I started looking for a camera for street photography a year ago. What I wanted was a small body, small and fast prime lens between 28mm and 50mm focal length which is in my opinion the best range for street photography, and more important it’s the range that suits my style of shooting, as I am not very comfortable with longer or shorter focal lengths (for street shooting I mean).
So I tried the Olympus OMD-em5 in september 2012, coupled with the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4. The combo was very small, and picture quality very good. Due to some financial reasons I had to sell it after two months of use. But in early 2013 I was financially in good health again, so I started to look at what the camera market offered.
At that time I never really looked at the Fuji offering before cause beside the stunning design and the apparently good image quality of their products I’ve read here and there that those cameras were crippled with focusing issues not only in AF mode but also in manual mode (for the first version of the Fuji X100). So it was a big no no for me.
But that was before I looked at some early reviews of the Fuji X100S.
The autofocus had been dramatically improved, the manual focus (though still not as good as on a real manual lens like Zeiss or Leica ones) is now usable like any other hybrid camera, the sensor has been improved and resolution increased, and so on…
[highlight]Fuji X100s Street Photography Features [/highlight]
After a lot of research on the web to find out more reviews and tests about this camera it became clear to me that it was maybe the one I been waiting for street photography :
So I had the chance to buy one very quickly in the second hand market for a good price (and I’m glad I did due to the difficulty to find one now as it is almost every time out of stock everywhere, new or used) and I started to go out on the streets.
The first outings were kind of frustrating… Being used to DSLR for years it’s quite hard to be as efficient as with a DSLR with the Fuji X100s. It’s a totally different beast, and a totally different kind of shooting. But after several days, I really began to find advantages compared to DSLR for street shooting.
First, the small size makes it really unobtrusive, and it’s not as scary as a DSLR for people you shoot. That said, it’s not too small either. Not something you’re uncomfortable with holding in your hand for long period of time, like some tiny compact cameras.
Secondly, it’s totally silent. I sometimes take pictures of people very close to them and not a single time anybody noticed it. It’s very practical for some kind of shooting (shooting from the hip, wether you like it or not).
[highlight] The Hybrid Viewfinder [/highlight]
The viewfinder is a masterpiece. Really, you get best of both worlds here. The optical one lets you appreciate the scene and more. By that I mean it’s like a Leica M viewfinder. You see more than just the picture you’re about to capture. There is a digital frame (a white rectangle) that shows you what will be actually captured on the final image.
This is quite useful because you can anticipate much more as you see what’s going on on the sides of the frame, quite useful for the street photographer because anticipation is one of the most important skill to master. And another great thing about this optical viewfinder and what makes it unique is that there is a digital overlay which permits to show or not the informations you want (histogram, electronic level, etc.).
Then you have the electronic viewfinder, which has the advantage of every other EVF : even when it’s really dark, you can see clearly your subject because the luminosity of the EVF will adapt automatically. Very useful when your eyes cannot distinguish things anymore…
[highlight]What about Focusing? [/highlight]
There is some good and some bad. First the bad thing. Autofocus is really good. But it’s nowhere as fast as your typical DSLR or hybrid camera like micro 4/3 for example. It’s even sometimes missing the focus and shows you the green box anyway, as if the focus is okay !
It doesn’t happen a lot, but I noticed it a few times. Then when light is going down, focusing issues increases. It’s not that disappointing don’t worry but it’s a fact. It won’t focus as good as some other cameras but again it’s not that terrible (to clear things out I shot in June a wedding with the Fuji X100s and the main camera was a 5d MarkII and in low light focusing issues were equal between the 5d and the Fuji x100s).
And the thing is, this review is street photo orientated, so autofocus is not really a problem as a lot of us street shooters use manual focus.
And let me tell you how good manual focus is on this camera. You have three ways of making focus, the classic one (you try to see what’s in focus without any help from the camera) ; the focus peaking one (it really helps as it points out by accentuating with little white dots/lines what area is in focus), it’s the one I use the most) ; and last there’s the split one, where there’s a grey rectangle divided in three horizontal lines in the middle of the frame and you have to align those lines to get things in focus.
I really like also the fact that you can zone focus easily with this camera. There is a digital scale distance in the viewfinder and on the rear screen, and though it’s not as precise as it should be, it helps you a lot.
[highlight]Street Photography Settings [/highlight]
When I’m out on the street, I typically have my camera set up in AV mode (shutter knob on the letter A and aperture ring set to any value). My aperture is set between f8 and f11, and I set the focus distance to 2 meters… It’s close to the hyperfocal and it gives me enough depth of field for my shots. Also i’m always in auto ISO. The high isos on this camera exceeds each and every other APS-C camera and can match some Full Frame too, so having isos set to Auto is not a problem at all. Note also that in auto ISO you can set a minimum shutter speed, which is really useful.
So that’s typically how I set up my camera when I go out shooting, but I sometimes put AF on, and opens aperture to f4 or even f2 if I want to take a shot with less DOF, it really depends of the circumstances, and the camera lets you change it and go back to your previous settings very quickly, due to the perfect control layout.
So really, I am in love with that camera, it’s always with me, and as they say “the best camera is the one you have with you”.
I took more shots in close to 5 months with this camera than in an entirely year with my DSLR. This camera is really suited for the street photographer, because of the tactile feeling it gives you, because of the control layout that lets you adjust your settings very quickly, and also because of the superb hybrid viewfinder that lets you choose between OVF and EVF depending on the shooting situations. And more than every other point, the image quality, be it RAW or jpeg is absolutely stunning. This camera is not for everyone, but I’m sure a lot of street photographer will love it.
[highlight]Questions & Answers [/highlight]
Many have issues with the Dynamic Range settings, how do you use it?
I usually set it to DR auto if I remember well and I’m pretty satisfied with the results.
How’s the low light quality?
Low light quality is terrific. It’s sensitivity is above most cameras I used (and I have used a lot in each major brand). As I said in the review I used auto ISO and I set the maximum to 6400 ! It may seem too much but the usability of the high ISOs on this camera is fantastic. The grain (not the noise) is very film like, like analog photography. It is even quite pleasant. So for those who like to shoot at night, this camera is a perfect choice.
What do you like most on the Fuji X100s?
What I like : small size, great image quality, stunning low light abilities, revolutionary viewfinder, control and buttons layout, really good jpegs especially with the film simulation filters, improved focus be it auto or manual, totally silent shutter, good build quality.
What do you most dislike about the Fuji X100s?
What I dislike : low battery life (I got 4 batteries), the autofocus not being as fast as competitors, sometimes slow to wake up from sleep mode, and I think that’s all.
[highlight]About Stephane Tranquillin[/highlight]
I liked photography for a long time yet but not as a photographer, more from a viewer point. I always enjoyed street photography masters like HCB, Robert Doisneau, and the few I knew then. I knew that it was the kind of photography I would make if I put myself seriously into it. But I really get interested in photography when I first bought a DSLR, primarily to shoot video with what we called at that time the “movie look”, due to the sensor size.
Having such a tool I told myself It would be sad if I only use it for video as they are primarily stills camera. So i gave it a try, and it changed my life and my vision of life. Now I kind of gave up the video work to focus primarily on photography and especially street photography. It’s a new virgin land I want to explore. So I documented myself on everything I could find about it. I bought books of masters and searched online for other street photographers. I fell in love with this style of photography, because it goes beyond the strict photographic act. On the technical side, I enjoy making pictures with everything I have on the moment (camera or phone), but it’s generally the camera I always have with me (Fuji X100s).