Fuji X100s - one more "first impression" post...

Discussion in 'Fuji X100, X100S, and X100T' started by Ray Sachs, Apr 11, 2013.

  1. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs FujiXspot Veteran

    485
    Feb 1, 2013
    Near Philadephila
    I've had a loaner Fuji X100s for a little over a week now and have shot with it in a variety of conditions. Since I owned an X100 and currently own an X-Pro, there was not a lot of adjustment or learning curve with this camera, so I feel I got a pretty good handle on it pretty quickly.

    I've also been shooting with a Sony RX1 for about a month. I was initially planning to do a comparison between the two cameras (and may still do something like that on Serious Compacts) but I'm just going to focus on the X100s here. The Sony is a full frame camera with an amazing Zeiss lens that sells for over $3000 once you add a viewfinder. Its a premium camera that is perceived as the full frame deal of the century to some buyers and a horrible waste of money for relatively little gain to others. There's nothing I can write about either that will settle that potential argument because that's all about perspective, perception, and whether you can afford either or both. So, onto the X100s.

    I'm finding myself with two conflicting feelings after spending some time with the X100s. First, it either matches or improves upon the original X100 in almost every way - the one potential exception is that some people don't like the look or workability of the raw files produced by the X-Trans sensor as much as the original 12mp Bayer sensor in the X100. Others, OTOH, find it an improvement. I'm in the camp that likes the X-Trans quite a lot, so I see no downside relative to the original X100 and many upsides.

    On The Other Hand...

    I'm also notably underwhelmed by the X100s, after having been mostly overwhelmingly pleased with the original X100. Which upon some reflection has less to do with the X100s than the crop of cameras that have sprung up around it since its introduction about two years ago. When the X100 was introduced, it was the first compact camera that a lot of DSLR shooters saw as a real alternative to shooting with a full-size DSLR. Micro four thirds was mostly still using the old 12mp Panasonic sensor that topped out at around 800-1600 ISO (the GH2 was out but there weren't many on the street yet), the Nex 7 and other advances in the Nex world (including lenses) were still on the horizon and the Nex 3 and Nex 5, while solid first steps, did not excite many enthusiasts except in terms of the potential they suggested. Neither Nikon or Canon had made any moves toward the mirrorless market yet. The Sigma DP series existed but were seen then, as now, as mostly specialty cameras for use in good light when shooting speed was of no importance. In short, the X100 came into that scene as a very solid APS camera with a sensor that could shoot well at ISO 3200 and workably at 6400, produced brilliant files, had a reasonably fast f2.0 fixed lens, a hybrid OVF/EVF viewfinder unlike anything else seen on any camera, and it caused a LOT of excitement. In fairness, a good deal of that excitement evaporated once the camera was in circulation as many DSLR users couldn't get used to the slow AF, the parallax issues, the slow operation of the camera, and some of its many early quirks (many since ironed out in firmware). But for other early adopters (of which I was enthusiastically counted), it was a really exciting step forward in IQ and, in some ways, usability among smaller cameras. There was nothing else like it or even really comparable.

    Fast forward two years and the landscape is entirely different. Micro four thirds has advanced to the point that its a serious contender, with sensors in the newest Olympus cameras and in the Panasonic GH3 that rival the best APS sensors available (which many will debate, but two years ago it wasn't even debatable) and a boom in acceptance of the OMD-EM5 that brought many DSLR shooters into the mirrorless world. And the m43 lens lineup can only be described as fully mature and still getting better. Sony has made great strides into the enthusiast world with the Nex 7, Nex 5n, Nex 6, and others going forward. These cameras have notably better sensors and controls than the first generation Nex models. Sony has also come out with the previously mentioned full frame RX1 and is rumored to be working on a full frame ILC mirrorless system which seems to have a lot of promise. And they've even developed a few good lenses for the Nex line, which were a while in coming. Samsung has developed the NX line of mirrorless cameras that seem most similar to the Nex line. Nikon entered the mirrorless world with the smaller sensor J1 and V1 models and has recently released the pocket size Coolpix A with an APS sensor and fixed 28mm lens. Canon has made a bit of an entry into the mirrorless world. Sigma continues to develop the DP line. And, of course, Fuji has come to the fore with its own line of interchangeable lens cameras (X-Pro and X-E1 as of now) designed after the X100 that are largely similar in function and took a step forward (or backward depending on your perspective) in sensor technology with the X-trans sensors.

