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28 Hours with the X100


Brad Moore is Getting Ready to Take Over the World

So an X100 Walks Into The Office

Not too long ago, I sat around reading a lot of press that was coming out about a camera called the Fuji X100. The all Magnesium body and leather combination spoke to me. It looked cool.. and the idea of having something that looked like a throwback was just plain sexy. Add to that, the camera has an APS-C sized sensor (like the ones you have on a DSLR) and you have an incredible package, right? I go to the site and read.. “…the FinePix X100 combines all the latest technical digital innovations in a beautiful, traditional chassis which oozes class and prestige.”

I’m like “Yeah… daddy like! Let’s do this”

When It Starts To Change For Me

As i’m scrambling to find out whether B&H had one in stock – I start looking around the website to get some more feedback on the camera. Standard protocol really. The more I look.. the more I start seeing people complain about some things like freeze-ups, focus problems, slow focusing, and the like. Little by little I start thinking to myself “Man, as much as I love the look of this thing – I don’t think I like it enough to want to deal with the problems that -may- come with it.. at this price point.

A couple more conversations with people I trust on the matter, and a looksie over a CNET video review on the X100, and the dream was over. I just didn’t think it was worth the price on it.

As I started talking to people about what I thought was alarming about it, both online and on one of The Grid episodes – many people immediately came to the cameras defense, which I thought was cool. People gave all sorts of reasons why they thought this camera just freed them to do -something- or how this camera changed the way that you did X – and I just didn’t get it. I didn’t understand how despite it’s price point, this could be something that could radically change what I do as a Photographer. I even said on the show “Maybe i’m just missing something.. ”

The X100 Arrives

By some fortuitous circumstances, I get access to a loaner X100 to play around with. The build quality was sweet -as I expected. The feel of the camera was great.. and it definitely felt like it just melted into my hands. It felt sexy – but in the back of my mind, I thought to myself “as much as I love this.. none of what I am feeling right now helps my Photography.. what can this thing do out there in the wild”


Now, imagine if you went out and spent 1300 (imagine 1199 plus tax) dollars on a camera you thought would give stunning quality and change how you interact with it, and this was the first image that you shot. I kept looking down at the screen and saying “Man.. this HAS to be me.” I went back to the camera, set the focus to single, moved the spot to an eye, heard a “Beep Beep” that told me that it locked a focus… I pressed the shutter.. and similar result.

As I played with it more, the more frustrated I became with it. I was hanging with Scott Kelby – and gave him a couple of minutes to check it out and see if he could get some shots with it. Still.. nothing.

As I was playing with it, I kept thinking about the conversations that I had with people about all of the issues with the camera:

  • “Its a camera that’s got it’s quirks.. its just quirky”
  • “You have to learn the proper way to work with this camera to make it work”
  • “Its nuanced… “
  • “You have this love/hate relationship with this camera..

.. the more I thought of all of these, the more I thought “What’s the difference between Problematic and Quirky”

.. it seems like about 1300 bucks.. If I had paid for this camera and these were my results out of the gate, i’d be taking someone to the parking lot over it.

The World of Reasonable Expectations

I read a comment on Scott’s Google Plus account that said “…There is no problem with the camera! Only with the person who is using it without making himself familiar with the technique.”

I could totally get this – if we were talking about this being a Rangefinder camera, where the system by which you make an image is completely different from an SLR. However, if a portable camera has a series of dots that you move around in a viewfinder, and when you press the shutter halfway it focuses and locks – congratulations … this is a point and shoot. An amazing point and shoot? Yes. But it’s a Point and Shoot.. with all of the Point and Shoot rules applying. That said:

When I press that shutter halfway, I have a reasonable expectation to believe that it has locked the focus. When i click the shutter, I have a reasonable expectation to believe that the picture will focus in the general area that I pointed to. When the camera does not do that, I believe that it is a problem. This isn’t quirky – this is a limitation of one of the features of the camera – and one that I don’t think makes it worth the investment. Others may totally think that’s the case, and that’s totally cool. I just don’t think so.

The following morning, I applied a firmware upgrade to the X100, and I found that the camera operated significantly better – but the problem with the EVF still happened from time to time.

