x100s fuji camera svg

Fuji X100S camera review

I recently bought the Fujifilm X100S camera. I was on the lookout for a smaller camera as my Canon 5D MKII with L lenses setup and all the extra gear was slowing me down.


Fujifilm X100S camera. Click image above for bigger view.

So far I like this camera a lot. There isn’t much difference in image quality from the 5D MKII, and at high ISO the X100S performs a lot better, as you’ll see below. I made a quick video review describing the positives/likes and the negatives/dislikes of the Fuji X100S.

For this short review, please assume that every aspect of the camera that I omit talking about is great (lens quality, build, EVF resolution, chromatic aberration, etc.). I didn’t have time to write a detailed review. For this reason, I post some links to more in-depth reviews at the bottom of this post.

All the photos taken with the X100S throughout this review have the Film Simulation setting set to “PRO Neg. Std”. This film simulation gives me the optimum contrast, retaining more detail in the file that can be used when post-processing the photos.

Watch the review video

Watch on Vimeo / Watch on YouTube

As you saw from the above video, most of the negatives are small things, nitpicks. But if Fuji can solve some of these issues (especially the video mode), it will become an all-round awesome camera.

Features I like about the Fuji X100S

1. Hybrid Viewfinder

It’s a combination of an optical viewfinder and electronic viewfinder, a screen laid over the viewfinder showing you the camera settings, active frame, horizon level, rule of thirds grid, focus points, etc. Not to be confused with the EVF (Electronic Viewfinder).

2. Horizon level

Using an accelerometer the camera can detect when it’s being held horizontally or not. No more imperfect horizon lines.

3. Manual focus assist (focus check)

When focusing manually, as soon as you touch the focus ring, it shows you a blown-up version of the image to help you with focusing.

4. Monitor sunlight mode

When you’re outside in bright sunlight, you can keep the “Q” button pressed and it increases the brightness of the screen.

5. Silent mode

The X100S not having a mirror means that its shutter is very silent (see video above for audio). You can take photos without getting noticed.

6. Highlight / Shadow Tone

The X100S allows you to individually control the contrast of the highlights and shadows of the image (prior to taking it).


Highlight tones (-2, 0, +2). Click image above for bigger view.


Shadow tones (-2, 0, +2). Click image above for bigger view.

7. In-camera ND filter

Fuji has installed a 3-stop ND filter on this camera. If you want to keep an open aperture of f/2 and slow shutter speed in bright sunlight, you can enable the ND filter to darken the image.

8. Motion panorama

With the Fuji X100S you can swipe from left to right to create a stunning panorama image. X100S does a very good job of stitching the images together and processing them very fast. In some cases (low-light environments) it fails even if you swipe slowly.

Features I dislike about the X100S

1. Battery

The battery life is really bad. I couldn’t get 200 shots (JPEG, no flash) on a single charge (original Fujifilm battery that came with camera). It has failed me twice and had to wait for the battery to charge. I’ve read on forums that the battery life sucks out of the box. Let’s hope it will improve with time.

Things you can do to improve the battery life is to disable the back screen, image previews, use only the optical viewfinder, OVF power save mode, auto power off.

I’ve ordered the next day two additional Fuji batteries.

2. Movie mode (no manual controls)

If you’re serious about shooting video the Fuji X100S might not be for you. You cannot manually control the shutter speed, aperture, ISO, when in video mode. This sucks big time. In addition to that, as of May 2013, you can only shoot 1080p in 60fps or 30fps. No 24fps? Come on Fuji…

I did a brief 1080p video test of the Fuji X100S you can see below:

Watch on Vimeo / Watch on YouTube

3. AF speed

People say the autofocus of the X100S has been improved over the old Fuji X100. It might have, but it’s still a bit slow. From my tests, I found out that in bright sunlight conditions it’s fast. I won’t say the AF is faster than the Canon 5D MKII because the X100S has a fixed focal length lens (less glass to move around), whereas on the 5D I had a zoom lens on (Canon 24-70 L USM).

