Fuji X100 Real World Review
Not Technical Stuff – Just My Opinions on the Fuji X100 – And a Crap Load of Images
Okay, I admit it, I’m a late adopter. I resisted as long as I could. A fixed lens you say? And a 23mm at that. No thank you! I won’t spend my money on that. And besides, I tried it out before it was even available at WPPI in 2011 and it was kind of quirky and hard to understand how to use. Oh boy…..did I have it all wrong.
This could be the perfect family photography camera, if you are a camera enthusiast or a gear head. Read on to find out more…..
About My Review
What you’ll find here are my opinions about the Fuji X100 retro mirrorless camera. They are my opinions and mine alone from my experience shooting with my own Fuji X100. I’m not sponsored by anyone and paid my own money for the little beast. There are no test charts, nor technical jargon here. If that’s what your looking for you can find that here. What you will find here is my user experience and more than 50 real world images I shot using my Fuji X100. Truth is, I resisted buying the camera as long as I could. In fact I loathed it for a while. That is….before i started using it. In the beginning at its release in the market place, it was plagued with a bunch of software and menu glitches. But Fuji listened up and fixed its ills.
Photographed with my iPhone 4s. Pictured above: My Fuji X100 all pimped out.
About the Images
All images in this post are from the Fuji X100, shot Jpeg. That’s right Jpeg. It’s from the first few weeks that I had the camera and was still figuring it out. All the images were imported into Lightroom and tweaked ever so slightly. Most with just adding a few points of black and a minor plus or minus 10% exposure and a few adjusted for contrast and a few [5 or so images] just a smidge, 5-10% of sharpening using the clarity slider in Lightroom. That’s it. The majority of the images are shot wide open at f2.0, a few at f4.0 and a few at f5.6, f8 and f11 . You can probably tell from the DOF [depth of field, which ones are wide open].
The Fuji X100 – Finding a New Joy in Photography
To understand how to use the camera I needed to READ THE MANUAL, which for the most part is well written. My purchase was made during early May, 2012. A used, minty, demo body from Adorama in NYC. I paid less than $1000 and pimped it out with a red boop by Match Technical, and a Artisan and Artist red silk strap, purchased both from Dale Photo & Digital. Each of them riduclously expensive but totally handmade and ridiculously cool. I also sprung for the Fuji lens shade [stupid expensive – come on Fuji!], although, it has a cool factor of +1,000%. By the time I purchased this little beastie all the kinks had been worked out through a quick response from Fuji, with firmware upgrades implemented by listening to user feed back. Good on you Fuji. Transitioning from a pro level Canon EOS 1D Mark III titanium body that weighs in at a few pounds, and typically carrying around a 50mm 1.2 L, and a 70-200mm f2.8 IS L at a minimum, to a feather light wunder-kamera is in a word liberating. The Fuji X100 is a take it any where camera. It is so light, and agile that if its hanging around your neck or from your shoulder, you won’t even notice that its there. I found myself walking around in awe of how feather light it was, how easy it was to use, and how amazing the captures looked on the crisp LCD. It was simply a pure joy to use and a rediscovery of how joyful photograph was for me when I fist started. I felt like a photo virgin again! Using the Fuji X100 put the FUN back in personal photography for me.
Fuji X100 Performance
Okay, so how does this retro camera perform? In a word, awesome. Mind blowing awesome. The lens is razor sharp and images are sharp edge to edge, even wide open at f2.0 with no vignetting, I keep it set on Auto ISO and shoot it primarily in AV [aperture value] mode. I really enjoy the manual controls: To wit the clickable F Stop bezel on the lens that is controlled with my left thumb and index finger, and the fact that the lens is an actual leaf shutter lens that makes this camera pin drop quiet. The other manual control that I tend to ride is the +/- Exposure control dial on the top right of the camera, easily accessible also with my right thumb. The EVF [electronic viewfinder] is the only lag point/niggle I can find in this camera. You have the option of using no EVF and just using the OVF [optical viewfinder] which sees approximately what the lens is seeing with no electronic interface or even composing your images on the large LCD screen on the back of the camera. I really appreciate the tricked out sensor near the eye piece that automatically switches over from the LCD to EVF or OVF depending on how you have your camera set up. However, I’m a EVF or OFV kind of shooter. Just don’t like composing an image off the back of the screen. So the only niggle I can find with the Fuji X100 is the the refresh rate on the EVF sometimes lags. It just about real time, but the refresh rate lag sometimes just throws my off my shooting game a bit. The other very minor thing is that when shooting in bright sunlight [I live in Southern California and our days are mighty bright] with the lens wide open at f2.0 the captures tend to get completely over exposed to the point of being a white out. Stopping down to f4.0 cures this immediately. Due to its diminutive foot print and the fact that it fist nicely in the palm of my hand it is possible to hand hold the little beast at slow shutter speeds like a 1/15 and get tack sharp images even wide open at f2.0 as evidenced below in photos [you’ll see ISO, shutter speed and aperture info under some of the captures].
The EVF Overlay
Hands down my favorite aspect of the X100 is the EVF overlay. Looking through the bright, sharp and clean EVF on the X100 I feel like a “Universal Solider.” The graphic overlay of the EVF is so 21st century and one of the best out there. A few of my favorite features are: a grid for composing, an electronic level, a real time histrogram, real time WISYWIG exposrue, exposure compensation scale and f-stop read out. If you really trust yourself just turn off the EVF and shoot in OVF mode and the refresh rate lag is no more.