I Swear the Camera Must’ve Heard Me

Once we got some of the firmware interestingness out of the way, I took the camera out and really started noticing the overall quality of the images. I will say this.. The quality of the images is AWESOME! The image above is taken in our studio. A Westcott TD5 has a Bruce Dorn Asymmetric Strip is off to the left. That’s it. I swear if you zoom into the original you can count beard hairs, and see what i’m wearing in his glasses!

As I started playing around and taking lots of shots with the camera, I still noticed camera misses, but the pictures that were coming out were of great detail and the experience was actually kinda cool.

While I appreciated the experience – this isn’t going to be a camera that I’m going to spend 1300 dollars on. The things that dont work for me far outweigh any benefit I would get from a camera that i’d spend so much money on..

My List of Gripes

Now for me, these are the list of things that I think get in the way for me, and don’t offer a great experience.

  • The EVF Quirky/Problematic Performance means that theres a good chance that i’ll miss some moment that I really want, because of what i feel is a technical shortcoming – not a feature.
  • The camera focuses slower than I would like.
  • When I switch to manual focus wheel, spinning the wheel to manual means you spin a tiny bit, then wait for computer to catch up.. spin a bit, and have it catch up. So manually focusing is a spin/wait/spin/wait/spin/wait process that could have that person walk away from the scene before you’re even close to focusing on.
  • For some people (and I have bigger fingers) trying to access the menu can be a frustrating thing. You press the menu and access a setting. You THINK you press the menu to cancel it, but you actually pressed the down button. You can get caught in this look for a while until you use your nail to hit the menu button. Prob just built for thinner fingers.. or a finger diet in order for me.
  • In the amount of time i’ve had the camera – every single time i’ve tried to put the battery in has been wrong. The battery can go in any way you want. It just works one way though…
  • You can place the battery in the camera and close the door the camera will power on. Open the door with the camera facing down and the battery can just come right out. You need to remember to press the battery all the way in to make sure it locks.
  • Cant tell you how many times i’ve had to wipe down the viewfinder window because of my thumb on it. Taking an Apple queue, I could just be holding it wrong.. but its frequent.

I also totally understand how some of this -may- sound nitpicky . It very well could be. Like I said before.. its a lot of money to settly on nitpicky.. just an opinion.

32 comments

  1. Interesting… I just got this camera not more than 2 days ago. I haven’t really pushed it’s limits but I think one gripe that I have is the lack of close focusing. At a certain point, I think 2.6 feet, the camera will focus without going into Macro mode.

    but I am going to give this camera a try and I REALLY want to like this camera! *crossing fingers for another firmware update

  2. Hi RC.
    Nice writeup and while I havent tried the camera yet I totally agree with your critique.
    You can say many things about Apple, but they have set a standard about electronics and the user experience, and to me it sounds like thats the thing Fuji completely missed with this camera, that I too was totally in love with initially…

  3. Hi RC,

    I work in a camera shop, was quite fascinated by the camera in the first place thanks to it’s design. Had a chance to play with it and got similar results. Very disapointing for me.

    For 1300 bucks you can get Nikon D5100, D90, Canon 550, 600D or 60D for about the same price or less. Benefit of X100 is compact size but with Nikons’ or Canons’ cameras you’ll get a lot better performance.

  4. To me, it’s just a lot of money for “hip”.
    That price point, a D5100 with a 50 f/1.4G. Maybe if the Fuji had lens choices (even if it was only primes). I mean, ok, the Fuji is much smaller than a DSLR. But what’s the trade off?
    As Joe McNally says, in photography, in order to get something, you have to give something up. It seems like the Fuji is asking you to give up a lot. You give up zoom, you give up interchangeable lenses, you give up DoF, you give up off-camera TTL/commander flash, all in order to get DSLR shots in a small package.
    Why not just shoot a DSLR?

  5. I was excited when I heard about this camera, and read such rave reviews about it from several well known photographers.

    But, I always thought the price was too high. Now that I’ve read your honest review and Scott Kelby’s, I’m in agreement and won’t buy one.

    Look and feel only goes so far. The camera must work as expected, and price is always a factor.

    Thank you RC!

