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The Fuji X100T

I have had my eye on the Fuji X100 series cameras for a while although I never could convince myself to fork out $1300 for a single focal length camera.  It was more of a want than a need and I already owned enough cameras so it just never made it to the top of my list. 

I loved the vintage styling and the small unassuming form. I had seen great photos online from the X100S and heard nothing but good things although it was still a little more than I wanted to pay for something I wasn’t entirely sure about.

Earlier this year I went through an awakening and parted ways with my beloved full frame DSLR gear as I found my self wanting to carry my DSLR around with me less and less. I switched to a Sony A7II with Zeiss glass and couldn’t be happier. I wrote about this in an earlier blog post titled “Moving To Mirrorless”.

This move was big for me. I had previously stated that I would never give up my Canon gear, and yet here I was listing my Canon bodies and lenses on Craigslist.  For the longest time I was basically set in the mindset that Canon is the only thing I will ever shoot but the Sony changed all that.  

This pivot had a flow on effect. It opened my mind to trying different cameras and opened my eyes to seeing benefits from using other brands. I suddenly became a lot more open to the idea of using other cameras. 

The A7II had replaced my DSLR entirely although there was still one inherit problem that plagued me, carrying too much gear and over complicating the photo process.  My bag was much lighter now I was using a mirrorless camera, although I would still walk out the door with a body and 3 or 4 lenses in a bag along with filters (Clear and CPL) all the time.  I just can’t help my self, i’m always over packing gear in fear of missing the perfect shot. 

The Fuji X100T started to climb up my hit list. The thing that I had been concerned about the most (a single focal length) now seemed to be the thing I was interested in the most.  I actually relished the thought of a camera I could pick up and throw in a bag without worrying about lenses, filters and attachments but was of a high enough quality to shoot DSLR grade photos. 

I liked the idea of restricting my self to a single lens without the option to carry more although It still seemed like a lot of money for something I really didn’t need. I had an excellent 35mm lens for my A7II, I just didn’t have the discipline to only carry that one lens.

One night after a few drinks I saw a sale on Amazon, $150 off the RRP for an X100T.  I bought one.  The next morning I woke up with a hangover and regrettably read the “Your Amazon Order Has Shipped!” email.  Oops.  Did I just buy ANOTHER camera? Yep, I did.

It arrived a few days later, I was immediately impressed with the quality of the body, it feels like a good piece of gear, metal shutter release, metal lens cap, nice high quality view finder and screens, satisfying clicks when you move the aperture ring. The weight feels just right. That regret I felt earlier started to melt away. 

Fujifilm-X100T-product-shot-11

There is an oddly satisfying feeling to shooting with this camera. The manual controls demand more attention and forces your brain away from the automated fallback mode that is so easy to fall victim too.  You can shoot in full auto, but it requires you to set 3 parameters which is enough to trigger a second thought in your mind as to if you should not just spend that little bit of extra time to dial in the setting you really want.

Shooting in aperture priority mode is as simple as just moving the aperture dial to the desired number. I find everything from f/2.5 and up to be tack sharp with f/2.0 being a little soft but still very usable and actually great for portraits. Being able to glance down at the top of the lens and not needing to read a screen is a very nice user experience and makes me feel like i’m shooting some of my old Minolta glass. 

Shot On The X100T

The EVF and OVF

The OVF compliments the EVF and I find I use both of them in different situations.  In broad daylight or well lit scenes where I’m less concerned about light sources I shoot with the OVF where as when the light drops shooting with the EVF is a must otherwise it’s a gamble.  

The OVF still has useful information on screen, and the parallax correction box helps with composition as the eye piece is obviously off center from the lens being a range finder style camera.  I find sometimes when using the EVF that it’s a bit slow to switch from OVF to EVF when I put it to my eye, there is very little delay when using only the OVF so for those fast, “no time to think” street photography shots I prefer to leave it on OVF. 

