Having had this camera for sometime now, I am ready to compile my thoughts about this little beast.
Not many cameras create a frenzy within the photography sphere and at the same time hold up to the promises made by the manufacturers. And lets face it, how could a small, almost pocket camera compete these days with the DSLR and the interchangeable mirrorless cameras. Even the amateur (grimace, hate that word. OK, weekend warrior), sport DSLR cameras with descent glass these days. And why not? They are affordable, becoming easier to use, and they are versatile. The pocket camera appears to be dead. Well, maybe not dead as it has transformed into a pocket camera phone. These phones such as the iPhone 5s combine compact, useful appliances with a very respectable camera. So what on earth could have created a buzz that was neither phone nor DSLR? The Fujifilm X100.
NOTE: The X100s is out and solves the majority of issues users had, but I don't have that camera.
The X100 is a beautiful camera. There is no doubt about it. Having seen images online, my mouth had watered, but once it was in my hand, the tactile build quality and placement of controls more than satisfied me. I felt like I had picked up quality. There were no rough edges, the controls were solid, there were no noticeable seems, the aperture ring moved like a smooth Manfrotto tripod head, the LCD is large and bright, and did I mention it looked beautiful? The size and weight were surprising. It was slightly smaller and lighter than what I had imagined, and this too is a nice point as you want to carry it around your neck all day. I have lugged a D800 around, and while I am not complaining, I like taking it with me on jobs, but I sure do get a stiff neck at the end of a long day. The X100 had been around my neck continuously for 5 days on a recent trip to Sydney and other than taking a peek at the beautiful little thing now and then, I forgot it was there when not shooting.
When setting up the camera for the first time, I had to insert the battery and memory card. At this point, I realised that we do in fact not live in the 50′s when things were made to last. The little door that opens at the bottom of the camera does feel a little flimsy and that worried me. I had a Olympus point and shoot which I bought around 2003, and the first thing to go on that was the battery/card door. When that happened I used to wrap tape and rubber bands around the camera to keep it closed. I don’t want to have to do that again. But, for now, I will trust the Japanese brains, and believe that it won’t be an issue. A few years later and it is still no issue. Other than this, the entire camera is built like a jeep, solid and ready for action.
I then proceeded to set the camera up, choose language and set date etc… I was surprised here, as the menu is extremely easy to navigate. There were many reasons why I bought into the Nikon system for DSLR’s, which I don’t need to go into here, but I was always amazed at how natural the menu felt in comparison to some other brands. Well, after turning the X100 on for the first time, I think it gives the Nikon menu system a run for its money. I had not one issue finding exactly what I was after. The menu is laid out very wisely, there is not much nesting, and many of the most important controls are physical buttons / dials on the body of the camera.
Having successfully set up the camera, it was time to take the first shot. My first memory about taking that shot was: Did I take a shot? So silent. OK, I was standing near the open window of my hotel, it was loud outside, but the camera is very, very quiet. I have read that the camera utilises a leaf shutter system, however does it actually make any noticeable sounds? I ask this to you because the menu allows you to choose from three different sounds to assign to the shutter, and there is also a silent mode. Either way, for weddings, street / candid photography or anywhere you need to be discrete, this camera may be the perfect choice. Small and silent. I so want to put on my overcoat and hat and do some spy work.
Looking through the view finder, I was presented with the hybrid electronic overlay. I seriously think this is the perfect way for shooting candid / street shots with this camera. Due to parallax, you won’t get ‘exactly’ the same framing as you see, but its really really close. I like it because its bright and smooth (no electronic after effects) to compose. The overlay gives you all the details you need (ISO, ev, aperture, shutter speed). To switch between the hybrid and full digital mode, you simply pull down on the lever at the front of the camera. Both have their uses. One thing here that is a little confusing, but easy enough once you have used the camera a bit, is that the “view mode” button scrolls through a separate, different set of screens depending on which view mode “hybrid or electronic” you are in. Not a concern.
As you compose an image it is very easy to keep your eye up against the viewfinder and change the aperture with its large, smooth dial, the exposure compensator dial and the shutter dial. If you want to change the focus points or exposure modes, you need to click either the AE or AF button on the back of the camera and rotate the dial also at the back. I must admit, rotating the dial is no issue, but holding the button at the same time can be a little tricky for the big handed fellas. It is not really a design fault as the camera is small and if they didn’t want to corrupt the gorgeous body of the camera with more buttons, they had to reuse these buttons. Coming from a DSLR large body camera, you have to expect to make a few changes. Again, not a big issue.
The lens focus speed is more than respectable especially since Fuji keeps owners up-to-date with firmware updates even years after the camera has been released. Low light performance is amazing thanks to the APS sensor. The lens is a 23mm, however it turns out to be around 35mm due to the crop factor. A perfect candid / portrait / landscape lens.
While shooting, its easy to change ISO, and I have cranked it up to 3200 so far and it has performed really well with little noise. The colour of images is excellent, and I am no expert, but I do believe that the exposure range is rather wide. Perhaps wider than some older DSLRs. I was surprised that I was seeing into the blacks and whites.
I thought I would never give up on my D700 then D800 with the beautiful assortment of lenses, especially when I was not impressed with the OM-D E-M5 and the GX-7 (the lenses are nice but I just don't enjoy the images or using those cameras). However, for candid shots, street photography, holiday shots and general shooting, this is now my go to camera. I am also really looking forward to the new X-T1 from Fuji for which I will probably get rid of my DSLR equipment.
To re-iterate, the X100 is compact, easy on the eye, solid, fast, good glass, good low light capabilities, shoots video (not that I really care), is so quiet that you don’t intrude or upset those around you when shooting and is priced reasonably for a camera of this quality. I still have a lot to learn, but I already feel at home using this camera. And, she just looks so beautiful. I can see why this camera made a buzz and continues to do so.