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A couple of years ago I added the Fuji X100S camera (31,000) to my tool box. Several of my fellow photographers asked me, “why in the world do you need that? When you have a top shelf DSLR camera (823,000) and nice glass.” Here are some of the reasons why, and more precisely, why I added the X100S and have since traded that one in on the new the X100F (12,101).
First and foremost, modern DSLR cameras (823,000) are big, heavy and obvious. Chase Jarvis, the force behind CreativeLive (27,100), said, “The best camera is the one you have with you.” This is philosophy behind me purchasing the small mirrorless camera (135, 000), as a travel stand in for my DSLR. I just didn’t want to walk around with a giant camera and a backpack full of lenses all the time. I wanted the functionality and creative control of a DSLR, but in a compact camera that I can shove in my pocket. Far to often as I was going about the course of my day, I walked or drove up on a perfect scene. There are few things worse than driving by an orchard and seeing the perfect sunrise coming through the apple blossoms and realizing your camera is at home. Many will say, “but we all have a cellphone camera now.” The fact is, no matter what phone you have, it doesn’t give you the same level of creative control that a small mirrorless can.
Second, the X100F has a 24 mp sensor, thats only a little shy of my big gun D800, and about the average for many pro-sumer and professional bodies being made currently. The camera can be placed in all auto like a point in shoot or can utilize aperture priority, shutter priority and if you would like, you can go all manual. In the newest iteration Fuji has added an additional dial to the front and the ISO setting has been incorporated into the shutter speed knob. Lovers of old cameras will find this a happy bit of retro styling. The camera also has the ability to shoot in film simulation modes. These modes tweak the JPegs they make so that they show characteristics of the old Fuji Film many of us grew up on. I always loved shooting Velvia slide film, and now I can get that look in camera. The new X100F Fuji added the Acros B&W film simulation that fans have been begging for. Giving Black and White images a punchy and contrasty look with amazing dynamic range straight out of camera. Additionally, you can record the film simulation Jpeg files at the same time you are recording RAW files. An added bonus, most knobs, buttons and dials can have new functions programmed to them, which allows rapid access to different capabilities based on your photographic style.
Third, the camera is equipped with a hot shoe that can be used to sync it with off camera lighting. Flash photography is an area where the X100 series truly shines. DSLRs can only sync with flash at around 1/250th or slower, but the X100f has a lens that is pure magic. It is equipped with a leaf shutter. This means, like many medium format cameras, those in the 10k to 20k range, this little beauty can sync at 1/4000th of a second at F5.6. Actual speeds will vary based on the trigger system you use, sync cord, IR or radio. My understanding is that radio is the slowest, I have only done it with IR and was able to hit 1/4000. That shutter speed means that on a sunny day, you can take flash photos outside and effectively turn the sun off as a light source. If you’re an off-camera flash photographer, you know that is simply amazing. In the future I will do an in depth blog post on the leaf shutter.
Fourth the Fuji does have some screw on adapter lenses that can make the camera’s native 23mm APSC (35mm full frame view) lens a more portrait appropriate 50mm(full frame) and a wide angle lens that gets to 28mm(full frame). I only own the telephoto converter. I have found it a useful addition to throw into my jacket pocket on days where I may run into a interesting person to photograph on the street. The added length allows you to take close crop portraits without being in someones personal space. The lens also adds an interesting look to the camera, which in itself can be an ice breaker on the street when you are asking someone to pose for a quick portrait. The X100F also has a digital teleconverter mode that can give you two additional zoom capabilities without buying the extra lens.
The fifth reason I fell in love with the Fuji X100 series of cameras, is the electronic viewfinder. Many believe that the explosion of photography, over the past decade and a half, is largely a result of the digital cameras ability to give the photographer instant feedback. Photography no longer had that click…develop…pray…Feedback process. The amount of images one could take no longer had the direct cost of developing and printing associated to every frame. The electric viewfinder in the X100 series takes it to the next level. You can see what the photo will look like in real time and how inputs to every dial impact the image. I have recommended the camera to fellow photography students for this one key reason. My understanding of minor EV changes was a real light bulb moment for me. The only thing it can’t simulate is the blur caused by motion in slow shutter speeds. You can even see the world in B&W with various filters applied before you snap a picture.
The last major reason to own the Fuji, is the styling. On the Fuji forums over the years, one of the things people love to do, is take pictures of the camera. It is honestly a beautiful piece of kit. Fuji has taken a great deal of time and effort to make a work horse & feature heavy camera, in a elegant retro look.
There are several pros that carry and shoot commercial work with this camera, or at least carry it as a back up to their DSLR. Zach Arias and David Hobby are both Fuji enthusiasts and have brought many into the Fuji fold. I am content to keep all of my other gear for planned shoots but have the Fuji as my constant side kick.
Last note, this isn’t a cheap camera. It retails for $1299 in the US, but the X100T, X100S and original X100 are available on eBay for about 900/500/300 respectively. The X100 has a 12 Mp sensor, and the S & T are 16 Mp sensors vice the 24 in the F. I bought my first one, the S, used for $650. One year and 9k photos later, I sold it for $575. That’s right 9,000+ images for basically a one year rental fee of 75 dollars… Beware though, the used one may lead to you wanting the new one.
Here are some images I have made over the last week with the Fuji. Looking forward to better weather coming so i can get out and shoot more.
Citation: All photo imagery is original work, produced by Christopher F. Bergeron.