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Full Review: Fujifilm X100T in Hong Kong

1/350th sec f/4.0 @ ISO 400. Classic Chrome jpeg. To Kwa Wan, Kowloon, Hong Kong

I’ve had the Fujifilm X100T for almost 4 months and I’ve really come to appreciate this unique little camera. It’s small in stature but very large in capability. Many new X100 series owners have abandoned their DSLRs and ILCs for this camera. Why? It costs more than many DSLR and mirrorless ILC kits, even though this fixed lens, APS-C sensored point and shoot (ok, that’s a bit of an over-simplification) has less features, less megapixels and slower autofocus. For example, the Sony A6000 is less than half the price of the X100T ($598 vs $1299 as of Feb 2015), same size sensor, better specs, faster AF, interchangeable lenses,  and will destroy the Fuji when it comes to video recording. I know others that have very expensive and powerful DSLRs (Canon 5D mark III) and insane lenses, and yet will still choose to shoot with their X100T instead. Does this make any sense? Yes.

I argue that there are some features that many photographers value above specifications or a price-performance quotient, such as the unique and powerful hybrid viewfinder. Size, weight and shape is hard to quantify as a spec, but how a camera feels in the hands and how it suits your shooting style is also a buying consideration for many photographers. For others it’s about how a camera makes them feel based on the aesthetics of the camera shape and design (many brands hire firms like Pininfarina and Porsche to help design their products, such as the classic Nikon F3 designed by Pininfarina). So what type of photographer are you? What values do you put above all else when it comes to buying and using a camera? Why should you consider buying the Fujfilm X100T? Let’s find out…

1/480th sec f/4.0 @ ISO 800. Classic Chrome jpeg. To Kwa Wan, Kowloon

Without repeating my entire preview here, I would say in a nutshell what makes the X100T a great camera: It feels right when you hold it, it feels right when you put it to your eyes, the button layout, the operating system and menus feel comfortable and refined, it’s light, compact, and it takes fantastic pictures. However, the most important element that makes the X100T great (and its the same quality that made the original X100 a success) is it’s Functional Retro-Styling. If the X100T was big and ugly like a DSLR, it wouldn’t be as successful (sorry DSLR fans, but DSLRs are rarely sexy looking… functional and purposeful yes, but sexy is a big NO, except for older mechanical film bodies). The same would be true if the camera looked great, but was functionally and ergonomically awkward.

Because the X100T can take great pictures AND because of the way the camera looks and feels, the X100 series has been a big success with all types of photographers. When form and function are perfectly balanced, a camera can be conducive to great photography. Most creative pursuits (as well as athletic ones) involve the human emotion: the way we feel affects the way we think and how we perform. For instance, the best athlete or artist can under-perform because of their emotional state. Also, many athletes and artists have their favourite tool or equipment and often feel they can’t perform at their best without it. A favourite paint brush, a favourite baseball glove, etc. As photographers, if we don’t like what we’re holding in our hands, we won’t be at our best to take great pictures. Everyone who has seen the X100T are immediately struck by it’s visual impact. This impact can help take better pictures. But the camera can’t just look the part, it needs to be able to perform as well. This is where this camera shines!

1/480th sec f/4.5 @ ISO 800. Classic Chrome jpeg. Central, Hong Kong Island

As I mentioned the X100T is a functional retro camera. It looks retro, but it shoots retro as well, as in it shoots like an old film camera. Is this a good thing? It is if you still shoot film and you enjoy shooting rangefinder style. Not only that, the X100T is the best of the X100 series, and I would argue its the best functioning Fuji digital camera made so far. Even better than the X-T1 some will ask? I have both cameras with me right now (and the X-E2) and I say yes. This is for two reasons: the optical viewfinder and the rear button feel. But I thought the X-T1 has the biggest and most functional and best EVF ever made… this is true, it is a fantastic EVF, but this is also its weakness. 

This is where some will disagree with me, but the EVF is not yet equal to a real optical viewfinder, either via a rangefinder style or a glass pentaprism in a SLR or DSLR. We’re basically comparing what the human eye can see versus what a sensor can see. The human eye is superior…for now. Our eyes don’t have lag, our eyes don’t need white balance or brightness adjusting. Yes, what we see isn’t the same as what the sensor can see, but this is to our advantage. Why is this so?

Image taken with Ricoh GR. X100T with MHG-X100 grip, EF-X20 flash, Artisan & Artist silk strap. Hobo Woodworks reclaimed wood cutting board. Fujicolor Pro 400H negative film.

