Enclosed: one Fuji x100s review

Started May 3, 2013 | User reviews thread
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motobloat
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Enclosed: one Fuji x100s review
May 3, 2013

My Fuji X100s after two weeks of use, shown with Fuji LC-X100s case (yes, it's better than the old case, it has a battery door flap) and strap, as well as Match Technical "bop" black shutter button.

Soooo... I've had this thing for two weeks now - got it on Friday April 19th, and today is Friday May 5th. I've clicked the shutter over 1000 times now, so I guess that makes me a frickin' expert, right? Right. If you want to pixel-peep, like a miserable little measle, (or just to get detailed specifications) then go to the DP Review preview article. There is also a great collection of X100s reviews maintained by forum member wosim with lots more samples, from a lot better photographers than me.

Annnddd... since no one reads anything anymore (also: get off my lawn, you kids) and just skips to the conclusion in the official DPR reviews, that's what I'm going to start with:

Look at that image quality. It's got so much... quality! Yeah!  And...

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Conclusion - Pros

  • State of the art sensor with good resolution, dynamic range, color rendition, and high-ISO performance.  Much has been written about this in DPreview's X-Pro1 review.
  • Fantastic ability to lift shadows in RAW files without introducing much noise. Go X-trans!
  • Very good lens with relatively wide f/2 maximum aperture, few chromatic aberrations, minimal distortion, low vignetting, and decent close-focusing ability (closer than the x100 too).  See DPreview's X100 review for details.
  • Lens sharpness is good at f/2 (as long as you're not in Macro mode), very good at f/2.8, and excellent from f/4 to about f/11, where diffraction starts to kick in
  • Solid manual focus system with good control ring, with optional focusing aids including focus peaking and split image views (which, unfortunately, you'll need if you plan to use this thin anywhere but the Mojave desert at high noon on a cloudless day. OK OK it's not that bad.)
  • Laudable set of improvements over the x100 - unlike most other camera manufacturer's, Fuji actually listens to its customers - how about that? (Unlike those beef-witted barnacles Canon and Nikon... ugh.)
  • Leaf shutter yields high flash sync speeds (good for studio and portrait work) and almost silent operation - good for those lewdsters who like to sneak candid pictures
  • Built-in ND filter allows for the use of wide apertures in bright light
  • Fancy viewfinder with electronic and optical options, and good parallax correction for both the AF frame and the image frame, and it's not a $500 optional accessory (I'm looking at you, Sony)
  • Small physical size for an APS-C sized sensor camera (compared to a DSLRs anyway)
  • Solid build quality - metal and high-quality plastics
  • Good ergonomics - only a few handling issues, most of which are minor. Q menu is great and all, but the options are really only relevant to JPEG shooters.
  • Stylish design - it's a good looking machine - you'll get compliments, and all the talentless, mewling hipsters will love you. (Until they find out it's not actually a film camera from the cold war era, and then they will scoff. Loudly).
  • A range of accessories from Fuji are available. No that's not the right word. What did I mean to say? Oh yeah. "Out of stock." C'mon. Let's ramp up production Fuji. Seriously. I had to order from five different vendors and drive three hours just to get my hands on my full X100s kit. And I don't even have the lens hood yet!

This was the first shot I took with the X100s.  Actually the second.  The first had the same framing, but the camera missed the focus and I got the red "AF error" box.  A telltale sign of things to come.

.

