Fuji X100s, Quick Review

May 16, 2013 · 5 comments

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I bought a Fuji X100s after what feels like years of research and thinking about what I really was looking for. It is not that I lack cameras. I have a few, but they are all DSLR, and for some reason I almost never use them outside my work as a full-time photographer. My family only gets the iPhone/Instagram treatment, and that is a bit sad. And boring for my kids later on.

My experiences from compact cameras are not the best. I tend to use them a bit and then put them somewhere, never really liking using them or the resulting photos. Most of the time they stay there until I have forgotten that I even own them. The problem is often that I compare them to my Nikon cameras in terms of speed and ease of use.

But now, only after a couple of days with my new Fuji X100s, I am finally happy with a smaller camera. Not that it is that small, but easier to hang on my shoulder and start using whenever I want to.

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Fuji X100s is not slow

As I said, I have compared the smaller cameras that I have owned to my Nikon DSLRs, and the big difference is always that it takes forever to start using them, not the DSLR that is. Starting them from off takes time, getting autofocus takes time, and taking a picture takes time. Not so fun when you have kids around you want to catch in the moment.

The X100s feels really quick starting and the autofocus is better than I had hoped for. Not that it isn’t without flaws, sometimes it locks on the background and sometimes it gives me a red AF! in the display that I can’t really understand. This early I write that off as me not having learned fully to use the camera as it should be used.

But in short, just being able to pick it up and taking a picture after a very short time feels good, it is still no DSLR, but that is ok. Using fast memory cards is a good thing to do, I tried it with an old SD card, and then it felt quite slow suddenly.

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Good auto-focus mostly

I have only been using AF-S and AF-C, not trying the different styles of manual focussing with different modes of checking focus. AF-S is quite fast, being able to lock onto most subjects with good or decent contrast, but might have problems sometimes. I haven’t figured out what makes it stop trying.

AF-C is good too, the example above is not the sharpest one I took that day, I got a lot that was very sharp panning his moves on the swing. It is more learning to use a smaller camera to pan than get the focus right.

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Easy to use different focus points

Having a good coverage of focus points is nice, and switching between them is also quickly done. It took me just seconds to learn how to do that, and now it is almost as automatic as when I use my Nikon cameras. Ok, sometime I press one button the wrong way and start changing the macro or flash settings, but it is easy enough.

There is a small problem, I think, with the optical viewfinder, and that is that the green rectangles for the focus point can sometimes be hard to see.

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Quite easy to hold with one hand

You can hold the Fuji X100s with one hand and still be able to brush the teeth on your son, but I would love to have a little better grip. They chose the retro style, ok. But adding a grip for the thumb or on the front would help a lot. I also bought the leather case, and with that on, you can get a little better grip near the lens.

I got a tip that you can buy some kind of grip on eBay that might help, but I haven’t tried it. It is a bit sad that this retro look gets in the way of handling. I find this design a bit silly, but the camera is still a very good camera. And it is easy enough to hold.

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Backlight and stuff like that

I haven’t peeped at all the pixels of the images I have taken, but it seems like there is no apparant problem of ugly pixels around silhouettes. And that is good. I like to blow out light backgrounds and let light seep into the rest of the photo. And this camera lets me do just that.

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Focus against the light

Using the camera this way, pointing at the brightest part of the room trying to focus on the little kid’s eye lashes was no problem. With a realtively small camera like this, it is also easy to help the AF by shielding the light from the lens just enough so it can focus and then take the picture. With a heavier and larger camera, not so fun.

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Develop photos in the camera

This might not be the biggest invention, but I think Fuji did this right. Developing a RAF-file in the camera is easy and fast, and the photo above compared to the one I spent a minute in Lightroom 4.4 is not that bad.

It is nice that I waited until they got it working in Camera Raw/Lightroom, using Fuji’s own software might produce great results, but I like having all my files in Lightroom. The same goes for Nikon files, I never use their ViewNX/CaptureNX anymore, the un-usability of their programs drives me insane.

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I just adjusted the colour of his helmet a bit, it is signal orange and hard to get right with almost any camera. And added a little saturation in the sky and the grass. Just being able to adjust photos a little and then send them to Facebook or somewhere else using some kind of card reader for my iPhone will be great.

