Fujifilm X100T

The Fujifilm Czech representation lent me the X100T and I am now indebted. The exchange was clearly defined: They provide me with a camera and I will write a post about it. Now I have a dilemma. Write up what I honestly think about the camera, or write nothing at all? I chose the honest path… even if they wouldn’t lend me anything in the future.

Before I start

I compared the borrowed Fujifilm X100T to my own Sony a6000 with the Zeiss 1.8/32 lens. This comparison isn’t totally fair. Sony offers two models for the price of the X100T. The a6000 has APS-C sensor (like the X100T) and interchangeable lens (which is different from the X100T). The second option from Sony is RX100 Mk. IV, which has fixed lens (just like X100T), but has a smaller sensor than both cameras, 1“. The X100T offers something between those two Sony cameras, therefore it would be better to compare all three models. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to lay my hands on RX100.

That said, the following post is my honest answer to my personal question. Should I buy a Fujifilm X100T?

Let’s dive in…

Sony

I used a number of cameras since high school. I would highlight Minolta Dimage Xg, Panasonic FZ-30, FZ-50, and FX-35. The last camera worth mentioning was Nikon D60, which was my first (D)SLR camera. I did like the camera, but it was too big and too heavy. I’ve often asked myself a question „Do I have to bring the camera with me?“ and the answer was usually „No, I don’t.“ So a fair number of times, I left my D60 at home, on a shelf.

Later, I decided to buy something else, something between a compact point-and-shoot camera and a DSLR. Compact cameras were painfully slow and DSLRs were too heavy. Back then there was a new thing on the market - mirrorless cameras. These cameras were compact, light and had interchangeable lens. I picked Sony NEX-7 and finally had a camera I could take at all times and without any hesitation.

There, I started to shoot!

Years later I came to the conclusion my NEX-7 is outdated and too slow. I missed the most of nice moments just because my camera was unable to focus fast enough. My next choice was the Sony a6000, another mirrorless camera. This one was better than the NEX-7 in every possible way. And as a bonus, it was noticeably cheaper, like half the price cheaper.

Fujifilm

I discovered Fujifilm cameras thanks to David and Romana Marie. David is using X-E2 for his portrait photo-shoots and he made it possible for me to try other models for a short period of time. The highlight of those trials was the latest X-Pro2, a very powerful and user-friendly camera. Unfortunately for me, it’s also big and heavy. Considering I’m constantly using my camera with only one lens, I was looking at the smaller X100T. It’s about the size of the a6000, it has quality lens, and it offered basically everything I needed.

I asked Fujifilm if they have the willingness to lend me the X100T for few days. Surprisingly enough they did and I could try X100T before buying it. Even though I was decided to buy it without a trial run, it’s always better to try it ahead the purchase.

Fujifilm X100T: The Good

I’m thinking about the Fujifilm X100T and the Sony a6000 like they are comparable. Not only because both are offered for the same amount of money, but also because both have similar lens. The X100T offers a 23mm, ƒ/2.0 lens, while I’m using the a6000 with the Zeiss Touit 32mm, ƒ/1.8.

Let’s start where X100T shines:

  • The size.
  • Hybrid optical/electronical viewfinder.
  • Silent leaf shutter.
  • Classic design.

The camera is really compact thanks to the pancake lens and a sensor moved to the back of the body. Even when the body itself is slightly larger than body of the a6000, the lens is pleasantly small and doesn’t protrude from the body too much.

The viewfinder is a gem. It offers a classic optical look-through viewfinder, that is able to show most of information EVF can show. It can display shutter speed, aperture, sensitivity, and also level and frame that shows you what will be on the photo - correctly for close and far objects. Even better, the viewfinder can be switched to „pure EVF“ mode. The only downside of this gem is shape distortion. Everything displayed in the viewfinder has the shape of inverted barrel. Things displayed on the left and right side of the viewfinder are little taller than the same things displayed in the middle.

The leaf shutter doesn’t need much description. It’s silent. It’s so silent I usually didn’t notice the shutter during a photo-shoot. It’s good thing for people I’m photographing, but not so good for me, as I often didn’t know if I pressed the shutter button enough.

The X100T looks like an old analog camera and employs the same design as Leica does. Optical viewfinder, faux leather brick-ish body and a single-purpose dial. It looks great! Unfortunately, with the design the good ends and bad things start to emerge.

Fujifilm X100T: The Bad

Design is not only about how things appear, it’s also about how humans interact with them. The first thing that strikes me is the absence of a grip. There is nothing to support neither „front“ fingers nor the thumb. Therefore it’s almost impossible to use the camera with one hand only. Unfortunately, using both hands isn’t much better, since there is nowhere to put my fingers. I have to nearly break my fingers to hold the camera and after an hour or so my hands starts cramping. It’s really hard to walk with the camera on a wrist strap holding it in one hand. Maybe it’s because I’m almost two meters tall and I have fingers longer than most of the people. Camera I can switch.

