Fujifilm X100T Field Test Part I

Old school - updated

By Eamon Hickey | Posted: 01/15/2015

[A note on sample images in this report: Several of these example JPEG images were created from original RAW files using the Fujifilm X100T’s in-camera RAW development feature, which lets you apply film simulations and other camera settings to a RAW image on your SD card, then save a JPEG of the result. More on this in the Images section of part 2 of this report.]

Within an hour or two of unpacking my first digital camera way back in 1996 (a Nikon Coolpix 100 demo unit), I was already dreaming about a compact fixed-lens digital camera for enthusiast photographers with real, direct exposure and focus controls. Sadly, a combination of bad luck and laziness had prevented me from shooting with any Fujifilm X-series models before now, so I jumped at the opportunity to try out the new X100T and see if my almost two-decade longing could be satisfied.

1/500s / f/2 / ISO 800 / 35mm eq. / [original]
Classic street shooting: The Fujifilm X100T is the perfect companion for a street parade in NYC.

Design & Handling

As I unboxed the Fujifilm X100T, I had a few immediate impressions. It is indeed a great-looking camera. It’s just a tad bigger than I was hoping, but it’s also lighter than I expected, a good thing in a camera that I intended to use as a carry-everywhere quality snapshooter. The camera body itself, as well as the control dials and buttons, generally have a high quality feel, but I was disappointed in the somewhat flimsy, light feel of the rear command dial, which is too easy to turn.

Over the next 10 days I carried the Fujifilm X100T with me on most of my daily travels, and its weight and bulk were basically unnoticeable, whether I was using the strap to carry it around my neck or stuffing it into a coat pocket. Its easy portability meant that I had the X100T with me when I found myself amidst a gang of unruly mutts and their tennis balls at the Washington Square Park dog run, and I took the opportunity to try some impromptu portraits from a dog’s-eye view. It was equally easy to carry the camera with me to the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, where I used it for shots of the floats and the giant balloons, as well as some “hail Mary” style pictures of my fellow spectators. I was able to compose those over-the-head shots using the rear LCD even though it doesn’t tilt, but this is the one major design choice on the X100T that I would quibble with. A tilting screen is extremely useful and would have given me more keepers, especially at the dog run.

1/250s / f/5.6 / ISO 400 / 35mm eq. / [editedoriginal]
Well-dressed would-be ball thief bides his time at Washington Square Park dog run. This image has been brightened in post-processing.

The Thanksgiving Parade was my first outing with the Fujifilm X100T, and I was immediately comfortable with the camera’s feel in my hands and general control layout. The one exception is that my large-ish fingers had a little trouble using the lens aperture ring, which is scrunched up very close to the camera body and tricky to grasp, at least for me. This was a minor frustration every time I used the camera. Still, on the basic issue of whether the Fujifilm X100T can serve as an essentially effortless carry-anywhere camera, my answer is a strong yes.

Controls

As we mentioned above, several controls have been redesigned on the Fujifilm X100T compared to the X100S, but one thing that is pretty much unchanged is the old-school analog dial/aperture ring exposure control system that many fans of the X-series cameras love. As I noted in my review of the Nikon Df earlier this year, I cut my photographic teeth on these kinds of controls, and I’m completely comfortable with them. But experience has persuaded me that the push-button/multi-command dial systems that supplanted them in the 1990s — and which are the norm on most other advanced cameras nowadays — really do let you (or at least me) shoot more efficiently. I love old cameras and their designs — and there’s nothing wrong with choosing love over efficiency — but my love is not blind.

Using the Fujifilm X100T on all my different outings didn’t change my opinion on modern vs. old-school controls, especially given my modest struggles with its aperture ring. That one issue aside, I found the camera’s shutter speed and exposure compensation dials to be well placed and easily adjustable without being loose . And the addition of third-EV click stops on the aperture ring is obviously a welcome update. I used it on a landscape shot in Central Park where I was shooting in manual exposure mode and trying to balance handheld shutter speeds, depth-of-field, and a desire to use a low ISO. It turned out that f/4.5 was the f-stop setting I needed, and it was available with a simple click of the lens ring.

