Fuji X100 revisited

As I’ve written yesterday, I am on a trip and this time I took with me the Fuji X100 as my main digital camera. Since I decided to keep it, I thought I’d give it a good run to see how it performs (again!).

I have written extensively in the past about my love/hate relationship with this camera. I mainly purchased it as a camera to accompany my Leica M8. The M8 is a phenomenal camera (even with today’s standards) which delivers razor sharp images (the sharper I’ve ever seen from a digital camera), its files convert to black and white better than anything I have seen, and its a superb infrared camera. Furthermore, its a rangefinder camera, and I love rangefinders. Also, you get to use some of the best lenses in the world (and some fantastic Voigtlanders, too.)

The X100 came in to compensate for the weak areas of the M8, which are bad high ISO performance and macro shots. Also, the built in flash is a useful feature and the ability to shoot video can always come in handy. So, with these two cameras I could travel anywhere and get the images I want to.

The main problem I had with the X100 was that its a slow camera. It takes me forever to navigate though its quirky menu interface, its auto focus is very slow (there were times when I could nail focus faster with the manual lenses on my M8), it makes annoying sounds, and generally its sluggish. Even it’s manual focus operation is terrible (practically unusable for me). When I compare it with my Sony NEX 5N, its like comparing a Ferrari with a family sedan (speed wise).

For these reasons I almost sold the camera, but since (for various reasons) it stayed with me, I gave it another chance. So, did it perform during the first day of my reevaluation ?

The problems are still there, the camera is slow like hell, makes funny sounds, takes forever to star, and it requires a very fast SD card to operate without delay (especially when using the motor drive). But there is something that really fantastic about the X100, and that’s the image quality. Great looking sharp images with truly wonderful color are the results of a great lens matched to a great sensor.

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I really love the way this camera renders color, especially green and yellows. Also, its Auto White Balance is truly great. The images are almost on par with my Leica M8 (which wins by a very small margin in tonality and sharpness, but all these only at base ISO).

Its also a great camera for close ups or macro, and the ability to sync flash in high speeds (due to its leaf shutter) is very helpful. It’s video is not good, AF is hunting all the time and its shaky, so I would only use it if I absolutely had to (the video of the NEX is ages better). At f/2 it can even create bokeh although I wouldn’t shoot portraits with it.

So, one might ask, what is going on here ? I have been bashing this camera on several posts in the past and now I am talking about it like its the camera of they year !! Well, opinions change and although I still can’t live happily with its flaws, I cannot deny what my eyes see, which is superb image quality.

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I am not a fan of DSLRs due to their bulk and weight and I will only use them if I have to. I prefer traveling light and the combo of the M8/X100 or M8/NEX (depending on what I am shooting) is perfect for my needs. I can also add my Makina 67 to the equation if I need to shoot MF film and if I am doing landscapes, the Fuji GSW690 loaded with Velvia will beat any other camera (even my Nikon D800E which might be more practical and equal to resolution, but it cannot shoot Velvia !!)

So, the X100 seems to be getting back its place in my (small) camera bag. I will always pick up first the Leica M8 with the Elmarit 28mm f/2.8 if the light is good, but if I need to go above ISO 640 then I will reach for the X100. The 35mm focal length remains my favorite and the NEX requires a very expensive investment on the Zeiss e-mount lens which I am not willing to make (also the NEX/Zeiss combo is really large compared to the the X100), which brings me to one more issue.

Over the years my camera collection has grown significantly. If we leave the film cameras out (each one serves a specific purpose since almost all are single lenses cameras) my arsenal consists of two Nikon DSLRs (which don’t go anywhere soon since they are considered to be tools of work), a Ricoh GX200, Sony NEX 5N, Leica M8 and Fuji X100. Three mirrorless cameras, that is (the Leica was a mirrorless camera even before the term was invented !!)

Now, is there a need for all these cameras ? Well, maybe not. The G.A.S. syndrome really hit me some time last year and I probably got more than was needed. Now, I use all of my cameras frequently according to the situation. The NEX has become my camera for family and travel snapshots, the M8 for infrared work, landscapes and portraits, and the Ricoh is always in my pocket when I don’t carry a camera bag. So, all these cameras have a use (I could easily depart from the X100 but each time I shoot with it, my mind changes !!).

But many times I get carried away from the process of choosing what camera I will take for the next photo trip. It can take hours before I end up with the “best combo” for tomorrow’s trip, which really sometimes frustrates me (and frustration has place in a hobby like photography). It seems that often I forget one of the basic rules of taking images, which is “you don’t have to shoot everything”. Three years ago, I used to only take my film Leica M6 with only one lens, the Summarit 35mm and a rolls of Ilford HP or TRI-X. During that time I have made some of my most favorite images. I knows it sounds “cliche” that by having only a camera with prime lens will force you to “search for photos” and eventually you will master that specific focal length and make good images, but I find that to be absolutely true. So, why don’t I return to that era and this way of thinking (photographically) ? Well, who knows, maybe some day (soon) I will !!!

Enjoy the rest the images, all taken with the Fuji X100.

(c)2012 Konstantinos Besios. All Rights Reserved.

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