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Mike Kobal

March 20, 2013

Fujifilm X100s low light and torture test review

20th_street_X100s_street_night_snow_031813_8497
shot hand held at 1/30, f2, ISO 640

The first time I took the X100s out, I learned that a minor downpour won’t cause any harm (your mileage may vary, be careful and do it at your own risk). Naturally, I wasn’t too bothered when it started to dump wet snow during my night walk – no umbrella and the X100s around my neck.
more after the break

I don’t know about you but I am getting a little bored with high ISO tests, pixel peeping and Bible arguments between fan boys from different camps.
Don’t get me wrong, high ISO tests are important and I use the comparometer on Dpreview and check DXO ratings and fellow photographers and bloggers like everybody else. However, I often find that in the following arguments on message boards we are getting carried away and sucked into discussions that have very little relevance for taking pictures.
One amazing ingredient won’t make an amazing meal. A great looking dish doesn’t necessarily taste good.

Today I will try a different approach. I will describe the situation leading up to the pictures on this walk. Everything was shot hand held in raw mode, shutter priority and the camera was set to auto ISO between 200 -6400.

The opening image 20th_street_X100s_street_night_snow_031813_8497 was my first reaction to the snow, I had no idea if it would last 10 min, 1 hour or all night. I didn’t expect snow and I hadn’t checked the weather report. In general, I prefer to shoot without filters unless I shoot a shallow depth of field video requiring a Vari filter. I used the X100s without the metal ring on the lens to save time in case I went with the Wide angle adapter (I didn’t, shot everything with the 23mm wide open). A protective filter might degrade image quality, especially at night when street lights bounce around between glass surfaces and cause ghosting. To protect the front element, occasionally, I use a short metal hood but not this time.
A few snow flakes hit the front element and I wiped them off with a lens cloth. The rest of the camera with my sweater.

Autofocus and Manual Focus set up: No problems with afs here to hit the E 20th st sign, despite the challenging lighting and snow!
Shutter priority and I picked 1/30 to capture the snow fall in streaks.
WB, contrast and saturation tweaked before the final output.

night_play_X100s_street_night_snow_031813_8675
shutter speed 1/30, f2, ISO 1250, converted to bw, minor tweaks in contrast and some dodging.

This is my favorite shot of this series, it was the most challenging to capture. The dog and its owner had a great time playing as I watched and approached them. I knew the camera well enough to check settings, including the +- by feel without having to take my eyes off the subjects. Set to -1 stop on exposure compensation to maintain the feel of night. To get there, I scrolled by feel to -2 and counted 3 clicks up, I remembered the shutter speed setting and did the same with the shutter speed dial, just to be sure, counted up without looking at it then back to 1/30. Aperture ring was set to A (This technique also works perfectly with the aperture ring). The ability to change all key settings this way is what gives the X series a real practical advantage over menu based cameras.
The scene was dark and quiet and I tried to capture that feeling by keeping the ISO down, I did not want the trees to look grainy or noisy and kept the 1/30 shutter speed. Switched focus to AFC and focused. Failed. No problem, my subjects weren’t going anywhere, just running around in circles, re-framed, focused and captured. AF FAIL again. Now this was a pretty challenging scenery, low light, nothing reliable to focus on. After a few more failed attempts I switched to manual focus, my previous mf setting was in split mode and I realized split mode wont get the job done here, the subjects are moving too fast, the snow on the ground didn’t offer anything vertical and the trees were too far away. I pressed the toggle switch on the back for a second and this activated focus peaking, which was the perfect aid for this scenery and thanks to the short throw of the mf ring, I had them focused properly and followed their movements with ease. I never took my eyes off them until I had the shot (after about 30 clicks).

the_silence_of_snow_X100s_street_night_snow_031813_8712
1/30, f2 ISO800
still on a high from having nailed the previous shot I stopped to take a picture of the empty bench row, switched back to AFS – I did that without looking, just in case you were wondering- and realized my camera was pretty much soaked and the front element was wet, the scene looked good though through the EVF, took a few snaps and wiped it dry :)
I like the the mood in the shot, it represents the moment pretty accurately, probably wouldn’t have included it except for the wet lens effect, kinda nice, eh?