  6. My definition of “cool” is buying a Nikon D50 and a 35-70 f/2.8 and pocketing the $700 difference! Still a fairly small form factor, great pictures and did I mention saving $700?

  7. Like what David Hodgins says. a lot of money for “hip”. If Fuji had mac do their promoting there wouldn’t be a camera to be found. I find this about iphone, ipad. A lot of money for Hip. But good marketing has everyone lined up for it. This camera is a throw back to the European street photographer. I think when people see this camera, they see themselves with a beret on their head drinking coffee in a cafe and riding a vespa. Oh for the old days.

  8. Not easy to swim against the current here but I have to say I am getting great images from this camera. I’ve gotten used to the quirks and learned to work with it in a way they don’t bother me. I’m greatly enjoying it and haven’t touched my 5D and L lenses for about 6 weeks.

  9. RC, I’m 100% with you now, I too had a loaner on this camera for a weekend and, like you, I had the same frustrations and noticed the same great things (image & build).

    Maybe Fuji will make a great ver. 2 of this camera, why not? By any account this seems like a success so if they look, listen, and work with UI they will make a camera that works. Hopefully they borrow from Nikon’s AF system though – as a Canon shooter I’m already use to AF frustrations :-\

    To put my money where MY mouth is, I went out and bought a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 – at $500ish it’s less than half the price of the X100, faster, will work with your EX or DX SLR (so crop only) and you can sell it after 2 years which, let’s face it, no point and shoot every maintains value after. I took my 7D with this lens on a trip recently, exclusively, and while marginally bigger than the x100, I knew how to use it, took great photos, didn’t break the bank and added to my kit.

    An addendum to your battery issue, which I also experienced: the little lock on the battery door isn’t spring loaded, such a minor thing, but those who are used to it might forget to latch it and that battery will fall right out.

  10. Sorry to hear the X100 did not work out for you, RC. You’re absolutely entitled not to like the camera, and to say so. But some of us have found differently…
    I am a long time Nikon SLR and DSLR shooter, currently D700 and D300. I got an X100 early on and it has been working just fine for me from the start – even with the old firmware (the update made it even better).
    True, the X100’s auto settings do not always behave like you would expect coming from a Nikon or compact. But then I almost uniquely use the X100 in A priority mode and with manual focus (locking focus with the AF-L button, and recompose).

  11. What’s really amazing to me about this camera is the buzz it’s generating. It has polarized the interwebs. There are 2 very distinct camps on this subject, and the gloves are off!
    Fuji must LOVE that part of it.
    To me, it’s still over-priced. While it may have some nice capabilities, it maxes out where a DSLR is really just getting warmed up.
    For $1,300, that’s a problem.

  12. RC, you cannot count this camera with a normal measure. It is like a Leica. A class of its own. I bought it, nearly cried the first two days, then received the 1.10 firmware update and shot some really good pictures. I love this camera. It forces you to learn to look and to be conscious.

  13. So the X100 needs to be treated like a first generation digital camera with glacial processor and response and inconsistent performance. But with great image quality when you hit the trifecta.
    A view camera without the tripod and black cloth and focusing screen.

  14. I’ve owned the X100 for a few weeks now and have very quickly adapted to the quirks of the camera. All the above mentioned faults are true–focus, battery, etc. However, over the past few weeks I’ve made lots of great pictures with the camera and have found ways to work around it’s idiosyncrasies. I truly enjoy using it!

    To address the issue of price…the X100 may be considered expensive to some given that you can get a far more responsive and feature loaded camera (DSLR) for the same price or less. That said, I owned the Nikon D50 and several lenses for many years but took very few pictures with it because going out with it was a hassle–separate bag, lenses, size, etc. For me the X100 has been an easy to carry camera with phenomenal image quality….to me that’s money well spent. A larger, more powerful camera that always stays home was not working for me and was not a better financial investment.

  15. it’s not a Leica. At all. To say that it is, is dissing the Leica.

