Wednesday 19 October 2011

Fuji X100 part 3

Readers of this blog may recall my initial musings about the Fuji X100

Upon first handling I was intrigued but I nominally gave the nod to the Sony NEX 5

And pointed out some of the X100's short comings.

Then why do I find myself looking at one on my coffee table, having shelled out a premium for this fabulous, if at times flawed, camera.

I cannot recall quite so much so much been written about a camera.

Though this is not why I bought it.

It is one of those Camera's which has actually been following me around, you know bumping into people who have one and to a man and woman they all have been passionate about their  X100, all had a certain glint in their eye, and talked about joy in their picture taking.

I took a call last week form a friend who is going to be working as a stills photographer on a major Hollywood production over the next few months, they asked me what I thought a good unobtrusive and silent choice for a camera alongside their Canon 5d's and I found myself suggesting they try out an X100.....and in the process I somehow persuaded myself to buy one.

Well a couple of weeks into ownership, I have no cause to regret my decision, not yet at least.

I have been lucky enough not to be affected by some of the issues which reportedly affected the early camera's, such as lock ups and pretty compromised firmware.

That is not to say it has all been plain sailing as I will explain.

Fuji have designed a truly beautiful camera, one which really looks and feels a cut above the rest, with some ground breaking features too, including it's clever hybrid viewfinder.

When I bought the camera I thought I would not use the EVF but I must say I find it so good I don't use the optical finder as often as I thought I would

It is compromised by a super baffling menu system, which does seem to take an age to navigate ones way around, battery life can be suspect too if you don't watch it, it caught me out today in fact.....

Battery indicator goes from three bars, to two bars, to flat in moments

It also needs a lot more horsepower in terms of how fast it is, write speed can be slow, and it's not possible to make any adjustments while it is writing to card, a glaring fault. 

Having spent a lot of the budget on look feel and build perhaps Fuji ran out of money for a decent processor inside the camera.

And while we are on the subject of speed and cards, I was initially caught out by a 40 second start up time, my first thoughts were 'what have I just bought?' 

What I have found out is it is very card sensitive, and when I switched the card out for a super fast 16gb Hoodman Raw Steel (named thus because it is steel reinforced and is so much more robust than other offerings which can be rather fragile) I found it improved matters no end, and providing I ALWAYS reformat the card in camera, it starts up in an acceptable second or so.

Autofocus is passable, in good light all is well, but in low light, the natural habitat of the X100, it can really struggle, even when you actively seek out points of contrast and AF friendly areas it can take two or three attempts to get focus, in which time the picture has often been missed. This, in my opinion, is the single biggest single failing of the camera
and the Manual focus is an act of cruel comedy so you can't reliably fall back on that either and I feel is best avoided as is the video mode, which is average.

Fuji have made something of a rod for their own back when some bright spark in the marketing Dept came up with the catch line 'the professionals choice'

Ok here we go, is it a full on pro camera?


Expect it to be and be prepared for the mother of all disappointments.

Can it be used on a Pro shoot? Certainly and I have been doing so, but for a particular type of photo.

A particular type of photo?

Well yes, in action the X100 is THE most unobtrusive camera I have ever used, not just because it has a silent mode, but somehow people are simply not quite so aware that you are shooting. When you use the X100 in silent mode you seem to don a Harry Potter esq cloak of invisibility, you just disappear, on more occasions than I can recall while filming my new documentary I was simply unaware that I was being photographed.

Here is my good friend Vu Bui, unaware I was shooting him...really!

Perhaps it is why it is such a hit in the film world, with Academy award nominated DP's and the like using them.

The camera has it's faults but I still bought one, and I did not buy the very capable Sony NEX.

The reason is soul, something the Fuji X100 has in spades but I have found curiously lacking when I have used the NEX, as good as it is.

All of this comes from a man who has owned five Alfa Romeo's, four rapidly dissolving Alfasuds and a tempetuos GTV6, not the most reliable of cars but goodness SOUL!

If any member of staff of Fuji is reading this, revel in the success that this camera has been, but please wake up to it's shortcomings which led me to tweet 

'Fuji X100.... a dim witted fool of a camera trapped in the most beautifully engineered body. I still like it though'

Words I stand by, but I would still heartily recommend this quirky, deeply flawed but charming camera

It dares to be different in a world of sameness, and delivers photographs that no other camera can. 


I'm waiting until I'm in a silent distraction free environment before I do this, as it does look rather more involved than updating the firmware on a Canon or Nikon, though it does claim to improve the AF...fingers crossed.


Andy Power said...

I think the Alfa comment sums this little beauty up in one for car lovers, it was the analogy I used to describe it to someone!!

Unknown said...

Hi Andy,

Thanks for the comment

And so it came to pass that the beautiful dumb blond of a camera saved my sorry incompetent behind on a press call for Olympic Golden greats