Fuji X100 Series, The Sequel

Who’s up for some crappy test pictures? I guess I am, nothing better to do at 8AM while sipping my second cup of coffee. StupidCrap™ under semi-controlled circumstances are definitely the best way to rationally evaluate cameras. The eliminate variables of emotional attachment to the subject matter, expression, moment, etc. In fact the crappy-er the subject the more you tend to care about nits and techo-bits of gear. Hmmm, I might be onto something there.

In any case, a few of you might have followed that I re-re-re-invested in the Fuji X100 Series. I couldn’t help it. I’m in a position at this point where the little guy will see use over the next few months as opposed to it sitting on the shelf for months at a time as it did last year when I sold my last one. I followed my own thoughts on gear chasing and accession and grabbed an X100S in pristine condition for the lowly sum of $800. Not bad for a camera with no discernible marks, not even anyone else’s finger prints as far as I could see. The camera arrived in yesterday’s post. I thought it would be a good idea to test some of my findings again against my go-to ILC system these days as well as re-familiarize myself with it since it’s been a very long time and a lot of frames since I’ve shot one.

This re-familiarization will end up being a series of posts. Consider it a public service from a photography lover that’s not sipped the Kool-Aid. Someone that loves the X100 series of cameras and making pictures and photography and all that stuff but tends to focus on the reality of gear and tools.

Today’s crappy picture at the top was to confirm my notions about magic Fuji High ISO and color and all those things I consider in the realm of fantasy when the little mirroless cameras are discussed on-line. If not fantasy then at least uncontrolled experiments that would never pass muster as science in a 7th grade lab report. The image at the top was made with my Nikon Df. I set the camera manually to what the evaluative meter told me to do. Really doesn’t matter for this test. For color I used the wonderful spot white balance to make a preset from a gray card. Specs were 1/500s f/2.8 @ ISO1600. The lens was my ancient horrifically large and heavy Nikkor 28-70 2.8 AF-S purchased new in the 90’s. I think I had the first one in the state.

Here’s the same image shot with the same exact settings made with my new as of yesterday Fuji X100S.

Here’s what exact same settings means:

  • I set the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO on the X100S to be 1/500s f/2.8 ISO 1600
  • Used the not nearly as convenient preset WB off the same gray card on the Fuji to get the color balance as close as possible for semi-scientific results.
  • I put the Df down, raised the X100S to my eye standing in the exact same spot and framed as close as possible for a 22 second test.
  • Both processed in LR5 with no adjustments at all, no lens profiles, no WB tweaks, nothing using the Adobe Standard profile.

What do we have here? Well, you can see for yourself as the crappy-ness of the picture won’t distract you. Instead we can focus on techno-crap.

  • Well the Fuji is darker. A lot darker at the same ISO. Pretty much my findings a long time ago. Fuji 1600 ISO is more like Nikon 800 ISO. You might say something like “But RB, it looks more like 2/3 of a stop to me…”. Ummm maybe, who cares but realize the Nikkor is wide open at 2.8 and the Fuji has the benefit of being stopped down a whole stop which makes the vignetting at least 1/3 stop less. In reality more like a whole stop less but I didn’t apply any lens profile corrections to either. This real ISO gap gets worse and worse from here on out as you go up the scale. I’ll show anyone that wants to see. Yep XTRANS shows some big ISO numbers but they aren’t even close to full-frame reality.
  • Color… I don’t see magic Fuji color? Do you? There about the same. Any difference you think you see is mostly due to one being darker and one being brighter in terms of real exposure value. Then there’s the pre-set WB. They could be off due to the Fuji having to be really really really close to the gray card which will influence things by a nit but in this case it’s minor.
  • Framing is a bit different. Could be my use of the OVF. I was standing in the exact same place. My feet didn’t move. My body could have been an inch forward are back maybe. Most likely the sensor plane and lens nodal point was a tiny bit different between the cameras. Maybe the FOV/focal length was a millimeter or two different. A nit.
  • In any case the old rule of thumb that APS-C is one stop different in terms of DOF rendering seems a bit wrong. Even with the tiny bit of framing difference there’s a fairly huge difference in the way DOF looks. Trust me, I shot at f/2 as well on the Fuji. The Nikkor still renders less DOF at f/2.8.

Whoa, hold on, all those things sound really bad. They’re not, they’re just reality. Don’t buy into an X100, X100S, X100T or the rest of the X-System because of it being “as good as full-frame” when it comes to imaging performance. Don’t buy into it because of magic Fuji color insanity. The Fuji’s tend to render a more “pleasing” auto white balance in some cases, in fact Fuji auto-WB is pretty damn good. Don’t buy it for that unless auto-WB is really a deciding factor for you. The X100 series of cameras are unique in many ways. I love them but not for any fantasy stuff in terms of measurements or techno-crap. I love the X100 series for completely different characteristics. Honestly my Df is not that far off with appropriate lens choices in terms of size, etc but far enough off to make a difference in a lot of circumstances.

Speaking of auto WB, what about that? I’ve had the notion that the Df is one of the better Nikon’s for my taste lets see if that holds up on this random crappy-ness…

and the Fuji again with every setting exactly the same except now AWB…

Hmmm, I actually like the Nikon AWB in this case. Has nothing to do with every case but certainly better than most Nikon’s I’ve owned in which I hated the AWB choices. Strange but the Df seems to shoot even pinker/warmer than the X100S which is exactly reversed compared to the D600 and prior Nikon cameras of mine. Again a nit as no camera will make choices you like in every circumstance.

Grab an X100, any of them, for being “normal sized” as compared to film 35mm cameras. Get one because it’s about the quietest camera out there. Get one because you like reasonably good OVF finders, strait-forward pleasing controls for things like shutter and aperture as I do. Even get one because it looks good. I love the way the X100 series cameras look. This time I got the black one, IMO it looks fantastic, better than the silver but then again I’m a black camera guy. In fact I think I like the way the X100/X100S look compared to the X100T. Wonder why they changed it? Change’s sake?

More to come in both the crappy-pictures category as well as the hopefully not-so-crappy department.


Ps. My TCL-X100 arrives today according to the tracking number. Can’t wait to see how it plays as a really compact system and if it remotely satisfies my desire for an X200 with 50mm FOV.

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