But in low-light situations the X100S lags a bit (see video above). Furthermore, from a one day shoot, I got a few photos with missed focus. I’m thinking of using manual focus all the time since Fuji gives you so many options to help you focus. What’s more interesting is that in MF mode, if you press the AFL/AEL button, the X100S will auto focus.

4. Deleting images

When in single-image delete mode (there’s another mode for selecting many photos), if you press “OK” to confirm deletion, the image is deleted, and you’re taken to the next image, if you press “OK” again that image is also deleted. Simple thing, but I’ve deleted a few photos by mistake because of how the delete functionality works.

What I’d like is to make it harder to accidentally delete an image. On my 5D MKII you have to press “Delete” button again, to delete the next image. Pressing the “OK” button won’t delete the image.

5. Flash intensity settings

You can’t change the flash intensity by pressing the flash button. It shows you options to enable flash, disable it, make the camera’s flash a commander, or an external flash. You have to go in the main menu to change the intensity. Why not add intensity values next to the flash icons, in the quick flash menu?

6. Charger (% charged indicator)

I don’t know when the battery is fully charged, because the light of the charger turns green as soon as you plug the battery. Even if the battery is 0% charged, 50% charged or 100% charged, the light of the charger will always be green.

7. Micro USB port

The USB port of the X100S is even smaller than the regular micro-USB port. This means that all the micro USB cables which I have are not compatible. I hope I won’t lose the Fuji X100S USB cable.

8. Battery flap / Battery can be inserted wrong

I’m getting picky I know. The flap of the battery compartment keeps springing open. I’d prefer a more “hands-down” approach of me having to manoeuvre the flap however I want (5D MKII is more flexible).

Due to the design of the battery, it can be inserted both ways! There are instructions on how to insert the battery, but are located on the inside cover of the battery compartment (not easily observed).

The memory card insertion process took a few tries to learn how to insert it correctly. It’s like a plugging a USB cable; 50% of the time you’ll get it right.

9. ON / OFF switch

The power switch of the X100S is very sensitive and can be easily turned ON when moving the camera or when you place it in your bag.

10. Noise reduction

The noise reduction of the X100S is great. Until you reach ISO 6400. At this point the noise reduction applied is too strong for my taste, creating a soft image effect. You can fix this by going in the menu and reducing the intensity of the noise reduction [Menu>Noise reduction>LOW(-2)]. The photo you see above was with the noise reduction set at -1 setting.

Bonus: Tripod mount location

When you have a quick release plate attached to the X100S it’s impossible to change the battery or memory card without first taking it off. Small thing, but annoying.

These are the things I like and dislike about the Fuji X100S. Some of them are small annoyances that you might not even notice. But I have, and I’ve deducted points from the awesomeness of this camera. Some of the negative points can be fixed with a simple firmware update.

No camera review is complete without some pixel peeping. In the following section I’ll be comparing the Fuji X100S to the Canon 5D MKII in terms of ISO performance.

X100S VS 5D MKII (ISO performance)

The X100S wins by a big margin. In the X100S stills, you can observe above ISO 6400 the noise reduction getting applied and creating that soft look (negative point #10). Both cameras were on JPEG, manual settings, similar focal length (on Canon I used the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L USM lens). No post-processing, straight from the camera.

f/2.8 ISO 800 (5D MKII full resolution / X100S full resolution)

f/2.8 ISO 3200 (5D MKII full resolution / X100S full resolution)

f/2.8 ISO 6400 (5D MKII full resolution / X100S full resolution)

f/2.8 ISO 12800 (5D MKII full resolution / X100S full resolution)

f/11 ISO 1600 (5D MKII full resolution / X100S full resolution)

f/11 ISO 3200 (5D MKII full resolution / X100S full resolution)

f/11 ISO 12800 (5D MKII full resolution / X100S full resolution)

More high ISO photos from the X100S at 100% crop for the pixel peepers. Straight from the camera, JPEG, no sharpening, no noise reduction or post-processing applied to these.

“Selfie in a dark room”. Light only from MacBook Air + Flash. f/2.2 1/10 ISO 3200

“Books and magazines”. f/5.6 1/250 ISO 6400

“Photographer in mirror”. f/5.6 1/220 ISO 6400

“Bush of flowers”. f/16 1/4000 ISO 6400

Fujifilm X100S real life test shoot

Enough with the straight out of the camera 100% crops. I always post-process my photographs, so let’s see how photos from the X100S look after I’ve processed them in Lightroom 4.