ISO 200, 1/480 sec , f/2.0
The other super cool thing about the Fuji X100 is that it has such a low profile and is such a darned unassuming a camera, it looks like a point and shoot and is not the least bit intimidating. The shutter is silent. Shhhhh…..can you hear that? No you can’t! Its quieter than a Leica which is pretty darn quiet. Thing is the Fuji X100 is the furthest thing from a point and shot. And if it were a point and shoot it would be a Schwarzengger on roids kind of point and shoot. The Fuji is as stealthy as they come, yet it is completely tweakable from full auto to a full manual camera, with all the machination and control that a professional level photographer desires. Can you tell I really dig this thing?
The Fuji X100 preforms remarkably well under almost all light conditions. I leave it set to Auto WB all the time. Beautiful skin tones and natural pleasing vivid colors where vivid colors should be. Food looks real, landscapes look fabulous. For me the color looks a bit understated and I like that particular color palette fingerprint for this camera.
Real World Fuji X100 Images
I can add a thousand adjectives and 20,000 more words to this post about how this camera is amazing and what it is capable of, but the proof is in the images. So I’ve included over 50 images from hand held self portraits, photo walk abouts around my hood, to planes and vintage automobiles, fresh produce from farmers markets, a few portraits and even hot air ballooning, all shot at different apertures, ISO’s and in different lighting conditions. Fact is you can’t fake sharpness by just increasing the digits on the clarity slider in Lightroom. The color is SOC [straight out of camera]. Everything is shot under ambient lighting conditions, hand held. Even the higher ISO images look fab.
ISO 400, 1/30 sec , f/2.0
ISO 200, 1/120 sec , f/5.6
ISO 200, 1/100 sec , f/2.0
ISO 200, 1/200 sec , f/2.0
ISO 200, 1/1200 sec , f/2.8
Yes, its and Edsel.
ISO 200, 1/110 sec , f/2.0
ISO 200, 1/75 sec , f/4.0
ISO 200, 1/55 sec , f/2.0
Shot this ceremony detail at a wedding I was attending, as a guest. With all this beautiful sunlight, I was shocked the hired photographers were using flash. With a fixed 23 mm, it is possible to use the Fuji professionally at a wedding, but I’d use it in conjunction with my other new mirrorless camera. The amazing Olympus O-MD E-M5, which I’ll be reviewing in a subsequent post.
ISO 1000, 1/15 sec , f/2.0
Shot this detail at a wedding I was attending, as a guest.
Great natural looking skin tones even under fluorescent lights. Thank you Fuji Auto WB.
Above: The Cheese Shop at the O.C. Collective a.ka. OC Mart Mix. Amazing selection of artisan cheeses, pricey but worth it. Top, top quality international selection of cheeses purveyed by a knowledgable staff.
ISO 200, 1/180 sec , f/2.0
I tweaked the exposure compensation minus 1.5 – 2 stops on this exposure at the counter of Portolla CoffeeLab for the tungsten lights under the coffee boilers to knock out some of the ambient light.
Crazy, stupid delicious delicious Strawberry Rhubarb pie at Bread and Cie in Hillcrest, San Diego
ISO 200, 1/80 sec , f/8.0
You can see from the photo above of my good friend and amazing portrait photographer Kevin Connors that it’s dark outside. The image above was shot under fluorescent light, great color right out of the box! Due to the large aperture 2.0, Auto ISO kicked in at 200. And because the camera is so light and well balanced its easy to hand hold at 1/25 sec and produce a crystal clear image. And remember its a mirrorless camera, so there is no mirror flipping up and causing vibrations, which at slower shutter speeds can introduce camera shake and lead to image blur. Tech data: ISO 200, 1/25 sec , f/2.0.
ISO 2000, 1/15 sec , f/5.6
ISO 200, 1/145 sec , f/8.0 Inside a hot air balloon as its being inflated.
ISO 200, 1/350 sec , f/11
Will this replace my DSLR [digital single lens reflex], is it a DSLR Killer? Well, yes and no. Just to give you an idea. I’ll be traveling in Paris for 2 weeks, then a week in NYC in the Fall. I’m only bringing two camera bodies with me. My pimped out Fuji X100 and my Olympus O-MD E-M5. They both fit in an unobtrusive shoulder bag and are welcomed travel buddies. You’ll need a few things to dial in your mirrorless systems for days of travel and street shooting, so I purchased several extra batteris and charges for each body. For the Fuji I’ve purchased two extra batteries, and will likely purchase two more for my Euro trip. Its also wise to invest in blazing fast SD cards so that you are not stuck in buffer land waiting for your images to load on your card. I’m using Lexar Professional 400x 16 GB SDHC UHS-I Card 2-Pack LSD16GCTBNA4002. I bought 2-2 packs from Amazon dot com. Each card holds over 2k jpegs and I’m guessing about 800+ or so RAW images.
Will I use my Fuji X100 professionally for paid gigs? Yes sometimes. But it will simply supplement my pro Canon gear. I’m so used to shooting my Canon gear [over 12 years now] and its lighting fast and an extension of my eye and hands. And for my line of work, I need fast.
p.s. This is the perfect family vacation camera for a camera enthusiast, or, if you are a bit of a gear head and in the market for a little beastie mirrorless camera. But be warned, that it definitely takes a bit of a learning curve to get really comfortable with the Fuji X100. If you are not tech savvy at all and don’t know an F-Stop from a door stop then I would steer clear of this camera and get a point and shoot or stick to the iPhone 4S’s amazing camera. I made myself go out and shoot with it, for a few days, which was a total pleasure. But that blind dating was much needed to get comfortable with the camera and make it one of my BFF’s and trusted travel companions.
Marc Weisberg is an award winning photographer and Sony Artist of Imagery based in Irvine, California. Specializing in Luxury Architecture & Real Estate Photography, Food + Wine Photography, and Weddings & Family Photography, he’s easy to work with and produces clean, crisp, and technically flawless images. Marc’s photography is published internationally in over a dozen books and magazines. You can contact Marc by phone at 949.494.5084…. or email.