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Fuji X100T Preview – Initial Thoughts & Sample Images

By Matthew Saville on December 11th 2014

Fuji-X100T-review-6The Fuji X100 series of compact cameras has been a very exciting lineup for both advanced hobbyist and pro photographers alike.

Serious hobbyists want a no-nonsense camera that delivers great images, offers full manual control, (and raw control!) and is built solidly.

Hard-working pros are just tired of lugging their flagship full-frame bodies and lenses around for casual photography, and are looking for a camera that is built solid and doesn’t compromise on image quality.

Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt if this camera also looks, well, less like a TV remote and more like what we envision a classic camera ought to.  The early point-and-shoot digital cameras basically looked like a 90’s Giga Pet / Tamagotchi, i.e., an ugly, mass-produced electronic device.

Fuji-X100T-review-1

The Fuji X100 series is one of those classic / retro style cameras that bucked such trends, at least according to most of the buzz on the Internet since the first X100-series hit shelves in early 2011. It’s got mechanical dials and wheels.  It’s got an optical viewfinder (rangefinder), yet it also has an EVF.  And it feels solid, well-built, and generally awesome in-hand.  It’s what a compact camera ought to be.

I just got my hands on the X100T, the latest iteration of that line.  Here’s what we’re working with, at a glance…

Fuji X100T Features

  • 16 megapixel 1.5x crop sensor
  • Fixed 35mm equivalent f/2 lens
  • ISO 200-6400 Native, 100-51200 using LO and HI
  • Hybrid mirrorless system with optical rangefinder / electronic viewfinder
  • Built-in Wifi
  • Hybrid mechanical / electronic shutter, electronic shutter capable of 1/32000 sec
  • 1080p 60fps etc video
  • Built-in intervalometer
  • Built-in ND filter (A true ~3 stop ND, not just “ISO LO”)

Fuji-X100T-review-2

Fuji X100T Handling – Initial Opinion

On paper, it sounds like an awesome, high-tech version of a classic camera. Simple, fixed lens rangefinder cameras have always been a favorite choice for casual and serious photographers alike who simply want to document life, and create art.  I’d argue that a handful of history’s finest street photographers, such as Gary Winogrand or Henri Cartier-Bresson, would kill to have a camera like this if they were alive today!

Having said that, my first impression of this camera is that it is a significant departure from the type of camera I am used to handling. Simply put, it reminds me of when I first handled the Nikon Df, and that’s both a good thing and a bad thing.

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I’ve always had a thing for classic cameras, I use old AI-S manual focus Nikon lenses on my modern DSLRs, and I’ve even in the habit lately of popping a roll of film or two in my old FM2 from the early 80’s.  So, I can appreciate manual control, real dials and wheels and aperture rings. The X100T brings back that enjoyment of photography, the purity of seeing something you want to click a picture of.  If you like such things too, then you should definitely check out the Fuji X100T.

The interface and controls, however, (like the Nikon Df) do leave you struggling at times, or at least reaching for the user manual far more often than any other camera you might have used before.

For example, I still have not figured out if it is even possible to scroll from image to image, while zoomed in at 100% during image playback.

In fact, I am basically reading the user manual from cover to cover right now, something I’ve literally never done in my career as a camera reviewer.  I know, I know, nobody should ever complain about having to read their manual, however I’ve been reviewing cameras for many years now and this is simply the most I have ever found myself thinking, “surely this can’t be the ONLY way to change such-and-such, can it?”

For now, I’m willing to lay part of the blame on myself possibly being an “old dog trying to learn a new trick,” for the first time. I’ll reserve final judgment until my full review is complete.  I just thought I should mention it.  I bet if I handed the camera to some 17-year-old up-and-coming photog’, they’d have everything figured out in 10 minutes.

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X100T Sensor ISO Test

The things you’ve been hearing about Fuji‘s compact camera sensors performing amazing in low-light are all true.  Yes, I’m even talking to you, Canon / Nikon full-frame owners! The X100T sensor is downright impressive.

All of the below images are 100% crops, processed in Adobe Lightroom using light sharpening and zero luminance noise reduction.  Shadows have been boosted a bit, to show the progressive loss of dynamic range at higher ISO’s:

fuji-xt100-lens-sharpness-sample-iso-200-400 fuji-xt100-lens-sharpness-sample-iso-800-1600 fuji-xt100-lens-sharpness-sample-iso-3200-6400 fuji-xt100-lens-sharpness-sample-iso-200-3200

As you can see, between ISO 200 and 3200, there is almost zero loss of highlight detail, and the only thing that truly suffers is deep, dark shadows. In other words, if you “ETTR” (expose to the right, the brightest half of your histogram), then, in my opinion, you’ll be shooting on-par with the best full-frame cameras up to ISO 3200. I’ll include more sample images in my final review.