1st_ave_X100s_street_night_snow_031813_8531
1/30, f2, ISO 1000
Back in the East Village, I spotted this lady waiting for the light to change and just caught her, still in AFS mode I switched to AFC mode, left the shutter speed at 1/30th and was pleasantly surprised, the X100s nailed focus the first time, I took a few shots to get the step right and autofocus was spot on every time. Impressive. Of course I was relaxed about it since I knew switching to mf would take me only 1/4 second and it was already in focus peaking mode which is an absolute dream for these type of shots.

safe_crossing_X100s_street_night_snow_031813_8554
And since I was on a roll and the snow was still coming down in buckets, just for the heck of it, I saw this guy getting ready to cross and NOBODY else around, a rare occurrence in NYC, I jogged to the middle of the road, switched to mf (while jogging, never letting my subject out of sight), positioned myself, weni, widi, vici. ;)

flat_tire_X100s_street_night_snow_031813_8476
1.30, f2 ISO 1250

A little later, I spotted this upside down bike, switched to AFS and bokeh-licou’d it . No problems with autofocus here.

hot_coffee_X100s_street_night_snow_031813_8580
1/30 f2 ISO800
A cup of coffee sure sounded good but I was soaked and a little worried about my by now very wet camera, the lens cleaning cloth was soaked also and I had to use a napkin instead, worked like a charm, shot in AFS mode, again, no problems with autofocus.

lager_beer_tap_X100s_street_night_snow_031813_8570

This abandoned bar caught my eye and I pressed the lens against the glass, focused on the back wall in AFS mode and went home. Click through to flickr to see the full size image, minor tweaks and WB correction only, I would say this is a very accurate representation for SOOC.

This was a successful photo walk (not all of them are) and I certainly learned a lot about the camera’s behavior, a lot more useful to me (and hopefully to you too) then bracketing ISO/aperture settings on a brick wall.
So here are my impressions from this shoot:
With the leafshutter and the traditional rangefinder like design, the X100s is a street photographers dream. AF issues have been fixed and the improved EVF was a joy to use, MF options are in a league of their own. I love the split focus for critical accurate focusing and focus peaking for quick focus. Thanks to the short focus throw mf can be very fast and no matter which method we choose, we have the option to stay in 100% viewing mode (no magnification) or in 3x magnification mode. Another thing worth mentioning is that the amount of focus ring rotation exponentially increases the closer we get to the 0.1m mark, most noticeable between 0.5m and 0.1m. Very helpful to achieve accurate focus for critical close up shots. No contenders for now, and I almost forgot, in good light, we have the fantastic OHVF.
I love the X trans sensors and I am aware of my bias here, I think it comes down to your taste, if you like what you have seen from the X-E1 and X-Pro1, then you will like the newest sensor in the X100s. I can’t put my finger on it, there is something different about how this one renders the whole image, I really like it, appears to be a little more film like. Time will tell.
Buffer is good in raw, not fantastic, the best part, it does not lock up, only slows down considerably. I am using a Sandisk SDHC 95mb/s card.
Battery life isn’t great and if you are shooting mainly in AFC mode, notoriously the fastest and most consistent AF mode, then battery life isn’t great at all, however, I am so pleased with all the other, essential improvements Fuji made, I can live with carrying two or three extra batteries. :)
Do I like this camera? Will I get one? Hell YES!

Don’t hesitate to ask questions if there is something specific you would like to know, post them in the comment section.

If you find this article and the photos inspiring, please consider helping me maintaining this blog by purchasing your gear through my product links to Adorama and B&H and Ebay. It will cost you nothing and allows me to keep adding! Or consider making a direct donation using PayPal, thank you!





