80th second and max ISO 3200
Film simulation – BWg
Mode – aperture priority
Aperture – f/2
Autofocus – single shot
Silent mode – off (all sounds set to mute)
Fast start up – on
Energy save – off
Here is a gallery of my recent work with the Fujifilm X100.
Please feel free to comment below.
EVENT NEWS: Join me and Chris at the Manchester Hilton in January 2013 for a styled portraiture training workshop exclusively for Fuji X series owners. Set in the gorgeous surroundings of the Deansgate Hilton Hotel this will be a day of fun and creativity with like-minded individuals. To learn more and to book online click here.
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