Unfortunately, after ISO 6400 you’re forced to use JPG, not RAW, because you’re getting into what most camera makers refer to as “HI” ISO’s, a mere in-camera EV boost of the highest native ISO.  Having said that, ISO 12800 is still usable in the highlights, at least for personal snapshots! ISO 25600 would be where I’d draw the line, however, as even the brightest highlights get very mushy. Useful for Facebook wall snaps only…

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fuji-xt100-lens-sharpness-sample-iso-25600-51200 fuji-xt100-lens-iso-sample-x100t-vs-d5300-iso-3200

Check out this comparison between the Fuji X100T and the Nikon D5300. (Preview here) The Nikon sensor is a highly popular, Sony-made 24 megapixel sensor, in fact, it’s the sensor that Nikon’s entire DX lineup is using in one form or another, as well as the Pentax K3 (Review here) and the Sony A6000. (Review here)

Suffice it to say, despite the Nikon having slightly more “bite” in the fine details thanks to its lack of an AA filter, the Fuji image looks more pleasing and much less noisy. (The difference in image size is due to using different focal length lenses and failing  to match up 100% reproduction; the D5300 image is NOT re-sized.)

Fuji-X100T-review-4 fuji-x100t-crop-sample-iso-6400

So, how does it handle in the real world?  Hand-held in normal shooting conditions, ISO 6400 is a little less exciting than in a laboratory.  Still, it’s professionally acceptable depending on your standards, and I will also say that dynamic range is still quite impressive!

Fuji-X100T-review-5 fuji-x100t-crop-sample-iso-6400-2

X100T Lens Sharpness Test

fuji-xt100-lens-sharpness-sample-f2The Fuji 23 mm f/2 lens (roughly a 35mm equivalent on full-frame) is very sharp, with flawless sharpness from the center to well past the rule-of-thirds area. It only gets marginally less contrasty in the extreme corners, and even then good detail is still there.

fuji-xt100-lens-sharpness-sample-corner

By stopping down to just one stop to f/2.8, even the extreme corner looks great!

I’ll talk a little bit more about the sensor and lens / image quality in the final review, but suffice it to say that this setup has a lot of good things going for it.

Fuji-X100T-review-8

Maybe the only shortcoming of the Fuji lens is that the macro mode’s super-close focusing is causing details to get a little soft and highlights have noticeable fringes, but I’m still testing to see for sure.

Initial Thoughts – Pros

  • Incredible Image Quality
    This is definitely one of this camera’s two main strengths.  If any of you die-hard full-frame shooters are still rolling your eyes when you hear folks say how they dumped their 5D-series or D800-series DSLR for a Fuji X100-series camera, well, you don’t know what you’re missing.  As you saw in the image tests above, this camera can rock ISO 3200 very cleanly, and a properly exposed ISO 6400 image is usable just as long as you shoot it right.
    ISO performance is only half the excitement though, the other half being Fuji‘s amazing, no, legendary, in-camera JPG processing. I mean, you just can’t go wrong with a sensor made by the company that brought us Velvia slide film, Acros B&W film, and a host of fantastic portrait films. Hands-down, if you’re a JPG shooter, you should get a Fuji camera! We’ll expand more on this in the full review.
  • Fantastic Construction
    This camera looks like it belongs on a pedestal or in a display case, yet it feels and handles like a rock-solid workhorse.  It’s made in Japan, and in my opinion, it feels about as good as a made-in-Germany Leica. I do have a handful of nitpicks about the actual functionality of the handling, which I’ll list later, but as far as construction goes, it’s great.
  • Innovative Optical / EVF System
    For many types of candid photography, photojournalists and street photographers have always appreciated the purity of an optical viewfinder.  Yes, EVF’s have all kinds of bells and whistles, but there is something to be said for “analog” simplicity. Very, very few cameras can offer the best of both worlds like the X100T can!

