X-100 Back To Basics, Just What A Camera Should Be
After all the hype surrounding the X-100, I finally took the plunge and bought one. I have always wanted a nice compact camera that has first class image quality, and could be taken anywhere without all the baggage associated with a DSLR. Prior to this, other compact cameras such as the Canon G series, (of which I think quite highly) have always had to compromise image quality, especially at high ISO, as a consequence of using a small sensor. About the only other camera that could be classed as 'compact' is my Olympus EP1 with its 17mm pancake lens. This latter camera certainly 'ticks all the boxes' bar one - lack of a viewfinder. The LCD is largely washed out in bright sunlight making accurate composition difficult. Much has been said about the 'quirky' user interface of the Fuji, and some of it is true, but in my opinion I think some of the criticism is somewhat severe. I have had several Fuji cameras, and all their user interfaces were quirky and simply represents Fuji's approach. My old S-9600 was an example, but you get used to it if you read the manual and play with it, and the X-100 is no different, and indeed I can detect more than a hint of the S-9600 in its operation. Some have also criticised the manual focus as being unusable, and I have to disagree, I find it perfectly usable. I accept that it is not as rapid as a true manual lens, but it does allow very precise focusing particularly when using the magnified image feature. Similarly, I do not find the manual focus switch on the side to be difficult to use, mine is quite positive, with a good detent in each of its positions, such that it has never yet slipped out of its assigned position. Equally, others have complained that the exposure compesnation knob is too easy to accidentally move. Again, I have never experienced this, mine has a nice positive detent, and has never accidentally moved.
So, is this a revival, in digital form, of the classic range-finder cameras of the 60s, 70s and 80s? Cameras such as the Canon Canonet or the Yashica Minister D? That depends upon your point of view. It is certainly styled after these classics, and indeed I think most would agree that it is a beautiful camera, which simply invites you to pick it up and use it. However for those yearning for the simplicity of these classic cameras, then this may not be for you. Equally, this niche camera may well have only limited appeal to those spoiled by the ready availability of variable focal length compact cameras and DSLRs - times have moved on, and whereas the classic range-finder cameras were of fixed focal length for a reason, that reason has now largely gone, and excellent zoom lens are now available whose image quality is very good. Even so, it is still true that all other things being equal, a prime lens will produce a sharper image than its varifocal sibling, especially in this case where the sensor and the lens have been carefully designed to complement each other. So, for those of us who did our photographic apprenticeship with a classic fixed focal length range-finder camera, then the X-100 could well be the 'tool of choice'. Its 35mm (equivalent) focal length is just about optimum for my needs, and as I am primarily interested in landscapes, the excellent images produced by this sensor/lens combination is a big plus. Moreover, it is a fast lens as well, at f/2 which means that macro shots with a lovely soft background are also readily achievable, especially with the inclusion of the ND filter. The large sensor means that noise is essentially of little concern certainly over the range of speed from ISO200 to ISO1000, and even at higher speeds it is not really too intrusive. Furthermore, unlike many other cameras, the amount of noise processing performed in-camera is under user control as well.
The hybrid viewfinder is a real joy, and gives possibly the best of all worlds. Overall therefore I find myself really liking this instrument, and well pleased with its performance, the image quality, as well as the superb build quality.
All is not perfect, nothing ever is, and there have certainly been problems with early models with the dreaded Sticking Aperture Blades, which, to be fair, Fuji have quickly fixed, but it still remains to be seen whether the latest version is free of this problem.
So, is it for you? Can you live with a 35mm equivalent fixed-focal length lens? Can you take the time to really learn the user interface rather than wishing it were a Canon, or Nikon, or Olympus instead? If you are used to all the advantages of interchangeable lens and zoom lens, then this camera will likely frustrate you as it demands that you approach photography from a different direction. In addition, this is not an inexpensive camera, you can get a very well specified DSLR/Lens combo for this price, and, if you go to a mirror-less system, one that is equally portable. But, if you are prepared to approach this camera's capabilities and work with them rather than pining for something else, then it will reward you with some absolutely superb images. For me, it is definitely a love affair.
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