A Fuji X100S report By Lachlan Burrell

A Fuji X100S report

By Lachlan Burrell

I’ve been using the Fuji X100S for about 16 months now, and I believe it’s one of the greatest digital cameras ever made! Obviously not everyone is going to agree with me on that, but here’s why I think so highly of this little camera:

Firstly, I’m a die-hard film shooter, and lover of traditional manual cameras. I learnt the ropes on great 1980’s era SLR cameras like the Olympus OM1 and Nikon FM2, and I still find the direct manual controls and simplicity of these kind of cameras such a joy to use, not to mention the wonderful tones and colours I get from film. So I was never quick to jump into the digital camera market. I got some very nice results from Nikon DSLR’s like the D200 and D3; both were and still are great cameras, but were a very different beast to the old film cameras that I loved.

Then along came the X100 and really caught my eye. Could this be the missing link between nostalgia, classic design and a practical, digital tool? Not one to rush into the latest thing, I waited to see how this camera would be received and how it would perform in the real world. Turns out there were some issues, as there often is with the first generation of any product. When the highly anticipated X100S was announced, I thought it was about time I took the plunge.

It didn’t take very long to warm to this little camera, most of the controls were very familiar and intuitive. I started playing around with the RAW files in Adobe Lightroom using VSCO (Visual Supply Company) Film presets that I had tweaked a little. It was then that I started getting a bit excited! Not only was this a beautiful camera to use, with traditional controls I was accustomed to, the images were the closest thing to film I’d seen come out of a digital camera. I’ve used the VSCO Film presets on the Nikon D3, but I’ve never been able to achieve a film look like I can with the X100S. There’s something about the Fuji sensor that lends itself to the tonality and feel of film. Some might argue, why bother trying to make the images from a digital camera look like film? Well that’s fine if you’re happy with a digital look, but to me digital often looks a bit “plastic” and surreal compared to a film image, and the colours don’t always appear to be rendered naturally. For those of you who are interested, I’ve outlined a few key changes I make to the standard VSCO preset settings in Lightroom. I don’t make any drastic changes, but as a general guide using the Kodak Portra 400 preset, for example, I add about 5 points more Saturation overall. Then I go to the HSL panel and into the individual colour saturation I nudge up the reds, oranges and yellows by 5-10 and knock the green down by about 5. In the hue settings I also nudge up the orange hue by 5-10 points, and knock the yellow, green and purple hues down by 5-10 points. In the luminance panel I knock the yellows and greens down a bit and nudge the purple and magenta up slightly. This all helps achieve a more natural creamy-warm skin tone. Another important adjustment I make is in the Split Toning. As a guide I set the highlights hue at about 40, saturation 5, and the shadow hue at about 210, saturation 5. This really gets close to emulating true negative film tonality. Play around with the grain settings to your own taste; for Portra 400 I have it set at 30, 30, 40. I use the Portra presets for most of what I shoot, but I’ve also customized presets for Kodak Tri-X black and white, Fuji Velvia, Fuji Astia and a couple of the Polaroid presets, which can be very interesting and moody. It really comes down to individual taste, but having shot film for so many years, I have a visual target to aim for when customizing the presets.

As far as my personal camera setup goes, I never use the accessory case, it just adds bulk and gets in the way. I also ditched the lens cap and attached the accessory filter adapter and a top quality B+W UV filter, primarily to protect that beautiful front element. I never use a lens hood, as lens flare isn’t an issue for me…I actually like the effect, and the Fuji lens doesn’t seem to suffer from it excessively.

In addition to the beautiful image quality the X100S can achieve, there are other things about this camera that just rock, in my opinion!

1. The exposure metering is superb; it nails it almost every time. And the rare times it doesn’t due to very challenging lighting, the dynamic range of the RAW files is huge, allowing highlight and shadow detail to be easily “rescued” later. The highlights don’t tend to blow out harshly, but fall off very gradually and naturally, something I haven’t experienced with other digital files.