Initial Thoughts – Cons

  • Limited Control Versatility
    A nagging feeling that has been with me ever since I started reviewing Fuji, Panasonic, and Sony mirrorless cameras has been this:  They’re new to the camera design game, and it still shows.  Canon and Nikon (and Pentax and Olympus) have many decades of experience designing all kinds of cameras, for everyone from beginners to pros and everything in between.
    I’ll compile a list of specific features that I like / dislike on the X100T for the full review, but suffice it to say that if you’re very picky when it comes to camera control and operation / customization, you’ll want to test-drive this camera before diving in. I have a handful of features and customizations that I’ve been used to on my Nikons for a while now, and I really notice when they’re missing.  (Such as face detection during image playback zooming; stay tuned for an article on that subject alone!)
  • Pocket Sized? Think Again
    If you were looking for a camera to just slip in the pocket of your skinny jeans, you’re going to be surprised by how big the X100T is. Yes, it will fit in a jacket pocket, but not a pants pocket. Unless you wear cargo pants?
    For example, it’s almost as big as a Canon Rebel with the new 24mm EF-S pancake lens attached, and for my type of adventures and travel photography, I’d prefer the beginner DSLR system for its lens versatility.
    Then again, that’s what the Fuji X-T1 or the even smaller Fuji X-A1 are for, right? Either way, this camera is for photography aficionados who actually enjoy the look and feel of their cameras, the craft of photography itself.  Someone who is looking for anything at all that’s light and compact that takes good pictures, you might want to consider a more traditional point-and-shoot camera. Fuji offers the XQ1, for $1000 less than the X100T. Or, there’s the iPhone 6.  (I’m ready to dodge rotten tomatoes!)
  • Steep Price
    Here’s where I sound like a broken-record for the last time: This camera is for serious photographers.  Who else would pay ~$1200 for a fixed-lens, point-and-shoot camera that is way bigger than other point-and-shoots?  The X100T is a solid improvement over its predecessors the X100s and X100, but if you’re on a really tight budget, you could consider one of those instead.

Additional X100T Sample Images

Fuji-X100T-review-7 Fuji-X100T-review-11 Fuji-X100T-review-10 Fuji-X100T-review-9

The most pleasure I got from shooting with the X100T was definitely in just shooting casual snapshots that delivered professional quality. I could easily see how a pro might also use this camera for actual work, however personally, I’m still stuck on the performance and features of my traditional DSLR system, (I photograph weddings as my day job) and I don’t mind the heft of, for example, a Nikon D750 and a 35mm f/1.8 G.

One final thing I’d like to leave you with is this:  As well-known as Fuji is for its in-camera JPG performance, I must say I was quite surprised to see that the raw (RAF) files actually looked fantastic in Adobe Lightroom right out of the box!  This is often a complaint from many Nikon and Canon shooters who start with JPG and then switch to RAW; the Adobe raw engine almost always makes things look dull and flat. Well somehow, Fuji raw images are different- they’re nice and colorful, contrasty, etc.  See for yourself! Click here to download the RAW+JPG files.

Fuji-x100t-raw-vs-jpg

Preliminary Conclusion

All in all, considering the price, size/weight, and my feelings that Fuji could still improve the controls and customizations, I don’t think I’ll be “dumping” my DSLR system in favor of one of these just yet.

After my first week or so with the X100T, I’m sensing two initial conclusions:

  1. I’ll wait a generation or so and check back to see how Fuji improves things, but most others would probably enjoy this camera right away.
  2. I really hope Nikon gets around to making a camera like the X100T soon, with the Nikon controls and customizations that I’ve grown so accustomed to!

There is no denying that Fuji is on a roll, and gaining momentum.  They have a strong reputation with their sensor technology, one of the best lens lineups behind their mount, and an ability to listen to real-world photographers and improve their cameras.

[Rewind: Fuji to begin professional NPS / CPS-like support?]

So there you have it! If you’re in the market for a gorgeous camera that looks as good as the images it delivers, (images that give even full-frame flagships a run for their money!), then definitely put the Fuji X100T at the top of your list. Stay tuned for my final review in another few weeks!

=Matt=

Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

Follow his personal wilderness adventures: Astro-Landscapes.com

See some of his latest wedding photography featured on: LinandJirsa.com

18 Comments

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  1. Rob Harris

    Even though this is a few months old, I recently bought an X100T and am quite pleased by its performance. When shooting side by side with my Nikon D7100, it seems to have a more velvety look to the images than what the Nikon is capturing. I have compared both in JPEG and RAW, and it is a quality that still seems to show up. I have shot people, flowers, dogs, and parts of a wedding with it. For anyone reading Matt’s review and thinking about this camera, I would offer up a positive one. You will enjoy the experience and the photos.

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  2. Basit Zargar

    Awesome piece

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  3. Kevin Cucci

    I think you hit the nail right on the head with this explanation of the X100T. I got a chance to rent a X100S for a week and could almost give the exact same impression. Basic conclusion that I feel is the most important: these are impressive cameras. Bringing this camera along during my family trip not only was a pleasure carrying and shooting, but definitely brought my family photos to another level. That being said, I am not dropping my 5d3/6D combo for any kind of paid work. Not yet anyways :) great job Matt!

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  4. Greg Faulkner

    I’d be really interested to see a comparison of this camera and a Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100. I really like both but the Panasonic has that 24-75 equivalent lens that really appeals to me in a camera I’d use just for personal travel photos etc. Have you tried the Panasonic Matt? Or has anyone else had chance to compare?

