Fuji’s X100(s) series, What else?
By Renaud Perez
A while ago, I’ve already sent some posts to Steve about the Fuji’s X100 and X100s. I took some time to write a bit more and share, on this fabulous website, more of my thoughts on this camera series, as I’m using it exclusively for 2 years already. I’m not going to talk about camera’s performance but more about how I’m using this system and try to explain why I don’t see the point right now to have anything else. Actually I’m going to speak as an “X100s” since I did the upgrade 8 months ago and this is the only camera I own right now (+ the wide angle converter WCL-X100).
1/70 f8.0 ISO-400. WCL-X100. Converted from RAW.
Sun set, south west of Koh Kood island, Thailand,
After two years shooting with this series (both camera are more less the same on the outside) I can say that I feel it has the perfect from factor, body + lens. It’s small of course but not too small and I they fit 100% right in my hands. In term of from factor, it has something a lot of people forget while comparing camera size… the thinness. I can strap my X100s on my shoulder, have it under a very light jacket, nobody will never ever figure out that I have a camera one me. Only the pana 20f1.7 on a small m43 body could give you the equivalent, for the rest of the lenses, I mean prime’s people are often talking about, just forget about it. That’s the fixed lens advantage (other X-mount do not offer this either!).
I consider the source of both X100/X100s mojo’s to exist due to 3 reasons;
#1) The Hybrid viewfinder. What did Fuji here is magic, it gives you both of the 2 worlds. EVF is a great technology improvement over the past years, it gives you the possibility to manual focus more accurately than you could through an OVF. It’s also better for a perfect framing and gives you a good overview of your real exposure, WB and color rendition. On the other side it’s a lot of tech’ adding “filters” between you and the real scene. If you shoot RAW, you do not really care about your color rendition, WB or exposure since all this can be adjusted during later on post processing. One remark on focusing, for those who never used an X100/X100s, since it’s not a ranger finder, you cannot manual focus using the OVF. Then comes the OVF, and that for me is a very very very important part of the photography experience. When I’m using an OVF, I’m slowing down. I take time to look around and concentrate on the instant trying to catch interesting things and just simply enjoy! Add to this the LCD screen of the X100/X100s that you can just leave displaying the most important info, focus point, metering, AF-mode etc… No live view and go out for a RAW shooting session, never reviewing any of your photos during it and you will enjoy a classic photography session!
1/30 f2.8 ISO-2500. Converted from RAW.
Self-portrait at Bangkok airport,
By the way, I keep wondering how Nikon missed this one on the Df? If this Df would had integrated such an hybrid system, it would have been a real killer! Come on, the designing and engineering team could not manage to insert an additional mirror switch mechanism to give you a great EVF in the viewfinder, allowing you to manual focus old school lenses perfectly? This would have been a real statement from Nikon that compact Full Frame DSLR are here to compete with the mirrorless FF offer (A7/A7r).
#2) The controls. Controls as they are designed today are nearly perfect to me, giving you access to the shutter speed, aperture (on the lens) and exposure compensation in a very intuitive way or I would say and old school way, back to basics! The only thing I wish is to see coming in next version(s) is an ISO dial, giving you direct control over the 3 mains photography parameters, Speed / Aperture / ISO. I also would like to see one more Fn button in the right bottom side of the camera front, close to the lens. For me this one would be fully dedicated to the ND filter, leaving the Fn button next to the exposure dial for other things. I think it would be a much better ergonomic in this way since you could with your left hand control the aperture + ND filter without having to go back to the rear part of the camera, leaving your right hand dealing with shutter and exposure compensation while holding the camera.
1/2000 f4.0 ISO-200. Converted from RAW.
Phra-Si-Rattana-Chedi, Grand palace Bangkok.
Holding the camera is also leading to the debate, is inner camera stabilization necessary? In the X100/X100s concept I would clearly answer NO! But of course if cameras maker’s competition is bringing this inside, I would not refuse it ;-) No, simply for the reason that you do not need it during day time, due to the X100/X100s 35mm eq fixed focal, no telephoto super zoom here! And for night time shooting, using the auto ISO between 200 and 6400 paired with a minimum shutter speed of 1/30 (for those who don’t know, a good rule of thumb is to choose a shutter speed that is one over your focal length to ensure no camera shake due to hand’s movements), is sufficient for you to get crisp looking photos. The only situation where it would be useful is for a night scene without any moving subjects (important), and where you would need to keep ISO 200 for later on post processing, so having to use a long exposure. But for that very kind of shots, It’s possible to plan them a bit in advance bringing a tripod and if not, you can still use other elements around you to set-up a support for the camera (since night scene + long exposure does not require any “instant” capture and rush). Finally, do not forget that there is no mechanical vibrations issue with the X100/X100s. Which brings me to the last part of the X100/X100s magic.
1/750 f2.0 ISO-200. Converted from RAW.
Golden portrait, Grand palace, Bangkok.
#3) The leaf shutter. What is a leaf shutter? It consists of a mechanism with a metal leave which pivots to let the light going on the imaging element (film or sensor). It offers lot of advantages, no any noticeable inner vibrations (camera shake due to the focal plane shutter curtains impact) and is dead silent (i.e. some complain about these issues on the A7/A7r). It is so quiet that you can discretely shoot a guy you are talking with and he will not even notice it. This added to the camera size, and you get a system which is not intrusive at all, so it does not interfere in people’s interaction. Usually when you talk to guy, furtively give a try to a “lucky” shot and the camera gives you a loud click-clack, you interlocutor will pause with the kind of expression in his eyes saying “hey, what are you doing here?”. You camera will simply have broken the moment and that’s not what we want! There are of course hundreds of other situations where having a silent camera is a golden gift. Of course the sexy retro compact look helps a lot, the camera not being intrusive, even giving interrogation to people and being a discussion starter, I’m not going to say more on this since everybody know how beautiful are looking these cameras.
