Review: My Weekend With The Fuji X-100s
I wanted to like this camera.
I really did.
Everyone loves this camera. So I wanted to like this camera.
Let’s back up. Back in early November, my wife and daughter headed to Florida for a long weekend to visit with great grandma. That meant I’d have four days kicking around New Jersey with my two boys. No real agenda.
Well, we did have one goal: No stitches for anyone, unlike the last time the girls went on vacation and the boys stayed back.
Actually, I did have another goal. I was going to rent the Fuji X-100s camera with the 23mm f/2 lens and finally scratch this nagging gear itch that I’ve had for the past few months.
I’ve been reading about this camera, and the others in family, for months now. I’ve read review after review. I’ve watched different posts on Youtube, checked out forum. I’ve looked at, and lusted after, the photos that I saw on various blog posts.
I know it’s not about the gear. And I don’t gear-lust too too much. But still. I had a hankering of this camera and I wanted to try it out.
So, I punched up BorrowLenses.com and placed an order for the Fuji X-100s for the long weekend. I couldn’t wait for it to get here to New Jersey. Finally, late morning on Friday, Me and the boys headed over to my local UPS pick-up spot. It was all I could do to get the boys buckled back into their car seats, open the box, pray the battery was charged and take my first shot with this great camera.
And here it is!
Oh, right. Take the lens cap off. (I lost the lens cap off of my 24-105 a while ago and I never replaced it. I don’t recommend that for your gear but I forget that lens caps actually exist now.)
Ok, slow start but we had a long weekend to get this right. Right?
And it was a weekend where I struggled. And struggled mightily.
With any new piece of gear – other than just slapping a lens on a camera body – there’s usually a learning curve. I get that.
Add to the learning curve that this was a whole different camera system for me, a fixed lens (Zoom with your feet, Krajnak!), and a trying to figure out where everything was on the backside of the camera, well, it – at times – felt like I just rented a brick rather than a camera. And I was all thumbs.
And the photos I was taking….Ick.
Badly composed (not the camera’s fault, of course), out of focus (probably not the camera’s fault – more on that later). It was like I couldn’t get the training wheels off. I had many more out-of-focus misses than makes. I felt like a rusty basketball player, clanging shots off the rim left and right.
Friday, the first day, ended pretty badly. Thought I had made a big mistake renting this piece of gear. Maybe I wasn’t ready for it.
However, by by the middle part of Saturday, I was getting to know the camera a little better. I have to admit, though, I was doing something I hadn’t done in years: I just left it in Auto and shot JPEG. I found I was missing to many shots trying to fumble with my ISO and exposure and I wasn’t enjoying myself or the camera. So, I stuck it on Auto and just shot. I wanted to see how it would react.
One of the things I really liked about the camera was how it rendered color, even straight out of the camera. The dynamic range and detail is tremendous. There’s a few shots in the slideshow below that I didn’t even touch in post (Matt on the swing for one). That’s pretty neat.
Sometime during Saturday, too, I did move off of Auto and began to play with the ISO and exposure settings more. I just had a hard time doing it quickly, it seemed. On my Canon 50D, my thumb knows where to go and I can change setting without taking my eye off the viewfinder. I just didn’t have the fluidity with the X-100s. I also did switch over to RAW/JPG at some point…only to realize later I didn’t have the right firmware to open up the Fuji RAW file. Again, though, the JPG files were great.
One of the things I REALLY liked about the Fuji X-100s was how beautiful the B&W images were when I moved it to the Monochromatic setting. Seriously, I couldn’t believe the B&W files that were coming straight out of the camera. I was hardly touching them in post and they looked sweet. I’d almost get the camera for that alone and just leave it in the monochrome setting. Like a poor man’s Leica M. (well, the man can’t be that poor to afford a X-100s, but you know what I mean.)
On Saturday, we ran around a bit. Had to head to my office in News Brunswick to pick up that old typewriter that you’ve seen in some of my shots. On the way back, we stopped in Highttown to have lunch at the diner. Closer to home, then the boys and I ended up wandering the grounds at a local farm estate auction. There, I also shot a very short video, just to try it out. (Check it out here). Kept it in B&W. Again, right out of the camera, it looked great.) That’s one of the things I miss a little about not having even a small Point-n-Shoot: the video function. I don’t use it often but sometimes I do and it’s nice to know it’s there.
Another thing I REALLY loved with 23mm lens: Opening up to f/2. Wow. I love to play with the depth of field. My 24-105 is an f/4 so anytime I can go more open, it’s fantastic. It like a whole different experience to me.
Speaking of the fixed lens, I really loved it. A nice big frame for me as I tend to like to include a lot of environment in my shots. That said, I did miss the zoom at times, especially if we were in the car and I saw something I wanted to shoot. And I felt like I couldn’t always focus on what I wanted with the 23mm. But that f/2 and DOF was sweet.
Which led me to think… maybe I don’t need to buy a new camera (I’d like a second smaller one as a backup, or if I don’t want to take the 50D. That’s why I liked the Canon S100 so much). Maybe I should invest in a prime lens that gets me to that sweet f stop point. Put my money there rather than in the X-100s. Maybe I don’t need all that in a second camera. The X-100s is quite robust. Maybe I don’t need all that, even if I want all that. Or at least think I want it.
Which brings me to the whole want versus need predicament. If I had the Fuji X-100s, I’m sure I’d get better with it and grow to love it. (Frankly, I loved just having it around my neck. It just felt cool to shoot with it out in public. I was at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City with the boys (the NFL Exhibit was there, and Bob The Builder. Good times for all three of us) and it felt great using the discrete X-100s when I saw these moms and dads with their big ‘ol Canon and Nikon hand canons. That’s usually me. With this, I liked being the guy with the rangefinder.)
OK, that’s a lot of reading so far. Let’s get to some of my favorite shots from the weekend. Watch below or click here.
The Big Holy Conclusion:
I’m happy I rented this piece of gear. I just don’t know it’s for me at this time.
I liked certain elements of it, and really liked other elements. I could definitely see myself loving this camera if I had the time and/or the choice.
But then again…I have to admit…I shot these images and kind of put them away. These last couple of days, working on this post, is when I really looked at them again. With the images I like, I really like them. I’m now forgetting a little bit how much of a struggle it was – fumbling with the buttons, trying to expose quickly, not nailing the autofocus (which is supposed to be a key thing to this camera). Missing some street-like photography situations. Blowing shots with the boys because it didn’t focus fast for me, or missed the focus point.
When I look at the images, it’s kind of through a rose-colored viewfinder. I start to think… Sigh, maybe I should get it…
But overall, it’s just too big a spend for me to take it lightly and get it “just because.” It takes a lot for me to break down and buy new gear, especially pricey gear. Family and other such commitments always come first. There’s a lot of saving involved, or I have to sell a lot of calendars. I just can’t be frivolous. If I come into some cash, sure maybe. And buying cheaper point-and-shoots may not be best either because I shoot the hell out of them and break the delicate lenses. That adds up (though a few of my favorite 2013 shots came from the Canon S100 I had for a while. Not expensive at all.)
At this point, though, because I like it, but didn’t fall head over heels in love with it…I think I’ll wait. Not ruling it out. Just saying not now.
So, that’s my experience. If you own or have rented this camera or system, what do you think? Am I being to hard on it or myself? Should I give it another shot?
© Mark V. Krajnak | JerseyStyle Photography | All Rights Reserved 2013