Two years with the X100F

Two eventful years since I got the Fujifilm X100F. Others then sold their digital single lens reflex camera equipment. I bought a DSLR last year. And then another one, each time a Nikon with a crop sensor.

The X100F is still in regular use. This blog picks five reasons.

The “no camera” camera

Perhaps I encounter something interesting out there and need a camera – but sometimes I am not willing to tolerate the burden to carry one. Then I grab the X100F in the Fujifilm leather case. Now knowing DSLRs, the X100 feels so compact and light that it is like taking no camera with me. While still having a powerful device.

It is the 2017 model, but as of yet still Fuji’s premier fixed-lens camera. Technology generally progressed in the meantime, other cameras have slightly higher resolution and a new film simulation called Eterna. I would like to get both, especially Eterna because of its flat profile. And the X100F still misses features other cameras have for much longer, including weather sealing.

But it is unique and complete in its own right. Even today you have to look hard to get a discount of more than 100 bucks if you want to buy an X100F.

At first glance, others often mistake it for a film camera which serves as a conversation starter to break the ice.

Not good for street, but excellent for travel

Looking at forums, many consider the X100 series good for street photography but I don’t agree. The autofocus is too slow. Manual focus is not helpful either because it is focus-by-wire. One could work with a fixed focus and a moderately stopped down aperture, but I rather make myself more visible with a DSLR if the autofocus nails it at the moment I need it. With European and German law, one cannot publish street photos without explicit consent which makes it too difficult in practice and I never got much into it. Take my X100-for-street opinion accordingly – with several grains of salt.

A completely different story is travel. You might think you have to have a zoom, or at least different lens choices available to you, since you need to be flexible. Sure there are a couple of occasions where you need a long tele, or a really wide angle to get a useful shot. But those are exceptions.

I think that it is more important to travel light than having many options available. The X100F offers an all-purpose field of view which takes a digital image record of what I see. The story would be different for a paid job but professional photographers don’t read this blog anyway. For personal travel, the X100F makes me happy. Also, no decisions which lenses to carry. No time wasted zooming in or out. Just looking through the viewfinder and taking a good photograph.

The X100F requires experience. With subjects in direct sunlight, or with certain patterns, the autofocus miss rate is quite high. I recommend to enable the digital distance indicator in order to re-focus if necessary. When not carefully used, one takes too many blurry photos.

Out of camera Jpegs

Now is not the time for a detailed discussion. In short, film simulations don’t solve all my problems, for example the tone curve of Provia seems to not analyze the content first. Depending on the scene, shadows can be too dark. Trying to compensate with a negative value for the shadow strength can have a negative impact on other image parts. The Provia simulation is still a robust, good-looking, all-purpose Jpeg output profile, often requiring little or no post-processing.

Every simulation Fujifilm implemented has its use, and again, I would like to get a firmware upgrade adding Eterna.

For certain shootings aiming to get commercial-grade quality, I do use Raw of course. Otherwise I shoot Jpeg and don’t worry too much about later editing.

Not all, but many simulations provide excellent skin tones. Each simulation has its unique color characteristic, not just for skin tones. If the white balance is right – auto balance sometimes produces a purple shift, which has to be corrected – then the Fujifilm colors just get it. Using my experience I can set the Jpeg output to support my vision and then the camera delivers. I can spend most of my time shooting, and shorten or skip the post processing. If you are a Raw-processing enthusiast, you will see room for improvement. But I don’t take photos to impress digital artists.

Portraits

This is another topic already detailed. I use other cameras for portraits as well, the success relies on the one behind the camera. When it comes to personal choice, I prefer the X100F.

For quick sessions the X100F saves a lot of time. Use any portrait-optimized film simulation, talk to the model and make a couple of jokes and take photos with the practically silent shutter so model ist not frightened.

For prepared shots where I look for a photo story, I want a camera which keeps me visible. The X100F is quite small. And looks good. And has direct controls instead of the indirect PSAM mode configuration. Your mileage may vary, I personally prefer the X100 concept. Aperture is set with a ring on the lens. When I want to take the best portraits I can, the camera should not be in the way.

The lens

The lens is also worthy of a full article. It is a 23 mm f/2 lens exposing a sensor with a 1.53x crop. This results in a 35 mm equivalent field of view, but it is still is a 23 mm lens with the corresponding depth of field.

In most cases I welcome the depth of field because I want to have the whole image in focus. At about f/5.6, the lens is very sharp. Some X100F reviewers say the lens shows its age, being introduced in 2010. If you like a synthetically perfect image, yes, look elsewhere. Off-center sharpness might be compromised. Closeups taken wide open look hazy, and there are a couple of other issues. But many important aspects are fine and chromatic aberration is well controlled.

The point is to not use the lens mindlessly expecting full-size performance from a compact-build lens. While a perfect lens would probably get better reviews, I think the existing X100 lens fits the concept perfectly. The camera looks like a classic and the lens produces images like a classic.

It is subjective

Perhaps the reasons given above are retroactive justifications why I like the X100F. Looking at an X100 camera, touching it, makes me to desire it. My Nikons are like able colleagues I team up with to get the job done. The X100F is like a friend I want to be with.

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