2. The hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder is just lovely to use. I used to be a little irked by electronic viewfinders, but this one has changed my attitude. I still prefer the optical for general everyday shooting, but there are times, particularly when framing is critical or when the lighting is dim, that the electronic option really shines. The ultimate would be to have a true optical rangefinder with manual focusing, like so many popular consumer cameras made in the 60’s and 70’s. I don’t believe it has to remain the exclusive domain of Leica with a price tag to match. I wait in hope for a manufacturer to break the mould!

3. The compact size and near silent shutter is just perfect for travel and street shooting! I don’t believe there’s any other serious competitor for this camera, i.e. compact, light, full manual control, classic styling and design, delivering professional results.

Is this the perfect camera? I don’t think there is such a thing, because the needs of photographers are so diverse, but this comes close for a travel/street/documentary shooter. If I could change one thing about the X100S what would it be? The fixed 35mm equivalent lens can sometimes seem a limitation, but it’s also what gives the camera its unique appeal. I’ve often felt that a 40mm or 50mm standard would be more useful; I’m not a big wide-angle fan. But now with the option of 28mm and 50mm conversion lenses, I think Fuji have it covered quite nicely!

Lachlan Burrell

_DSF0192

_DSF0240

_DSF0461

_DSF0743

_DSF1020

_DSF1376

_DSF1467

_DSF1588

_DSF1833

_DSF2033

_DSF2062

_DSF2069

_DSF2514

_DSF2541

_DSF3038

_DSF3217

_DSF3258

_DSF3362

_DSF3464

_DSF3795

_DSF3818

_DSF3932

_DSF3991

_DSF4169

_DSF4183

_DSF4259

_DSF4486

 

 

Related Post

42 Comments

  1. What settings do you normally shoot in daylight? i believe the settings will affect the quality of image and level of post processing after? Great photos btw 🙂

  2. You should try a Sigma DP camera along with vsco. That will blow your mind if you like that film look. I owned a lot of cameras, but no one gave me that analog film feeling than the sigma DP. Go for an old DP2s and give it a try. Should be quite cheap buy now.
    The x100 is quite nice for film look. But the DP adds a lot of more plasticity.

    • hi bobestrema, thanks for the comments. In this case there wasn’t too much adjustment. First I applied the VSCO Kodak Tri-X preset, then black clipping to -21, grain amount 84, grain roughness 52 and grain size 24. that’s it!

  3. Steve, been following you for a bit now. I love the processing on the b&w seed pods or whatever the are. Can you tell us how you got there?
    Thanks, Bob

  4. sorry eamaro, I just replied to the wrong post. If you like the film look, the VSCO presets will get you started! The Fuji JPEG colours are nice, but still not film-like enough for me. 🙂

  5. Great article and beautiful set of pictures.

    Just got a X100s myself, and while it was easy to fall in love with the shooting experience, I’m still learning how to handle the files in post. I do see there’s lots of potential for tweaking the images, but I’m still struggling to get the (beautiful) colors in the JPG film simulation out of the DNG files. I’ll look into the VSCO pack.

    Also… I love how my BW conversions look. Great little camera.

  6. Hey Lachlan,

    Great inspiring work. I bet you have found the “sweet spot” with what can be exquisitely shot with X100s and the VSCO presets for the film look. May i ask you 2 things:
    1. Which VSCO film set/s you have been using (out of 01 to 05)
    2. How can one follow more of your work. Any facebook / flickr pages?

    Thanks in advance,

  7. Very nice indeed. Fuji cameras are treated as step children here but when you consider all it can do it really is a great camera. Love the photos.

  8. X100s = 100% superb
    MP = Master’s Perfekt

    No other camera needed, the best of both worlds.

