As soon as I heard about the Fuji X100s I tried to get my hands on one for my trip to Oman and Iran, including approaching Fuji in Australia, who were very helpful, but they just weren't manufactured in time.
Instead I was hauling around a 20Kg bag of Nikon gear as I was with Jake, the winner of our travel photography scholarship and Jason, the National Geographic Photographer who the winner gets to go with. I guess any gear can create excellent results with the right photographers eye but after three weeks I was so over that camera bag!
On my latest trip to Malaysia, Thailand and Laos with my family I decided to just take the new Fuji X100s … and nothing else. This was a bit of an experiment for me but if you are going to try and be radical you might as well go all in so I left the Nikon at home.
Given that travel was the primary purpose and photography secondary on this trip, it was a revelation and a delight.
This is my take on the camera:
1 - It's non-intrusive. Because it is just so small, when you lift the camera to your face too shoot, you appear far less intrusive to your subjects than trying to do the same thing with an SLR.
2 - Because its a rangefinder camera, your viewfinder is offset to the left allowing you to keep eye contact with your subjects when shooting.
3 - It's light. Let me say that again: it's light! At 445g you forget you've even got it to hand.
4 - It's silent. Not just quiet: completely silent (if you want it to be). You can walk along behind people shooting away and they have no idea.
5 - I love the fixed lens. Have a bag full of Nikon glass I found the constraint of a fixed lens creatively refreshing.
6 - It's small: you can put it in a pocket, in a bag, in a hotel safe. Fantastic for travel and very discreet. In fact it looks a bit like a toy.
7 - It's controls are superb. Not just great, superb. The design team at Fuji have really thought this through. You can just pick it up and use it, no manual needed. Feels fantastic. Very clever.
8 - It shoots in the dark. Ramp it up to 1600 ISO and hold steady. What the sensor collects is remarkable. I now have a Nikon D800E but reckon I'll still use the Fuji for night work.
9 - Image quality. Sharp. RAW & JPG. Process in Lightroom if you like, but I reckon the in-camera JPG processing is excellent and very malleable. Beyond good enough.
10 - It's fun! Great fun. Learn to work within it's deliberate constraints and practice, practice, practice … which is of course easy because you can carry it everywhere.
So what is there to dislike?
The speed from sleep to active has a bit of a lag; in fact I find it faster to turn the thing off an on again, and the focus is only just fast enough, but that comes with practice.
But, and there is one HUGE but, the battery life is simply pathetic. Not just poor, but plain pathetic. Buy two or three batteries? Sure, but I lost many shots where I had a great subject in front of me, was shooting away and then the red battery dead indicator shows up and it's game over. By the time you've swapped the battery you've also lost the moment.
I HATE THIS.
The specs say 300+ photo's on a charge. Give me a break; sure, if you don't use the camera to it's full capacity.
I could forgive them if the damn battery charge indicator was actually meaningful, but it just goes from full charge to dead with perhaps one shot in-between.
Being used to a Nikon SLR, I've never had this happen. Ever. You get plenty of warning and can swap long before you lose power.
Come on Fuji, update the firmware and sort this out.
It's earned a place with me on my travels, but it doesn't replace the Nikon ... not yet, anyway!