The Fuji x100 series has definitely caused many film nostalgic photographers to turn their heads. It's designed to look just like an old range finder camera, complete with chrome finish (or black, if you prefer) with analog controls - like an aperture ring and a shutter speed top dial, as well as an optical viewfinder and prime lens (equivalent to a 35mm on a film camera). It so convincingly looks like a film camera, that many people are surprised when you turn it around and display the impressive 3 inch LCD screen of the x100t.
There are many highly technical reviews of the x100t that are a simple google search away, so I am going to keep this far more casual and just discuss my thoughts on the camera, and the overall experience of taking photographs with it.
Before I bought the camera...
I had been looking at the x100 series for about a year and a half, desperately looking for some good reason to buy it. On paper, it just doesn't seem at all practical to a photographer. While 16 mega pixels isn't bad, it is nothing special these days - and having a fixed lens doesn't allow for too many professional applications. I already have a point and shoot camera with manual controls, as well as two DSLRs with plenty of lenses and flashes and whatnot, so how can I justify buying the Fuji?
After thinking about it for sometime, I realized that there is no perfect justification for this camera. This camera is not at the top of the list for image quality, available lenses/accessories, or dollar value. However, the lack of interchangeable lenses can be a plus to me; this camera is completely undemanding. When I bring an SLR out for a casual shoot, I feel obligated to pack my bag with 20 lbs of gear for every scenario - and a fun shoot turns into a chore. And of course the Fuji is undeniably charismatic, yet quiet and non threatening. Just looking at it makes me want to hold it, and take it everywhere with me: It is a camera dying to be used. And as my high school photography teacher, Mr Conn, would say; "The best camera is the one you have with you.", and with those chrome accents, and no need to drag around extra lenses, I feel like this camera would rarely be out of my sight.
The continual and casual documentation of everyday life is something that is important to me. While the x100 series isn't the best at any one particular technical item, the comfort of analog controls and charm that makes you want to carry it around, does make it ideal for this. So, with that justification in mind, I saved and waited for the x100t to be released this month.
Before purchasing the camera that I was 99% sure I was going to buy, I wanted to get my hands on it to see what it felt like. I went to a Samy's Camera around the Culver City area and an attendant let me handle one. I was excited, I was eager, I was....surprisingly disappointed. My very first thought is that the camera was much lighter than expected. While it looked similar to the solid metal range finder cameras of old, it did not have the same heft (which was something I wanted). I tried taking a few shots, but the internal memory was full. I wanted to clear the memory, but had difficulty pulling up the menus. Nothing felt right or natural on the camera. The attendant explained that someone had customized all the buttons, and the camera wasn't doing what it was suppose to. It was an overall frustrating and disappointing experience.
I did a little research the next day. Firstly, I had been handling the x100s, not the new x100t (the camera current model). Other reviewers openly hated the controls on the x100s, which were largely changed in the x100t (and the new controls were openly loved by the same reviewers). I also read more about the image quality of the camera, and found out it was much better than I had given it credit for. While the mega pixels (16) seem just about standard, the sensor size is actually on par with many SLRs, and greater then a few of the entry level ones. Then I looked at some actual images taken with the camera, and they were amazing. The razor sharp details, colors, and gradients, all looked of SLR quality to me. I looked again at the competition for vintage looking camera's, and they were virtually non existent (The few that there are under par).
I went to Samy's Camera in Pasadena, and had them put another into my hand. This time I was more prepared for the weight difference, and found that I was ok with it. I walked out with the x100t, a brown leather case, an extra battery, and a warranty.
I quickly fell in love with the f/2 aperture. The bokeh was beautiful, and soft. The controls were still confusing. I kept accidentally pressing a display button that makes all the menu's come up electronic viewfinder instead of the display. Soon after I discovered how to customize seven (!) of the buttons on the camera to any of two dozen or so functions, things became a lot easier, and more enjoyable.
Even after becoming more familiar with the camera, I found shooting with it to be much slower then one of my SLR's, because of the lack of any zoom, differences in the focusing systems, and button layout. This isn't a bad thing. I found that the experience requires more deliberation and thought in framing the photo - which is appropriate consider that this camera aims to emulate a film camera.
One reason I was attracted to this camera is because how little attention you draw when using it. With no giant lens, a modest camera body lacking a highlighted name brand on the front, and a quiet (but satisfying) leaf shutter, I was able to photograph people inside shops, and on the street, who may have been more likely to stare into the camera had it been an SLR.
I really appreciate the position and density of the flash on this camera. The flash is almost right above the lens, which makes for fewer shadows when shooting with it. The density is effective, but not over bearing. In photos where I used flash to subjects close to the camera, they did not get blown out, or suffer from a blown out face.
The gallery above are a few test shots I took. The only editing I did was some light cropping to straiten a few of the photos out. I was really blow away by the vibrancy and color range of the camera, which you can see especially well in the bowl of fruit and and pumpkin. Textures in focus come out sharp, while the bokeh makes backgrounds dreamy.
One serious problem I ran into was the lack of RAW support for Lightroom 4, and I'm not sure if support is coming out.
I think it's a bit early to make any real conclusions now, other than stating that this camera has some really fun potential for everyday shooting - and possibly a few professional applications as well. I am planning another post blog soon, where I will be using the fuji on conjunction with some of the VSCO filters that I have mentioned in previous blogs. I definitely look forward to shooting with it more, and I'll post results and my thoughts on the camera.