    So, into this new world steps the X100s. And what does it have to offer? Well, it has the same basic sensor as the Fuji X-Pro and X-E1 which many love and many don't. It has somewhat improved auto-focus but its barely better than the X-Pro or X-E1 if better at all and its still decidedly mid-pack with the m43 and Nikon '1' series cameras having raised the bar to new levels that the X100s is still well short of. While the X100 was the best small camera to date in terms of low light performance, the current Fuji lineup, including the X100s is good but not exceptional anymore, being matched or nearly matched by m43 and Nex offerings, clearly beaten by the RX1 and arguably beaten by the Nikon Coolpix A. The X100s is the best Fuji yet in terms of manual focus, having added the focus peaking technology Sony came up with for the Nex line a while ago and adding a cool new split image option similar to the way old SLR viewfinders would aid manual focus. And the feel of the manual focus mechanism, while better, is no match for the "clutch ring" mechanisms used in a couple of Olympus m43 lenses and Fuji's own 14mm lens for the X-Pro and X-E1. The operational speed of the X100s is hugely improved over the X100, but its basically just on par with many of the other cameras in this class today. The controls are great, but a matter of taste, and basically the same as the Fuji ILC bodies. The EVF is greatly improved in terms of resolution but still seems to experience more lag than the EVFs used by Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony. The hybrid viewfinder remains a marvel for those of us who like this sort of thing (its got to be my favorite feature of the Fuji cameras still), but is only marginally better than the same finder used in the X-Pro which, for reasons of complexity, is not quite as bright as the X100/X100s OVF, and doesn't offer a diopter adjustment.

    I love shooting with the X100s. I like that it has a 28-ish mm conversion lens (that appears even sharper than the 18mm lens for the Fuji ILCs), but its not an easy thing to just switch on and off the camera, requiring a menu change among other things. It feels great in the hand as the X100 did, arguably the controls are slightly better from a tactile standpoint, its quicker and more responsive than its older brother ever was. Its auto focus is more than adequate in most light (although you need to switch to C-AF to get the most reliable performance in low light). Its manual focus setup is great. It has a distance scale that makes zone focus very easy to setup and use (although the electronic DOF scale, like most, is incredibly conservative and IMHO best avoided). Its about a stop better in low light than the X100 was. Its hybrid viewfinder is still an absolute delight to use for those of us who like it (seems obvious but it seems to be a love it or hate it kind of feature). Its a good street shooter, and among the best for those who like to use a viewfinder for street shooting (I prefer not to, so its only a so-so street camera for me). And the Fuji jpegs remains so good with this camera that I greatly prefer to shoot jpegs than raw - as I do with the X-Pro but I shoot raw with every non-Fuji camera I've used.

    So, my bottom line with the X100s is that its a great and enjoyable camera, better in every way (or almost every way for those who don't prefer the X-trans sensor) than the original X100. Its really fun to shoot with. But in today's world its performance is just good, rather than head and shoulders above the competition. So it all comes down to personal preference, where two years ago you might have chosen the X100 even if it didn't meet some of your preferences because it was so much better in key ways than any of the alternatives. If you like a fixed lens 35mm camera (switchable to 28mm, but not easily, and at the cost of notably more bulk) with a built-in hybrid viewfinder, you won't do better. But if you want more options in lenses, any of the compact ILC options from Fuji, Sony, or m43 would suit you better at roughly similar performance levels. If you want a pocketable fixed lens 28mm and don't care about a built in viewfinder, the Nikon Coolpix A may be a better option. And if you want a fixed lens 35mm with an amazing full frame sensor and a lens to match, but don't care about having a built in viewfinder, and are willing to spend the big bucks, the Sony RX1 is a better choice.

