Fujifilm X100s: The Best Damn Camera I’ve Ever Owned

X100s

It seems somehow wrong to say that something as silly as a piece of gear made me love photography in a completely new way, but the Fujifilm X100s did just that. I wasn’t able to get my hands on one before leaving for Bangkok, but when I learned that AV Camera had this guy in stock for cheaper than I would have paid in Canada, I took a trip over there and made the decision to wreck my budget by buying this little life-saver. It was so hot in Bangkok at that time of year, that I was finding it extremely difficult to hump my SLR and associated junk around town with it. The SLR felt obnoxious and intrusive, and the bag required to carry everything left me sweaty and exhausted. Switching to the X100s for my street photography gave me the opportunity to move freely and without burden, and to shoot in conditions that my D300 just couldn’t handle. I’m talking handheld ISO 5000 ƒ/2 at 1/60s after the sun has set. And the images at that ISO are GOOD. Not amazing, but completely useable for printing full page in most magazines or displaying on any website.

What really got me was the fixed 35mm lens. I was very close to buying the Olympus O-MD E-M5, but I just didn’t want to deal with interchangeable lenses. I wanted simple, and the X100s delivers that in spades.

The Great

The X100s just feels good in my hand. The dials and buttons all make sense and are easy enough to access, and I LOVE the manual aperture ring. I was shooting almost entirely with the OFV (Optical Viewfinder), but lately I’m using the EFV (Electronic Viewfinder) to get a better idea of what how my settings are going to handle the scene. I have image review turned off, and I try not to spend too much time chimping playback. The high ISO performance lets me shoot late into the evening without having to resort to a flash or tripod, and the leaf shutter means I can sync way the hell over 1/200s when I pair with my Elinchrom Quadras. The camera is light, low-key, quiet as a whisper, and just super fun to use. I find people aren’t nearly as intimidated by the X100s as they are when I’m shoving my D300 with battery grip and 24-70mm ƒ/2.8 in their face.

I almost forgot the built-in 3 stop neutral density filter. I’ve remapped my Function button to engage the ND filter, and I use it all the time to shoot wide open apertures in bright conditions.

The Not So Great

I struggle with the minimum focusing distance when using the OVF (50cm). I’m aware of the manual focus AFL/AEL trick, but I’ve yet to switch over to it. I’m reasonably quick at switching over to Macro mode with out taking my eye away from the viewfinder, but that’s a pain in the ass for the distances I often shoot portraits at. I’ve blown focus on a few street portraits after I’ve asked someone if I could get in their face. Now that I’m working with the EVF more, this is much less of a problem as the minimum focusing distance is reduced to 21cm.

Other than that? Um… nothing to complain about. Some people have complained about the menus being confusing, but I found them completely intuitive. At $1,299 MSRP, It should really come with a filter adapter and lens hood.

Accessories

This camera really should come with a filter adapter and lens hood. The stock cap is good enough for casual use, but most people are concerned about losing it and having the front element exposed. Since I don’t want to have to send the whole camera in for a scratched lens, I knew I wanted a UV filter and hood so I could ditch the cap altogether. The problem is that the Fujifilm version is ridiculously expensive, and the aftermarket options just don’t look that great. After a lot of procrastination on ordering something, I finally found my solution in Camera Traders in Victoria, BC. In five minutes they’d knocked the glass out of a crappy old 49mm filter to use as a spacer, mounted a UV filter, and found me a Asahi Takumar lens hood from the 70s. Total cost? $20 instead of the $90+ I would have paid to buy branded, or the $60 to buy aftermarket. I’m still looking for a better strap, but the one I’m using now cost me all of $3 and is long enough that I can carry it across my body and still lift it quickly to grab a shot. The lens hood does get in the way of the OFV, but I find I’m working more with the EFV anyways.

Settings

As loathe as I was to switch over, I’m shooting almost exclusively in JPEG these days. I’ll switch over to RAW if something is really important, but after tweaking my presets to where I want them, I’m very happy with what I’m getting straight out of camera most of the time. I tend to leave the shutter speed set to A so I can run it in aperture priority mode, and I have no problems letting my ISO run up to 6400 when it needs to. The default ISO is down at 200 except where my C1 preset has it higher in order to run a constant Dynamic Range of 400. C1 is my low light and everyday setting, C2 is what I use when shooting nature on perfectly bright days, and C3 is for portraits and times when I want to play a little softer with my processing.

X100s Custom Settings

Images

Here’s a handful of X100s frames from the last few months. Click on an image to pull up the gallery. Basic EXIF is displayed, and I tried to include whatever post processing I’d done on any of the images. The shot of the soldier and the woods had dramatic work done, but the rest are quite close to how they were shot. Had I dialled in my presets when I shot those frames, I probably wouldn’t have need to fiddle with contrast adjustments after the fact.

