| Written by Ronnie |
I've been receiving a few enquiries about the Fujifilm X100S. In particular, there seems to a number of you who are contemplating this camera but just can't quite made up your mind. So here's a post about how I came to be in possession of this camera, all the reasons why it works brilliantly for my purposes, as well as a few of its quirks that you should be aware of. (You can also read this post for an overview of how I actually use the camera from a technical perspective.)
At the risk of spoiling the ending, here's a quick summary of my verdict: The Fujifilm X100S is not a perfect camera, but it is an incredible camera.
More importantly, it is the perfect camera for me right now.
Some of you will know that for the longest time, I took most of my photos on my iPhone 4S. Occasionally, I would pull out our Canon EOS 40D for some nice close-up portraits of the family. I was totally okay with this arrangement, until one day, I woke up and realised that I was completely uninspired by the photos I was taking on the 40D. Sure, the photos were nice, and I'm really thankful that I have all these portraits of the boys documented and ready to go into photo books, but I never felt inspired to pick up the 40D to take more - dare I say - 'artistic' photos. In contrast, I was able to capture light and shade the way I liked on my iPhone. It worked for me, so I kept using it.
It got to the point, however, when I realised that I needed to push myself a bit further than relying on my iPhone to take all my photos. I needed something 'new' but I had no idea what that 'new' thing would be. Naturally, I considered the possibility of investing in a Canon 5D Mark II. I even raised it with Rick one evening. The price, however, was our biggest stumbling block. We didn't exactly have three thousand dollars or so to spare.
Then one day, a week into the new year, a couple of my uni friends paid us a visit at home. They were back from New York for a couple of weeks, and they were keen to catch up with us and the boys. Soon after we poured out drinks for everybody, Patricia pulled out these two gorgeous looking cameras: the Fujifilm FinePix X100S and X-E1. I had never heard of either of the cameras but boy were they nice to look at! I was immediately won over by their gorgeous retro good looks, especially all the manual dials for aperture and shutter speed. I was intrigued to say the least, especially when I found out that Patricia was now using these Fuji mirrorless cameras exclusively for her professional photography work.
Still, I didn't really give it much thought until a couple of days later when we met up again for dinner and I saw the photos that Patricia had taken of the boys during their visit. They were absolutely stunning. (And I hadn't even noticed her taking the photos!)
Obviously I knew that Patricia's skills played a large part in how good the photos looked, but suddenly, I saw that there was an alternative to a traditional DSLR.
After getting home that evening, I spent the entire night (and then some) researching the Fujifilm cameras. I read every possible review that I could get my hands on, and spent the next week pouring through all the information. I won't list all the articles I read but there were three posts in particular that convinced me the X100S was an awesome camera from a technical perspective: this one by Zack Arias, this one by David Hobby, and this one by Ken Rockwell. In fact, if you actually read up on all three posts, you'll notice that they all pretty much claim that the X100S is the nearest thing to the best digital camera out there. Now, this is a huge call, and I'm not going to say whether or not it is as I'm not qualified to, but for me, it was enough to know that these reputable photographers thought so highly of the camera. In fact, Zack's whole post is about life without DSLRs - definitely worth a read if you want something to think about.
So on paper, the X100S' technical abilities were looking great. I also liked the fact that the 23mm prime lines were equivalent to a 35mm lens. And at $1299, the price tag was much more affordable for us than a Canon 5D. Plus, the camera looked amazing and it was compact.
By this point, I was pretty much sold (especially as the shutter dial on our Canon unexpectedly died around this time) but I wanted to know one more thing: could the camera take the type of 'artistic' images that I aspired to take? I did some more Googling and landed on Danny Bligh's blog. Wow. Every frame told a beautiful story of light and shade. Exactly the sort of images that I love. (His site has since changed, but there are still some stunning images there to peruse.) I asked him on Twitter if all those photos were taken on the X100S, and he confirmed that they were.
Two days later, Rick called up a camera store and put a Fujifilm X100S on hold for me, and the four boys and I made the hike out to buy it.
That very evening, I took it out for a spin and ended up with some beautiful evening shots.
Yes, yes, this camera was the perfect choice for me.
Eighteen months on, I still think this camera was the perfect choice for me.
In the past, I captured my moody light and shade shots on my iPhone, and I took nice family portraits on the EOS. With the X100S, I can do both.
And whereas I would never, ever take the EOS out of the house because of its bulkiness, the X100S is so compact it just slips into my handbag. Which means it goes with me everywhere. I couldn't be happier with that.
Plus, the electronic viewfinder means that I shoot as if I'm shooting on an DSLR, but I can also easily switch to the LCD screen if I want to shoot like I did with an iPhone. Seriously, the best of both worlds.
If you are someone considering the X100S, there are a few things that are worth noting.
Firstly, the 35mm lens is very different to the 50mm lens. You capture much more of the scene in front of you, and you have to be careful with the way you shoot portraits otherwise people's faces can look slightly distorted. Personally, I like the fact that I now get to photograph with 'wider angle' lens. This was one of the reasons I loved my iPhone so much - I never had to stand too far back to photograph the scene before me, and I'm loving this about the X100S.
The auto spot focus is not fantastic - in my experience. I know that Fuji claims that the X100S has the world's fastest auto focus, but I have not personally found this to be the case. And sometimes, it actually gets the focus wrong. I've been reading up on what other people thing, and there seems to be some divided opinion. Anyway, I'm not too fussed because manual focusing on the X100S is not difficult at all with the camera's peak focusing feature.
The battery life is rather short, compared to my DSLR. To solve this, I simply bought a spare battery and have it on rotation.
Lastly, I think it's worth knowing how to shoot manual before buying this camera, otherwise it might feel like you're just buying another 'point and shoot' camera. Personally, I leave the aperture on 2.0 (that's as wide as the X100S goes), I set the ISO, and then I leave the shutter on auto. I then adjust the exposure compensation dial depending on how bright or dark I want my images to be. This is quite different to how I used to shoot on my DSLR, but it means that I can quickly and easily achieve the dark and moody photos that I used to take on my iPhone.
In short - I'm really happy with our decision to purchase the X100S. I love the images that I've been able to capture with the camera. I love that I can carry it everywhere. I love that I do carry it everywhere. I love that it does portraits, and it does the moody shots that I like. I love that it's pushing me out of my comfort zone and spurring me on to create images I wouldn't otherwise be inspired to create. I look forward to picking it up every day, and I'm excited about becoming a better photographer with this camera.
If you have any other questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below.