6 months with the X100F

June 6th, 2017 Posted by Photo No Comment yet

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while now. First impressions turned into 1 month and then into 3, 4, and 5.

And here we are, 6 months since I received a preproduction X100F from Fujifilm and I have to say that this camera has only continued to grow on me over the past several months. For the sake of transparency I will say that it took me awhile to find my groove with the X100F. It had nothing to do with the camera itself. Rather, it was because I got so used to shooting the XF16mm F1.4 R WR  on my X-Pro2. The 16 full on replaced the 23 in my kit. That extra 9mm of wide angle reprogrammed me a bit and it took some time to get acclimated back to 23mm. I started by shooting a lot of 2-shot vertical panoramas to get a wider shot, but gradually over time I fell right back in love with the 23.

If you would prefer the cliff notes version of the conclusions that I am going to draw from this post: Are you a fan of the X100 series? Then go buy this camera, right now. I really do hate being a salesman. I have some friends that have a podcast that will probably make fun of me for writing this post. But this camera is an absolute JOY to use. So if you are on the fence about upgrading, read on!

As always, my “review” is going to be more about how the camera performs and how it makes me feel when I use it, as well as images….probably way more images than you need to see (mostly roads). But that’s what I am always dying for when I read a review so that’s what I’m giving.

By now, you are all well aware of the tech specs and the upgrades from the previous generation, but I welcome you to sound off in the comments if you have a specific question that I don’t answer in my writing. I’ll touch on a few of the upgrades as they apply to my style of shooting, but that’s about it.

Normally I like to share how I have been using the camera in different professional settings like weddings, commercial, landscape, etc. Well I’m getting out of the wedding game entirely, and while I have shot some products and lifestyle images with the F, mostly I’ve been using it for my personal landscape work, as well as to document my son for the past several months. I’m not going to share a TON of images of him on here because that’s not my style, but for those of you that have ever tried shooting a baby/toddler, you know that speed and accuracy is of the essence. I’m talking shutter lag, to AF performance here. It is astounding how quick this camera is. I’ve never been a continuous “hold the button down” kind of guy, but I do like to ride the shutter and get snap-happy, and I really feel like the same performance you get from the X-T2 is present in the X100F. It actually blew me away at first.

I did start with the original X100 back in 2011; I actually had 2 because the first one was stolen, that’s how much I have always loved this camera. So you could say that a slight bias is present here even beyond the fact that I’m an X-Photographer. We have come SUCH a long way since then, and yet, it still feels like the same camera that I had 6 years ago, just better in every way. And I don’t care what any of you say, I am a HUGE fan of the ISO dial. Seems to be a hot button issue with some people, but hey, we are all wrong sometimes, and you just happen to be wrong about this!

Within a week or two of receiving the camera, I found myself traveling to California for a gig/getaway/video shoot showing off the capabilities of the camera. You can view that along with some of the images that I took below. Honestly, I wasn’t super happy with the images that I shot with the F here. At this point I was still re-learning the focal length, and I ended up reaching for the X-Pro2/XF16 combo to frame up my “keeper” shots. Like I said, I was a little stuck.

I have no doubt that if I were to return now, I could do so much better. Progression is one thing I am constantly striving for in my work. I want to be able to look back at my work now in 6 months to a year and know that I can do better.

The X100 series for me has always been about ultimate portability without sacrificing image quality, build quality, and usability. As it pertains to all three, no sacrifices have been made. It has a fresh coat of paint with the same “sexed-up retro” look, and due to the rearranging of buttons on the rear, it has the same one-handed usability that I love so much about the X-Pro2.

One of my closest friends always refers to it as my “tourist” camera when he sees it hanging around my neck. I actually love that so much. I don’t know if it’s how I was raised or what, but I would rather be very subtle and come away with unexpectedly good images than be flashy and in-your-face. I can’t even count the number of times over the years that I was carrying an X100 series camera and I got asked about the film camera that I was carrying. It’s unobtrusive and gets totally out of the way so you can connect with your subject, and I love that. I have a few weddings left on the roster this year and I can’t wait to see how this camera fares. I daresay I might shoot weddings exclusively with this camera alone.

