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Fujifilm X100s Review {Part I}:: What does the 's' stand for?

Fujifilm X100s Review {Part I}:: What does the 's' stand for?

Infected

It was 2011. The Fujifilm X100 was first released to much critical acclaim. For me the retro look is what drew me into it. I pined for it for several months and finally bought it in November of 2011. My first impression of it was.. it sure looks great. I loved the files the camera was producing but the autofocus was hard for me to adjust to coming from a dSLR. I was expecting too much from this camera's autofocus and the more I accepted that this was not a dSLR the more I loved using it.

Fujifilm had definitely infected me with the bug.. of which there is no known cure.

The x100s

I had my preorder in on January 8th. After a year of using my X100 I was in love and the X100s promised to be everything the X100 was and make it even better. Could they really make it that much better? Was I selling a camera only to buy that same camera for much more money? My X100 was sold and shipped to its new owner in Europe.

It was a long wait but I got the call from The Camera Store last week and drove down to pick it up. When I opened the box it was like an old friend returning home.. but he was returning sober after a stint in rehab.

Stats

  • 16.3 megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor {Like the one in the Xpro1.. except better.)
  • EXR Processor II image processor {II is better than I.. that's science!}
  • On-sensor phase detection autofocus {It is crazy fast}
  • Hybrid optical / electronic viewfinder w/ 2,350,000 dot LCD EVF {Lag is better in the EVF and it is real crisp}
  • Focus peaking, digital split image display, responsive focus ring {Manual focusing is useable now.. but not by me. I like autofocus. Same reasons I like a remote for my TV}
  • 2.8" 460,000 dot LCD {Same as the X100.. not the greatest but not too shabby}
  • Aperture f/2 - f/16, 9 blade diaphragm {The bokeh is nice and creamy smooth as wide apertures and it's pretty sharp throughout the range}
  • ISO 200 - 6,400 {It's no 25,000 but it is improved over the X100}
  • 1/4000th flash sync speed {Thanks to the leaf shutter. I'll be writing a whole new blog about that in the future}

Handling

The X100s looks almost exactly the same as the X100.. so I was able to throw on my adapter and lens hood from my X100. In fact the only real noticable difference would be the engraving on the top plate and the 'S' added to the front.

5D3_6503.jpg

The biggest difference for handling is that they smartly moved the AF button from the left side of the camera to the top spot on the command dial thing. It is now as easy to change the focus point as on my 5dmk3. This feature alone would of been enough for me to upgrade because that drove me nuts on the X100.

5D3_6506.jpg

The drive button swapped places with the AF button and I couldn't be happier. I rarely use the drive button anyways. Now I press AF and spin the wheel until it lands on which focus point I want, half press the shutter and bingo. No more centre point recompose for me. Also there is the addition of the Q button.. nothing ground breaking but nice to get rid of the RAW button. I either shoot just RAW or RAW/JPG together. If they can add the ND filter to the Q menu I would probably use the Q button.

The dials really feel great.. the right amount of tension. I rarely knocked the exposure comp dial out of place on the X100 but it does feel stiffer on the 's'. The EVF is better. Even the fonts in the view finder look more refined.

It has the same 23mm (35mm equivalent) lens fused onto the camera. When I first purchased the X100 I did not like the 35mm focal length. It seemed either too wide or not wide enough for me. By using the X100 it forced me to think more about composition and now I love 35mm. Easily my favourite focal length these days and I love my 35L.

The menu still feels like a pain to scroll through. I can never seem to find what I want very quickly.

The closer focusing distance before having to change to macro is much better. I found I always seemed to have to go into macro mode on the X100 where I haven't had to on the X100s yet.

Now lets talk focus. The autofocus on the X100s is fan-fuji-tastic™. Light years better than the X100 and in most instances it can be on par with my 5Dmk3. Focus locks on super quick. And it is mostly accurate. Now I say mostly because in the last week I have had instances where it appears to have focused on what I wanted only to have the .5 second review in the finder show me it focused on the background instead. I found this occasionally happened using the EVF too. My wife would be in focus when I pressed the shutter but the focus changed to the background when the photo was made. It does not happen enough for me to say it is a problem but it was annoying.

The new X-Trans sensor is really great. 16 megapixels are so much better than 12 for me. The ISO noise has a very pleasing look to it. I am never scared of pumping up the ISO as demonstrated here and I have no problems using 6,400 on the X100s. It might be pushing it a bit for some but even 3,200 is very usable.

Battery life is still crappy. I carry at least 2 when I am out and about with it. The indicator will show half and then drop to almost none pretty quick so I cannot trust the indicator.

How I roll

With the X100s, like I was with the X100, the majority of the time I am in aperture priority. I throw the shutter dial to A and use the aperture ring on whichever aperture works for me. I mostly control exposure with the exposure comp dial. ISO is controlled by auto 6400 iso with 1/60th being the lowest shutter speed. So if the shutter speed wants to go below 1/60th then the iso is kicked up. Of course there are times I am in full manual or shutter priority while controlling the ISO myself.

I don't use the included lens cap. I have the filter adapter (sans filter) and the lens hood so I don't really need the lens cap. I carry the camera with a Blackrapid Snapr (minus the cheesy bag) or on my Holdfast Gear MoneyMaker with my 5dmk3.

Photos

I hit up the Big Springs Provincial Park again last week with my wife and in-laws.. which means they stand around bored while I make photos.

X100s, 1/9th second, f8, ISO 200, ND filter on

Having a small camera like this makes it great for low light shooting because you can handhold it at very slow shutter speeds. I wanted some motion in the waterfall but it was a very bright day. I turned the 3 stop ND filter on in camera and stopped down the aperture to where I could get some motion in the water but keep steady enough to have the rocks sharp.

X100s, 1/17th sec, f/8, ISO 200, ND filter on

 It next came with me downtown to a haircut.

X100s, 1/420th, f/2, ISO 200

X100s, 1/60th, f/2, ISO 3,200, No Noise Reduction

Usually I would reduce the noise just a smidgen in LR4 but the noise has a very film-like quality to me. Some people don't like any noise, some add it to photos. That is the lesson.. everybody is different.

Is the lens sharp? Why yes it is. I find the lens is sharp at f/2.0 and gets even better as you stop it down. I had it hanging at my side while doing some landscape photos today and took a quick shot of my 5dmk3 at f/2.8. And it is pretty sharp at the centre.

X100s, 1/105th, f/2.8, ISO 200

And a crop for the pixel peepers..

100% Crop

Conclusion

So what does the 's' stand for? I think it stands for Sweet Speedy Super aweSome Camera.

It is a pricey little camera but it is definitely worth the price! Since I am small time I don't get things given to me by companies to try. I buy or rent them because I want to use them and I write about it for anyone who stumbles onto my site. So I did spend $1,300 of my hard earned money on this camera and I am glad I did.

It is such a great camera and lens combo that I won't take my 5D mark III and 35mm f/1.4L out & about with me.  I will always grab for the X100s now. I won't even be bringing my 35L to NYC next month!

When the X100s' new X-trans sensor, AF, and button reassignments land on a X-Pro2 I will definitely be making the jump to Fujifilm as my camera system and sell off my big, heavy, bulky, obvious, dSLR! There! I said it and it feels great!

But until that time comes {Billy? When will that time come?} I am very happy with the X100s as a companion camera to my dSLR setup.

Now if only Holdfast Gear would make a classy leather sling strap to replace my Blackrapid Snapr.

{RJ}

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