    All others are variations. 😉

    • thanks Marco, glad you got a good result! I really just apply very similar adjustments as I do to the Portra preset, as to the other film presets like Velvia and Astia. Just apply additional adjustments according to the film look you want. For instance, with Velvia, I would add more saturation, more sharpening and clarity because it is designed for landscape/nature. Just play around with the LR parameters to get the look you want. If I get a chance I might post a bit more info of specific presets on this thread.

      • Thank you so much for your reply Lechlan! I admit I’m not into film photography (and I’m quite ashamed of that), but when I saw your photos and tried for myself I immediatly noticed the difference between your results and those of a standard simulation.
        What really impresses me is your skill in finding the right, subtle changes in color parameters to achieve this kind of look.
        I hope you will be post some other tutorial for some other film.
        Again, hat off!

  9. Lachlan,

    great review, great to read, great pictures. Helps to decide to get a X100S even more. Thank you. Keep on.

    Question: What is your impression on the raw shooting and the calculation of the files after shooting. I tested a X100 and it took a few second for the calculation. Was that a failure in any settings? Appreciate your comment. Thx.

    Timo

    • thanks Timo. I have never had any delays with write times shooting RAW if that’s what you mean. It is very quick from shot to shot. I understand the X100 was slower in this regard than the X100s.

  10. Are you Australian (or at least were these taken in Australia)? One of the shots looks like the Iceberg Club in Bondi Beach and the other is most definitely the war museum in Canberra.

    Great write up and images! I like what you’ve done with the VSCO presets. Only critique I’d give is that a few of these shots are begging for portrait orientation!

    Cheers,
    Matt

    • thanks for the feedback Matt! Yes, definitely Australian 🙂 most of these are taken around Newcastle, Sydney and Canberra. Funny, this camera seems to make me want to shoot in landscape orientation more. It may be the rangefinder style setup. It’s also just more comfortable too I think, as with most cameras, unless you have a vertical grip.

  11. Your photos are lovely – nice colours and composition.

    I had the x100s but didn’t warm to it – the on/off switch was too easy to move, I didn’t like the rear control dial, the focussing speed slowed as the light dimmed, and the entire camera just felt fragile. The EVF was laggy with any movement. I found the noise control to be harsh and resulted in too much of a painterly effect.

  12. Great work! Love your processing and the ‘film look’ you have really managed to produce. Haven’t got round to VSCO but you have provided inspiration for future consideration! Still in love with my X100 and like all good relationships we worked through the ‘issues’ and after firmware therapy, glad I was faithful! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  13. Lovely photos, Lachlan. A point that comes to mind is why do you say …Fuji has it covered with the 28 and 50mm equivalent accessory lenses. Surely these additions ruin the simplicity and ease of use of the X100s which is the joy of the camera? If you want to have changeable lenses go for the X-E2!

    • But you’d be missing that leaf shutter 🙂

      I think a strong case can be made for a road kit of the x100s, conversion lenses and a couple small strobes.

    • thanks David, I agree, most of the time the 35mm is all you need. But to have the option of 28mm if you’re a landscape shooter, or the 50mm if you want more of a portrait lens adds a bit of versatility, while still keeping the benefits of the fixed lens i.e.. leaf shutter, no dust on sensor. It would make a very compact but capable kit Frank!

  14. Really nice stuff! I still love my original X100, although it’s been sitting idle while I use my Sony A7r. I need to charge up the battery and get out there with it.

  15. Nice shots from a wonderful camera…I have both 100 and 100s with JB wood grip and I feel naked when I go out without one…Yes, I have Leicas, but the 100 are “mein klein Leicas”

  16. Lovely airy atmosphere of true Fuji like experience……No doubt X100S is a camera with strong character. Your skill is equally outstanding. Indeed you make X100S take such thought provoking pictures.

  17. Outstanding results, I would never guess this came from digital at all (though I don’t necessarily find digital awful). For some reason I like your color photos better than the b&w, just me I guess, but I like your style.

    Thanks for sharing.

Comments are closed.