Conclusion - Cons

  • Autofocus
  • Slow and often inaccurate autofocus in dim light and tungsten light. Although autofocus is much better than the x100 was at first release, it is still not up to the capabilities of a good, or even inexpensive, DLSR. A top of the line SLR will AF so hard, it will make the Fuji look like a fen-sucked foot-licker by comparison. 
  • If you want to take pictures of you kids and pets running around, well, be prepared to either: miss the focus a lot; learn to manually focus very, very fast; shoot at f/16 with MF; or tranq out your dogs and kids to get them to slow down.
  • Autofocus occasionally misses even in bright light ("AF error"). Only a wizard's ghost's palm-reader's uncle knows why this happens.
  • AF is much slower in macro mode.
  • Lens
  • The lens gets very soft at close focus and wide apertures - even more noticeable on x100s than on the x100 due to the improved close focus. f/2 is awful, f/2.8 is OK, and then somehow the lens improves dramatically by f/4 so from f/4 on up you're good to go in macro mode at the minimum focus distance. (The good thing here is that only a moldy malt-worm would want to shoot macro at f/2 anyway (since the depth of field is only about as thick as a sheet of paper, something that malt-worms love to chew on btw)).
  • That 1/4000 max shutter only works at f/8.  It's 1/2000 max at f/4 and 1/1000 max at f/2.
  • Metering
  • Strong tendency to clip highlights in JPEG mode
  • Difficulty holding highlights from clipping even in RAW and even in expanded dynamic range modes, primarily skies in high-contrast landscape scenes (other current APS-C DSLRs do a better job here).  Expanded dynamic range modes raise minimum ISO, so they have their drawbacks.
  • Occasional total metering failures - still not as good as Nikon / Canon SLR metering (sorry Fujifans)
  • The whole "Fuji Blues" thing... the wild dreams of a fool-borne gudgeon. It's just the camera missing the white balance to the blue side. Which it does. Often. Indoors and outdoors. I have to correct the auto white balance more often with this camera than any of my past Nikon or Sony DSLRs. Even my Canon Powershot does a better job. Which is why we shoot in RAW, right class? ("No teacher, that's why you use manual white balance." "Shut up, smarty-pants!")
  • ISO and Noise
  • No true ISO 100 - sensor's base is 200
  • No ISO 100, 12800 or 25600 in RAW mode (I can understand the reason for excluding ISO 100, because you need to post process it in camera and it's not a "real" ISO, but why exclude the higher ISOs? Feeling embarrassed that your grain is showing?)
  • Cannot completely turn off noise reduction, and it's baked into the RAW file. (Fuji, have you been hanging around with that beslubbering coxcomb Sony??? WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY can't I turn off noise reduction? Por quuueeeeee.......)
  • Battery life
  • Compared to an SLR, battery life is downright despicable (worthy only of a bootless skainsmate, really), especially with heavy screen use and OVF use. And it gets worse if you turn on "performance mode" in the menus (and how can you NOT turn that on, with a name like that). Then again, the battery is also half the size of an SLR's, so I guess that's the tradeoff.
  • Extra batteries are basically mandatory, adding to the cost of the camera (especially if you buy the $35 genuine Fuji batteries).
  • Plan on buying at least two extra batteries. Maybe three. No, four. Wait. My battery just died. I'll get back to you.
  • Handling
  • Q button is basically useless if you are shooting RAW, and is not configurable. Given this camera's tendency to blow highlights in JPEG mode, everyone should be shooting in RAW anyway, so basically, the Q menu is pointless for most of us.
  • Focus peaking has no color options, whites only (hey it's just like in Alabama, amiright? (C'mon guys, have a sense of humor! Guys?))
  • Exposure Comp dial does nothing at all when manual aperture and shutter speeds are selected, but auto-ISO is engaged (should be used to bias ISO)
  • No back-button autofocus option (AEL/AFL button should be programmable for this function)
  • Can't zoom to 100% on RAW files to check focus (in the camera anyway)
  • No RGB histogram (a minor issue, but still... c'mon)
  • Value
  • High cost of accessories ($80 hood, $130 for the leather case, $35 batteries, $350 for the wide-angle lens, $120 for the microphone). Your camera may cost $1300, or over $2,000 by the time you're done outfitting it. $2000 buys a lot of camera gear in the APS-C DSLR world.
  • For APS-C sensors, there are a lot of options, and an inexpensive DSLR from Canon, Nikon, Sony, or Pentax will provide you with similar image quality, more features, and more flexibility for a lot less money.
  • You are paying a high price to look cool, just like with a Leica. You aren't getting pummeled with quite as big of a stick as the one Leica carries, but it's still not the best value in town.
  • Features
  • Lack of in-body image stabilization (could have been licensed from Sony a la Pentax and Olympus - it's 2013, I will hear none of your lumpish excuses and churlisms.)
  • Lack of wi-fi or bluetooth connectivity (there is eye-fi card support though)
  • Lack of any wireless flash system, and no Nikon/Canon wireless compatibility (and pocketwizards are only fast enough to a certain shutter speed, usually 1/640th to 1/800th depending on range). License it, or build your own, or at least give us CLS compatibility. I thought Fuji and Nikon were pals.
  • Lack of video features and functionality - included video features are very basic by today's standards, or even by standards 3 years ago.
  • Bracketed exposures are a max of +/- one stop, and only three images. Flash exposure compensation is limited as well. No white balance bracketing either.
  • Macro mode should really be a focus limiter switch on the camera body or the lens. It's not too hard to turn it on and off, and with the new split between regular shooting and macro mode being 20cm closer, you won't be using macro mode as often.

Macro mode at f/2.8 - very very close to the minimum focus distance - surprisingly usable! F/2 is another story.

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Overall Conclusion

The Fuji X100s is a photographer's camera. It's also a hipster's camera and a dentist's third or fourth camera that they never use. If you want value, this is not your camera. Get an APS-C DSLR - the companies that make them have competed away all their profit margins and you can get a really great, mature, feature-rich camera for a lot less than the X100s.

But your DSLR won't look like the X100s. It won't be silent like the X100s. It won't be as small, light, and portable as the X100s. It won't travel like the x100s. It won't shoot street photography like the X100s.

But, then again, you can say all that about the other large-sensor-but-small-body cameras out there right now. And there are a lot:

  • Canon (EOS M, 100D), Nikon (Coolpix A), Sony (NEX system, RX1), Olympus (EM5, PEN system), Panasonic (Lumix system), Sigma (DP Merrill), Pentax (K01) and Samsung (NX system) and a whole lot more (maybe Nikon 1 and the Sony RX100 even, but the sensors are pretty small). Plus there's always Leica (if you're a milk-livered millionaire anyway).

So what are we left with? Well, the Fuji X100s produces as-good-as, or better, images than the majority of those alternatives, and to my eye it's the best looking of the bunch. Add on top of that the most important things: good ergonomics and handling, a good sensor, and a good lens, and you've got a winner. For now.

This is a good camera. It takes good pictures. My friends like it. It looks cool. All the cool photographers (some of whom seem to spend more time writing about gear than taking photos) are raving about it. I guess I'd better like it. But is it a DSLR-killer? Hell no. (What are you, high?)  The Fuji Xpro2 or Xpro3 might get there, someday, and until then, I'm waiting in the wings.

Blowing out the sky, but then again, that's the SUN in the bottom center of the image there. Pretty good!

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(continued in replies to this first post, DPreview conveniently limits the number of images per post. If you're using threaded view in the forums, here are links: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)

motobloat's score
4.0
Average community score
4.2
bad for good for
Kids / pets
okay
Action / sports
acceptable
Landscapes / scenery
great
Portraits
okay
Low light (without flash)
good
Flash photography (social)
okay
Studio / still life
great
= community average
Fujifilm FinePix X100 Fujifilm X100S Fujifilm X-Pro1
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