Fujifilm X100T Review: The Pro Toy
There’s a Japanese camera manufacturer by the name of Fujifilm — and they’re rather good at what they do, despite being behind better-known counterparts — one starts with an “N” and the other with a “C” — however, that doesn’t matter. When Fujfilm has a camera as small and lightweight as this one, with all the tech needed to make great photographs — 16 megapixels are enough; the spec-wars aren’t important in this context.
So let’s get to it: the chance to work with one of their most-beloved cameras: the X100T. It’s a small, mirrorless camera with a fixed lens, but with the control and quality to stand-in for a bigger, more expensive camera in a pinch.
Also, it looks rather charming.
Price as Reviewed: $1100 at Amazon
[pullquote]”Get ready to go retro.”[/pullquote]
The Fujifilm isn’t so much a retro camera as it is a 21st century device of precise imaging. It might look hipster — *shudders* — but it’s very much in the present, with a spec sheet that I’ll explain in the next section.
What is important about the X100T’s aesthetic is that it is completely attractive while remaining functional: leather-style grip around both ends, a plethora of knobs and buttons that allow for maximum manual control: exposure, aperture, shutter, focus lock, directional buttons, trash, function button, view mode, drive, scroll wheel, display modes, viewfinder diopter wheel — it has everything, and a little more. It might even take some getting used to at first, but in my hands (and in yours) the X100T can become pretty familiar, in due time (and with a lot of shooting).’
Fujfilm’s powerful little camera also comes in silver, but let’s agree wholeheartedly that the black looks especially sharp, and remain biased.
It is important to note that since the X100T is a fixed-lens camera, that the lens design has to integrate perfectly with the body, and it does here. The manual focus ring sends a signal to the sensors that is expressed as mechanical feedback, so you can tell that you’re adjusting the focus — indeed, it is the little things that count.
As for the two flaps: you get one battery/SD card door made of black plastic and a side door that has your inputs: micro HDMI, micro USB and audio jack.
[pullquote]”Come prepared, because the X100T tests your judgement.”[/pullquote]
Being that I’ve been writing about technology for seven years or so, I’ve shot with plenty of cameras, all requiring different levels of knowledge and management depending on the setting.
But never has a camera asked so much of me as the X100T has.
To clarify, I’m not saying the X100T is a difficult camera to use, but isn’t a point-and-shoot (clearly) and even is slightly more involved than say, an entry-level DSLR. That’s because, as easy it is to leave all the settings on auto and let the computer do the rest, you’re not getting your money’s worth if you do.
For example, I first changed the focus box, which by default is tiny, and makes it harder for the camera to focus on larger objects and sometimes even in macro focusing mode.
That brings me to the lens of this camera: it’s sort of cheating. The 23mm f/2 lens sees as a 35mm would from a full-frame sensor, despite being on a 16 megapixel X-Trans CMOS sensor. So, while it may be too wide for tight scenes or wildlife photography, if used correctly it can be used in almost every other field of photography.
Native ISO from 200–6400 (extended to 51,200), an auto flash (which I never used) and WiFi with a reliable remote control app for iOS or Android, are the other specs that really round off this camera.
To top it off, Fujifilm includes what it calls “simulations” — they’re basically filters — but they’re beyond what VSCO or Instagram may offer: they’re really picturesque of certain film types and editing techniques. While all of the shots seen in my example gallery are taken either in vibrant or standard film type, the classic chrome type is reminiscent of Kodachrome, and looks amazing.
[pullquote]”The X100T was born and engineered to take photos, period.”[/pullquote]
Oh, but what about video? Well, this isn’t a video camera, but it does have the chops to fill up your SD card full of 1080p HD video, even at 24 fps and with manual control of some sort, but it’s not meant for that; use your phone or another system.
Quick note for battery life: keep a spare battery handy if you plan on going on trips. The X100T doesn’t have the world’s longest battery life, and a day of consistent shooting can leave you a few bars down, so it’s best to work freely without the worry of completely losing a charge.
Some examples of shooting quality are in the clickable gallery below, which also conveniently cycles between pictures every four seconds.
All images have simply been resized down, and not edited in any other way; they look fantastic.
Now that you’ve seen what can be done with this camera — and a more seasoned photographer can do much better than me, I’m sure — there’s something I must tell you. Two things actually, and that starts with the focus types: single autofocus, continuous focus and manual focus. AFc is relatively useless, as it just keeps refocusing when you’re about to take the shot, whereas human input can be more exact and artistic. The AFs itself is usually very accurate, but it’s not the fastest system I’ve used in a camera of this size; it also takes some practice to time correctly. Tap the shutter button and you will get a lock, but experience with the X100T has told me to do this more than once, at least twice (unless it’s a sport shot, in which case you need to prepare yourself differently).
The other note I’d like to bring up is the viewfinder and 1040K-dot screen: it’s great and gives you honest, real-time representation of what you’re shooting, exposure included, but that’s not the cool part here: it’s the electronic/optical viewfinder combo.
This clever bit of engineering from Fujfilm allows for one of three things to happen when looking through the viewfinder: an optical version, an electronic version that is just as usable as the screen, and a hybrid — yes, you can see the world as-is, as well as a small window in the lower-right that displays the electronic interpretation of that.
That’s just plain awesome.
[pullquote]”A toy at first, but a seasoned tool later.”[/pullquote]
The X100T shoots like a pro camera in a point-and-shoot’s body, without sacrificing anything except interchangeable lenses and a few autofocus adjustments. It’s a gem in a sea of cameras that exist, and no doubt in several years will be just as useful and applicable to shoot with.
It tests what you know about photography and you come out a little more experienced having used it. Props to Fujfilm for making photography with a small camera fun, and blurring the line between phones with filters against a real camera.
- Shoots great photographs
- Retro style and feel, modern internals
- Viewfinder: it is good.
- Small, lightweight
- Take note of battery on long days of shooting
- The lens isn’t for everything
- Autofocus isn’t the snappiest