Dade Freeman
Photographer & Trainer


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Hands on the Fuji X100s

Last week I finally managed to get my grubby little hands on the Fujifilm X100s, thanks to the generosity of Stephen Cotterell.

So another trip to London to do some more street photography was on the cards. Stephen, who has owned the Fuji X100s for a while now, kindly offered his insight, time and camera so that I could pursue my knowledge-seeking quest of mirrorless systems.

I had some time to kill before Stephen and I met up, so I took a little walk around Oxford Circus to see what I could find. After bagging a few shots I put my 5D away and it never came out again. This was mainly because once Stephen put his Fuji X100s in my hands I refused to give it back, which certainly says something about it. Perhaps after playing with the X100 and X-Pro1, I was a little more comfortable with a Fuji. As I had Stephen's camera, he kindly agreed to carry my heavy Manfrotto tripod - I think he got a raw deal ;)

Street Photography in London

A quick wander around The Photographer's Gallery had to be done before we started - well, it would have been rude not to. Over coffee, Stephen talked me through the basics of the camera and I had a quick play with the macro option, which worked pretty well. The dual tone silver/black look, the feel and the design of the Fuji X100s make it an instant classic and I totally understand the draw to this camera. But those alone don't make it good!

I spoke about my apprehension about getting up and personal with street photography, but Stephen insisted I stretch myself so my first subject was a bike courier who, once he spotted that I was about to take his photo, shouted expletives at me! As he did so, I did at least think to push the silent shutter and get the shot - result, of a kind. My tack for shots from then on was, rather than being sneaky, to simply ask my subjects if I may photograph them. I didn't get any refusals, just conversations, which I think is far better. It was good to see that Carnaby Street still attracts wonderful subjects to photograph.

As Stephen didn't have his camera, he took mental pictures as we went along and when he saw something special he pointed it out so I could capture it. We walked through Chinatown which, perhaps because it's so different from my usual world, provided a lot to photograph so finding the good stuff proved a challenge. Trying to shoot from the hip was an even bigger challenge, which I failed massively - I'm unsure how much of that was me and how much was focus issues, although I was shooting at f2.

Speaking of the camera, regarding the rear wheel, I would prefer something a little more robust such as on the 5D and I still think a touch-screen option within the Q menu would make it a little more user-friendly. Plus, of course, built-in WiFi would be ideal. It was not all plain sailing - there were several issues with focusing as the camera frequently flashed 'AF!' at me - this was quite frustrating. Not everything is wrong with the focusing system - I rather like the 49-point matrix system. I found a few issues with the burst mode (6fps) - while it writes the images to the card, it makes the camera pretty much unusable, which is very annoying. There is still a little confusion about what the viewing modes would and wouldn't let you do and which ones to use in different situations. I can't decide if I like the button layout or, again, if it needs looking at and improving. However, having something in your hands for only a little while makes it hard to know whether it should be improved or if it's just something you need to get used to.

Apart from those issues, the camera did very well handling most things I threw at it - direct light, dark spots, movement. It was particularly pushed by my photographing the South Bank skate park at night. I did some long exposure shots (on a tripod) and I was going to check the video quality but I forgot, silly me!!

I do think there is a place for Fuji to do a 50mm or 85mm 1.4 fixed lens version which might make it the go-to camera for more people and make it fit for more genres such as wedding photography. The reasons I say this is that 50mm gives a natural look (as the eye sees) and 85mm offers a flattering look ideal for portraiture. Also, with a 1.4 aperture the bokeh (blur) would be amazing. The current model of 35mm is great for street photography, landscapes and the like but it is definitely limiting unless you aim to make the 35mm look your style.

Stephen said this is still his go-to camera and he and I both agree this still isn't a DSLR killer as there are a few issues and limitations. But as a general all-round camera, this does hold its own and then some! Apart from one minor incident with a zealous security guard, the afternoon and evening went swimmingly and were a good test of the X100s.

If I had hold of this camera for a week, I am sure I could really put it through its paces, but a couple of hours gave me a good understanding of its workings and capabilities. Below is a selection of images taken on the Fuji X100s and edited with VSCO.

Street Photography with the Fuji X100s

Dade Freeman is a Brighton photographer producing portraits and headshots for actors, musicians, corporate business and other professional industries.