Fstoppers Reviews the FujiFilm X100S

Fstoppers Reviews the FujiFilm X100S

The FujiFilm X100S appears to be the camera everyone is seeking this summer. The upgrade to the highly successful X100 has promised faster speeds and additional features and the early reports have been singing its praise. So much praise, in fact, that Zack Arias recently made the statement that it will single handedly kill the DSLR in its tracks. But will it?


Many people have commented that this camera is simple by design, however I have to disagree. The menu itself is complicated, spans well over 5 pages, and in no way does it seem to have any organization to it. It jumps from Self-Timer to ISO, without any explanation as to why. Aside from that, switching to something such as video mode changes the menu in its entirety. It also is filled with arbitrations. Given the ISO 200 standard, features such as the Neutral Density filter seems to be no more useful than ISO expansion to ISO 100; so why have such a feature, Fuji?

Aside from the menu being unnecessarily complex, the camera itself seems to lack some obvious features. The aperture and shutter speed mechanically jump full stops, and allow for fine tuning by using buttons and dials on the back. This just further complicates things, as now you're manual dials say your shutter speed is one thing, when infact it can be 2/3rd of a stop different. While I love the design they're going for with the physical dials, it just doesn't feel practical when their readings are incorrect at times.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this camera is that I really like it. In no way is a fixed lens practical in my work, nor is having that fixed lens be a 23mm f/2. Also, in no way is this camera small enough to pocket, so it certainly isn't a camera that you can have on you at all times. My phone still owns that space. However that being said, the images from this camera are sharp and gorgeous. At times, it even rivaled my Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon 35mm f/1.4L. And when you start navigating the features, you find some interesting ones. Multiple exposures, AE Bracketing, film simulation, panoramics and HD Video functions are all included in this little guy.

The features are a huge improvement from its predecessor. The autofocus is fast and accurate, something that can't be said for the original X100. The camera starts up quickly and is ready to shoot within a fraction of a second of being turned on, another fatal flaw to the X100. The hybrid viewfinder is as sexy as ever, with an overabundance of information overlaid within the viewfinder (More on that below).


Above is (Straight Out of The Cameras) photos between the FujiFilm X100S, and a Canon 5d Mark II w/ Canon 35mm f/1.4L. While the exposures are slightly off (Because of the complicated full stops system the X100S), the color and bokeh coming from them both are surprisingly similar. The Canon 35mm f/1.4 has a slightly smoother bokeh, but it also comes at nearly twice the price in gear compared to the Fuji X100S.

The camera does still struggle with low light focusing. Sometimes focusing for a couple seconds and often giving up, it makes low light conditions a bit of a pain to shoot in. Often, in low light conditions, I found the lens backfocusing ever so slightly, so I was often just switching to to manual mode when indoors in these conditions.

Speaking of manual focusing, on this camera it works great. Using the ‘Digital Split Image’ feature makes you feel as if you’re holding a $5,000 rangefinder. Using the viewfinder, you're able to line up horizontal bands and fire. If done correctly, you should have everything you want in focus. Another new feature in the focusing department is the Focus Peaking. Using this technique, originally found in old film cameras, you’re able to focus manually with supreme accuracy. These features, for me, made up for and in the end balanced out my issues with the slow low-light focusing performance.

Another excellent feature is the use of a leaf shutter. Paired with hot shoe, this allows the X100S to sync flashes at speeds over 1/1000th of a second, something not possible for DSLRs (without the use of hypersyncing). This is extremely exciting news for strobist, allowing them to shoot with wide open apertures, and without the use of ND filters.

The 23mm f/2 lens (Which is about a 35mm on a full frame sensor) feels and works great, however is the exact same lens you'd find on its predecessor, the FujiFilm X100. While a little soft wide open, it still performs great and really finds it sharpness around f/2.8-f/4.

Aside from just photography functions, the FujiFilm X100S is equipped with HD video functions. In my personal experience, the footage was great and the settings were easy to use. However, no additional features have been added to differentiate it from the X100 in terms of video.

Appearance And Feel

Perhaps this is my favorite part of this camera: it's just really pretty. With its brushed metal and dimpled faux leather, it's a modern take on a rangefinder you'd expect to see in the 70s. Improvements to its form factor from the X100 certainly don't go unnoticed either. The Q button has been added, and makes navigating through the menu slightly less of a chore.

