I Still Love The Fuji X100

I mentioned more than once that I love my little Fuji X100 but I am feeling a little guilty that I don't treat it seriously enough and don't do much with it that I consider meaningful work. That's still true and even though I vowed that I would - I forgot to use it the last time I made that commitment. Heat of the moment and all. Typically I use it as a little visual notebook for snapping lighting that I stumble upon with no real subject. That's a topic for another day but definitely worth doing for study and review for any lighting junky - which should be all of us.

Given the release of the X100s, I did a little informal survey via twitter the other day. The main question was whether current X100 owners had plans to upgrade. My own feelings are that I am probably going to stay where I am at for a bit. I have no driving desire to swap the old one for the new one. This may change but I will not know until I actually shoot with the newer model. All of the people responding felt similarly and didn't feel a practical or emotional need for upgrading.

I thought I would share a little of my thoughts on this as a current X100 owner. You may or may not feel the same - that's okay we all have our own biases and needs.

First off even though I have an affection for the Fuji, it's by no means the perfect camera. It could be a lot better. I described my major beef which is the feeling of laggy-ness in the fly by wire controls, the EVF - especially when focusing in macro mode, etc. It's not really the bottom line speed and that's why I am not super interested in the X100s's faster-ness. The XPro-1 was a tad faster but there was still the laggy-ness and in both cameras that lag seems to be compounded by what seems to be firmware/software algorithm choices by the developers.

Depending on various conditions that lag actually turns into lockout depending on what particular button you press when the X100 is in a state of after-the-shot processing. As a Nikon shooter for ages it's extremely frustrating to take a test shot hit the play button or the menu button and nothing happens so you hit it again but by the time you do that you un-did what you wanted to do in the first place, so… you hit it again. It's not really the amount of time it takes it's the disruption of your flow.

Another prime example is the extremely irritating way that manual focus seems to work. No I am not talking about spinning the little fake fly-by-wire focus ring which everyone knows is calibrated in a curiously slow way - like 900,000 spins to move the focus from near to infinity. No I am not complaining about lack of focus peaking or any of the stuff the X100s has that the X100 doesn't - frankly I think they are fiddly toys to play with if you are not trying to make images. I see no real compelling reason to use them. I am fine with hitting the button on the back and letting the camera focus. What bothers the shit out of me is that the after you manually focus the shutter lag is completely dependent on where the focus indicator box is pointing.

Example - manually focus on something close by - say four feet. Now take a couple of snaps - nearly instant. Great just why I did this in the first place. Next recompose so that the focus area box is not containing the object at 4 feet - let it cover something at more like 10-15 feet. Take a few more snaps - WTF - whatever the freaking software is doing seems to take the same amount of time as if you were just using AF. You can hear it do something - reeeeeeeraaaareeeet - at half shutter press even in manual focus under these circumstances. This really sucks and there is no way around it from shot to shot. Manual focus seems only to make the shutter button response instant if and only if you keep the focus indicator box on something at the same distance as you want the focus. This sucks hard and is one of the things that makes the experience of the X100 not anywhere close to something like a film camera or a Leica.

So the X100s is faster - great. Too bad that even if it's 4x as fast but works the same way those show-stopper annoyances that can turn into show-stoppers in actual use on real subjects are still going to be there just… less annoying? Honestly it's not the actual delay it the fact that it delays things at all. It throws off your timing and timing is a huge factor in photographing human subjects. Yes you can get one shot off with no delay whether in AF or MF but not a second. Too bad that's really important to me.

X-Trans-II, who cares - well pixel peepers and the anti-anti-aliasing acuity at 100% crowd cares I guess. More fiddly manual focus toys to play with - only while using the EVF. Great - fans of angry birds probably care. Me not so much. Overall speed increase, good for everyone but not enough for me to upgrade. The one and only thing that will make me feel differently is if the laggy-ness in the EVF, the strange need-to-do-some-processing-before-shutter-release MF behavior, the button lockout, etc are completely gone from my perception. I don't care if that happens by making things so stinking fast I cannot detect it or they change the software to work differently. That is what will make me upgrade.

So… What if you are interested in the little Fuji and don't have one yet? Trying to put myself in those shoes I would probably buy the new one with only one caveat. I would never pay more than the MSRP. In fact I wouldn't buy one until the prices normalized to below that somewhere. Second I would buy the old one if and only if I could find one that was less than half the price of the new model. All of that goes out the window if the actual behavior of the new X100s changes - not just speeding up the behavior but the behavior itself changes. If it does you will see my X100 sold and I will have the new one. I cannot tell if it has until I actually use one.

Why the "less than half" price line? We'll digital gear really doesn't age well in terms of recovering your investment. There is no way I would buy a new X100 right now at about $200-$400 less than the MSRP of an X100s. If you decided it was not for you then you almost assure yourself a substantial loss. The X100s - not so much. Maybe a minor loss and you get all the benefits of the newer technology as well as the XPro-1 IQ.


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