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Mike Kobal

March 13, 2013

30 mph gusts and rain: Fujifilm X100s: Review: part one

Stephanie5_6692_Fujifilm_X100s_mike_kobal
UPDATE: this shot was one of the 500 selected on March 14th flickr explore :)

Once “Newness” wears off, our judgement tends to be more level headed. The loss of gear euphoria also occurs when I get my hands on a new camera or lens during a model shoot or an assignment. Because at the end of the day it is about the pictures and not the camera
more after the break

I was pleasantly surprised when a good friend of mine came by early to drop off his brand new X100s (and he left with one of my D800E‘s) as I was in the middle of prepping for the shoot with Stephanie.
I checked the battery, it had three bars and decided to give it a try right away. Already familiar with the UI from my X-E1, the X100s felt like an old friend. We started with head shots on a white backdrop. I was really itching to take the X100s outside but the weather was nasty. Counting on Stephanie’s ambition to become a super model (in case you didn’t know, we don’t just call them super models because it sounds good) I dared to ask her if she would mind to take a few shots in the rain. Stephanie agreed and was excited to try something different.
I hope you enjoy the shots!

Stephanie5_6735

Stephanie_Fuji_X100s_Kobal_1

Stephanie4_6661_X100s_mike_kobal

Stephanie4_6669_fuji_x100s_mike_kobal

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So here are my “level headed” impressions from this shoot:

Handling/feel/ergonomics:
The X100s feels very solid and it appears to be a notch above the X-E1 in craftsmanship.
This might be due to the weight (a little heavier then the X-E1 with 18mm mounted) and the slightly better feel of the focusing, aperture, shutter speed and +- control rings (more resistant to accidental turns) when compared to the already excellent X-E1 and Fujinon lenses. I totally forgot the X100s was not weather sealed, and it didn’t matter, it was soaked after we were done shooting outside and it worked fine! Of course I enjoyed using the hybrid finder in “rangefinder” mode and the EVF is total state of the art. This brings us to the viewing/framing/experience:

The increased refresh rate and resolution when in EVF mode makes this one of best EVF to date. It is stunning, especially when switching between the rangefinder mode/EVF mode, in some situations, one can easily mistake the EVF for the optical display, it is that good!

Of course I had to try the new mf split focusing mode and I liked it, however, because of my video work (mostly with the Sony FS100/700) I am used to focus peaking and I found it much easier and faster to use, however, I am sure this is only a matter of preference. It was great to have both options. It was also great that the full range from infinity to the closest focus point required only a two inch rotation of the fly by wire ring!
I also liked the AF-S/AF-C/MF switch, out of the way, recessed, in perfect position. Not prone to accidental changes.

AF performance: The big unknown, how good is the latest contrast/phase detection af performance? Well, after a couple hours of intense shooting I can tell you this much: In good as well as mediocre lighting conditions auto focus can be blazingly fast. Nikon V1/V2 fast. Olympus OM-D fast. Yes, my friends, it is that good! BUT, it still missed and hunted from time to time for no particular reason. Overall, a huge improvement. In very poor light, it is as good as the Sony Nex-6 or 7 with a fast focusing af lens. Fuji is close to the top and I am hopeful that they will improve on it again with firmware updates. To be clear, if your life depends on extremely fast, consistent auto focus, you will live longer with the Nikon V2 or the Olympus OM-D. If you can live with a few missed shots and appreciate incredible image quality rivaling results of full frame sensors, take a close look at the X100s. How does it compare to the 18mm, 35mm and 14mm Fujinon lenses? Hunting speed falls right in between the 18mm and the 35mm. During its fasted focus acquisition, the X100s beats them all.

Image quality/new sensor: Image quality looks every bit as good as I am used to from my X-E1. There might be a measurable difference, however, I highly doubt it will have practical impact. I love the way the X-trans sensor renders skin colors, the high dynamic range and the low light performance.

I am also planning to compare the X100s with the Nikon Coolpix A and possibly the Sony RX1, stay tuned :)
UPDATE: if you are interested in how the Sony RX1 handles, check out this post :)
UPDATE: a real street capture with the X100s here and another here :)

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18 Comments »

  1. great shot, Mike! can’t wait to hear what you think of it, esp af….

    Comment by neil — March 13, 2013 @ 11:42 am

  2. thank you very much Mike for this very timely review.
    I cannot wait to see your RX1 vs X100s comparison.

    Comment by derek — March 14, 2013 @ 11:37 am

  3. :) coming very soon,Derek

    Comment by mike.kobal — March 14, 2013 @ 12:26 pm

  4. nice review Mike, it’s very interesting to hear about the improved evf, as i recall my x100′s evf being very average. I recently bought a X-e1; otherwise I’d be tempted to give the X100s a try.

