Fujifilm X100s Camera Review

Back in May, we posted a review on the Fujifilm X100s camera. This was our most viewed post in Englewood Camera’s blogging history, but since we’ve changed our blog URL, we decided to share the review on our new site.

At this point, Englewood Camera has sold more than 45 of these popular cameras; this has been our best selling camera in such a short amount of time. The X100s first hit the shelves at the end of March 2013. Englewood Camera currently has the X100s in stock, but hurry! These cameras don’t stay on the shelves for long. Cheers!

A weekend with the Fuji X100s

By Erin Brinkley-Burgardt

I was lucky and able to borrow a Fujifilm X100s, the newest and highly coveted camera in Fuji’s X-Series lineup for a recent trip to San Diego, California. For the past 5 years, I have been shooting a Canon 5D and 5D Mark II full-frame DSLR, which we all know is a cumbersome setup. I’ve lugged my camera gear across the world, shooting with heavy L-series lenses. For the last year, I’ve been keeping an eye on the Fuji X-Series system, contemplating a smaller, lighterweight digital system, but I haven’t taken the plunge because of the APS-C sensor size. Never one to compromise quality, I’ve packed around (what feels like but probably isn’t) 50lbs of camera equipment to ensure the best images I can make. For this trip, I was offered a loaner X100s camera, and could not say no!

A blurb about the Fuji X100s: this camera is a compact, with an SLR type APS-C sensor, 23mm f/2 lens, and a optical/digital viewfinder reminiscent of classic rangefinder cameras.  This is the replacement for Fuji’s first camera of this type, the X100, and Fuji made some serious upgrades with this new model. The camera has a 16.3MP X-Trans CMOS Sensor, similar to the X-Pro 1 and XE-1 models in the line-up, but added a new feature on the sensor called on-chip phase detection, which allows faster auto focus (a big improvement from the X100). In addition, Fujifilm added a new processor, the EXR Processor II, for overcoming lens diffraction and peripheral aberrations. Fujifilm also added two tools for more accurate manual focus–focus peaking and digital split image focusing. The first, focus peaking, is a display that outlines the in-focus elements. Digital Split Image Focusing, on the other hand, shows a black and white area within the viewfinder, much like old viewfinders, that line up when in focus.  You can find a full review, with the technical specs, on dpreview.com.

So, back to my review.

Once again, I loaded my Domke inserts into my Chrome bag to travel. I packed my 5D Mark II with two lenses and flash, and my Leica M6 with some film, and slipped the Fuji X100s into my pack. I was fortunate to have a rental car and not have to trek around on foot with all of this gear! My first day of shooting was along the southern California coast; I stopped at Laguna Beach to check out the tide pools, and slowly unpacked my bag, pulling out the 5D Mark II first. After shooting some frames with the Canon, I packed it away and settled on the X100s–and didn’t put it away the rest of my trip!

I started using the X100s in manual mode, controlling the shutter speeds and aperture myself, but it didn’t take long for me to switch to aperture priority. Though both the optical and electronic viewfinder on the X100s are clear and easy to view, I had a difficult time reading the light meter. It’s located on the left side of the viewfinder, and is a white overlay–a bad combination for those of us used to a green meter over solid black.

The response time of the auto focus, plus the response of the shutter was very quick. There is a slight delay with the shutter, but it definitely didn’t slow me down or bother me at all. The X100s is fantastic for street, travel or landscape photography–the lens is sharp, rivaling my L-series glass on the Canon. The color straight out of the camera is spot on; where my Canon leans towards the warm color spectrum, the Fuji remains neutral. In post, I didn’t have to adjust the color, or sharpness, at all. This is a welcome relief, as I prefer to shoot as best as possible in camera to cut back on post production time.

I never had time to test out the original X100, but from the reviews I’ve read and complaints I’ve heard, the X100s is a definite upgrade. I played around with the manual focus, using the Digital Split Image Focusing setting, and found it easy to use and quick to focus. I struggle with manual focus on most digital cameras because I can’t see what I’m focusing on very well. The split image lines up much like a rangefinder, and I’m used to that type of manual focus from my Leica. I mainly experimented with manual focus in lower light situations, as the auto focus preformed very well in daylight.

Let’s look at some example shots I made with the X100s. This first image was shot in macro mode, which works very well and retains detail across the frame.  I was very impressed. The new X-Trans sensor eliminates color moire as far as I can tell, and the dynamic range is solid (good detail in the highlight and shadow areas across the image). Click on the images to see full size.

DSCF0101

Another look from my examples was from an afternoon spent in Encinitas, CA, just north of San Diego. This is one of my favorite beaches–it’s home to surfers and not often crowded. There were kids taking surfing lessons after school, so I hung around to make some images of the surfers and the landscape. For this shooting situation, I was grateful for the X100s. My Canon would have been very obtrusive in making candid photos of people. The Fuji is quiet, small, and doesn’t look like much, so I went undetected in my picture making. In the picture below, the subjects were walking about 5 feet in front of me.

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I also tested the X100s’ performance in low-light conditions. I visited the Bernardo Winery, one of the oldest wineries in California, and made some photos in their tasting room. The only lighting in this room came from a few old wine bottles that had been made into lights, and  from natural light coming in through a few windows. I upped the ISO between 800 and 1250, and shot a few images hand held. Below is one example, shot at ISO 800, at 1/60s, f/2.8. The image is sharp, and retains detail throughout the whole image.

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Here’s another example of glass grapes with lights, shot at ISO 1250, 1/60s at f/2.0. Pretty impressive for a wide-open aperture and faster ISO.

Winery-Grapes

I also tried out a long-exposure with the X100s. While I was in California, I drove towards Palm Springs and stopped off of I-10 and Twenty Nine Palms Road in Desert Hot Springs to photograph the windmills by night. Silly me forgot a cable release, but I set the camera on the roof of my car to shoot a 30 second exposure of the windmills (with I-10 in the foreground). I was very impressed with the results. The reflection is from the car roof, but has an effect similar to water.

Windmills-Fuji

Now for a landscape shot that I wasn’t totally impressed with. I love to photograph palm trees; I spent my childhood in California, and palm trees are one thing I miss living in Colorado. The first shot below was taken with the X100s. It looks good at first glance, but look at the zoomed in version. There is definitely a loss of detail at infinity when comparing the shot with a similar version shot with my 5D Mark II.

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This is the full image from the X100s. When cropped in (below), you can see a loss of detail in the palm leaves, as well as a halo effect around the trunks of the trees.

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This is a similar shot from my Canon EOS 5D Mark II with an EF 85mm f/1.2L.

IMG_4982

You’ll notice that the crop from a full-frame camera is much more usable. There’s detail in the palm leaves, and no halo effect.

IMG_4982-detail

 

Overall, I’m very impressed with the quality straight of camera on the X100s. This is definitely a professional grade camera, and a good companion for street photographers and landscape/travel photographers (aside from the limitations seen above). 35mm is my go-to focal length, and is perfect for street and travel photography. I’d love to test this out at a wedding–I think the compact size and quiet shutter would allow for great candid shots. Again, I did not alter the color or sharpness of these images in post production; everything was shot in RAW and converted to JPG in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4.

Englewood Camera sells the X100s for $1299.99 and is the Premiere Elite dealer of Fuji products in the Denver metro area. The cameras have been coming in and going out the door very quickly, so call for availability and to possibly have your name added to a wait list.

If you want to check out the archive on Englewood Camera’s previous blog, click here.

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