The photographs below were post-processed from original JPEG files, not RAW files. I shoot only RAW with my 5D MKII but I figured I’d try to shoot only JPEG with my X100S and see how it goes. The files are gorgeous, retaining enough shadow/highlight detail thus allowing me to push the processing a lot. So I’ll be sticking to JPEG.

musicians xaratsi nicosia x100s candid

“Musicians”

eerie atmosphere x100s

“25 years ago”

romania brasov street x100s

“Reflection”

plane romania x100s aerial

“Patterns”

plane romania x100s aerial

“View from above”

nicosia night x100s

“Old streets of Nicosia at night”

anexitilon nicosia x100s fuji

“Anexitilon”

street nicosia x100s

“Looking up”

palm trees nicosia x100s

“Palm Trees”

stairs x100s nicosia cyprus

“Up the stairs”

nicosia x100s cyprus

“Walk of light”

street nicosia x100s cyprus

“Smile”

sunny x100s nicosia

“Sunny day”. Notice that there is no banding or overexposed highlight. Nice flare.

macro x100s

“Macro detail”.

dog x100s

“Sniffing dog”.

dog x100s

“Sniffing dog 1”.

moon x100s cyprus

“Blue hour moon”. Missed focus on this one a bit. Liked the colours.

tires wheat field x100s

“Tires in a wheat field”.

x100s test

“Street”. ISO 6400.

cyprus x100s

“Dusk reflection”. ISO 6400.

x100s test iso

“Lines”. ISO 6400.

swamp cyprus x100s

“Swamp”.

field x100s nicosia

“Field”.

olive garden cyprus x100s

“Olive garden”.

sun rays x100s

“Sun rays”. Observe no blown highlights, even the sun. And it’s from a JPEG!

tree x100s black and white cyprus

“Holding on to life”.

panorama x100s

“Panorama”.

panorama x100s

“Panorama 1”.

panorama x100s

“Panorama 2”.

panorama x100s

“Panorama with dog”.

panorama x100s

“Panorama with dog 1”.

panorama x100s

“Panorama 3”.

panorama x100s

“Failed panorama”.

Conclusion

This camera has made shooting fun for me again. I do enjoy taking photographs, but with the 5D MKII it’s a process. When I’m shooting, I can’t be doing anything else. When I’m moving the 5D MKII to take a shot, people around me become camera-aware. With the X100S it’s more candid, basic, more snapshot-like, dare I say “amateur-ish”. I turn it ON, take a photo, done; I continue doing the activity I was doing before. Plus I take the camera everywhere with me because it’s so small and light. Bonus points is the retro look; people ask me if it’s a Leica.

If this is your first camera, it’s an awesome camera to have and I recommended it for you. The price point is falling quickly for this camera (bought mine new, on 16 May 2013, for £750/$1127/€878).

The Fujifilm X100S is not that much different from the pro-dSLRs in terms of performance. In terms of looks, it’s certainly better looking and more interesting. The small size of the X100s is also a win.

If I was picking up photography today, I’d avoid dSLRs. The compact, mirrorless, cameras (Sony RX1, Fuji X Series (X100s, X-E1, X-Pro1), Canon EOS M) are certainly catching up to the dSLRs. In case I also needed a camera to use in commercials (pixels, more pixels!), I’d pick a medium format camera like a Phase One 645DF+ with IQ280 back (80 Megapixels), or a Hasselblad H4D-60 (60 Megapixels).

This camera review was brief, mostly outlining the things I like and dislike about the Fuji X100S. Here are a few more detailed reviews of the X100S:

  1. Fuji x100s Follow Up Review :: Life Without DSLRs
  2. Steve Huff reviews the X100S
  3. Steve Huff compares the X100S to Leica M and Sony RX1
  4. Detailed Fujifilm X100S camera review by Mark Goldstein
  5. DigitalRev TV reviews the X100S
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