I have been shooting with the Fuji X100 series (X100s / X100t) for several years now, and I can say with complete confidence that these cameras have changed my photographic life. I’d like to share my experiences with them, discuss some technical aspects, and show some images. Consider this a walk through my journey with the Fuji X100 series that starts with the Fuji X100s, and moves into my new love affair with the Fuji X100t. It’s a long read, there are a lot of sample photos, and I hope you enjoy it!
(Product photo from http://fujifilm-x100.com)
How it all started:
I believe Fuji originally showed the world the Fuji X100 (the original X camera and the predecessor to the Fuji X100s) at Photokina in September 2010, and released it to the world in February, 2011.
When it first came out I was firmly in the Nikon DSLR camp. I had a backpack (two of them actually) full of SLR bodies, lenses, flashes, and the usual accessories. I had started shooting in 2008, and like many beginners felt that more gear would mean better pictures. I would go to photoshoots carrying my SLR gear on my back, with another bag full of lights, stands, modifiers, etc.
In hindsight I don’t think all that gear improved my pictures very much. To be fair though, I did get an awesome workout.
Around the time that I started seeing ads for the Fuji X100 I read this review by Zack Arias, one of the photographers who I have a tremendous amount of respect for:
I loved the images that came from the camera, I loved Zack’s review, but I had no interest in the camera because I was “an SLR guy”. The concept of a camera with only one focal length seemed completely foreign and limiting to me. Plus, all of those quirks that Zack mentioned seemed like a turn off.
…I think in reality the problem was that I still needed to grow as a photographer.
Fast forward a couple of years: Fuji announced the successor to the X100 in January 2013.
Around this time I was becoming complacent and bored as a photographer. I needed a change, and that change wasn’t gear based this time. I wanted to strip down to a bare minimum kit on the hopes that my creativity and love of photography would be rekindled.
When the Fuji X100s dropped Zack Arias blogged about it like he did with the X100:
And, so did David Hobby (The Strobist):
This time, however, I read with interest and started spending an inappropriate amount of time with Google. My wife would say I was obsessed. There is a saying that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear…. maybe I was finally ready for the Fuji X100 series. I found article after article praising this little camera and its ability to keep up with professional DSLR gear. I got excited.
These videos were especially influential on me:
Here were industry leaders, respected professional DSLR shooters, who had all made the switch and were not only happy, but excited and inspired.
After much debate I took the plunge and purchased my X100s very close to its launchd date, thinking it would just be a smaller, carry anywhere camera to go as a companion to my SLR gear.
… I couldn’t have been more wrong. From the moment it arrived my SLR gear sat in the closet gathering dust.
About the Fuji X100s:
Let’s start with a few of the facts, straight from Fuji’s website:
- 16.3 million pixels
- 23.6mm x 15.8mm APS-C X-Trans CMOS II Sensor
- Fujinon 23mm (35mm equivalent) F2 lens
- F/2 to F/16 aperture (adjustable in 1/3 EV steps)
- ISO range from 100 to 25,600
- 6 fps continuous shooting
- Hybrid viewfinder (optical and electronic)
What does that really mean? It means that you get a DSLR size sensor in a tiny rangefinder sized body. It means that you get cutting edge sensor technology, capable of producing clean images at ISO 3200. It means that the size of your camera no longer dictates the quality of your sensor, and therefore your image quality.
This image was taken at Disneyland, on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, from a moving boat, in the dark:
(Click to view higher quality)
Is it perfect? Nope. Is the quality amazing considering it was shot handheld from a moving boat at ISO 6400? I truly think it is. The X-Trans sensor is incredible.
How I use my Fuji X100 series cameras:
The Fuji X100s became my “everywhere with me” camera. Because of this I tended to shoot a lot of things I never used to. Street Photography became a huge part of my life…. there is very little in life now (besides my family of course) that satisfies me more than wandering around a city for a few hours/days with this little camera and just letting the day unfold: Capturing scenes, meeting people, documenting life.
For street photography with the Fuji X100 series (and for general usage) I tend to go with the following settings:
- Aperture Priority Mode, with the Aperture usually around f/8 depending on the amount of light.
- Auto ISO, with a maximum ISO of 3200 and a minimum shutter speed of 1/125th (or 1/60th depending on light).
- autofocus assist light off / volume down or off.
This allows me to focus more on being with people and on composition, allows me to not worry about my camera settings (I’m letting the camera drive to some extent), while at the same time making the camera as discreet as possible. When shooting street this allows me to easily capture images like these:
The only time I really deviate from these settings is if I am doing environmental portraiture with it, or if I am shooting cityscapes or long exposure landscapes. For these situations I switch to manual mode and do the driving myself.
Take this photo, for example:
This was shot in bright sunshine, a few hours before sunset. The background is underexposed to bring it down a little and add a little more drama to the image, and the subject is lit with off camera flash. Shooting in manual mode I set the ISO and desired aperture first, then dialled in a shutter speed that underexposed the background by a stop or two. I believe this photo was taken at 1/500th…. this made possible by the leaf shutter in the camera. I have shot flash photography with the Fuji X100s before at 1/2000th of a second, something not possible at all with today’s DSLR (not counting high speed sync).
