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This review has been a long time coming.  I know most other X100S reviews/write-ups are out there now.  I’ve had my X100S for over 6 weeks now, and various circumstances have conspired to mean I’ve not been able to get to sit down and complete this review.  I have not rushed to get it onto the site either as I really wanted to get to know the camera, get to know if the issues I raised initially would make me regret buying it.  I think I’ve had it long enough now to pass a fair judgement.

I’m not going to write a technical review here, I’m not even going to go through the all features of the X100S, you can find those all over the Internet, including a couple of videos and articles I have posted on here myself previously.  It is so similar to the X100 in that regard that if you want to get into the nuts and bolts of an X100/S then head over and read my X100 review first.  I’m only posting this into the Review section of the site so it gets the permanent spot that it deserves.  As always, I’m going to include as many pictures as I can – as I always say, judge the results from the camera for yourself.  Click on the images to get a larger view.  Don’t expect a review full of amazing images though – I’m happy if I get one really good shot a month – I haven’t had the camera that long yet!

DSCF7325FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/11, 1/1000 sec, ISO200)

Now a little background….  My X-Pro1 is my workhorse camera, it does all the heavy-duty stuff these days.  Until recently I also used a D800, that’s now gone.  I’ve found ways around using the X-Pro1 to set aside the advantages the D800 gave me (mainly an ultra-wide angle option).  I liked my D800, it’s an amazing camera.  I didn’t like carrying it around, and I never ‘loved’ it.  The X-Pro1 shoots anything I want it to, for both clients and for personal projects, looks great, small and compact to carry around and inspires me to take better photos.  The lens options means it’s flexible enough to those needs.  It’s fantastic, I love it and it will never be sold – even when the replacement is announced, my X-Pro1 will simply be moved to being the back-up body.  My photography skills have really grown up with that camera and I will keep it forever in gratitude.  It’s still more of a working beast than a family friend though.  My X100 was my all-time favourite camera, I had said on numerous occasions that you’d have to pry that camera out of my cold dead hands before I gave it up.  Unfortunately Fujifilm ruined my plans of dying with it when they released the X100S!  Instead of going wild, they fixed pretty much everything that was ‘wrong’ with the X100, gave it a tweak inside and left the rest alone.  Damn you Fuji! I just had to have it!  I wanted to have it so much that I didn’t actually have to die to give up my beloved black X100, and for that matter I even went on to sell my X-E1 body along with it to buy the X100S.  Yeah, I gave up two cameras to get this one replacement, it’s that good!  In fairness, my X-E1 wasn’t getting much of a show-in, but it was always nice as a backup in the event of the X-Pro1 going down (which it never has), or being in for a service.  I miss the electronic shutter release of the X-E1, but whenever I use the X100S I forget about that!  This is my disclaimer.  I bought an X100S myself, with my own money, of my own free will.  I am not paid, bribed or gifted a camera by Fujifilm into writing kind words here!
P.S. Fujifilm, just for future reference, I’m not totally against a bribe! 🙂 P.P.S That’s a joke – just in case anyone takes me seriously!

I now own just two cameras, the X-Pro1 and the X100S.  These two cameras combine to cover pretty much all the needs of most photographers outside of certain specialised areas (wildlife, pro sports etc.)  As I mentioned, the X-Pro1 is the workhorse and the X100S accompanies it as a back up camera on jobs, or is used as my primary camera on the streets, family events, just normal every-day stuff.  So with that in mind, this write up is mostly based around me carrying the X100S with me as an every-day event recording camera.

DSCF7262FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/2.8, 1/320 sec, ISO200)

A close-up snapped moment I would never have got with the X100 (it would still be trying to focus!)  f/2.8 1/320 ND on.

Anyone who follows me on here will know that I had some reservations about the X100S when I was lent one for an evening on the day of release.  Nothing has changed from then, I’m a little disappointed Fujifilm haven’t responded with their usually quite regular firmware updates to improve the camera based on my initial (not just mine actually!) observations.  There were two things that struck me.  Previewing images was quicker on the X100 – that should be a quick and easy fix you would have thought, and certainly isn’t deal-breaker – more of an oddity.  The other was the fact that under difficult circumstances (low light), the X100S was slower to focus than the older X100.  This has just got to be a firmware issue, I can’t think why it would possibly be slower due to anything other than the algorithm it is using.  I’m sure Fujifilm will get to sorting that out at some point in the future.

