Photography is inquisitive. A photographer poses questions and offers answers through imagery. The Fuji X100T is the answer to an unpopular question: how does one take better photographs?
Not sharper photographs, not larger photographs, but better photographs — photographs that say something, that mean something, even if only to us.
It’s a difficult question; chasing specs is easier than chasing craftsmanship, and the lazy lizard-brained person inside all of us is eager to believe that creative problems can be solved by things rather than thought. Thinking is hard.
The X100T is the answer not because it’s the most technically accomplished camera on the market, but because it’s designed to confront this question and accompany you as you discover your own answers. It’s a personal trainer for your photography.
The X100s was the first camera I ever loved. I appreciated my Canon cameras; I grew up with them and learned photography on them, but it wasn’t until I encountered the X100s that my camera became a natural extension of my body and not just that awkward thing I lug around to make pictures with.
It’s not about size though.
When you read reviews of mirrorless cameras, they often lean heavily on the weight reduction and compactness versus DSLRs. This is a valid point of comparison, but it’s a flimsy argument for those whose concerns are getting good images rather than simply packing light.
For me, the size argument is relevant only because it’s easier to have my camera with me all the time.
In other words, camera size doesn’t impact my ability to make the photos I want to — it simply improves the likelihood of having a camera with me when good photo opportunities emerge. The result is that I take more photos and in more situations than ever before.
Just like its predecessor, the X100T is my constant companion. The X100S had already nailed the core concept, so the X100T’s improvements are all in the service of expanding the shooting envelope in carefully considered ways.
Looking Both Ways
Every scene exists in two states: the way the photographer sees it, and the way the camera does.
Photography is ultimately the art of aligning these two visions, of coaxing a piece of technology into capturing a moment the way you saw it so that it can be shared with others.
Traditionally, there have been two approaches to camera viewfinders: optical or electronic. Diehard optical viewfinder fans appreciate the fact that it shows the scene as their eyes see it. EVF fans are glad to have a preview of how the camera sees things so they know exactly how the photo will turn out before pressing the shutter.
Like most modern cameras, the X100 series offers an EVF. However, unlike most modern cameras, the X100T’s EVF also functions as a standard optical viewfinder. The lever on the front of the camera switches between these modes.
The OVF is more than just a basic pass-through. It displays some digital enhancements including moving frame guides that compensate for parallax error and the usual indicators for current camera settings.
The X100T introduces a variation on the OVF with enhancements that constitute a third option: the hybrid viewfinder.
This hybrid viewfinder (which the manual refers to as “Dual display”) maintains the OVF view but superimposes a small EVF panel in the lower right. This provides the ability to use digital split-image or highlight peaking to assist with focusing in the mini-EVF while maintaining the analogue shooting feel of the OVF.
Effectively, this mode offers the best of both worlds, and while I prefer to use the EVF in most cases, I find the hybrid viewfinder easy and interesting to use. I’m getting to the point where I might even prefer it for street shooting thanks to the increased awareness of what lies outside the frame.
The take-away here is that Fuji has managed to make a camera that caters to two very different viewfinder preferences without compromising either, and they’ve even found a way to build a bridge between the two.
This is the kind of innovation that sets Fuji apart; instead of blindly upping the megapixel count of their sensors, they study the needs of their customers and develop enhancements that improve the actual shooting experience.
They compete on technical and design elements that are harder for marketing departments to spin into gold, but these elements provide more meaningful changes for professional photographers.
I don’t like using buttons and screens to adjust settings on my camera.
Part of that stems from the tactile experience of tapping a screen, but it’s also a matter of practicality: I generally shoot using the viewfinder, not the screen, so for me to adjust settings using the screen requires me to pull the camera away from my eye, make the switch, and resume shooting.
This takes me out of the moment and breaks concentration.
One of the most significant ergonomic improvements I felt using the X100 series was the ability to keep the camera to my eye and make those adjustments using the myriad physical dials. By providing controls for the most important camera settings right on the body, Fuji has eliminated the need to fiddle with the screen while shooting.
For the X100T, Fuji made small adjustments to the existing control layout to further benefit those of us who enjoy this method of changing settings.
The X100s’ somewhat awkward scroll wheel control dial has been replaced by a more sensible 4-button directional pad. This not only allows for more customizable function points, but also improves the ergonomics significantly.
The buttons feel more secure, provide excellent feedback, and are more obvious to discern by feel alone. They’re the kind of buttons I wish the X-T1 had. It isn’t just this directional pad either, as the rest of the buttons have also been tweaked. The buttons along the left side of the LCD are more subtle, there’s a new Drive button beneath the shutter speed dial, and the Q button has been moved to a more comfortable place.
