Fuji X100F – a Top Contender for Street Photography?

The Fuji X100F is the successor of the X100S which was already a huge success amongst Street Photographers. It combined light weight and a fixed focal length with a reasonable price, while still producing professional level images. Unlike the big rigs from Canon or Nikon, the X100 series isn’t very versatile in its functions, but it is geared towards Street / Documentary / Travel Photography. It is ideal for people that take their camera everywhere and want to photograph any time they want. The size and appearance of the Fuji X100F are also less intimidating compared to any big DSLRs, which makes it a lot easier for us Street Photographers to take images in public without getting weird looks for being a professional paparazzi.

Personally, I never used the X100S but the RicohGr was my steady working horse. The Ricoh did a great job and served me well, it wasn’t really that I needed a new camera, but I was interested in testing the 35mm equivalent lens and working with a viewfinder again. Only using the LCD screen on the Ricoh can take some of the fun that is arranging an image through the viewfinder which is the main reason I decided to go for the Fuji X100F.

Description

The Fuji X100F embraces a 24 megapixel CMOS-III sensor. The same that is also used in the more advanced X-Pro series. In comparison to its predecessor, the new sensor is the biggest change. In contrast to the older ~16-megapixel CMOS-II sensor, the new generation doesn’t use a low-pass filter anymore. Before the Fuji cameras were kind of known to produce a very “wax-like” skin due to the filter being applied on the sensor level. In the newest generation, they abstained from this sensor, making the images a lot sharper. This may be an unfamiliar look for the trained eye if you used the X100S for a very long time.

In general, the images will be sharper due to the lack of filter being applied (with all its advantages and disadvantages). Think about it like the change from standard resolution TV to HD-TV. Because the picture got a lot sharper they have to use new makeup and take special care of any distraction. The same applies to the new sensor generation.

When you are mainly shooting portraits, you might need to put more emphasize on the post-processing. On the other hand, in ideal situations, the images will be sharper and profit from the new sensor generation.

The lens didn’t change at all and still is a 23mm (35mm full-frame equivalent) fixed focal length. As is characteristical for the X-series the lenses also aren’t changeable. Nonetheless, there are converters available to change the 35mm to 50mm if you like to do so. The 24-megapixel sensor also allows for a more creative cropping of the images.

Its Purpose

Where does the Fuji X100F fit in between the DSLRs of Canon & Nikon and the new mirrorless generations of Sony & Olympus?

The Fuji X100F, in my opinion, is ideal for everyone who wants a small compact camera that combines the image quality of professional cameras with relatively light weight and an impression of classic analog cameras. As a Street Photographer, these are qualities that I really care about, more than how much auto focus points the camera has or if the ISO noise at 800 is 1% less distracting.

With regular DSLRs, you have the problem of looking like a professional photographer on the street. This leads to people noticing your camera very early on and you won’t get any candid shots since most people will behave differently when thinking they are being photographed by a professional paparazzi. Unfortunately, behavior like this destroys the purpose of Street Photography and capturing candid moments.

Therefore the Fuji X100F is a perfect fit for Street Photographers and reportages. It doesn’t intimidate other people while providing a great image quality. The single fixed lens design might be a little off-putting if you worked with zoom lenses before, but you will get used to it very quickly. Due to the non-changeable focal length of 35mm, the camera will hardly be useful for wildlife or sports photography, but other than that the 35mm are pretty versatile.

You can shoot weddings as well as portraits and with an open aperture of 2.0, you are able to create a very narrow depth of field for portraits.

The Fuji X100F and Street Photography

Now I want to share my personal experiences shooting with the X100F on the street for over 2 months now. Most of these thoughts are in comparison to my previous owned RicohGr which is also quite popular in the Street Photography world. Why did I choose to go for the X100F?

The biggest reason to go for the Fuji X100F was the viewfinder. If you aren’t familiar with the RicohGr, then you have to know that it is a compact camera that only provides an LCD screen. You can purchase an external viewfinder, but it still isn’t the same.

With the X100F I have the comfort of choosing either the Optical or the Electronic Viewfinder (EVF). Although the Optical Viewfinder doesn’t show a “real preview” of the image since there is no mirror to connect the Viewfinder with the optical image reaching the sensor. Therefore the optical viewfinder is mainly for framing the picture, but you are also able to display additional information from the EVF like focus peaking.

Personally, I use the optical viewfinder for Street Photography since I am very familiar with the exposure settings and use zone focussing most of the time. Due to the experiences with the settings, I don’t need to rely on the viewfinder to expose my picture correctly or get the focus right. The optical viewfinder gives me the “old” feeling of framing my pictures through my camera and allows me simultaneously to add the advantages of the EVF information in a corner display.

For more difficult shots like weddings or portraits, I use the EVF only. It gives me more security to see exactly how the image will turn out in the EVF when working with a narrower depth of field and more difficult light settings in buildings. In the Fuji X100F the EVF is very advanced and doesn’t feel laggy or shaky like in early mirrorless cameras.

One battery charge lasts me about two hours when using the “power” mode, which means that the camera stays on for the whole duration and doesn’t drop into a standby mode. The amount of pictures doesn’t really affect the battery life so you don’t need to worry about draining the energy with the burst-mode. I’d recommend you to buy some additional 3rd party batteries.