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46 Comments »

  1. Mike, thanks very much for your amazing reviews in real life.
    one question: do you prefer the X100s+X-E1 or the RX1 if you have to get one.
    I am debating to keep the RX1 or get the X100s+X-E1.
    I currently have a NEX6,aRX1(rented),an E-M5 and interested in moving to Fuji X100s +X-E1.
    I’ve been shooting D800E and D600 most of times but there are times I much prefer small system cameras or a big sensor compact.

    Thanks for your amazing site and all helpful real life reviews.

    Comment by derek — March 20, 2013 @ 11:27 pm

  2. Thanks Derek! Very glad to hear you found it useful. It really depends on what you shoot with it, moving or still subjects. I LOVED the RX1, however, since I primarily use these cams to shoot street, af speed is juuuuuust a little too slow with the RX1 esp when compared to the X100s and the 14mm/X E1 combo, which has a traditional depth of field scale and I is incredibly sharp and perfect for decisive moments- IF you like such a wide angle of view. Yeah, I love the D800E and sometimes take it out to shoot personal stuff, attach a descent lens and it gets heavy. Don’t know – since you have the EM5, keep in mind the X100s focuses very fast, still NOT as fast and consistent as the Oly. The sensor kicks ass and if you have a soft spot for classic rangefinder style and like the hybrid finder, I won’t discourage you.
    If I would be shooting portraits in a controlled situation and stationary subjects, I would get the RX1 and the EVF and be done with it, sell everything else except for the essential pro gear.
    For now I will go with the X system and wait for the RX2. Lets hope Sony gets it right.

    Comment by mike.kobal — March 20, 2013 @ 11:48 pm

  3. Hi Derek, I do own X-E1 (35mm, 14mm, kit zoom), RX1, RX100 and some NEXes. I would recommend to buy RX1 and to complement it with either E-M5 or X-E1 or RX100 (depends if you prefer the image quality of X-E1, autofocus speed of E-M5 or the tiny size of RX100). I don’t shoot street though, I am too shy for that :-) ) As you, I do prefer small cameras to DSLRs. In your shoes, I would probably keep the E-M5, buy the RX1 and sell the rest.

    Comment by Jan Safranek — March 21, 2013 @ 3:16 am

  4. Had a similar night walk through Prague. Though I used the XP1. Loved your blog post and that accompanying photos. Thank you for the post.

    Comment by Jim Gamblin — March 21, 2013 @ 5:24 am

  5. Hi Mike, really great shots. Always love reading your posts and seeing things from your creative eye.

    Derek, I’m kind of like Jan. I own an X-E1 (35mm and 18-55mm zoom) and M-Adapter I use with my Summicron 50mm. I also own an RX1 with EVF. I love both cameras. The X-E1 I use when I need the flexibility of different lenses. RX1 for just about everything else. These two cameras render very differently. RX1 is ‘softer’ and great for B&W shots – though I found I post process more with the RX1 images. X-E1 is very sharp and all around great for OOC JPEGs and strobe shots.

    Comment by Eric — March 21, 2013 @ 6:18 am

  6. Hi Mike, I stumbled on your blog via fujirumors :) you have some excellent posts and great shots! This review is also very nice as it goes more into the picture making experience instead of the spec sheet discussions that you usually see. Really great stuff, thank you kindly!

    The X100s sounds like a great little camera! Compared to the RX1 it sounds like it gives buyers great value for money.

    Comment by Goran — March 21, 2013 @ 6:38 am

  7. Enjoyed your comments on the X100S. Just wondering what program you are using for processing your Fuji RAW images? I am having issues with Lightroom 4 and Fuji RAW. Thanks.

    Comment by wolf — March 21, 2013 @ 8:00 am

  8. thanks wolf. latest dng converter, beta version. no issues here.

    Comment by mike.kobal — March 21, 2013 @ 9:32 am

  9. Thanks so much, Goran. Definitely. A classic looking camera, that delivers on all fronts.

    Comment by mike.kobal — March 21, 2013 @ 9:35 am

  10. thanks much, Eric!

