Five Reasons Why I’m Disappointed With The Fuji X100S

Fuji 800

I’ve been a Leica M6 shooter for several years. I love everything about the M6, from feel and handling to the confidence it instills in me, to the character its various lenses possess, and not least for the pure pleasure I get from using it. At some point I decided it would be convenient to have a digital alternative to the M6 when not in the mood for film work flow, especially for my regular camera walks. Since the M9 seems absurdly priced for its aging sensor I was obviously drawn to the Fuji X-series line of cameras, namely the Fuji X100S, whose release I awaited with eagerness, expecting it to fit my needs according to the specs and reviews. Mind you my needs were not outrageous by any measure, namely a clear uncluttered optical viewfinder, a fixed focal length, ease of use with no electronic obstructionism, reliability, and joy of use. The quality of the image was not a major factor for me since most sensors in that category today are excellent.

I’ve now been using the X100s for two months, and I’m convinced it’s a far cry from the M experience. I always knew it was not going to be an ‘M’ but I thought at least it can provide a similarly-satisfying experience. Yet as charming and capable as this camera could appear I could not get myself to love it nor enjoy using it the way I did my Leica. Here are some specific thoughts on why the X100s is not the camera for me, in no specific order:

1- With my camera settings and for my on-the-go style of shooting I found the battery life to be tragically unreliable, even with backup. Sure you can turn the camera on and take a whole lot of pictures with one battery in sequence, but for real life use where it’s constantly being turned ‘ON/OFF’ or accidentally left ‘ON’ I constantly ran out of battery in the worst moments. On several outings I found myself quickly reaching for my camera to take the shot only to be surprised by a dead battery. Shot lost, no decisive moment.The optical viewfinder (OVF), which was a major selling point for me in this camera and which is also brilliant, drains the battery, especially that I have ‘OVF Power Save Mode’ turned off which I quickly realized is a necessity for quick shooting. Sure I have a backup battery, but that’s not the issue- unless I can fuse them together somehow!

2- The back panel is honestly cheap feeling and too cluttered in my opinion. I could never find the right button by feel, and I often pressed the wrong button which further slowed me down and distracted from taking the shot. Less is more!

3- The lens may be sharp, but it has no ‘character’ or personality like my Zeiss and Leica lenses do. My DSLR setup is 5DMkII with three Zeiss primes, and the drawing quality from the ‘worst’ of those, the Planar 50, simply cannot be approached by this software-corrected hyper-clinical Fujinon lens. I’m talking about more than clinical sharpness, I’m talking about ‘apparent’ sharpness, micro-contrast, character and lens fingerprint, and how it behaves differently at different apertures. All those intangible factors that make you want to name your lens in spite -or because- of all its imperfections were lacking in the Fujinon in my opinion, or I just didn’t know how to bring them out. As for the Fuji ‘film look,’ sometimes I saw it and other times I couldn’t reproduce it.

4- I could not get accurate colors out of the X100s, but I’m well aware that it could be user error because I haven’t encountered similar complaints on the web. I feel that the blues and reds are not accurate in this camera. I’ve tried repeatedly to capture a certain purple color and it would look different in Lightroom. I shot RAW and JPEG in RGB and sRGB but still could not get the true-to-life colors I was looking for. I’ll admit that I’ve not color-corrected my Macbook Pro screen with pro tools but I’ve also never had this problem with my Canon 5D and 5DMkII in all my years of use. Take it with a grain of salt I suppose.

5- Auto Focus is still too slow for me compared to my manual focus lenses with their instant shutter snap. It may be faster than the X100, but in real life use I did not find it fast nor accurate enough and I often missed focus without knowing it until reviewing images later, granted I was using the optical viewfinder. Manual focus in the Fuji is still impractical for me and feels unnatural, largely because it’s focus-by-wire and lacks a focus lock mechanism. No tab on the focus ring will guarantee that you’ll accidentally knock your pre-focus or zone-focus off without knowing it, or never be sure that you’re still in focus. And when you want to readjust it you won’t find a quick way to do so and you’ll have to go into the digital menu.