Fuji X100F - Street Photography

The Design

For Street Photography the Design of a camera is more than just the simple appear but provides important features. As already mentioned, the Fuji X100F has a very classic look, especially in the silver colored model. This makes people usually more comfortable around the camera than big DSLR rigs which can be quite intimidating. In Street Photography this means that you are able to get closer and catch candid moments more easily.

Concerning the Usability there a few improvements compared to the earlier X100 series. Buttons on the back got re-arranged to allow a one-hand control of the settings.

In contrast to that, there are a few design decisions that defy the controllability with one-hand. For a regular user this might not be really a disadvantage, but as a Street Photographer who uses an off-camera flash a lot of times, I would be really happy if I could control the camera completely with only one hand. In practice, this affects the f-stop setting and the ISO dial.

The f-stop can only be changed (as I am aware of) via the ring on the lens and not through software settings like you are able with the RicohGr. Secondly, when you use a flash the remote does block the ISO dial. Since you need to pull the dial to change the ISO like in old analog cameras, this becomes obstructed when adding a flash. Not that it becomes impossible to change the ISO, but it is quite an effort and a little fiddling, that becomes very unhandy in hectic situations.

For my everyday use those both points are not a really a disadvantage since I use the same settings most of the time, or use a semi-auto mode, but if you like to experiment with the camera settings a lot, this might be a little disadvantage.

Nonetheless, I quite like the design, arrangements of buttons and the software menu. It wasn’t hard to get used to the new system and is very intuitive.

Is it worth the change?

Fuji X100F vs X100S

I never used the X100S extensively myself, but fellow photographers from the Berlin1020 group were very satisfied with the X100S. Therefore it is questionable if a transition to the X100F will be useful if you already own the X100S. From the technical aspects despite the sensor, not much has changed. If you like the softer look of the X100S then there is not really a need for change, but the new sensor is a little sharper since it doesn’t use an anti-aliasing filter anymore.

Other than that the X100F is advertised with new picture styles, which if you shoot in RAW are useless anyway. For a price of 1.500$ upgrading to the Fuji X100F is a really tough decision and probably overpriced at the moment if you already own an X100S.

Conclusion

The X100F is a great piece of camera ideal for Street Photographers. It is light and compact but produces images of professional quality. With manual focus, there is practical no shutter lag and the burst-mode is very fluent. In low light situations, the auto-focus gets a bit problematic, which is a known error that every camera shares. Unfortunately, nothing has changed in this department.

Due to its design, the camera doesn’t appear too professional and you are able to go unnoticed on the street without looking like a paparazzi with a big DSLR, while basically still getting the same image quality. It isn’t fully controllable with one hand, which is a little disadvantageous for Off-camera flash users. Otherwise, the button layout has improved compared to the previous version and the menu is very intuitive.

Switching from the RicohGr didn’t take me a long time. After one or two strolls, I am able to get the same amount of pictures in focus and getting used to the 35mm lens is very natural since it’s more comparable to our human field of view.

For longer days I still like to use the RicohGr since the Fuji X100F isn’t really made to wear as a “wrist camera” and get’s a little heavy after a few hours. Other than that the X100F is a great option for every Street Photographer.

In addition to the camera, I’d advise you to buy a new strap since the default one is very uncomfortable and very air impermeable which means you will sweat really fast with this strap around your neck. I got a new strap that fits perfectly with the Fuji X100F from the guys over at SoulOfStreet.

If you are searching for a new camera that is specifically made for Street & Documentary work, I definitely recommend the X100F and wish you all the best.

Should you have some questions regarding the camera feel free to ask.

  • Josh

    Nice article. However I just wanted to point out that none of the X-Trans sensors use a low pass filter which includes the X100S and X100T. The “waxy skin” effect is caused by in camera JPEG noise suppression at higher ISO, and does not occur when shooting RAW. The new sensor’s main feature is its higher megapixels. Also, to help with the flash obstruction issue that you mention, the ISO settings can be mapped to one of the control dials in the settings. Hope this helps!

    • Sebastian Jacobitz

      Hi josh the waxy skin coming from the noise suppression seems plausible, the same applies from the noise reduction in Lightroom. I’ll have a look into it and update the article 🙂

      As for the custom Buttons, do you know if it is possible to change the ISO in steps like on the dial, or can you just change through the different ISO Presets?

      Being able to control the ISO,Shutter speed & F-Stop with one hand was great on the RicohGr

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  • Great in depth review Sebastian. It is helpful to read someone’s review who has hands on experience to describe both the frustration and the success associated with the camera that the tech specs wont necessarily give you. I have been looking into a smaller camera to begin exploring some areas of photography less accessible to traditional DSLRs. I have been considering buying the Sony a6300 for a good mirrorless alternative. I think the 35mm fixed might be a deal breaker for me. I look forward to learning more about street photography on your blog!

  • Nice review, thank you Sebastian. I invested in an X70, which is great for ‘street’ photography. It doesn’t have the viewfinder, obviously, and I’m curious to know (a) did you consider it as an alternative to the X100 series and (b) what did you think? The cost of the X100F was not justifiiable to me for my purposes, I wondered what you think, thanks.

    • Sebastian Jacobitz

      Hello Paul, I didn’t really take the x70 into consideration because I already have the RicohGR and they are very similar for cameras without viewfinder. The x70 has a tiltable screen though which is definitely an advantage.