Ian Wilkinson Reviews the Fuji X100: Real World Use Shooting a Wedding
by Ian Wilkinson
Editors’ Note: Ian Wilkinson, a wedding photographer from Brisbane, has always been an early adopter of new technology, and is one of the first Australians to have received the much anticipated Fuji X100. Read on to discover Ian’s evaluation—the good, the bad, and his overall view of the latest compact APS-C camera to hit the market.
I know I’m not alone in my excitement for this little camera. I like traveling light and rarely take a DSLR kit with me to social events or holidays. Hence, I’ve tried numerous compacts, the latest of which was the Panasonic GF1, before that the Panasonic LX3, before that the Canon G10 and G9, and the list goes on. The X100 was definitely going to be next! I picked it up on Thursday, so luckily I had a day to give it a bit of a whirl before taking it along to a wedding I was shooting. First thoughts were that it was smaller and lighter than I expected, so that’s a good thing! It really is a great looking camera; even if it were no better than my GF1 I would love it for the build quality and looks alone. I guess a few of you will be disappointed with that, but that’s life.
Today’s wedding was unfortunately very wet and wasn’t going to be anything like a typical wedding for me. When they moved the start time an hour later I pretty much wrote off being able to use the X100 at all. The ceremony was dark, and the reception very, very dark—1/30s, f/2.8 at ISO 6400 kind of dark, with low lights! There’s was no real formal shoot after the ceremony to speak of so I can’t show you anything of that kind; maybe next week’s wedding. As I was shooting a real wedding my priority had to be to the wedding itself, and just work the X100 in where I could, shooting it along side my Nikon D3s when I had an opportunity.
The first shot certainly made an impression, it sure is quiet—I tried silent mode but went back to normal mode and it’s still super quiet. As the day progressed, the more I used it the more I liked it. Seeing the action while you shoot is brilliant! I can see why people love their M series Leicas. The viewfinder accuracy is a bit off though, centre the shot in the frame and it will have more space on the bottom and the right side than the viewfinder showed, but I can live with that.
I was very surprised when it fired my Quadra lights at 1/1,000s with perfect results, I’m sure there’ll be users that love that feature.
The image quality is superb, and not just for a compact. I know there are a few people online saying the lens isn’t sharp, but it is; it’s definitely a match for the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8, which we all know is a superb lens. Also the battery life has copped a hammering online with some claiming just 150 shots before you need to recharge it. That’s rubbish, I shot 600 shots today and the battery symbol still says full charge. I reckon that’s pretty good and I expect it to hit at least 1,000 before it packs it in. The battery is still going after the birthday party today where I shot nearly 200 images.The colour is pretty good except skin is too saturated and I haven’t found a way in Silkypix to pull just that back, like I can in LightRoom or ACR. I’m sure once Adobe gets their finger out and supports this camera we’ll be fine.
I also found the AF to be reasonably good in low light, for a compact. The operating speed is pretty fast too. The Nikon D3s wipes it easily, but it’s faster than my Nikon F90 was all those years ago and I shot fine with it then. Unfortunately it was a bit like shooting the 1DmkIII, shoot 5 shots and 3 will be sharp and 2 a little off. It’s hard to tell at ISO 6400 whether there’s a bit of movement or if the image is out of focus. Given the lighting, I was forced to shoot at ISO 6400, which doesn’t help fine detail. I was really pleased to see all the focus points appear to work equally well. I also had no worries firing off multiple shots in quick succession. I hit the buffer a couple of times but I was also trying to—I wanted to see how long it took to write the images; but in normal day to day wedding shooting it will keep up no worries.
The centre OK button is too small, I found myself trying to hit OK but moving down a menu option instead; quite annoying really. All the rear buttons around the main dial need to be bigger or spaced further apart. I really wish it had an electronic external release instead of a mechanical one—cute idea, and the mechanical one fits in with the retro theme, but I’d rather have an electronic release. A little crazy thing I noticed is you can put the battery in the wrong way around; it took me a few seconds to work out why it wouldn’t work initially. Last gripe would be the lack of half stops on the aperture ring, full stop changes just doesn’t cut it. It was OK given the latitude of film, but for digital it just adds a little more post work given it’s sometimes impossible to get the correct exposure in-camera. When I read that on a couple of forums I thought they were just whining for whining’s sake, but in the real world it matters. [Ed. note: You can set 1/2 or 1/3 aperture stops using the rear dial-lever.]
The bundled RAW conversion software by Silkypix really sucks, it’s possibly the worst RAW software I’ve ever seen. I’ll probably just convert all my wedding images to B&W using Jeff Ascough’s actions and skip the colour for now; Silky Pix is that bad.
Here’s an example shot wide open at 1/60s and ISO 6400. Pretty much straight from the camera, but reduced for web publishing. Noise reduction in camera was turned right down, and I’m sure I’ll be reasonably happy with ISO 6400 with just colour noise reduction done in ACR.
Could you use it at a wedding? For sure—it does most things well, but keep in mind it’s just not as responsive as a DSLR, I did miss a few shots, not from shutter lag but just general day to day use. If there’s a preview on the screen it takes a second or two to go back to camera mode, if the auto power off cuts in it takes a second or two to ready itself as well. I shoot fast—capturing fleeting expressions is my thing and I was surprised I could still do that most of the time. I found the best way was to choose manual focus and use the AE/FL button to focus while in MF mode; that’s a very clever feature Fuji has given us there. Doing this the camera fires instantly. The biggest disappointment so far has been the files don’t have much latitude for post work. I’d guess there is already considerable trickery going on with the files so they don’t like being pushed too far. Some of my favourite Photoshop actions bring out a bit of banding in the ISO 6400 files, so for work where quality matters I’d say ISO 3200 is the limit for this camera. I’d be happy to shoot family stuff at ISO 6400 but if I had to run an image across a full spread in an album, ISO 3200 would be the top end of my comfort zone. This is pretty darn impressive for an APS-C compact; ISO 800 was my limit on the Panasonic GF1.
Checkout my blog in the upcoming days as I should have some more images to show.
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|You can visit Ian on the web at his blog and his web site. Ian lives in Brisbane, Australia, and has been shooting weddings for 23 years now; he has picked up more than 60 national and international awards in the last 5 years alone. He enjoys the photojournalistic style of wedding photography, and strikes a refreshing balance between timeless imagery, the romance, the family values and traditions, and the fun and integral events of the day. He just loves people-watching and photography. As he says: What better way to live those two passions than wedding photography?|
All images: ©Ian Wilkinson.
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Tags: APS-C, Brisbane, Cameras, Fuji X100, Fujifilm X100, Ian Wilkinson, Photography, Rangefinders, Reviews, Wedding Photography