Back in the early part of this millennium (the 00s?) I was still a film shooter and used a rangefinder camera for most of my travel/documentary photography. Now that I’ve permanently switched to DSLRs (and could never afford a digital Leica M) I’ve been missing the simplicity and unobtrusive nature a rangefinder offered. I’ve had my eye on the Fuji cameras for quite some time as a hopeful poor man’s Leica digital rangefinder since the first release of the Fuji XPro1 in 2012. At that time the Fuji cameras just didn’t have the same feel to me but I recently came across the Fujifilm X100T and thought, although it will not be a replacement for my professional kit, or a real substitute for a Leica M series, it could get me closer to carrying a camera around for personal photos again. This review is based on one month of solid use with the X100T carrying it every day. I will qualify this with the fact that I detest carrying large, bulky cameras around for personal snap shooting and wanted to see if the small size and power the X100T packs could be a camera that I wouldn’t mind around my neck for lengthy periods of time.
On first use out of the box I am impressed with the aesthetics and design. Fuji has done an excellent job with its design and produced a very sleek looking camera. The design of it just makes you want to use it. The nice thing about the X100T is that the essentials (aperture, shutter speed) are laid out nicely on the camera body and the few features that aren’t (ISO, file format, and more) are easily accessed with the handy quick menu represented by a very obvious ‘Q’ button on the rear of the body. I find it easy to shoot with out of the box without referencing the manual.
One immediate small downfall for me are the size of the aperture and focus rings on the lens. They are both very shallow and hard to manipulate quickly and I feel a bit like King Kong delicately handling Ann Darrow. I will say that this personally is probably the most awkward part of the design; I only have medium sized hands and found it too small most of the time to quickly switch apertures and focus manually without fumbling for a few seconds each time I grab the lens. Likely with time I would get used to it but found myself using the autofocus more often than not because of this point. Luckily the autofocus capability on this camera is awesome and I had no problem at all enjoying its quick and accurate focusing. When time did allow though, I found myself using the manual focus in conjunction with the handy punchin/magnify feature that is accessed by the rear of the camera by pushing in the lateral wheel. This allowed me to check my focus on static or slow/nonmoving objects/people and is a very cool feature. To further comment on the autofocus, I found that it was very excellent in low light. And by low light I mean that with a good edge it can lock on wide open in near darkness.
I was also quite impressed with the X100T at high ISO. The noise is small and tight at 1600 and 3200 and even usable at 6400 however the shadows do exhibit quite a bit of grain when pushed to the top. Another great feature of this camera is that you can put it in full silent mode and it doesn’t make a beep or peep. I found this great for candid people shooting or situations where the shutter noise would draw attention to the photo being taken. Big points here for silent shooting capabilities. As someone who was excited about an optical viewfinder (OVF) I was surprised at how much I did enjoy the electronic viewfinder (EVF). The real-time, real-exposure, view is actually more of a joy to use than I expected and far less annoying than older versions of EVF that felt very digital.
Unfortunately the toggle switch that switches from EVF to OVF was not working for most of the last two weeks of use so I ended up using the EVF most of the time. Sadly this was my own fault as I did not realize that when in macromode (the macromode is awesome too and allows a close focus distance of 4 inches) the camera does not let you use the OVF. Maybe this was in the manual, but as I said I did not read it. Thankfully the EVF is fantastic! The added bonus of the EVF is that it doubles as a mini version of the LCD screen (you can turn the LCD on and off and jump between using the EVF or LCD to view the menu) and in a few situations I found this useful when it would have been conspicuous to light up the LCD and change settings or review photos.
Truly not too much negative to report with this camera. However much it lacks in versatility it makes up for in size and usability. You will use this camera! It is small enough to not draw eyes, intimidate your subject(s), burden your shoulder, or discourage you from having a camera with you; and it packs a good enough punch to get great photos albeit not in too low of light. The fixed focal length will have you yearning for another lens from time to time but if you’re happy with a 35mm lens for most of your shooting this is the camera for you. The X100T may not be as sharp as a professional lens when wide open but it is acceptably sharp. Coming in at a price tag of $1300 it’s a hefty amount for a snap shooter style camera where most people will stick to their iPhone. However, as an option to take high quality photos when traveling or low impact documentary shooting it is definitely an option for the professional or highcaliberamateur shooter who will want more control that an iPhone will offer.
Will this replace a DSLR? No. It is not versatile or sharp enough to be a DSLR killer but it is another tool in the toolbox for when you need its unique capability to size ratio. I would not hesitate to have this as an extra tool in the camera bag for travel assignments and situations where less gear is the best option. As I mentioned I never carry a camera around for personal photography and was hoping that the X100T may be an option to do so and the biggest motivator with this test was the size and weight. I can say that with carrying this camera around for almost 30 days straight it is indeed a great camera for this or anytime you don’t want to be weighed down by a DSLR or equivalent. Coming in at just under 1 lb in weight I never found it to be a burden at all. Like I said, you will use this camera.
About the author:
Marlin Olynyk is a photographer & video specialist focusing on helping organizations and initiatives develop creative visual content. Marlin produces visual narratives in themes promoting travel, conservation, recreation, and the human condition. He is located in Vancover BC. More of his work can be viewed at marlinolynyk.com