Why the Fujifilm X100T is my favorite camera

A busker performs for kids at Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA. Straight-out-of-camera JPG using the B&W + Red filter film simulation.

OK, I know there are a million articles out there about why the Fujifilm X100T is such an awesome camera. It’s small. I has a nice big APS-C sensor. The hybrid viewfinder is amazing. Blah blah blah. We all know that.

I’m not going to write in great detail about the technical specs of the X100T (mostly). You can find all the tech stuff on Google. What I am going to write about is my experience using the X100T and why it has become my all-time favorite camera.

My main working setup is a pair of Nikon D600s with a 24–70/2.8 and a 70–200/2.8. With that focal range and the D600’s full-frame sensor (clean images up to ISO 6400), I can shoot nearly anything that isn’t in a pitch-black room. In those instances, I’ll pack an 85/1.8 or a 50/1.4 with me.

That setup gets me versatility, flexibility, and dependability. I know that the bodies and lenses are amazing, and anything that goes wrong (missed focus, poor exposure, etc.) is usually my fault. My clients have never complained about the technical quality of the images I’ve delivered.

However, as great as that setup is, it just isn’t any fun. I’m incredibly familiar with the cameras and lenses and treat them as extensions of my body when I’m working. But they really do feel like tools to get a job done. Swap them out for any other brand of DSLR and lenses and they’d work exactly the same way. Reliable but boring.

This is where the Fujifilm X100T comes in. A little background first.

Before I purchased the X100T, I obsessed over it for months. I read every review I could find. I looked at sample images. I followed photographers who had been shooting with the original X100 and the followup X100S to see what and how they shot. I researched everything about the camera. I’m not one to just buy new gear without seriously and thoroughly considering how I would use it and how it could potentially fit into my working setup.

I thought about renting one for a week, but I knew that wouldn’t be enough time to really get to know the camera. I could do all sorts of test shoots and post-processing experiments, but I’d still be actively thinking about using the camera. To truly understand and appreciate the camera, I had to use it until it became second nature and then think seriously about how I use the camera.

So, a few months ago, I splurged and bought an X100T. I had just finished a major gig and had some spare money to spend. The logical and grown-up choice would’ve been to invest in upgrades or replacement gear (I’m really rough on my lighting gear and have broken several modifiers) or just save the money. However, I hadn’t treated myself to any new toys in quite a while and decided that it was time.

A quick trip to Glazer’s Camera in Seattle and $1400+ later (I had to get extra batteries and pay sales tax) and I had a new camera in my hands.

The first few days with the X100T were exhilarating. I absolutely loved having a small camera with a big APC sensor at my disposal. The hybrid viewfinder was like a breath a fresh air (I wish ALL cameras had it). The fast 23mm F/2 lens (35mm full-frame equivalent) was sharp and clear. The straight-out-of-camera JPGs were gorgeous.

Sunset in Elliot Bay as viewed from the Central District in Seattle, WA. Post-processed in Lightroom with minor shadow adjustments and the Velvia/Vivid calibration profile.

And then reality set in.

Apparently, the X100T’s AF speed had improved greatly compared to previous version, but it felt like molasses next to my D600 and 24–70/2.8. I was trying to get lightning quick and accurate AF in low-light, and it just wasn’t happening for me. That said, the AF is actually pretty snappy and fairly accurate if there’s enough contrast in the scene. It just wasn’t as good as I was used to.

The X100T seemed to take forever to turn on or wake from sleep. Turn on camera. Wait for a few seconds. Then start shooting. I was accustomed to the milliseconds it took for my D600 to go from off to actually taking a picture. It was even faster when the camera was just in standby. Tap the shutter, and start blazing. Not so with the X100T. I had to plan way ahead to turning on or waking the camera before I could even think about shooting. I felt completely hamstrung in my ability to react to scenes in front me.

The fixed 23mm focal length was more limiting than I had anticipated. It was not one of my normal focal lengths at the time (I favored 24mm, 50mm, and 85mm on full-frame), so my compositions felt off. I struggled with finding the right distances from my subjects. I spent a lot of time moving around trying to get the right framing but not really getting what I wanted. I just didn’t “get” 23mm on a crop sensor at the time.

It was like this for a week or so, and I started to get the pangs of buyer’s remorse. And then I had to remind myself that the whole point of buying the X100T was that it was NOT a DSLR nor was it meant as a replacement. It was… something else. It was something new to reignite my passion for photography. It was a “limited” camera to force me to do more with less. I kept shooting with the camera every day, trying every option, learning what worked and what didn’t work, figure how to get the most of what the camera had to offer.

Autumn colored leaves on the lawn next to the parking lot at Bellefields Office Park in Bellevue, WA. Straight-out-of-camera JPG using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation.

I’ve now been shooting with the X100T for about 6 months, and it is my absolute favorite camera to use. That title was previously held by my Lomo LC-A, a relatively crappy Russian plastic film camera. The LC-A wasn’t technically the best camera out there, but it had character. It felt right carrying and using the LC-A. Somehow, my approach to photography changed when I used the LC-A compared to other cameras. The camera got out of the way, and I could focus on the scene (heh).

Shooting with the X100T reminds me of how I felt when I shot with my LC-A. The X100T has character. It has a special personality that is all its own. It has its quirks and doesn’t quite work like other cameras, but it is, in the end, an awesome camera for taking photos.

My approach to photography changes when I use the X100T compared to when I use my Nikon D600. I don’t feel like I’m shoving a giant black camera in someone’s face when I’m taking their picture. People are more relaxed around the X100T or don’t even notice it (when I’m shooting candids).

I feel like I “get” the 23mm focal length now. It took a few months of practice, but I realized early on that the X100T’s lens is actually very similar to Lomo LC-A’s 32mm F/2.8 lens (23mm on an APC sensor is roughly equal to 35mm on a full-frame sensor and film). Knowing that, I quickly adjusted to shooting at 23mm and now feel much more comfortable finding the right shooting distance and framing.

The “slowness” of the AF and camera waking up are actually good things for me. They force me to be a bit more patient and deliberate. I shoot with more intention (props to Gregory Heisler for that phrase). To be honest, the X100T is actually a pretty zippy camera. It just isn’t quite as fast as my DSLRs.

Senior portrait session with Sara at Greenlake Park in Seattle, WA. Lit with a Cactus RF60 flash. Retouched in Lightroom with custom color adjustments and tone curves.

In the end, the technical features of the X100T don’t really matter to me. It just feels right shooting with the X100T. It is in my bag every day. It is the first camera I grab when I want to take a photo (even before my iPhone). I carry it around my neck when Margaret and I go for walks. After I pack up my Nikon gear at the end of gigs, I keep the X100T out for those just-in-case moments after the shoot is done. I’ve even started incorporating the X100T into my shoots.

Mostly, though, I have fun when I shoot with the X100T. And that, alone, makes it my favorite camera.