And of course for landscapes and cityscapes manual is also the way to go:
When I am enjoying a quiet sunset on vacation with my daughter, Fuji X100 series cameras allows me to quietly capture something like this:
To capture these images with a tiny little rangefinder-esque camera, instead of a backpack full of gear, is liberating.
Bling. You gotta have the bling…
Out of the box the Fuji X100s was amazing, but there were a few things that completed the experience for me:
The first thing I did was to buy a Lensmate Thumbrest for the camera:
The camera alone feels fairly good to grip, but it isn’t like the grip of an SLR body. Adding a thumb rest to the Fuji X100s makes it rest in your hand perfectly. The thumb rest was overpriced in my opinion, but not when weighed against the way it improves the user experience.
The LensMate Thumbrest is available from:
Next up, a Black Rapid sling strap:
(Product photo from www.amazon.com)
Black Rapid sling straps are the perfect accessory for long days of shooting. When not in use the camera hangs comfortably at your side. This is great not just for functionality and comfort, but when street shooting the camera isn’t seen until the shot is being taken. When you want to take the shot the camera just glides up to your eye then back down again. Perfect and unobtrusive.
More information on Black Rapid straps can be found here:
Also important in my opinion, a lens hood with filter:
(Product photo from http://fujifilm-x100.com)
Fuji really should include the filter adapter and lens hood with the camera. Alas, they don’t, and they also charge far too much money for their hood in many people’s opinion. There are, however, many inexpensive third party lens hoods.
By covering the lens with a quality 49mm UV filter, and then covering that with the lens hood, you have 24/7 protection for the front element of your camera’s lens but don’t have the hassle of the lens cap when you want to shoot.
Finally, the batteries can be a source of frustration for those used to a single DSLR battery lasting all day long. The Fuji X100 series uses smaller batteries than your typical DSLR, meaning you will be changing them more often. Having an extra charger and battery make life much easier when out shooting for the day. On a full day I usually go through three batteries.
The next 18 months:
Despite having a full kit that includes a Fuji XT-1 and a compliment of lenses, my Fuji X100s became my go to camera unless the other gear was needed.
I developed a love of shooting cityscapes, stitching frames from the X100s together when needed:
I loved showing up on a scene with this beautiful little camera and a small travel tripod, seeing someone beside me with a backpack full of gear, and still being able to make an image like the one above.
I shot prolifically for the next 18 months, with far too many pictures to post. For example, here is a week I spent shooting in San Francisco with nothing but the Fuji X100s:
At no time did I feel the need for another camera. Photographically speaking I was in love.
Enter the Fuji X100t:
- Advanced hybrid viewfinder
- Real time parallax correction in the optical viewfinder
- An optional electronic shutter that allows for silent operation and a max shutter speed of 1/32,000.
- An upgraded 3.0″, 1040K-dot LCD screen
- A new film simulation called “Classic Chrome”
- A wider range on the EC dial (+- 3 EV exposure compensation)
- Huge control over customizing the user interface (7 programmable buttons, customizable Q button, etc)
Zack Arias, on his site Dedpxl, had this to say about his experience with a pre-production model:
Kevin Mullins had this to say from his time with a pre-production model:
Bert Stephani did this video review:
And, even the crazy kids over at Digital Rev got in on the action:
The X100t was an evolutionary upgrade (rather than a revolutionary one) but I thought, “Fuji has finally done it. Only three generations in an they’ve perfected the X100 series!”
As you can tell from the writings above I loved my X100s, and honestly didn’t think I would upgrade so soon despite how great the new X100t looked. I did love the idea of a far better LCD and viewfinder, the silent shutter was an attractive upgrade, and the look of Classic Chrome is beautiful. Despite these things, however, I was content with my X100s.
Then, in a strange series of coincidences, I had a very generous offer on my X100s, I made a little bit of extra money from a client I work for, and found a slightly discounted price on the X100t. All of a sudden I could upgrade with almost no out of pocket costs.
And, for some street photography in Waikiki:
Since then I have carried it everywhere. I’ve often been able to stop in the early mornings and spend 10-15 minutes grabbing moments like these:
The bottom line: The Fuji X100t is more responsive, more user friendly, and to be honest I cannot imagine this series getting any better.
Are there any downsides to the Fuji x100 series cameras?
For me no, for others maybe?
These aren’t cameras that you can just turn on and use. People have said they are a photographer’s camera, and I agree with that statement. Time is needed to really learn the Fuji X100 series. Some people may also find the lack of telephoto a limitation.
I can’t give these cameras enough credit for the impact they have had on my photographic life. I am inspired, and the one thing I thought would be the biggest barrier (a single, fixed, 35mm lens) has turned out to be one of its greatest assets. The fixed lens has done two things for me: It has removed one variable from the process of making an image (focal length), and it has forced me to slow down and THINK about my photography more. I know my images are better for it.
I also need to thank those who take the time to educate budding photographers like myself. We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us, and I am eternally grateful.
Oh, and my Nikon Gear? Sold it all a long time ago.