The X100 of My Dreams – A Short Time with the X100V
I was convinced that this write-up was not going to happen.
I’ve had a really rough year so far, and I’m smack dab in the midst of my annual dose of seasonal depression and imposter syndrome. Not to mention that I received the X100V sample just under 2 weeks ago, and I didn’t see the sun until yesterday February 2nd. (Only 2 days before the announcement) And if you have ever seen my photography at all, you’re aware that the one thing that is most certainly required is sunlight. Preferably golden hour with a nice spritzing of clouds. So you can imagine how excited I was when it finally happened and I managed to capture all of the images I needed for this post in one sunrise and one sunset. But let’s be honest, most of you could care less about what I have to say, you just want to see the images. So let’s dive in.
Since I have had it, I decided to leave all my other gear at home and use this camera exclusively. The weather has been my biggest hurdle as I mentioned. I even resorted to using my Profoto A1X and Air Remote to simulate the sun for some of the “dead plant abstract” shots that I share in this post. But I also really needed to learn to shoot 23mm again. I always feel like the most important part of being a brand ambassador is being well versed in the equipment so that I can answer questions and be a resource for other photographers. And let me be clear: that is not to be a salesman and push the latest and greatest, but to truly get to know someone and the way that they shoot and recommend what I think is not only best for what they are trying to accomplish, but for their budget as well. I STILL recommend the X-T2 to people looking for an affordable solution.
What we have here is the innards of the X-Pro3 shoved into the X100 body. We all knew it was coming eventually, it was just a matter of how Fujifilm was going to implement the upgrades. My work has come a LOOOOOOONG way since I fell in love with the original X100 back in 2012. As a point of reference I don’t own a 23mm lens for any of my cameras. My X100F is my 23mm lens, and I have been using it as the exclusive camera of documenting my family for the past few years. It always finds it way into my pocket because it’s so portable and capable, but I have used it less and less for my landscape work, opting more for the XF16mm f/1.4 lens on an X Series body. I feel the wider FOV allows me to truly capture the way that I see the world. But there has always been something about the X100 cameras that just tickles my creative bone.
Ok, so we are now 3 paragraphs in and I still haven’t mentioned much about the X100V, so for that I apologize, but I needed to setup a little bit of context as our jumping off point. The TL;DR of it all is that this camera is everything that it should be, and a worthy upgrade from the previous generation. The lens alone makes it very worthwhile for me. By now you’ve seen all of the specs, so I won’t bore you with a rehash. I’ll just touch on the features that mattered most to me in using the camera, because this isn’t a puff piece, its about putting the camera to use. First things first, the Fujinon Super EBC 23mm f/2 II lens is the star of the show. By my tests, WAY sharper and crisper edge to edge than the lens it is replacing and much more contrast. This is most notable when shooting wide open and close to your subject. The X100/S/T/F all were a tad soft wide open. It never bothered me too much, but comparing images side by side it becomes very noticeable how much of an improvement this lens is. That’s about all you’ll get from me regarding sharpness. It’s typically a non-issue when it comes to Fujifilm glass, but this new lens was definitely worth noting.
Onto what is probably my favorite feature, the tilt-screen. Obviously the X-Pro3 kind of stole the spotlight last year when it debuted with its hidden LCD, much to the chagrin of many, many people. But, as I tweeted back at the announcement about the boldness of the design, it OBVIOUSLY wasn’t a decision made to appease anyone other than the target user of the camera, and ask anyone who bought an X-Pro3, they love it. But this flip screen design is quite beautiful. It embeds perfectly into the back of the camera with absolutely no protrusion, which means they had to do a lot of work internally to slim down the interior and make room. But it just feels right shooting. I am very much an X-T series shooter, and I shoot low a LOT. So the addition of the tilt LCD to this camera is going to have me reaching for it a lot more.
And that’s not the only screen that got an upgrade, the viewfinder is bright and crisp, which makes sense as it is largely the same hybrid EVF/OVF seen in the X-Pro3. Even though I’ve been shooting mirrorless for 8 years now (wow) looking through an EVF still blows my mind. I have image review turned off on all of my cameras because what is the point? I love the idea that you see what you are capturing exactly as it will be captured…. wait for that perfect moment… *click* …and move on. And I’ve done it through 4 generations of X100. (I never owned the S).
