Last summer I had the chance to put a borrowed Fuji X100 through its paces in a month long trip to China.  I published my observations on that here.  When it was over it was with some sadness and regret that I boxed that little camera up and sent it back to its rightful owner.  It was gone, but not forgotten.  From time to time it would crop up in a dream or I’d be doing something and think that it would be perfect to have it on this occasion.

After much though, deliberation and wrangling I finally got my own Fuji X100.

A lot of thought went into it before I got it.  The camera does have its issues and it is expensive for something with issues.  But they were problems I knew well and decided I could live with.

 

A lot of thought went into it before I got it.  The camera does have its issues and it is expensive for something with issues.  But they were problems I knew well and decided I could live with.

Fuji X100 - 1/1000 - F/2 - ISO 200

 

Vs The X-Pro 1

Complicating the choice was the upcoming Fuji X-pro 1.  In some respects it promised a fix to many of the shortcomings of the Fuji.  It’s supposed to have even better resolution/image quality, interchangeable lenses, better controls and more.

Despite all this promise I chose to get the X100 anyway.  The reason is the X100 will still be a superior package for what it does, giving you high quality photographic freedom.

Having an interchangeable lens greatly expands a cameras flexibility.  The upcoming 28mm would have been nice.  But 35mm doesn’t have as many perspective issues for portraits.  Will Fuji produce a 35mm lens for the Xpro1?  When?  Would I spend another $650 for that difference?

That’s when it occurred to me that by having an interchangeable lens you add a whole new layer of cost, logistics and worry.  With the fixed lens you’ve got what you’ve got and you look for the shots that will fit.  With interchangeable lenses you are looking for a wider range of shots, and regretting when you see a great shot for 28mm but you’ve got a 50mm on the body and the moment is gone.  Next thing you know you’ve got a bag full of lenses and you’re constantly juggling.  Burdened by your possessions you’ve lost your freedom.

Then there is the matter of the flash.  The XPro1 doesn’t have one.  Only a handful of thousands of  my pictures had flash fill.  Yet three of those are hanging on my wall.  You won’t need a flash for all but the darkest places and deepest backlighting but it’s a nice to have for a narrow band of pictures.  You can get an external flash which is small enough.  But am I really going to bother to carry it around on the off chance I’ll need it?

There is the size of course, the XPro1 is bigger and heavier.  Would it be enough to discourage it’s use.  Probably not.

The cost is a factor.  With a single lens it’s around $1000 more than the X100.  Then if you start adding more lenses and an external flash, filters cases it escalates.  With the X100 there isn’t that much more to buy, even if you had the cash and wanted to.

The logistical tail is the final consideration.  With a sealed fixed lens, lightweight body, leaf shutter everything is self contained and low maintenance.  No need for a cleaning kit or worry of sensor splotches after changing your lens in a bad environment.

Compare my two different photosafari Kits, where I am loaded to the max to take regular daytime shots, night shots, HDR and Panos.

 

NikonSafari

  Fuji X100 - 1/60 - F/2.8 - ISO 3200

FujiSafari

  Nikon D300- 1/60 - F/5.6 - ISO 400 + Flash

For long duration shots with its balance, light weight and leaf shutter even a small flimsy tripod will do the job.  You can fit the pod, camera and head in a travel pants pocket.  Will the XPro1 with its larger size, longer lenses and louder more aggressive focal plane shutter be the same?  Don’t know.  But the X100 came through in the past with one of my most important personal shots, no reason to think it won’t continue to do so.

 

For long duration shots with its balance, light weight and leaf shutter even a small flimsy tripod will do the job.  You can fit the pod, camera and head in a travel pants pocket.  Will the XPro1 with its larger size, longer lenses and louder more aggressive focal plane shutter be the same?  Don’t know.  But the X100 came through in the past with one of my most important personal shots, no reason to think it won’t continue to do so.

 Fuji X100 - 4sec- F/5.6 - ISO 200  - Stitched in PTGUI

Thoughts

When I first got my hands on the borrowed X100 it was not at an optimal time.  It was a few days before heading off to a month in China while dealing with all the last minute issues you deal with before going on a trip of that magnitude.  Most of what I learned about it I learned on the flight over.  Once in country we hit the road hard and there was no time to play.

 

When I first got my hands on the borrowed X100 it was not at an optimal time.  It was a few days before heading off to a month in China while dealing with all the last minute issues you deal with before going on a trip of that magnitude.  Most of what I learned about it I learned on the flight over.  Once in country we hit the road hard and there was no time to play.

