Help with Fuji x100
March 25, 2011 7:42 AM   Subscribe

Fuji x100, why should I pay so much for a fixed lens camera? Is this a rangefinder? I don't really know what that is....

yeah so I read the whole wikipedia article about rangefinders and I still don't understand what the difference is. Is the x100 a rangefinder? Is this why it's so expensive? How does it shoot macro and far away shots? Too many questions? I have the Sony nex-5 (with both of the lenses) in mind as an alternative. I want to go to there but very confused, it's a huge price difference! I would like to avoid buyers me!
posted by sadieglass to Shopping (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I guess it is a rangefinder but with more options than a traditional one. A rangefinder just means that you don't focus by looking through the lens, you focus by looking through a viewfinder window that is aligned with the lens. That is a terrible definition but gives you an idea. The x100 gives you that separate viewfinder but you have several options for focusing and composing. LCD screen, LCD linked viewfinder, regular viewfinder. I think it is also unique in that you can actually set the aperture and manually focus the lens by turning the barrel. Not sure how common that is.

The x100 is a throwback to the age when Leica's/rangefinders were the end all be all in photojournalism and street photography. Small, quiet, unobtrusive and rugged. The x100 looks great but you hit on a big issue I have with it, and that would be the fact that you can't change lenses. I don't care about zooming and macro work but one wider lens and one tighter lens would be great to have as an option.

People that buy one are most likely going to fall in two categories, those that think it looks neat and buy it as more of an accessory, and those that think it would be a good way of downsizing their larger slr cameras for street and documentary photography.

I would love to test one out myself. I don't know why some company hasn't come out with something like this sooner. There has been Leica, but who can afford those things.

I would go to a reputable camera store and test them both out. Have a good salesperson walk you through the plusses and minuses of both cameras.
posted by WickedPissah at 8:01 AM on March 25, 2011

The X100 does not have an optical rangefinder, therefore it is not a rangefinder camera.

In practice, it works similarly to a rangefinder camera, except the focusing is done electronically; either through autofocus, or manually by looking through an electronic viewfinder.

The X100 is expensive because you're paying for a magnesium body, the dual electronic/optical viewfinder, the large sensor, the exceptional optics, and fit and finish. And also the pretty.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 8:04 AM on March 25, 2011

The X100 is expensive because it is built well, has a custom lens, and uses a large, dSLR-sized sensor. If you compare its price to a µ43 camera & lens combination with similar specs, you'll find the X100 is competitively priced.

The X100 is not a rangefinder, though it can be described as rangefinder-like due to its focus on a large optical viewfinder. Rangefinder cameras are valued by some photographers and journalists because they present a much more immediate viewfinder image to the photographer during framing & composing. If you compare the viewfinder of a modern SLR with that of a rangefinder, you'll find the SLRs take on the world much more detached and tunnel-like. This can affect how you see your potential shots. The best way to find your preference would be to use both over a period of time and see which you prefer.

That's not the only benefit of a rangefinder camera, though it's a major one that is shared with rangefinder-likes such as the X100.

To make a decision between the X100 and the NEX, you have to ask yourself what kind of shooter you are. If you find you primarily use the LCD screen for framing & composing, there is a good chance you won't find much added value in the X100's viewfinder. If you have a cache of legacy glass you'd like to use digitally, there's a good chance the X100 will feel like a let-down compared to a camera that allows lenses and adapters to be attached.

If you intend on going out into the world and capturing the magic of daily life as you see it through a big, bright viewfinder, I'd recommend giving the X100 a try.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 8:06 AM on March 25, 2011

The hype is over a few things: the retro styling, the SLR-sized sensor, the viewfiinder, and the manual controls.

It's a hybrid viewfinder: "allows the user to switch between optical and electronic viewfinders and project detailed shooting information into the OVF". You look through one eyepiece and can switch between the two. The optical viewfinder is useful for framing shots without drawing down the battery. And there's something nice about actually holding the camera to your eye. The electronic view lets you see what the camera has actually recorded.

The sensor (APS-C size, ~25 by 17 mm) is a big deal because larger sensors are harder to make (and hence more expensive) but generally provide better image quality. The tiny sensors found in point-and-shoot digital cameras cram too many sensor sites in a small area, which degrades image quality, and are about 1/4 to 1/5th the size of the APS-C sized sensors. The sensor in the x100 is supposed to be the same as found in some single-lens reflex cameras, but in a smaller package. Sigma tried to do this with their DC series, but the interface and speed turned out to be a dog. We'll see if Fuji can do better.