The hybrid viewfinder is quite simply, sexy. With an overlay of information, the viewfinder feels almost futuristic in nature. The ability to put even the menu into the viewfinder, it makes to so this camera is never leaving your eye when shooting. However, with the downfall of a hybrid viewfinders, also comes the cropping issue. Since the viewfinder itself is not through the lens, it makes it so cropping of images is off axis. You really need to pay attention to guidelines, as the viewfinder extends beyond the vision of the lens itself. If you’re cropping tight through the viewfinder, you may actually crop too tight in the final image.

In comparison to the X100, the buttons and dials feel stiffer which gives the camera a more rugged feel. In no way am I worried that this little camera is going to break on me or fall apart and for $1300, it shouldn’t.

But perhaps what I like most about this camera is how it makes me feel when I'm using it.  It makes me look at photography as an art again, and not as a commercial endeavor. It made me feel and drew me back into what made me love photography in the first place: the feeling of simply walking around with a camera and experimenting. It's not about getting the sharpest images for your clients, or adjusting lights inches by inches to get a perfect wrap around light on someone's face, it was just about clicking a shutter at things you like. This camera, in all of its limiting features, gave me a new sense of love for the art.

Example Photos

All photos below are unedited and straight out of the camera from the course of the last 2 weeks walking around with it.


What I Liked
Great Image Quality
Leaf Shutter
Plenty of Features
Manual Focusing Options
Beautifully Designed

What could use improvement
Complicated Menus
Bad Low-Light Focusing
1/3rds Stops system for Aperture and Shutter Complicated

There is no doubt in my mind that the FujiFilm X100S is a huge improvement to the X100, and is a wonderful camera. The images are sharp, the colors are vibrant, and the performance is stellar. Is it a DSLR replacement like Zack Arias claims? Absolutely not. Without the ability to remove the 23mm fixed lens, you're still left wanting more diversity. While this may replace the DSLR as a walkaround camera, many camera companies have already created that (Canon S100, Nikon P300 or even a Sony NEX5/Nex7 for example). It you're looking to get a new camera that makes you reinvestigate photography and have $1300 rotting away in your bank account, the FujiFilm X100S is a wonderful choice. If you're looking to find 90% of a Leica at 20% of the cost, the FujiFilm X100S is a your camera. But if you're looking for something to replace the DSLR around your neck, you will need to look elsewhere.

If you want to pick up the FujiFilm X100S for yourself, you can find it here.

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Um...Zach. If you rotate the dial it will change the shutter speed in smaller increments. If you move the back button left and right, it will adjust the aperture in 1/3rd stops.

Beat me to it...

Zach Sutton's picture

Woah. The quick guide didn't mention anything from this. I'll be sure to edit my post to reflect that. Thank you.

I dont't even think its in the full manual. I found it completely by accident. That's one of the things I like about the X100s - a new surprise every time I use it.

Zach Sutton's picture

Hah, I appreciate your optimism. For me personally, it's all about functionality. If I don't know a feature exists, and they don't tell me...then thats just another things that annoys me. These is no doubt this this camera is a great camera, but it just seems to painfully complicated for no reason to me.

However, (As you can probably tell from the unedited images from it) I really like the B&W film preset on it. I never thought I'd like a built in preset in a camera, since you can just do that stuff in post. But I suppose this camera isn't meant to be a "We can change that in post" camera, is it?

I will say the first week I had the camera I was questioning what all the noise was about. The workflow sucked, so I thought. I do agree there are some things that I would like to see different but the more I play with this camera the more I love it.

It's like Fuji built this camera without having ever having used a DSLR. The mindset is completely different and if you just forget everything to know about a DLSR and learn how to use the X100S it really is easy to use.

You need to look at this camera as a Digital Film camera. Forget the AF (well kind of) because if you try to put it against a DSLR it gets smoked in good light. So if you place the camera in Manual Focus and press the AFL/AEL the camera will auto focus and lock then fine tune with the focus ring. If you I use a Hybrid manual focus technique

This camera can do things a DSLR just cant

Page 4 of the manual!

You can adjust between shutter speeds (same with aperture) using the back flick dial(s).

The built in stop ranges & speed ranges are simply that, ranged. Minor adjustments are done with those dials... however, I find this annoying.

The menus are a total mess and it's taken me a month + shooting with it to get used to where the functions I need are since there is little reasoning behind where things are placed.