 Fuji X100 - 1/120 - F/2 - ISO 200

I got to know the camera pretty well as it was slung around my neck for a month.  But I never got the time to really sit down, work through it and really get to know it. I didn’t want to get too attached to it, because I knew when the trip was over it went back to its owner.  I didn’t know when or if I would ever have one of my own.

In the months that past I never forgot the camera.  Roaming around town I often though about how it would be perfect to have on many occasions.  I even stripped my D300 down to a body and its 35mm prime (50mm Full frame equivalent).  It was good but not the same.  There were certain shots I could visualize, but my D300 just couldn’t capture them, or was too big to have brought.  Especially when doing active things with the family.

Fortune smiled and I was able to finally get one.  No telling when Fuji will quit making them.  I got the firmware updated to v1.21 and now have a chance to sit down and really learn the camera, and more importantly all the things it has to teach me.

The firmware fixed or improved on (but did not eliminate) a few of the shortcomings.  The main issue I ran into was and is the focus speed/accuracy.  I have found there are a couple of tricks, adjusting the focal sensor size and manual focus trick that help.  There are also some settings that mainly apply to JPG shooting to explore.

 

The firmware fixed or improved on (but did not eliminate) a few of the shortcomings.  The main issue I ran into was and is the focus speed/accuracy.  I have found there are a couple of tricks, adjusting the focal sensor size and manual focus trick that help.  There are also some settings that mainly apply to JPG shooting to explore.

 Fuji X100 - 1/60 - F/4 - ISO 640

Gearing Up

When I got the Fuji I picked up the adaptor ring and a camera store recommended 49mm protective filter.  I also ordered and quickly received the fake leather case and a LCD protector.  I put that all together with a Promaster neoprene strap and an extra battery and my kit is complete.

The filter is pretty much a must because of the way the front glass sticks out WAY too far.  I put mine on before I ever turned the camera on.  Good thing too because a few days later I forgot the camera was in my jacket when pulling it out of the car.  Now the filter ring has a little knick in it.

The case works pretty well.  In China I had the high $ Fuji OEM case.  This one is 1/5 the price and protects just the same.  It’s a little bit looser than the leather, which is good because it makes it easier to fit over the filtered lens.  You really can’t tell the difference until you look up close.  I don’t expect it to wear and age as well.

 

The case works pretty well.  In China I had the high $ Fuji OEM case.  This one is 1/5 the price and protects just the same.  It’s a little bit looser than the leather, which is good because it makes it easier to fit over the filtered lens.  You really can’t tell the difference until you look up close. I don’t expect it to wear and age as well.

   Nikon D300- 1/60 - F/5.6 - ISO 400 + Flash

 

Feelings

The best way to describe using the Fuji now is like hooking up with an old friend in a new place where there are lots of new things to do.  The problems and annoyances are still there but at last you have to time to enjoy their company.  There were things that I really appreciated the Fuji for while I was on the road in China.  Many of those are no so important now, but there are things I knew existed that I never really had the time to enjoy.

 

The best way to describe using the Fuji now is like hooking up with an old friend in a new place where there are lots of new things to do.  The problems and annoyances are still there but at last you have to time to enjoy their company.  There were things that I really appreciated the Fuji for while I was on the road in China.  Many of those are no so important now, but there are things I knew existed that I never really had the time to enjoy.

 Fuji X100 - 1/110 - F/11 - ISO 200

My original observation that this is a camera for the experienced user has been further reinforced.  It’s not that a novice couldn’t take good pictures, but they’d find the limitations frustrating as opposed to challenging and educational.  The superior image quality of the system also allows me to explore my photographic vision and take pictures that I just didn’t “see” when I was less experienced.

 

My original observation that this is a camera for the experienced user has been further reinforced.  It’s not that a novice couldn’t take good pictures, but they’d find the limitations frustrating as opposed to challenging and educational.  The superior image quality of the system also allows me to explore my photographic vision and take pictures that I just didn’t “see” when I was less experienced.

 Fuji X100 - 1/250 - F/5.6 - ISO 200

The main challenge of the camera comes from its fixed 35mm lens.  Since you can’t zoom to fit you have to start looking and moving.  If you’re dedicated and have time you can usually “find” a good shot.  Sometimes you can get the shot you are looking for with movement and careful composition.  Other times it’s just not going to happen and you have to rethink your shot.  You can’t get the shot you want so what shot can you get.  It forces you to rethink your composition to capture the essence of what you were looking for vs. its entirety.

