Hard-bitten photo editors are not meant to be influenced by appearances. We’re supposed to judge a camera not by …



Hard-bitten photo editors are not meant to be influenced by appearances. We’re supposed to judge a camera not by its looks, but by its image quality. And yet, I have to admit to really liking the look of Fujifilm’s X100S from the moment I opened the box.

Call me superficial, but the analogue-y cluster of knurled controls on the top panel, the brushed steel finish and the satisfying heft appeal to an older chap who cut his analogue photographic teeth on a not radically dissimilar looking rangefinder. The fact that it also boasts a lovely bright optical viewfinder didn’t hurt either.

The review unit’s English language manual consisted of a pdf on a CD. Keen to get shooting, I decided to take a look at the manual later. While I’m not prepared to admit that it was a mistake, the learning curve was consequently longer than it needed to be.

If you love street photography as I do, the X100S just begs to be taken for a wander. So that’s just what I did. With the battery charged and a blank memory card loaded, I hopped a bus to the city. The first order of business when I arrived was to get the camera set up so that I could concentrate on composition rather than constantly fiddling with the gubbins.

The X100S has a fixed 23mm f/2 lens. Given that the imager is a 16.3 megapixel APS-C sized unit, the angle of view is equivalent to 35mm on 35mm camera – ideal for street photography and handy for landscape work as well.

With the camera set to capture RAW + JPEG, I set the ISO to 200, flicked it into aperture priority mode and went looking for possibilities. Practically the first shot I took was the image below. I came around the corner, saw the light on the smokers, raised the camera to my eye and took the shot all without breaking stride.


Smoko, Sydney
1/125s at f/8, ISO 200

After taking the picture, I realised that it wasn’t quite what I’d composed. I like it, and it’s probably better than what I intended. Because I hadn’t played around enough with the camera, I realised that the optical viewfinder shows a wider view than the lens captures. So if you’re unconsciously expecting a WYSIWG relationship of the viewfinder to the captured image, you’re in for a potentially unhappy surprise.

A little more messing about and I discovered what was no doubt in the first few pages of the manual, namely that the camera has to be put into viewfinder mode. This brings the LCD viewfinder into play and once activated, the photographer not only has a frame to work within, but thanks to the wonders of the LCD overlay, there’s also a wealth of information in the periphery. With the camera to your eye, you can see the amount of exposure compensation you’ve dialled in, the current exposure mode, the shutter speed, the image size and quality, the number of remaining shots, the current ISO, aperture, and even a depth-of-field indication. As well you can activate a live histogram, so that you see changes to the exposure values as the camera position or lighting conditions change.

I always loved how soft and quiet the shutter was on my old rangefinder, so appreciated being able to turn down the shutter sound so that it was just barely audible. It was nice, particularly for street shooting, not announcing to all and sundry that I’d just taken a picture.

Once the camera was set up, the shooting itself was all pretty straight forward. While it takes a second or so to light up, once the camera is on, shutter lag was undetectable and the autofocus was quick and positive. The capacity to capture up to 6 frames a second came in handy on those occasions when I was trying to capture a complex scene full of unpredictable movements.

The 2.8-inch 460k resolution back panel LCD was bright and clear under subdued lighting, but as with every other camera, it was problematic in full sun. The control suite and exposure options are too extensive to cover off in the space of this short review. For the most part I didn’t find it necessary to dig too deeply into the menus to make adjustments. And having a programmable function button on the top panel proved particularly useful (it can be set to deliver one-touch access to such settings as the ISO value, depth of field confirmation, movie mode, RAW mode, ND filtering and so on).

While the aforementioned back panel display is fine for checking your pictures in the field, it isn’t until you open images up on a full size monitor that you appreciate just how powerful an image making instrument the X100S really is. I don’t have the tools to measure the lens performance, but as you can see from the examples on the left, it’s certainly no slouch. And the image sensor is a corker. Low light performance – again speaking subjectively – is superb. Comparing images captured at ISO 200 and ISO 800 revealed only the barest hint of a difference in the shadow values. Even at ISO 3200 and 6400 the results were exceptionally clean.


Eucalypt flower and insects
1/1500s at f/5.6, ISO 400



Eucalypt flower and insects (100%)
1/1500s at f/5.6, ISO 400

I didn’t really have the opportunity to shoot much video, but the material I captured was impressive to my eye.

With a street price around the $1200 mark, the Fujifilm X100S with its fixed focus lens will not appeal to everyone. But if you’re an advanced enthusiast or a pro, you could make the argument that buying a top of the line 35mm prime lens for your DSLR could set you back more than the price of an X100S. I know which I’d rather add to my camera bag!

> Don Norris


FUJIFILM X100S on assignment with Jack Piccone




Warehouse, Brookvale
1/750s at f/5.6, ISO 400 EV +1


Wires, Brookvale
1/250s at f/5.6, ISO 400 EV +0.3


Parking lot, Brookvale
1/180s at f/5.6, ISO 400 EV +0.3



Callers, Sydney
1/210s at f/8, ISO 400


Trompe l’oeil, Martin Place, Sydney
1/140s at f/8, ISO 400 EV +0.7


1/220s at f/8, ISO 400 EV +0.7


Deep Creek Reserve, Narrabeen
1/140s at f/4, ISO 400 EV +0.7


Building detail and shadow, Sydney
1/70s at f/8, ISO 400