Refined

This feels like a refined camera, like they have taken all the complaints and feedback from the previous models and worked through them to finish up with the X100T. 

I love my Sony A7II, but this is something it lacks. The Sony technology is spectacular but It still feels like they’re still trying to figure out fundamental things like button placement, handling and menu systems. 

Quality Images In Camera

I typically shoot RAW around 60% of the time, the other 40% being when the photos are happy snaps and JPG is good enough, but with the X100T I have been finding my self (hold on to your hats) shooting JPG almost 90% of the time.  I know, I know, photographers everywhere just lost their minds at this statement but honestly the images are just so great out of camera I very rarely need to edit.  Even when I do edit, it’s occasionally to just bump saturation a tad or maybe add a touch of contrast.  Well within the minimal boundaries of JPG post processing.  

It’s actually kind of liberating to go home with a camera full of final edits, instead of a camera full of hours worth of post processing work. 

I still shoot RAW for those “the shot” scenes where you know it’s something special, but i’ve taken the X100T out a few times now and shot purely JPGs yet been totally happy with the results. 

When I do shoot RAW with the X100T, I love being able to switch between the Fuji film simulations after importing into Lightroom or if I’m out somewhere, not near my computer and need that color shot in black and white, the RAW processing features in camera are incredibly useful for quickly trying out other styles before saving to JPG and sending to my phone for upload.

Overall I find the image quality to be excellent. I’m more than happy with the results i’ve been getting.

Fuji Knows Color

This is a statement that I had read many times before I bought the X100T.  I kind of understood this, but not fully. 

I use the X100T film simulations on every shot

My first camera was a film camera and I remember shooting Fuji film, but truth be told I didn’t seriously get into photography until the digital era. Teenagers don’t tend to have much money for processing film so digital was what drew me in. This being said, I didn’t appreciate the subtle color and tone variations of the various Fuji films back then. The various Film simulations of the X100T are meant to mimic those original Films and whilst I can’t say how much of an accurate representation they are, I can say that I absolutely love them. 

I don’t think i’ve ever used a filter preset on any camera outside of experimenting in the living room, but I use the X100T film simulations on every shot.  I can completely understand the “Fuji Knows Color” statement now, there really is something magical about the color rendition of the images from this camera. It’s basically that special color balance you attempt to generate your self in post processing with your flat greyed out RAW files from any other camera. Except you can nail it close to perfect in camera with the Fuji. 

Union Square

Union Square | X100T Classic Chrome

Classic Chrome is the simulation that is meant to mimic Kodachrome film. It has a unique slightly desaturated look that I find really helps isolate subjects and remove distracting colors.  Much like how shooting black and white removes the distraction of color and instead focuses on contrast, Classic Chrome tends to be half way in between but done in such a beautiful way that describing it as merely reducing saturation simply does not do it justice.

I find the Velvia setting to be a little too saturated for what i’ve been shooting but I can imagine shooting some Autumn leaves or a field of grass in this setting and getting some amazing colors. 

The black and white settings are excellent. I bumped up the shadow and highlight tones by +1 and shoot with the yellow filter option. That classic silver & black look is easily achieved with the Fuji. I’ve seen some great results with this configuration, so good that I often shoot in black and white instead converting in post (another thing that I thought i’d never say) 

Street Dancers

Street Dancers

Convenient 

I bought the Fuji leather case and thats it. No filters, no lenses.  I’m done. My inner gear nut did look at the conversion lenses but then I told my self no, that defeats the purpose of why I wanted this camera.  Just throw it in a bag and go, don’t even think about it. I find i’ve been carrying this camera all the time now.  Meeting up with friends, wandering around the city or just going to the farmers markets.  I don’t pack gear and screw around with hoods, filters and lenses for a casual outing anymore. 

X100T Leather Case

X100T Leather Case

The X100T has a built in ND filter which has allowed me to shoot wide open in bright daylight. I’ve found this to be extremely useful as usually I would never leave the house without a CPL or ND filter on a bright sunny day, with the X100T it’s just a few button presses away.

