A Hammer is a Hammer, Just a Tool, But ….
I have waited several months to post my thoughts on the new Fujifilm X100f. I wanted to get comfortable with the camera before I said anything about my experience using it. Now that 5 months have passed, I think I can talk about it fairly well from a user standpoint. This will not be a technical review. There are many websites that offer an in depth technical review of the X100f, I will just talk about my feelings and how I use the camera in this post.
Before I start let me say that I firmly believe that photography is, and should be, more about the photographer than the equipment. Although I will admit equipment does play a role in image making. I am reminded of my grandfather. He was a carpenter. As a kid he took me with him on many of his jobs. I think he got conned into baby sitting, but I loved it, and he enjoyed having me around, the way granddad’s do. On several occasions over the years I went with him as he picked out a new hammer. He needed a new one every so often because he used ones with leather wrapped handles and they would wear out after a couple of years. Choosing a hammer was a several hour process. Granddad would test the weight and feel of the hammer, then take a few to the rear of the shop where there was a lumber yard, and test them out. He would drive a few different size nails into boards to get the feel and test the performance of the hammer. When he made the purchase he left the store with a new friend, a constant companion that would be hanging from his nail pouch 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, until it was time for a new one. Cameras are like that for me. Just a tool, and yet, a little more than just a tool.
There is something about the equipment you use. It needs to do the job it was made for, and do it well, and as strange as it sounds, it also needs to make the user feel good. That is a strange variable to throw into the mix, but an important one. The way you feel affects your photography, it is a “feeling” medium. Leica has known and marked this for years. When I was using Leica, on occasion a stranger would walk up to me and say “Is that a Leica?” Never once in all my years of using Nikons did anyone say “Wow is that a Nikon?” Occasionally a fellow photographer might ask “Is that the new D***? How do you like it?” But that was an entirely different thing from a non photographer saying “Wow a Leica!” So there you go, marketing to the ego, has sold as many cameras as technical innovation. The Fujifilm X100f does make me feel good. It is attractive, it somewhat resembles a Leica with its rangefinder design, it’s light, small and can be discreet, and yet it is a powerhouse at the same time.
I don’t believe in using the word perfect, but the X100f is a darn good EDC (Every Day Carry) camera. Startup time is reasonably fast, not blazing fast like some DSLR’s but fast enough. I have captured a few “quick grabs” where I needed to flick the camera on and shoot quickly before the action passed, and I was more than a little pleased with the quick focus speed and overall response of the camera.
I like that the main controls are easy to get to on the X100f. Shutter speed, ISO and exposure compensation are on the top of the camera are where they need to be. I shoot in manual much of the time and for me, the camera’s design fits my need to be able to quickly adjust exposure. The aperture ring has nice firm clicks that won’t accidentally get moved if you are using manual focus. However as far as manual focus, I don’t. It’s a personal preference thing that comes from my age the need to wear glasses and refusing to wear them when shooting. I just prefer getting my eye as close the to viewfinder as I can, and I don’t like having to clean smudges off my glasses, so I use auto focus 100% of the time.
I absolutely love the EVF. I shoot most of the time in black and white, using the ACROS film simulation (I shoot Raw and Jpeg) and with the EVF on I can “see” in black and white. On some cameras, and back in the film days, it was a guess. You had to learn to expect what an image would look like in B&W. With the EVF most of the guesswork is gone, I see what I’m going to get in Jpeg, and can use the Raw file later if I need color. This is where I get real non-technical – I owned the X100 and X100s and the EVF did not look real, does that make sense? I think it was because of the refresh rate in the EVF did not look like an optical viewfinder. With the X100f I don’t have that problem, the image looks great and it is B&W for me as I stated above.
As far as the design the only issue I have is with the “Q” button on the back. Several reviewers have mentioned this, and I agree. It is a design screw up. My thumb was constantly hitting that button during shooting, and I had to hold my hand rather awkwardly to use the camera. A “thumbs up” grip solved that problem, but the one I purchased does somewhat block the rear command dial. The menu system is good, but like any complicated modern camera, can get confusing. The quick menu and MY menu help out and make things easier to get to.
Speaking of command dials, these are another great feature. Both front and rear command dials are customizable, as are most of the buttons on the camera. One of the most appealing design features for me on the X100f is that so much of the camera is customizable. Because of this it takes a while to get it set up the way you want – there are so many choices, but when you do, it is now your customized camera, set up for the way you shoot, and with the quick menu, changes for, and during a shoot can be quickly changed.
How about the image quality? The IQ is identical to the Fujifilm X-T2, which is why I bought it. I owned both the X100 & X100s, and for whatever reason they did not tick all the boxes for me. I had used the X-T2 for about a year and loved it, so when the X100f arrived on the scene with identical image quality in a smaller package I punched it. No regrets.
Lastly, I’ll talk about fixed focal length. How is it shooting a camera that only has roughly a 35mm lens? You can buy wide and telephoto screw on conversion lenses, which will change the perspective a little , but not much. I have not purchased these lenses because I want to keep the size of the camera as it is, and also because I use more than one camera. Over the years I have been asked many times “what is your “go to” camera?” I always ask “for what? Sports, street, landscapes, portraits, documentary work?” My answer to what is my “go to” camera depends on what I’m shooting. I will say this however, the Fujifilm X100f is my EDC. When I leave the house without a specific project in mind, in my little shoulder bag, or in my hip bag, will be the X100f, and that is a pretty strong statement. I know I will be limited a fixed focal length, I know I will have to get close to the action, and I know I will miss some of the far away shots. So it goes. I would rather have the freedom of a small quality camera than carrying a big heavy bag full of equipment. There are times I need that big heavy bag for a particular shoot, but for every day carry, I use the X100f.