A few months down the road with the Fuji X100T

June 11, 2015  •  3 Comments

I have had the X100T since late 2014 and have had plenty of chance to shoot with it in a variety of situations.

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Overall I think it's a special camera that brings a refreshing joy and simplicity to photography with its fixed focal length lens, analogue controls and lack of consumer aimed gimmicks.  However, on another level it has a greater complexity than its simple appearance suggests and is a camera that begs understanding and effort to set it up properly and to learn to work around its limitations and foibles.  Experience has taught me to somewhat simplify the way I shoot in some ways and it just works due to the excellent auto ISO, metering, white balance and flash performance.

 

It has been the camera I tend to grab if popping out for a walk, taking my little boy out or when I don't want to be relatively encumbered by camera gear.

 

Of all the cameras I use this one is in many ways the most discreet and goes unnoticed by the majority, but paradoxically gets more noticed by photographers.  I have been approached a number of times by people thinking it is a high quality film camera, or asking me what it is, or knowing its a Fuji and wanting to look at it.

 

Generally the camera is a joy to use with sensibly laid out controls, a great rear LCD and nice viewfinder.  Some people complain that it's a bit big for a premium compact, but I would trade miniaturisation for the better fit in the hand and the ergonomic improvements offered by its modest but not tiny size.  The fully customised function buttons are a blessing to enable fast access to settings vital to one's priorities.  By definition, these buttons are not marked with their function, so I do sometimes forget which button does what!  The custom settings are a joy and all I normally have to do is select which I want through the Q menu, set my aperture and shoot....easy, no fiddling in menus.

 

Normally I do not find the speed or responsiveness of the camera to be a limitation in any way.  The AF is snappy and start up is fast.  It will not let you shoot while the flash recycles, which is fair enough I guess, but this means missing the occasional shot.  AF is usually plenty fast enough for normal photography of static subjects and people.  I have not used it for any kind of sport or action that demands tracking, but I doubt it would be a prime choice for this.  The only issue that has sometimes bothered me is that it can appear to have acquired focus, but on checking the shot it, has actually focused far to the rear on the background.  This tends to happen when shooting against bright light, so I tend to sanity check each shot where I think this could occur.  It would be nice if it gets a similar firmware update as the X-T1/X-T10 to further improve AF and eye detection especially could be very helpful.

 

The lens is not the equal of the 23mm f1.4 prime and neither would one expect it to be.  It is far more prone to contrast-reducing flare and requires more stopping down to get edge to edge sharpness.  It never gets quite the biting sharpness and contrast of the best Fuji primes, but it is plenty good enough when you learn to work with its limitations and I would take the trade off for the small and simple design that suits the camera.  When shooting wide open at f2 you can get great images, but its best not to be too close to the subject and to keep the critical part of the subject away from the edges and corners.  The sharpness and contrast improve steadily on stopping down to around f5.6 or f8 but even off centre subjects can be shot at high quality from f2.8.  The fairly large APS sensor ensures that some good subject isolation can be obtained at wider apertures but one of the most important things to be aware of is that close-up performance is blessed with a somewhat soft, fuzzy look at f2.  If you want a sharper image it's good to stop down to at least f2.8 if fairly close and f4 or even 5.6 if really close.  Bokeh looks great to me.

 

Battery life is limited but not bad enough to be a real pain.  I simply bought 3 extra 3rd party ones and have never put more than 3 in the camera on even quite intensive shooting days.  They are small and light to carry.  It would be ideal if they were interchangeable with other X series cameras but not everything is perfect.

 

I really like the viewfinder and the ability to choose optical (OVF) or electronic (EVF).  More and more I tend to gravitate toward EVF as I simply find it better in most situations and focus point coverage is greater too.  If trying to conserve battery or in certain lighting, I do switch to OVF.  Manual focus is easy using the excellent focus peaking either in the EVF or the small EVF overlay panel in the OVF.  It is a good way to avoid AF back focus in dodgy lighting and is good for zone focus in street shooting.

