On my trip to Japan this February I made a radical choice. I would travel only with my Fuji X100S. There were several reasons behind this choice. I wanted to have a small camera that would be easy to take everywhere. This was also my first trip with my girlfriend and didn’t want her to have to wait too much while I took my pictures. Not having the option to switch lenses meant my process skipped straight to taking the picture and significantly cut down the time I spent taking and retaking a picture.
My biggest concern was my lack of options for specific situations. From my previous trips I knew the not having a telephoto would not be a big concern but not having a wide angle lens might be a problem. Also, Japan has always been at the very top of the list of countries to visit for me and I do not know if I will get to return so missing out on shots that I might never get a second chance to take was something really worrying for me.
So, given all that, what is it about this camera that made me want to take the risk?
One of the things I love the most about the Fuji is its size. It is just the right size to fit in a large jacket pocket (as most of mine tend to be). It also transforms your camera bag into a multipurpose bag with plenty of space to store other items.
It is also big enough to allow you to grip it well and operate all the manual controls without it feeling like it is going to fall out of your hand when you are doing so.
This little camera also does not compromise when it comes to quality of images. Its 23mm F 2.0 lens is sharp at all apertures. It only suffers a bit when doing macro shots at f2 but stopping it down to f2.8 removes the issue.
Compared to the X-Pro 1 it has faster autofocus and a much better EVF. It is also much faster to write to disk and overall is a better camera than its older sibling.
The autofocus. As you have probably heard, autofocus is not one of Fuji’s strong points. They have greatly improved this with the XT-1 (or so I’ve heard) but these are not cameras for action or sports photography. Given all that, I find that the autofocus is enough for my needs 95% of the times. There are moment in which I miss a shot because of a missed focus but these are not the majority of shots. Once you understand the quirks of the focusing system, it sort of becomes second nature.
Fixed lens. The Fuji X100s has a fixed focal lens. It is not interchangeable which means your are stuck with one field of view. This is limiting though not always bad. When I first started in photography I was obsessed with having a lens to cover every possible focal length. This of course meant buying several zooms and a couple of primes. When I switched to Fuji, I gave up my zooms and switched to only prime lenses. I have not used a zoom lens in over 2 years and I can honestly say I do not miss them.
Reducing my options even further to just a 35mm equivalent was a scary step. Though I love the 35mm focal length, there are time when you wish you had something a little wider. I always managed to work around these limitations but at times I would have liked to have the option.
There is nothing ugly about this camera.
I am very happy with my choice for this trip. It allowed me to forget I had a camera with me for most of the time but was already ready to go when I needed it. In fact, I am seriously considering doing the same thing when I head off to Iran this autumn (SPOILER).
It allowed me to be much more present while travelling as I had a lot of choices already made for me due to the limits imposed by this camera.
The 35mm field of view is a perfect balance for both people and landscapes. Though at times a wider angle might have been nice, being limited forced me to work more on my composition and find creative solutions. It was an inconvenience, not a deal-breaker.
The camera is a workhorse that will work just as well in the middle of the day as in the brightest conditions (did I mention it has a built in ND filter?).