If I had to describe my first weekend with the Fujifilm X100 with one word I would have to use “liberating”. The recent three day odyssey I spent in Ottawa with just the x100 and x100 alone was one of those “a-ha” moments in life.
Over the past year I’ve been looking to fill a void in my photography setup. I wanted something small, capable with a viewfinder that wasn’t strictly an EVF and was a fixed or zoom lens around 35mm. I’m very habitual so I didn’t want to break my routine of looking through the viewfinder to make a photo. Shooting weddings is all DSLR and this camera will be with me during weddings for those “argh I’m not set up for this club-scene style snap right now” moments. This means having the great viewfinder on the X100 is important for me. Beyond that my requirements were far less strict and the market was open. After comparing all of the available cameras and soon-to-be’s I settled on the X100.
The x100 hung between the Olympus Trip 35 and the Canon AF35m
Of course, like any camera it’s not without it’s problems if you look hard enough, yet on the x100 you do not need to look very hard:
The buttons on the back are annoying as hell and practically unusable with gloves on. The dial + menu/ok button is the most sensitive thing since that kid you knew in elementary school who would cry every time the lights went off for movie time. This is not exclusive to the x100, there’s not one compact system camera like the x100 or nex-7 which doesn’t have people moaning about the button config. The coming Fujifilm X-Pro 1 improves on this though and has fewer buttons and do-dad-dials then most. Saying that, I found I quickly adjusted to the X100′s buttons and before I knew it, it wasn’t an issue. Furthermore, the more you use the camera and learn it’s ways, the less you use the buttons. You simply do not need to mess with anything to make great photos. It’s not a DSLR I needn’t remind you.
The AF could be faster of course, but so could the AF on my D3. In a perfect world, everything would be in focus all of the time but that’s not the way it is. Two parts zone focusing and a little bit of skill soon had the focus accurate and simple. And by accurate I mean, holy cow accurate. When that square lights up green you better believe it’s damn well in focus. It still has better autofocus then an M9 or similar rangefinder which, in case you live in a cave, have zero autofocus.
The battery life albeit okay, should be better given the functions the camera served for me. Instinctively I treated the camera like the film bodies it’s modeled so closely after. I chimped for just three to four percent of the total photos I shot and I used the electronic function of the splendidly designed Hybrid-EVF only five or six times in total. In the viewfinder it will pop up the photo you just shot for 1.5 seconds after you take it, quite handy at staying stealth on the digital functions of your film like body and doesn’t use as much battery as standard chimping. Still, I was wishing I’d picked up an additional battery as midway through day 2 with no charge for the previous 30~ hours with very light shooting it was kaput. Batteries are cheap though and they’re small enough to put in a pocket of every jacket you own and just forget about till you need it.
The speedy f/2.0 fixed 23mm (or 35mm in full frame terms) is spot on for my needs as a walkaround camera. Anything wider is a touch too wide and anything tighter is a touch too close. Though the x100′s lens is not interchangeable, there are other similar camera’s (nex-7, x-pro 1, ep-1) that are. For what these cameras are meant to be, I’m fine with the 35mm non-interchangable lens on the x100. In fact I’m thrilled because there are benefits to having an attached lens.
Despite some of the negatives of this camera, like the need to put gaffer tape over the back buttons to prevent accidental button mashing, the benefits of the x100 outweigh the problems overall. After I adjusted to the foreign menu UI and the sensitivity of the buttons it became quite simple to manage and really became second nature and quick to use. It’s not for everyone but there’s certainly a reason why Zach Arias loves this camera, and I do too.
X100 in pants pocket
Not A Review
This isn’t a review however so the full breakdown of this cameras pros-cons can be found elsewhere. What this is is a statement for all those people who are not professional photographers but feel the need to rush out and drop $2000 on a DSLR, lenses, tripods, bags and filters. Listen up: You don’t need it. Without a DSLR, without a big camera bag, without multiple lenses, without sweaty strap-neck or the need to be weary of someone running off with it the second I put the camera down I was able to enjoy my vacation for what it was without the sacrifice of making nice photos when I wanted. These new compact systems cameras (CSC’s) are so light and tiny, it’s trivial to throw them in your jacket pocket and be done with it. Eventually, I discovered that the x100 could actually fit inside my pants’ pocket. Mind you, it looked as though I had a minor addiction to chewing tobacco but the point stands: it was in my pants pocket without any concerns to my personal comfort level. Try that with even the smallest DSLR.
CSC’s like the Nex-7 for instance, are nice if it’s you’re only camera system or you’re already a Sony shooter. You have the full lineup of Sony lenses to pick from and assuming you’re not sucked into taking ten of those heavy lenses with you on your trip to Jamaica, you’ll maintain the status of traveling light. Conceivably, you could travel quite well with the Nex-7 in your pocket with two lenses in your jacket pockets, wide + tight, and be done with it. For a walkabout camera though, that’s not light enough and it doesn’t tick several of the other boxes, such as an optical viewfinder with the ability to kick into the digital age at the pull of a switch. Plus, unlike the Fujifilm X series, the Sony Nex or Olympus do not have the old timer rangefinder feel that will keep thieving eyes from even bothering.
At one point during this trip I was asked by security to delete my photos. She came over and demanded “you need to delete those” and I said “it’s film” and showed her the front of the camera. Smiling she said “oh, don’t worry about it” and walked away.
The point here is that I was able to spend an entire weekend in Ottawa without a DSLR and I didn’t miss it once. Honestly, when it was 24 degrees outside I didn’t turn to a friend and say “Boy, I sure do miss having 7lbs of camera equipment around my neck right now“. And I didn’t say to airport security as I carried on everything I had for fear of the guys destroying it in baggage or leaving it on the runway “hey, shame I don’t have thirty pounds of camera bag to open up and have you put your grubby hands all over“. Nope, I didn’t say any of that.
What I did say was “Is my camera in my jacket pocket? Yes it is, it’s so light I’ve forgotten it’s even there” and “hey security, there’s a camera in my jacket pocket which makes pictures as good as my D3 yet it’s one fifth the size“. No longer weighed down with the burdens of a DSLR, the ability to still make fantastic photos and to still enjoy the process, enjoy my holiday even, is what’s liberating about the X100 and other compact system camera like the Sony Nex series.
Check out more pics from the x100 here