Review: Fuji X100

First some background, because it greatly influences my impressions of the X100.  I started shooting and developing black and white film when I was in high school.  Over the years my most used cameras were an Olympus XA 35mm rangefinder, Minolta Autocord TLR, a Holga, and a Konica Rapid Omega medium format rangefinder.  I owned a couple SLRs, but never really cared for them.  We bought a DSLR at one point, but I never really liked using it and didn’t want to spend the money on lenses to get acceptable image quality for a camera I didn’t want to carry or use.  The other kicker with digital was that I like the artifact of a print, and digital prints either looked like crap or were too expensive to do right.   ImageThe aresenal: Fuji X100, Canon S90, Holga, Konica Rapid Omega, and Minolta Autocord


ImageWhere the magic happened.  ISO 800, f11, 1/60

I never took the big boys (with the biggest being the Rapid Omega, coming in at exactly 5 pounds with the 60mm lens) backpacking, but I did haul them all over Central America while working there, as well as up mountains in Africa.  The past few years my philosophy of travel has changed enough that I can’t really imagine carrying around a MF camera anymore, and I just don’t have time to make prints in the darkroom.  I settled with a Canon S90 for backpacking and everything else, and overall it’s done its job, but I haven’t really cared much about what I get from it.

Enter the X100.  Though it definitely is not a rangefinder, it feels right and familiar to me in a way that DSLRs never have. Image

Image quality is outstanding for the size and weight of the camera.  All photos here are out of camera JPEGs unless otherwise noted.  I’m not going to say that X100 files are “film-like”, because they aren’t, but they do have a richness to them that is unique.  ImageThe Purser of the Purser/Swihart Rolling Photo Laboratory workin’ some dough. ISO 200, f2, 1/100.

As a backpacking camera, I’ve been very happy with it.  Weight is good at 15.75 oz with a battery and memory card, and the size and shape makes carrying it easy.  I picked up a cheap Case Logic case as a last minute solution before a trip and it has been surprisingly functional while I come up with a better long-term solution.

ImageHard sides and a padded sleeve inside for the camera.  The camera is light enough that I’ve just been wearing it over my shoulder under my pack.

I’ve never used a camera that’s weather sealed, and I suppose it would be nice, but I haven’t missed it with the X100.  I do mostly backpack in the desert, though, so in some climates it might be more critical.

High ISO performance is excellent, especially for black and white conversions.  80% of the time I shoot aperture priority with auto ISO up to 1600 and min shutter speed 1/125.

ImageElizabeth Lake.  ISO 3200, f8, 1/90.

The APS-C sensor is big enough to give some very nice bokeh, which is something I was worried about when considering m4/3 systems.

ImageAutumn after some rain.  B&W conversion in Lightroom. ISO 200, f2, 1/800.

ImageNot the best wildlife camera, but Saw-whets are forgiving. B&W conversion in Lightroom. ISO 500, f2, 1/125.

The X100 does have some quirks.  Write speed is horribly slow without a fast SD card.  The lenscap is awful.  Autofocus isn’t the fastest and no focus peaking for manual focus is definitely missed.  The most obvious limitation is the fixed lens.  I’ve found the 35mm equivalent lens fine about 75% of the time.  For backpacking, I’m fine with that as a compromise for weight and simplicity, but I do miss some focal length flexibility.  For that reason, I’ll probably trade the X100 for the X-E1 when it becomes available.  With the upcoming 27mm pancake or even the 18mm, size and weight for backpacking should be about the same with a lot of added flexibility.

In sum, I love it.  It’s fun to use, the results are excellent, and it has me excited about taking pictures again.  I even picked up a used Epson 3800 so I can have my artifacts.  A few more OOC JPEGs (all the photos on this blog are also from the X100):

ImageAspens.  ISO 200, f8, 1/200.

ImageGrinnel Glacier.  ISO 200, f4, 1/2000

ImageFlattop Mountain. ISO 400, f2, 1/640.

ImageCrack Canyon.  ISO 1000, f11, 1/125










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