Photography 0

Fuji X100T: First Look!

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I have had a pre-production copy of the new Fuji X100T for a week and I have been putting it through the paces to find out how much this camera has evolved since the first X100 was introduced at Photokina in 2010. It was the original X100 that started my love affair with Fuji cameras, and I haven’t looked back since selling my DSLR gear in favor of the Fuji X series for my small format cameras. Yes, I’m going back to film days and saying that 35mm full frame sensors and below are “small format.” That’s not a dig at full frame sensors. That’s just calling 35mm and below what it is. But, before I digress into hyperbole and enrage the trollz, let’s jump into this new camera and why or why not you might be interested in it.

This post is not a review of the Fuji X100T per se, but more of a first look at the new camera and its new features and my opinions about it.

UPGRADE #1 :: SPEED

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To test the X100T I went back to the original X100 with the latest firmware running on it. I walked around and shot with the original X100 and was first surprised by how much that camera had changed with firmware updates. It is no longer the slow weird beast I fell in love with nearly four years ago.

I THEN WALKED THE SAME PATH WITH MY X100S AND THEN THE X100T. I WANTED TO GET A FEEL FOR THE PROGRESSION THIS CAMERA HAS MADE.

The new X100T shows just how much Fuji has moved this camera forward. It’s like using an iPhone 3 and then going to an iPhone 5. Focusing is much faster and far more accurate in both OVF and EVF modes. The overall speed and responsiveness of the camera is faster and more fluid. Walking the same path with the X100S shows how much in the middle that camera is in-between the X100 and the X100T.

Shooting my original X100 again and looking through those first menus and cursing at the OVF brought back tons of memories I’ve had with these X cameras. I just wanted a nice compact camera to walk around with. I never thought it would have such an impact on my life; from getting me started in street photography, to picking Fuji up as a client and shooting for them, to the wholesale dismantling of my DSLR kit. I have such a strong nostalgic connection to my original X100 I’d love to actually put the first firmware back into it just for the good ol’ days.

I’ve now been shooting with the X100T for a solid week and as much as I didn’t go back to the X100 from the X100S, I see my X100S falling to back up camera as of… pretty much now.

UPGRADE #2 :: WIFI

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WiFi in cameras has typically been a horrible experience and don’t even get me started on EyeFi cards. I have three of them and I finally said “to hell with this” some time ago. The Fuji XT1 was the first camera I’ve used where WiFi didn’t completely suck. I’ve used WiFi on Canon, Sony, Fuji, and Panasonic and so far Fuji is doing the best job integrating WiFi to iOS. I’ve never tried it on Android so I can’t relate my experience with that platform.

The WiFi on the X100T is working like a champ for controlling the camera remotely to browsing and downloading images to an iPhone and iPad. I’m heading to Europe this week and I’m not taking a big camera bag nor am I taking a laptop. I’m taking this X100T, two conversion lenses, and an iPad Mini.

However, let me state that WiFi is still buggy and there’s a healthy amount of lag when remotely controlling the camera while shooting. I think this technology has a long way to go, but it is usable in shooting and it is wonderful for downloading to a device for editing and sharing. One thing I’d love to see upgraded on the Fuji cameras is allowing the photographer to control the camera from the camera while it is being previewed on a device. This would be extremely helpful during a shoot as I can keep shooting and my client or crew can see the images popping up on an iPad. As it stands, when a Fuji camera is being controlled remotely via WiFi the camera goes dark. You can only control it via the app.

And dearest Fuji — We still want tethering to a computer.

UPGRADE #3 :: CLASSIC CHROME

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I have a confession to make. I have had a hacked X100S all summer that had this new Classic Chrome film simulation loaded into it. Fuji asked if I would test it and I half heartedly agreed to. “I’ll test it. Don’t know what you’re going to get from it. I don’t use the film simulation modes.” Then I shot all summer with Classic Chrome and that’s all I shoot with the hacked X100S and X100T. I really hope it is coming to the rest of the Fuji lineup via firmware.

I haven’t heard anything about new firmware. I might know more after Photokina next week. I’ll update you here on DEDPXL if I hear anything new.

BUT YES… CLASSIC CHROME. HOLY SH*T. YES. YES. YES.

This might be sacrilege to some but it could almost be called an Eggleston filter. I do not want to cheapen this film simulation with a dumb name or anything like that, and I sure as hell do not want to cheapen the name of William Eggleston. I only say that because it reminds me a lot of Eggleston’s palette. Please don’t flame me over this. I’m just trying to describe my feelings and emotions when I started shooting this film simulation. I love Eggleston’s work and his use of color is so unique that it became his signature at times. It makes sense, though, since Eggleston shot Kodachrome most of the time, and this is called “Classic Chrome”; I’m kind of thinking that Kodachrome was the inspiration for this film. I could be wrong. Just my opinion.