    Comment by mike.kobal — March 21, 2013 @ 9:35 am

  11. Thank you, Jim!

    Comment by mike.kobal — March 21, 2013 @ 9:37 am

  12. Great “street review” with this X100s.
    Thanks for keeping us posted about your thoughts.

    Comment by Arnaud — March 21, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

  13. :) glad you liked it, Arnaud

    Comment by mike.kobal — March 21, 2013 @ 1:16 pm

  14. Bravo Mike! Briljant review and you really know how to push this beautiful tool to it’s maximum:-)! After reading this post, my hunger for the X100s has started to complete my current setup (Fuji E-X1 plus 35mm). Who knows….;-)

    Please keep posting more results of the superb X100s!

    Thanks

    Comment by Jeroen — March 21, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

  15. Thank you so much, Jeroen. That would make a nice set up. Unlike a Pro DSLR paired with one no-nonsense zoom can make a complete system, I truly believe the Fuji X doesn’t just look like a traditional rangefinder but should also be used as such. Two bodies and suddenly all the little problems go away, like buffer issues during raw, changing lenses which is a pita no matter what system etc….
    Cheers

    Comment by mike.kobal — March 21, 2013 @ 3:34 pm

  16. Killer shots Mike, as always! Great eye on the red boot, and I love the flow of the man and dog playing in the park. The sharpness of the bicycle is stunning, simply stunning. Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by Craig — March 21, 2013 @ 6:32 pm

  17. Mike,

    Great street shots. I love/hate my X100 and see that with at least 70+ changes to the X100 to get to the X100s, I might find more love than hate with the X100s.

    However, I have not seen a lot of discussion on what I consider to be my greatest MIFFFFFF. That’s the propensity of the 23mm lens on the X100 to flare in strong contrast conditions or when a bright light is directly included in the frame (including strong backlight). While Fuji states that they have done something in the firmware processing to improve the lens performance, that still leaves me wondering about RAW images. I shoot almost exclusively RAW, I’m wondering how the lens performs under adverse conditions.

    Since the lens is literally glued to the body, I’m surprised that there hasn’t been more discussion on this topic. Do you have any comments on the lens performance? I’m happy to see that most of the firmware and handling nits have been addressed.

    Best Regards,
    Roger

    Comment by Roger — March 21, 2013 @ 8:51 pm

  18. Thank you very much Craig! Did you order one yet?

    Comment by mike.kobal — March 21, 2013 @ 9:29 pm

  19. Hey Roger, thank you! I shoot 95% raw and don’t see any issues with the lens performance. Keep in mind for the type of shots I do with this camera-mostly street- lens performance isn’t on top of my list. I was looking for a very responsive, silent camera with a very good sensor and fast autofocus speed. Fuji nailed it this time. ASFAIC the lens is tack sharp wide open and I haven’t seen anything that would make me wonder about the quality. Perhaps wait and see what landscape and architecture photographers have to say about it. For them the lens has to be top notch.

    Comment by mike.kobal — March 21, 2013 @ 9:38 pm

  20. Thanks for the terrific reviews Mike. Can you tell me which camera (between the Fuji X100S vs. Sony RX1)? I intend to use it for street shooting, in a good deal of low light situations.

    Comment by George Koury — March 26, 2013 @ 2:26 pm

  21. Thanks for the terrific reviews Mike. Can you tell me which camera (between the Fuji X100S vs. Sony RX1) you feel has the better image quality? I intend to use on or the other for street shooting, in a good deal of low light situations.

    Comment by George Koury — March 26, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

  22. Hi George, glad to hear you found it useful. The RX1 has the better image quality, however, the Fuji X100s will focus better in low light in afs mode.
    The image quality of the Fuji is class leading for a APSC sized sensor but it is not in the league of a top FF sensor like we have in the RX1. Depending on what kind of street shots you are planning to take, if af or mf is important to get the shot, definitely go for the x100s. hope this helps

    Comment by mike.kobal — March 26, 2013 @ 3:04 pm

  23. Thanks Mike!

    Comment by George Koury — March 27, 2013 @ 1:55 am

  24. Some users report a possible AF issue with 1.01 version of x100s. It should slower than x100.
    Is it true? And, which version do you have?