Are you stupid?  Why would you upgrade to a camera that you just said was ‘worse’ than the old camera? 

Well, the simple answer to that is that it’s only worse under certain specific circumstances.  For everything else, which covers about 98% of my shooting, it really is worth the additional cost of upgrading.  Actually that’s a bit of an understatement, it’s absolutely bloody fantastic! Best. Camera. Ever! Digital or not. Seriously.

DSCF6431-EditFUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/4, 1/400 sec, ISO200)

For those who don’t know, I’ll go through in very brief terms what has changed over the X100.

16Mpx X-Trans II sensor – like the X-Pro1/X-E1, just a little newer.  As a result it has no anti-ailiasing filter meaning better resolution, sharper photos.

On-sensor phase-detection AF.  As is popular these days, the sensor has built in phase-detection which means focusing is incredibly fast in good light.  When I say incredibly fast, I mean you don’t even notice the thing focusing.  Press the shutter and BAM it’s there.  It is pretty obvious when it switches to contrast detection in lower light situations as it switches back to that familiar back and forth action of the AF finding the right spot.  In all but one case in lower light, it’s a good improvement over the X100.  Where there is a huge improvement is in close-range focusing, which makes an enormous difference for me and was basically the deciding factor in getting it.  Shooting anything under a meter (3 ft) away with the X100S is like a revelation over the X100.  Not only is it much quicker, you can get much closer without having to switch to macro focus – something of a pain previously when you’ve got a bouncing 2 year old in front of the camera!

Updated EVF – 2.36Mpx against the older 1.44Mpx. (Clearer image, not a major advance in my opinion though – there are better EVFs around)

Focus-peaking and split-screen manual focus assist options. (Amazing)

Much improved menu system.  Based on the X-Pro1, so it will be familiar to X-Pro1/X-E1 users. (Couldn’t be made worse than the X100!)

Addition of the much loved Q-menu with access to all your most used settings.  (Brilliant)

Addition of new film simulation modes to match the X-Pro1.  My favourites are Pro Neg High and B&W Y.  (Great for consistency across cameras)

Some of the buttons have been re-arranged. (Some good, some just ‘different’!)

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Some new ‘fun’ filters. (I have never used them, probably never will!)

There are many more minor changes, but these are probably the ones you’re going to notice most when using it.

You think I should spend how much on a camera with a stupid fixed 35mm lens?!!

Trust me, it isn’t an issue.  If anything it will make you take better photos.  I could shoot at 35mm for the rest of my life with no regrets.  When you’ve got an interchangeable lens camera, or even a zoom, you’re constantly wondering which lens to use, which focal length to zoom to.  It’s a distraction.  The fixed lens makes you think about composition, where to put your feet, and not whether you’ve got the right lens on.  I found early on with my X-Pro1 that if I was worrying about which prime lens to use I’d always miss the best shot whilst the lens was off the camera.  Not having to think about that forces you to come up with something else, something different, usually something better, and you’re always ready when the right moment arrives.

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Don’t forget that the X100S has a leaf shutter in that lens.  Not only does it make it silent, but for anyone who is a fan of flash, you can sync right up to 1/4000th.  Wide open you can shoot at 1/1000th and overpower the sun with just a regular old speedlight.

DSCF9373-2FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/2, 1/1000 sec, ISO200)

Bright sunlight – Shot at f/2 with the ND filter on and a dash of on-camera flash for fill (flash set to -2/3)

DSCF0043-2FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/4, 1/1200 sec, ISO200)

The X100S forces you to work with what you have.  You actually learn to see in 35mm, so without raising the camera to your eye you just know what will be in frame and what won’t.  I often think of my X100S as an amazing 35mm lens with a free camera on the back!  If you don’t believe me, tape your zoom to 35mm then go out for a week and shoot only at 35mm.  I bet you’re taking better photos by the end of the week.