To know the difference between what we can see versus what the sensor can do for us is the first step of a photographer to understand what the strengths and weaknesses of digital images are. The fact that you can quickly switch between optical and electronic view on the X100 series cameras is one of the greatest photographic inventions. How does our eye perceive colour, highlights, shadows, and then how does the camera interpret what we see? This is important stuff people. What we would have given in the old film days to instantly see how a certain film interpreted what we saw visually with our own eyes. In fact, the Polaroid back was used by many pros as a way to immediately check to see how the camera-lens-film interpreted a particular scene.

Today with live LCD views with a 100% electronic interpretation of reality, we’ve lost another layer of skill and added an extra layer of dependence on technology. Instead of focusing on taking pictures, we are constantly second guessing ourselves because we are dependant on the camera to make adjustments for us. After seeing with our eyes through an optical viewfinder, we begin to see the subtle differences in light colour and quality (early morning, high noon, late evening, cloudy, shadows, etc.) and also the stop difference between highlights and shadows. We then realize that the camera can’t adjust as quickly or efficiently as our eyes and so we learn the limits of the camera and adjust accordingly. Over time, you become a better photographer. This is how we did it in the old film days, without the benefit of seeing instantly the output image (no chimping).  With the EVF-OVF switch on the X100s, you can see instantly the difference. This is a very powerful learning tool.

X100T 35mm equiv. 1/480th sec f/4 @ ISO 400. Fa Yuen Street, Mong Kok, Hong Kong.

Going back to comparing the X100T with the X-T1, I won’t go into detail about the control feel on the X-T1 because I’ve complained too much already about it. Let’s just say the X-100T has a better feel because there’s no weather sealing, giving a more tactile click, better button travel, and better control placement. Even over the X100S, the X100T has improved on the 4 way controller, as well as moved the Q-button and the Drive button closer to your thumb, allowing the shooter to find these buttons by feel. If your eye is looking through the viewfinder, all the major controls are easily found and executed without fumbling around. Compared to the X-E2, the X100T handling is superior as well, with the Drive button closer to the shooting hand and more custom Fn buttons. My only major complaint about the X100T when it comes to buttons and dials is that it should have a dedicated ISO dial (like the X-T1), and perhaps a dedicated WB button; although there’s enough custom buttons to dedicate to WB (I set the 4 way controller button up as ISO and button down as WB to find quickly). 

In terms of AF speed and metering and all those other basic functions and features, it pretty much feels like an X100S. However, the ‘T’ upgrade is mostly in the viewfinder, operating system (which can easily be updated on the ‘S’) and the rear button shuffle and upgrade. If you have a the X100S, the main reason why you would want to upgrade is because of the advanced hybrid EVF-OVF. I won’t go into too much detail about how it works as other websites do a better job at explaining technology. I will say that its well integrated into the X100T. Like the two other X100 cameras, the T uses the front switch to toggle between the EVF and OVF by toggling right. However, because of the mini EVF inside the OVF, to turn that feature on and off is by toggling the same switch to the left. Very smart and very intuitive. You don’t have to take your eyes off the viewfinder to switch between the different modes. Note that the vertical information feature (first in the X-T1) only works in the full EVF mode though. Again, many of these upgrades are subtle, but after adding all these small changes and upgrades, the X100T definitely shoots like a new camera.

1/105th sec f/5.6 @ ISO 800. Provia jpeg. To Kwa Wan, Kowloon.


So the big question is: who is this camera for and is it worth upgrading-downgrading within the Fujifilm ecosystem or even outside of Fujifilm X series? When I say downgrade, I mean going from a higher featured ILC systems camera to a simpler compact fixed lens camera with fewer options to expand. Let’s start with the obvious upgrade:

1/850th f/4.5 @ ISO 800. CC jpeg. Causeway Bay

X100 and X100S: There are many diehard X100 fans who prefer the look of the original non-X Trans CMOS sensor versus the one in the X100S and X100T. If you are one of those, then stick to the X100. However, it’s a huge upgrade in almost every other feature and function. Better AF, better EVF and improved OVF, better button placement, improved operating system (again this can be firmware upgraded if Fuji chooses to do so) and tighter feeling dials. The decision to upgrade is harder with the X100S. If you’re primarily an OVF shooter, then I would say its worth the upgrade. While in OVF mode, you can use the mini EVF to check for focus (easier when in peaking mode), exposure and white balance, and the parallax correction lines are a great help for closer objects. However, I know many who enjoy using the EVF on the X100S. If so, the upgrade is basically software and a few control button upgrades. Yes the X100T has 1/3 stops, but I still argue this is not an upgrade, just a shooting style preference (me and many street shooters prefer 1/2 stop aperture and full stop shutter speed setup). 

