So let me just say right at the start that this is not a very in depth review at all. In fact this is much more just a few brief thoughts from myself and Josh Tilton of our experience with the Fujifilm X100. So I’ve had the Fuji X100 sitting in my office for some time now and in the end never really had the time to properly review it myself. Aside from the fact that I just simply have not had the time to do this properly, honestly a large part of this has been how much I have actually disliked the Fuji X100 from shooting with it. Don’t get me wrong it is certainly capable of producing some superb images. I was especially impressed with the high ISO performance. Especially for a compact camera. However, all the hype around this camera has been that it’s supposed to be “the poor man’s Leica“. An affordable alternative to those who want to get into Rangefinder type shooting (like the Leica M9) without breaking the bank. And so Fuji built a camera which very much succeeds in looking like a rangefinder camera. However for me this is where the success ends. The Fuji X100 does not shoot like a rangefinder at all! The Leica X1 by the way, with the optical viewfinder attached felt very much like shooting a rangefinder to me. Which is what I loved about the X1 so much. See my review of the Leica X1 HERE. But sadly for me the Fuji X100 just felt like a compact camera and ended up being a very expensive piece of equipment at that. So to me the X100 ends up in no mans land. It’s not a more affordable alternative to say the Leica M9, as it does not shoot like one at all, and neither does the lens rival the Leica lenses in any way. Of course not! I never thought it would or could. And then it ends up being a not so ‘compact’ compact camera that will set you back about $1400. No thanks. One of the things I love so much about the M9 is the precision I am able to achieve with focus via the rangefinder. The exact opposite is true with the X100 where the AF system caused my tremendous frustration. When the X100 nails the focus the results can be impressive with the Fujinon lens but it is just to unreliable for me to be happy. Now I know this camera has had tremendously positive reviews online from almost everybody. So please know that I’m aware of the fact that I’m in the minority with my opinion of the X100. I think I’ve just simply been spoiled by the Leica M9 and those freakin incredible little Leica lenses. The Leica M’s just suite me so well personally that everything else just comes up short. And that’s a completely subjective thing. I recognise that. I look at these images Josh captured (as well as so many others online) and obviously it is a very capable little camera. The images are superb. But for me the Fuji X100 is not a winner and if I had to buy a compact camera that matches my style of shooting with the M9 it would hands down be the Leica x1. So with all that said I decided to ask my good friend, and super talented fellow street photographer, Josh Tilton, to put the X100 through it’s paces and let me know what he thinks. And so go right ahead and ignore my negativity and let the images speak for themselves! Here’s a brief review from Josh Tilton on his experience of the Fuji X100:
This camera is a very hot topic right now in the photography world. It’s a very nicely designed camera that adopts the look of classic rangefinders. Maybe it is because of that design so many people think that this is actually a digital rangefinder. Sadly (very sadly) it is not.
I’ve shot with this camera quite a bit over the last few weeks. I used it in my home to take pictures of my kids, took it street shooting in Denver and San Francisco and brought it to a wedding. With the exception of using it strictly for a portrait session, I will say that I’ve put it through it’s paces quite well.
Let’s start with the actual camera use. It looks nice, but it isn’t really that well designed. The buttons all feel wrong, especially the scroll wheel on the back. The scroll wheel is used to navigate most of the primary camera settings, but it does so miserably. It’s very inaccurate and you really have to pay attention to what you are doing with the wheel to get to what you want. Something less flimsy would be much more preferred.
I’ll say it again, this is not a digital rangefinder camera. It is however, a glorious little point and shoot camera. For a point and shoot, it has fantastic image quality. The little 35mm f/2 lens is quite good. You do pay a lot for that kind of quality from a point and shoot camera, so it shouldn’t be a surprise.
And the Fuji X100 has has outstanding high ISO performance!
The focusing is not that great on the X100. I would prefer to manual focus, but I have a terrible time trusting their solution for it. It seems like a terrible afterthought. A red box appears when you have the area in focus? C’mon, that just isn’t good enough.
So, sadly you are only really left with autofocus.
I brought the X100 to a wedding in addition to a Leica M9 and Canon 5D Mark II. I probably used the camera for 20 minutes total out of the day and only while the bride and groom were socializing with their guests. The camera did indeed let me get close to them without me being intrusive, but I missed 65% of the shots due to the auto focus. It’s really no surprise, there were a lot of people and movement while I was using it. I finally put the X100 away and went back to using the more serious, reliable image making tools.
You can still leave things to chance and nail a frame like this as long as there is little movement:
I did in fact have fun using this camera. It feels OK once you get past the menu and buttons and it was fun to use while street shooting. I was able to get a few decent frames out of the little camera, which is good. I don’t get paid to do street photography and is based out of passion and to explore. The X100 was fun because I just let it do that easily enough. However, because I don’t make money from my street photography, I can’t see how this camera would benefit me in any other way. It may be a good backup for the portrait photographer, but by no means is it suitable for anything else.
If the X100 was a true rangefinder camera all the gripes I have with the camera would be gone and I would love it. Maybe the next version will become a rangefinder, we can only hope!
PHOTO CREDIT: Josh Tilton