Fuji X100 Initial Impressions

Thought I would put up a quick post about my initial feelings about my new (used) X100 for those waiting with bated breath. I received it Saturday but could not shoot it until yesterday evening. The idiot that sold it to me did not ship the battery and has been completely incommunicado - in fact my order on Amazon still has a status of shipping soon.

I have to say that with only a dozen or so shots under my belt with zero understanding of all of the camera's behaviors and functions I am more than pleased. In fact I am downright giddy. This is the first camera that I have actually shot in a while that has me excited. I had prepared myself for the typical feelings I expected to have. Disappointment, bewilderment at various design and implementation decisions, and at least two or three things that would render this camera unbearable. None of those. I have v 1.3 of the firmware but I cannot imagine the initial version of the camera being all that different. It's wonderful.

The size is fantastic. It's a smidgen bigger than my LX5 in practical terms if not in exact measurements. It's extremely discrete. Best of all it makes no horrible noises, groans, plastic grinding, nothing. Unlike my Contax G2 and worse still Sigma DP-1s it does not sound or feel like it is about to break every time it focuses. The X100 makes nice soft mechanical sounds during it's operation that all feel quick and precise with no grinding of plastic gears reverberating through the recycled milk jug hollow body sounds that I was expecting that have ruined my experiences with remotely similar devices.

For me the most important thing is that I am absolutely enamored with the viewfinder. The OVF not the EVF. The EVF may come in handy someday but I see myself using the wonderful optical viewfinder in every conceivable real world scenario that I am likely to come across. I really did not buy this for macro capability nor did I buy it for absolute framing accuracy. I bought it to be a digital version of my Leica M cameras at a reasonable price. I really could not ask for anything more with the viewfinder. I can see out the frame lines. They are accurate enough. Hey it's optical. Nothing beats the seeing the real thing in front of your camera - nothing. I have tried just about every incarnation of EVF and I cannot stand them. Even the tiny bit of lag. The unavoidable frame-rate of some frequency or another, the not quite visual resolution. All of it adds up to a distracting, headache, seasickness inducing mess that I cannot tolerate for 5 minutes let alone all day.

Did I say I love the viewfinder - every bit as good as my M cameras when using a 35mm if not better. I say that qualitatively and in no way quantitatively. I only care how it feels in use not measuring bullshit. That brings me to focus speed and accuracy. For what I shoot in the way I shoot it I have used continuous, autofocus tracking, on about 5 occasions - all of them disappointing. For my style of working - close up at large apertures of people AF has been a big looser compared to anticipating movement and being prepared for the moment. In other words I would much rather that the camera do exactly what I tell it to do quickly and directly when I tell it to do it rather than depending on the camera to figure out what I am trying to do and what my subject is doing real time. That might work for sports style shooting where you are at some relatively long distance with a long lens and don't care about micro expresions but it is a complete failure at 3-5 feet with shorter lenses and completely random motion within about a foot or so with people.

This cameras autofocus is not only fine but superlative for very quick reliable focus on where you want to put it and then shooting the actual frame you want. Completely different than something like the Sigma DP working in the same manner. The Sigma DP is so very slow that changing your mind or choosing a different focal point is a long term commitment - almost like a view camera. Grrrrrrrrrrind, whirl grind, grind, 15 seconds passes. Oh now I want to focus somewhere else - ummmm too late. The X100 is nothing like that. It's nearly instantaneous and completely unobtrusive to my working style - it does not get in the way at all.

Speaking of unobtrusive and quiet. These two attributes translate into increased success in making photographs in more ways than I could possibly enumerate. One thing that came to mind immediately as I was using the X100 was that it has virtually no vibration during the shutter release. As evidenced by the image at the top of the post I can hand hold this camera at low shutter speeds without much care or concentration. The image at the top was shot at ISO 200 indoors at twilight, wide open with a shutter speed of 1/25s of a moving subject. The eyelashes (my focus point) are critically sharp - I won't bother with the silly 100% view to prove it but check out the motion blur in my granddaughter's hand. After a few shots I actually was concerned about the shutter speed since I wasn't doing any sort of breathing exercises to insure my stability so I went to ISO 800…

Again perfect focus and very well controlled noise. Note that the above image is a completely unadulterated RAW processed in Aperture 3 with no additional noise reduction. I haven't even started to explore the depths at which I can hand hold this camera but I will bet it's somewhere in the neighborhood of 1/8th of a second with some care, maybe 1/4 if I am not too caffeinated and picky.

As an added bonus my favorite workflow software - Aperture - happens to process the RAW files beautifully in terms of color and tone curve. The hues are very similar if not identical to the Fuji produced JPEG images. The glaring differences are a reduced luminance in blues/purples which is typical of Aperture default RAW processing as well as an apparent exposure of -1/4 to -1/3 of a stop due to the default tone curve applied. Neither of those things are necessarily bad. The bottom line is the distinctive and beautiful Fuji-esq colors and skin are retained brilliantly in Aperture. The RAW WB also seems to be dead on with the in camera produced JPEG images as well with no funky WB issues that plague me when using Aperture as the RAW converter. Well at least so far - I like to be sure so I will definitely be doing some more studious testing on this.

I cannot sign off without mentioning the optics. I have only shot the camera wide open so far and only have a dozen images under my belt but I love the look of the lens. It's sharp where it needs to be. The focus transitions are pleasing and most importantly the rendering is attractive. I cannot wait to learn the camera more deeply and customize it's operation to suit my approach. You will definitely be hearing more about my experiences with the X100. It has me seriously thinking about the X1-pro with the wide and the normal lenses as a done deal - that may be the only digital I will ever want or need. Then again it's a bigger camera - maybe I would be better off with the X100 and say an X200 that has a 50mm equivalent fixed lens…

Silly shot while driving home from daughter #1's house last night. Do not try this at home - I don't endorse shooting while driving in the least but this camera has me giddy.


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