As I said, I think the feel of the rear command dial is loose and flimsy, but in fairness I’ll add that I never accidentally changed a setting because of it. (I’d be on guard for this, however, when pulling the camera in and out of coat pockets). Whether this dial is better than the toggle lever on the X100S is open to debate, I think. With one important exception, I found the other buttons and the four-way controller on the Fujifilm X100T to be acceptably well-placed, if just a bit cramped, and they all have a nice feel. I’m sure the four-way controller would be hard to activate accidentally, so that should count as an improvement over the X100S. We already noted that the functions of 7 buttons on the X100T are now customizable, and this does indeed make it easy to set the camera up to your own personal preferences.

The one exception I mentioned is the Fujifilm X100T’s AEL/AFL button, which I had set up to activate autofocus for the technique widely known as “back button” autofocus. I just couldn’t locate it easily by feel, even after shooting several hundred pictures on many different days. This was a significant drawback for me because I rely very heavily on the back button AF method, and I missed some shots because of it. This would, of course, matter much less to someone who doesn’t use the back button technique.

Fuji X100T: Exploring those classic Fuji film simulation modes
1/100s / f/4 / ISO 800 / 35mm eq. / [original]
Developed from RAW in camera using the "Velvia" film simulation.
1/500s / f/2 / ISO 800 / 35mm eq. / [original]

Awaiting the next giant balloon at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Developed from RAW in camera using the "PRO Neg. Std" film simulation mode.

1/125s / f/4.5 / ISO 200 / 35mm eq. / [original]

Hazy winter sky over The Pond at Central Park. Developed from RAW in camera using "Velvia" film simulation and "soft" highlight tone.

Viewfinder

The hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder of Fujifilm’s X100 models is probably their most distinguishing feature, and tons of ink has been spilled describing it. Accordingly, I’ll limit most of my comments to what’s new in the X100T’s viewfinder setup, but this was my first chance to use the hybrid system, so I’ll sprinkle in my thoughts on it.

Like lots of other photographers, I really liked having the flexibility to use optical or electronic viewing on the Fujifilm X100T — it’s a very big benefit. The optical finder (OVF) was perfect one sunny afternoon when I wanted to make an image of strongly backlit pedestrians walking on Church St., the kind of super high contrast scene that can render an electronic viewfinder almost useless. Using the OVF let me see the scene much better, and in this particular street composition I didn’t need perfect framing accuracy. As we noted above, there are also refinements to the information display in the OVF, which I found to be clean and easy to read.

Fuji X100T: OVF + EVF
1/400s / f/8 / ISO 200 / 35mm eq. / [original]
OVF: The optical viewfinder was better for composing this shot of shadows on Church St.
1/80s / f/2.8 / ISO 400 / 35mm eq. / [original]
EVF: The EVF gave me a bright, precise view of this scene. Shot with the "Classic Chrome" film simulation.

A few days before, I used the electronic viewfinder (EVF) of the Fujifilm X100T on a different street scene, a nighttime shot of a guy sitting outside a pizza joint. It gave me a bright view of this dark scene with 100% accurate framing, making the shot easy. I used the EVF many times on other outings, both indoors and out, and it’s top-notch — among the sharpest and easiest to view that I’ve used. On the same sunny afternoon that I used the OVF to shoot the pedestrian shadows, I also tested the X100T’s new Natural Live View mode on the EVF. It did noticeably improve the usability of the EVF in outdoor and high contrast situations — I would probably leave it activated most of the time.

On several outings I played with the Fujifilm X100T’s new “Electronic Rangefinder” window that can be activated in the lower right corner of the OVF. Again, this is remarkably clever technology that will probably please many photographers who like rangefinder cameras, but I didn’t fall in love with it. It works very nicely, but it blocks about 15% of the view, and its location in the lower right corner was hard for me to get used to. But most importantly, I’m sure I can use the back-button AF technique to focus faster and easier in nearly all situations where manual focus has advantages. In short, I admired the smarts behind the Electronic Rangefinder window, but I don’t think I’d use it very much.

1/27s / f/4 / ISO 3200 / 35mm eq. / [original]
Moving on up: ISO 3200 is no problem for the Fuji X100T.

In part 2 of this shooter’s report, I’ll take a look at the Fujifilm X100T’s performance, lens and Wi-Fi features, among other things.

 



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