Look What The Cat Drug In - A Fuji X100S

Finally. Finally, finally. After what seems like an eternity my brand spanking new X100S is here. Actually it came Monday but I have let things settle a few days before I wrote my initial impressions. They are initial impressions since I have not done any real work on real subjects with the new camera. The reason for the delay of even my very first thoughts is that I wanted to make sure they were balanced and had a few days to settle.

Headline - the x100 and x100s are not night and day different cameras. Surprise, surprise. Based on the absolute gushing reviews of how speedy, responsive, super duper improved the "S" version was over the original I am just not seeing that. I know I will be the odd man out here but I am not impressed in the least. Maybe I got the slowest oneā€¦ ummm no. Mine is exactly the same as everyone else's. Maybe my expectations were way too high based on the build-up. Okay there is the real negative part out of the way. So where does that leave us? Well the X100S is a great camera but so was/is the regular old X100.

The image at the top is a compare of the X100 and X100S for all the pixel peeping kinda comparisons with as close as the same comp as I could muster handheld. Yea there is a slight acuity boost, a slight reduction in noise at 1600 but really they are on par. I will give you my thoughts on any meaningful dynamic range improvement a little ways down the road after I have shot it under a variety of real world conditions. That's all for now in terms of IQ - no real revalations here. Don't expect any earth-shattering improvement in IQ. Bottom line - doesn't matter much.

On to a bunch of random thoughts. Most of which are about the same as I felt Monday for better or worse.

  • Fuji really downgraded the packaging. Yea I know - doesn't matter but it was nice to have the really nice box to open with the black silk. The new packaging is standard fare for Panasonic, etc, etc. Generic.
  • Overall the camera feels rougher in it's automated movements of focus, viewfinder shutter flicking up and down, etc. Break-in period? Who knows but out of the box it doesn't have the silkiness maybe due to the fact it is slightly faster? The aperture opening and close seems a lot louder to me. Overall the new one seems just a hair louder.
  • The focus is a hair faster - maybe but probably not the night and day that you would expect. Certainly not what I expected. Maybe it is way faster in edge cases that I have not shot in yet.
  • Start-up is faster and the complete lockout is gone for playback and other buttons after you shoot a shot. That is good.

There are my first impressions. I wish I was overwhelmed but I am not. Sure it's great but not an overwhelming upgrade. At least not for what I was expecting. A few niggles are gone but a few are still there. I mentioned before that I didn't think some of the little nagging issues were fixable with just speed. Now I am sure of it - they are algorithm issues. Seems the way things operate in the software and the order in which they happen and certain things that the Fuji software engineers chose are the obstacle for fixing things on my list.

Just a "for instance" as opposed to an inventory. Setting up the camera the way most people will probably use it with auto-focus on in single servo mode as a baseline. When you half press the shutter all the stuff that needs to happen will happen and stay that way at half-press until you decide to take the shot. After that one shot everything goes back and needs to re-happen including the frame-lines going back to the infinity position in the viewfinder. This always happens even with the shutter still fully depressed or half-way depressed. There is no way to not fully release the shutter and go back through the entire process of focus, realign frame lines, etc to take the next shot. For me just fixing this so that I get the same exact focus, no frame-line movement, just keep everything the way it was if I don't fully release the shutter and allowing me to take the next shot would be a better upgrade than whatever "speed" fixes I allegedly received.

Things along those lines impact the fluidity of using the X100 and the X100S. A lot of those quirks are still there just a little bit faster. Is it a great camera - yes. Will I return mine if some fit of rage? Probably not. It's an incremental improvement. The manual focus toys and usefulness of the fake focus ring is certainly night and day different - great but I wasn't uncomfortable just using the "hit the back button once" method when manual focus was appropriate for what I was doing. I don't know if the focus ring and new assist toys will actually prove useful to me in the real world. We'll see. I usually mess with all the stuff when shooting real subjects before I decide on how best to use a camera.

So what's the bottom line for those of you out there that may or may not have an X100 already but are thinking about grabbing an X100S? From my perspective it's about the same as it was. If you absolutely want a brand new camera I would definitely pay a bit more and get the X100s rather than a "new" slightly discounted X100 if they are still in-stock at various purveyors. If you have an X100 and think you absolutely must must must have slightly better IQ or whatever button lockout is impacting your work in a substantial way - great get the upgrade. If not you can probably rest easy that you are not back in the stone ages by not upgrading. The X100 is not a complete slouch compared with the upgraded model. It probably will not change your work in any meaningful way, it probably won't be a night and day difference in what you can or can't shoot - trust me. If you don't have an X100 and are thinking of one it may be a great idea to snag an old one in good shape when they hit rock bottom shortly. I think they are about $650-$700 right now. I would say any lower than that would be a steal and give you a very close rival to the new one.

I will update this and maybe even do some sort of real speed comparison just to satisfy my own curiosity. Anyone else out there actually shoot them side by side as I have over the last few days and have similar impressions? Am I the only one that isn't blown away by the overwhelming speedy-ness? Then again I wasn't a big complainer on the old one. Hmmmm maybe I have the fastest old X100 that left the factory? Doubt it.


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