Fujifilm X100 (is it a modern classic?)

I didn’t buy the original Fuji X100 when it first came out in 2011, but by most accounts it had a few problems when initially released, slow auto-focus probably being the main one. So I was glad I got mine three years later, when owing to some firmware updates things had improved considerably, but by then most people had ditched it for the X100s and then the X100T and didn’t really give it another thought.

Liverpool, GB

I personally came by mine because I was becoming frustrated by the Ricoh GR that I was using at the time. I think I was missing not having a built-in viewfinder like I was used to, although that seems like a lame reason now, and I found the EV rocker switch troublesome and too easily knocked out of position. Maybe I didn’t give it enough time, I would like to pick up another one day to see if we can gel because it was a gem of a compact. – I actually did a straight swap, the Ricoh for the Fuji, a pretty sweet deal I thought and not one I have regretted because everyday that I have owned the X100 I have grown to like it more and more –

Fuji really hit the nail on the head when they designed this photo-box.

One thing you often hear people say about the X100 is that it is a poor-man’s Leica. I don’t really see that myself, Leica’s are range-finder cameras with interchangeable lenses whereas the Fuji is an auto-focus camera with a fixed lens. If it should be compared to anything then I would say it is a modern-day Konica-Hexar. Both had similar looks, were auto-focus, had fixed 35mm F2.0 lenses, were practically silent in operation, in fact it wouldn’t surprise me if that was what Fuji were trying to do all along,  to create a digital version of that classic film camera.

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Train Journey – Manchester to Liverpool

As for the auto-focus issue, I can’t say that I have ever had a problem it seems quick enough for me, and seeing as I rarely photograph startled gazelle or escaping convicts I don’t see how I would benefit from having anything faster. As for the S and T variants, the differences seem not that important to warrant an upgrade in my opinion – the S has a few more mega-pixels, a quick-menu button and the supposed increased auto-focus, although with the firmware upgrade I don’t think there is much in it. The T’s main added features seem to be a range-finder patch in the viewfinder and wi-fi, again not a deal breaker for me.

* Coincidently, whilst I was actually writing this post Fuji announced the fourth version of the camera, the X100F. Again more mega-pixels, 24 this time, larger battery, and a dedicated ISO dial which is nice along with a new button layout etc, but nothing that gets me thinking about an upgrade any time soon, although it is nice to see Fuji continuing the line.

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Manchester, GB

The one thing I thought about when this series started was that Fujifilm were backing themselves into a corner when they came to naming these cameras. We had the X100S (second version), X100T (third version) and now the X100F (fourth). You can see the problem with this, and that is the fifth version will also be an F, and then the sixth and seventh would be an S like the second camera which obviously won’t work. It will be interesting to see what name Fuji comes up with for the next camera in the line if they bring one out at all.

Side note: the original X100 has a different sensor than the newer models, and a lot of people say the files from the original are more pleasing, but seeing as I haven’t shot with the newer models I can’t really comment.

This next point is not a dig at Fuji themselves but at camera manufacturers in general, I just wish sometimes that they wouldn’t keep upping the mega-pixel count in their cameras, it does little for image quality whilst just filling up your hard-drive with unwanted data. My original X100 gives excellent results with just 12 mega-pixels, why do we need double that? Yes, it enables you to crop hard after the fact, but that can give you the temptation to become lazy with framing in my opinion.

Getting back to the viewfinder, this is where this camera really shines. Both optical and EVF in one body is a dream for a photographer. Personally I generally stick to the optical, as I find an optical finder better suits the overall feel of this camera, it is a little hard to explain but it somehow just feels right, kind of like shooting a true range-finder even though it isn’t, but having that EVF in reserve for when the light is bright or I want to check focus makes this camera stand out. Then there is its simplistic operation, sweet lens and not to mention damn fine looks and you have a camera that in my opinion will stand the test of time, even against the S and T and now F versions. Stick on a wrist strap, say, a wooden soft-shutter release from Artisan-Obscura and a clear UV filter to protect that nice fuji lens and you are good to go.

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Original Fuji X100, silver edition (sunglasses optional)

Would I change anything about the X100? I would lose the screen given the choice. I don’t mind an LCD in a compact, like the Canon S90 that I use as my everyday carry around, but in a larger main camera I find it a distraction. (I turn mine off and try to ignore it most of the time). Much better to have it hidden, like with the Olympus Pen-F, or removed completely like Leica has done with the M-D 262. Apart from that not much really, if I was being picky I would say maybe a snap focus feature like the GR had or a CCD sensor instead of the CMOS, but I can’t see that happening.

So is it a modern classic? I would say so. I say this because I can see people still shooting with it in twenty years time, just as people still like to shoot the Hexar, and also because the camera changed little from the original through to the S, T and F, meaning they kind of got it right first time. It is just as useful as a working camera or as a shelf-queen (did I mention how good it looks), is built like a tank, has perfect ergonomics and gives you most of your settings right at your finger tips instead of being buried in menus which makes it a joy to use.

Another point is, that to me a large part of the success of a camera is mainly down to how it feels in the hand. This has nothing to do with how well spec’d it is, or how good its image quality is, or even how good it looks, and this is where the X100 series excels. Just the right size and weight in the hand, neither too bulky or too small, something that when you pick it up it feels like it was meant to be shot, a true shooters camera. This of course started with the original X100. Fuji seemed to catch onto the principle, when nobody apart from Leica could, that you could combine old-school cool with modern-tech and make it work, and make it available to everybody (not many can afford the Leica option).

In all honesty if the X100 didn’t exist I am not sure what I else I could shoot with that would give me the same feel and experience, apart from maybe shooting a true film camera.

Conclusion: It’s a Hexar in a modern body, what’s not to like about that?

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