I’ll be frank, I’m not a fan of talking about camera gear. I like talking about photography. I shy away from talking about various camera bodies, lenses, flash units, filters, or whatever else can be talked about under that umbrella. I like discussing the process of photography to get to a desired result. A camera is a tool which helps with that end-result –the photograph. So it’s a rather giant leap out of my comfort zone to talk about a recently acquired camera.
But I believe that the camera is so good that it warrants a bit of a spotlight.
These days, everyone in the world now owns a digital SLR. It’s almost strange when you’re in a crowded place and you don’t see someone manning a DSLR. These giant black bricks can be seen in the local tourist attractions, churches, weddings, birthday parties, fishing trips, bar mitzvahs, shopping malls, hiking trails, and sometimes public restrooms. They’re, quite literally, everywhere.
Because everyone now owns a DSLR of some sort, everyone has become a gear head. It’s become commonplace to find a bunch of males huddled into a corner of a social gathering nerding over about this camera and that, about this lens and that and what camera settings they would use for specific situations. It has become completely boring to be a present day hobbyist photographer.
Seeing how my gigantor black brick of light captureness sees a lot of usage on a professional level, I started shopping around for a camera to replace it on a day-to-day basis. I was searching for a new daily driver. Something not as big, or as douche looking as a DSLR. I was looking for a camera which I can take with me everywhere and not feel completely embarrassed carrying it around without get random strangers coming up to me asking about what camera I had, or feeling their eyes dirtily elevator-ing my red-ringed black cylinders. I needed something that was much smaller, shot roughly the same quality as a small bodied DSLR and maybe even pocketable.
In my search, I came up with the usual suspects: the Canon S95, the Ricoh GR Digital III, the Panasonic LX-5, and the Sigma DP2. I even looked at the bigger interchangeable Micro 4/3s cameras, the Olympus E-PL2 and the Panasonic GF2. As I continued my research, I also found out that I wanted a camera to look good as it performs. What I didn’t want was a Douche McDouche looking camera like a Canon G12. So when Fuji Film announced their fixed-focal length, non-lens interchangeable, retro-throwback and rangefinder-esque camera, the X100. I knew that camera was exactly what I was looking for.
The X100 is a 12.3 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensored camera with a 23mm fixed focal length F/2 lens which is equivalent to a 35mm. But what makes it really special is the hybrid viewfinder. This clever viewfinder delivers both an optical viewfinder and an electronic viewfinder together. The result is something truly amazing.
But I’m not here to gloss over the technical aspects of the camera. All that information is a simple Google search away. What I will talk about is how the camera makes you feel.
When you first hold the X100 in your hands, you’ll notice how solid it feels in your hands. That’s thanks to the camera’s top notch build quality.
The next thing you notice is how every toggle, switch and knob on the camera is lands on your fingers exactly where they need to be. If you’re familier with using an old, fully manual film camera, this camera will feel right at home in your hands. Even though the camera is fully digital, operating it feels completely organic.
Personally, I feel that digital SLRs have a huge disconnect with the user. Every part of the cameras feels forced upon, the plastic buttons feel cold and the all metal body feels even colder. Operating a DSLR feels like moving a late-Victorian era steam train whereas operating the X100 feels like you’re having a spirited drive in small roadster sports car.
The hybrid viewfinder is a thing of beauty and elegance. When the electronic viewfinder (EVF) is off, it’s as though you’re looking through a normal rangefinder, but when the EVF is on, it’s like having live view but from the viewfinder itself. Depending on your mood or what you’re shooting switching from the optical view finder (OVF) and the EVF becomes section nature. It becomes part of how you use the camera.
Though the X100 may be a great camera but it is not without its faults. Firstly, the autofocusing system is absolutely atrocious. If you’ve had the opportunity to shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II and knows how that AF system functions, believe me when I say that the X100’s is much worse. Shooting wide open aperture is always a bit of a challenge for a good number of cameras, but when shooting wide open (F2) with the X100, you better have a subject that doesn’t move a single inch or make sure your aim is dead on. If not, what you’ll get is a whole lot of background in focus, not your subject. The continuous AF (AF-C) mode isn’t much better.
You can forget about manual focusing trying to focus with the dial takes approximately forty-thousand years to get to the focal distance you want. By that time, humanity would’ve evolved into a completely different species and colonized thousands of galaxies. But that’s only if you’re focusing at F11. At F2, you can kiss your ancestors goodbye and when you do finish focusing it will not be in focus at all.
The software on the camera is also a big drawback. The menus are clunky and confusing. The firmware freezes every so often and the only remedy for that is to remove the battery completely and put it back in.
If you can bare all this in mind and add to the fact that this is Fuji’s first foray into the growing compact-yet-serious-camera market and overlook these quirks, you’ll realize that the camera overall is in a class of its own.
In my short span of being a photographer, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to shoot with a lot of different cameras.
But nothing brings more joy to the simple act of shooting a photograph than the X100.
The X100 also makes for a great in-the-moment camera as it has a leaf shutter. This results in a shutter that is almost inaudible. That almost special-ops approach to shooting makes you less intimidating. That fact makes your human subjects feel more comfortable around you and most importantly, around themselves.
Of course, it also helps that the camera + lens isn’t the size of an wild Buffalo.
Is the Fuji X100 the perfect camera? Nope. It’s far from it. But what it does offer is something intangible.
Think of the camera like finding the one –the love of your life. Your chosen mate won’t be perfect, but because you’ve fallen in love with who they are, those imperfections are overlooked and, in the end, you end up with endless days of joy.
That, in a nut shell, is the Fuji Film X100.
You can find a collection of images I’ve shot with the camera here.
Assistant Art Driector: Skylar Smith
Model: Joe Ayala