At first I am going to tell you that this review will not be a "technical" one at all.
The web is full of specs and some other numbers, ones more "exact" than others…
Also I think that we always need to convince ourselves of stuff we read on the internet.
I've had so many bad or good "surprises" in this area.
One such a "surprise" was then when Fuji launched the X100 camera.
As you might remember, it was a long teasing period of time until the camera had been available and all this time generated lots of gossips online.
Everybody liked the retro design of it and also the amazing quality of the Fujinon lens, 35mm equivalent in FF mode.
Later on, there were many negative comments about the speed and accuracy of the focusing system.
Personally, I was not impressed by those negative comments and I bought a X100 in the first day the camera was available.
It was "love at first click". The retro stylish design and the look of a classic rangefinder were some nice and impressive features. I am also a Leica M9 owner and I was able to compare them side by side. At that time the X100 was called "poor man's Leica". There are indeed so many things they have in common but I don't agree of a real competition between them. And yes, those rumours about the focusing system were true. It was not the fastest or the most accurate camera at all. The fixed lens, those focusing issues, addition of a optical viewfinder and most important the quality of the images made me reconsider my photography approach. And here the resemble with a rangefinder was obvious. I liked the X100 so much that I struggled to overcome those issues and by doing this it become my favourite camera in its class.
I could even tell that the X100 generated a class of his own. Some beautiful concept was born then and I knew that they will come up with a X200 version for sure in the future. Based on the huge success with the enthusiasts and also the pro photographers, Fuji decided to make just an upgrade of the lovely X100 and this is how the X100 S was born.
When I first found out about it, I just wanted that the good stuff of X100 remain untouched. Some new features were there for sure. And so it was ! The Fuji x100S retained 99% of the X100 design and handling and some improvements were made also.
First of all we're talking about the focusing system that received a phase detection feature for the central point. I am not going to deep in the technical details but you have to believe me that the auto-focus speed was dramatically improved ! In good lightning conditions the focus is almost instant without any "hunting". I would have no doubt to relay on its focus system 99% of the time. I am not going to use this camera for sport or wild life photography anyway.
We also have an improved sensor and I think that this 116.3MO APS-C with X-Trans CMOS II processor has the best IQ of its class.
I know that the body-lens combo is essential and in this case it is simply spectacular ! It's much easier to correct and optimise a fixed lens rather that a zoom one and so the colours, contrast and sharpness of the images are just amazing.
Starting at f/2 the images taken with the X100S are really sharp in the centre. I say this for those pixel peepers searching for the ultimate perfection. I do prefer the "character" of a body-lens combination and we still have that specific X100 "signature" on the newer model.
The next days after I received the X100S, I tested it under different scenarios. That includes street-photography, landscape, reportage, macro and of course beauty and fashion being my preferred genres in photography.
Just to make a good statement of it, I've organised a fashion shooting in my studio especially for this review.
I followed a normal workflow with this as I would have done with my regular studio camera (Nikon D800E).
The whole team of make-up, hair, clothes, accessories, styling and models were really intrigued when instead of the "black big and heavy" camera they knew, they saw the little Fuji X100S with me. They asked permission to "hold it in their hands for a while" too and after convinced them that everything was going to be "OK", we got the shooting started !
In my studio I also had the company of my good friends Mugur Varzariu to make a photo documentary and Sorin Badea for a making of video.
I must admit that it was really awkward when putting the wireless trigger on the camera hot-shoe for the first time as they were really not a good match in size.
Most of the time I've used the OVF to mimic as much as possible the behaviour of a DSLR camera. The parallax correction helped me a lot to focus/frame according to the distance from the model. Again technical details that I hate to write about… Regarding the perspective of the lens, it was easy with the 35mm because i use it a lot when shooting fashion with DSLRs. You can use it for "full body", three quarter or even head-shots if the subject is in the middle of the frame.
The most interesting photographs with this focal length are the "environment" ones. In our case, running away from the boring white studio background, we brought an old classic table and also a vintage iMac as props. We wanted something minimalist, geek, stylish and sexy. I also left a studio flash in the frame for some specific shots to add that "movie flavour".
I've tested in this session different lightning setups including "contre-jour" and I was really pleased by the quality of the lens and his resistance to flare and chromatic aberrations.
Unfortunately, Adobe was not ready at that time with RAW support for the X100S and that is why I used JPG format only. Today, Adobe Lightroom 4.4 and Camera Raw 7.4 are available with full support for X100S. Even if "out of camera" jpgs are really good and beautiful , in order to have a great latitude for post-production, you need to shoot RAW.
I really like the way Fuji X100S handles the skin tones. The ASTIA film emulation is remarkable in this aspect.
There are also some things I DON'T like about the X100S:
The battery dies relatively fast and I needed three spares to shoot the whole day. The VIDEO mode is not yet as good as it might be and there's a lack of image stabilisation system. Also focusing in low light still have some improvements to be made about. We are all about that camera that sees in the dark. The accessories are rather expensive and there is only a brown version for the leather case. I wish they offered a black one also.
Back to the fashion shooting, as it is expected for such a job, the images need retouching. The "fat" files gave me the freedom to edit as much as I wanted.
After some tone, contrast and texture and with some extra sharpening added, the images looked just great !
As a conclusion, I could at any time substitute a full frame DSLR with this APS-C sensor camera. Of course I do not encourage that but is nice to know that whenever I need a solid backup for the 35mm length, the FUJI X100S would do an amazing job with that.
I've also tested this camera for street and reportage photography. It is a perfect companion in this field also. It's small, silent, fast and stealth. And of course again the 35mm lens is great for this genre.
I am not a big fan of MACRO photography but I've noticed that the minimum focusing distance was reduced and now you can shoot closer without engaging the macro mode on. When engaged, you can shoot as close as 10cm (3.9 in.)
The high ISO performance is outstanding ! Comparing to bigger "Pro" cameras when shooting at ISO 6400, the Fuji X100S stands out !
Much different that other cameras in his class, X100S' noise at high ISOs looks rather like "film grain" than "digital noise". And I love that.
Overall, I do like this small camera A LOT ! According to all those reasons above and also to the good images it will motivate to take. I said "motivate", not "help". I'd love that those of you reading such reviews understand that NO camera, no matter how good it is and appreciated by other photographers would help you taking great images. The photographers themselves are responsible for this matter. And that means studying, experimenting and most important the LOVE for this beautiful form of art called PHOTOGRAPHY !
Here you have some beautiful making of images taken by the greatest romanian documentary photographer MUGUR VARZARIU:
And here is a vintage looking making of video shot by SORIN BADEA:
Vali BARBULESCU / X-PHOTOGRAPHER