Fuji X100s Review: Retro Looks Meets Modern Tech

by Chris Gampat Reads (566)
Editor's Rating
8.80

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 9
    • Features
    • 9
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 9
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Expandability
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 8.80
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Overview

  • Pros

    • Class leading image quality

    • Significantly faster autofocus performance

    • Small and light body

    • Excellent build quality

    • Built-in ND filter

    • Leaf shutter lets you sync flashes at a super high speed

  • Cons

    • The flash has some seriously weak game

    • Lens cap is easy to come off and not easy to store

    • Focusing in low light can be frustrating

    • Video mode is limited

Quick Take

With its retro styling and fixed lens design, the Fuji X100s is sure to be a hit. We love the camera's image quality and fast AF.


Remember when Fujifilm first announced the X100 camera? Photographers everywhere became smitten immediately in a way synonymous to an awkward teenager experiencing love at first sight. That is the camera that also helped changed everything. If you had previously read in forums everywhere, many shooters wanted a retro looking camera that was small and housed a big sensor. They got it with the X100. It wasn’t perfect though. This year at CES 2013, Fujifilm announced a refresh in the form of the X100s. The company specifically honed in on the initial complaints about the camera and stated how they went about trying to improve on them.


The X100s is now being marketed and looked at as perhaps the perfect camera for street photography and candids. Indeed when you pick up a DSLR or a mirrorless camera and then hold an X100s, you’ll be astounded at the differences. Granted, you’re stuck with one lens–but that lens still offers the quintessential field of view for documentary shooting.

So what’s all the hype about? Besides having some heart-palpitating good looks, the X100s has many other things going for it. For starters, the camera’s heart is a 16.3MP APS-C sized X Trans II sensor. While that right there is a lot to swallow, note that the sensor has been revamped for better high ISO noise processing and there are now phase detection sensors on the semi-conductor. And in front of the heart is the other lip-biting feature–the lens. The X100s has a permanently fixed 23mm f2 lens with Fujinon glass comprising its design. Fujifilm has been in the business of optics for many years and have made what many professionals may consider some of the best lenses ever made in the medium format and large format territory. Bringing that knowledge down to the APS-C level, this lens renders a 35mm field of view due to the 1.5x crop factor of the APS-C sized sensor. Around this lens is an aperture ring–which will tug at the nostalgic memories of many experienced film photographers and retro-infatuated enthusiasts.

The X100s is mostly the same camera as the X100 except for the new autofocus, a few new button placements, revamped autofocus and new manual focusing methods. Users now have the option of using either a split prism display in the EVF mode or they can use focus peaking.

Otherwise, all the knobs and dials that photographers loved are still there–including the exposure compensation dial. And yes, the EVF/OVF switch is also still carried over. This was extremely important to many shooters.

But is the camera perfect?

Fuji X100s

Build And Design
For those not in the know, before the demise of film cameras to the digital age there was a single legendary film point and shoot known as the Hexar AF. It had a fixed 35mm f2 lens that was a Leica copy. A very valid argument can be made to say that this camera is what inspired the X100 and X100s. It was beautiful, simple to use, small, quiet and is still going for loads of dollars on eBay.

With that said, the X100s shouldn’t be called a point and shoot. It is a fixed lens camera instead. If one calls it a point and shoot, they need to consider the fact that this camera is marketed toward those that reach for higher fruit from the tree. There are loads of buttons right where you need them and in the right hands, this can be one heck of a killer camera. Indeed, there aren’t even any automatic modes–the closest one could be program mode. But if you put this camera in the hands of the inexperienced, then the exposure compensation dial might be tweaked and the user might not have any idea what’s going on with their images.

To that end, the design will once again be something best suited for the veterans.

The camera has size dimensions of 5.0 x 2.9 x 2.1 inches / 126.5 x 74.4 x 53.9 mm and weighs in at 15.70 oz / 445 g. This camera is really light and one can walk around with it around their chest or shoulder all day without feeling any fatigue.

And for the photographer that used to shoot weddings and events with many cameras strapped around them, this can be quite a liberating feeling.

Ergonomics and Controls
The Fujifilm X100s, once again, has nearly an identical camera body to the X100. The front of the camera is characterized by some extremely low profile looks. There isn’t a Fujifilm logo on the front at all because otherwise that may draw too much attention to it. Instead, you’ll find the lens, OVF/EVF switch, the flash, and the front of the viewfinder. Just because they needed some other way to designate the camera, a little “S” is on the bottom front of the camera. The lens retains the X100’s aperture ring for control.

Head over to the top of the camera and you’ll see some more business going on. There you’ll find the Fujifilm branding, hot shoe, shutter speed dial, on/off switch/shutter release, and the exposure compensation dial. The only other hard button up here is the tiny Fn button–which we programmed to control the ISO.

Circle around to the back of the camera and you’ll see the main control deck, captain! Here you’ll find another control switch, the AEL/AFL lock button, four way control dial with settings to access many controls, display/back button, and the quick menu addition. Then there is the huge LCD screen of 2.8 inches–and it’s not bad but we wish it were more detailed since it is only 480K dots. To the left are the playback button, AE button, drive button, and the view mode.


And towards the top is the viewfinder with the diopter and eye sensor next to it.

On either side of the camera are the ports and the focusing switch. While on the bottom is the battery plate that also holds the SD card in place.

Menus and Modes
This camera has loads of different menus. There are different drive mode menus, different playback menus, and different control menus. They’re all color coded for easier access, but you’ll need to still do quite a bit of digging to get through to many of the minor and specialized needs. For example, activating the ND filter requires you going through the menu. Additionally, if you want to change the film simulation, you’ll need to do the same. It can be a bit of a pain.

  • Program Auto: The camera sets aperture and shutter speed, but the user has the option to select different combinations of aperture/shutter by rotating the command dial or pressing the command control right or left. Wide variety of user inputs.
  • Aperture priority: User sets aperture, camera sets shutter speed. Wide variety of user inputs.
  • Shutter priority: User sets shutter speed, camera sets aperture. Wide variety of user inputs.
  • Manual: User sets aperture and shutter speed. Wide variety of user inputs.
  • Motion panorama: Auto mode allowing user to select 120 or 180 degree angle shots, then stitches multiple images together to form a single shot. User inputs are restricted to ISO, limited choices for image quality, dynamic range and film simulation.
  • Movie: Capture 1920×1080 resolution movies at 60p or 30p frames per second; 10 minute maximum recording time.

Display/Viewfinder
Fujifilm’s X100s has a 2.8 inch LCD with 480K dot resolution screen. We have to admit that we wish that it were better though. When it came to reviewing images on the LCD screen, it was sometimes tough to see the details. This is a major problem when shooting events or candids–especially when you mix in a lens being shot wide open and not always accurate AF in low light.

In contrast, the camera’s EVF has 2,360K dots of resolution–and it is positively stunning. The user also has the option of using the OVF, but that also slows down the focusing and won’t always be the most accurate in telling you what’s in focus and not. Additionally, one needs to consider parallax correction when focusing. When using the EVF, what you see is what you get–and that’s quite liberating.

We experienced no major lag at all with the EVF, so thankfully you won’t be seeing the world as a slow-motion video at all. In fact, if you turn it on and shake it around, you might even get a bit dizzy as the frame rate keeps up that much.

Note that when you’re in manual mode that you will also experience exposure simulation. Keep this in mind if you have a flash on the camera and you’re stopped down to f8 at 1/1000th set to ISO 200. But when that flash goes off, you’ll have the image you imagined. In our tests, we had lots of fun using Lomography’s Diana flash.


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