Review: Fuji X100...VS a actual film rangefinder, VS forthcoming X10...

I'm back !

My job (the one that pays the bills and the expensive repairs on my car) has been quite time consuming lately, so were my vacations :)

Anyway I'm back with new photos to post, and more tutorials.

But for now, a personal review of a camera that is being very successful, and acclaimed by critics, but not necessarily by real photographers. That makes it rather interesting since Fuji is clearly branding it as the compact for pros, when pros are too lazy to cary around too much stuff.

Also, by its looks and functionalities, it intends to revive a photo journalism way of shooting, and be the modern equivalent of a long line up of full frame film rangefinder cameras. And I'm wondering...aren't those old guys still not better than the fancy X100 ?

Let's start with the camera review itself:

I encourage you to Google it (after bookmarking this blog !), there's not point redoing what has been done well.

Some reviews:
- Ken Rockwell (classic)
- Steve Huff

However I would tend to weight differently the pros and cons of the camera than many others did. Let's remind us of those first:

Pros: great lens and sensor, low light performance, dynamic range, design and built quality, optical viewfinder. That's A LOT of great pros ! Some might even say, whatever the cons, it can only be great, but...

Cons: slow, very slow operations, dodgy user interface, AF is slow and MF is absolutely unusable (7 ring turns to focus 1 meter further, WTF)

X100 @ F2 ISO 400. The lens is definitely way on top in the compact world.

Why is that more of a pain that it might seem? Changing ISO while shooting was nearly unresponsive when I used it, a real pro used to rangefinders can manually focus and can do it quick. It is impossible here hence the all purpose of the camera is quite questionable. I would say a pro will be terribly frustrated and yet tempted: it's a beautiful object, it's nearly what we are dreaming of (full frame sensor + faster response of electronics + proper focusing would make it perfect), but it will be very frustrating when missing a shot because it takes 3 seconds to write on the card, or won't focus well.

Why not a proper rangefinder instead?

If you are a pro and can spend 1200 dollars on a portable rangefinder, you might be better off spending 80 bucks on a actual full frame film rangefinder, and shoot 1120 dollars worth of 35mm film...(150 rolls). Dynamic range on film is unbeatable, the classic journalist B&W shots will render way better on film (tone range of B&W film is unmatched), the full frame will allow greater definition, bigger files after scanning, deeper images. You travel in unsafe countries? It gets stolen? Ah whatever, order an other one, or 2. If you don't care about cost, you have a Leica M9 (Digital), or a Contax G2 / Leica M6...well you spend the extra bucks that will get you what you really want.

However you might want a X10; keep on reading.

The X10...

Here comes my main and I hopefully most insightful point of this post. If you are an amateur, is the X100 the holy grail? I would nearly say so. You will be able to shoot DSLR like shots with a pocket format, a lens that beats any DSLR kit lens, and a DSLR size sensor. The weaknesses of the camera won't bother you too much because you never shot a Nikon F5 or a Contax G2. So I would nearly say it's the perfect advanced amateur compact camera...if Fuji was not about to launch the X10.

Well let's face it, the X10 is likely to avoid the flaws of the X100, it has a zoom lens with high aperture (pretty uncommon and really cool to have on a compact), it's even smaller, looks as good, will cost half the price of the X100. The only thing is the CMOS sensor VS the DSLR like sensor of the X100, but once again, a DSLR sensor is not a full frame sensor, so it's not thaaaat mind blowing either, and mostly an amateur would hardly see the difference between the two (medium & large formats are the real thing). If the shoot is good, it's good no matter what sensor anyway.

Final recommendation:

First of all, if you bought or really, really want an X100, you're fine. You're miles away from making a mistake. I'm discussing details here and it is an excellent camera, with all essential features on top. Even the AF is not so bad, just not good enough VS a cheaper DSLR.

If you are to upgrade your G2, your S90, or some other premium compact as your main camera, wait a bit. The fix lens of the X100 is awesome, but it might be too much of a constraint never being able to zoom. The X10 should be more versatile, wait and try.

If you own a DSLR, get a fix 35mm 1.8 lens on it for 200$, don't buy a X100. Get a X10 as a portable backup, that will be way more complementary (providing that the X10 images come out good, we'll know quite soon).

If you're a pro looking for the small toy you can have in your pocket just in case, the X10 might be what you actually wanted, depending on how well its lens will perform. It's even smaller and since you shoot full frame or larger format, you find COMS and DX sensor similarly underperforming anyway.

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