There’s this “something” to this new film simulation. Whatever that “something” is I love it and I’m sold on it. It’s slightly desaturated and slightly flattened out without making highlights and shadows muddy like some film simulators tend to do. It can still hold a nice “snap” of contrast especially if you set your shadow tone to +1 which is something I am doing a bit more of these days. People don’t believe us Fuji shooters when we say we love the JPGs coming straight out of these cameras. Fuji has always processed images better than anyone else. I remember fashion shooters swearing by Fuji S1′s and S2′s for skin tone straight from camera.

All of the sample images above were shot auto WB, auto ISO, aperture priority, some sort of exposure compensation, and using the Classic Chrome film simulation mode. These are straight out of camera JPGs that have been sized down to 2000px. Most were shot with the hacked X100S.

This blog post is coming right along! I’ve got a squirrel, my kids, a cat and a dog, and a flower! Nice! I might have to set up some kitschy sh!t or take a photo of my bookcase. Let me know if you need those images to truly get an idea of what this camera is capable of. Maybe a photo of a quarter at every conceivable aperture and ISO setting? Let me know if you need those.

Oh — you’re going to love this. I have hit the pinnacle of success as a professional photographer. The new Fuji brochure features some images I have shot in Classic Chrome and one of the images chosen is that flower shot above. Guys! I have a picture of a flower in a camera brochure guys!!! I’m looking forward to my early retirement.

UPGRADE #4 :: LAYOUT, DISPLAYS, & CUSTOM FUNCTIONS

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The menus have the XT1 feel and look to them with a few further refinements. One of the new features I’m most happy about is you can now customize your Q menu now! YES! That’s been a huge request and just one more sign that we speak and Fuji listens. The new D pad on the back has been upgraded and I wish the XT1 had this exact D pad. Fuji got the D pad right! Yes! High fives all around! I think they have finally found the perfect mix of size, feel, and function.

Each of the four buttons on the D pad can be programed to do whatever you want them to do. Currently I have the top one set to choose the AF area. The right button turns macro on and off. The bottom button turns face detection on and off. The left button cycles through the conversion lens settings. I have the top function button set to turn the built in ND filter on and off. I’ve kept the WiFi function button at its default setting of turning on WiFi. The seventh Fn button is the trash can button and that can be set to do something when in shooting mode. It is still the trash button when in playback mode.

While I’m talking about buttons I need to mention that the AFS / AFC / MF selector button on the left side of the body is new and is the best yet. There are longer spaces between the M, C, and S positions and there’s a solid click as you hit each one. It’s a very small detail but one that has needed to be addressed since the original X100. Glad to see that improved.

From the X100T brochure comes this interesting note — “After feedback from customers, the design philosophy and layout of the rear of the camera has been standardized on X series models.” So… will this be the main layout from now on? I hope so. It’s a pain moving from one X camera to another and remembering where all the buttons are because they’ve been moved around a lot. Some may argue they’d rather have this button there or that one here. I honestly don’t care. I just want one consistent layout and be done. They could have 14 buttons with no markings for all I care and let us program each and every one. Just as long as there is some consistency moving forward is what I’m happy about.

UPGRADE #5 :: NEW HYBRID VIEWFINDER

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THE ALREADY WONDERFUL HYBRID VIEWFINDER HAS BEEN REDESIGNED AND IT IS FANTASTIC.

First, when in Optical Viewfinder (OVF) mode you now have a real time parallax preview as that white frame moves with focusing distance. You can also see the overall interface has been cleaned up as well. You can still have a digital level, framing guides, focus scale and all the rest. I used to have all that stuff turned on but lately I’ve been stripping my displays down to bare essentials.

The image above was shot with my iPhone so it does not do the viewfinder justice but it gives you a basic idea of the look of it. Notice the little preview in the bottom right corner? That’s a real time preview of your focus area and it lets you know what the camera is actually locking on to. It is also very helpful when using manual focus in combination with the OVF. As you move your focus point around the viewfinder the preview follows it. My preproduction unit has that turned on all the time in OVF mode and there have been times when I would like it turned off. I think this will be a feature that is user selectable once the firmware is finalized because I see it as an option in the new brochure.

The new OVF is also brighter and larger than previous models and it’s beautiful. It also seems to cover the entire field of view of the wide angle conversion lens. When you set the camera to the wide angle converter the box changes to corner markers in the full frame of the OVF. When you place it in tele converter mode the white box reduces in size to give you the field of view frame for that lens. The EVF has been upgraded as well. Here’s a screenshot of the new Fuji brochure talking about it. Also note that Hawke Danger and my wife, Meghan, have made their camera brochure modeling debut!

