Fuji X100S – Pros and Cons
UPDATE: Please see the wedding I photographed entirely on the X100S!
I will be updating my thoughts–both the pros and cons–of the Fuji X100s camera, so please check back.
***Edited with updated information on 3/7/13. And also test out if you can tell the difference between the original X100 vs X100S vs a Canon 5D Mark III (with 35L).
It’s only my first couple days with the new Fuji X100s and so I will keep my thoughts to a minimum, until I can really give a fair assessment. For now, I will just share some of the more obvious pros that jump out at me, and a few of the cons, specifically in comparison to the X100:
-AF improvement. Yes, there is an improvement over the X100. I can’t provide any comprehensive results at this time, as I need more time/situations to fully determine to what extent improvements have been made. Is it better? Yes. Is it what you’d expect from the latest and greatest DSLRs? Do you really expect it to be? In some respects it is as good, but probably not quite in all– as it’s very different. At least if I’m comparing to my Canon 5D Mark III cameras, which are quite sophisticated in tracking motion, etc. That’s what I have to compare to and probably an unfair comparison. I will tell you this– I just ran a test–putting the X100S and the X100 head-to-head with auto-focus. To give you an idea of the low light I was in, my settings to get a nice exposure were 1/125, 2.8, and ISO 4,000. I set both cameras to OVF with no image preview and used the center AF point. For both, I used the “smash” technique, where I didn’t 1/2 push the shutter to pre-focus, then take the photo. I just went full-way for each shot. I also turned the X100S on to “High Performance” mode. I set a timer for 30 seconds of shooting and with both cameras, I focused on a decently contrasted object about 4 feet away, followed by a decently contrasted object about 18 feet away, and I went back and forth between both objects as quickly as I could in the 30 seconds. THE RESULT: X100S with 29 shots all in focus vs the X100 with 23 shots and all but 1 in focus. Not incredibly scientific nor does it represent every shooting condition or way in which you can set the camera up. I will update my additional findings as I have them.
-The AF point selection being accessible on the right of the X100s is a total game changer for me. I pretty frequently move the AF point around on my other cameras, but always felt like my hands were tied with the X100, with it buried underneath my face on the left side of the camera. Additionally, it’s just easier to use once you have gained access to it.
-Speaking of AF point selection–there’s been a lot of question as to how the new center phase detection would fair versus the outer contrast detection focusing on the X100s with AF focusing speed and reliability. I just ran a different test than the one above. In fairly low light (1/125, f/2.8, ISO 2,000) and alternating between an object about 4 feet away and another about 15 feet away, I took as many shots as I could in a 30 second period, using the “smash” technique again, and set to OVF with no image preview. One round was with the center focus point and the 2nd round was the outer-most focus point. THE RESULT: Center with 25 in focus shots vs outer with 24 in focus shots. Not significantly different! There was a difference in the camera’s behavior, in case you’re interested. With the center point selected, you could hear the lens rack and take some time (not a lot) to achieve focus on the object in the distance, and while that was sometimes the case for the near object, sometimes it would almost instantaneously lock on and you would not hear the racking. With the outer focus point selected, both near and far objects caused the racking. In terms of total amount of time, between center and outer– it’s really pretty negligible, despite the difference in the behavior. It’s important to note that this test was run under what I would consider fairly dim lighting. It’s very possible the camera’s behavior could be quite different in bright light, so until I run that test, don’t consider what I’m describing as anything other than under dimly lit conditions.
-Being able to preview your photo in the viewfinder for .5 seconds is like a fresh of breath air to me. On the X100, the shortest preview time was 1.5 seconds or not at all. Setting it to 1.5 seconds meant that it really slowed down your shooting, if you were in a situation that required pretty quick shooting. So, the alternative was to turn off the preview completely. But for us that enjoy at least a little chimping, that didn’t ever seem like a proper compromise. Now, with the X100s, .5 seconds seems pretty ideal. Just long enough to get a sense of what you’re getting, but allowing you to move quickly on to your next shot.
-Speaking of the viewfinder– the EVF has almost double the pixels as on the X100. I was never really bothered by how things looked in the EVF on the X100, but now that I’ve gotten used to the X100S EVF and I go back to the X100, the difference is now a bit jarring. The clarity and colors just look very dull. Also, while panning, the EVF in the X100S is very smooth, whereas the X100 is pretty jittery. Not a huge deal to me in that respect, but worth noting.
-Now, the X100s allows you to set 1/3 stop intervals for your shutter speed and aperture and the camera will keep them where you’ve set them, even after you’ve accessed a menu, or pulled up a photo preview, or even turned the camera off. No more resetting things when you wanted to keep the settings you had already chosen!
-A much shorter minimum focusing distance (with AF) in non-macro mode! Fuji says it’s been reduced to 21 centimeters or 8.25 inches. I just tested and measured it several times and it’s even better than Fuji states. I don’t know where they measure from, but from the front of the lens, I’m able to AF in non-macro mode at 14cm!
