X100S – As Your Primary Camera

Editors Choice

8 Usability
8 Image Quality
9 Build Quality
7 Versatilty
10 Asthetics

Recently I finished a photo project using the X100S.  It was a simple project, use the X100S as my exclusive camera for three months.  I’m not really sure if it’s been exactly three months, to be fair, but it doesn’t matter because I’m not ready to set this camera down or pick up another.  Here is my review.


The Fujifilm X100S has already been reviewed all over the internet (including right here on PhotolisticLife), so I’m not going to dive into all the technical specs.  I’m going to focus on actual use and your ability to use this as your sole camera for the foreseeable future.

Sexy.  That sums this camera up in one word.  If I could use only two words I would use, Sexy and Advanced.  At first glance everyone always assumes I’m shooting with an old film rangefinder and are astounded when I show them the LCD on the back and assure them it’s more advanced than 99% of the cameras on the market today.  It’s a head turner for sure.



Image Quality

Speaking of image quality, I’ve put it against my Olympus OM-D E-M5 , the Nikon D600 , and finally the Nikon D800 and the X100S has exceeded my expectations.  As far as the OMD is concerned the image quality of the X100S far exceeds it in my humble opinion.  The D600 and D800 are kind of an unfair comparison since they both have full frame sensors but the X100S didn’t disappoint.  If the largest you’ll ever blow an image up is 20×30 then you’ll hardly notice a difference between the X100S and the Nikon bricks.  As for using images on the internet (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) you’d be hard pressed to see a difference.




Low Light

Low light is this camera’s B%T$H.  It’s low light performance is on par with that of the D800 with slightly less dynamic range.  The X100S leaves the OMD in it’s dust, the OMD showing multiple burnt out pixels (shown as red, white, and blue dots) at longer exposures as well as more grain.  I have shot hundreds of low light photos with exposure times in excess of three minutes and have yet to see a burnt out pixel or unruly grain.



Long Exposure

The X100S’s inability to take a long exposure shot over 30 seconds without using a manual shutter trigger is a bit of a bummer.  One of the few shortcoming of the camera I found.  I think I’m most disappointed because the X100S takes amazing long exposure photographs.  You’ll literally have to screw a manual cable release into your shutter button in order to have an exposure any longer than 30 seconds though (I picked up this one for $8 from Amazon).  Don’t let that deter you, the long exposure images are truly great.

The camera has a built in 3 stop ND filter that helps to reduce shutter speeds when shooting with a wide aperture (f/2ish) in bright light as well as increasing the shutter speed in lower light to create that glassy look that water gets at 10+ second exposures.




Wow.  I have never traveled as comfortably as I did on the 19hr trip to Sicily I took just recently with the X100S.  Normally I feel like I ought to get a second seat for my Nikon.  I didn’t even carry a camera bag on the airplane.  I dropped the camera into my laptop bag (left my laptop at home) and put the essential gear in my carry on luggage.  I forgot I even had the camera with me but quickly remembered when I accidentally stepped on my laptop bag on my way back from the toilet (don’t worry, the camera was fine).

Photo by John Barbiaux
Photo by John Barbiaux


The camera is so small and unobtrusive that I was able to practice street photography to my hearts content without irritating the locals by pointing a giant camera in their face.  I blended into the background and was able to get some really neat photographs that I probably wouldn’t have taken before (at the risk of upsetting people).

Adjusting Settings

The X100S has the vintage style aperture adjustment where you rotate the ring around the lens to dial in your adjustment and right next to that is the manual focus.  The shutter speed dial is on the top of the camera as well as the exposure compensation dial, which makes for quick adjustments without fiddling around.  There is a programmable Fn button on top of the camera that I have set to ISO selection because I don’t enjoy auto ISO as much as most.  Any of the other main settings can be quickly accessed by hitting a tiny Q button on the back of the camera (like setting the timer).  Your white balance can quickly be adjusted by hitting the bottom of the selection dial on the back of the camera.


The menu’s on the X100S are easy to navigate and don’t use some foreign language that you’d need a manual to figure out, they are all pretty self explanatory.  There is no automatic mode so if you want something similar you’ll have to learn to use aperture or shutter priority mode.  (Otherwise read this article on how to use your camera in manual mode)

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11 replies on “X100S – As Your Primary Camera”
  1. says: Ryan

    Thanks for your insights! I do a bit of family portraiture, so I’m curious about how it might handle active kids?