It is what it is. A small camera that I can professionally use without having to carry huge amounts of crap around. I use it for travel work... and have used it recently for studio work as well (High speed sync is nice in studio).

Good review though I disagree w/ many of your assertions about the camera... and some of the things you overlooked.



Zach Sutton's picture

Thanks for the info, I've edited the review to reflect that. Perhaps that just further proves my point that this camera seem obnoxiously complicated at times. I understand that they're trying to give it that old school feel and look, but when it disrupts from the shooting experience with it, then it becomes a problem.

I couldn't see how this camera would be practical at all in studio. With the wide angle fixed lens, you get a lot of distortion that'd be incredibly visible in a studio setting. I personally always shoot 85mm or longer in studio...so I couldn't imagine this providing much use for me.

Zach Sutton's picture

Gorgeous Photo.

I'm sure it can be made into a wonderful studio camera, I just don't find the focal length very flattering most of the time. For beauty work especially, I try to shoot beyond 100mm. However, again, you got some gorgeous results Thomas.

There are a couple of things you can do to help with distortion. Knowing the final use of the images can be a big help when deciding how to frame the shot.

If you step back and shoot at a distance as to not distort the subject you can crop in post. The files hold up at 100% crops nicely. You must consider most images of headshots are printed no larger than 8x10 or are used for web or album.

Also you can move in and shoot close if you shoot from a flattering angle. I suggest to shoot down on your subject if you plan to fill the frame.

Lastly, I know Fuji makes a WA lens. It would be nice to see them make an 85mm - 135mm equivalent for portrait work. BTW, I tend to agree you get better portrait images in the 85-135 mm FL. But again 35mm will do in a pinch.

One day I hope to offer a piece for Fstoppers for now I just keep doing my thing. Thanks for the kind words, T

One minute you're saying you can't see it being practical in a studio and the next minute in a reply you're saying you're sure it can be a wonderful studio camera - make your mind up!

Zach Sutton's picture

"I'm sure it can be made into a wonderful studio camera, I just don't find the focal length very flattering most of the time. "

I said that I didn't find it practical as a studio camera, both times.

It isn't complicated, it is just different. If you try to be open minded and play with it long enough, I promise it will be a camera you can't live without. If I had to describe this camera, I would say its the worlds first Digital Film Camera.

I've used mine in the studio no problem attaching a Cybercommander and controlling an Einstein. Gorgeous color and sharpness. Didn't notice distortion. I wouldnt use this as a primary studio camera, but outdoors or on location when you dont want to be noticed, controlling a speedlight with it can get some great photos.

Yes. The ability to really really control the ambient light on an outdoor shoot is fantastic, but not unique to the x100s.

Again, that's fair... and their are a lot of people that are using it in studio for great effects... so it obviously has studio usability. I think it would be more fair to say "I can't see how it would work into my studio workflow" - but I think that's what you were saying anyways.

Granted, much of the studio use has to do with HSS and using that to blend both creative ambient with flash... something that can be done with a good set of triggers that have HSS functionality as well.

If I were just a studio shooter, I'd have never bought the camera, but because I travel all the freaking time, it's a huge asset in my bag, allowing me to carry one less FX body and still feel like I'm not missing something.

The menus remain obnoxious - this is a fact.

Thanks for your reply.

Sorry if I sound harsh Zach, but you didn’t even learn the camera before you started writing about it. For example, the ND filter is great for fill flash in bright sunlight at wide apertures like f2 or f2.8. It’s a fantastic feature and necessary for daylight fill flash while blurring out the background, unless you want to try to hang physical ND filters on the lens instead.

And yes, the menu system on my 5D3 was far easier to learn than the x1000s- which took several days of practice to get the hang of. Total mess.

Thanks for the review. I've had my 100s for a few weeks. It is frustrating at first. Fuji just does some things differently and there is a "finger dance" to relearn.

A couple of points-

The ND filter is a true physical 3 stop filter - not an ISO adjustment.

The view finder can be switched from an optical viewfinder to an electronic viewfinder. It's like live view on back of the camera but sent to the viewfinder. There is no parallax error, but it can be hard to see in the bright sun.

Hold down the DISP BACK button for a couple of seconds and it goes into silent mode. It turns off the beeps, shutter sound, and AF assist light. It really is near silent. You have to hold the camera near your ear to hear the shutter fire. Nice if you are going for some candid photos without drawing attention to yourself.