1/1600th sec f/3.6 @ ISO 800. Hong Kong Island

Fujifilm ILC Camera (X-E1, X-E2, X-Pro 1): This may seem like an odd choice, to go from an ILC to a fixed lens camera, but I’ve had many photographers tell me they’ve made the decision to ‘downgrade’ or ‘downsize’. Many originally came from DSLRs, bought mirrorless and loved it, but then realized that they can still go even smaller and yet not compromise on image quality. Yes, you’re stuck with a fixed lens camera (although the TCL-x100 gives a versatile 50mm equiv), but it can keep up with larger cameras where it counts (image quality, key features, functional ergonomics). Having blazing fast AF and super fast continuous shooting for me is not important in a camera like the X100T. Shooting intuitively, having the features on hand when you need them, and the ability to see, understand and control your image output are the most important qualities in any camera. I’ve seen photographers missing shots because they’re digging through menus or so focused on playing with so many options that they lose focus, lose moments, and lose creativity. The X100T can shoot just like an ILC where it counts and can easily replace a DSLR or mirrorless ILC, no problem. The main thing you have to get use to is the fixed lens, but you’ll be surprised how much your photography improves when you start seeing only at a single focal length. Ask anyone with an ILC with a good prime lens and ask how they feel when shooting at a single focal length. It’s liberating. If you have an ILC but want to downsize and simplify, the X100T is a great option. 

1/110th sec f/6.4 @ ISO 800. Mong Kok, Kowloon

Point and Shoot Camera (any brand, any size): The convenience of a P&S camera can not be denied. My own personal EDC (every day carry) is the Ricoh GR. it’s truly a point and shoot: turn on and shoot. No viewfinder, easy to find ‘Program’ mode, pocketable. Other P&S cameras have great zoom lenses too, and because of the smaller sensor, these cameras can have amazing range from super wide to super telephoto. Stand in one spot, zoom in and out and you’ll get the shot. Not much effort, not much thinking. I know I’m simplifying things, but it’s easy to become lazy when shooting with a good P&S camera. The X100 series has never had an obvious P-mode. it’s easy to get confused and mess up the shot. it’s sort of like your dad’s (or mom’s) film camera of old with all the dials and knobs and buttons. What does this button do? What happens when you spin this dial? The X100T is like that. It’s for those who are curious and those who wish to learn. The X100T can teach you the fundamentals of photography. If you want to shoot simple, it’s easy. Shutter speed and aperture (again, if it had a ISO dial, it would be perfect). If you want to get complicated, more customization, more control, you can do it by digging into the menus. I’ve had many film shooters who want to get back to basics but in the digital realm and the X100 series has done that for them. Physical dials and buttons, an optical viewfinder, a simple operating system. When you upgrade to the X100T from a point and shoot, the first few days or weeks with it may not be easy and you’ll make mistakes. Don’t get frustrated. Keep trying. It’s digital and not film. Your mistakes are virtual and you learn from mistakes. The X100T is a great upgrade from an all-in-one p&s camera.

What Do I think about the X100T? 

1/350th sec f/4.5 @ ISO 1000. Provia jpeg. Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island

As a reviewer, it’s easy to say how great a camera is: It’s the best! Buy it, you won’t regret it! Best camera ever! But would I buy it for myself? Let’s just say that I’ve rarely had the desire to own many of the cameras that I review because I don’t have to. I always have a ‘free’ camera to play with, so why buy one? However, while reviewing the X100S last summer I was very tempted to buy it, but decided on the Ricoh GR instead. After shooting with the X100T for 4 months I can easily see myself owning it. I want to have it next to me everywhere I go. I enjoy the conversations I have with strangers coming up to me and asking me about it. I want to customize it for myself and make sure that every scratch and ding was made by me. 

In fact, most recently I was invited as a special guest (along with X-Photographers) at a Fujifilm photowalk event in Vancouver, and Fuji asked me which camera I wanted to shoot with. I could use any camera in the entire lineup. Yup, I ordered the X100T, the TCL-x100, the hand grip and the EF-X20 compact flash. To me, this was the perfect street photo set-up. If Fujifilm were to give me any camera, I would choose the X100T for sure without hesitation. Perhaps I’m biased because of my age (I started shooting film) and my affinity for rangefinder cameras (I also review for Leica), but the X100T has everything I want in a street style camera. It has the look, the feel and the capability to capture what I see. 

