For years, I used DSLRs to shoot everything from sports, events and creative photography, but the size of the cameras were creating a problem as I got older, so I researched and switched to a Fujifilm X-T1 and X-E2. This has worked well — so well that I wondered what it would be like to try Fuji’s flagship X100T.
**Update 1/2017** Fujifilm just released the X100F this week. It includes the better 24MP sensor, the focusing system found in the X-Pro2, X-T2 and X-T20 including zone focus (Yay!) and a focus selection joystick (Yay!) which (hopefully) addresses the slowness issues.
But why try such a different camera with no interchangeable lens? Because this (below) is so appealing.
So for our couples only, anniversary trip to the Sexy Marriage Radio Getaway this summer, I got a X100T and only brought that camera. No zoom(s). No bag/backpack. Just the camera.
For my first impressions on the X100T and more sample photo see this post, but below are my thoughts from a former DSLR shooter’s perspective.
Disclaimer: I am not evaluating this as a replacement for shooting all photography. That would be crazy. For example, when I am taking pictures of a speaker or ceremony from the back of the room with a long lens, I am not remotely considering shooting with just a 23mm, getting in their faces (“zooming with my feet”) and disturbing the event. That’s just crazy talk. Same for sports, animal photography, etc. etc. A camera is a tool (the right tool for the right job) and you wouldn’t use a hammer to take out a splinter.
Bottom line, the X100T reminds me of a slow scooter.
**Updated 1/2017** I previously wrote that X100T reminded me of a motorcycle, but then I was in the shower and realized that if I said motorcycle, it would sound like it was fast and nimble, but it is not (compared to other Fuji X cameras).
It’s stripped down and mean to go from A to B, and not meant to have all the bells and whistles of a touring SUV or minivan full of accessories.
It’s tiny compared to a DSLR
That’s good and bad. The good, of course, is that it is compact.
Look how much smaller it is!
(Comparisons courtesy of Camerasize.com)
The bad — my giant Canon 7D fit my hand like a glove. It never felt like it would slip out of my hand and and nothing felt under stress (but my 7D also never fit in a (large) pocket). The flat design of the X100T is workable, but feels odd in my large hands even after a few weeks of constant use. Luckily, there are several options for customizing a Fuji body. There are various lengths of thumb rests, hand grips, and half cases (sorry, no battery grips). I settled on the Metro Case which added both thumb and finger grips, but added no significant weight.
The joy/agony of fixed focal length
I’m not an advocate that all you need is one focal length. That might work for some people’s styles, but there are a lot of styles out there.
For me, a fixed focal length has been hard to adjust to. If I am out with my family…
- And I need a wider shot, moving back isn’t always an option.
- Neither is getting closer to something.
- And with only 16MP, cropping doesn’t always give satisfying results.
But, like my iPhone, if it is the only camera with me, I adapt to it without much thought, and many times get something, but adapting doesn’t mean you get the shot you want.
It’s so quiet!
The leaf shutter is only about as loud as a one key on a key ring. After using it, using a DSLR is like using a jackhammer in a library.
This one still throws me off even after constant use for several weeks, but sometimes, I like it.
Background: Unlike a DSLR, the optical viewfinder (OVF) mode on an X100 means that you are essentially looking through the body of the camera through a window instead of through the lens.
- This means you can see more than what the lens sees, which is great for many who like seeing subjects outside of frame before they enter the frame
- but this also means what you see is different than what the lens sees (and is worse as the subject gets closer)
To tell what is in frame, the camera displays a white border in the viewfinder of approximately what the lens sees. This border changes as the subject gets closer. If the subject is closer than about 3-5ft, you really should be using the EVF. If you switch the camera into “macro” mode, it automatically switches to EVF even if you are in OVF mode.
I use OVF sometimes, but to be hones, most of the time, I have my X100T in EVF mode. Just like my X-T1 and X-E2, I like the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) so I can adjust settings to get what I want and avoid some post processing time. Plus, when you shoot in low light, instead of seeing a dark OVF, I see the photo that will be taken.
There are also nice features like picture-in-picture for a tiny closeup of the focus point while in OVF mode. This is handy for getting a glimpse of the exposure, but not perfect.
Not so great for moving subjects
Even though the X100T has the same sensor as the X-T1 and X-E2, it appears to lack subject tracking. Turn on Multi focus zone and Continuous focus and it doesn’t track anything like the X-T1 and X-E2. It locks to a spot then keeps that spot in focus (without tracking the subject). This might be updated in future firmware, but it is not present in firmware 1.10.
However, it does track faces in either Multi or Area focus zones (Continuous focus only) if face tracking is turned on, but, for me, face tracking is hit or miss due to technology not knowing WHICH face to put in focus when there are multiple faces in the frame.
I love the direct, “retro” controls or, as an old timer like me calls them, controls. But it is a matter of taste weather you like them or not.
I do miss the near complete “personalities” you could create with Canon’s custom shooting modes (C1, C2, C3, etc). With a switch of the dial, I could switch from:
- tight (back-button) focus, spot metering, high framerate, 1/250, max 800 ISO to shoot an event speaker at a distance
- to (standard) zone focus, matrix metering, single frame rate, 1/60, max 1600 ISO to shoot the wide scene
But because there are physical manual controls on the Fuji’s that it must obey, you can’t have something like custom shooting modes taking over the controls (yet).
Fuji does have color profiles that you can switch between. I often use them to switch between shooting people, nature or high contrast b/w, but this doesn’t change HOW it shoots (focus mode, frame rate, etc).
In the end, retro controls are less like the difference between stick shift and automatic and more like the difference between driving a car and driving a boat.
Blah, blah, blah… but does it work well?
Bottom line is:
- If your style works with just 23mm (35mm in 35mm equiv)
- If you can work slowly
- If you don’t need features like subject tracking
… you might really like it.
Like I wrote earlier, it’s kinda like a motorcycle compared to a car, truck, suv, etc.
I started comparing it to other large sensor compacts, but this ended up really apples to oranges. Search online for reviews and opinions.
Good luck and happy shooting!
So why didn’t Fuji “fix” all these “issues” in the X100 cameras? Because the X100 was not meant for that. Fuji makes other cameras with those features (interchangeable lenses, tilt screens, etc), but these changes would weaken the X100 design for maximum image quality while maintaining portability.
- a zoom lens (would reduce portability)
- a smaller sensor to accommodate a zoom lens (would reduce image quality)
- tilt screen (reduce portability)
- interchangeable lenses (reduce portability and lose leaf shutter (reduce joy to use))
- additional dials (reduce portability)
- And it doesn’t have a giant battery (reduce portability)
I may still want these, but I can’t fault Fuji for having the courage to say NO to maintain a strong design (but if they could someday include a tilt screen and still stay as small, I would love it!!!).