Fujifilm X100S (+ Vs Canon 5D MKII)

Please note: I am not trying to bash the 5D MKII here. I am also aware that the MKII is now ~5 years old and thus it is not fair comparing this to brand new tech. It just so happened to be the other camera I was carrying on my person.

A couple of weeks ago I had to travel to Pori in Finland to rig a time-lapse camera in a ship yard. I was flying out of Heathrow T3 where there is a Dixons Travel, who usually have a good range of cameras for sale.

I popped in to see if they had a Fuji X100S in stock, I’d read a couple of good reviews of it (strobist.com, Zack Arias) and when I say good — I mean rave reviews.
Stock in the UK has been quite scarce, as of writing only ~10 places are listed on google shopping as having them — even amazon aren’t listing it. So I was nicely surprised when they had it sitting on the demo bench.

I have played with an X100 before so knew that it felt nice in the hands and how well that hybrid viewfinder worked. So I didn’t need too much convincing that this was going to live up to the hype of the reviews. In fact, it took me about five minutes before asking if they had stock.

Then I had a puzzled response, ‘Someone has told you we have these!?’ — that’s not what I wanted to hear. ‘You have them on demo, you don’t have stock?’, ‘Two minutes…’
The assistant then return brandishing a box, ‘We had to go and get this from T5 for a chap earlier, but it took too long and he had to get on his flight, you’re lucky!’
A few minutes later and I was handing over my card.

What’s it like?

The looks:

It’s the same as the X100; retro, sleek, classic. There wasn’t much they could do with the looks of thing. Leaving alone was a great move.

###The feel: Again the same, it feels great in the hand. A nice size and weight to work with. The buttons are positioned well and are very easy to get acquainted with. What I like most about it is the aperture ring, shutter speed control and the dedicated exposure compensation.

Performance:

It runs like a dream, a very quick turn on time, super fast focus and of course the amazing hybrid view finder. The ƒ2 lens is fast and very sharp. Even wide open.
Fuji have done an excellent job on the optics. Stopping down really shows this lens off. I’m yet to find it’s sweet spot — a little more time shooting needed. This is also helped by the lack of the optical low pass filter (OLPF).

The ISO performance is another great feature of this camera. Coupled with the internal processing, it yields smooth low noise images. The X-Trans sensor inside is simply amazing. I’ve shot with it at 2500 and the results are very pleasing. Hobby claims that even at 6400 it is producing good results, I only have one experimental shot at 6400 and it does look very good.

Jpegs, the X100S spits out some amazing jpegs. I’ve shot with a 40D for a long time and I would never use the jpegs that produced. The 5D MKII was better, I’d usually shoot in RAW+Jpeg mode on the MKII.
This isn’t an issue with this puppy. The jpegs have great colours, skin tones are very nice and the saturation is lovely. There are a few different film simulation modes available in the menu. So far I’ve only shot in Provia (standard) film mode, but initial experiments with Velvia and Pro Neg Hi look nice.
Put it this way, I’ve stopped worrying about shooting RAW and pixel peeping with the X100S. It produces top notch images straight out of the camera.

Video. This is where it starts to lack. The video is not great, it suffers from moiré effect quite a lot. This may be due to the OLPF not being present, I’m not too sure.
The video is useable if you’re wanting to take a quick bit on holiday or of a candid moment, but to be honest this isn’t the camera for shooting video on.

Panoramic mode. This looks like a nice little addition to the shooting modes on the camera, but don’t get too excited.
The pano mode operates in almost exactly the same way as on iOS 6. You have a line and an arrow pointing in the direction of the way you need to move the camera. All you have to do it keep the arrow on the line and move. Easy right?
Wrong. It’s a pain in the ass. It took several attempts to get this right; too slow, too fast, not straight. When I did get it right, the results are poor.
Not very sharp, and it cannot handle flare at all. I know I wasn’t shooting with a hood, but it’s ugly. If you want to shoot a pano, do it in the traditional way. Don’t waste your time in the dedicated mode.

There are a lot of other features that I have not explored. Some more gimmicky than others.
In camera filters, think Instagram, but built in.
Bracketing, you have traditional exposure bracketing (±1 ±½ ±⅔), ISO, film simulation and dynamic range bracketing modes.
Multiple exposure mode, this looks fun. I can’t wait to try it out.

Vs Canon 5D MKII

When I was in Pori and Helsinki I was travelling with a MKII. So the natural thing to do was see how the X100S performed against it.
I am not trying to bash the MKII here, it’s ~5 year old — and it’s still a great camera.

The test is not very scientific, there were on slightly different settings.
The 5D MKII with 16-35mm L - 23mm 1/80 ƒ2.8 ISO 400
The X100S - 23mm 1/60 ƒ2 ISO 320

N.B. These images are straight from the camera, no adjustments have been made to them

Helsinki Cathedral - X100S
Helsinki Cathedral - X100S - view on flickr

Helsinki Cathedral - 5D MKII
Helsinki Cathedral - 5D MKII - view on flickr

Helsinki Cathedral - X100S 100% Crop
Helsinki Cathedral - X100S 100% Crop - view on flickr

Helsinki Cathedral - 5D MKII 100% Crop
Helsinki Cathedral - 5D MKII 100% Crop - view on flickr

Helsinki Cathedral - 5D MKII Vs X100S 100% Crop
5D MKII Vs X100S 100% Crop (MKII left, X100S right) - view on flickr

You can clearly see how nice the images are that the X100S produces. They are sharp, well balanced and the noise produced is considerably less than the MKII.
This camera is just brilliant!

Sample images

Images straight from the camera (jpeg)

Helsinki to Pori Road, Finland
Helsinki to Pori Road, Finland - view on flickr

ISO 6400 on the X100S
ISO 6400 on the X100S - view on flickr

Frozen lake in Helsinki
Frozen lake in Helsinki - view on flickr

Organ, Helsinki Cathedral
Organ, Helsinki Cathedral - view on flickr

Images from RAW conversions

Foz Tua, Portugal
Foz Tua, Portugal - view on flickr

Alijó to Pinhão Road, Portugal
Alijó to Pinhão Road, Portugal - view on flickr

LBV 79, Pinhão
LBV 79, Pinhão - view on flickr

Pinhão
Pinhão - view on flickr

Douro Valley, Portugal
Douro Valley, Portugal - view on flickr

TL;DR

There isn’t much more to say about the camera, the results speak for themselves.
A lot of people are saying that Fuji is the new Leica. Having never been privilaged enough to own a Leica, I wouldn’t be able to comment on that. But those comments are coming from well respected people. And the Fuji family of cameras are far cheaper than the Leica equivelents.

The unobtrusiveness of the X100S, the sleek looks, the fantastic handling and the amazing images that come out of it means that it will be the camera I will be carrying with me for my general and travel photography.

Fuji, you are producing some very very nice equipment. I can’t wait to see what you will come out with next.