This is not a pixel-peeping examination, nor a technical review, just a quick overview of the X100s and my initial thoughts and a few shots. I usually edit shots in LR but some of the photos below are JPEGs straight out of the camera to show you how great the colouring is.
I’ve had my X100s a little over a month now, but due to work and study commitments I’ve not had a chance to give it a thorough test drive. Over the bank holiday weekend I decided to take my X100s with me on a weekend trip to Barcelona. Having not gone through all the different settings, menus and modes I just whacked the camera in Aperture Priority, chose to shoot JPEG + RAW and clicked away. Then, when I looked back at the pictures on the LCD screen, I was instantly blown away.
The fixed lens is sharp. Pin sharp. And the colours pop. Even shooting using the standard settings that the camera came set up with ‘out of the box’, the colours really stand out. I’ve often shot photos with various in-camera settings increased (saturation, sharpness) for the JPEG files, but with the X100s I really don’t feel the need to. Plus I edit most of my shots using the RAW files so the in-camera settings aren’t really that important (to me). But, if needed, I could easily use the un-edited JPEG files and they would still look great.
The picture quality is without a doubt the most important part of choosing a new camera. But the main thing I love about the X100s is the portability. It’s one of the reasons it appealed to me so much. I flew to Barcelona with a small suitcase and instead of dragging around large hand luggage (usually full with camera gear I never even bother using) I just took my small Domke F-5XB bag, shoved the camera inside along with a spare battery, lens hood and couple of other things. It was perfect. Instead of leaving the camera in the hotel (which is what I usually do after day 1 of wandering around for hours with a heavy camera and three lenses) the small size and light weight made it a joy to take out. I found myself constantly reaching for my camera and taking shots. My bag was small but big enough to carry my iPod, wallet, sunglasses, a snack and my phone, so having my camera in there as well just seemed like an added bonus. The fixed lens removed the hassle of switching lenses every so often. It made me work harder to frame my shots, but I had more fun doing so. The X100s allowed me to get up close to people, take a shot of them a couple of feet away and nobody seemed hassled or annoyed by it. The small size was unobtrusive and I felt comfortable using it amongst people. On past occasions, I’ve asked people if I could take their photo and they have either refused outright or grudgingly agreed when noticing the enormous DSLR combo hanging around my neck. When people noticed the X100s, I guess they thought it was ‘cute’, because everyone I asked was more than happy for me to photograph them. People smiled, nodded enthusiastically and just let me get on with it. For the times I didn’t ask, the camera was so small and silent people didn’t even notice. There was no head-turning shutter sound. This is a ninja’s camera.
From reading various user reviews before I purchased my camera I noticed a lot of new X100s owners were disappointed with the speed of the autofocus. Fuji then released firmware update 1.02 fixing the an Optimal View Finder (OVF) bug. Fuji must have been reading the same reviews that I had because this firmware update also seemed to speed up autofocus for some owners. Before heading to Barcelona I updated to 1.02 and the autofocus seemed fine, just as good as my previous DSLR. In all honesty though, I usually shoot in manual focus and I’ve not used it enough to comment on it fully.
A really useful feature I love about the X100s is the focus peaking option. When the camera is set to manual focus and focus peaking is set to ‘on’, everything currently in focus is highlighted with white pixels. Turn the focus ring to move the focus point and the pixels move with you. For people with poor eye sight it’s extremely handy. When wandering around Barcelona I used it to focus quickly on certain subjects and it helped me nail the focus when using wide apertures. I tried the split image focussing once and it seems like it’d be useful for various scenarios, but like the AF, I’ve not really used it yet and focus peaking worked extremely well for me. One thing I’d like to see in a future firmware update is the ability to select different colour options for the focus peaking. In bright light I occasionally found it difficult to see the white highlighted pixels.
Next up is the OVF and EVF. The viewfinder on the X100s is fantastic. I think the only time I used the back LCD screen while away was to view some of the photos I’d taken. You can also use the EVF to check the last photo you took without moving your eye away from the viewfinder. By pressing the command control button you can zoom in on the focus point when reviewing the last photo you took to see if the focus is where you intended it to be. Extremely useful if it’s not, as it means you can quickly re-focus and take another shot without missing the moment. You can customise the EVF to display various different things, like a histogram for example, but I’ve not had time to do this yet.
With a quick flick of a dedicated viewfinder selector on the front of the camera, you can instantly switch between using the EVF or OVF. Using the OVF is great fun. Especially when it displays items on there similar to the EVF like an exposure meter etc. Feels very futuristic! I took a couple of shots using the OVF but most of the time I used the EVF. I’m not sure if I’ll use the OVF very often, I think it will become useful when I start getting back into street photography as it allows you to see what’s just outside of the shot frame. Do any other X100s use the OVF regularly? I’d be interested to know when you use it over the EVF and how to use it to your advantage.
What else? The Fn button, near the shutter button, is useful. Customise this to allow you to instantly turn on the built-in ND filter and you can shoot portraits with F2 in the bright sun. I’ve used ND filters in the past for experimental photographs so this will come in handy. The manual aperture ring is fun to use. Having only used DSLRs and digital point-and-shoot cameras in the past, it’s refreshing. In fact the overall camera is. The ‘retro’ style is gorgeous and so is the handling. It took me a while to get used to the position of the dials and the ability to switch modes, change shutter speed, aperture etc quickly, but as the weekend progressed, so did my handling. It’s just a lot different to using a DSLR, but in a positive way. When you pull off a shot that you’re happy with, it feels as though you’ve worked hard to achieve it, but with minimal effort. If that makes any sense then great. If not, sorry!
Like I said at the start of this blog post, this isn’t an extensive review, but once I get time to get out more with the camera I may post a full review. But until then, I’m just going to enjoy it and update my gallery with photos when possible.
Would I recommend the X100s? Definitely. I feel as though I’ve missed out on many photo opportunities by not having this camera (or it’s earlier version, the X100) sooner. Time to make up for it!
P.S. I’d been interested to hear from others regarding their OVF usage.