It’s also worth mentioning that the jog dial on the back is now a standard scroll wheel, which I prefer. As before, pressing its centre while shooting will immediately zoom you in to the focus point, which is extremely helpful when focusing manually. This also works when you’re reviewing shots—one press will zoom you directly to the focus point of the image.
The focus mode switch also seems a bit stiffer, with more obvious detents. This may just be because my X100T is not as world-weary as my X100s was, but I appreciate it either way.
On the X100T, the aperture ring now turns in 1/3rd-stop intervals rather than the 1/2-stop of its predecessor. It’s a small difference, but it enables me to dial in a more nuanced exposure without having to resort to the digital side of the camera’s interface.
The exposure compensation dial has also received some attention, expanding to allow for an additional stop of coverage in both directions. As a result, you can now dial in +/- 3 stops of light while shooting, as opposed to 2 on previous models.
These tweaks may seem small, but the cumulative effect is tremendous. Shooting with the X100T feels more focused, deliberate, and pure than most modern cameras. When compared to its own predecessor, the ergonomics probably won’t be the defining factor influencing your decision to upgrade, but taken alongside the other improvements it is certainly an important one.
Zoom With Your Feet
One of the defining characteristics of the X100T is its fixed focal length.
In an age that favours choice and flexibility, it’s unsurprising that some of the criticism levelled at the X100 series of cameras has been centred on the inability to zoom or adjust your field of view by changing lenses.
This is a deliberate design decision though — one that allowed Fuji to refine the combination of lens and body to the point of perfection. The X100T is a focused tool, not a swiss-army knife.
In practise, this means you have to change your outlook on shooting if, like me, you were used to zooming and being able to change lenses at will.
While this has the obvious effect of forcing you to actually stand closer to your subject if you want a closer shot, it also works the other way around. Sometimes you can’t get closer, so you’re forced to come up with more interesting framing options to portray your subject.
Close-up shots, especially with the soft blurry backgrounds we’re so accustomed to seeing, are effortlessly impressive. The clear subject/background separation and “bokeh” is almost magical in its ability to make people oggle over your shots.
But that doesn’t mean the shots are actually interesting.
Shooting wider angles means including more elements of the scene into your frame, which in turn encourages you to consider each element and arrange them in a way that tells a story or offers a unique perspective.
Instead of aiming to impress by revealing the details of a particular object, you end up considering the scene holistically and using the camera to capture the moment in a broader sense.
Don’t get me wrong, the X100T is capable of some very impressive macro shots (as long as you stop down a bit to preserve sharpness when you’re right up close), but it encourages you to think beyond the bokeh.
While it’s easy to debate the merits of zooming with your feet, this technique doesn’t change the actual field of view, and sometimes you just need a different perspective than a 35mm equivalent.
I spent several weeks with both conversion lenses and was pleased to discover that Fuji’s engineers have managed to maintain image fidelity and autofocus performance.
The focal length flexibility comes at the expense of physical heft; both of these conversion lenses make the X100T larger and heavier, significantly so in the case of the telephoto lens.
While this in itself doesn’t bother me, it begins to raise questions about the value of the system. After all, if you know you need multiple focal lengths and you’re okay with a bit of extra size, then you’ll get better results using actual lenses on a camera with an interchangeable lens mount.
Fuji’s own X-Pro 1 and X-E2 are very similar in size to the X100T, and while the lenses make it a larger package overall, the superb quality of the lens line-up will inevitably give you better image fidelity than a conversion lens.
I see people struggling with this dilemma when they’re trying to find an entry point into the Fuji system, especially if they intend to switch to it entirely rather than have it as a secondary camera.
The X-Pro 1 isn’t as quick, as streamlined, or as modern as the X100T, but if you know you need to change focal lengths then those might be trade-offs you’re willing to make. Similarly, if you can put up with a bit of extra bulk, you’ll find the X-T1 or even X-T10 to be fantastic cameras that give you the sophistication of the X100T with the benefit of having full access to interchangeable lenses.
All of this leaves me somewhat conflicted about the conversion lenses. Are they good? Undoubtedly. But what exact problem are they solving? For whom?
The closest I can come to an answer is that they allow you to own one compact, high quality camera body that shoots superb images at 35mm and has the option to extend that range — with very little degradation in image fidelity and one step in either direction — for the occasional shot that requires it.
Whether or not it’s worth taking that approach over having an interchangeable lens body with a set of lenses will depend a lot on the needs of each individual photographer.
What I can say for certain is that it doesn’t hurt to have the choice available.