  16. Pingback: Point/Counterpoint: X100 @ ABOUT RC

  17. I bought the X100, costed me 1800$, 30 days later I dropped it in the sea by accident. I had to buy another one and I did. So, i guess I`m the owner of the worlds most expensive X100, and I think its worth every penny.
    Not liking the camera is fair, but one has to use it over a period of time to learn how to.
    Here is another review from a guy with big fingers who actually uses the camera 😉
    http://zackarias.com/for-photographers/gear-gadgets/fuji-x100-review/#comments

  18. I’m with Nir Alon in my assessment of the X100. I’ve been using the X100 for two months now and I had a rather steep learning curve with this camera, but now I get results in a quality that is surpassing that of the pictures I get from my Nikon D300.

    The X100’s contrast detect AF delivers excellent results in reasonable speed, even down to very low-light scenarios.

    One thing is important to note: The X100’s AF system works radically differently than any DSLR’s phase detect system.

    Your picture”Dissecting the Technique” illustrates what I mean: The picture on the right (showing the electronic VF example with the focusing window the way you selected it) precisely shows how you CANNOT use a contrast detect AF system. A contrast detect AF system cannot focus on edges as any DSLR would do,. Instead, it focuses on surface structures.

    The AF windows of a contrast detect AF system must always be filled 100% by your desired target object – only then will the camera be able to obtain focus. If you offer the camera a sample image with objects in different distances, the camera will not be able to decide which object you want the camera to focus on – so it is somewhat of a lottery if it focuses on the person or on the background. Actually, the camera did not focus on the background that you indicated with the yellow arrow, but on the photograph on the wall inside the green frame, right behind the person!

    This camera is a perfect performer when used right – just like any Leica (if handled by a competent photographer). Of course, this camera isn’t a Leica, but it was never intended to be, as it has a completely different technical concept.

    I wrote a more detailed article about the X100’s AF system here (and I will be adding further articles in that thread:

    http://www.x100forum.com/index.php?/topic/1713-focus-101/page__view__findpost__p__19694

  19. Years back I bought the Leica Digilux2 – which is much like this Fuji – and it turned out to be one of the most frustraiting cameras I have ever used.

    Now, the Fuji S5 was one of the finest ever in terms of both colour and dynamic range – and lets face it, Kodak & Fuji have a long heritage in understanding what makes good colour – and as a result the colour qualities from their pro and prosumer cameras have, in my opinion, been far better than canon and Nikon.

    Every camera has compromises – and this one has plus points and minus points – anyone spending £1000 on a compact camera without a zoom or interchangable lenses is doing so for particular reasons. If these reasons are right for you – buy it… if not, respect the reasons might be right for others.

    When I bought the Leica I did so without ever using one – and will never make that mistake again. Now its hard to use one without buying – but at least go to a good dealer or a trade show and try one there – and if you do go to a good dealer, have the grace to pay that extra $50 they change over a box shifter so they can afford to keep open…

  20. First of all, I’m not a fanboy of any particular camera brand. I use what ever tool, that works best for me, for a particular purpose.
    Reading about people, that refrain from buying this excellent piece of tool, based on writings like this, is missing many opportunities for catching great shots.

    However, this camera is not:

    – a replacement for a DSLR
    – a rangefinder, but have the best OVF/EVF on any P&S on the market. Period.
    – an all purpose camera. For starters, is has a fixed focal length.
    – to be compared with any 4/3 or other small sensor camera. The image quality and noise handling of the X100, surpass any of these with ease.
    Compare it in stead with other APSC sensor P&S cameras on the market (Leica X1). You will find plenty of these on the interweb. After doing so, then you will find that it’s not that expensive at all, and you don’t need to shot at arms length. Did I say the viewfinder and image quality is awesome!

    For people who look for a non biased review, from a professional photog, who have more than a couple of days experience with the X100, read the article by Zack Arias linked to above.
    He use the X100 just like I do, and I have not regret my purchase for one second, in the three month I have owned this gem.
    Admitted, It took me a couple of weeks, to get accustomed to the different way of shooting with the X100, compared to a DSLR. But now it rocks.

    I have respect for people, who have decided that this camera is not for them. But don’t ditch this camera, on basis of a few (more or less) minor (for me) technicalities.

    I normally don’t “defend” any piece of hardware, anywhere. Everybody has to decide for them self. But, I’m just plain annoyed reading all of these “it’s just over hyped” etc. posts (not referring to RC here). Usually from people who has no practical experience them self, with what they are writing about.

