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Beating the Dead Horse: Fuji X100s Impressions

Frankly, I always knew this was a matter of time.

Less than a year ago, I purchased a Fujifilm X20 in lovely, lovely flat black. It's a terrific camera. It focuses fast, it reproduces the trademark colors of Fuji's most famous film stocks, and it's quieter than felt touching cotton.

However, something isn't quite right with the X20. While the camera as a whole works very well, the sensor is ultimately a major problem. While images look good initially, any post processing often drags copious amounts of grain into a photo -- even if it was shot in RAW format and is only being pushed by a single stop in Lightroom. Even when images aren't that altered, the dime-sized sensor rears its ugly head with excess noise and dramatic detail falloff in some situations. It is so nearly the camera I wanted it to be -- and thus, I kept leering amorously at the X100s, the "big brother" to the X20, wondering when I would take the plunge and grab it for myself.

Well, that time has come. Fujifilm has finally (within the past week) released the X100s in full black, after initially debuting the camera in a grey/silver trimmed version. I traded a little bit of gear, breathed deeply, and melted my credit card a bit. I braced myself for the typical two-month wait that accompanies Fujifilm camera preorders, but got it in less than four days (thanks, B&H). Is the X100s worth it? Hell yes.

I'm not going to pixel-peep, break this down into sections, or otherwise repeat what a million other very pleased photographers have already said. Although I've only been handling this camera for just over a day, it's easily the greatest camera I've owned. I think this single piece of gear just changed everything. Take that to the bank.

The built-in ND (neutral density) filter allows for wide-open shooting at f/2 in daylight. Soft focus any time!

After going through the camera's manual, and watching David Hobby's great blow-by-blow of the camera's menu system, I was up and running. After some initial review and a little practice, this camera became a perfectly-tuned manual transmission; it becomes an extension of you. Everything from the hybrid viewfinder (which can display the camera's rear LCD) to the much-improved manual focusing is thought-out, precise, and easy to operate. Fujifilm has cram-packed this camera with features that all form a wonderfully cohesive whole; they listened to the criticism from the already acclaimed X100, and just fixed everything.

VSCO Film works wonderfully with this camera's RAW files.

Granted, there are a few things I'd like to see improved. Compared to a DSLR, the batteries don't last very long. There's no manual exposure mode while taking a video. The built-in Neutral Density filter (for underexposing daylight, among other uses), is inaccessible in the otherwise fantastic "Q" quick access menu. Autofocusing in low light can be a little finicky, but it's easily compensated for once you get an idea of how the autofocus behaves. 

No camera -- NO camera -- is perfect. The above is easily the shortest "please fix" list I've ever made for a camera.

So, what else can I say? The Fujifilm X100s is revolutionary. It should be ranked among the all-time seminal pieces of kit, like the many great Leicas before Leica itself started selling keychains and perfume (and $50,000 cameras that are for collectors, not photographers). 

I'm not particularly proud of the demo shots in this post. I'm not concerned about that, though. I've only had a day with this camera, on a pretty packed schedule, and I'm only on about three hours of sleep. What I really want to to convey to you is that this little piece of gear has made me all giddy with photography again. It's not unlike the feeling I got when I finally began to mesh with my first Nikon DSLR so many years back.

The 35mm (equivalent) field of view is great for those intersecting lines we all love.

Minor quirks aside, the X100s is well worth the seared edges on my credit card. If I never make another mostly-impulsive purchase again, I'll be happy.

Dem blues.

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