    When the X00 came out two years ago, there was nothing that came close to it. Today there are many cameras that match, and even exceed, the X100s at similar price points. So, its not a no-brainer. Its one more among many very very good cameras. If it fits your shooting priorities, its an absolutely wonderful camera. But if it doesn't, today you've got options you didn't have back then.

    As for me, I'm going to enjoy shooting with the X100s for the remaining time I have it, but I'm not going to buy it. I'm going to say with my X-Pro for my Fuji fix and my other cameras for other types of shooting I also enjoy.

    Since I never have all that much to say about a camera until I've shot with it a lot, here are some samples from my time so far with the X100s:

    View attachment 11932
    NYC X100s-47-Edit by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    View attachment 11933
    NYC X100s-182-Edit by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    View attachment 11934
    NYC X100s-105 by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    View attachment 11935
    NYC X100s-26 by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    View attachment 11936
    NYC X100s-73 by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    8635371944_b0f7b67861_b.
    NYC X100s-31
    by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    Even the obligatory dog shot!
    View attachment 11938
    NYC X100s-69 by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    And a few low light shots:

    View attachment 11939
    X100 vs RX1-65-Edit by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    View attachment 11940
    X100 vs RX1-49-Edit by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    View attachment 11941
    X100 vs RX1-52-Edit by ramboorider1, on Flickr
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 21, 2016
  2. Phoenix

    Phoenix Ronin-13 Subscribing Member

    732
    Jan 31, 2013
    Melbourne, Australia
    Phoenix
    Quite an interesting read, I'll most likely share this to a mate who is in the middle of a transition from his dslr into the mirrorless world and is debating as to whether to get an X100 or an X100s.
     
  3. ean10775

    ean10775 FujiXspot Top Veteran

    885
    Feb 13, 2013
    Cleveland, OH
    Eric
    Ray,

    Here's a question - you say you won't buy the X100S, but if the X-Pro 2 were to be released essentially with the same improvements (e.g., better EVF, reshuffling of controls, phase detection pixels on sensor, split image/peaking MF options, etc.) would you buy that camera?

    I essentially was underwhelmed by the X-E1 when I purchased it in hopes that it could replace my 5DII, but having now used the X100S think that I would be perfectly happy replacing my DSLR with an X-Pro 2 provided that it was basically an interchangeable lens X100S in a larger form factor. I may have even exchanged the X-E1 for the X-Pro 1 had I been able to get a package deal on the camera with the 35mm f1.4, but that wasn't a promotion that was being offered.
     
  4. afkenner

    afkenner FujiXspot Regular

    190
    Feb 3, 2013
    New York
    Adam
    Thank you Ray, this is really thoughtful and comprehensive and I really enjoyed reading your thoughts. I'll be putting the X100s through some heavy duty trials next week, and your perspectives are very helpful in preparing for that experience.
     
  5. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs FujiXspot Veteran

    485
    Feb 1, 2013
    Near Philadephila
    Probably not, but that doesn't mean other X-Pro owners shouldn't. I don't find AF speed to be a particularly important issue for the focal lengths I tend to use with my Fuji. I have the 14, 18, and 35mm lenses. For the 14 and 18, I'm shooting with zone focus if I'm shooting people or things that move. When I'm shooting with AF, I'm almost always shooting static subjects, landscapes, etc, where AF speed doesn't matter. AF reliability is a bigger matter, but I find the X-Pro to be just fine in this regard. If I planned on using the Fuji for longer lenses I'd be more inclined to go for a faster focussing X-Pro 2, but I have a great portrait and longer lens lineup for my OMD and don't see any reason to move away from this - those lenses are great and the camera is wonderful for that sort of use. I also don't use manual focus very often for critical focus applications - just for zone focus - so the split image and focus peaking aids aren't a huge deal to me. They're great technology and fun for me to check out, but while other people would probably use them extensively, I probably wouldn't use them much at all.