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  5. Stan Rogers

    One little thing: Fuji is far from new to the camera design game. I owned a GX680 (rotating back studio MF camera with movements) and a G617 (the genuine panorama beastie) back in the day, and they made a boatload of more normal aspect ratio fixed-lens MF rangefinders as well (mostly wide or wider angle). The camera feels familiar to this old fart (but a bit more like a Minolta Himatic than, say, a Leica). The ‘lectrics may be awkward in spots, but I find that they all are. Now get off my lawn.

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    • adam sanford

      But Stan, your lawn is full of old cameras that we’d like to hear about. I brought a folding chair. I’m staying right here.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Good point, Stan, I can’t believe I forgot such classics as the venerable Fuji 6×17! However I think, to some extent, my point still stands- Nikon and Canon’s track record for ergonomics, especially the progress they’ve made with DSLRs, is far ahead of anyone else.

      Fuji attempted to create the S3 Pro for the Nikon mount, and it was abysmal, based on an ancient Nikon film design. They broke down and literally just borrowed the D200 body for their S5 Pro, subsequently. And the menu interface for that camera was utterly terrible, compared to the D200’s.

      All in all I don’t think it’s a “poorly designed” camera. It’s fantastic. I just tend to notice certain shortcomings more quickly because I’m used to shooting in extremely demanding conditions that force me to fully utilize every aspect of camera control such as metering modes, focus modes, exposure modes, drive modes, white balance, timer delays, ISO, etc. etc. I have the D810 and D750 so highly customized, everything I need to shoot anything under the sun is truly at my fingertips, either on a button, or on a short custom menu which by the way is still the best implementation in the industry.

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    • adam sanford

      Agree with Matthew — SLRs are built for the most impatient people, and Nikon and Canon have evolved their products to satisfy those folks. Things like grip design, where switches are located, how to change AF points, how to very quickly chimp and pixel-peep, etc. are taken for granted on higher end SLR bodies. They really serve our unreasonable needs remarkably well.

      But I think Fuji is on to something with a rangefinder-like mirrorless rig. It’s more about the joy of shooting, the discreet design and a simple experience. I could see a lot of SLR devotees feel like a walkaround mirrorless rig (with a fixed lens!) find the Fuji to be a trip to ‘gear detox’ — a simplifying breath of fresh air even while taking away our SLR creature comforts. I have thought of getting one for some time for this very reason.

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  6. Rieshawn Williams

    Nice review Matt! I always look forward to seeing you on here reviewing cameras.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Get ready for a whole lot more, Rieshawn! It’s going to be review mania this winter…

      =Matt=

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  7. Steven Pellegrino

    I have a couple of Fuji X cameras – the X100 and the X-E1 and while I use them for a lot of things, I agree with your statement that you’re not going to “dump” your DSLR system for a Fuji camera, especially the X100/S/T. They’re great cameras, I love them, but they’re not ideal in many situations and I’m still happy to shoot with my Nikon when these aren’t ideal.

    I didn’t upgrade from the original X100 to the X100S, but there is enough of a difference between the X100 and this new X100T that I am seriously considering upgrading.

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  8. Kim Farrelly

    Nice looking images there Matt. Fuji getting close now, Canon & Nikon. There are times when I’d like something quite like the X100T, purely for the simplicity of a fixed lens and quality of the camera.
    Look forward to the full review.

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    • David Hill

      Hey Kim. I find that by having the X camera, I enjoy using the Nikon more when I shoot professionally with it. I guess it’s like having an estate car in the garage for the kids and dog and a Porsche for the weekend……both do different jobs well and one complements the other!

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    • Kim Farrelly

      Thanks David, I’ll add your thoughts to the list of why I really should buy one :)

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    • Matthew Saville

      Very well said, guys. The X100T is like a stick-shift classic sports car with no AC. And I’m just not yet ready for a mid-life crisis; I’ve still got a few more years of boring commuter vehicles / work trucks…

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  9. David Hill

    Nice balanced review Matthew. I bought a second hand X100s a while back. If its possible to fall in love with a camera then I have. I got to a point that I wasn’t taking my DSLR anywhere with me simply due to weight and the fact its was is “a little in your face” even with discrete 35mm f2 attached. Plus I find the D700 pretty noisy when I don’t want it to be. My X camera now goes everywhere with me and I never miss having the DSLR. Not sure if its in your review, but it has a silent mode which is just awesome. Its the type of camera that people stop me and ask what it is! One person was impressed that I owned what they thought was a Leica! It delivers all I want in a great package with a few irritating niggles like it is too easy to just turn it on if its in your bag. Love, love love!

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    • Matthew Saville

      Thanks David, and yes, I’m going to expand on the usefulness of this camera for quiet, un-obtrusive photojournalism in my final review. I love how quiet and unassuming the camera is!

      =Matt=

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  10. adam sanford

    Nicely done. I appreciate all the comparisons and a balanced read on pros and cons.

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