The manual controls give you fast access to your aperture and shutter speed, which is generally what most photographers play with. I like this alot in the Canon S90/95 and would love to play with this camera.

Hard to know about how well it will shoot in macro and distance shots until you get your hands on it. A fixed lens is a challenge to work with, but a fixed lens is generally higher quality than their zoom lens counterparts at a given price.
posted by Mercaptan at 8:07 AM on March 25, 2011

The X100 is targeted towards a pretty specific user - someone who needs a discreet, compact camera with a large sensor and a fully usable viewfinder. This is the camera I've needed for a long time and can't wait to get a hold of - it'll solve a lot of problems. But in general, its one of those things where if you have to ask, it probably isn't for you.
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:09 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: OK, first: I've not yet held an X100 in my hand (and I’m not 100% sure they’re actually shipping to the US yet…?). I have an Olympus E-PL1 that I've tried to use in a similar fashion, adding an Olympus electronic viewfinder to the top and a Panasonic 20mm/f1.7 fixed lens. I enjoy it a great deal and in the little-less-than-year I’ve had it, I’ve gotten shots I consider the equal or better of anything I got in my younger, more photographically active days with a classic Olympus OM-1. So far, I’m in for about $1,200 (not to mention the 14-150mm zoom my family spent $800 on as a Christmas gift) in the Micro-Four-Thirds system – not chump change in the camera world, but not overly invested, either. All that said, assuming the build quality of the Fuji is good and the features work as described - I'd buy an X100 in a New York minute.

Why? The analog controls. They'd alleviate the one remaining gripe I have about switching to an entirely digital system - the user experience of digital cameras is universally terrible. (To be fair, I certainly concede that it's a difficult space to be working in; but so far, none of the systems I've seen or used have found the Jonathon-Ive-Zen-level of simplicity and complexity that I know as a designer is possible). Digital cameras are complex, I think significantly more complex than they need to be, and they are getting more complicated with every go-round as the camera companies fight to keep up in checklist-based marketing wars. All the bells, whistles, and HD video hoohah in the world aren't going to help if those “must-have” functions are buried two-, three-, or more levels down in a 2" by 2.5" display or behind inscrutable icons. (Olympus made at least an attempt with their “iAuto” settings, allowing a novice to get more advanced effects like focusing on a face and blurring the background without having to know the technical details of how it’s accomplished; it’s useless to me, but my Mom thought it was “neat”).

Putting all the “enhancements” of a digital system aside, what did not change in the transition from film to digital are the classic principles of taking a photograph: shutter speed, aperture, recording medium, focus, and composition. If you can’t easily – effortlessly, even – control those factors, all of the rest is meaningless. Which is why the X100 appeals to me so strongly: it puts the means of controlling these fundamental elements - quite literally - front and center (well, top and center, I guess...). The controls are easily scanned and easily adjusted. Their placement is even logically consistent – to change the aperture value, I reach for the spot where the aperture actually is.

Everything I’ve read enthusiastically assures me that the X100 does, in fact, have all the electronic niceties the “other guys” offer – but it does it in a package that reemphasizes the fundamental concepts that are important to me, personally. Everything about it says, this is a camera for an “old school photography” kinda guy who wants to take pictures. I’ve been using cameras long enough that even a fixed length lens to me is a creative challenge, like a sonnet scheme or a fugue structure, not a limitation. Unless I suddenly with the lottery, the X100 looks to be as perfect a camera for me as I’m likely to find.

My point in posting this is as a direct response to your question of “Why should I pay so much for a fixed lens camera?” This is why I would buy one. If what I’m describing sounds like your own views on taking photos, the X100 might be for you, too.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 10:47 AM on March 25, 2011

Response by poster: thank you, thank you, thank you for all the responses, this definitely gives me a better grasp of what i'm dealing with here since the only way I'm going to be seeing an x100 soon is to probably buy it online, I think this might be the camera for me!
* I love that there is an actual viewfinder, LCD bugs me and wears down the battery
*Analog controls, thank you for bringing this up, one thing I hate about my point and shoot, I want my camera to feel and work like a real camera, not a cheap iPod
posted by sadieglass at 12:53 PM on March 25, 2011

All the bells, whistles, and HD video hoohah in the world aren't going to help if those “must-have” functions are buried two-, three-, or more levels down in a 2" by 2.5" display or behind inscrutable icons.

OneMonkeysUncle, if you have a newsletter, can I subscribe the management of Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, and 5-10 other companies to it?
posted by IAmBroom at 7:56 PM on March 27, 2011

« Older Here, (rescued purebred) kitty kitty!   |   Let me have light! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.