I took several daytrips to finish out the year and one of those was to the west coast to a lighthouse on Lake Michigan. We were greeted with a beautiful scene of overcast clouds and gorgeous light emanating from the horizon. But it was cold, and the wind and waves were violent. A thought crossed my mind as we were driving there: I had no idea if this camera was weather-sealed or not. I decided to not let that stop me from getting a shot. The majority of the time I was out shooting the camera was in my hand or strapped to my chest via my peak design clip and it was being pelted with rain and mist. You’ll be able to see some of the “color bleeding” from the moisture that was building up on the lens in a few of my images below. I had to wipe it off with a cloth after every shot. But I actually like the effect that it gives in some shots. We had to take frequent breaks to warm up in the car as we waited for the sunset, but the camera never faltered on me. At the end of the trip I was completely soaked, an experience that has taught me to ALWAYS carry a spare change of clothes with me no matter what my plans are. And come to find out, the F is actually not weather-resistant. So I either got really lucky, or the camera is really built to endure a lot despite no formal weather-sealing. Regardless, it only makes it that much more usable for me.

In early February my photographer friends and I roadtripped around the entire state of Virginia for 5 days. This camera was always on me. I used the F a lot for product shots as well as documenting our trip. I don’t know exactly what it is, but something about this camera makes me want to “document” my experiences.  I’ve never been into documentary work outside of wedding photography, but more and more it has appealed to me while on trips and with my family.

I’m going to switch gears a little bit here. In April we had a little bit of a scare with our son Miles. He ended up in the hospital needing emergency surgery for an infection in his knee. Being a first time dad and hearing this information was terrifying. I had the F with me at the hospital because I always have it with me, and it ended up being something of an outlet for me to help cope with my emotions. I realize that some people might think that documenting an emotional experience like that is a weird thing. But without getting too much into it, I was in the hospital for 4 months when I was a junior in high school with a pretty crazy disease and I have really no images of that experience. I know what happened because people told me that it happened, but it would be cool to go back and see what that was like. Someday I hope that Miles will be able to look back on the images that I captured and see how scared we were and how he overcame this crazy thing at such a young age. You can view a few of these images below:

At this point, late April/going into May, I am experiencing a creative rut. I just couldn’t seem to take a landscape image that I was really passionate about. So I decided that the entire month of May, I was going to limit myself to 1 focal length per outing. I typically like shooting with multiple bodies and having options, but I didn’t think it was doing my rut any favors. For most of these “outings” I took the F because it’s so simple. It’s at this point that I start finding my groove with the camera again and really meshing with how the 35mm equivalent focal length can be used for a myriad of subjects. I’ve always been a firm believer in prime lenses and simplifying when you shoot. The F takes this a step further being a prime fixed-lens camera not even giving you the option to switch. Everyone says it, and I started out this post telling myself that I wouldn’t, but if I had to take one camera with me to a desert island, this would be the one. It’s all but become my primary body. If I didn’t have such a love affair going with the X-T2 and XF50-140mm, it would definitively be my primary body.

X100F + TCL-X100 II

In all my years shooting the X100 series I have never messed around with Fujifilm’s Tele or Wide converters. I just recently got my hands on the  TCL-X100 II and have been having a ton of fun with the 50mm equivalent focal length. The image quality, as expected, is immaculate and its fun to take a camera that I’ve spent so much time with and change things up. The F also incorporates the same Digital Tele converter that the X70 launched with that allows you to take full res 24mp JPEGs at 50mm and 70mm. With the TCL, it becomes 70mm and 100mm. Fujfilm’s internal image interpolation that goes on behind the scenes to upscale the image does a fantastic job retaining detail. This only adds yet another layer to the versatility of this camera.

And that brings us to now, June. I have finally overcome my rut, and I am very much looking forward to the rest of the year. I have some exciting things planned and I really can’t wait to continue to grow with this camera and see what else it can do. Now that I’m getting a chance to look back through my images for the past 6 months I am definitely happy with the results, despite feeling like I was in a rut for 2-3 months (funny how hindsight works like that). The F truly is the pinnacle of the series, and I really don’t know if Fujifilm are going to be able to top themselves. It packs all of the power and image quality of its older siblings, in the X-T2 and X-Pro2, but exudes this character and charisma that I just can’t explain without getting it into your hands.

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Bryan Minear is an Official Fujifilm X-Photographer & Vanguard Professional based in the Midwest.




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