The Fujifilm X100T- the best just got better
Alien, Cathedral Square
ISO 200, 1/2700s@ f8
But is it worth the (facelift) upgrade?
I am coming to the conclusion that Fujifilm X100/S/T owners are a quirky lot, somewhat prone to minimalism and probably into the small home movement. They definitely sit at the opposite end of the kitchen sink approach to photography gear (I had better take everything; I just might need it…)
Exhibit One, Your Honour: the Australian tourist doing New Zealand with only an X100 to keep him company. And an old flip phone for his mobile communications. He probably had only 2 pairs of socks with him.
Exhibit Two: My friend Mark, cycling the Otago Railtrail, with only his X100S as his trusty companion. He is a pro, and I know there is no shortage of high-end kit for him to drag along on the journey. He had dropped the camera in Queenstown and the factory lens hood was substantially dinged. I thought about replacing it, he said, but I think I will leave it as it is. It looks sort of…noble.
X100 owners are a bit like that. And this really dovetails into the whole gestalt of the X100S. It is remarkably useless for shooting birds and you will never use it to shoot fungi. Taking it along to shoot motor racing is going to be an incredibly frustrating experience. But for almost anything else, especially street and documentary photography, even fashion, when you want to go light, it takes a lot of beating.
The X100 series has been a steady and constant process of evolution, rather than quantum leaps forward, and one where each successive model has grown closer to its siblings. The original X100 had a 12MP Bayer sensor and some very quirky ergonomics (read: irritating). Then the X100S, brought in all the cool things which had been suggested by users and trialled on the X-E1, including the X-Trans sensor. It still had the silly control wheel, but things were on the improve. Now we have the latest iteration, the X100T.
So let us dive in and have a look at what is new.
No, let’s not. The list is actually quite long, and luminaries like Rico Pfirstinger, who clearly does read the manual, and also doesn’t get/need any sleep judging by the exhaustively complete reviews and analyses he writes, has covered it all. You can get all that heavy information here.
I like to pick up the camera, set it up and go out there to make pictures and see how it performs.
So this is a review of the things which drew me. In no particular order.
As mentioned before, the silly fingernail-destroying sub-command wheel on the X100S has gone, replaced by a 4-way selector similar to that on the X-T1. Even better, it is has the raised profile X-T1 users have been requesting for some time, and which has led some owners to use all manner of silicone glues and the like to create the ability to intuitively feel where the buttons are. I still think Fujifilm haven’t solved the problem sufficiently, and the answer is simple: hack into Sony’s mainframe (you won’t be the first) and steal the plans for the joystick they used so successfully on the Alpha 900 series. Or even poach a Canon engineer (they don’t seem to have much on at the moment) to build something like the one on the 5D MK III. And tie it to the focus points, so you can switch points easily while the camera is up to your eye. Please, Mr Fujifilm, please.
I have always loved the bright line hybrid viewfinder of the X100 series. Very few cameras have them, and the bright line OVF (optical viewfinder) is brilliant when you are working the street, or a smoky bar or a market, where there is a need to see beyond the viewfinder, and be able to see what is outside the viewfinder, and where you need to accurately track people moving into shot. It is a different way of seeing, quite unlike a DSLR, where your view is constrained by and contained within the frame edges and things appear as if by magic. Many of the Greats shot with a bright line viewfinder, and the placement of subject material on the edge is a core part of the documentary aesthetic, propounded by Leica’s M-series. Hey, it worked /works for HCb and Constantine Manos. However I have stayed away from using it, because the X100/S viewfinder was so inaccurate.
The X100T’s viewfinder is beautifully accurate, and the frame lines allow a generous view outside the actual capture area. At last. Not only that, but this is a bright line viewfinder for the 21st Century. The EVF/OVF switch has evolved from a one-directional to a two-directional lever, because Fujifilm have now incorporated an ERF (electronic rangefinder function) into it. Press the lever a second time and a small electronic window appears at the lower right, providing a close up of the focus area. Given that manually focusing in the OVF is fraught, this is an elegant solution. Purists won’t want to know about it, but those of us wanting a hybrid OVF may well find it useful. At least I do.
There are many minor modifications which all make for a better user experience. Again check out Rico’s exhaustive run-down.
The camera comes supplied with a USB cable to enable direct charging from a laptop or external power source, using the USB port in the side of the camera. Because it also comes with a battery charger, you can now charge two batteries at once.
The Q menu can now be customised, making it easy to assign any of 29 functions to any of the 16 Q functions. This means it is probably worth reading the manual. Sigh.
Shutter lag has really improved and is as fast as most DSLRs I have used. Decisive moments just got easier, helped by the inclusion of predictive AF tracking.
What did strike me was how responsive the camera is, and more importantly that it can be set to be completely silent when triggered. I mean, silent. This is of course, purely optional, but of huge value when working a crowd or sensitive event.
IQ (image quality) is, as you might expect, up there with the best of Fuji, with a lens that is remarkable sharp and free of distortion. Use a good Raw converter like Photo Ninja or Iridient Developer (MacOs only), and the images you make can easily be printed at A0. But then the same can be said for the X100S. Stellar.
So is it worth it?
If you have an X100, then hell yes. It is light-years ahead.
But the X100S?
I thought long and hard about this. Is it that much better that you would trade in your X100S? The more I delved into the finer things the X100T could do, the more I began to go against the general reviewer trend, which is to say: no, not really. In fact this camera is not a facelifted Toyota HiLux, with a new radiator grille and turbo intake, but the same tired old engine and drivetrain underneath. In and of themselves, each modification doesn’t add up to much, but the cumulative effect is such that it really is a better camera.
And there is another approach. Sometimes the 35mm FFE (full frame equivalent) isn’t wide enough or long enough. That is where the Fuji TLC-X100 Tele lens or Fuji WCL-X100 Wide Conv. Lens come in. If your budget allows it, and you want a second focal length, say 28mmFFE, then get the wide converter and screw it on the X100S, and then you have a 28mmFFE and a 35mmFFE.
The only thing you need is another lens hood. And here may I indulge in a grump. C’mon, Mr. Fuji, don’t be so parsimonious. Given that it can’t cost much to manufacture the Fuji LH-X100 Adaptor + Hood, why not do the decent thing and finish the job properly. Include it in the box as standard kit.
This a cult classic which keeps getting better. It is one of those cameras that you either hate or love, and if you love it, you won’t ever sell it. Take my Canikony, but don’t even think about taking my X100. This is real photography.
One afterthought: from time to time people ring me up asking what I think of the Fujifilm XF23mm f1.4R lens. Well, gorgeous. You know you need one. However they are not cheap ($NZ1400). For another $NZ5-600, buy the lens and they throw in a camera body.
It is called an X100T.
Y’all want a camera with that?
Have here or take away?