The X100/X100s then is a really capable camera for a lot of people out there, it’s a huge step forward for purpose-built large-sensor small cameras and it gets so many things right, but for my expectation that’s not enough I’m afraid. I’ve been spoiled by the utter simplicity and quality of the Leica M6, its lenses, and the DSLR Zeiss line of lenses. These issues that I’ve encountered with the X100s over 2 months of use may not be deal breakers individually, but when I encounter all of them on the one day I throw my camera in the bag and decide to go for an outing then what I get is not a day of fun shooting but constant frustration and distraction.

I feel like these issues with the X100s are not being discussed adequately and openly in the blogs and reviews, which is why I’m sharing them with you. I certainly feel I didn’t have the benefit of finding such harsh critique of the X100s before buying it. I’m no Leica ‘fan-boy’ by any means, but I have grown to appreciate the qualities of an M rangefinder. I was willing to take many compromises on this camera given its price point and ambitious endeavor, but unfortunately it couldn’t even make it to the finish line for what I expect of a camera in its class. Please take my critique with a large grain of salt and see if it applies to your use/expectation first. This is only one guy’s experience.

  1. I wish I came across this before I bought x100s. It’s been one day and I’m disappointed.

    • Nomaan, I’m sorry to hear, I was in your shoes at one point. It still puzzles me how the majority of people love this camera, or fail to point out the serious flaws to the rest of us, potential buyers. Perhaps it’s an indicator of the wide variation in expectations out there.

      • Sorry for replying to such an old comment, but I’m in a similar boat. Putting this here for anyone looking for dissenting opinions on the X100 series…

        I just got a used X100S, the first digital camera body I’ve purchased in over 2 years. I’m a Sony A7 shooter with an assortment of primes, my usual kit is the Sony 28/2, Zeiss 45/2, and Zeiss 90/2.8. My usual MO is manual focus with manual lenses.

        Considering all the complaining Fuji people do about how using the A7 is like a computer – unlike the Fuji, which is a camera that gets out of your way – I’m rather disappointed in the experience. The EVF implementation doesn’t hold a candle to Sony’s, even with the same 2.36 Mdot EVF panel. Color/contrast can be pretty wacky, and it can be hard to judge focus when using MF compared to my past experiences. The focus ring is certainly a bummer – worse build quality than the worst of Sony’s lenses, the much maligned $150 16mm f/2.8. Doesn’t feel like a lens. AF is spotty – sometimes it’s fast, sometimes it’s slow, sometimes it misses AF on a contrasty infinity for no apparent reason. This might be user error, I’m a MF user.

        The IQ is a bit disappointing, but that might be because I’m coming from a FF camera. Still, it seems behind a bit compared to my NEX which had the same 16 MP sensor in Bayer form.

        The one great thing about the camera is that it’s smaller than my A7. I can fit it in my back pocket. That’s something important to me. Still, it’s bigger than my old NEX-5R. I like it more than I like my RX100, if only because it has a viewfinder and doesn’t need to extend/collapse the lens on power-up. I might still keep it for that.

        I took it to a concert last night. The AF was better than I was expecting, fortunately the lighting was pretty contrasty. MF wasn’t great – part ergonomics, part EVF implementation. MF is one of those things that, for me, has to work and work well. I need to be able to judge focus without zooming in and once zoomed in, I need to be able to move the mag point around. The Fuji falls short… hoping a little more time with it will help.

      • Hello Aaron,
        Thanks for your comment, I surely understand your frustration, I’ve been there before. I hope you can find a system you’re happy with.

  2. I recently purchased the x100t after about a year of hearing the rave reviews . I’ve had this camera for two days and am not happy with the image quality at all. I’m not understanding the sharpness of all these galleries out there in internet land. All heavily processed? Either I got a bad copy or this is the most overrated camera ever. Biggest issues are lack of sharpness. Dynamic range and lowlight capability. Would love more feedback

    • Hi Jin,
      I agree with you about the sharpness issue, it’s quite annoying at high-detail level. My guess is you won’t see it as much with the original X100, but the subsequent versions contain the X-Trans sensor which is where the problem lies. It’s just a side of this sensor one has to live with I guess.

