Real world review: Fuji X100s for traveling

I usualy don’t wirte my blog in english, so please don’t judge me for my bad english. If you find mistakes, you can keep them.
But I think this would be interesting for more than only the german speaking people. I’m not a pro photographer and Fuji didn’t pay me.
I just want to share my experiences with Fujis cameras as travel cameras, and a little wish list 😉
Maybe someone will find this review helpful for his/her own trip. So let’s start.

I live in Germany and until now I only traveled across Europe. For example I was hiking with all my big backpack full of heavy Nikon gear through the Alps, and it was horrible.

A few weeks ago, I did a three weeks backpacking tour through Vietnam.
Before I started the tour, I was really unsure which camera I should take with me. Once I bought the X100s especially for this trip. But then I bought a X-T1 a few weeks before the trip. Too many options, hard to decide.
I think everybody knows this. Which camera should I take? Which lenses? Do I need a tripod? But what if I see a beautiful landscape? Than I will need a wide lens. But what if I see an interesting detail. Than I will maybe need a tele lens. And so on.
In the end everybody pack too much gear, and so did I. Even with the mirrorless system.
I had my X100s with a lens hood, a clear filter, a soft release button and a garitz half case. I even didn’t use bag or the lens cap for it.
And than I have the X-T1, the borrowed XF 18-55 mm, my XF 14 mm and my XF 35 mm. A small travel tripod, a nd-filter, cleaning stuff and some other little things like extra batteries and sd-cards.
So, I thought I was prepared.

My travel kit

My travel kit

When I arrived in the Old Quarter in Hanoi I quickly realized, my X-T1 and all my lenses are the wrong gear for ME in this place.
It’s overcrowded, it’s loud, the traffic is unbelievable chaotic. This is the right place for street and people photography.
Of course you can use a X-T1 for street photography. I even did (I will tell you later). But the X100s has some advantages.

The viewfinder is on the left side of the camera. Luckily I’m using the right eye to watch through the viewfinder. So I can use the left eye to watch the whole scene to get the right moment.
And when I’m shooting people, they can see my face. I think, this is important, because when you can’t speak a language, a smile can open the people for you.

Smile and the people will smile back

Smile and the people will smile back

The camera is small, lightweight and unobtrusive. I can take it wherever I want. I had it the whole time with me, even when we were in a restaurant for dinner. Usually you won’t bring a huge and loud dslr with you, if you want a nice and romantic evening.
Vietnam, especially the central and the south, is a hot country. I’m used to the weather in central europe. So I don’t want to carry big bags or heavy gear in a country, where I sweat like a pig.
Most of the time I wear short clothes, a slim waist bag (which I can hide under my shirt. I think it was the Jack Wolfskin Document Belt) for small stuff like extra battery, money, credit card and my cell phone, the X100s with a lens hood, clear filter, garitz half case and the soft release button. Nothing else. Not even a small bag for the camera. I wanted to keep so much liberty of action as possible. That feeling of freedom was great. I was not a pack mule anymore.
When we were traveling from one city to another city, the camera was stowed in my backpack (without a special camera bag) or I had it in my hand because I want to make pictures of the travel.

This is how I usually collect experiences

This is how I usually collect experiences

The leaf shutter is so damn quiet, I often had to check, if I made the photo. When I want to make a photo and don’t be discovered, this is a huge advantage. For example you are in a quiet temple and you don’t want to disturb the people there. You can turn your lcd off and only use the viewfinder. This and the quiet leaf shutter turns your camera into a stealth mode. Most of the people did’t even noticed I was making pictures of them.

The camera gives me free moving space, so I can fight with a crazy dangerous bonzai tiger

The camera gives me free moving space, so I can fight with a crazy dangerous bonzai tiger

The controls make it easy to use the camera quickly. I usually shoot in aperture priority and auto iso. So the most used controls are the aperture ring and the exposure compensation dial. In the viewfinder or on the lcd you can immidiately see the impact of your settings, before you press the release button. You don’t have to chimp because you know how the picture would look like before you press the release button. With a dslr you take a picture, you chimp, you modify your settings, you make the picture again until you have the „right“ exposure. This costs space on your sd card and time (while making the picture and later while postproduction).