DSCF0015FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/2.8, 1/40 sec, ISO2500)

As for the price… it’s about right. This is a premium camera with a premium build and professional level image quality all wrapped in a beautifully designed compact body with all the controls you really need right to hand.  What’s the competition? Nikon A – ugly, limited controls, no viewfinder! Ricoh GR – good image quality, great price, but ugly again with more of a point and shoot design and no viewfinder. Sigma DP3 – nice camera, great IQ, but limited low light capability, limited controls, no viewfinder.  Leica X2 – pretty, but have you seen how expensive that is? Again, no viewfinder, awful rear screen (230k dots) and slow.  Get the idea?  None of the competition has what the X100S has.  Great manual controls for everything that is important and a fantastic built-in viewfinder.  You really do have to look at a Leica M camera to match the usability of an X100S.

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Do you really expect us to believe that you can use a fixed 35mm lens to photograph everything?

Yeah, I really do!  You know what, I’d rather have 2 or 3 great shots (even 1!) of a day out that I can print out, than a hard drive full of ones that are never looked at.  I’d rather have that killer shot of my wife, my parents, grandparents, my little girl growing up or beautiful scene printed and hung on the wall than a thousand mediocre ones.  The X100S allows me to get those shots and it doesn’t interfere with the day.  You pull out a dSLR and everyone around you stops doing what they were doing then waits whilst you take the shot.  The X100S also stops me taking hundreds of shots of rubbish that I’ll never look at again, and allows me to print up that one great shot in great quality that I smile at on the wall every day.  I’ll admit that sometimes you need to shoot at something other than 35mm, mainly if you’re doing something other than personal stuff – that’s why I have an X-Pro1.  If I was shooting purely for personal purposes this could easily be my one and only camera.  Believe it!

DSCF7260FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/2.8, 1/480 sec, ISO200)

DSCF6405-EditFUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/4, 1/170 sec, ISO200)

DSCF9460FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/8, 1/950 sec, ISO500)

DSCF7274FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/8, 1/4000 sec, ISO200)

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FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/8, 1/40 sec, ISO2500)

So you tell me you can use it for every day stuff, but what if I shoot fashion?  It’s useless for that, I need a big professional dSLR with a big professional lens, at the very least an 85mm f/1.4.

Yes, you’re totally right.  I mean, take a look at the rubbish the X100S produces when shooting fashion.

DSCF6675FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/8, 1/500 sec, ISO200)

DSCF6842-EditFUJIFILM X100S (19mm, f/11, 1/125 sec, ISO200)

DSCF7028FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/2.8, 1/105 sec, ISO200)

DSCF6990FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO400)

DSCF6944FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/2.8, 1/60 sec, ISO200)

DSCF6894FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/2.8, 1/40 sec, ISO400)

DSCF7086FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/4, 1/75 sec, ISO200)

DSCF7115FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/2.8, 1/170 sec, ISO200)

DSCF7124FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/2.8, 1/150 sec, ISO200)

All right, but 35mm isn’t any good for landscapes is it?  You need a wide-angle lens for that, with loads of megapixels.

I’d like to disagree!  Sure, you’re not going to get those super-wide landscapes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t adapt to make the 35mm work for you.

DSCF9685FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/16, 1/25 sec, ISO200)

DSCF9506FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/16, 1/75 sec, ISO200)

DSCF9568FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/16, 4.3 sec, ISO100)

DSCF9771FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/4, 1/70 sec, ISO200)

DSCF9359FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/8, 1/75 sec, ISO200)

DSCF9413FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/8, 1/90 sec, ISO200)

In-camera B&W conversion with the “By” film simulation.

DSCF9375-2FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/4, 1/420 sec, ISO200)

Lightroom 4 B&W conversion from RAW – simple conversion by pressing the B&W option.

DSCF9424-EditFUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/8, 1/950 sec, ISO200)

Converted in Silver Efex Pro 2

DSCF6439FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/4, 1/1250 sec, ISO200)

DSCF9251FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/8, 1/210 sec, ISO200)

(OK, so I cheated a bit with this one and used in-camera Panorama mode!)

DSCF9513FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/16, 30 sec, ISO200)

If you like long exposure, the X100S is great, this was a 30s exposure using just the built-in ND filter.

I want something wider.

