DPReview Gear of the Year - Part 1: Fujifilm X100S
16MP sensor | 35mm (equiv.) F2 lens | Hybrid electronic/optical finder | DR expansion to 400%
Picking our favorite gear from among the great many new products announced every year is usually pretty tough, but this year, for me the choice was easy. The Fujifilm X100S is without doubt my favorite product of 2013.
Fujfilm X100S - What I love:
- 16MP X-TRANS sensor gives excellent image quality - virtually noiseless JPEGs up to ISO 3200.
- 35mm (equivalent) F2 lens is sharp at all apertures and excellent for day-to-day photography.
- Built-in Hybrid electronic / optical finder is luxurious and addictively useful.
- Manual aperture, shutter and exposure compensation dials look classy, and are great to use.
- On-sensor phase-detection AF means fast, accurate focus in most conditions.
- Focus peaking and 'Digital Split Image' MF guides make manual focus easy.
Reviewing the Fujifilm X100S was a great lesson for me in what I should and shouldn't try to take on. At first it seemed entirely feasible - it's not like I haven't reviewed a camera before, and I know its predecessor the X100 very well, so yeah - sure. I'll review it. I'll have it done in a month. No big deal.
That was the pride. The inevitable 'fall' came as days became weeks and weeks became months, and every week I struggled to devote more than a few hours to the review. I don't know exactly how long I was working on the X100S and I can't bring myself to work it out, but I do know that it was longer than I've ever spent with a single camera since I joined DPReview. But although the process of creating the review was incredibly frustrating, I enjoyed every minute I spent with the camera.
The X100S builds upon the strengths of its predecessor in some smart and valuable ways. It handles better, it starts up quicker, it has a more sensible menu system, it focuses faster, and the hybrid viewfinder has a higher-resolution electronic view. Resolution went from 12MP in the X100 to 16MP, and although the real-world impact of this bump is relatively small, the X100S's new X-TRANS sensor allows for hybrid on-sensor phase-detection autofocus, and also new manual focus aids - focus peaking and digital split image display. In my review I also highlighted the X100S's excellent, fast 35mm equivalent lens and its useful dynamic range expansion settings.
Meanwhile, all of the elements of the X100 that I really valued are either unchanged in the X100S or subtly improved. The final result is a thoroughly likable camera.
The X100S offers a beguiling combination of 'traditional' ergonomics and cutting-edge technology (especially when it comes to the finder) which, following my experience with the fascinating new Nikon Df I would definitely term as 'retro done right'.
Some people might find a focal length of 35mm limiting, but I love it, and find that it's a great focal length for general photography which matches my field of vision. And thanks to its near-silent shutter there's nothing to beat the X100S for candid portraiture, in my opinion.
When reviewers are working on a camera for DPReview, they are expected to live with the product for an extended period of time. It's like this scene from 'Full Metal Jacket', but with less shouting (usually). The average in-depth review of a major camera takes at least four weeks, and that's assuming that the reviewer isn't working on anything else at the same time. As a consequence, at the end of the process, there's not much we can't tell you about the product.
So in a sense, embarking on a review is rather like agreeing to travel around the world with someone you just met. At the end of the trip you might be best friends, or you might want to murder them but either way, you'll know their habits (good and bad) pretty well.
Needless to say, by the end of my X100S review I had truly fallen in love with the camera. It isn't the most innovative product I've seen this year, nor the most accomplished in terms of specifications, but it's the one that I've used most, and continue to carry with me almost everywhere I go. It takes great pictures, and damn, it looks good too.
This is part 1 in a series of articles where DPReview staff will be highlighting their personal standout products of the year.