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OTHER NOTABLE UPGRADES ::

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Another notable upgrade that has been introduced with the X100T is the ability to switch from a mechanical shutter to an electronic shutter or turn it on auto and the camera will decide. The electronic shutter now gives the camera the ability to shoot at shutter speeds up to 32,000th of a second. I have not been in any situations yet where I’ve needed this, but it’s there and it’s working. I’ve shot in full sun at f2 at 20,000th something of a second so I know it works. Note: if you have it on electronic shutter or auto the hotshoe will not fire. You have to be in mechanical shutter for the hotshoe to fire anything sitting on it. Bernard figured this one out after listening to me spew obscenities when I couldn’t get this new camera to fire a Pocket Wizard.

One request I still have to this day is to allow the center pin of the hotshoe to fire — NO MATTER WHAT! Silent mode. Continuous frame. Macro mode. Whatever. Fire that center pin always. Please. It sucks to have your camera set up one way and you put a pocket wizard on it and the flash won’t fire. Then you have to cycle through your menus and figure out what the hell is keeping it from firing. Anyway. The 23mm lens still has a leaf shutter so highspeed sync is still available.

Speaking of the lens, there’s a new aperture ring that now has positive click stops in 1/3 increments. That’s really nice. The focus ring is smooth and responsive and has a new texture engraved into it. OMG. Remember manually focusing the first version of the x100? It was pointless. Useless. Maddening. It made you say a lot of cuss words. I’m glad they improved the x100 with the last firmware update but it isn’t as good as the S and the T.

Oooo. Ooooo. Another favorite upgrade for me is the new exposure compensation dial. It now has +3 to -3 stops of exposure compensation in 1/3rd increments. I shoot my x100′s on aperture priority most of the time but I rely heavily on the exposure compensation dial to get the exposure that I desire. Having an extra stop in both directions is a much welcomed upgrade.

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Speaking of exposure, you can now set the spot meter to follow your focus point. Spot metering was always stuck in the center of your frame before. You can now have the option to use the center or to follow your focus point. Nice. Speaking of focus point, you can set up the D pad to not be function buttons and now just be focus selection points full time. That’s nice if you have your camera all set to how you want it and you just want to move that AF point around without having to push a dedicated button to start that process.

THE MENU NOW HAS THREE AUTO ISO SETTINGS THAT CAN BE CUSTOMIZED HOWEVER YOU SEE FIT.

You can have Auto #1 set from ISO 200 – 6400 with 1/60th as the slowest shutter before advancing ISO. The next can be set from 400 – 1600 with 125th set as the shutter. Etc. Etc. That’s a nice tweak.

X100 users… Drum roll please… Not only has battery life been improved to a reported 700 shots (with power saving options turned on) BUT… It seems as though the battery indicator level is fixed! I haven’t had enough experience to blow through a lot of batteries yet but it would seem as though the battery indicator is gradually declining as it should have always done. In the past it would show full. And then it would drop one level indicator and that was your ten shot warning. Typically your battery was full or dead with very little room in between. Note that it uses the same battery as before so if you upgrade your batteries and chargers will not be obsolete.

There’s one menu item I can’t test yet and that is “Instax printer connection setting.” Oh. Yes. I can’t wait to try that.

The video functions have been upgraded but I have not had a chance to give this a run for its money yet. In the past I’ve never used any Fuji cameras for videos of any importance because the quality has been subpar, thus my heavy investment into the Panasonic GH4 system this year. I feel like Fuji needs about one more year of tweaking and refining their cameras and sensors and I’d love to see them turn their focus onto the video capabilities. That’s going to require a lot of R&D and to be real honest with you… I think… for me… I’d rather see that R&D money pushed into a new medium format camera. That’s what I’m truly lusting for these days. Here’s a page about the new video capabilities.

Oh… and advanced filters. Selective color can be done in camera. Please move along. Nothing to see here. Move along.

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This post is getting quite long but there is a lot to cover. Let me finish this list with the last few things that are noteworthy. The LCD screen has been upgraded and is now larger than previous models. Multi target auto AF is now available. Haven’t tested that yet. EVF brightness and color can be adjusted. There’s a simple to use intervalometer (Yay!) and lastly, you can now charge the battery in the camera via USB.

That… is a lot of upgrades.