The same goes for using this camera professionally later when I start working again can be very useful. This might be the first time I thought that having some kind of transfer function, WiFi-connection or something in the camera would be nice. But it certainly can be done by some other method. Eye-Fi cards maybe?

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Close-up and macro

There is a limit to how close you can focus, any closer and you will have to activate the macro function which uses a the other viewfinder, the electronic one. I must learn where that limit is, now I get close and suddenly it will not focus. But switching to macro is very quick, so it is more a matter of me learning, not the camera. I guess they didn’t want the camera to automatically switch to EVF from OVF, or something like that. I don’t know.

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What I like with the Fuji X100s

  • Easy to use
  • Easy to learn
  • Quick to start
  • Good AF
  • Really good RAW files
  • Nice skin tones
  • Good development module

What I haven’t really gotten used to, yet

The AF. I still don’t know if the focus is correct or not, even if it signals green. Switching to using only the EVF was a solution to the earlier X100 for some, might try that I while.

The active focus point. It might be that is is green, or the display that works better or dark than on bright images. Sometimes I have a hard time finding which focus point I am currently using.

The button. It is ok, but I have not the same feel for when I have focus locked and when I really press the shutter as I have on my DSLR’s.

The grip. They could have added a better grip, either on the back or the front. I am not worried about dropping the camera, it’s not like a slippery iPhone, but I am probably holding it tighter than I could have been with some more support.

The retro design. It is currently only available in silver, and I didn’t want to wait any longer for a good, compact camera. But I would prefer a black one, or something less designed in this silly style.

The battery. I have no problem inserting it the right way, but buying an extra battery was a good thing to buy from the start. You get a bit spoiled using, for example, a Nikon DSLR with countless of hours of use from just one battery. This drains faster.

Why did I buy this Fuji X100s?

I already own enough cameras, one might think, but what point is there having cameras if you never bring them with you. At least not on vacations and in your daily life apart from working as a photographer.

As I mentioned, I have never liked the smaller cameras I have used before. Not the handling and seldom the resulting photos. This camera is easy to use, it is fast enought for documenting my kids that never rest and the files are really good to work with. With all that, I have a camera that I can hang on my shoulder and bring everywhere.

This, also a bit silly, very useful leather case I bought together with the camera adds to the usefulness of the camera in many ways. It improves the grip a bit, unintentional, and makes it easy to have the camera hanging, protected, when helping one of the twins getting over a small obstacle. With a heavy DSLR on my shoulder, I am always worried it might slip and hit them on the head, or fall to the ground and break.

Primarily I will be using this instead of my iPhone that has been documenting the life of my family for too long. Making albums from Instagram-photos might not be the albums you really wanted to have as a memory of a time running away very fast. And I will get out of this trap that is very easy to get into, that you only bring your big expensive camera to big occasions, the normal day goes unnoticed.

And maybe the best part, I don’t have to chose between lenses, this one is fixed. I just have to use my creativity to get the most out of it. Not to pack more lenses.

As a professional photographer, I think I will have this in my camera bag on all assignments. Probably using it a lot, too.

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Sunrise in Collioure — Stefan Tell, Sweden
July 26, 2013 at 09:51
Speedlight & stroller umbrella — Stefan Tell, Sweden
August 27, 2013 at 21:35

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 dslr photography August 2, 2013 at 04:47

Came across your publish on DSLR Photography and considered it shared some very valuable insight on this topic.
What ever your experience with digital photography there is anything for every person
to get away from this post. Thank you very significantly and
I search forward to your subsequent post

2 Martin Kaufmann September 5, 2013 at 11:45

Hi Stefan,

Thank you for the quick review of the Fuji camera. How is it going now with the camera… are you still using it a lot and can you recommend it as a second camera?

Just interested in hearing how useful you find it now, a couple of months later.

All the best,
Martin

3 Stefan Tell September 5, 2013 at 13:55

Yes I do. And yes I am.
Very pleased, in fact. I have never owned a non-DSLR that I have used this much (mostly outside work so far, but also on assignments).

I should think it through and do a follow-up with just that focus, thanks for reminding me.

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