    1. says: John Barbiaux

      The EM1 has what they are calling “dual FAST auto focus”, the fast stands for Frequency Acceleration Sensor Technology and the dual means it uses both contrast or phase detection af depending on the lenses you choose to use. With that being said, it has def seen an upgrade over the EM5 in my own use while playing around with panning. If you get a fast enough lens (lower f/number) and mind your shutter speed (higher shutter speeds for those buggers because they are always on the move) you should not have a problem. I never ran into a issue with the EM5 while photographing plethora of nieces and nephews who are on a sugar high because… well I’m their uncle and I get to spoil them and then give them back. The new EVF (electronic view finder) also helps significantly because the frame rate is quick enough that you won’t see the scene stutter as if the evf is trying to catch up with your movement (this was a big problem with older EVFs). I hope that answers your question, let me know if you have others.

  2. Thanks for the great review, John. I’m a wildlife photographer looking for a supplemental camera for landscape, street, architecture, etc. I rented the X100S (loved it for the same reasons as you), Ricoh GR (not bad…and small), Nikon Coolpix A (didn’t like it), and Sigma DP2 Merrill (amazing images, though quirky in use). Definitely leaning toward picking up an X100S, especially after seeing your images…amazing!

    As a side note, I think we share the same bio. I’m the Director of Wealth Management for an independent RIA in the Pacific northwest. And I’ve been doing it for seven years, no less. Photography has become a passion and creative outlet for me as well. Where are you based out of?

    1. says: John Barbiaux

      Hi Adam, I am in Pittsburgh. Thanks for the compliments, the X100S is an amazing camera and creates some really impressive images. I’m putting the OMD EM1 through the paces right now and I think you’d like that one as well. You can check out my review here. I think the X100S would make a great supplemental camera for any kit. What is your primary camera?

      1. My primary camera is the Canon 7D w/ 24-105, 70-200, and 400mm lenses. So often I find myself shooting in dim light which is a challenge for the 7D. Originally I was thinking of getting a full frame second body, but I really like the idea of something small and portable that I might actually use more often.

        I’ve contemplated the OMD as I’m an outdoors guy and the splash, dust, shock, and freeze-proof features are appealing. What doesn’t appeal is buying all new glass, especially when I could buy the new Sony A7 or A7R with Metabones adaptor for the same price and use my Canon L glass. Having used the X100S extensively now, I’m curious if you’ll give it up for the OMD EM1? I did read your review by the way. Maybe when it’s available for rent I’ll try one out.

      2. says: John Barbiaux

        I don’t think I’ll ever give up my x100s, it’s such a convenient camera to own and the image quality is really great. I do really like the em1 and am considering using it as my primary and the x100s as my secondary.

        The Nikon Df was just announced and will be available at the end of November, it’s a full frame retro looking camera with a 50mm f/1.8 lens that looks intriguing as well (it’s settings are set up much the same as the x100s) however it uses an optical viewfinder which I think is also retro as the evf’s are getting to the point where you can hardly tell its electronic. Next year or the following you’ll probably see its successor with an evf or hybrid with the ability to switch back and forth like the x100s does.

        You can check it out on the home page, I’m writing this via my cell phone so I can’t embed a link for you.

        Good luck with your selection, let me know what you end up with.

        (Check out amazons used selection too, I’ve sold many of my test cameras that were in perfect shape through there)

      3. I had a chance to checkout the EM1 while the Olympus rep was in town and really liked the quality of the camera. Unfortunately, the ergonomics just didn’t work for me. I don’t have big hands, but it felt too small to grip comfortably.

        I ended up scoring a Sigma DP2 Merrill on the Fred Miranda forum for a really good price, so I decided to start there. I rented one in the past so I knew what I was getting into with all its quirks. I just love the resolution of these cameras. Of course it’s not too good for low-light situations so I’d still like something along the lines of a X100S or Ricoh GR eventually.

      4. I just learned that an Olympus rep is going to be at my local store on Fri/Sat with the EM1, so I’m probably going to check it out in person. The lens I’d probably want is the new 12-40. That’s a big nut to swallow. How are the OOC jpegs of the EM1 compared to the X100S? I always shoot RAW, but I like that the jpegs from the X100S always look great. The less work I have to do to get a photograph, the more likely I am to do it.

  3. says: Karl R.

    Hi John, how do you process your X100s Raw files ? With lightroom I experience when increasing shadows and lowering highlights – it tends to a grey touch on the image – as it would have less dynamic range – likewise my Nikons are great there …

    I love that camt too


    1. says: John Barbiaux


      I use Lightroom, I’ve not had any issues with reduced dynamic range (relative to the fact that RAW files will usually be less vibrant than say a jpeg because they don’t have any of the contrast, saturation, sharpening that a jpeg would. If you’d like to shoot me a RAW file I can load it into Lightroom and see if I have the same result you are describing. My email is PhotolisticLife@gmail.com. Take care!

      1. says: Karl R.

        Wow – that woudl be great! I leave tomorrow for vacation – should I face the problem with an image I send it to you – you are defenitely right – a raw file is not processed at all maybe I try to get the same pic with my Df too to have some comparison – cheers!!

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