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We’re not in Cansas Anymore: A Weekend with the X100S

cameras-8 Back in the day, you know – those days when we shot film – my favorite camera was the Canon GIII – a little rangefinder with a fixed 40mm f1.7 lens.  I picked mine up used after borrowing one from a friend.  A great camera with a lot of personality.  Was it ever my go-to camera?  No, not really – but I sure enjoyed shooting it.

When the wave of mirrorless cameras started, I had hoped that it might be possible to find some of that charm in the digital world.  And a couple of times, it was close – both the Olympus EM5 and the Fuji X100 inspired me to some serious review reading – but neither prompted me to push the big “Buy” button.cameras-7

The Fuji X100S is similar in size to the Canon GIII (Canonet QL17) rangefinder.

And it was more than just this romantic notion of a cool compact camera that kept me looking.  I also wanted to go out with the family without lookingcameras-9 like I was on  assignment.

Then the X100S charged onto the scene with a reported snappier auto focus.  X-Trans sensor.  And Adobe looked like they were catching up.  A few early reviews.  Pre-ordered.  Delivered.

Bottom line: I find the X100S to be a great camera.  It’s capable, delivers remarkable images, and though there’s been a bit of learning curve – I’ve really enjoyed shooting with it.

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(Just a note about the photos – they shouldn’t be considered straight-out-of-camera (SOOC).  They’ve been post-processed in LR 4.4 and a few of them have seen some Nik software.)

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For the last eight and a half years – I’ve pretty much only shot Canon DSLR’s.  And those tools have complimented my shooting style for action, event, travel, and portrait.  So, to be honest, shooting those first few frames in the backyard with the X100S left me a bit underwhelmed.  Zack’s whole “best camera ever” was ringing a bit hollow for me (though it’s got to be one of the most creative camera reviews of all time).

So back to the camera manual.  Review the menu system. What does this button do again?

We’re not in Cansas anymore.

Then a day later it was off to the tulip festival with the family and the X100S dangling around my neck.  Tossed a couple of batteries, an extra memory card, and a lens cloth (just in case) in the jacket pocket.  And that’s it.  No camera bag.  Felt kinda odd – but nimble.  I almost felt bad for those folks with photo backpacks and full sized tripods – except I knew they were having fun.

x100s test -3 The Mt Angel Sausage Company is a staple at the tulip festival.

x100s test -2 Every X100S review requires a B&W street-inspired photo.

x100s test-10 Trying some close up shots on a steam tractor that was parked at the tulip festival.

Still missed a lot of shots.  Blurry.  Blown highlights.  Under exposed.  Sigh.

Early next morning to Newport, Oregon.  After getting soaked by some morning rain and hail it was kinda nice out there.  But my photos weren’t necessarily following the nice weather.

x100s test -4 Early morning sport fishing boats waiting for departure time.

x100s test -5 A minus tide exposes the footings on this pier.

x100s test -6Stairs leading up to the Yaquina Bay Bridge.

Then a quick afternoon outing with my daughter to Finley Wildlife Refuge (where it seems I test most new gear and lenses).x100s test -7

This barn at Finley makes an appearance in just about all of my gear / lens reviews.

x100s test -8  This oak tree should probably make it into more reviews.

And then another quick trip out to the Rogue Farm for a sheep sheering demonstration.  I still missed a few shots under some pretty tough lighting (the shot here is only at ISO2500 with 1/40 – but I tried some out at ISO5000 with 1/125 second).

x100s test -1 Sheering sheep at ISO2500.

A few notes:

Do I miss some shots having a fixed lens on the camera?  Sure.  But – as the adage goes – constraints drive creativity.

I’m still wrestling with the OVF and EVF.  I try to use OVF as much as possible – I find it brighter much of the time and I imagine it helps on battery life.  That said – there’s a need to remember to consider parallax when framing subjects that are close to the camera.

Battery life.  It’s nothing like your DSLR.  I bought two extra batteries straight away and I’m considering a third (I consider extra batteries and memory less expensive than missing the shot).

Lens hood.  Yes it sticks out and makes it less pocketable but it also makes it easier to hold while shooting (and likely helps with all of those other things that lens hoods are known to help with – such as flare and protection for that glass).  I consider it a must.  That said – the Fuji one is expensive.  Like surf-and-turf expensive – but it matches beautifully.  There are some other options out there.

I picked up a 49mm lens cap.  I highly recommend it with the lens hood as the spiffy cap that came with camera won’t work once the lens hood is attached.

One benefit of the fixed lens?  When I stop down to f16 – I don’t have to clean up the dust bunnies in LR.  🙂

More notes:

The maximum shutter speed at f2 is 1/1000.  On a bright sunny day that won’t be fast enough (it’s a physics thing with the leaf shutter).  Cleverly enough – there’s a 3-stop neutral density filter behind the lens (inside the camera).  I have it assigned to the Fn button for easy deployment (it’s not located in the Q-button menu and I wanted it close at hand).

LR 4.4.  If you’re considering any of the Fuji X series cameras – you’ve probably heard the tales of how Adobe hasn’t quite been able to handle the raw files all that well.  Update your Lightroom to 4.4 and don’t worry about it (I shoot only in raw except for sports).

I kinda wish the ISO5000 shots were good cuz I’d like to have shown them to you (my fault – not the camera).  But, instead, you’re only getting the ISO2500.

Did I mention that this thing is quiet?  I’ve turned off all of the helpful audible camera queues and when out-and-about in the real world – it’s essentially silent.

The camera has a bit of heft to it without feeling like a brick.

When you work with a tool like the 100S it requires you to roll up your sleeves and make something happen.  I kind of like that.

I wouldn’t recommend this camera to most folks.  And that’s OK.  It’s simply not the right tool for every environment or for every shooting style.

Unless your a current X100 owner – read the camera manual.  Yeah – I know, seems obvious.  And after you’ve read it once.  Read it again.  Go shoot a few frames – and then read it again.

The X100S is not your DSLR.  It feels, handles, and shoots much differently – and it will likely require a bit of learning curve.  But I think that if you’re looking for a camera with a compact form factor, large sensor, sharp lens, high ISO performance, and stunning IQ – this is definitely one to put on your list.

Of course, there are more reviews out there.  Be sure to check them out:

Hope that helps (at least a little).  If you have feedback, questions, comments, and/or more thoughts – just let us know.

4 thoughts on “We’re not in Cansas Anymore: A Weekend with the X100S”

  1. I find it a fascinating camera as well and am considering one for my spouse, which I’m sure I’d borrow from time to time. The big advantage to this beast is the ability to be casual about your photography, or more subtle, I suppose. Hopefully the prices will come down as sales go up, as a $700 price point would a bit easier to stomach.

    Thanks for your review – good stuff.

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  2. Jim, if your wife is a serious photographer then she’ll love it. If she wants to replace a point-and-shoot then she might not as there is no zoom and the viewfinder takes some time to learn how to use. I’ve been shooting about 50 years and love the camera, taking it with me everywhere.

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