The X100T has a built in flash which you won’t read much about in other reviews but I thought I should mention it as I find it to be a perfect little flash. It’s never over powered and never whites out the subject. It consistently gives me just that right amount of light to brighten a dark scene and I have found it incredibly useful. I would normally never use the inbuilt flash on other cameras as I hate that white “flashed face” look but I’m a big fan of the one on the X100T.  Just another little addition, like the ND filter that makes this such a convenient camera.

An Instrument Not A Device

I was thinking about this the other day. What is it about this camera that I enjoy so much. My Sony shoots higher res and higher quality images from a technical standpoint but I reach for this little Fuji more often.

It occurred to me that whilst the Sony is an amazing camera and capable of excellent images, it still feels like an electronic device. The sharp edge styling and endless amounts of high tech features give of a slightly sterile feeling.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my A7II, but the Fuji just feels different, then I realized that the X100T feels like an instrument rather than a device. When I put it to my eye I pay attention to the scene more. The manual aperture ring and shutter speed dial give the feeling as though you’re configuring the photo. You spend that extra amount of time dialing in the right setting and although sometimes you get it wrong, this just makes it that much sweeter when you nail that shot. 

You rarely shoot in full auto with the X100T so you have a sense of satisfaction when that photo turns out great. You didn’t just click the shutter and got a great photo you made decisions to get that great photo which I feel ultimately improves your photography. 

Character Over Perfection

The images from this camera have a character that is hard to describe. I’m sure a seasoned professional could explain it better than me but in simple terms the Fuji images are just beautiful to look at. 

They are not perfect, they are not razor sharp, they are not 100% color accurate, but I think this is exactly what makes this camera great. 

Its the subtle changes in color and tone that help tell the story, the slight exaggeration that turns a boring string of words into an interesting sentence

This is the opposite to my Sony which I feel sometimes is a little too accurate. I end up post processing photos to inject some character into them and skew the colors or details enough to make them more pleasing to the eye.

Nobody wants to see a photo that looks exactly how your eye would see it, that’s like writing a book about eating a sandwich. Its the subtle changes in color and tone that help tell the story, the slight exaggeration that turns a boring string of words into an interesting sentence. Thats where the Fuji excels, taking the ordinary and adding a slight twist on it to make it interesting.  It’s a character that’s very distinct in the Fuji images, and I’m a big fan. 

My Perfect Combination

As I mentioned above I recently gave up my DSLR gear and went mirrorless. I think i’ve now found my perfect combination with the A7II and the X100T. I have all bases covered here. I can also fit my entire photo kit in a regular sized back pack with room to spare. That’s including lenses, bodies, flash and filters.  The Fuji comes with me almost everywhere and the Sony comes when I need multiple lenses. 

Conclusion

Shooting with the Fuji X100T has re-enforced the notion in my mind that there is more to a good camera than simply a sharp image and fancy features. There’s a lot to be said about the subtle nuances in an image and how a camera processes colors.  

You could imagine that it’s very easy to get this wrong and end up with a product that produces expensive Instagram images. Fuji seems to have this color game down to an art.   

Whilst the rest of the world is trying to out do each other with image quality, megapixel size and ultimate sharpness Fuji are focused on creating cameras that are simply a joy to use yet still produce beautiful images.  I have found my self wanting to learn my X100T inside and out including the features i’ll probably never use where as I typically just learn what I need to know and not much more on other cameras.  It’s hard to explain why that is, but one would assume it relates back to my previous point about feeling more like an instrument rather than a device. 

Bottom line, it’s a solid camera capable of fantastic images with a small range of film simulations that are actually useful. I’m a fan and I hope Fuji continue to produce future version of the X100 series cameras, even though they might be considered niche, I can safely say i’ll be in line to buy the future versions whatever they may be. 

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