    I'm actually quite happy with the X-Pro the way it is. I now have better low light cameras and better street cameras, but for general walk around shooting that can handle street and low light well enough, I love the X-Pro. If it wasn't for the 14mm lens and the anticipated 10-24mm ultra wide angle, I might have sold the X-Pro and just gone with the X100s with the 28mm add on lens. But I love the 14 and I see myself moving my ultra wide shooting from m43 to the Fuji once the 10-24 shows up - if you're shooting ultra wide, why use a narrower aspect ratio?

    So, for the way I shoot, I'm not sure what it will take to get me to upgrade the X-Pro. Maybe a huge improvement in sensor technology, but todays's sensors are so good its getting harder to imagine... Maybe a combination of better sensor and a better auto-ISO implementation with use of the exposure comp dial when in manual mode? I'm not sure, but a better X-Pro body isn't feeling at all like a priority to me right now.

    -Ray
     
  6. ean10775

    ean10775 FujiXspot Top Veteran

    885
    Feb 13, 2013
    Cleveland, OH
    Eric
    I too love the 28mm FL - my favourite legacy lens to use on my 5DII is the OM Zuiko 28mm f2.8 and I use the E-PL1 kit lens pretty much exclusively at the wide and long ends - so I've considered picking up the WCL X100 for my 100S (the Nikon A doesn't interest me since there is no VF, plus I simply don't need another camera). At $350 I suppose its a bit pricey for what it is since there are no electronics or moving parts in it, but a 28mm f2 is a pretty enticing proposition nonetheless, especially if the IQ is as good as I've heard.
     
  7. Gary

    Gary FujiXspot Top Veteran

    698
    Feb 15, 2013
    SoCal
    Gary
    Thanks Ray, another nice write up and I appreciate that you qualify your opinions/facts.

    G
     
  8. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs FujiXspot Veteran

    485
    Feb 1, 2013
    Near Philadephila
    The lack of moving parts doesn't put me off it at all and the IQ looks great. The only things to consider are...

    First, its not quite 28mm. Pretty close, about the same perspective. But the EXIF says 19 and when I compare the frame to that with the X-Pro and the 18mm, the WCL-100 isn't quite as wide.

    Second, it protrudes quite a bit off the front of the X100 and blocks a good chunk of the OVF. Its still a more compact package overall than the X-Pro with the 18mm. And on a related point, it doesn't leave much of anything outside of the framelines in the X100s OVF whereas the X-Pro OVF was designed to work well with the 18mm and leaves a lot of additional space. The 14mm is the one that really fills that OVF.

    Third, its not something you'd want to change in the field a lot. And you really have to remember to change the menu item that lets the camera know to change what's going on in the OVF, to change the EXIF, and to correct for the right lens in the jpeg engine. I found myself shooting with it it a few times only to realize later that I hadn't changed the menu. I suppose you might make that mistake less once you have it a while. In my case, I might make it more...

    -Ray
     
  9. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs FujiXspot Veteran

    485
    Feb 1, 2013
    Near Philadephila
    I have to qualify my opinions, but my facts I try not to qualify because one hopes the facts are more universal than just mine! OTOH, maybe I sometimes qualify my understanding of the facts, because a lot of the time I'm just not all that sure about them!