    Comment by Valerio — March 27, 2013 @ 6:31 pm

  25. hmmm. that is not good. I can’t comment on it since mine runs on version 1.00.

    Comment by mike.kobal — March 27, 2013 @ 7:00 pm

  26. Great shots, and nice to know the x100s can survive the wet weather. We took it out for testing in Venice where the weather was brutal, but I always had my umbrella with me to keep it protected. Maybe next time I won’t be so cautious!

    Comment by Mat @ MirrorLessons — April 8, 2013 @ 9:01 am

  27. Hi there!

    You say you have used a button on the back that enables you to quickly switch/toggle between split screen focusing and focus peaking?

    Could you explain which button/setting that is?

    Thanks!
    Mark

    Comment by mark — April 14, 2013 @ 8:06 am

  28. Hi Mark, in manual mode, press and hold the toggle switch like a button (located on the upper, silver part of the body) until, “standard” appears on the screen, then press again and hold until “focus peaking” appears, press and hold again until “split image” appears. The camera will remember the last setting you have used.

    Comment by mike.kobal — April 14, 2013 @ 8:15 am

  29. Hello mike,in manual focus mode, every time i rotate the focus ring, it automatically goes into 3x magnification mode, which setting do i need to change to stay in 100% view mode?
    Thanks
    Stan

    Comment by Stan — April 20, 2013 @ 6:01 am

  30. Hi Stan, menu-setup (blue wrench2) focus check – OFF.

    Comment by mike.kobal — April 20, 2013 @ 7:44 am

  31. Hey Mike, Are you using Aperture for your RAW files now? I love the colors from Aperture but the shadows seem to lack detail from what I have seen, any thoughts?

    Comment by b — April 25, 2013 @ 12:16 am

  32. using the dng converter, not a fan of Aperture

    Comment by mike.kobal — April 25, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

  33. Don’t down the Bible bro.

    Comment by James — April 27, 2013 @ 4:10 am

  34. Dear Mike

    At 9-5-2013 i bought one Fujifilm X 100s.
    I read many web reviews and i decided to buy this camera and let for a while my DSLR’s. All reviews said its a brilliant camera,some said its the best camera in the world.
    Unfortunately the lens of the camera has a flair-ghosting fail.
    Semicircular radius are shown when i shot direct or side light sources.
    I dont think that with the use of lens hood or uv filter will decrease the fail.
    I made some tests.
    Here is a link from where you can download 5 photos, where you can see the flair lens failing.The DSCF1423.JPG is without flare because its evening, i just want to show the place i took the photos.

    http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?ehnzfceo7gm0pp1

    Could you please tell me if this is a natural fail of the lens?
    All the X100s lenses they have the same problem or its only mine with this fail?
    It’s unacceptable to pay 1200€ to buy cameras with these kind of problems.
    I am so disappointed from Fujifilm.

    I made some photos from the same position with my Canon EOS 5 MK II and 24-105/4L is and my Canon EOS 40d with the cheap Canon EF-S lens 18-55/3,5-5,6 and the photos are 100% clear without any flair or ghosting problems.

    Thank you
    Akis

    Comment by Akis — May 10, 2013 @ 7:52 pm

  35. Hi Akis, I haven’t encountered this exact type of flair with the X100s yet, however, I have with the X-E1 and the 18mm, same peculiar pattern. Pretty sure this was caused by having a protective filter on your lens or an accidental smear. Take off the filter, make sure the front element is clean, try it again and let me know if that did the trick.
    Keep the box and receipt in case you have to return it.