  21. Another vote for the X100 here – same as Nir Alon, i am getting used to the quirks and getting amazing images. My Canon 7D and L lenses are at home much more often these days.

  22. Sure the camera has ‘quirks’ but if you are prepared to learn to get around them and can then take photographs that are better than most of those you have taken before then the camera is a keeper.

    Of course you don’t have to learn or even put up with the ‘quirks’. It’s your choice.

    I’m keeping mine!!

    Paul

  23. Pingback: Scott Kelby, RC und die X100.

  24. Everything you say is true but maybe a little stronger than I would have said. MF actually works well if used as a back button focus AF like on my Nikon and then push the closeup button if you want to check focus. I have a D7K, S95 and x100 and use what seems fun that day.

  25. Pingback: 28 Hours with the X100 @ ABOUT RC | fozbaca’s WordPress

  26. I was also enthusiastic about seeing this camera and my dealer ordered one in for me. I am very glad another customer wanted it. I found that the selection wheel/button thing was very hard to use with consistent precision as did RC. I have average size fingers and the selector was very kludgy. Personal preference is to focus on making the image rather than fighting the camera.

  27. I completely agree with your blog.

    I own a Nikon D60 and a D7000. I recently shot a friend’s wedding with both the Nikon D7000 and X100 and I that’s when I had an encounter with the focus problem, and yes like you, the cars in the parking lot were the ones in perfect focus in one of my X100 shots. And I thought, WTF just happened? I had the focus point directly on my subject’s face!

    I like printing my shots large, like 24″x36″, so for the longest time, I was waiting for a smaller camera with a larger sensor and integrated viewfinder. Do my pictures look any better than my D60 or D7000, not at all! Do my Nikons freeze up like my X100, not ever! Do I get amazing shots from my X100, absolutely. If I want to do serious work, I use my D7000. If I go out for an evening date in jeans and Converse sneakers, I carry my X100.

    I got the X100 because it is smaller (thinner) than my D60 with a 35mm lens. And secondly, because I love the retro design. When every Mom and Dad carry around Nikons and Canons, I wanted a retro-looking camera that says I’m different. I wanted a camera that looks good with my vintage canvas bag but still can take great pictures that I could print big and sell. Friends usually see me with my X100 and usually ask if I would recommended it to them, and I tell them to get a Nikon D3100 or even a Sony NEX for half the price instead because I don’t want them to come back and complain. Yes, I bought the X100 primarily because I love the style. Same thing, I could have gotten a Toyota Prius to get me from point A to point B but I choose to drive a 2-door Mercedes Benz. Sure, the maintenance and repair costs sucks, but it gets me from point A to point B with a smile on my face.

    We photographers are so obsessed in making our subjects look good in front of the camera. It’s time some of us should also start looking good behind the camera! 🙂

  28. Just wanted to add to Arjay’s comment. In the photograph with the green arrow you could have used a smaller focus window, yes you can change the size to make focusing a little more precise.

    The X100 is my everyday/night on the town travel camera. It’s Compact, inconspicuous enough where I don’t get funny looks every 10 seconds. @1199 (who pays tax these days, have it shipped from out of state) it’s the cheapest camera in its class. Lecia X1 is about 700 bucks more. My G12 is about the same size and half the price but also half the image quality.

    When I’m looking to seriously shoot, I’m going to use a DSLR of course. I don’t think this Camera ever intended to replace a DSLR. It’s intended for the experienced photographer that wants to have an everyday travel camera that looks classy enough in any situation.

    Im sorry a plastic budget Nikon/Canon DSLR is not an everyday travel camera.

  29. Pingback: 43 Fuji X100 reviews | | What Is PhotographyWhat Is Photography

  30. I love (and bought) the camera because of its looks. I’m learning to use it while I’m learning photography. I own D300 too.
    The pictures I get from both cameras are “quite” similar. I get more “better pictures” with the X100. But I admit I am a variable in the equation as well.
    It’s certainly lighter than D300. I don’t switch lenses very much anyway (primarily using 35/1.8) so I’m liking the compactness and lightweight of the X100.
    The flash (X100) works beautifully for me. With D300 I use SB600 for more natural looking pictures (bounced).
    So weight-saving is really appreciated.

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