 

The main challenge of the camera comes from its fixed 35mm lens.  Since you can’t zoom to fit you have to start looking and moving.  If you’re dedicated and have time you can usually “find” a good shot.  Sometimes you can get the shot you are looking for with movement and careful composition.  Other times it’s just not going to happen and you have to rethink your shot.  You can’t get the shot you want so what shot can you get.  It forces you to rethink your composition to capture the essence of what you were looking for vs. its entirety.

 Fuji X100 - 1/70 - F/16 - ISO 200

You also have to think downstream to photo processing to the cropping.  With 12mp you’ve got a fair amount of latitude to get a good crop from an image.  You just have to pay attention to the composition of things that are further way and less obvious than normal.  Rather than looking at the entire view try and pick out elements that you can crop to your advantage.

 

You also have to think downstream to photo processing to the cropping.  With 12mp you’ve got a fair amount of latitude to get a good crop from an image.  You just have to pay attention to the composition of things that are further way and less obvious than normal.  Rather than looking at the entire view try and pick out elements that you can crop to your advantage.

 Fuji X100 - 1/600 - F/2 - ISO 200

Since it has a wide angle lens attention to lens perspective is more important than a longer focal length.  Due to normal wide angle distortion you have to watch the distance to your subject since closer items are disproportionally emphasized.  Also pay attention to your height in relationship to subject.  When you tilt the camera up or down the distortion is more obvious.  I’m finding I have to bend down or get higher to be more on the level with the subject or the photo suffers.  This change of height perspective is a good lesson, something longer focal length pictures would benefit from.

 

Since it has a wide angle lens attention to lens perspective is more important than a longer focal length.  Due to normal wide angle distortion you have to watch the distance to your subject since closer items are disproportionally emphasized.  Also pay attention to your height in relationship to subject.  When you tilt the camera up or down the distortion is more obvious.  I’m finding I have to bend down or get higher to be more on the level with the subject or the photo suffers.  This change of height perspective is a good lesson, something longer focal length pictures would benefit from.

 Fuji X100 - 1/800 - F/4 - ISO 200

The autofocus speed and coverage presents its challenges as well.  If you are trying to focus something that is dynamic you have to anticipate the moment and get your focus locked before it occurs.  This can further complicate your composition since you’re trying to get the distance, framing, height and more as things are happening.  If you put the effort in you can certainly get some good shots, and learn a lot in the process.  But if you don’t want to work that hard to get some good picts there are certainly better cameras.

When it comes down to it when dealing with the strengths and weaknesses of this camera what really becomes most important is what are you shooting for?  Are you trying to simply make a record?  See what you can do?  Get stuff to show?  Covering an event?  It’s not the camera for all occasions.

 

When it comes down to it when dealing with the strengths and weaknesses of this camera what really becomes most important is what are you shooting for?  Are you trying to simply make a record?  See what you can do?  Get stuff to show?  Covering an event?  It’s not the camera for all occasions.

 Fuji X100 - 1/170 - F/4 - ISO 200

Enough of the weaknesses, this time around I have a chance to use the camera to its real strengths and I’m more impressed with the images than I had been.  In China much of my time was spent in gray cities with hot, lifeless smog filled skies.  It was like directional light and dynamic range had been banished.  My acquisition of the camera coincided with the arrival of spring and I can enjoy wonderful sights full of green.

 

Enough of the weaknesses, this time around I have a chance to use the camera to its real strengths and I’m more impressed with the images than I had been.  In China much of my time was spent in gray cities with hot, lifeless smog filled skies.  It was like directional light and dynamic range had been banished.  My acquisition of the camera coincided with the arrival of spring and I can enjoy wonderful sights full of green.

 Fuji X100 - 1/80 - F/11 - ISO 200

I can carry the camera around with me as a go places, its small enough not to get in the way.  This is especially true when I’m out for a bike ride.  It’s size and limitations are in a way liberating.  If I see a picture I can take I get it, if not then I keep on moving.

 

I can carry the camera around with me as a go places, its small enough not to get in the way.  This is especially true when I’m out for a bike ride.  It’s size and limitations are in a way liberating.  If I see a picture I can take I get it, if not then I keep on moving.

