We have had our hands on the Fujifilm X100S for almost a year and a half, and during that time this remarkable point-and-shoot camera has completely charmed its way into our hearts. Although SLRs and DSLRs are the workhorses, we have always had a soft spot for point-and-shoot cameras for street and travel photography. We are drawn to the simplicity of point-and-shoots (PnS). You point, compose, and press a button. How much more basic can taking a photo get? In the film days, our first PnS was the Olympus Pen, followed by the Olympus Stylus, and when things went digital, the Canon Digital Elph and the Nikon P7000. All of those cameras were fun, but none of them could be our ONLY camera when we traveled. Why? None of them had all of the capabilities to allay our fear of “missing THE shot”…until now.
In order to actually GET a good travel photo, a lot has to happen. Composition is critical and should be the photographer’s main task. However, when analyzing the scene, one must also determine the optimal aperture/shutter speed/ASA combination, adjust the focus, all before pressing the shutter button. Ideally, a good PnS camera is able to off-load all of that (or as much the photographer is willing to let the camera handle) between the time its shutter button is touched and fully pressed. Oh yeah, it then needs to reset quickly and be ready for the next shot. After using the Fujifilm X100S for over 10,000 shots, we can say the camera does all of that perfectly AND it does it with style. Below is a sampling of some of those 10,000 shots (click on any of the images for a larger version):
Is the Fujifilm X100S the best travel camera on the market to date? We think so. We used to lug around a DSLR and a few lenses, but the Fujifilm X100S has allowed us to slim down considerably. We had a taste of that in May 2013 when we went around New York with the camera. When we went back this past August we were confident that it was the only camera we needed and we were absolutely correct.
The X100S is perfect for street and travel photography because it is light yet still full-featured. The sensor is great in bright or low light. One can go from full-auto to all-manual and closeup to pano. Its dedicated knobs provides the photographer with complete creative control without having to navigate a menu tree to access basic functions. The 23mm lens is wide enough and fast enough for most shots, and especially useful for museums where flash photography is frowned upon.
Sometimes, though, even the 23mm lens is not wide enough. That is the time to shoot in panorama mode. Sure, we could have taken a few shots and stitched them together in Photoshop, but the X100S has a UI that guides you to make a level pan and will automatically stitch the images together into a single JPG!
(BTW, what is the best sightseeing deal in NYC??? The answer is the free ferry ride from the tip of NYC to Staten Island. As part of the “ride” over, we got to see the skyline of NYC with the new Freedom Tower and the Statue of Liberty. Did we mention that the ride was free? Once on Staten Island, the Snug Harbor Botanical Gardens is a “must-visit.” Also free.)
Besides being an awesome travel camera, the X100S is also extremely competent at closeup and macro shots. The lens lets us get as close as 4″ to the subject. We did not get the camera for its macro capability, but it has turned out to be a sleeper feature, one of which we now use all the time.
With macro shots, depth of field is the problem. What we could not do previously with a point-n-shoot is to get everything in focus: one part of the wing is good, but the other is out of focus because they were not on the same plane. The typical solution is to do focus-stacking, but that is not really possible shooting free-hand! Still…not bad for a passing shot of a dragonfly. Here are a few more samples of macro shots we got with the X100S:
By now, some of you may be thinking…”Yes, wide angle and macro shots are great, but what about the lack of a zoom?” We will concede that the X100S has no optical zoom capabilities. However, that does not mean you will necessarily “miss the shot.” With a high resolution sensor (16M, 23.6mm x 15.8mm CMOS) and an optimized optical lens (Fujinon Single focal length, F2 – F16), the X100S can simulate the effect of a zoom without the bulk. Skeptical? The black speck in the middle of the reeds (below) is a red-winged blackbird. Click on the image to see the actual pixel crop of bird. You can see the red and yellow on the wings. Click here to see the entire uncropped full-size 12MP shot.
Note: You many need to click on your browser image a few times to get all the way down to the actual pixels.
Another example of this can be seen in the shot above of some finches in a field. We saw the finches land but we couldn’t really see them. We decided to take a shot in that general direction to see if we could “find them” later on screen. Sure enough, there they were when we examined the image at full resolution. This is the same idea behind the “zoom” capability of Nokia’s Lumina 1020.
Fujifilm has, with the X100S, managed to create a camera with old-school looks and state-of-the-art guts. Intuitive tactile controls lets you focus on the composition rather than the camera. The optical and electronic viewfinder will let you frame the shot in bright sunlight even when the LCD on the back is difficult to see. The autofocus is fast and spot-on. The 12MP sensor, coupled with the optimized Fujinon lens, is able to capture faithful colors with razor-sharp details. In summary, this is not your father’s point and shoot camera.