MY CURRENT X100T KIT ::

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I’ve recently added the conversion lenses to my bag and I’m testing them right now. As far as feel and balance goes, the wide angle lens feels right at home on the X100. The tele converter makes the camera a bit front heavy. It sits nicely in the hand but isn’t as balanced as well as the wide. While you can shoot either of them without switching the lens mode on the camera I do not suggest doing so. The number one thing the lens mode on the camera does is correct barrel distortion. At least from my tests that’s what it seems to be doing. I’m not wanting to jump into a review of these lenses yet; I want a little more time with them.

The images above were shot from the same camera to subject distance to give you an idea of the field of view each lens gives you. FWIW – That’s Billy Allin, Owner and Chef of Cakes & Ale in Decatur, GA. If you can ever make your way to Cake’s & Ale… do so. The man is a genius.

WHAT’S MISSING ::

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There are two major upgrades I was expecting with this camera. A flip/tilt screen and weatherproofing and neither of these are on the new camera. The tilt screen I can live without, but no weatherproofing? That’s my big #facepalm moment with this new camera. As in… “Hey y’all! Got the new X100T brochure! You forgot to mention weatherproofing. It is weatherproofed, right?” Errr. No. It is not. Again, while tilt screens are awesome, and I use that on the XT1 more and more, I can live without it. My personal opinion about it being left out on this camera is it would have made the camera thicker overall.

But weatherproofing? I’m scratching my head on that one. I’ve had my previous X100′s out in the rain before and they’ve gotten quite — shall we say — damp. Never dripping wet, though. I’d love to walk out the door with confidence that my X100 could get straight up rained on without skipping a beat. I really want that feature. I want that far more than a tilt screen.

THE RUMOR SITES HAD PREVIOUSLY TALKED ABOUT A 24 MEGAPIXEL CHIP UPGRADE AND THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN EITHER.

I’m fine with that. The current sensor lineup is fantastic and does everything I need it to do for a small format camera. If it can do so at 24 MP fine. If not, fine. I’m sure we’ll see that bump up at some point.

The ISO has been boosted but I haven’t really had a chance to test that out properly and I don’t want to report on that yet with preproduction firmware. If there is something jaw dropping amazing about it I’ll report back. I could simply take a photo of my computer keyboard at high ISO but that isn’t real world, real moment, real firmware. Of course it’s going to be noisy but how does that translate into a photo that I actually want to make into a print? We’ll see.

The new body design is slightly thinner than previous models but that isn’t really felt when in the hand. The curves of the body have been flattened out so overall it’s been on a diet and is getting a bit more lean and cut. Personally I prefer the little extra curves of previous design. If it ain’t broke… don’t fix it.

The most noteworthy body changes (besides the buttons on the back) are seen on the front of the camera where the handgrip now extends to the top of the camera and the front of the viewfinder is now flush with the body. In the hand, though, it’s just as balanced and comfortable as before. The dials have solid clicks. The buttons are well laid out, and the new command dial works well. I will note that a new thumb grip will need to be designed. I have the old Fuji thumb grip and it slightly covers the “drive” button and is a bit in the way of the command dial. Nothing that I can’t work around but I will be on the hunt for a new thumb rest; an accessory I can no longer live without. The jury is out for me about soft releases, though; I usually end up losing the things.

SHOULD YOU UPGRADE?

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I’ve heard a number of people say, “If it has this or that then I’ll probably upgrade.” and, “If it does not have this or that then I will not upgrade.” If you are in either of those camps then you now have an idea of what you are going to do. I’m going to say that if you are still shooting an original X100 then this is going to be a big upgrade for you. If you are currently shooting with the X100S then the biggest gain you will see is WiFi, speed, and button layout and HVF improvements. You will appreciate the bump in performance and you will like the new viewfinder a lot. I can’t tell you if that’s enough for you to upgrade or not. You’ve already made up your mind I’m sure.

FUJI MADE A LOT OF PEOPLE HAPPY WHEN THEY DID A HUGE UPGRADE TO THE ORIGINAL X100 AFTER THE S WAS INTRODUCED.

They really brought that camera up in performance. The S was, and is, a fantastic camera and I imagine we’ll see some firmware upgrades. I DO NOT KNOW THAT THOUGH! I’ll report on what I find out after Photokina. However, knowing Fuji, they do a great job keeping people happy with great firmware updates.

CONCLUSION ::

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THE X100T CONTINUES THE EVOLUTION OF THE X100 SERIES WITH SOME WELL THOUGHT OUT REFINEMENTS OF THE CAMERA.

The X100 series is STILL my desert island camera. I’m so happy they haven’t screwed it up. It still has soul and that — is what makes a Fuji a Fuji. If you have any questions for me, head on over to my post on Dedpxl.com and drop me a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

To purchase the brand new Fujifilm X100T, head on over to B&H Photo here for Silver and here for Black.

(Words & Photos provided by Zack Arias used with permission)

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