The Fuji X-Series of mirrorless cameras have intrigued me for some time, especially the X-100 with it's unique form-factor that resembles a vintage rangefinder camera from yesteryear. For years photographers have been fairly vocal that they really wanted a "digital rangefinder" that could be used in situations where a bulky DSLR camera would bring unwanted attention to the photographer. Well, Fujifilm has given photographers exactly the right camera for that purpose with the X-100 series of digital cameras! The original X-100 was not without flaws but photographers adapted to the challenges of relatively poor autofocus and began to sing the praises of this unique camera. Images appeared online of spectacular quality and photographers appeared in YouTube videos discussing how the little camera "changed their life". Later, Fujifilm did a wonderful job of updating the original camera with firmware providing a dramitic autofocus improvement much to thrill of existing X-100 owners. Fuji updated the entire camera in 2012 with the X-100s and recently with the X-100t. Would-be buyers now have three choices since X-100s models are still available new and the original X-100 cameras are abundant on eBay.
I decided to tryout an X-100s since I am considering a mirrorless camera purchase and all of the Fuji cameras I am considering have the same image sensor. The X-100t has a few new compelling features including WiFi but my plan is to buy a used or close-out model so that one is out. Though I think that I will be going with one of the interchangeable lens cameras, I figured I would try the X-100s first and see if I like the sensor and image quality. It also made sense since it is the lowest rental cost once a lens is factored on another model. I logged into my LensRentals.com account and pulled the trigger on a rental. I arranged to have the package dropped-off at a nearby FedEx/Kinkos location as an adult signature is required and I was not going to be around home on the delivery date. I received a confirmation email on my iPhone two days later and stopped into the store while on my lunch. Note to self: always do this process from now on! Super convenient!
I opened the little shipping box and noted to myself that it felt like it was empty with such low weight. It was not an empty box of course and inside was the familiar welcome folder from LensRentals.com and the return shipping label. The camera was packed in a little camera bag with the charger and battery. I was a little disappointed that I got a silver and black camera to try since I prefer the all-black version but it was no big deal. The battery was fully charged and the camera was ready to use save for an SD card which I had neglected to bring along. I stopped home and grabbed a card and was able to experiment with the camera albeit briefly. The real tests would come in the next couple of days. I was able to play with the autofocus and a few settings on the camera including the film emulation settings for jpegs. I also had a chance to play with the hybrid viewfinder and found that I preferred the electronic finder over the optical... hmmm. I stepped outside the next morning a snapped a few shots of some tree shadows. I liked what I saw in the viewfinder and on the rear LCD got me excited. I love black & white photographs and this little camera makes wonderful black and white images right in-camera.
I had my daughter stand in the the entryway to our home with the door open. The directional window light was beautiful and the camera worked wonderfully in capturing some quick portraits. I withheld judgement until I had a chance to see the images on my monitor. They would not disappoint. I would have preferred a longer focal length but I knew that going in.
Back inside the house I was able to play with some high ISO B&W with my favorite mutt. At f2.0 the shallow depth of filed makes for a lovely capture of my fluffy buddy!
I had arranged a model shoot at my studio during the time that I had the X-100s and decided to try the little guy out while I had the opportunity. I had to fumble with the menus for a few minutes prior to the arrival of my model as the hot shoe is non-functional if you have the flash disabled entirely as I had. I found a setting for "external flash on" and enabled it. The hot shoe then worked to fire my studio strobes via a Pocket Wizard Plus Transceiver that was nearly half again the size of the camera! I set the camera to its lowest native ISO setting of 200 and set an aperture of f11 as I had already set-up my lighting for my Canon 1DmkIV at 100 ISO at f8. The shutter speed was a simple 1/200 sec and I set the white balance to 5600K. The electronic view finder is simply awesome in the studio! If you have never used a mirrorless camera, the viewfinder shows an instant review of your image at your eye! With strobe lighting, the instant preview allows you to see the effect of your lighting in a much better way than the little LCD on the back of the camera. The preview does take a bit of getting used to as you do feel like some connection with your subject is lost when you still have the camera at your eye but are seeing the exposure you just made vs. the live view of the subject. I adapted quickly though and the function became addictive.
The lens on the X-100s controls contrast well and didn't flare when my kicker-lights were in the frame. Some flare did come into play when I tried to keep the lights out-of-frame as I did not have a hood for the lens. I decided to use the flare to creative effect with good results. The image below is the only in the series that was a RAW file converted in Lightroom. All other images are out-of-camera jpegs. I have always enjoyed the control of shooting RAW with every DSLR that I have owned but the camera produces excellent jpegs. It is nice to have the option of RAW in your back pocket but when the jpegs are sweet it is a fast solution to an imaging need.
Sadly, the Fuji had to go back to LensRentals.com but I plan to try some more cameras in the near future. Though I have no immediate need for a different camera I do desire to lighten my kit up for some of the work I do. I never really planned on replacing my DSLR cameras in the studio with mirrorless equipment but the ability to work with a small and lightweight camera and an electronic viewfinder is very compelling; far more compelling than I had expected. I will likely be trying out a Fuji XT1 in the near future and I will post thoughts and results here. Happy shooting!