    Comment by Roninseattle — March 14, 2013 @ 3:49 pm

  5. Wonderful photos Mike. I really dig all of them especially the first one where the umbrella is getting a way from her. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Bo Bozeman — March 14, 2013 @ 4:01 pm

  6. thanks much, Ron! I keep getting emails from X-E1 users asking if they made a mistake to get it instead of the X100s. I will try put a blog post together on that, as of today I think the X-E1 holds its own, the ability to change lenses and and the 18mm comes very close to the focusing speed of the X100s, the 14mm beats it of course with its fantastic zone focusing mechanism and insane dof….
    The main draw of the X100s is the almost totally silent shutter and the high speed sync option

    Comment by mike.kobal — March 14, 2013 @ 6:16 pm

  7. Hey Bo, thank you so much, glad you like it.

    Comment by mike.kobal — March 14, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

  8. Mike,

    Wonderful photos as always! And thanks for the write up. Looking forward to more of your thoughts about the X100S. Can you please test AF speed, accuracy and ability to lock on with the OVF vs EVF/LCD? And also AF-S vs AF-C? It was my experience with the X100 and XPro1 that using EVF/LCD plus AF-C resulted in the fastest and most reliable auto focus for the XPro1 and X100.

    Thanks!

    Comment by Armanius — March 14, 2013 @ 8:14 pm

  9. Thank you very much, Armanius. I am in the middle of testing af speed/behavior and can confirm your findings :)
    It appears to be most reliable and a fraction faster in AF-C mode, applies to all viewing options. I can’t see a difference. AF is blazing fast, however, a little erratic and it DOES miss and hunt from time to time, overall, an impressive improvement when compared to the X100.

    Comment by mike.kobal — March 14, 2013 @ 8:54 pm

  10. Superb images as usual. The only puzzling this was your comparison to the OM-D which doesn’t have PDAF, but is Contrast Detect only. I know from testing the X20 that the Fujifilm PDAF is in fact similar in low-light to the Nikon V1. I didn’t test the X20 for AF tracking yet, but in light as low as – 3 EV it had no problems locking quickly and accurately. I’m guessing (hoping) the X100s will be similar to the AF system in the X20, which is quite good.

    Thanks, Mike for the test and for the excellent images.

    Comment by Markus Arike — March 18, 2013 @ 8:27 pm

  11. Hey Markus, thanks so much for swinging by and your kind words. I will post part two of the X100s review in a couple of days. This time from shooting at very low light levels.

    Comment by mike.kobal — March 19, 2013 @ 11:23 am

  12. Hello Mike,

    I’m in the way to get a fuji X series…

    I have the opportunities the buy a XPRO-1 + 35 1.4 lens for a good price (The whole set for the price of the XPRO-1 body only) but I’m hesitate with the fresh new X100s.

    I don’t really need a longer lens but the IQ is really important for me and I want to be sure that the X100s is able to delivers stunning image quality than the “XPRO-1 & XE-1” can….

    I would really appreciate if you could give me your opinions :-)

    Comment by Urbanshoot — March 21, 2013 @ 3:39 am

  13. Hi Dominique, to me the output from the X100s looks as good as from the X E1, the sensor has a slightly different look, can’t really put my finger on what it is that makes it look different, however, in practical terms, I don’t see any issues.

    Comment by mike.kobal — March 21, 2013 @ 10:02 am

  14. I’m so close to getting the X100s. I have the X100 right now and the faster focusing alone I feel is potentially worth the upgrade, although I might wait just a little longer until the price drops. I’ve read all over that it’s lightning quick, and that would be a massive plus for street photography!

    Comment by DRichards — March 27, 2013 @ 5:35 am

  15. It CAN be lightening quick and in general it is very fast, not Canon 5D3 or D800/D4 fast. Definitely an improvement over the orig X100

    Comment by mike.kobal — March 27, 2013 @ 1:23 pm

  16. What better way to protect the Fujifilm X100S than with a handmade case by JnK? We ordered ours made with leather in Rally Tan, has a removable cover for the back, and tripod mount on the bottom.

    Here is our second article on accessories for the X100S:
    http://www.rainydaymagazine.com/RDM2013/Home/April/Week2/RDMHomeApr0813.htm#FujifilmX100s_Accessories_JnKHandwork

    The quality, fit, and finish of the JnK case is amazing. It is the perfect complement to the camera.

    Comment by RainyDayInterns — April 8, 2013 @ 10:04 pm

  17. nice case!

    Comment by mike.kobal — April 8, 2013 @ 10:25 pm

  18. you write..: Image quality looks every bit as good as I am used to from my X-E1.

    Yet a ‘color expert’ in US has stated that the X100 is clearlly superior in all color situations to the XE 1, BUT the 100 still still falling down on landscape color.

    I notice that the S has the Pro1 sensor. This smeans what colorwise? I am reluctant to start with Xperimental digits just yet, which up now have become almost worthless after 12 months, (I still stay with velvia 50 35mm, which one film scientist has calculated as 175MP).

    Comment by ThomasT — April 19, 2013 @ 10:16 pm

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