The Fujifilm X100 camera range is a force to be reckoned with. We personally believe (although we have no tangible proof to back up our claim) that Fujifilm’s recent success in the photographic market started with the introduction of the innovative X100. It was first released to the public early 2011 alongside the now aging XPRO1. Now three iterations down the track, all the kinks have been ironed out and the X100T is the reigning king.
Last week Wednesday the camera was released in New Zealand and we were lucky to be one of the first to get our hands on one. Since its arrival, it has been glued to our hip. No matter where we went or what we were doing, it was hanging by our side. A popular saying amongst photographers, ‘the best camera is the one with you’, well our X100T went and will continue to go everywhere we do. Although this is the first time we have punished an X100 series camera, we do have extensive experience with the rest of the X series range to draw upon (XM1, XPRO1 and XT1, all mated with the Fujinon prime lens range).
The reason we have not historically considered the X100 series as a serious contender was due to the fixed focal length of the body (this is not an interchangeable lens camera, adaptors exist to manipulate the focal length but we have not tried them and hence they are not included in this write up). We always considered the fixed design of the camera as a drawback, rather than a creative challenge.
If you have been following our work over the years, you have probably noticed our desire to get up close and personal. This is why we tend to gravitate to a longer focal length (the 56mm specifically). But if you wish to incorporate elements of the environment into your work, you simply cannot go past the classic 23mm (35mm equivalent focal length). This is why we added the 23mm F1.4 lens to the travel kit for our three weeks in Turkey.
Once we came back and worked through the image backlog, to our surprise we noticed that 70% of the final image selects came from the 23mm lens, a completely unexpected outcome! The 23mm focal length has been a refreshing addition, unexpectedly versatile. It trumped the 56mm and, with a little imagination, can be used very effectively as the only focal length in your kit. This realisation and eye opening experience encouraged us to rethink the X100 series.
Before going too far off topic, let's get back to the X100T and its performance. The feature list of a Fujifilm camera is almost endless, so we will focus on the points which were the most important to us and our workflow.
Sharpness: The 23mm F2 lens is sharp, even wide open! This was not something we expected from a fixed lens compact camera. The Fujifilm NZ team tell me that the lens design has not changed since the original X100. So anyone who has had experience with the previous generations (X100, X100S), can expect much the same from the X100T optic.
Bokeh: Yes, sharp images are important, but bokeh quality can just as easily make or break your capture. Bokeh quality has always been particularly important in our work, as our brand name suggests. The largest aperture of the lens is F2, so you do need to get up close (very close) to produce dramatic out of focus effects. When you do, you will not be disappointed: the lens is definitely a seasoned performer. If you do not yet understand what factors contribute to creating beautiful bokeh, make sure to visit our bokeh tutorial linked below.
Focus: We are also excited to report that FOCUS IS QUICK AND ACCURATE! It is that simple! Probably the best auto focus system we have experienced. The lens and body combination is definitely optimised for speed. The results speak for themselves. The X100T puts the XT1 to shame and that’s saying something! Just take note, if you have macro mode enabled, the auto focus does slow down. Not by much, but in some situations you will notice a difference. Especially when focusing on distant subjects. Unless you need it, keep it turned off.
Colour: We have said it before and we will say it again, the colour (even in JPEG’s) coming from the X series cameras is astonishing. The X100T is no exception and the new ‘Classic Chrome’ film simulation is brilliant. All the images we have presented in this review were made with the new ‘Classic Chrome’ profile. Alongside our other favourite simulation ‘Astia’, maybe we can finally say goodbye to RAW!
Shutter speed: Unfortunately the weather leading up to the completion of this review has been grim. Overcast, dark clouds and rain have prevented us from using the camera’s new electronic shutter feature at its maximum potential in a real world example (it was just not required). We set the camera to switch to the electronic shutter when the mechanical limit (1/4000s) is exceeded in attempt to maintain the optimal exposure (a seamless transition). This is an awesome feature because large aperture photographers like us, will be able to use shallow depth of field in direct sun and still keep the highlights in check. The electronic shutter limit is 1/32000s and with the fixed 23mm F2 lens, we imagine there are not many applications where you have to stop down (close the aperture).
View finders: Fujifilm pioneered the hybrid view finder and you were able to select either optical or electronic based on your preference (and camera model). One problem we had with the optical implementation was when you made a close up image of a subject (without setting the camera to ‘macro’). The camera potentially could back focus without you knowing. Hence your subject would be soft. The electronic view finder does not have this problem (hence it became our go to mode of operation), because you are presented a direct sensor readoutyou could tell immediately if the camera back focused. In this regard the optical view finder was flawed (off course you could chimp and check your images, but if it was a spur of the moment capture then there is only one chance to get it right). To overcome this problem, the X100T has a THIRD view finder option, part optical and part electronic. On the bottom right hand side of the optical view finder you are able to bring up a small electronic frame which shows you a 100% sensor readout of the focus point. Now you can enjoy the best of both worlds with no more back focus frustrations.
Layout: When owning multiple camera’s, it is always nice when the button layout, style and configurability stays the same. The X100T layout has been bought in line with the rest of the X series range, hence when we first picked it up, it just felt right. It makes transitioning from one camera to the next on the fly intuitive and a breeze (first world problems….).
The X100T will not be replacing our mainstream kit (XPRO1, XT1 and the primes), instead it complements the camera bag by offering a pick up and go solution for the everyday. There is something special about a small camera and lens combo that just delivers and does not get in the way. It was an absolute pleasure pushing its buttons and putting it to work while compiling material for this review; this is not the last you will see of the X100T!