How the Fujifilm X100S became my assistant

This article is about sharing my experience after using the Fujifilm X100S for more than a month now. There are no technical details or specific tests based on the options and possibilities of this camera. If you are looking for a review of that camera let me suggest you to read the very complete X100S review from DPReview.

What was I looking for?

First of all, I’m equipped with Canon gear, I didn’t really choose, my dad had a Canon film camera and that’s how it started. Today I own a Canon 5D Mark II and Mark III, they are my workhorses, I literally can do almost any kind of jobs with these beasts from still to video, I’ve never been disappointed. So why the hell did I buy a Fujifilm X100S?!

Many reasons actually but mainly because I was looking for a small, lightweight camera to take with me everywhere. As much as I love my 5D, it’s heavy, even if I use it with just the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM, which is a very small lens. So I always end up taking pictures with my phone which I can’t really control like a dslr…long story short: I feel frustrated.

The X100S is perfect to fill-in the gap between my phone and my dsrl, it’s small, lightweight and very important, you can not change the lens (read: I’m not going to be tempted to buy a complete new range of prime lenses!). Finally the image quality in low light is quite good for a compact camera! I found exactly what I was looking for. But let’s be clear, if you are expecting me to say that I would definitely replace my dslr with the X100S, it’s not the case…at all.

Look and feel. Guilty.

I’m a marketing victim really, the look and feel, the design, the overall style of this camera body is so beautiful. I love the color and they even have a black version which looks nice too. You could just buy it as a fashion accessory in my opinion… an expensive one, I agree…;)

X100S is so sexy!

X100S is so sexy!

But yes I’m happy with its ergonomic body even if I have to admit that there is a learning curve to work with it smoothly. It’s the first camera that forced me to read the manual in details. That kind of sucks, but after a few hours, you become quite fast with it. If the price was not so high, the X100S could be perfect for a beginner to learn the basics of photography as control of speed and aperture are directly accessible on the body and the lens.

X100S ergonomics

X100S ergonomic

X100S ergonomics

X100S ergonomic


On the field.

This is where the X100S is less sexy but let’s start with the good part: the automatic mode works great, you can adjust the exposure directly on the body but usually it’s fine and you have nothing to do. I’ve never used the auto mode on my 5D and the X100S is really a game changer as you can trust it when you want to capture unexpected moments and you don’t have time to make the adjustments. Especially when you go out with friends and they ask to take a picture… (yeah you know what I mean).

Also very important to know: the silence. You can steal portrait anywhere without being noticed. It’s very silent! But I don’t understand why you can’t use the flash in silent-mode. Is it to avoid the photographer to make a picture with the flash enabled by mistake?

If you have good conditions, especially good light, the X100S will rock but unfortunately in real life that’s not always the case… so to make it short: The AF sucks in low-light!

The AF sucks in low light!

The AF sucks in low light!

Fuji if you read this, the AF performances in low-light should be your main concern!

I read a lot of review where people claim that the Auto Focus of the X100S is a great improvement in comparison of the X100. Well… I never tried that older one but I can tell you for sure that I would never take the risk of shooting a wedding with the X100S, especially in church where the light is usually bad. If it’s an improvement in comparison with the previous version, good. But this is far from the AF of any entry level dslr on the market. I also read that some users found a trick by switching to manual focus and then using the AF button.. well I’m not going into these details. That’s crap,  when you pay 1199 euros for a camera with such good performances you expect to be able to trust it anytime, anywhere to not make blurry photographs. I did a studio shooting for a personal project, fortunately not for a client, you can’t imagine the number of shot I missed because of the AF. I just wanted to throw the camera on the floor each time I got that stupid and frustrating red message “!AF” in the middle of the viewfinder. Besides that I was quite happy with the results, I used the 2 Flash Yongnuo YN 560 III with the Yongnuo RF-603.

X100S + Yongnuo YN 560 III

X100S + Yongnuo YN 560 III

By the way, that viewfinder is great, I love the switch to go from optical to digital, that’s the best viewfinder I have tested on a compact camera.

X100S + Yongnuo YN 560 III

X100S + Yongnuo YN 560 III

The lens is really good, very sharp, the 35mm equivalent is a perfect angle for location scouting and test shots, making that camera my new assistant. I’m also very happy with macro-mode even for portrait.

Macro Mode on the X100S

Macro Mode on the X100S

So yes, on the field, in good conditions,  it’s really a great camera to have with you.
Did I say the AF sucks in low-light? (okay you got my point).

Post-production RAW and JPEG

Before I bought it, I read that the quality of JPEG were great and that you didn’t need to lose your time post-processing RAW file. Indeed the JPEG are really good but in my opinion if you care about your photographs you shoot in RAW, it’s your negatives. You might do both, RAW+JPEG meaning that you have your negatives and you trust your X100S enough to handle the conversion in JPEG. If you want to be able to push and enjoy the large dynamic range of the sensor you need to post-process the RAW files… I mean using JPEG only is like shooting with a Polaroid. The picture is maybe great but you can’t come back to improve it. To be honest I’m fed up to read article about RAW vs JPEG as they are not the same thing at all. JPEG is and will always be a compression format, don’t forget that!

RAW and JPEG are not the same thing!

RAW and JPEG are not the same thing!

The quality of the photographs taken with X100S is fine, in a good environment with good lighting, the result is similar of what you can get from 5D. In low-light it’s quite good but the Canon 5D Mark III keep the advantage, especially in RAW.

Also I felt a bit disappointed when post-producing the RAF (RAW from X100S) files, I do believe software like Apple Aperture or Adobe Lightroom (FYI: I’m using Lightroom 5 at the moment) are not optimized for the RAF. I should probably test the software provided with the camera: Silkypix, but I’m too lazy for that right now.

Now the best of both world, when I’m on the go, sometimes I edit the RAW file directly with the X100S, and you can then save them as JPEG on the memory card. I think that’s great when your travel and it saves you time in post-production.

JPEGs are well processed by the X100S

JPEGs are well processed by the X100S


Conclusion

My experience with the X100S is very good so far mainly because it is doing what I’m expecting it to do, being a good sexy assistant available anywhere at anytime. Meaning also that If use it professionally, I won’t relying only on it. That AF problem make it useless for action photography.

Should you buy it?

If you have that budget for a compact camera keep in mind that you can buy a great dslr cheaper like the Canon EOS 100D that will gave you more flexibility and more possibilities to evolve. If I had to pick only one, I would stay with a dslr, that’s for sure. But as a photographer owning already a dslr, the X100S is a perfect match to fill-in a specific need in my everyday routine. It’s your call to define what you would expect from such a compact camera knowing the limitations and the advantages.

If you have any questions, shout!

Xavier.

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2 comments on "How the Fujifilm X100S became my assistant"

  1. Awesome review, it sums up pretty well what I think about the camera too. It’s the perfect combination of performance and image quality + shooting light + being stealth + price — it really hits a few sweet spots. I sold my X100 to upgrade to the bigger brother X100S and I can tell you the differences are noticeable.

    Despite that, they have a lot of second-hand camera stores in Japan and last summer I got a Sony RX1 which is similar to the X100S in all aspects with the addition of having a full frame sensor. Much more expensive if you buy it new, but for the price I got it’s the best piece of gear I own now. Super light, small, stealth as any, and the image quality is second to none.

    • Hi Filipe,

      Thanks for the comment!
      Never tried the Sony RX1, but looks like I should find one to test it :)
      I’m planning a trip to Japan this year hopefully! :D

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