 

Sensor performance is great.  People complain about the lack of an upgrade for several cycles of Fuji camera releases, but for most purposes, the 16mp sensor is perfectly good enough almost all the time.  It's resolution seems a good balance with the lens quality and file size for what the camera is likely to be used for.  I have printed at A3 with lovely results in sharpness, detail and colour and I am sure it will go way higher.  It is one of the "new" generation of (Sony?) derived sensors with high dynamic range and ISO invariance that places it above the performance of the Canon sensors that many shooters seem happy with in their cameras.  All the normal ISO settings (200-6400) are fully usable and even the extended ones can give decent enough results if it's the difference between getting an image and not.  I like the grain as it looks random and like film grain, avoiding ugly pattern noise.  I therefore turn noise reduction down to minimum as I prefer to avoid the image softness that comes with the heavier noise reduction.  The below image was shot at ISO 6400 in crummy light.  Yes there is a slight softening but overall quality is great and actually quite flattering for a portrait snap.  The tank is Bovington's Tiger 2 (Henschel) by the way!

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The auto ISO implementation is great and I have auto set to all 7 of my custom settings.  If I need to override it to get a higher or lower shutter speed than the default 1/100 I have for most of them, it's as simple a twisting the shutter speed dial.

 

It is now easy to shoot at any aperture in any degree of bright light using either the electronic shutter or 3-stop ND built into the camera.  The electronic shutter can be totally silent and as long as you are aware of its limitations (dodgy for moving subjects and no flash) then it's a great addition.

 

One of the most exciting things about the camera is what a powerful but compact imaging tool it is when combining its high speed flash sync capability with the built-in flash.  The leaf shutter allows much higher speed flash sync than a normal focal plane shutter.  You have to learn its foibles here, as the sync speed varies with aperture.  Wide open it starts at 1/1000 and gradually works its way to 1/4000 as you stop down.  The below snaps were all taken a couple of days back using high speed sync flash and for me it just adds another dimension to the use of the camera, making backgrounds defocused, darker and more colourful in a way hard to achieve on most cameras.  Originally I used very much an SLR style approach, setting aperture, ISO and shutter speed manually and then adding the flash, but I have learned to trust Fuji's excellent fill flash, metering and auto ISO.  I now leave the camera in aperture priority, dial down ambient exposure compensation to around -1, dial down flash about 1 stop and just shoot....it works.  For most of these images I used the built-in ND filter to make the ambient exposure usable at wide apertures.

f5 close up

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f2.8 20150609-_DSF353420150609-_DSF3534 wide open at f2 20150609-_DSF352920150609-_DSF3529 I love the jpg files from the camera and the ability to choose from 7 rendering styles with the custom settings.  I have rarely shot RAW and do so even less with more experience, as I really feel there is no benefit in doing so 99% of the time.  I can honestly say that detail, sharpness, exposure and above all colour, are just great in jpg files straight out of camera.  I see RAW files as offering no advantage while taking up far more HDD space.  I do however think its worth moderating default jpg contrast curves to get the best out of dynamic range but this is easy to do when setting up the custom settings.  Black and white jpg output is great too.  I much prefer shooting to messing about on computers....maybe its an age thing!

20150528-_DSF305120150528-_DSF3051 20150428-_DSF281620150428-_DSF2816 Great camera: I still love it and find it very much a complement to the X-series interchangeable lens cameras.  Some aspects of set up are fiddly (Auto ISO)  and the feature set and customisation options can be a bit overwhelming for an inexperienced shooter.  However, the features it has are for real photographers and are not gimmicks.  It is so worthwhile investing the time to set it up (after all you have paid for this premium feature set).  Once done, the camera is a fast, relatively simple, shooting machine that takes great images and above all, makes the photographer enjoy taking them.

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Comments

4.Stanley(non-registered)
thanks your review!
i'm a x100s user, same lens same sensor make me still thinking about update or not.

Love the king tiger shot l!!
children's face and hard steel such great catch!
one day i'll take my boy to see the really Tiger for sure!
3.Bernard Kuipers(non-registered)
Nice review! I got the focusing issue as well. I hear it quite a lot. Now I only use the center focusing point, and reframe the subject. That one never misses.
2.Kristjan(non-registered)
Thank you so much for the wonderful review. I've been shooting with X100T for a month and couldn't agree more. Would you like to share your Q menu setup as well as fn buttons settings? Thank you!
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