1/60 f4.0 ISO-3200. OOC Jpegs, B&W+Green filter, Highlight & Shadow tones +2.
My mother’s emotion after the birth of our baby girl, furtive catch
Finally I will end with things I discovered using the X100s.
About the X100/X100s sensor rendering, as Steve and others mentioned I also found that OOC jpegs can be flat, it mostly appear when the light is not there but IMO that’s just internal jpegs processing, since the RAW files of the X100s are very rich and with a RAW you can pimp your picture as you want.
If you are shooting RAW with the X100s, I strongly advise you to set your DR to 100%, do not use the auto DR. The principle of this DR feature is to upper the ISO to get more details out from the shadows. So basically if you are in auto DR and that the camera says you need a 400% DR (which is the maximum), you will have to be at least at ISO 800. It‘s well known that Fuji X-Trans is great at high ISO but if you are working on extracting details from a RAW, you’d better stay at ISO 200. If you go for a jpeg session, just leave the DR in auto, it’s doing the job very well.
1/2500 f5.6 ISO-200. Converted from RAW.
Temple of dawn, Bangkok
If you are in a light situation where the output goes flat, and do not want to bother with post processing, what I usually do is I quickly tune the highlight and shadow tones levels to +1 or even +2 (both) and then I get the punch back.
I found that the internal B&W filters are working quite well. I’ve started to use it a lot recently, using the B&W+Green filter and setting the highlight and shadow tones to +2 since I like a lot punchy and contrasty B&W images.
1/240 f4.0 ISO-400. OOC Jpegs, B&W+Green filter, Highlight & Shadow tones +2.
1/30 f2.0 ISO-250. OOC Jpegs, B&W+Green filter, Highlight & Shadow tones +2.
Fail to catch her – baby pics are a real challenge
1/60 f2.0 ISO-640. OOC Jpegs, B&W+Green filter, Highlight & Shadow tones +2.
Finally, the WCL-X100 is really the best convert I ever used. Actually I did not notice any loss of image quality compared to the original lens, I get wider and still keep the max f2 aperture. So IMO it’s just like changing the lens on the X100/X100s. It gives you a 28mm eq perfect for landscape (I found the 24mm to be difficult to fill). Just keep in mind the WCL-X100 is huge and the camera loses one of its advantages, as I mentioned previously, using it. When I say huge, I mean the camera cannot go under your sweater anymore, but it’s not bigger than the Pana 25f1.4 (to give you a better reference).
1/350 f4.0 ISO-200. WCL-X100. Converted from RAW.
From my office, Beijing
My wish list for Fuji. Through firmware upgrade;
- AF performance and the OVF framing lines, to me there is still some improvement to be done here.
- I would like also to see the ability to configure the AE/AF-L button to a Macro mode selection quick switch. Press it, you go Macro, re-press it, back to normal mode. When you are shooting during weddings, anniversaries, parties and so on… You are all the time in situations where shots need to be taken at distances varying from 3m to 0.5m this changing randomly at a high rate. I’m struggling and losing too much time with the current Macro mode selection, it should be faster to give time to the AF to re-adjust.
- In AF mode, the ability to use the manual focus ring to parse the AF points and select the one you need. Turning the ring, you can parse AF points from the upper left to the bottom right in line order.
1/180 f4.5 ISO-200. Converted from RAW.
Street shooting, the spring roll factory, Bangkok’s China town
For future version(s), I will not talk about sensor size here (even if nice rumors are talking about FF), but IMO it should be a least;
- Weather sealed. This camera concept as it is should be a life time camera. In a recent trip to Thailand, using it at the beach, I had the feeling that it would not last so long if I were staying there for some months. This camera should be rugged to support anything, having it with you all the time, everywhere.
- Battery life. This is a joke on both X100/X100s. Using it in real conditions, with performance mode set on maximum, reviewing some pictures with my wife or friends, I only manage to take a hundred shots, no more, on one battery charge (I always take two to swap but still… it’s not acceptable).
- On the rear part Fuji should add a rubber element for your thumb, like on the X20.
And after, of course, keep what makes this series so unique and improve the hybrid viewfinder, sensor, lens etc…
1/18 f2.8 ISO-6400. OOC Jpegs, B&W+Green filter, Highlight & Shadow tones +2, NR to -1.
At the end, I do not see any camera / camera system, which could give me more than what the X100s does end of 2013. I’m limited to wide angle (WCL-X100, 28mm eq) and the 35mm eq focal which is, anyway, what I would own if I had an interchangeable lens system. The only thing which is missing is an 85mm eq for portrait, here the X100/X100s have to admit, it’s out of their capabilities. Apart from this, what else?
1/125 f5.6 ISO-200. Converted from Jpeg.
My wife & me, shot by our tour guide at the Grand palace Bangkok
I wish to you and everybody all the best for the coming year and I’m sure that you guys will have a lot to do with all new stuff coming from camera makers ;-)
Enjoy, thx for the website and all the efforts and energy you guys put inside.
1/40 f2.0 ISO-400. Converted from Jpeg.
The Lying Buhdda, Bangkok