These images are intended to represent a range of conditions where I would not have bothered taking my dSLR, or where my dSLR would have failed miserably without a tripod and stationary subjects. It is not a collection of my best photos, merely representative of my experience with the X100s.

21. October 2013 by Mark Feenstra
1890 words | Categories: Gear, Photography | Tags: , , , , | 20 comments

20 comments on “Fujifilm X100s: The Best Damn Camera I’ve Ever Owned

    Chris Lamb says:

    Just one addition – the 3rd party filter adapters and hoods (JJC made mine, I believe) and every bit as good as the Fuji versions I have used. They are metal and come in about £15-20 rather than the £70-80 for Fuji’s version. I agree, it really needs them and should be in the box when you buy the camera.

    Mark Feenstra says:

    Hey Chris, I was going to buy something like the JJC, but with shipping costs that was still going to run me $60 with a filter. I’ll probably still buy one down the road so I have something that doesn’t interfere with the OFV, and in that case I’ll definitely go with a 3rd party option.

    Simon says:

    Hey guys I grabbed a metal Clone from eBay for about $6 free postage. I would def do an eBay search, it is basically a great low cost alternative. Here is a vid of my setup with the hood attached. http://youtu.be/zuiIPkO1vYU

    Norbert says:

    I have a question to you: If you look at your own pictures you show in this blog do you see something special in them which would ask for a need of a camera like the X 100s?
    I’m sorry but I just see pictures which cold have been taken with any good compact camera which offers an open aperture and some low light abilities.
    The best damn camera probably doesn’t makes the best pictures if the photographer behind just focuses on technical features as such.
    Don’t get me wrong I don’t want to make you feel bad but to me your pictures are not more than average. Pictures you find in Millions on instagram and facebook.

    Alex says:

    The comment above is just rude. The guy said that’s the best camera he ever owned, he didn’t said the x100s is the best camera in the world. Where did the hate came from? Unbelievable!

    Nathan Jones says:

    I have the X100 and it is the best damn camera I have ever owned. Not because I believe it to be technically the best, or because I take fantastic shots with it, but because it makes me want to take pictures. The fact that is begs to be used makes it, for me, and I suspect for Mark, the best.

    Ian Docherty says:

    Norbert, you are clearly an accomplished photographer if your comment is anything go by. Nowhere does the originator say he ‘needs’ a camera this good but when did any of us ever let that stand in the way of our purchases. Not only that, this is a camera that will enable him to develop (pun intended) his photographic style and grow into what it is capable of. I am sure from your comments that you own a Leica M240 or something similar….after all, one of the the world’s best photographers must have one of the worlds best cameras. I don’t know how your crass comment went down with the originator, but if you post like that when you don’t want to make someone feel bad I would hate to be on the receiving end of a post when you do!! Keep up the good work and I look forward to seeing your next contribution in National Geographic.

    Norbert says:

    Well, first I asked a question to get his opinion and second I quoted my own opinion.
    I didn’t used any kind of bad word I just said average. So it’s neither exceptional good nor terrible bad. It’s just average. Whats wrong with that?
    I asked the question first so he has the chance to explain and start a discussion.
    From what can you learn the most? From your own mistakes and when you are open to critics from others. Would you prefer to get peoples real opinions or just nice saying so you can feel good? Do you prefer if people just click the “Like” button on your comments or do you prefer honest comments?
    At the end its just my opinion wheater you like or not. So no offence.

    And no I don’t own a Leica I have a Fujifilm Xe1.

    Mark Feenstra says:

    Hey Norbert (and others), you have a point in that these are relatively average images to some people. I really thought I’d included a line up there about how those examples were just to show the range of the camera in different conditions and environments, but I guess I left that out. I never intended for this post to be a shining example of the best the X100s was capable of, but more how it makes it fun for me to shoot in times when I wouldn’t normally lug my dSLR. Others were right to point out that I wrote this from the point of view that it’s the best camera I have ever owned, and not that anyone needs to buy it to do anything particularly special. Photography is entirely subjective, and you’re welcome to your opinion, but I don’t shoot for you or other random people on the internet (especially people who leave anonymous comments). When I take out my X100s, I’m shooting for me, and that’s when I enjoy photography the most.

    There’s a feeling I get from using this camera that’s difficult to describe. It’s a compact that shoots like a dSLR. My girlfriend and I were out on a hike last weekend and a woman saw the X100s sitting there while we were eating lunch at an overlook. She didn’t know anything about cameras or photography, but she thought we might want a photo of ourselves in such a nice spot. When she was done taking the photo, she said “wow, that camera feels really great to use.” That’s the thing I’m talking about. The first sentence in my post indicates my stance on how important gear is, but the fact is that you can’t take pictures without a camera, so you might as well find one that you love using.

