If you want a rangefinder-style camera with classic styling and relative affordability, Fujifilm’s X100, and its successor, the X100S are some of the very few options out there. But the X100 had quirks around autofocus that made a niche camera even more specialized. The X100S zaps some of those issues, resulting in a camera that, while still quirky, is much more lovably so, for amateurs and enthusiasts alike.
The X100S retains almost exactly the same classic styling as its predecessor, which features a leatherette body with metal accents, and it looks excellent. This is a camera that you’re actually proud to wear around your neck, even if it does make you look slightly like a tourist, and one that resembles the Leicas that cost oodles more money.
The X100S might be a little bulky for a camera with a fixed lens that isn’t a DSLR, but it’s actually a good size. It won’t quite fit in a pocket as a result, but it gives photographers plenty to hold onto, and offers up lots of space for its ample buttons and physical controls without resulting in a cramped feeling. Plus the thing oozes quality; it’s a $1,300 camera, but it feels even more solid and well-designed than its tidy price tag would let on, and it’s durable to boot – I’ve carted it literally around the world with minimal protection and it’s as good as new.
Functionally, the control layout is the real star of the X100S. A physical dial for exposure compensation and for shutter speed, as well as an aperture ring on the lens and quick access to ISO settings programmable via the Fn button on the top of the camera make this a manual photographer’s dream – and possible an automatic photographer’s overburdened mess. But that’s part of the quirk, and the real appeal of this unique camera.
The X100S offers a lot in the way of features, including the excellent hybrid viewfinder that can switch instantly between optical and electronic modes thanks to a lever on the front of the camera within easy reach from shooting position. It’s the best of old and new, giving you a chance to frame with true fidelity optical quality and also with a preview akin to the one you’d see on the back of the camera via the LCD screen. You can preview exposure that way, and white balance as well as depth of field. The EVF also offers 100 percent coverage of the image, meaning what you see is what you get in the resulting photo.
Manual focusing also gets a big improvement with the X100S, which is great because focus-by-wire is traditionally a big weakness on non DSLR advanced cameras. It uses a new Digital Split Image method that works with phase detection to adjust focus with a high degree of accuracy, and it works remarkably well. To my eye, which is generally very bad at achieving consistently reliable level of focus accuracy on full manual lenses with my DSLR, the split image trick (along with the inclusion of existing focus peaking tech) works amazingly well.
The X100S is a much better camera in all respects than its predecessor, the X100, and that was a very good camera. Its “Intelligent Hybrid Auto Focus” that switches between phase and contract AF automatically to lock as quickly as possible works very well, though it does struggle somewhat in darker settings and at closer ranges still. It’s heaps and bounds better than the original, however, and makes this camera a great one for street shooting; a task which, to my mind, it seems almost perfectly designed for.
Combining a camera that looks suitably touristy, with a short, compact lens and a 35mm equivalent focal lens, with great low-light shooting capabilities and fast autofocus makes for a great street camera, so if that’s what you’re after I can’t recommend this enough. It performed less well as an indoor candid shooter, owing to some leftover weakness at achieving focus lock close up, but it’s still good at that job too. In general, the X100S is a great camera for shooting human subjects, in my opinion, thanks to its signature visual style that seems to compliment skin especially well.
The X100S is a photographer’s everyday camera. It might frustrate newcomers, unless they’re patient and willing to learn, but it’s a joy to use if you have any kind of familiarity with manual settings, and the fixed focal length is a creative constraint that produces some amazing results. This isn’t the camera for everybody, but it’s a more broadly appealing shooter than the X100 ever was, and it’s also even a steal at $1,300 – if, that is, you have that kind of disposable income to spend on photography tools. Know that if you do spend the cash, this is definitely a camera that will stay in your bag and/or around your neck for a long time to come, and a worthy upgrade for X100 fans, too.