FUJIFILM X100S: The Retro-Fabulous Camera


The Fujifilm X100S is the camera you want without even knowing it. Sure, for an aspiring photographer, the lure of a DSLR can be strong. But when faced with a massive array of lenses and their exceeding bulk, that temptation can quickly turn into intimidation. The ease of use and always-with-you nature of your average smartphone doesn’t do the DSLR any favors either. That’s what’s so great about the X100S: It hits that elusive sweet spot between DSLR quality and point-and-shoot portability. Styled after rangefinder cameras of yore, the X100S is both lighter and smaller than your average full-frame shooter. It’s also infinitely easier to handle. Even better, you’ll get nearly DSLR quality photos. That’s accomplished thanks to a APS-C 16.3 MP X-Trans CMOS II sensor which while smaller than a full-frame sensor, is about same size you’d find in an entry-level DSLR from Canon or Nikon. It’s kinda scary how great the images are coming from this tiny little camera.


They’re exceedingly crisp (even up to 1600 ISO), they displayed very little noise, and coupled with the lack of OLPF and Fuji’s new X-Trans Color Filter, they’re also less prone to moire patterns. Make no mistake, the X100S and its fixed lens won’t replace a pro-level shooter and quiver of lenses. But for someone who wants to keep it simple while also looking to up their photography game, the X100S should definitely be on their shortlist. Plenty of aspiring photographers go the low-end DSLR route with a kit lens, having grand plans to update that lens later. The lens is never updated. And usually for good reason. A good prime can be prohibitively expensive — in some cases more than the camera itself. Then there’s the neck-straining weight of the average DSLR. The smaller size of the X100S made it far more attractive as an everyday shooting companion. Those shadow regions of your clothing won’t be as accommodating to the camera as they are to a smartphone, but the X100S is still small enough to hang around your neck as you head out the door. There’s plenty of performance for nearly any type of shooting situation too.


The autofocus is super quick and responsive. Going from turned off to taking a photo is slowed only by your ability to compose a shot. The speedier processor also gives the camera the ability to shoot six RAW images a second. Combined, those features mean you can capture action shots without having to have the camera turned on and ready at all times. The X100S’s retro design is more than a cheap appeal to your sense of nostalgia. X100S’s dimpled body is both easy to grip and the manual dials and buttons feel solid. If it weren’t for all the technology crammed into the camera and the LCD display, it’s be nearly impossible to pick the camera out of a traditional rangefinder line up. The modern LCD is bright enough to use on sunny days. But for a truly retro experience, the hybrid viewfinder is definitely the way to go. It gives you the same overlay you’ll see on the back of the camera. Plus, it’s a refreshing change of pace from all the digital viewfinders on other compact cameras. Like all rangefinders, the viewfinder doesn’t see through the lens.


Fuji attempts to combat this with a guide inside the viewfinder. Just make sure your subject is inside the guide or you’ll end up cropping it out of the photo because the view doesn’t quite coincide with the glass. Speaking of glass, the X100S comes with a F2.0 Fujinon single focal length lens. While it’s blazingly fast and a fantastic prime lens, it’s fixed and cannot be swapped out. That could be a deal breaker to some — especially considering the camera’s price. Thanks to the leaf shutter, the bokeh effect delivers great soft focus to the background of photos and really makes your portraits pop. A built-in 3-stop ND filter also lets you lower the depth of field in bright environments. Wide open and in macro mode, there was a little bit of softness around the edges of the photo. Of course getting to all those amazing shots means having to learn the rather confusing controls. Many cameras will take a day of devoted study to get up to speed on ins and outs of the camera’s features. The X100S can take up to two. Even then, the controls can throw you for a loop when you’re trying to quickly change the ISO or fine tune the F-stop.


Fuji tried to combat the complexity of its menu system with the Q button. It does help remove some of the issues by presenting the most used features in a easy to maneuver grid. But the camera still suffers from…oddness. The lens ring only adjusts a full stop, for half stops, you need to twist the ring to the nearest exposure setting then toggle the Command Control button left or right until you find the desired F-stop. In fact, the Command Control button is the go-to button for many features, which led to more than a few instances of accidentally zooming in while composing a photo instead of adjusting the ISO.


The buttons are easy to activate, but sometimes they don’t do what you intended. Another issue is the battery. If you’re out on a photo-heavy day, you can get through about 250-300 photos before the battery dies. Not great. But it’s the way the battery dies that’s worrisome. The camera reports the battery is full about 80-percent of the time. Then once it displays the halfway mark, you’re in a mad dash to get all your photos taken because it dies within minutes of quickly jumping from half full to red.


A good rule of thumb is, if it’s red, it’s dead. This battery-level display issue can be fixed with a firmware update, but that won’t help the battery life. All that fast processing takes its toll. If you want the camera to last from morning to night, definitely get a second battery. But a less-than-stellar battery life and steeper-than-usual learning curve are forgotten while you’re taking photos with this camera. After using the camera for a few days, you become confident that at least the quality of your photos will be stellar. The composition, though, is still on you. ( By Roberto Baldwin from www.wired.com – photo: Alex Washburn ) More information at the link below.