Both my husband and I have been avid amateur photographers for a number of years. Before we had kids, our "baby" was our Nikon D300. Any time we went anywhere, we would load up a dedicated camera backpack with the hefty camera body, multiple lenses, flashes, and various other accessories.
We knew this setup would not work for our around the world trip. We needed a camera that met all of the following criteria:
- Takes great photos - This is a given...
- Lightweight and compact - We need to be able to take it with us everywhere, and it can't be a burden.
- Advanced Features - We don't want a simple point and shoot where we can't control aperture and shutter speed. We already have one of those cameras, it's our iPhone.
- Durable - Since it will be coming with us everywhere, it better be able to take a bit of a beating.
While doing our research, the Fujifilm X100S kept coming up as a highly recommended travel camera. In particular, this review by Ken Rockwell sold us that this was the perfect camera for us. It is certainly not a cheap camera, and it is a bit limiting to not be able to change lenses or zoom, but the camera certainly met all of our criteria. We bit the bullet, and could not be more satisfied with our purchase.
There are already many, many reviews for this camera, and since we aren't professional camera reviewers it isn't our intention to just write another review. Either way, we would like to highlight some first hand impressions after having used the camera for several months. If you are interested in professional reviews, in addition to Ken Rockwell, you can also check out DPREVIEW.
Fixed Lens - No Zoom!
The reason this camera is able to maintain its small size while taking amazing pictures is that it has a fixed lens with no zoom. Having no zoom may be a turnoff for some, but on our big DSLR we frequently shot with a 50mm, so we were already used to it. With this camera, the zoom is your legs. It is something that takes adjusting to, but unless you're taking sports photos or trying to capture very specific details in a landscape, your pictures will not suffer just because you don't have a zoom.
We love the way our landscapes have come out with this camera. There is a nice panorama mode as well, allowing you to take 120° or 180° panoramas, horizontally or vertically, which in our experience works even better than the iPhone's panorama mode. We'll just let these pictures speak for themselves.
For family travel photography, nothing is more important than being able to take good portraits against an amazing background. It does take some photography expertise to be able to get the lighting right of both your subject and the background, but without much work you can get some amazing portraits on the X100S.
Flash / Low Light Shooting
On our big DSLR, we always would use an external flash, as the lighting of the on-camera flash always washed the pictures out. With the X100S, we haven't found this to be the case. In most cases, when the light is low we just bump the ISO up to 1600, 3200, or even 6400, and just use the flash to brighten things up a little bit. The pictures do not look grainy, even at ISO 6400. With the flash on, you may occasionally see some red eye, but it is easily fixed with any simple photo editing software.
One odd thing we have found with this camera is how little warning it gives before the battery dies. It will start flashing the low battery indicator, and then just shut off one minute later. Pick up an extra battery, but don't waste your money on the official one sold by Fujifilm. We got a third party battery for a fraction of the price, and it works great as a backup battery.
Old Fashioned Design
Some of the areas we plan on traveling to have a reputation for pick pockets and thieves. What is nice about this camera is that it looks at a glance like it is an old film camera. It is not flashy and does not look like an especially expensive camera. Hopefully, that will help make our camera look like less of a target for potential thieves!
The only accessories we initially got with the camera were ones suggested by Ken Rockwell to help protect the lens. This was the JJC LH-JX100 Lens Hood/Adapter Ring and the B+W 49mm filter. We do not use the Lens Hood itself, as it is very bulky, we just use the adapter ring to attach the filter. The only other accessory we have picked up since is a 49mm lens cap with strap. The lens cap that comes with the X100S does not snap on, and we had lost it while hiking outdoors. By getting a lens cap that not only snaps, but also straps onto the lens, it means much less worrying about losing the cap. I would suggest getting one of these right from the beginning, it is very inexpensive and better than having to get one in a pinch.
A word to the wise
One of the most frequent questions we've had from our readers is "what kind of camera do you have?". That was our inspiration for writing our experience with the Fujifilm X100S. We are in no way affiliated with or endorsed by Fujifilm, in fact this is the first Fujifilm camera we've ever owned, but since we are very happy with the purchase and the quality of our pictures, we wanted to share our experience with other travelers and photography enthusiasts.
There is another piece of advice we'd like to give to anyone looking to take better pictures; if you are serious about investing a lot of money into a top of the line camera, also invest some time into learning more about photography and cameras in general. While this camera will probably take great pictures in most scenarios on full-auto mode, understanding how to properly use aperture, shutter speed, and ISO will help make your pictures really stand out.
Several years back, we took a distant learning course through New York Institute of Photography. Taking these courses allowed us to become much better photographers, which is more important to taking good pictures than how much money you spend on a camera. In fact, quite a few pictures you see on our blog are taken with an iPhone 5s, and you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference a lot of times.
The final thing I'd suggest is to get some photo editing software to perform some image processing. We use Apple Aperture, and while it is a time consuming process, this is what helps turn a good picture into a great picture.