 Fuji X100 - 1/60 - F/2 - ISO 800

The image quality is such that it really is like having a high dollar late model DSLR without the weight and hassle.  The whole system has less bulk and weight than one high quality SLR lens.

 

Focusing Tips-

As I discussed in my review the autofocus of the Fuji has multiple issues.

The speed of focus – The time it takes to focus from pushing the button till its focus

What it focuses on – Unless your sensor covers your subject it can lock onto other objects

Focus Problems – The inability to get a good focus lock on subjects.

Macro Mode Required – To focus on subjects less than a meter a way.

Trolling various internet sites I found a few workarounds to improve the focusing experience.  I’ve tried them out, they help but don’t change the fundamental limitation.

 

Trolling various internet sites I found a few workarounds to improve the focusing experience.  I’ve tried them out, they help but don’t change the fundamental limitation.

 Fuji X100 - 1/60 - F/2.8 - ISO 200

Changing the size of the focal sensor - If you click on the AF button you get a grid that shows the different sensors. You can move it around but it doesn’t just use the sensor point but everything around the sensor point.  This is represented by a box.  You can shrink the size of this box.  In doing so you reduce the area it looks at to focus which has benefits.  It makes it a little bit faster (since it processes less information), increases the chance of getting a focus lock and reduces the chance of locking onto something other than your subject.

To reduce the area switch your view over to the Electronic Viewfinder (EFV).  Now click the command lever (that little rocker switch on the back above the wheel).  This will make the point bigger or smaller.

Continuous Autofocus Mode - Switching to continuous autofocus may reduce the time required get the initial lock onto your subject, especially in dynamic environments. It may help you catch shots that you just missed in the other method, but it’s not to make a it a working sports camera.

 

Continuous Autofocus Mode - Switching to continuous autofocus may reduce the time required get the initial lock onto your subject, especially in dynamic environments. It may help you catch shots that you just missed in the other method, but it’s not to make a it a working sports camera.

 Fuji X100 - 1/60 - F/2.8 - ISO 200

Manual Focus - Manual Focus was all but useless.  The focus ring up front took forever to actuate.  The scale at the bottom but unless you could judge if your subject was 8.2 vs 8.5 feet away it wasn’t much help (other than letting you know your DOF). Turns out there is another way.  Switch to Manual Focus and press the AE/AF lock button and it will focus.  It’s not any faster than the regular autofocus but will focus on items closer than the regular focus.  Think of it as quick and dirty Maco mode.  Flick a switch and push a button vs the select wheel.  To get really close (under 10 inches) you’ll still need marco though.

 

Manual Focus - Manual Focus was all but useless.  The focus ring up front took forever to actuate.  The scale at the bottom but unless you could judge if your subject was 8.2 vs 8.5 feet away it wasn’t much help (other than letting you know your DOF).  Turns out there is another way.  Switch to Manual Focus and press the AE/AF lock button and it will focus.  It’s not any faster than the regular autofocus but will focus on items closer than the regular focus.  Think of it as quick and dirty Maco mode.  Flick a switch and push a button vs the select wheel.  To get really close (under 10 inches) you’ll still need marco though.

 Fuji X100 - 1/320 - F/2 - ISO 200

Built In Neutral Density Filter

Something I completely ignored in China for lack of time was the 3 stop built in ND filter.  Its an actual ND filter built into the lens that slides in.  Never seen that before!  The main purpose is for bright light portrait photography where you want a narrow DOF.  For whatever reason the shutter of the Fuji at the wider apertures has a limit of between 1/1000 and 1/2000 of a second they thoughtfully put this in to compensate.

Of course its uses go beyond that.  I was able to use it to get a time exposure shot of a waterfall by bracing the camera on a rock.

 

Of course its uses go beyond that.  I was able to use it to get a time exposure shot of a waterfall by bracing the camera on a rock.

 Fuji X100 - 1/4 - F/16 - ISO 200

Parting Thoughts

I’m happy and excited to have the camera.  Its been a real joy to take around and use.  The combination of it size, limitations and abilities gives me opportunities to learn, grow and enjoy like no other piece of photographic gear I’ve ever owned.  It really is a unique combination and I look forward to many years of enjoyment.

 

I’m happy and excited to have the camera.  Its been a real joy to take around and use.  The combination of it size, limitations and abilities gives me opportunities to learn, grow and enjoy like no other piece of photographic gear I’ve ever owned.  It really is a unique combination and I look forward to many years of enjoyment.

Fuji X100 - 1/120 - F/8 - ISO 200