While Mike Evans is getting to grips with the Fuji X100T and comparing it with the X-T1, I’ve been struggling manfully to get to grips with it’s predecessor, the X100S – and frustratingly failing to do so.
A little background: A couple of years ago, back in 2013, I had my first brush with an X100. At the time the X-E1 was my main camera, and I was thinking that the X100 would be complementary.
I struggled with it then, and couldn’t quite work out why but, a couple of months later, I sold it on. Fast forward to just before Christmas this year. With the announcement of the X100T, the X100S could be found at decent prices very lightly used on the secondhand market.
That, plus the release of the TCL-X100, made me seriously reconsider. I pulled the trigger twice – on a mint X100 and the teleconverter.
Single in January Challenge
I decided to use the X100S to take part in the 2015 “Single in January” picture-a-day activity on the Photographer’s Lounge forum. This is a lighthearted “challenge” to use one camera and one lens for the month to capture and share one photo a day. I thought that working with it every day would help me to get to grips with the X100S and learn its quirks and foibles; I had done exactly the same back in 2012 with the Ricoh GRDIII. This time, however, it doesn’t seem to be working.
I think that there are a number of factors at work here, some are physical and some psychological. Physical first: I have large hands with long and slender fingers and I find it really hard to get a secure grip on the “naked” body of the X100S when shooting, particularly when holding it to my eye and using the hybrid viewfinder. I know that the built-in grip bump on the X100T has been beefed up, so I suspect that I am not the only one to find it a bit fiddly. I have a third-party grip, which does help, as does a thumb-rest. The grip assists in particular with the TCL-X100 and its weight; the thumb-rest aids stability, whether the main grip is attached or not.
Slender made bulky
But the problem with both these accessories, useful as they are, is that they cannot help but make the camera more bulky and even less pocketable than it is already, which tends to defeat at least one of the objects of having a small camera in the first place. I think my handling problems have in turn contributed to one of my main issues, which appears to be camera shake. This is not something I have particularly had an issue with in the past; I have hand held Leica Ms to 1/15 and still got good results, but I do think it is a factor of the unsteady hold I have on the camera body. Even with Auto ISO set to a not unreasonable 1/100s I seem unable to hold the “naked” body steady at my eye.
The net result is that I am struggling to produce decent results with the X100S – and I am not enjoying the journey.
Barnack bites back
If I compare the X100S with two other cameras that I shoot in a similar way – my old Leica IID “Barnack” and my Ricoh GR, I find that it is overall already a bit bulkier than both, even in its basic unadorned form. The GR is positively svelte, and the classic lines of the IID are actually slightly wider and about the same height but the body is thinner.
With the grip and rest attached, you can see how much more chunky the X100S becomes and with the TCL-X100 screwed to the front it looks positively gargantuan compared to the Leica IID with its 5cm Elmar fully extended. The GR, although smaller overall, provides a firm grip by means of a rubberised coating while the vulcanite of the Leica combined with its almost organic shape means that this 80-plus year old machine can still be held securely and produce great results.
Looking forward, I am also struggling to see where the X100S will fit in “Billworld”. It is too big to slip in a pocket on its own, let alone when grips and thumb rests are attached – and don’t mention the TCL. If I can’t fit it in the proverbial pocket I have to carry a bag, and if I have to carry a bag I may as well take one of my larger cameras in the first place. Catch-22. The TCL-X100, which was one of the drivers for my trying again with an X100, is a really nice piece of kit but heavy, comparatively bulky and fiddly-diddly to slip on and off; it is reminiscent in that regard of the old screwmount lenses.
Then there is the matter of the battery. Most of my other cameras, X-Pro1, X-T1 and X-M10, all take the same battery. The X100S powerpack is different. That means that if I take the X100s and one of the others on a trip I can’t have one set of shared spare batteries and travel with one charger, as I do now.
What all this is leading to, I think, is that I will most likely part company with the X100S once more at the end of the January challenge. Unless I have an epiphany in the next two weeks, I can’t see it remaining as part of my photographic life. I do feel as if I have somehow failed; It’s really frustrating.
I know it is a good camera, well-regarded by others, and that many other photographers have got it to really sing for them. But, it seems, I just cannot and that is the reason I will probably not try a third time and buy an X100T. As Mike says in his article, the X-T1 is not much bigger but the handling is in another world.