So this is not a traditional review, I won’t be talking about tech or specs or even pretend I understand all that stuff. This is an account of my experiences with my second hand Fuji X100 after a month of playing with it. However if you want the short answer, it’s awesome (if challenging).
So to say the Fuji X100 is a challenge for my street photography is a little bit of an understatement. My work relies on a split second of engagement with my subject. My Nikon’s autofocus can just about capture the decisive moment I am looking for, the Fuji X100’s autofocus cannot; it’s just too damn slow. To give you an idea of the difference, I think I manage to capture about 25% of the pictures I take with my Nikon, on the Fuji it’s less than 5%
So why did I buy it? Well it was somewhat of an impulse buy. I kept reading reviews of the X100 and the X100s and people praising it’s beautiful image quality, retro looks, great viewfinder and most of all, how great it was for street photography. As the X100s had been on the market a little while the second hand X100 was starting to drop in price and I found an Ebay listing that was just at my sweet spot, I bid and I won it. I knew the autofocus was going to be slow, all the original reviews said so, I’d even played with one in a shop and dismissed it completely. But I still bought it.
So after a couple of days with it I switched to using manual focus, ranging it to about 2 metre, setting the aperture, shutter speed and ISO to auto and seeing how far I got. It took me a few days to even get a shot in focus, nevermind one I liked, however there was one thing that kept me going; it was fast. Faster than my Nikon, silent, it slipped into my jacket pocket and most people reacted differently to it. It’s less intrusive on all counts and eventually I got this shot.
It almost looks like it’s painted, the flesh tones are beautiful and the depth is amazing. Very pleased, I’ve been gradually moving the focus closer and closer.
Because I am used to using a 50mm on a cropped sensor which makes it about an 80mm it was a massive jump to go down to what is effectively 35mm lens. All my shots with the Fuji have been wider and further back. This is something I need to rectify but it’s also something that I’ve enjoyed. It’s been a breath of fresh air to step back even if in reality I’ve exactly the same distance from my subjects.
Another advantage of manual focus is that in very low light the AF doesn't hunt and get lost resulting in you missing a shot, you click and go and be damned with what you get. However it means you can get images like this with lovely motion blur.
So they are all the things I like about it, what don’t I like? The menus are simply horrible, over complicated and baffling. I managed to get the flash to work once, can’t now, not because it doesn’t work but because there is something in the menus that I haven’t discovered. Apart from that (and thats enough, I hate badly designed menus), the battery doesn’t last long enough but worse than poor battery life, it gives you no indication how long you have left before it’s too late. You need two batteries to even make this thing viable. Ergonomically I found it hard to carry before I bought one of the thumb grips. The dial to change the exposure compensation is right on the edge and I’ve turned that by mistake a few times.
Someone (or rather a committee) at Fuji decided the send this camera out with a stock charger which was too big for the battery and to rectify this by adding a little plastic piece that snaps onto the end of the casing. This is classic corporate stupid and it means you need to be very careful when moving the charger around not to lose this tiny piece. I hope they fixed that in the X100s.
None of these things are insurmountable and once you have it set up how you want it its a beautiful little camera to have in your pocket. It feels like it has a personality and after one month I can’t even begin to say I’ve got to know it, it took me over a year to learn my D7000 so I predict this will be just as long, however right now it feels good.
As Ken Rockwell says, no one needs this camera, it’s a luxury but it’s a lovely luxury and even though I’m still not 100% sure that I will completely retire my Nikon for street photography, the Fuji X100 definitely has something special about it.