The other controls of the X100T are handier. It has aperture ring on the lens, two dials on the top of the body for shutter speed setting and exposure compensation respectively. Those controls are nicely labeled and have a good feedback. It’s easy to use it without looking at it. Points for Fujifilm!

The rest of controls is problematic again. Buttons are important too, unfortunately, the buttons on the X100T are one like the other, small and close to each other. I’m unable to differentiate between AEL for focus and Q for favorite settings access without looking at these. The same problem is with four buttons on the left side of the display. I always have to count the buttons from the top or from the bottom to find the correct one.

Let’s look at the Sony a6000: Lens is interchangeable, so there is nothing stable. On the top of the body, there are dials for mode selection (M, S, A, P…) and for secondary setting. For example: For S (Shutter priority mode) the secondary dial offers change of shutter speed, for A (Aperture priority mode) there is aperture setup. Each dial has a different surface finish for easy use without looking at it. Buttons are also different from each other. I can simply touch it to find the right one. Button for ejecting the flash is oval with significant edges and MENU button is oval without such edges. AEL is circle with the edges, Fn is similar but without it. Also the bottom two buttons are each designed differently. There aren’t two controls with the same design on the a6000.

Next important element is the screen. The X100T has fixed and really bad screen. The screen has basically only two modes - it’s either dark without any contrast or light enough but showing all light parts of the photo as pure white. One mode is unusable during daylight, the other is useless for exposure check.

Because of the great viewfinder and the poor screen I think the camera is designed for shooting from eye level only. I didn’t expect it would be a problem when I was considering this camera. But later I’ve found out that I shoot most of my photos differently. Thanks to quality screen on the a6000 I’m allowed to shoot from stretched hand. And I often do. I can hold the camera near the ground to take a shot of people lying down or small animals. I can also hold the camera above my head to shoot people in trams or on stairs. I was surprised how often I use the camera in such „strange“ pose. The X100T doesn’t offer this freedom.

Quick Look at a Fujifilm X30 and X70

Cheaper, smaller, and lighter Fujifilms X30 and X70 have surprisingly well-designed grip made from soft rubber. Both have support for thumb too. Buttons on a X30 are similar to those on a X100T - small and one like the other. X70 has similar buttons but with better layout. All main buttons on a X70 are placed next to central D-pad which probably makes them more usable without looking at them. Also the screen is better on both X30 and X70. It can be tilted and I expect it to be in better quality as both X30 and X70 are newer models than X100T.

It’s quite sad to have cheaper models with better ergonomics than high-end models. Fortunately, it looks like Fujifilm is learning how to build a camera that can be used comfortably and the upcoming X100F/X200 might be designed photographer-friendly too.

Fujifilm X100T: The Output

When I finish a photo-shoot, I usually go home to copy RAW files directly from the camera. When using the a6000, I get a fairly nice picture right out of the camera and with just a few modifications I have the photo I want. It’s not the case with the X100T, as it requires a little more work. The pictures are missing contrast and colors. I have to apply one of the provided film emulations to recreate the scene I saw when I hit the shutter. After all, I can get a photo with the same look from both a6000 and X100T, but with X100T I have to do more unintuitive work.

By the way, import of photos from the X100T using the Lightroom takes about five times longer to import the same number of photos from the a6000. But the Lightroom is known for bad a support of Fujifilm cameras and I did expect such difference.

Everyone is praising X100T’s lens, yet I still don’t know why. The photos have not only lower resolution (16 Mpx vs 24 Mpx from a6000), but are missing details on structures like human hair. I find it slightly worse than how it should be from the different resolution perspective only. I don’t know if it’s caused by the lens or by the sensor. Resulting soft creamy-dreamy photos are interesting, nice, but aren’t what I expect from a camera. I think camera should freeze the reality as I see it, without a milk glass in front of the lens.

This could be caused by the Lightroom too, but reviews suggest it’s not the case.

Summary

The Fujifilm X100T looks like a classic camera and it takes good enough photos. But design of things has changed in the last fifty years and I don’t see any reason to suffer when taking photos. Unfortunately, shooting with the X100T is pain.

I think the a6000 do it’s best to offer me good photos while with the X100T there is a lot of work expected on my side. I have to do something to make the RAW looks like a photo, not a morning fog. Considering film emulations, it’s not expected an user of a X100T will ever get in contact with a RAW file.

I think Fujifilm asks too much money (like half of the price) just for the hipster feeling. Not only it’s hipster by how it looks, but also by it’s ergonomics and technical abilities. The camera offers everything needed and some bonuses too, but everything feels outdated. And that’s not what I want from my camera. Yet, I understand that „instagram“ in an old-school metal body is great offer for many people and those people will buy a X100T.

Or maybe not… Flickr’s Camera Finder show next figures:

  • Sony a6000: 22 800 000 photos, 1150 active users
  • Fujifilm X100T: 2 200 000 photos, 269 active users