There’s no such thing as a perfect camera though. Every camera has room for improvement. I wish the X100T had a dedicated ISO dial, and I don’t like the 1/3 stop aperture ring. An articulating screen would have been nice for those above head and straight up building shots. Compared to the X-T1, I found that shooting RAW and Fine JPEG is a bit slow on the X100T (3-4 seconds between shots vs X-T1’s instantaneous-ready-for-the-next-shot). I wish the battery was bigger, although shooting mostly in OVF mode and turning off the LCD helps quite a bit (I still carry a spare battery just in case). I find that Fuji’s sleep mode is too slow to wake up (it’s easier to turn off and then back on again, which is easy with the on/off switch wrapped around the shutter button). 

1/800th sec f/5.6 @ ISO 400. Converted B&W. Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island

In my interview of Greg and Ryuichi of Fujfilm Canada, they mentioned that Fujifilm engineers back in Japan eagerly want input and constructive criticism of their cameras, and it shows with this new X100T. Subtle changes that most brands would ignore (tighter exposure comp dial, shifting of buttons, operating software updates) Fujfilm engineers quickly address. Because of this eagerness of Fujifilm engineers, here’s a quick review of the changes or improvements I would like to see on the next X100 (or X200?) series camera:

-dedicated ISO dial (and not just a button)
-compatible with UHS-II format SD memory cards (like the X-T1) for quicker write speeds
-higher capacity battery
-articulating rear LCD screen
-better lens cap (the cup style is stylish but not practical) and built-in and pop-out lens hood
-exposure compensation dial in 1/2 stops for +/- 4 stops
-actual focus distance and DOF scale on lens barrel (although there isn’t much room for this)
-improve the speed of ‘wake-up’ from sleep mode
-separate AFL and AEL buttons with more pronounced bulge like on X-Pro 1 and E-E2 as a thumb rest
-a true wide angle converter (14-16mm wide or 21-24mm equiv)
-distance scale in ‘LCD info mode’ for shooting by scale without looking through viewfinder
-a proper dedicated flash (EF-X20 is nice but…) that can be 100% controlled from the body

Moreover, I’m very pleased with the X100T. I can see why so many DSLR and mirrorless ILC photographers gravitate towards this very unique camera. There’s nothing really like it on the market and I’m surprised by this. Leica have attempted a few cameras that come close (X1, X2, X-Vario, etc.) but none are as refined (the Leica’s are slow AF, slow software, no built-in viewfinder) as the X100 series. The closest competition is probably the Ricoh GR, but without a built in viewfinder, the GR isn’t really a DSLR or ILC replacement.

1/640th sec f/8 @ ISO 400. Provia jpeg. To Kwa Wan, Kowloon, Hong Kong

My Future X100 (X200) Wish List

If I could look into the future and advise on the direction of the X100 series to Fujifilm, these are the features/functions I would want to see. Some of these ideas are pretty far fetched, but others are completely doable with what technology they already have. I’ve actually spoken with Fujifilm about some of these, so lets hope to see some of these in the near future:

X100T WR: this is pretty self explanatory. They have the technology to do it, and it’s easier to do on a fixed lens camera. 

X100T OIS (optical image stabilization): again, self explanatory. Not everyone needs it, and if you’re a tripod shooter, it’s actually counter productive, but I think most street photographers won’t mind having the option of OIS, especially in lowlight situations.

X100T 50mm: a dedicated fixed 50mm equiv (35mm APS-C focal length) lens. Unlike the screw on teleconverter lens, this lens will be like a pancake lens, keeping the X100 compact and light. 

X100T Olive Green: I thought about this because of how the X100 series reminds me so much of the Leica M3 and M2 cameras. Have a special edition colour other than silver or black. Imagine an Olive Green X100T, and perhaps have a special edition olive green strap in collaboration with a brand like Artisan & Artist? Green is Fujifilm’s colour, so why not? Also, how about a brass top and bottom plate to allow for natural wear? I think it’ll look great.