-The Menu/OK button is much more raised and so much easier to use. I still have a habit of trying to oddly squeeze my fingertip in there, but I’m slowly realizing that I don’t have to do that anymore.
-The manual focusing ring is way more responsive. In fact you can go from infinity to 1 meter/3 feet, in 1/4 of a turn, even when turning very, very slowly! Or with a quick turn, from infinity you can get to about .20 meters/8 inches with only a 1/4 turn! That is a huge, huge improvement from the X100. That, coupled with the new focus assisting methods of the digital split imaging and focus peaking, the X100s is a very worthy manual focus camera, whereas the X100’s manual focus wasn’t helpful at all–even after the most recent firmware improvements. I’m still trying to figure out my preference in terms of the normal, digital split image, and focus peaking style. Having played with it a little more, I find I lean a bit more towards the focus peaking option, as it just seems easier to determine your focus, especially if very clear vertical lines are absent from the subject you’re trying to focus on– as is helpful with the digital split image focusing option. What I’ve discovered that is just great… it’s probably in the user manual, but no–I have not read the whole thing yet–is that it is very easy to quickly switch between the 3 manual focusing options. I originally thought you had to go menu-diving and was a bit bummed about that. But no, that is not the case! If you hold down the Command Control button for a second, you can toggle through the Standard, Digital Split Image, and Focus Peaking. Brilliant!
-Switching between AF and MF, with the re-ordering of the switch on the X100s is wonderful.
-You can now switch between photo previews in a zoomed-in state. If you want to closely examine photos for detail on the LCD or EVF, you can now scroll through various photos with that same view, whereas with the X100, you had to zoom all the way back out, proceed to the next photo, then zoom back in on that one–making it almost impossible to properly compare any photos in that way. Granted, it’s most effective to get the images up on a computer screen, but sometimes in the field, it’s nice to know what you’re getting/or not getting.
-Improved high ISO files! The X100 was very nice in this respect, but the X100S is even better and without the common banding problem in the highest ISOs. See more info and sample images in the “ADDED” portion of the “Cons” section below.
-The fun addition of Multiple Exposure mode. There’s been a recent trend with in-camera multiple exposures and so you can be a cool kid now too. Some folks are certainly creating some pretty amazing compositions with it, so it’s a nice tool to have if you want to get serious with it; however, there is very limited settings associated with it–far from what’s available in my 5D3 cameras.
-This does not apply to RAW shooters, but for those that enjoy shooting jpegs, this may apply. Now, I say may, because this is very much an opinion and personal preference. I’ve noticed that when I had the X100s set to standard (0) noise reduction and I shot jpegs at 3200 and even more so at 6400, and even higher, that I was not wild about the way the camera was cleaning the image up. Less noise can be a nice thing oftentimes, but it’s the trade off that I’m not quite loving–when set at 0. To my eye, it’s almost a smearing of detail–an almost plastic-y look–the way someone may heavy-handedly over-use the noise reduction in a program like Lightroom. It’s not something I initially noticed zoomed in at all. In fact, I think it’s even more apparent when viewing without zooming in. Now, the nice thing is the X100S allows you to set among 5 different levels of noise reduction +2, +1, 0, -1, and -2. I just did a test at ISO 3200 and 6400 settings and shot the same thing, using all 5 levels across the 10 photos and happily I can already tell that I will be able to find the happy balance that works for me. I need to spend more time with it, but I think I’ll keep mine set on at least a -1 NR. I don’t mind a little noise and, in fact, quite enjoy the quality of noise that the X100S has– at least at ISO 3200 and 6400. I’ll need to do further testing to see what my impressions are at the even higher ISOs and what effect the different NR settings do for me. ADDED: High ISO testing and NR review.
-While the addition of the Q button is nice, I’m not the kind of photographer that needs to access the vast majority of options that the Q button provides. The real issue for me though, is that much to my surprise–the ND filter is NOT one of those options! I thought maybe there was a way to customize what options the Q button provides, but I don’t think so. On the X100, that button was called the RAW button and after a few firmware updates, it became customizable and was the perfect way for me to toggle the ND filter on and off. Now, with the X100S, you have to dive into the menus to toggle the ND filter on and off. I’m not happy about that and I do hope a firmware update can address that and add the ND filter to the Q button options. I do realize that the function button can be assigned to the ND filter, but I like that assigned to my ISO. I also realize that one possible solution is for me to set the function button to the ND filter and then just access my ISO settings via the Q button; however, it’s not a very viable option–especially considering that when in OVF mode, where you can typically maintain sight through the viewfinder, as you adjust your ISO; instead once you hit the Q button, the only option you have appears on the LCD, in a much more cumbersome way.
-The battery still fits into the X100S in any of the 4 possible directions. Fuji had advertised that they had improved upon this from the X100, but for some odd reason they haven’t.
Well, those are some of the bigger ones for me for now. I will have many more thoughts and will go more in depth, so do check back. And make sure you check out my photos with both– the X100, my very initial photos with the X100s, and photos from the very next day in the streets of Denver. As well, check out my wedding photography work.