After 14 hours in a train and after a shower we made plans

After 14 hours in a train and after a shower we made plans

The fixed lens without zoom might be not flexibel enough, you will think. But this lens has two advantages. It force you to think more about composition and what you really want to show. I had the XF 18-55 mm, but I can’t get used to it. I don’t like that I can’t see the setted aperture when the camera is not on. And when I zoom, the aperture changes.
I’m a prime lens guy.

The second advantage is, that when you don’t have the option to change the lens or the focal length, there is one parameter less to set. When you use this camera for a while, it becomes a part of your arm and of your vision. In the beginning I have to turn the camera on and look and try if the frame is right. But after a while I can see a subject and I know if I have to get closer or have to move back to get the right frame.
Did I missed some shoots? Of course I did. Sometimes I wished I had more wideangle or more tele.
But you also will miss shoots with an dslr and a range of 18-300 mm, because you will not have your camera with you and the people will notice you before you can take the picture of them.

They didn't noticed me

They didn’t noticed me

The classic design is also an advantage. When you point with a big dslr monster with a big lens (travellers often use „travel-lenses“ like 18-300) on somebody, you are not in stealth mode. And many people are scared.
If you point the X100s at somebody, this person often think, that this is a film camera. And they don’t take me seriously. They even often came to me and tell me how beautiful the camera is. A nice icebreaker. Our female guide of the cooking class in Hoi An fall in love with this camera, as she said.

I think it’s imortant to think about what kind of travel you gonna make and for what will the pictures be.
For example, if I would travel for my own, and have more time to make the pictures (using a tripod…) I maybe will shoot differently. If I will travel for example to Iceland (I plan this for the future), then I will use the X-T1 because Iceland has beautiful landscapes. And there I will use my XF 14 mm a lot.
But if you travel with your wife, maybe your kids or friends, the X100s will be the better camera. My goal was to make a personal travel diary for my family, for my friends and for the future me. So I tried to make the pictures more personal with more meaning for me and not this fancy pictures I was used to do.

The captain was a nice guy

The captain was a nice guy

I recommend you to watch David Hobby’s (The Strobist) workshop „The Traveling Photographer„. He said a nice sentence: „If you want better travel pictures, you have to have better travel experiences“. So don’t let your big and heavy gear stand between you and your travel experiences.

Is the X100s the perfect travel camera? Hell no!
Maybe Fuji will read this and I hope that they find my „wish list“ helpful.

The jpgs of the Fuji X cameras are great. I love the film simulations and the custom settings. But why have the X100s only 3 slots for custom settings? On my X-T1 I have 3 color- and 4 b&w-settings.
On the X100s I have 1 color- and 2 b&w settings. I need more!
Lets stay by the custom settings. I would like to give names to my custom settings. For example, if I have 3 b&w custom settings (more, less and normal contrast) I can’t see which setting I have to choose, because they have all the same name (the name of the film simulation). Now I have to choose a setting and watch which settings are included.

For a camera like the X100s, which is great for streetphotography, a face detection af would be great. So I can shoot from the hip and have the focus on the face of the people.

The lens is fast enough for most of the time. But an image stabilizer won’t hurt. I like the stabilizer of the zooms, where you can make photos with motion blur without a tripod.

The lens is fixed, so I think it would be easy to build this camera weather sealed. If you are travelling for example in Vietnam, as I did, you can be suprised by a really heavy rain. Or I was kayaking in the Ha Long Bay and I wanted to make pictures of this experience. I had to put my camera into a small plastic bag. This was annoying.

Sometimes I want to shoot in manual mode. Why can’t I choose the iso setting with the exposure compensation dial, when iso is set to auto iso? So I can choose the aperture, the shutter time and the exposure I want. This would make using manual mode much easier.

