Fuji X100 - User Experience 2 - First Impressions

Fuji X100
Rather than write a review with the benefit of hindsight, this is going to be a user experience with me coming to grips with what is a unique camera. Not a DSLR, Not a Rangefinder, Not a compact, Not a CSC but something that can be said to have elements of them all. After only a day its apparent that the X100 isn't like anything I've ever used before, and consequently I feel like a novice with it. At the moment it feels like its controlling me and its proving difficult to get it to do what I want. Part of that is down to some extraordinary technology involving the viewfinder and partly down to a somewhat "unusual" way of changing settings dictated by Fuji's engineers. We'll see how I get on.

Fuji X100

Lets get the looks out of the way first. Yes its VERY sexy. With the lens hood and leather case it takes camera retro chic to new levels. It feels great. In complete contrast to whatever I had my hands on at the Focus on Imaging show. 

In terms of size here it is next to a Leica M9, Olympus E-P1 and Sony NEX-5.

Fuji X100 Leica M9 Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar T*

Fuji X100 Olympus E-P1 17mm f/2.8

Fuji X100 Sony NEX-5 16mm f/2.8

Though it looks a similar size to the M9 its substantially lighter than the Leica. Heavier than the Sony and about the same as the Olympus plus lens. The E-P1 finally has a rival in the camera beauty contest. To me the Olympus just shades it, as I'm not a great fan of black skins on cameras. However you won't be disappointed by the X100, though my initial feelings about it being a bit "fragile" here and there haven't been entirely dispelled. However everything has obviously been put together to a very high standard.

Fuji X100

As I said I'm not in the position yet to come up with any kind of definitive verdict on how it works in practice as I'm very much feeling my way with it. I'm in touch with others who have used it and they are giving me some useful tips on how to get the best out of it. However in the spirit of all this, some initial impressions.

OPTICAL VIEWFINDER.
This is MUCH better than I was expecting. Its bright, clear and BIG. Every other camera manufacturer should take one of these apart and copy it immediately. It makes composition a pleasure and couldn't be more different than struggling with a rear screen in sunlight. The frame lines are clear and the superimposed display is incredible. Absolutely the best camera viewfinder I've ever used and Fuji deserve all the credit they are getting for it. The EVF is actually quite decent but the OVF is the cameras signature feature and rightly so.

HIGH ISO PERFORMANCE
Again this is stunning. The following fishing images were taken, by mistake, on ISO 1600 and they are incredible. They look like ISO 400 on most cameras. Very clean and noise free. I'm going to be doing some more tests today, but this looks really good.

Fuji X100

COLOUR
Beautiful. Realistic, which means saturated. I've never understood why people object to saturated colour. Thats what the world is like. Colour IS vivid, it does jump out at you, and to my mind deserves to be recorded as such. The Velvia simulation for jpgs. is gorgeous and all of these samples are taken with it.

Fuji X100

Fuji X100

OTHER STUFF
Metering seems pretty spot on. AF is faster than I was expecting from the reviews. It certainly compares very favourably with the Leica X1, its obvious competitor.

IMAGE QUALITY
The bottom line and nothing to complain about here. It reminds me of the results I get with m4/3 and a Leica / Zeiss lens, and thats a real compliment. Very sharp. 12MP images yes, but capable of being interpolated with no problem. Certainly better dynamic range than m4/3. Sharper than Samsung NX or Sony NEX. No its not as good as a Leica M9, but sharper than my Sony a850 and most other DSLR's I've used. The lens is a little soft at f/2 but stop it down and its really good. Fuji have certainly delivered here.

Fuji X100

Fuji X100

MACRO MODE
A bit fiddly as you have to do some button pushing to get close focus. Not as bad as I thought, but not ideal. It also switches to the EVF as the OVF can't handle it. Nice results though.

Fuji X100

SILENT SHUTTER
Stealth mode!! Very useful in many situations, and not just to avoid detection!! Below is my one pretty poor attempt at street (or garden centre) photography, which as I'm sure you are aware is not something I'm good at. However the couple were right next to me and completely unaware that I had taken their picture.

Fuji X100

MENUS AND SETTINGS
I'm in no position to comment on this yet as I'm still trying to work them out!! If there is a serious achilles heel in this camera, this is probably it. Certainly the reviews I've read seem to indicate that there are "difficulties" ahead.

To be honest, even though I was certainly struggling to get the camera to behave, I did enjoy it. This is by no means a beginners camera and it assumes you know what you want to do. It also assumes you have some photographic knowledge and experience, and is pitched some way above point and shoot. I applaud that, even though I feel there may be some frustrations ahead. The problems I encountered up to now I will put down to unfamiliarity at the moment and I'll try to discover if its me or the design thats the problem.

However, I can't remember having so much fun with a camera for years and I can't wait to get out with it again.