Fuji have an accessory for you.  The Wide Angle Conversion Lens for the X100/X100s.  At £279 it’s not cheap, but this isn’t a cheap screw on filter, this is a serious piece of metal and glass.  Wide open it retains the f/2 aperture and I can’t tell any degradation in quality with it on.  This lens screws onto the end of the fixed lens using the filter thread, you don’t need an adapter, and the conversion lens will accept the standard bayonet lens hood, and the same 49mm filters on the end.

DSCF9734FUJIFILM X100S (19mm, f/16, 1/90 sec, ISO200)

Shot with the Fujifilm 19mm (28mm equivalent) Wide-angle adapter

DSCF9350FUJIFILM X100S (19mm, f/5.6, 30 sec, ISO320)

DSCF9404FUJIFILM X100S (19mm, f/2.8, 1/240 sec, ISO800)

I shoot lots of macro.

Damn!  I admit it, you’ve got me here.  Even in Macro mode the X100S doesn’t get that close.  There are better cameras out there if you’re really into macro photography – the X20 for one!

DSCF6369FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/4, 1/400 sec, ISO200)

Wide open at the closest focusing distance possible is the weakest spot of the X100S’s lens.

DSCF6384FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/5.6, 1/640 sec, ISO200)

Open it up a bit though and things improve rapidly.

DSCF9394-2FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/2.8, 1/420 sec, ISO200)

DSCF9378FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/4, 1/210 sec, ISO200)

Is image quality that much better than the X100?

If you’re talking about sharpness, hell yes!  I’d go so far as to say that it is so sharp that it can sometimes be too sharp.  My X100 was set to Sharpness +1 by default.  I’ve been known to shoot the X100S with Sharpness at -2!  By default I have it set to 0, even then it is still sharper than the X100 on +1.  If you’re shooting B&W they just jump out of the screen at you, choose the right filter and adjust the contrast curve in camera and you never need to any post processing.

DSCF7387FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/2, 1/30 sec, ISO1250)

Straight out of camera B&W

DSCF9414FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/4, 1/240 sec, ISO200)

and another

The colours are different to the X100.  In some circumstances I think the X100’s colours are better, but that’s a subjective thing.  I was hoping that it would match exactly with the X-Pro1, but that isn’t the case either.  Be it a combination of the newer sensor or different lens characteristics, the colours from the X100S don’t exactly match the X-Pro1.  Better? Worse? I can’t say, it’s just different!  Whatever anyone says, you’d be hard pressed to complain about the colours coming out of the X100S, typical rich Fuji colours.

High ISO performance of the X100 was always great. I’d say that the X100S is at least a full stop better.

DSCF9409-2FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/2, 1/40 sec, ISO2500)

f/2.0 1/40th – ISO 2500, straight out of the camera JPEG. Noise Reduction set to -1

JPEG or RAW?

Who cares.  JPEGS are the best you’ll get out of any camera, Fuji X-Trans RAW files are now widely supported.  Shoot what suits the situation.

Tell me about the new manual focusing.

First off, the focus ring has been re-jigged so there is no more endless turning of the focusing ring to get things in focus, a quick snap of the wrist and you’ve gone from close to infinity – almost too fast!  Turn the ring slowly and it will fine focus more slowly.

There are two new manual focus assist modes.  The first is focus-peaking, which is common amongst mirrorless cameras now.  This works by highlighting edges of things in focus with a white line.  You can choose from two different levels of this.  The second is specific to Fuji and will be familiar to anyone who has used a proper manual focusing camera before, and that is split screen focusing.  Basically the central portion of the image splits into bars, which when lined up mean that the image is in focus on that point.  There are two downsides to this method, one is that it only works in the central portion of the image where the phase-detection photosites are located.  It isn’t much of a downside though as I think the majority of us shoot with the AF point in the middle of the screen almost all the time.  The other downside is that if you only have horizontal features in your scene then you can’t see where it splits, so you either have to tilt your camera on an angle, or switch to focus peaking.

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Standard ‘zoom’ focus assist.

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Focus-peaking turned on (it is quite subtle, click to enlarge)

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Split-screen focus assist.

What else?

The menu system is hugely improved over the X100, it is just like the X-Pro1 and X-E1 now so you can jump between the two easily.  I’m not going to say any more than that – you can check my video on this page here if you want to see more.

