X100s review update

August 01, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

I’ve had my Fuji X100s for about 5 months now, so thought it was a good time to do a small update.

My original post about the X100s was written just a few days after buying the camera and I hope this update will give a little more insight into what the camera is like to use. It’s not going to be an in depth user review as I will leave that to the people who are good at looking at every feature and function and accessing them. This is more about how I use the camera, what I like and what I don’t like, and I’ll also talk about a few accessories I have now obtained to make life easier and to protect the camera.

x100s

We all know that the Fuji X100s is beautiful. And there are thousands of photos out there that show it can take amazing images, which, considering this camera is priced at around £1000, it bloody well should!

However, if, like me, you are used to handling a DSLR like the D700 or the D4, then you will find that the camera feels small when you first start using it. I felt very clumsy, all fingers and thumbs, and I still find it hard to adjust the shutter speed and aperture at the same time. Mostly because I’ve just gotten used to the dials on the aforementioned Nikons.

I also have to admit, again, because I am more used to the speed of the Nikons, I find the X100s slow. Yes, it focuses pretty fast but sometimes, and more often than I feel it should, there is nothing in the viewfinder when you look through. Switching the camera off and on again seems to clear this, but by then you have missed the shot. Is this me? Is this something a firmware update will sort? Time will tell.

Okay, so now I sound very negative about a camera I love. But sometimes we are harder on those we love, right?

I didn’t buy the camera to replace my D700, I bought a D4 for that. I bought the X100s to be my carry-about camera. I bought it  to replace my iPhone in fact. I take it with me when walking on the hills or out with my daughters – basically if I am going anywhere where I will want a camera but don’t want to feel like I’m at work. The X100s fits nicely into a small walker’s bum bag or even a winter coat pocket. It’s light enough to forget you even have it around your neck.

D4 next to Fuji X100s

The D4 is a barbarian, whereas the X100s is a thinker.

X100s Accessories

There are two main reasons for buying a camera accessory; to protect the camera or to make using the camera better. Let’s start with protection.

I think it’s fair to say that I don’t treat my cameras very well. Only last weekend my D4 took a covering of seawater and my D700 has been rolling round the boot of my car for weeks. But the X100s isn’t a work tool. It’s not a pair of overalls, it’s more your favourite pair of jeans and a t-shirt. So, knowing that I couldn’t change my ways and that I would end up knocking it as I walked around and dumping it in the back of the car, I wanted to try and prevent it getting damaged.

I looked at a few cases, including a really nice looking handmade leather case made by a guy in Italy. However, after trying to contact him and failing, I decided I would plump for Fuji’s own case made for the X100. I wasn’t really thinking this would be the case that I would keep but rather that it would get me over the initial hump of not having one. But it turned out to be a great case. The photos of it on the net don’t do it justice – it has that lovely retro look to it but still works brilliantly with the camera.

Fuji

Fuji’s X100s has a retro design with modern functionality.

As you can see from the last image in the mini set above, the screen is clearly visible when the camera is wearing the Fuji case – you’d expect it to be of course. But that does leave the screen vulnerable to scratches and dirt which, over time, will affect how well you can review your images on the camera. So while protecting the body is important, protecting the screen is equally essential.

I intend this camera to be handed down to my daughters one day, for it to become a family heirloom. My Nikons will tell a story in their own right of course, they will speak of all the places I have been for work and so will have many good tales to tell. But the X100s will, I hope, inspire memories for my daughters as much as the photos I take with it will do.

How to protect the screen then? I have never looked into screen protection before, so I started where all research now starts, not at the local library but with Google. The name that kept popping up in my searches was Expert Shield. The claims for their products are impressive, and include a demonstration where they run a belt sander over an iPhone fitted with one of their screen protectors.

I’m a bit old fashioned and still like to talk to people before buying if I can, so I called Expert Shield and spoke to Ed Tyson (whose card says he’s an Office Astronaut!). Ed is a really nice guy and he assured me I would be very pleased with his product. He was so confident that he said he would send me a protector for the X100s for free and that if I wrote a little bit about it I could keep it. “Well, okay” I said “but what if I hate it, can I still write about it?”, “Sure, of course” he replied, “but you will like it”.

Okay Ed, here’s the deal. I think you are psychic. You must have known I wouldn’t read the instructions because you sent me two protectors and yep, I messed the first one up because I didn’t read them! After reading them, it was a breeze to fit the second protector and I really can’t tell it’s on the camera.

The instructions are simple to follow - read them. Expert Shield think of everything and even include a cleaning cloth!

The instructions are simple to follow – read them. Expert Shield think of everything and even include a cleaning cloth!

So now the protector was on I had to be brave. Taking my trusty sheriff’s badge I put my trust in Ed’s word and scratched the screen. After all, it’s only a £1000 camera that means quite a lot to me!

Before and after Expert Shield scratch test.

On the left, the Expert Shield screen protector on the x100s having been scratched with the pin of my badge.
On the right, the screen after the protector was removed. Not a mark in sight.

Well, Ed was true to his word, and I can very happily say that I would 100% recommend the Expert Shield screen protectors. I think I will be wanting ones for my D700 and D4 now too. So if you are looking for a new screen protector for your camera or phone I would start your search by visiting the Expert Shield website.

So that’s protection sorted out. Now, what have I bought to make using the X100s better?

Well, as I said before, the camera feels small in your hand so I took the advice of a friend on an well known photography website – ePhotozine - and bought a thumb grip and a soft release button. The thumb grip fits on the hot-shoe and enables you to hold the camera more steadily. The downside of this is that you can’t close the Fuji case when it’s fitted so I soon ditched it. But I would say that if you aren’t using the Fuji case I recommend getting a thumb grip, they really help. The soft release button is still fitted and I am not sure how anyone takes a photo on a camera like this without having one. In fact, I think Fuji should just make the shutter button come as standard with a soft release fitted.

X100s with soft release button

The soft release button is a must have addition to the X100s in my opinion.

So in conclusion, the X100s is a fantastic camera – it not only looks great but handles well, and aside from a few minor problems I am having with speed, I am very happy with it. And the speed issue shouldn’t put you off owning this camera, it’s not a DSLR and won’t ever compete with one but then it’s not meant to.

Does it fill the gap between my iPhone and the bigger workhorse of the D700 and D4? Yes, and perfectly. The world is full of cameras and some stand out from a technical point of view but few stand out from a design point of view. The design is what makes the X100s an iconic camera and one we will look back on with affection in years to come.

Some images shot with the X100s:

DSCF1086 copy

DSCF1074 copy

DSCF1049 copy

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DSCF1009 copy


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