I love the tilting screen of the X-T1. I know, this doesn’t fit into the classic design concept. But I think usability should be more important than the design.

I can see the values like exposure time (in aperture priority) or iso, when I half press the release button. I want to see them all the time (like on my Nikon).

Everytime I turn the camera off an on, the camera sets the focus to a default point. Even if the manual focusing is set. Sometimes I see an interesting scene, but something is missing (maybe a human). So I turn the camera in manual focus mode and I pre-focus. And then I have to wait. Sometimes I have to wait a long time until the right moment. In this time I turn the camera off to save battery and turn it quickly on, when the right moment seems to appear. But then my pre-focus is gone, because the camera set it to default, when I turned the camera off.

Most of my wishes can be fulfilled by a firmware update. So Fuji please! 😉
When the next model of the X100(x) series will have my hardware wishes, I will immediately replace my loved X100s. I know, some of my wishes are part of the X100t, but not enough.

Please feel free to watch and read my travel diary. The texts are in german language, but maybe the google translator is good enough. The pictures were made all handheld. Most of them are made with the X100s. The last days of my trip I forced myself to use the X-T1 because I did’t want to carry this camera through Vietnam for nothing.
Maybe the pictures of the X-T1 are sharper (better lens), but the X100s pictures are my favourites. And when I watch my pictures and think about this trip, I always have a smile on my lips.

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8 Gedanken zu “Real world review: Fuji X100s for traveling

  1. Thanks for an interesting post. I too love using this camera. What are your thoughts about getting the wide and tele converters Fuji makes? And again – I really enjoyed reading this. I’m ready to go travel right now!

    • Before my travel I thought about to buy the converters. But as I wrote, I have the X-T1. So if I need different focal length I would rather use the X-T1.
      I love on the x100s, that this is a very limited but fexible gear. I don’t have to think about, which focal length I want to use, so I concentrate more on the picture and composition.
      But if the x100s is your only camera then the converters may be a good way to get a little more flexibilty.

  2. Hello, I like your review. I follow a similar path when travelling, except I prefer to use just the Fuji X-T1 and the 35mm f1.4. Not quite as small, but still very easily managed, and I prefer the 50mm(equivalent) field of view.
    Would you mind telling me which printer you used for the shots in the top image, and also how you got the date to print on them so elegantly?

    • Thx.
      If you look trough my travel diary I also used this combo. I love the XF 35 mm. This was my favourite focal lenght at my Nikon D90, and it was one of the arguments to change to the fuji system (ansd not to Sony for example). But the X-T1 looks more like a pro camera. This make people feel uncomfortable sometimes. They don’t take the x100s serious, so it’s easier to make pictures of them. And because of the limitaion (the fixed lens) I automatically photograph in a different way.

      Sorry, but I didn’t print those images. This are calendar pages from Poladarium. Poladarium is made of real polaroid pictures. I love the polaroid look, so I bought a SX-70 a few weegs ago. Today I made my first test shot. I love it.
      But you can print similar but digital pictures with the Instax Printer.

      • Thank you for your reply, I agree about the X100 blending in so well. I think that the main reason I prefer the X-T1 is the tilt screen, I just love to compose with it at waist level and I find it is similarly unobtrusive when used like this.
        I’m looking into getting the instal printer, I just wondered if you had used something different, so thank you for your answer.

        All the best.

  3. Yeah, sehr, sehr coole Bilder! 😀
    Wir waren auch gerade erst 3,5 Wochen in Vietnam aber ich hab die große Kamera mitgeschleppt. Ich kann mich einfach noch nicht von der tollen Kamera trennen, linse aber immer wieder auf die coolen Spiegellosen.

    Liebe Grüße
    Christina

    • Danke schön. Ist nicht schlimm. Jeder soll das Werkzeug nutzen, mit dem er am besten klar kommt. Das Ergebnis ist das Entscheidende. Wenn das so ist, wie Du das dir vorgestellt hast, dann passt es doch.

  4. Pingback: My journey package | My Free Travel Site

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