Color, shape & light // fuji X100 review

First off, I need to thank ALL of you.  My family, friends, clients, fans, antagonists, acquaintances and colleagues.  The 2011 year was simply amazing and I have only to thank but you!  Thank you for sticking with my for over 5 years now as I hack away at this photography gig.  One of my goals this year is to “reactivate” my blog.  2011 was so so busy that my blog didn’t see as much interesting content other than the usual post with weddings, senior and family portraits.  That needs to change, and I’m starting off with a much different post than normal.

Just shortly after Christmas, my wife and I took a little get-away to the wonderful land of Orlando, Florida, aka, Disneyworld.  We are both fans of Disneyland and have gone a few times during our 6 years of marriage (our anniversary was just on the 28th!), and I had free tickets from Southwest Airlines (I LOVE THEM), and thought hey, lets go to Disneyworld.  Unabashedly, we are also huge fans of the Harry Potter books and movies (because it’s cool, don’t lie).  It’s one of the very very few series of books that I’ve read, and I enjoyed it quite a bit (Half Blood Prince was my favorite book).  We have seen almost all of the Harry Potter movies on opening night since #4 (we weren’t dating before that), so yes, we are HP nerds.  Not the kind of super nerds that obsess about everything Harry Potter, but, we enjoy the movies and books a lot, so, we decided that it would also be SUPER fun to go to the new “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” located in Universal Studios, Orlando.  I won’t go into details about it other than that it was our favorite part of the trip and highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys HP.  Just be prepared for hoards and masses of humans…but maybe because we went during the busiest week of the year.

OK, back on subject…I wanted to take pictures during our trip, but bringing a DSLR is just a pain.  Not to mention I wouldn’t be able to take it on the roller-coasters and was certainly not going to check it into a locker.  So I had heard and read many good reviews about the new Fuji X100 being fantastic small and portable rangefinder-type camera.  I found a great deal and couldn’t resist, even though I was only buying it for this trip (to later resell since I wouldn’t have much need for it).  At first I absolutely hated the camera…the controls that is.  It has some really great features, most importantly the fantastic image quality (even at 3200 ISO speeds), but the user interface, buttons and controls are just flat-out stupid.  After about 2 days of using it I finally got a hang of it, but there is definitely a LOT of room for improvement.

Pros:

1.  Image Quality.  This is it’s best feature and is due to the large sensor size, amazing f/2 35mm lens and fantastic color reproduction.  In all honesty I think the image quality is just about as good as my trusty Canon 5D2, which is saying a lot.  I’m amazed that Fuji was able to pull this off on a first-round product.  At 1600 ISO the noise really isn’t noticeable that much, and combined with the noise reduction capabilities with Lightroom 3, I have no problem shooting at 1600 any time whatsoever.  I did use 3200 a bit and there wasn’t any sign that I shouldn’t use it, but stuck with 1600 for the most part because I could shoot at those speeds.

2.  Design.  The small size and design is definitely a bonus, and was the next main reason I bought it.  The shutter speed dial was very easy to change and loved its implementation.  The aperture ring is perfect, although with my fingers it can be hard to turn it since the dial is so thin.  The hybrid viewfinder is VERY cool, and the front switch to switch between an EVF and OVF was very cool.  I preferred the OVF for the most part, because it probably conserved on the battery, showed me my exposure inside on the left meter, and is just quicker for me to see the composition I’m looking for.  Although you can’t verify focus, it was my preferred method.  I didn’t have the wrap-around leather case, but I like it’s design and compact approach.  The metal rings where you attach a strap are very very small, and use a key-ring approach to attach a strap.

Annoyances:

1.  The battery door doesn’t automatically lock when you close it, and the battery can be inserted improperly even though it locks into position.

2.  It is VERY VERY slow to power on, and wake from sleep.  I mean its like 6-7 seconds for it to power on, and sometimes it never even wakes from sleep.  I think this was the most annoying thing about it.  Even DSLRs from back in 2004 weren’t ever this slow, so Fuji really needs to fix this to make it feel like a “pro” level camera, to whom it is marketed towards.

3.  The auto focus could definitely be improved.  In lower light and low contrast situations, don’t even count on it focusing.  Most of what I shot was auto focus and I definitely was annoyed on quite a few times.

4.  The manual focus ring is nice and smooth, but I think you have to turn it literally 40 full rotations to go from minimum focus to infinity.  AND, you cannot get into “macro” mode on manual focus…very annoying.

5.  The “set” button (what I call it since the rotating wheel on the back is very much like Canon’s wheel)…it is the middle button on the rotating wheel is TINY TINY.  It’s next to impossible to press it with my finger, and really have to make a conscious effort to use my fingernail to actually press the button.  The rotating wheel is nice, but it would be nicer if it had a “notched” rotation as it just rotates freely.  It is also very very small small too.  In comparison to my S90, the S90 has a smaller wheel but I find it much easier to use and press ALL of it’s buttons compared to the X100.

6.  Needs more custom buttons.  I shot it mainly in manual mode, so when I went from indoors to outoods, I had to change the ISO speed frequently.  I’d love to have a custom button or dial to change the ISO speed quicker.  The ‘fn’ button on top near the shutter button was handy to change the ND filter from ‘on’ to ‘off’ easily, but i’d love to see some more buttons.  There are a lot of functions and things you can do on the back, but I used next to none of them, except the Macro button.  There is a little “jog wheel” on the back top of the camera, which I really didn’t have any idea of its purpose.  It’s nice, but if it could have been used to change the ISO, it would have solved this annoyance.

Overview

All in all, I was very happy with the performance of this little guy, and I’m very excited for future cameras that Fuji is developing.  There has long been a need for people who demand high quality images in a small package, and the X100 was the first to offer a camera with a stellar sensor, great lens and fantastic product design.  I believe it’s been a hit so far, and hopefully has demonstrated to other camera manufacturers that there is a market for smaller compacts with great image quality.  While the $1200 asking price is a bit steep for many(I’m not keeping it), it is definitely a solid performer.

Images

Hopefully the results below can reflect on what this camera is capable of.  My vision for these photos was of an abstract nature, highlighting color, shape, composition, light and texture that can be seen in everyday life, but also in Disneyworld and Universal Studios.  All of these photos were taken at Epcot, Universal Studios, Hollwood Studios and Animal Kingdom.  If you enjoyed any part of this post, leave a comment!

disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art

PS – Here is a shot of me drinking Butter Beer and the Hogwards Express (both shot at 3200)! I always thought it was a warm drink, but, it is cold and comes in two versions: cold (like soda) and a slushy type…both taste like butterscotch kinda and are slightly carbonated. Mmmmmmm.

disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art
disneyworld x100 fuji harry potter universal studios florida orlando abstract art

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3 Comments

  1. Hannah Winchester
    January 18, 2012 at 5:30 pm ·

    Spencer, I that was a great read. I got information and lots of laughs. I must say I can’t believe those images came from that little camera. Thanks for posting. :)

  2. February 2, 2012 at 9:18 pm ·

    absolutely stunning images. Incredible composition. Looooooooooove it.

  3. Tiffany
    March 14, 2012 at 9:15 pm ·

    love these texture shots of Disney! i know where most of them are. make me wonder why i didn’t think of a fun little project like that since i’m there all the time. wish i could afford this little camera – someday! maybe after G3.

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