  3. Hi Raed – I was googling the terms “Fuji X100s disappointing” and found you! My experiences echo yours. I’ve been a film photographer since I held a Brownie Box camera and am still madly in love with my Minolta X700. My transition to digital has been slow and resistant. I didn’t want to cart around a bundle of lenses and film camera so opted for a Nikon Coolpix (bought in 2006). In June this year, I bought a used Fuji X100s – firstly because I liked the look of it, had read numerous reviews, had watched David Hobby’s 40-minute video praising it to the heavens, and took it to Portugal and Spain with me. I had some good results. But…..I’m a film user who used to do a lot of music photography in low light conditions and I still love film….. and zoom. My analogue kit consists of my Minolta X700, 35 and 50mm lenses, Sigma 210mm zoom and Rokkor

  4. Aaagh. I was going to say a Rokkor 135 telephoto. So with the Fuji X100S – I knew it was a “rangefinder” type camera but was constantly frustrated that I couldn’t zoom (I knew I wouldn’t be able to with this camera but..). Also, the macro feature is pretty useless. I took better images close up without it……..and better macro shots with my 5-megapixels Nikon Coolpix and Nokia 6700 phone! I do like the camera and will mess around with it, but I think it’s an over-priced toy, but through using it, I discovered I’m still a film photographer. The Fuji might be a teacher that leads me to a good digital SLR, but I so love the clarity of film (and I used to develop and print all my photos) so, if you can afford this Fuji X100S, it’s a good teacher, but I didn’t find the resulting images to be super fine. If I find a DSLR that meets the wonders of my beloved Minolta, I will be a convert to digital. It’s weird, but I’ve talked to the nerdy young guys in various camera shops in London and when I say I love analogue, they say “Oh yeah, it’s the hip thing”. Well, no. It’s just normal for me because I’ve used film cameras since I was 7. I don’t have my own darkroom and should get one. So, Fuji X100s will be a plaything for me, but it is disappointing, given the publicity. It’s a toy, basically.

  5. Hello Raed, I share some of the frustrations with Fujifilm X-series that you noted above and I think you are spot-on. My favorite camera is still my film Leica, which I still use today. I hesitantly entered the world of Fujifilm X-series cameras when I broke my dSLR. These are very good cameras but they are neither rangefinders nor Leicas. Therefore, I’d have to say that Leica users will not find a replacement in the X-series. Yet, in my opinion, digital Leicas frustrate and disappoint as well. The bloating of digital Leica M is a total buzz-kill. I think that the new, lighter and slimmer Type 262 is a step in the right direction but it’s still not quite there yet.

    • Hello Emir, thank for the comment and sharing your experience. I would agree with your comment regarding the film Leica, I take it out and shoot with it from time to time to reconnect with the basics and aesthetics of photography. I also have an M9 and that comes with its own share of frustrations but I love it when shot at low ISO, it has a very slide-flimish look to its images, and it still takes sharper photos than any DSLR I’ve used with Zeiss lenses. The new Leica M 262 sounds interesting, but the CMOS sensor on it does not interest me. Cheers!

  6. I have a Fuji X-T10. This camera cannot produce the color red. I shot red roses, the color isn’t even close and there is no detail in the pedals of the roses. I’ve adjusted white balance and other adjustment that affect color, “H tone”, “S tone”. “color”, “DR” and film settings on the back of the camera. Nothing worked. If anyone has an answer let me know.

  7. Hmm… I got rid of my fuji x100 when I got an iPhone 7 plus. Not saying it as good as the fuji, it isn’t, but it’s close enough for many applications I was using the fuji for to not carry the fuji anymore. I actually find the iphone 7 plus is even sharper in daylight than the old fuji is. I will keep full frame Canon for awhile though. There’s no replacing fast zoom lenses and FF apertures.

    • Thanks for your comment, sorry it took me 2 years to get to it but for some reason I never got notified of it. Yes I think some iPhones produce just as fine an image, but the form factor in the x100 beats the iPhone I think.

  8. 100% correct. The lens on the x100 series is just weak. I couldn’t understand why my photos looked as if taken on a cell phone. The only decent fuji lens that produced decent image was the 35mm f1.4 one. I shoot Sony full frame now with some zeiss lenses. What a difference! The only thing i miss about the x100 cameras is the form factor and leaf shutter.

    • Hi Alex,

      Thanks for commenting. I could never quite put my finger on why the images were so bad at 100%, it just looked waxy and full of artefacts, as if baked and overly digital. In any case I went the Leica route (M9) which is now 10 years old but still makes much better images than the Fuji in my opinion.

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