    Thanks to Alex, Nathan, and Ian for also weighing in on this.

    Norbert says:

    Thanks for your feedback Mark. I already understood your feelings about this camera when you described it in the first place. I had exactly the same when I bought the Xe1 with the difference that I wanted to have exchangeable lenses.

    If the camera were new and you’ve only could use it over the weekend for a test drive than I could understand if you just upload some test samples of different situations in order to briefly show the performance of the camera. When you said below pictures are from the last few months I just expected a bit more. Thats all.

    I agree when you say photography is entirely subjective and thats why I’ve said its just my opinion and nothing more.
    If you say you shoot pictures just for yourself and not to some people on the internet why did you then open this blog and share it to the basically anonymous internet?

    Anyway, I wish you a great time with your X100s and keep enjoying photography……..

    Hey Norbert – how about showing us some of your images. I am sure we will all be in awe!

    Norbert says:

    Hi Bren, I’d like too but I have no dedicated website where you can see my pictures. But If you tell me how to upload them here I’m more than happy to share some of my pictures with you guys. Not sure if you will all be in awe but at least you would get an idea of my kind of photography.

    Cherokee Choctaw says:

    I’m sorry Norbert, your original comment was way out of line. Posts like Marks (not yours) inspires and enlightens people, both amateur and professional alike to seek the best possible equipment out there. There is absolutely no question that attitude and excitement are key elements in a Photographers kit and something Mark exhibited that he has in his post in spades!

    Kaushik Parmar says:

    @ Norbert, maybe you are right on your view, some of images are good in this article. This camera is amazing and it has potential to get great images, it gives very neat & clean images, it has so many features, I am using both X100 & X100S, I know how they perform. I invite you and others to see my pictures which I took by X100 & X100S, if you get time see this link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/AhmedabadHD/105782226238881?hc_location=timeline

    And @ Mark, thank you for this review, enjoyed it. if you wish you can see my review here: http://www.amazon.com/review/R3UEESF7MQDT19/ref=cm_srch_res_rtr_alt_1

    Feedback & suggestions are welcome.

    Kaushik Parmar
    Ahmedabad (India).

    Norbert says:

    Hi Kaushik. Have had a look at your facebook pictures. You really like playing with the DOF do you?
    Some of your shots I really like. But you have a real advantage…..because India is a Streetphotographers heaven and you life there:o)))) The point goes to you…
    I’m recently travelling in Thailand and had the chance to take some street pictures on Maeklong Market….the famous food market where the train almost rolls over the food stalls. Its so easy to interact with Thai people. A quick smile is often enough to let me get a picture from them. I guess its similar in India even though may a bit more hectic?

    Kaushik says:

    Norbert I am glad you like my photos, yes India is an incredible country, much we can do. Thailand can be also good place for street photography.

    Mark Jekot says:

    Good write up Mark. I am renting an X100s for two weeks to try before I buy! I cannot wait.

    Mark Feenstra says:

    Renting sounds like a great idea. Working with the fixed 35mm isn’t going to be great for everyone, and some people might find the dials and handling not right for them. I played with the X100 in two different stores several months apart before finally going ahead with the X100s just days after it was released.

    Yoga says:

    Might be the point of view is different. Norbert is a very professional photographer that can be claimed as the best photographer in the world for his own version but i think he forget about the essence of photography, catch the moment that never been repeated.

    What do you meant for special photo or images? If you can go to moon and shoot some UFOs or taking together with them, than i can called a special images. This is just extreme examples if you get my point.

    Special photos judgement is different from one to another person. One can said his family is very special photo that you can said thats ordinary images you can find in anywhere, the other side nuclear explosion images is a just ordinary photos for someone who worked in nuclear test instrument but can be special for another person.

    This blog’s owner just say that X100S is the best camera his owned, and he give some samples that special for him, for his friends and colleague and with purpose why he like this camera. Might be Norbert special in product photo and dont like images like this so he just said ordinary or just dont know what is the purpose why Mark write dowb this blog with photo samples. Who knows?

    Otherwise please be respect for the others.

    Bonjour Mark,
    Je viens de commander le X100s et je l’attends avec impatience. Je suis tombé sur votre blog suite à une recherche sur les programmes C1,C2,C3. Merci pour les infos. J’ai choisi cet apn pour sa discrétion et redécouvrir la photo avec un objectif fixe pour pénétrer la scène et la composition. En plus, il est beau! Et il me rappelle ma jeunesse!

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