I have a 5D MKIII and the 100S. The 100S has Better IQ

Are you sure you know what you're talking about?

"Features such as the Neutral Density filter seems to be nothing more than ISO expansion to ISO 100; so why not just call it what it is, Fuji?"

The ND filter is a physical 3-stop ND filter which slides in front of the lens, you can actually see it happen! Fuji calls it an ND filter because that is what it is!

Whilst the lens aperture ring is in full-stops, I'd hardly call turning a dial (just like you do on your Canon!) to get 1/3rd stops. "complicated".

Zach Sutton's picture

I've rephrased the ND statement. What I was trying to express was what the point of it was. When you have a camera with a fast lens, and leaf shutter, do you really need an ND filter at that point? I don't see it being practical.

And the Fuji is nothing like a Canon. A Canon, or Nikon uses a single dial that changes the shutter speed and a single dial that changes the aperture. The FujiFilm X100S uses two. First you set your shutter speed with the mechanical dial, then you use a second dial to fine tune the shutter speed. Same goes for the aperture. It works nothing like a traditional camera.

The point of the ND filter is two fold. If you've used the camera extensively you'll know that you can't shoot wide open at faster than 1/1000th because of the leaf shutter. The ND filter allows you to shoot wide open in bright sunlight. The ND filter also allows you to kill pretty much the brightest sunlight with a speedlight, in fact you can often nearly kill the sun with the on-board flash! It is one of the best features of the camera so it's hard to see why you don't see the point of it.

The amount of time you really *have* to shoot in 1/3rd stops in the real world is so limited that it just isn't an issue when you use the camera daily. I still maintain it isn't exactly complicated - just different. This isn't a DSLR camera, it doesn't look like one, it isn't designed to be one.

I dont see what is the big deal about fine tuning shutter or aperture speed and HOW much does that effect actual photography given the excellent ISO performance and Auto ISO on the camera?! I like the simple aperture and exposure dials, the fine tuning is an icing on the cake IF needed....if Fuji had implemented the fine settings on the main dials, the camera would SUCK! its an extra step between the photographer and the picture, its another technical annoyance that gets in the way of being creative, THIS IS NOT AN SLR and Technical reviews by SLR users suck.

I agree!

"It works nothing like a traditional camera." I think you mean "it works nothing like a DSLR, but rather like a traditional camera from the days of film."
But rather than limit your adjustments to full stops the way a traditional camera did, FUJI provides a method of fine tuning the exposure.
When comparing it to a DSLR, I can understand where you find it counterintuitive or fiddly. But when compared to the style of camera it is emulating, it comes across as a logical method.

You didn't rephrased anything... I can still read :"Given the ISO 200 standard, features such as the Neutral Density filter seems to be no more useful than ISO expansion to ISO 100; so why have such a feature, Fuji?"

Which is plainly wrong.

Zach Sutton's picture

I use ND filters on a daily basis. The purpose they serve for me is to lower the ambient light so I can shoot at a lower aperture when strobing. This camera has a leaf shutter, which will work in largely the same way as an ND filter, as I'm able to sync 3 stops more than I normally would with a DSLR.

So those 3 stops counteract each other in the process. Shoot with the ND filter and strobes at 1/250th of a second wouldn't be much different than shooting at 1/1000 of a second without an ND filter. ISO expansion down to 100 also works largely in the same way the ND filter would by lowering the light sensitivity of the sensor.

And that is why I don't really see the purpose of the feature.

Like all reviews, this reflect my personal workflow. The ND filter in this camera has no real use to me and the photography I produce. It may be different than how you work. We've openly spoke about how we write reviews tailored to us. I'm not going to take this camera and pretend I'm a natural light lifestyle photographer, because I'm not.

As for how we write our reviews, you're welcome to check out this article posted some time ago about the process --

However, I'm going to refrain from commenting on this any further. Perhaps you've had better experience with the ND filter built into this camera. Also its worth noting that I reviewed this camera quite favorably. I really like this camera. It has a lot of features I wouldn't use, and a lot of features that I never thought I'd use and did. But my thoughts put into this review are my own. They're not filtered by Fuji, by Fstoppers, or by any of our sponsors or advertisers. We're trying to give honest, practical and unbiased reviews on equipment...that's all.