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Fuji X100 - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

As a professional photographer, the $830  I spent for a used Fuji X100 could be better spent on something that I really need.  Before I get into the Good, the Bad and the Ugly,  let me say that the X100 is way cool camera for all the reasons you probably have already read about.  I was so excited to have a hip looking camera that could possibly free me of my larger DSLR and lenses.  I was looking forward to having a camera that made me think more creatively and could produce stunning images that would shine in my portfolio.  I'm I keep it or send it up on a rocket? 



Zack, the Digital Rev guy, and a host of other bloggers/photogs had me so excited to finally pull the trigger and treat myself to a new camera.  I wanted a pimped out looking X100 with a red soft shutter release, a $100 funky red leather strap from Artisan, a half leather case from an Italian leather designer, and the overpriced Fuji lens hood.  I spent countless hours/days drueling during my research, and then another several days battling ebayers for a good deal.


The day the camera arrived I could hardly stand waiting for the battery to charge before rushing out on a rainy day to shoot.  I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process and I did walk away with some proud images. 


But after two weeks of shooting the allure has worn off and its time to be honest with myself.  For me,  the Fuji X100 is merely a glorified point and shoot.  I love the idea of a camera that I could use while vacationing with my girlfriend or knocking around town.  The truth,  I never shoot like that anyway.  I take my photography seriously and have never had a problem carrying my DSLR for when I want to take stellar images.  When I travel and shoot for myself,  I am comfortable with my honkin' Nikon D700 with a honkin' 24-70mm 2.8 lens.  When I shoot, I want to create art!  I feel rather wimpy , uncreative and uncomfortable with the hipster Fuji X100. 


X100 lovers, please don't hate me.  I really do love the X100,  it just doesn't fit into my arsenal and style.  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly...


The Good:

-l love the retro look.  I must admit that I got a lot of compliments walking around with this baby.

-totally portable

-fairly easy to use once I spent about 8 hours with it

-I love the in-camera processing in the X100.  Shooting black and white never looked so good in camera.  It makes you proud when you say "I shoot JPEG"

-built in neutral density filter so you can shoot with wide apertures during sunny conditions.  Total score!

-A wide array of products to pimp out your camera like the Leica guys do.  Very hip!

-at f2.0 images are sharp.  Ken Rockwell even gives the X100 a thumbs up.  You know how he can be a bit persnickety

-Auto ISO never felt this good

-high sync speeds that will blow away your DSLR  (to be honest that has never really been a gripe of mine with DSLR's)

-in low light, the ISO performed better than I expected.  Noice not an issue at ISO 3200

-I never experienced a battery life problem.  I suppose I'm always in the habit of turning off my camera

-auto stich (panoramic), a cool feature

-macro mode fun for close ups


The Bad and The Ugly (lumping these two negatives together):

-I could never really get comfortable with the optical view finder.  I wound up using it like a point and shoot/iphone when shooting.  Which henders my creative eye

-I hate jumping back and and forth between macro mode and normal mode when I want to shoot something up close

-low light situations the auto focus drove me nuts

-I felt as though I was buzzing through menus too often.  Again, hendering my creative juices.  I probably didn't spend enough time with it

-when using off-camera flash, I had to set up the camera differently.  Basically a few minutes fiddling with menus and ruining my vibe

-being stuck with essentially a 35mm lens limits my creativity and choices

-I bought used and always had a fear that the aperture blades would stick.   Buying new is probably a better route

-As a full-time photographer, the X100 is more of a luxury item.  I personally would not use this camera on 99% of my client shoots/personal projects

-no shutter sound.  I admit that I love the sound of a nice shutter.  It's like a Harley guy and the roar of his pipes,  it feels good.

-even with the half leather case to beef it up a bit, I could never get used to how wimpy the X100 feels in my hands.  Point and shoot style, brilliant!

-manual focus a bummer.  I prefer manual focus when using video.  I never use manual focus while shooting photos

-the exposure compensation button a little loose.  I constantly checked to see if it had moved, again bothering my creative juices



Final note:   I hope it doesn't feel as through I hate the Fuji X100.  I don't hate it.  I actually love it with all it's little nuances.  Those nuances become muscle memory and ultimately don't hender a photographer.  Every piece of gear I own has a certain learning curve. 


Bottom line:   I have a great DSLR and a collection of fine glass to compliment my shooting style.  I would rather use the $830 towards a piece of gear that I need to further enhance my art/work.  The Fuji X100 is a glorified point and shoot that has stellar performance but doesn't help me as a photographer.  For the casual street/vacation shooter this is a great choice.  For the photographer that wants to carry around a camera everywhere without the bulk, again a great camera.  At the end of the day,  I would like to keep the X100.  But,  I ultimately will wind up using my DSLR when I want to create stellar images.  Maybe I'm too stuck in my ways and will change my mind when the price comes down to a couple hundred bucks.


I hate to say goodbye.  It would be nice if Fuji came out with a replacement and drove the price down on the first generation to a couple hundred bucks.  I may let the earth spin a few more times before I make a final decision.  It may end in the hands of a family member that is interested in takeing "nice photos."



Here's a comment from a pro photographer in Austin, Texas that I had an opportunity to shoot with a few weeks ago:


"The X100 is a niche camera and definitely not for everyone. It requires a deliberate shooting style that suits me. I love mine but I'm always hesitant to recommend it to folks who are used to blasting away with a DSLR. It can be a frustrating little bitch to work with at times. I've contemplating throwing mine against a wall more than once. Its image quality and size keep me addicted though. For all its frustrations, when I get home and see the images in LR you can't wipe the smile off my face. There is just something about it. I prefer Fuji's files to my 5D's. The auto focus takes lots and lots of practice. Contrast detect is a completely different technique than the phase detect in a DSLR. I use mine in low light all the time and find it more accurate and reliable than my 5D (granted, the 5D is notoriously bad in low light!) The exposure compensation dial is in a convenient yet annoyingly easy place to hit. I shoot in manual mostly these days so the dial does nothing. No shutter sound? Sure there is! Turn up the volume on the sound file it plays. wink A silent shutter is a small trade off for a leaf shutter that flash syncs at 1/1000+ to kill day light! Manual focus? Yeah that sucks. Useless. I wish that were better. The fly by wire system of the mirrorless cameras in general is awful."


Mike C.

Austin, Texas


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