    Comment by mike.kobal — May 11, 2013 @ 8:15 am

  36. Hello Mike

    I took some photos tonight and i upload a new set of photos with my new Fujifilm X100s.
    3 different night scenes indoor and outdoor.
    All photos are jpg without any process, direct from camera.
    I don’t use any filter, no adapter ring, no lens hood, no oil on the lens, nothing.
    I see again the same problem-fail on f/2 and f/2.8.
    Multiple rainbow semicircles are shown left or right of light sources.

    Here is the link
    http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?ycar7r5c6tlmrbr

    My only question is one and only.
    Is it mine X100s lens fail or is a natural phenomenon of the X100s lens?
    Someone who owns X100s could give a little help.

    Thank you for your interest.

    P.S.
    For the history i took some great photos today with X100s.It’s a fantastic camera with or without flash, but this problem-fail worries me.
    Here is a link with some photos, no process direct jpg from camera.
    http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?8xqq40i1sx1yiq3

    Akis

    Comment by Akis — May 11, 2013 @ 6:22 pm

  37. beautiful shots Akis! I looked through my archive and can’t find anything with a light source producing the same effect as you got. I got a very similar half circles shooting with the 18mm on the X-E1, quite common. It doesn’t look normal to me, send it back and get a new one.

    Comment by mike.kobal — May 11, 2013 @ 9:01 pm

  38. Mike you can see more of the Fujifilm X100s fail-problem.
    I uploaded here http://s1333.photobucket.com/user/AVITHOS/library/Fujifilm%20X100s/FUJIFILM%20X100s%20RAINBOW%20SEMICIRCLES%20AT%20NIGHT%20SHOTS
    It’s very weird.
    You took some photos direct or side on bright light sources?
    Maybe you see the same result.

    Comment by Akis — May 14, 2013 @ 11:11 am

  39. Akis, return it and get a new one, I have plenty of shots with bright light sources in the frame, even with the WA lens attached and don’t get that effect.

    Comment by mike.kobal — May 14, 2013 @ 11:23 am

  40. Akis, stop filling websites and fora with posts about your technical problem with the Fuji X100s. You seem to be the only one in space that has this problem. Return your camera or have it repaired and get on with your life.

    Comment by Kisa — May 15, 2013 @ 9:15 am

  41. Kisa its not my problem, its a Fuji problem!
    Its my decision if i write or dont write about this fail.
    Here is a problem, we have two roads, or we can hide the problem or we inform photographers about this issue.
    I choose the second.

    Akis

    Comment by Akis — May 20, 2013 @ 7:36 am

  42. Hi Akis, I have tried to replicate your problem but can’t get that particular effect. Return the camera.

    Comment by mike.kobal — May 20, 2013 @ 9:13 am

  43. Hi Mike,
    Impressive photos and review.. thanks for giving your view on x100s.
    I am very much excited and inclined towards x100s.
    I currently own Canon 40D. I am selling all my gears and switching to x100s.

    One concern for me.. is with Bokeh.. Does this x100s give me equivalent bokeh results as I used to get from my 50mm f/1.4… At least I like to see some awesome background blur effect… without disturbing background…

    Thanks

    Comment by Brats — February 3, 2014 @ 7:10 am

  44. thanks brats! bokeh won’t be the same, descent for close ups but won’t compare to the 50mm

    Comment by mike.kobal — February 3, 2014 @ 7:25 am

  45. Love this camera. Only wish there was a good way of manual focusing in OVF. I’ve tried using the feature that switches to EVF the moment you turn the focus ring, but the lag switching between modes is too distracting. I suppose I could learn to range focus while looking through the OVF, but a split prism would have been nice. Actually, how awesome would it be if focus peaking worked in OVF :)

    Comment by Mike Manzano — September 2, 2014 @ 4:00 pm

  46. Hi MIke, yeah, agreed, the lag is annoying, kills it practically, yes, focus peaking in OVF mode would be amazing :)

    Comment by mike.kobal — September 3, 2014 @ 3:02 pm

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