First Impressions – Fuji X100S

© Chris Scuffins | www.scuffinsphotography.com

The original Fuji X100 was just one of those purchases that didn’t work out. It has been almost 12 months to the day that I made the decision to return it for a refund.

It felt so wrong to be so disappointed in a camera that had quickly obtained a cult following and universal appreciation. I waited what felt like months after the launch of the X100, reading for reviews, awaiting opinions, to see of the hyperbole was really justified; if this really was the small, light and discreet enthusiastic camera I had been waiting for to compliment my DSLR. In some ways it was, it a lot of other ways it really wasn’t.

I summarised my thoughts on the X100 in a YouTube video shortly after I sent it back. It’s had over 10,000 views, and hundreds of comments, almost all concluding that I was an idiot, that I couldn’t use a camera, I was too picky or that I was just plain wrong about the X100. And the more abusive or derogatory comments I received, the more confident I felt in my decision. The only justifiable reason for people to get so darn upset over a camera is that they were defending it. My views on the X100 were upsetting people, because I was right.

The X100 was half-baked. It was a concept, the first of its kind and a big risk for a “second tier” camera company like Fuji to make. Would a small, retro styled camera with fixed 35mm lens sell well? I don’t think even Fuji were prepared for the answer to that. As well as being a risk, the X100 was a technical marvel; the hybrid viewfinder, the great collaboration between the latest digital technology and old school manual controls. But all that new technology costs. It couldn’t have been easy business decision for Fuji to invest considerable R&D into a concept camera that might not even sell well. There had to be compromises. The software, the autofocus, the usability of the camera was at best dysfunctional, at worst unusable and frustrating.

During my brief two weeks using the X100, the reoccurring though I had was that it just wasn’t ready yet. It needed more time, more attention and care and development to make the whole package as amazing as it could be.

This is what people thought about the very first iPhone. Do you remember? It didn’t have copy and paste. But it did have maps. It didn’t have a picture messaging. But it did have a full internet browser. It was amazing and flawed, brilliant and frustrating, all at the same time. But it didn’t change the fact that the first iPhone was the start of something huge. The X100 was the same. A bumpy start, to hopefully a long road of wonderful, unique and interesting cameras.

And here we are 2013, further down that road. It’s because of this that now I hold in my hands the new Fuji X100s.

© Chris Scuffins | www.scuffinsphotography.com

The X100s has same charm, even the same looks as its predecessor, the difference being that this time I won’t be getting a refund. You will have to pry the X100s out of my cold dead hands. It’s just that much better. After just few days, the X100S  has become, quite possibly, the best camera I have ever owned.

Having the X100s feels a little strange. I mean, it looks and feels identical to the X100, it’s hard to shake the negativity and frustrations I had with that old camera. Using the X100 is a completely different experience, but it doesn’t take long to see what has changed and how integral and essential these improvements are. It’s not a different camera, but it feels like it is. Its nice to have a responsive camera that actually autofocuses, with logical and polished menus and UI. The X100s is comfortable. It’s just nice.

Nothing changed in the X100s is revolutionary, but it all adds up. It’s responsive, its intuitive. Little changes and improvements to the physical dials and software menus just make using every aspect of the camera a real joy. There is no real weak points here anymore. Apart from maybe the poor battery life, which then I can overcome with the fact that the Fuji batteries are dirt cheap, so I can chuck a handful in my camera bag and forget about it.

The X100s feels like an actually tool for taking pictures, not an R&D experiment like the X100. This is a camera that just begs to be used, to go out and see, shoot, learn, and do it over and over again. No waiting. No frustrations. No regrets. It was well worth the wait.

The post is long enough, and this probably won’t even be my full review. These is just my first impressions. And they are excellent. I haven’t even touched on this new “X-Trans” sensor or the actual image quality yet. I’ll save that for my full review in the next few weeks.

 

  • Roland Pache said:

    Hi Chris,

    happy to hear that you like the new x100s, it is indeed a nice upgrade to the x100.
    I was actually in a similar situation, ending up selling my x100, because it just didn't feel mature enough.
    The x100s is definitely a step in the right direction, however, there are still several things I would like to see in the next iteration (those changes would make me buy in a heartbeat):

    1.) a full frame sensor + a true 35mm lens (to be able to achieve more subject isolation)

    2.) less buttons on the back (i.e. more streamlined, down to the essentials, there is too much clutter right now)

    3.) a redesign of the on/off switch, such that it does not protrude out of camera body (the way it is right now, it happens too often that the camera gets switched on by accident), as well as ditching the cheap-looking silver and making it the same chrome/silver color of the shutter speed dial

    4.) use a higher-quality synthetic leather for the body (the current one just feels too cheap)

    5.) increase the overall build quality, such that it feels more substantial in the hand (and getting rid of the plastic doors if possible)

    Some big names in the field have claimed Fuji to be the new Leica, and it is great that Fuji tries to go that way (it’s about time that Leica got some competition), but they are not quite there yet. Getting all the points I raised above fixed, which Leica already got right in the M-E and new M, would go a long way.

    All the best,
    Roland

  • Carl-Erik Eriksson said:

    I am also a working photographer, and being fed up with always using and carrying the Nikon D700 + 24-70 2.8 ++ I went and bought the ltd edition X100 last year. And I had that same feeling that this just isn't ready yet. I loved the flexibility of the files and the amazing (to my taste) color rendering, but it was just too quirky too be of much use on assignments. Entering the X100s that I bought from Hong Kong just before easter ,and everything changed. I just love it, and it's a brilliant companion to my Fuji X-E1. The D700 now spends more and more time at home, and only gets to come along when I need a very fast continuous focus. It has really changed the way I work, and I find it quite inspiring. Can't wait to see what the next generation X-Pro will be like...