Headshot, portrait, street and documentary photographer in NYC and Jersey City

alastair.arthur@gmail.com

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Thoughts on the new Fujifilm X100V

The X100 series has become a much-loved series of cameras. From the original, released in 2011, through to the new fifth generation (hence the Roman numeral ‘V’), I’ve yet to meet a photographer that has owned and not liked these cameras. Each generation brought some improvements. Faster autofocus, more resolution, WiFi, improved ergonomics. But the basic formula has stayed the same - a beautiful design, compact size, hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder, near-silent leaf shutter and fixed 23mm (35mm in full-frame terms) lens.


It’s hard to say exactly why they are so enjoyable to use. Try one for a few minutes and it doesn’t make much sense. The grip isn’t the best (but not bad), the autofocus isn’t the best (but not bad) and you might not even use the optical viewfinder (although it’s a shame not to). But take it out on the street, or slip it into a pocket and it starts to get interesting. It’s fairly small, fairly simple, and fun. It’s pleasant, pleasing to handle and use. And you realize it can do anything. Street, portraits, fashion, documentary, events. If you can get close enough to your subject, it works.


Maybe more that anything it’s a documentary camera. A take anywhere camera.


If you want to be really cool, get one of the old ones. A friend still shoots with the original X100 that a friend of hers gave to her. One of the reasons I started watching Sean Tucker’s excellent YouTube channel was that he was shooting street photography with an old X100S. I owned and sold the X100F and it was my favorite camera that I’ve owned so far and I’m stupid for selling it.


But there are a few things new to the X100V that I’d hoped Fujifilm would include:


Weather sealing. At last, for a street camera, although you do need to add a little adapter thingy to seal the lens but that’s fine.


USB-C. A little thing but I can charge it and transfer images with the same cables as my phone uses.


A larger viewfinder. With glasses I struggled with the X-Pro2 viewfinder but managed ok with the X100F. Now the X-Pro3 and X100V have larger viewfinders. For me this makes a huge difference.


A new lens. Actually I thought the old one was fine. It was soft when you focused on a close object but I kinda liked it. Character. Anyway, apparently now it’s sharper. And faster autofocus, although the X100F was really fast enough already for how I shoot.


It also has no d-pad, which I like. It simplifies the design and I’ve no idea what settings people are changing all the time when they say they need all those buttons.


There’s a touch screen now, as with the rest of the Fuji range, but you can turn it off if you like so that’s all good.


The top and bottom plates are now made from aluminum. Is that good? I’ve honestly no idea, but it does make the silver version especially look particularly good.


And 4K video. The first X100 to be really viable as a (limited) video camera.


What’s not so good?

The price has gone up a little, although roughly in line with inflation. $1399 in the US.

And then there’s the tilt screen...

I get it, most photographers will be happy to have a tilt screen. It looks like a good design, fitting flush to the body and adding virtually zero bulk. So don’t use it if you don’t want to. Except I don’t buy that argument. Any feature, every button, every menu options adds complexity, whether you use it or not. A tilting screen adds complexity over a fixed screen. Some cameras should be complex and powerful. Personally I’d rather see the X100 stay simple. Leica-simple. Although maybe the clever hybrid viewfinder means it’s never really been a simple camera, so what do I know. I might end up loving the new screen.


There is one missed opportunity too. You can manually focus the X100 lens but it’s all done electronically. Meaning there’s no direct physical connection and that you can’t preset the focus ring before you turn the camera on and know what will be in focus. Maybe it would have added bulk, but direct physical manual focusing would have been great.


Those aren’t really complaints, just preferences, and my perfect camera probably wouldn’t be the same as yours. The X100V keeps all of the great features of it’s predecessors. The beautiful quiet leaf shutter that allows for fast flash sync. The built-in ND filter. The pretty design and dials and take-anywhere size. The optional wide and tele adaptors.


If you’re a street photographer and haven’t tried the X100, get one. Borrow one. Try it.

If you’re an event or wedding photographer, try one.

If you’re a Fujifilm photographer and thinking about getting a 23mm lens, get an X100 instead.


It doesn’t have to be the V, the X100F should be coming down to relative-bargain prices soon and it’s a great camera.


Some say that with the new lens, the X100V is the largest step forward so far in the X100 series. I don’t know about that, but it does just add those few little extras that make very appealing.



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