Amidst all these figures and options, it’s easy to lose sight of what I consider to be the single most important factor impacting my choice of camera: what it’s like to shoot with it out in the real world, day after day, on assignment and off.
This is where the X100T truly shines for me.
After months of daily use, I’m left without any major complaints. It stays out of my way, it does what I want it to, and it has taught me to look at scenes in new ways than I was used to.
Not only that, but I find that I can trust it to deliver in a huge variety of circumstances without having to fiddle with additional components.
If I’m shooting in extremely bright conditions, I have a neutral density filter built in that can help me keep sensible settings.
There’s an electronic shutter for super quick motion freezing. In a pinch, there’s an onboard flash unit I can bounce around to kill some shadows.
The X100T is very self-contained and I think that’s one of its strongest benefits. You can slip one single, compact item into your bag and be covered for almost any foreseeable photographic opportunity.
It’s also inconspicuous. People notice it, and geeks ask me about it, but I don’t mind that because the X100T doesn’t make them pose. Pointing DSLRs at people tends to provoke poses, most of which are awkward and unnatural. At least they’re not what I want to shoot.
With the X100T, people seem to remain at ease, which allows me to capture moments more naturally — people as they are instead of as they want to appear. This has encouraged me to photograph people more, something I previously avoided because of the difficulty in capturing something that didn’t look artificial.
Even my workflow has changed.
When I shot Canon, post-processing was almost always a requirement. With the X100T (and the X100S before it) I find I can use the images that come out of the camera with very minimal adjustments.
This has led to an iPad/iPhone-based approach to post-processing where I pull images into VSCO Cam and make some slight tweaks there, keeping the RAWs only for archival purposes in Lightroom. Besides being quicker, it’s also something I can do on the go, which gives me the opportunity to present images to people shortly after I’ve captured them.
Of course, it helps that Fuji’s film profiles are so good. Classic Chrome is the popular one that’s unique to Fuji’s newer cameras. But in truth, they’re all spectacular, and most of them are more character presets than “filters” in the sense that they don’t heavily alter the image. They’re simply flavours, and they happen to resonate with my aesthetic sensibilities.
Looking back at my catalogue of images, I can see a distinct transition after getting the X100S and one that has continued with the X100T. I like to think that it’s an increased tendency toward thoughtful images. Captures that are less obvious. Fewer snapshots and more actual photographs that strive to attain some manner of staying power.
All my previous cameras promised me better looking photos. The X100T encouraged me to pursue more than just technical excellence. To be fair, I could have adjusted my shooting intentions with my previous camera as well, selecting one lens and focusing on craftsmanship and storytelling over raw technical fidelity.
But somehow the presence of a camera that’s designed for this kind of shooting makes a difference. That would be valuable even if it was only a psychological difference, but it’s not — the X100T is capable of quicker, more deliberate shooting. It’s less fiddly, less bulky, and less conspicuous.
As for fidelity, it has always been my impression that Fuji’s X-Trans sensor is capable of confidently producing excellent images, but I recently put it to the ultimate test by beginning to print. It’s one thing to see your images compressed on a screen, but having them on paper in front of you, as tangible artifacts of your creativity, is the ultimate showcase of the photographic art.
And the Fuji shots look just as good — if not better — than my old Canon’s, despite the discrepancy in sensor size and resolution.
Questions and Answers
So where does that leave you, the inquisitive photographer? It leaves you right here, right now, reading this and asking the question: is the Fuji X100T a worthy addition to my arsenal?
There isn’t a camera in the world that will make you a better photographer overnight. You have to put in the hours no matter what you’re shooting with. But some cameras encourage the process more than others; they make you look forward to the 10,000 hours of practise on the road to mastery. They force you out of your comfort zone in search of the inspiration beyond.
The Fuji X100T compels you to demand more from your photography. By selectively limiting your kit, you end up focusing on creative options instead of technical ones while shooting.
When I have my X100T with me, I feel like I’m actually improving — slowly but surely — rather than just shooting. Anything that truly delivers on the promise of helping me improve my craft earns a place in my kit.
Fuji isn’t interested in wowing you with specs. They smile and nod at Sony, at Canon, at Nikon, at Samsung. Those guys are doing great work, solving different problems.
Fuji is more interested in shaking hands with Leica, because they know that the next best camera in terms of specifications holds that title for a few months at best. The camera that nails user experience becomes timeless.
The X100T is the camera for people who want to jump off the technology train and remember what it means to pursue great images instead. If you were like me, stuck on that exhausting train ride, then grab your things and head for the door: this is your stop.