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A Fuji X100s Review: A Street Photographer's Best Friend

Updated on September 5, 2014

The Best Mirrorless Camera for Street Photography

The Fujifilm X100s is one of the most interesting cameras on the mirrorless market today. It is hard to believe that so much quality can be contained in such a compact and discreet body, and its well thought-out retro design is certainly the cherry on top. I enjoy shooting with it more and more each day.However, a potential buyer must know that this camera isn't for everyone. The way it has been designed and conceived makes it primarily a street photography camera. You could find its fixed 23 millimeter prime lens (35 millimeter equivalent on 35 millimeter format) limiting, or some of its weakness irritating. But still, it is a truly fascinating camera and is, without a doubt, the most anticipated camera of the year so far.Is it the right camera for you then? Let's find out together!Image credit: the author (all photos in this article were taken from our personal mirrorless camera review website MirrorLessons)

Ergonomics, Design & Usability

What is it like to hold the x100s?

Retro-style cameras are more and more common these days, and the Fuji X100s probably represents the best example. Its retro look reminds us of old film cameras, as well as the classic Leica M series.The camera is very nice to hold, and I am saying this despite having big hands. In fact, it is for this very reason I often have problems with the ergonomics of compact cameras. The thing I like the most is the aperture ring on the lens and the shutter speed dial. It is really nice to be able to change these settings just as one would have done with a film camera.The other buttons are also very interesting and well-positioned. The Q button is certainly the most useful as it shows you, with a simple press of the finger, all the main settings of the camera, such as ISO, White balance, Size, Recording Format and so on.The DRIVE button is also nice as it allows you to make a speedy switch between the different recording options on the camera (single shot, continuous shooting, video, panorama etc.) The only thing I sorely miss is a second Function button. You'll only find one, at the top near the shutter release button. But it is a small weak point.The camera is very lightweight and discreet. You will hardly be noticed while you are shooting on the street. Funnily enough, many people will think you are shooting film! The camera also has a silent mode that you can activate by pressing and holding down the DISP/BACK button. Your camera won't make a sound, even when you take a picture. Really nice!

X100S, 1/1000, f/ 5.6, ISO 200
X100S, 1/1000, f/ 5.6, ISO 200

Image Quality

How does the x100s perform image-wise?

This is for sure an aspect of the camera that is hard to contradict. The X100s produces some of the most splendid images I have ever seen. It features an advanced X-Trans II CMOS sensor with an impressive 16.1 megapixels of resolution. The dynamic range is huge and I'm really impressed by the details I can recover in both the shadows and highlights while post-processing the RAW files in Lightroom.Of course, you'll need to shoot RAW if you want to get the best possible quality out of the x100s. However, the JPGs are also impressive because of the Film Simulation Mode. They are the equivalent of the picture profiles we usually set on other cameras, but in the case of Fuji, they are a simulation of the different films Fujifilm produced for film cameras. They won't affect RAW files, and who cares - the JPGs produced by the X100s are very good and you can apply a very unique look to them that is different from other cameras. My favourites so far are the Astia and Monochrome R. The first generates less contrast, softer skin tones and very interesting colours, which is very interesting for portraits. The second is excellent for black and white photography with high contrast between light and shadows.The ISO performance is also very good. The files are usable even at 6400 ISO, with a very pleasant and unobtrusive grain that looks more filmic than other digital cameras. If you shoot JPGs only, you can extend the ISO sensitivity to 25600, again with wonderful results.A few words on the lens. It has a fast aperture of f/2, which makes it ideal for low-light conditions. It is a little bit soft wide open, but becomes super sharp from f/4. It has some distortion, but nothing that cannot be corrected by a software program.

X100S, 1/125, f/ 2, ISO 800
X100S, 1/125, f/ 2, ISO 800

Auto focus & Manual focus

Has focusing improved from the x100?

One of the biggest weak points of the X100, the previous model, was the autofocus. It was very slow and often unreliable. Fuji listened to the desires of its customers and incorporated a lot of enhancements, including improved performance and speed of the camera as well as a better autofocus system with phase detection.The AF has been dramatically improved in this new X100s, but it still isn't the fastest AF I have tried. Even more concerning is that you cannot really trust it. If you point and shoot right away, you will sometimes discover that your picture is out of focus. I always tend to wait for the AF confirmation rectangle on the display before taking a picture, as I experienced some nasty surprises when viewing my pictures afterwards.On the other hand, Fuji has introduced new features for manual focusing that are very interesting. You have the standard option where you can magnify the picture to check the focus status, but you also get peak highlight, where a highlighted outline will appear when the subject is in focus (my favourite) and finally a digital split image, a new feature introduced by Fuji with the release of the X100s.What this option does is generate a grey rectangle in the middle of your frame, and misaligne your image horizontally if it isn't in focus. By turning the focus ring on the lens, you bring your picture back in focus, re-aligning the frame. Clever, but not very practical when there is a lot of light. I think it could be improved with the next release, or perhaps with a firmware update.