X100T XF23-35: a 2 step zooming X100T with 23-35mm lens (35-50mm equiv). Perhaps the lens will not be pancake and the aperture will have to be f/3.5 or f/4, but imagine having these two focal lengths? I would want the OVF to be able to zoom as well. Even if there’s no zoom, the next function would be possible and would be amazing…

X100T OVF MZ (magnification zoom): Imagine the ability to decide the magnification of the viewfinder, deciding how much you want to see outside the frame lines? Some want the frame lines as close to the edge as possible, although this makes parallax correction more difficult (in OVF mode). Others don’t mind seeing a lot outside the lines, being able to see objects way before they enter into the frame. What if you have the ability to chose? This mode should be available in both OVF and EVF mode. I would recommend the ability to manually adjust magnification from 0.91X (full frame for 50mm lines) to 0.72X (full frame for 28mm). However, if you shoot 50mm but want to see a lot outside the frame, then shoot the wider 0.72X. I would want a digital version of this too, as many street photographers want to be able to see outside the frame lines. I know this EVF option to change magnification would mean to lower the resolution of the image, but for certain styles of photography, I think it’s worth losing some resolution to gain an outside-the-framelines-perspective (the Ricoh GR has 35mm and 47mm digital zoom which I use often, but doesn’t show outside the frame lines).

1/320th sec f/4 @ ISO 400. Provia jpeg. To Kwa Wan, Kowloon, Hong Kong


The X100T is great because it has an x factor that other cameras don’t have. It’s more than the sum of its functions and features and technology. You have to shoot with it to completely understand. X photographer Kale Friesen himself had the X100T for the previously mentioned photo-walk, and I asked him why he chose it over the other Fujifilm cameras. He said because he can take it anywhere with him and that it inspires him to want to shoot. Yes he has a full DSLR setup for his studio work, but walking around the city, getting coffee, hanging out with friends, who wants to lug around a DSLR? Who even wants to lug around a compact ILC? Not me. The X100T feels comfortable around my neck all day.

The X100T has everything that a serious photographer wants, but in a package that can be taken anywhere. Every camera and every format and system has some sort of compromise, so its a matter of finding the features and functions you want the most and find the camera that best satisfies those requirements. Do you want the highest resolution? Get an 8 x 10 large format camera, although you sacrifice size, weight and shooting speed. Do you want the most compact? Use your smart phone. Do you want the most versatile? Buy an ILC. Want the highest resolution and performance in a digital camera with versatility? Get a full frame DSLR. Want a compact ILC but decent resolution, wide variety of lenses and body options, get a M43 camera. Do you love the look, feel and shooting style of a film camera and have an unlimited budget, buy a Leica. 

1/85th sec f/4 @ ISO 400. Classic Chrome jpeg. To Kwa Wan, Kowloon, Hong Kong

The Fujifilm X series is the best overall ILC systems camera on the market today, with a decent variety of bodies and lenses to chose from. However, the X100T is the best balance of all these qualities and features and functions. It’s light and compact. Its performance is good enough for a pro or serious photographer. It has high image quality. It’s retro in look and shooting style, but it’s highly functional. The build quality and lens quality is fantastic, but the price is reasonable for what you get. It feels like you’re shooting film but you have the advantage of shooting digital. It’s cutting edge technology that no other manufacturer has (hybrid viewfinder, X-trans non-bayer CMOS sensor, true film simulation). As the 3rd generation X100 series camera, the controls and functions are highly refined and well thought out. This is the best Fuji film X series camera to date. If you can afford it, buy it. Don’t worry about the X200, or the X100U or X100V. Fujfilm loves updating firmware to keep your investment relevant years after you’ve bought it, and their engineers listen to customer input on how to improve their cameras via firmware updates.

1/450th sec f/4 @ ISO 200. Provia jpeg. Camera Girl in Mong Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong

I’ve had the X100T now for almost 4 months now and it goes with me everywhere I go. Yes I take my Ricoh GR with me as well, but there’s an emotional attachment to the X100T that probably comes from the fact that it feels like I’m shooting film. I’m a sucker for OVFs. The Ricoh GR is basically a very powerful point and shoot. The X100T is a lot more. If you’ve shot with it, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re considering buying one and you can afford it, get the X100T over the X100S. The S is good, but the T is great. Thank you Fujifilm Canada for letting me review this camera for such a long time. I loath to ship it back. Maybe I’ll keep it for the next photo walk? A special thanks to Helen and Serena of Fujifilm Canada for all your help.

Check out my Preview of the X100T here:

Check out my Video Review of the X100T here:

Check out my X100T streetphotography set-up video tutorial here:

Bonus pics…enjoy and happy shooting!

1/1100th sec f/4 @ ISO 800. Classic Chrome jpeg. Argyle Street, Mong Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong

1/1000th sec f/5.6 @ ISO 400. Classic Chrome jpeg. Kowloon Road, To Kwa Wan, Hong Kong

1/240th sec f/4.5 @ ISO 1000. Provia jpeg. Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island

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