A couple physical change notes: #1 the lack of D-Pad. I have to admit, as much of a fan of buttons as I am, the D-Pad is not something I miss. I can control everything I need with the focus lever. And the button layout makes single-handed operation easy and comfortable. #2 is the improved ISO dial. It is no longer spring loaded. It snaps up and you can rotate to change ISO, and then snaps back down to lock the ISO in place. I am a huge fan of this design especially because it makes it way easier to change the ISO accurately without taking your eye away from the viewfinder. The old design was mostly fine, the spring-loaded nature made it a little finicky when you were changing while shooting.
Overall the body is a lot sleeker and just feels more complete than any X100 camera to date. You can really tell that Masazumi Imai, the lead designer, took the “lines” of the camera into consideration. Like a sports car, this thing has really been perfected from an aesthetic standpoint, something that, as a designer, I very much appreciate.
And I am SO very excited that with the addition of the Fujifilm AR-X100 Adaptor Ring and Proper Filter, we have a weather-sealed X100! This is such awesome news as it has been one of the most requested features from users for awhile now, and it’s proof that Fujifilm is listening to us.
Though I do have a funny story in which I took a pre-production X100F to the west side of Michigan to shoot lighthouses, and I wasn’t sure if it was weather sealed or not. I emailed my contact on the way and they didn’t know either. So I just shot as if it was (it was just a sample after all). It lived on my Peak Design capture clip on my chest and got continually hammered by waves for a few hours, and was absolutely fine. So though it was not weather sealed, I have never been shy about using my production X100F in the crappiest of conditions. But it does give me peace of mind knowing that the “V” can handle the elements.
It has been as much of a joy to use, as a challenge for me to “see” in 35mm full frame equivalence again. Especially given my short timeline with the camera. I shot a lot even when the weather sucked, but I didn’t shoot how “I like to shoot”. It was more just to get a feel for the camera. A lot of the images that I am sharing with you are edited JPEGs using the Classic Negative film simulation…. OBVIOUSLY that was my goto, because I love it so very much. I never wrote about the X-Pro3 and why I loved classic negative so much but to me, even when you overexpose images, the color tonalities seem like they are “pushed” or something. It’s hard to explain other than even the emulation of the film comes through based on your exposure values, which is pretty cool. I am very much someone who favors a “proper exposure” but using this camera with classic negative has pushed me to experiment out of my comfort zone more, and that is always welcome.
I figured that I would share one of the JPEG recipes that I have been using and loving:
-1 Highlights, +2 Shadows, +2 Sharpness
Grain effect: Small/Weak
Color Chrome Effect: Strong
Color Chrome FX Blue: Strong
Writing about my experience with camera’s always feels so foreign. I never feel like I am giving anyone exactly what they want to hear. But a pet peeve of mine is reading a reviewer or watching youtuber constantly flounder their way through a review, just because as a reviewer, you’ve got to make your money whether you understand the product or not. And while I wish I made money from the blog, I don’t. This is a genuine way for me to share my experience with those photographers that are interested in what this camera might mean for their image making. I had an absolute blast shooting with this camera over the past few weeks, and I’m going to hang onto it until Fujifilm makes me send it back. I’ve really come back around to enjoying the 23mm focal length even in this short time, and this time around I really want to hang onto that. Most landscape photographers (myself included) are more than happy carrying around a large kit to get “the shot” but there is definitely something special about stripping it down to bare bones and only carrying one very portable camera that has a fixed focal length. I see a single camera project in my near future!
So I will end with this – it’s pretty obvious, but – new gear isn’t going to make you a better photographer. Investing time into your craft is going to make all of the difference. That and finding the images that you are truly passionate about making. So I hope way more that my images and story inspire you to go out make cool images rather than spend your money. But if you are in the market for an X100 series camera as a first purchase or an upgrade, there is no doubt that this is the best one and most fun to use yet. It’s the X100 series camera that I have always wanted and that’s the truth!