The Hybrid Viewfinder
The Hybrid Viewfinder

The Hybrid Viewfinder

A nice addition pros will adore.

The Hybrid Viewfinder is one of the most fascinating pieces of technology Fuji has introduced to the X100. The viewfinder consists of both an optical and electronic version, that can be switched easily with the dedicated viewfinder selector.Both the OVF and the EVF have strengths and weaknesses.The optical viewfinder is my favourite overall because it gives you a brighter and crisper view, and also because it covers a larger area than your actual frame - a nice thing as you can see a little bit of what is happening around your picture and correct your composition if you see something you want to add. The downside of the optical viewfinder is the parallax: the composition you are seeing in the OVF won't correspond exactly to the final picture you take. This is because the optical viewfinder is slightly removed from the lens. Personally, I am not too bothered by it and I even find it challenging in some situations with movement, like a car or a pedestrian passing by. You always have to guess where it will be exactly in your frame.The only real limit of the OVF becomes obvious when you focus on a subject a short distance away: the AF focus point isn't reliable and you will need to switch to the EVF.The electronic viewfinder, on the other hand, is also nice to use. It is more precise for creating compositions or for AF in low-light situations. Also, the manual focus options mentioned above (magnification, peaking and digital split image) only work with the EVF.

Me playing around with my new toy!

Video Mode and other features

A few other goodies found on the x100s

The video capabilities aren't the strongest point of the X100s, mainly because you cannot manually set the most important settings such as aperture, shutter speed or ISO sensitivity. Likewise, the X100s only records FULL HD in NTSC (60 fps or 30 fps). There isn't a PAL recording option. Perhaps with a future update it will happen?The quality isn't bad, but the above-mentioned limits combined with a limited video codec don't embrace the full potential of the X-Trans Sensor. You can check below to see a short video I made during our journey through Venice.Other interesting options are the Panorama mode, which lets you take wide panorama shots very easily simply by following the indications on the EVF or LCD. There is also a double exposure mode and a bracketing mode.Finally, the camera is also very fast when it comes to continuous shooting, offering a maximum of 6fps.

Vivaldi's Venice: Fuji x100s Video Test - The x100s captures Venice on video

We put the x100s' video function to the test along the gorgeous canals of Venice, Italy. The video has been set to the music of Vivaldi's 'The Four Seasons.'

Conclusion

Summing up one of my favourite digital cameras

The Fuji X100s has created a lot of buzz on the Internet, and for good reasons. The improvements made on the X100 are numerous, the image quality is stunning and the countless ways you can use it and customize definitely make it a worthwhile purchase. But be aware: it isn't a camera for everyone and for every kind of photography. You could find its fixed lens a burden if you love a varied spectrum of photography styles. But if your primary love is street photography, the X100s could be the perfect camera for you.

X100s Reviews and Galleries - The best reviews on the web and the best pictures taken with the Fuji X100s

Below you will find some of the best reviews we have had the pleasure to read on the web. They are all written by professional photographers, each giving their opinion in a different way and with a different style. If you want a full immersion course on what the X100s is capable of, then these articles are a must-read!

Do you love the Fuji x100s? - Share your thoughts here!

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    • Deborah Swain profile image

      Deborah Swain 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I love the look of this camera...looks like a vintage analogue camera like the Olympus Trip 35, my favourite all time street camera!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      This is an intriguing camera. I haven't done street stuff in a long, long time but your review does have me thinking. Many thanks for getting this info out there.

    • Vikk Simmons profile image

      'Vikk Simmons 4 years ago from Houston

      I'm definitely intrigued. I haven't been able to get out do much street photography the last few years but I'm hopeful that I will be able to soon. Will definitely look into this camera. I've used a Panasonic in years past that surprisingly produced some strong photos.

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 3 years ago from Australia

      You obviously love your new toy and certainly given me something to think about beyond the iPhone camera!

    • geosum profile image

      geosum 3 years ago

      My current compact camera takes decent pictures but doesn't have a viewfinder. In bright sun, it's hard to see the image. I'd love to be able to have a better camera like yours.

    • EzLoanLookUp LM profile image

      EzLoanLookUp LM 3 years ago

      What are your thoughts on Sony DSLR cameras?

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