    -Ray
     
  10. drewbot

    drewbot FujiXspot Regular

    138
    Feb 1, 2013
    Toronto
    How do you have all these new cameras on "loan"?

    Or, how do you hide all your cameras from your wife? :eek:
     
  11. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs FujiXspot Veteran

    485
    Feb 1, 2013
    Near Philadephila
  12. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs FujiXspot Veteran

    485
    Feb 1, 2013
    Near Philadephila
    Actually, its through Amin and these forums' affiliation with B&H. He's been getting loaners from them for a while. I've been writing my impressions of the various cameras I've tried for a while (I don't do full technical reviews, just user's impressions) and Amin liked the way I wrote about them, so he offered to put me on the B&H program to allow me to check out and write about more gear. So, that's how I have loaners. Now my wife is used to seeing all sorts of cameras sprawled all over my office and it makes it easier to hide the few I do decide to buy! The downside is now I get to try stuff I never would have though to actually put my own money into and the risk is liking it too much - I'm currently trying to figure out how to pay to keep the RX1 I've been using and that NEVER would have happened if I hadn't been in on this loaner deal. You'll also see me posting B&H links and announcements on the front pages of the various forums from time to time and I sort of do this in exchange for this loaner privilege. I'm on B&H's email list now and Amin is a lot busier than I am, so I offered to help him out with posting those announcements when I can get to them first.

    -Ray
     
  13. marlof

    marlof FujiXspot Rookie

    19
    Feb 18, 2013
    Ray, I really enjoy your posts on those cameras. The background info you give with your impressions make it easy to weigh the (dis)advantages you state. Well done, and I hope you can keep them coming.
     
  14. zapatista

    zapatista FujiXspot Regular

    130
    Feb 6, 2013
    Denver
    Mike
    I'm REALLY trying to resist buying into an RX1 again.
     
  15. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs FujiXspot Veteran

    485
    Feb 1, 2013
    Near Philadephila
    Thanks - I'm glad they're useful to some folks.

    -Ray
     
  16. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs FujiXspot Veteran

    485
    Feb 1, 2013
    Near Philadephila
    Well, if you can spend the money and you want it, go for it - it's a pretty incredible camera. OTOH, in real world shooting, the X100s is a pretty fine consolation prize and has its own strengths (built in hybrid viewfinder, jpegs to die for, a bit less to carry with the smaller lens). They're both great cameras. The RX1 has a notably nicer sensor and lens, as you'd expect for the price. There are some very challenging shots where the difference would matter. There are a whole lot more slightly less challenging shots that the X100s arguably does just as well with except under pretty extreme pixel peeping.

    -Ray
     
  17. xdayv

    xdayv FujiXspot Regular

    54
    Apr 9, 2013
    Philippines
    Dave
    Ray thanks for the very informative review, I appreciate it. Most of the reviews I've encountered on the X100s almost always points out the positives rather than the negatives, while nothing bad, it's just a bit nicer to see a well-balanced and real-world user review for a change.
     
  18. garylh

    garylh FujiXspot Regular

    71
    Feb 7, 2013
    Nice writeup... Very well thought out especially in terms of the competition in this space. The x100s is still the only one w/ the ovf/evf combo.. Which still attracts me to it.. But I have decided that for my needs the x100 is good enough. If I didn't have it, I would mostly pick up the x100s.

    Gary
     
  19. Bashar

    Bashar FujiXspot Rookie

    13
    Apr 1, 2013
    Sorry, but for me a REAL camera has to have an optical viewfinder. M4/3,Sony are toys next to the X-100s, I was the first to buy an XE-1, thinking that i could live with an electronic screen, NO, the technology is still not there...
     
  20. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs FujiXspot Veteran

    485
    Feb 1, 2013
    Near Philadephila
    Well, then obviously you should be shooting with an X100, X100s, X-Pro, Leica M, or one of the zillions of DSLRs that are out there with optical viewfinders.

    But not all of us are blessed/cursed with such absolute certainty and may consider cameras that don't have OVFs.

    And, btw, I know you qualified it by saying "for me", but its very possible to express a strong preference without denigrating other people's equally valid preferences by saying only a camera with YOUR preference is a "REAL" camera, that other competing cameras that are better in plenty of ways than the X100s are "TOYS" in comparison. I have strong preferences too, but that's all they are, and competing preferences can be just as valid even if they don't work for me... Talk of "real" cameras and "toys" in comparison is the kind of thing that starts flame wars and undermines the civility of places like this forum.

    -Ray