I’ve heard people talking about better power management, battery life etc. All I can tell you is that when shooting alongside two X100 users, our batteries all died at pretty much the same point. Get a spare or two.  You’re unlikely to go through more than two batteries in a whole day of shooting.

The focus slider has been re-arranged to make it easier to switch between MF and AF-S (the most commonly used ones) – before it was in the middle and awkward to be sure you had selected it correctly.  Definitely much easier to use like that.

Some of the other buttons have been re-arranged.  Most used of which is the AF button that has been switched from the left hand side to the right hand side.  Supposedly to allow you to change AF points without removing your eye from the viewfinder.  Personally I find myself accidentally pressing the AF button and moving the AF point without wanting to.  In fairness, when it was the Drive button on the X100 I used to change the Drive mode without wanting to.  I’m not sure which is more annoying!  I would have preferred to have seen that space on the command left dial blank.

DSCF0051FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/3.6, 1/1200 sec, ISO200)

Is it perfect?

Very nearly .. Almost!  Low light AF issue to sort out, and a couple of things I think are missing from the feature set.

So what’s missing?

Wifi, GPS, Intervalometer (or Electronic shutter release).  They are the only three things I’d like to add to this camera.  I know those might seem like consumer wants on a ‘professional’ camera, but when I’m out I like to share photos and I like to see where I’ve taken those photos.  I don’t want to take a photo with my X100S, then have to pull out the iPhone to take the same shot just so I can share it.  I don’t need to share it immediately, maybe just later on that day whilst sat down for a coffee, built-in WiFi connectivity makes that easy.  Eye-fi?  As I’ve said before, it’s not good enough, not fast enough, not reliable enough, too general.  GPS location data is surprisingly handy in a travel camera (don’t knock it unless you’ve had it and missed it!).  An Intervalometer (or electronic shutter release) would  allow me to do time-lapse.  Add those and I think this could just be the elusive ‘perfect’ camera.

Should I upgrade?  That’s a nearly impossible question for me to answer.  Do you have the money to buy the X100S? Then just go and buy it!  Would you love an X100S but can only afford an X100? You’ll still be damn happy with an X100.  Just because the X100S is around doesn’t suddenly make the X100 a bad camera, in fact what it does make it is the bargain of the century!  I can tell you that for me, the improvements in the X100S makes it worth the extra money, if it makes it worth it for you is a question only you can answer.

DSCF0072FUJIFILM X100S (23mm, f/5.6, 1/600 sec, ISO200)

You can take the X100S everywhere with you and not even notice.

Conclusion

If you didn’t get it already, I think this is as near to the perfect camera as you’re likely to get.  It’s not only the best digital camera out there, I’d say it is the best camera ever made.  I had my reservations early on, but in normal day-to-day shooting it doesn’t matter.  It gets on with the job of taking amazing photos and gets out of your way when you take those photos.  It gives you full, easy control, over everything you need to create the image that is in your mind.  The X100 was always going to be a hard act to follow, but by keeping everything that was great about the X100 and improving those things that weren’t so great, Fuji have not only hit a home run with this one, they have knocked the ball right over the Mount!

Since the launch of the X100, several competitors have come onto the market trying to break into the compact APS-C fixed-lens market.  Sony have even gone on to produce a full-frame version.  None of them combine the looks, feel, ease of use and amazing image quality of the X100S into one complete package though.  The X100S still rules the roost of APS-C sized fixed lens cameras.

Putting aside the technical, no other digital camera has the heart and soul that the X100S has.  If photography is about anything it is about conveying emotions and feelings to the viewer, as a photographer it’s nice to have a camera that stirs an emotional response within yourself every time you use it.

More information on the X100S can be found on the Fujifilm website.

What’s next for the Fujifilm X-Series?

I have no idea.  Logic dictates it will be the X-Pro1 replacement.

What would you like?

Full frame X100?  Please Fuji, please please please!  Pretty please with lots of cherries on top!

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About The Author

Matthew Maddock is a commercial photographer based in the Lake District, UK. Specialising in the hospitality and outdoor sports industry. He is a Fujifilm X-Photographer and Getty Images contributor. His portfolio can be viewed at memaddock.co.uk

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