Can the Fujifilm FinePix X100 be a Primary Street Photographer’s Camera?

Eric’s note: Below is a guest post from MarkB over at X100photo.co.uk. He is not only a talented street photographer, but he is passionate about the new Fujifilm FinePix X100. Check out his awesome review and thoughts below.

Question, can the X100 replace a DSLR or point & shoot and be a primary street photography camera?

1x1.trans Can the Fujifilm FinePix X100 be a Primary Street Photographers Camera?
With the release of ever more capable cameras that have the maturity of DSLRs but in more compact packages, this seems to have created a renaissance in the somewhat related genres of street, documentary and photojournalism. So as I thought about how to answer the above question I realized that with more and more photographers considering rightsizing their camera choice for street photography, this really is the question of the moment. The X100 then, really has set the cat amongst the pigeons.

This is not another in-depth review of the Fuji X100. What I aim to do is outline the factors we might take into account when trying to answer the above question. Perhaps a little more controversially, I then present my own conclusions! If nothing else, I hope my approach in breaking down the considerations might provide a useful means of making what is for many photographers a very individual decision.

The criteria

1x1.trans Can the Fujifilm FinePix X100 be a Primary Street Photographers Camera?

In starting to think about what makes a great street camera, I have taken the view that size really does matter, for a number of reasons. Perhaps the first and most obvious reason being that we want a small enough camera to move around and photograph discreetly. On the other hand being too small brings its own limitations in what can be achieved with today’s lens and sensor technology. I guess then what we are really looking for is what you might call the Goldilocks factor, not too big and not too small. A camera that is discreet enough and yet fits and operates comfortably in hand.

At one end of the of the equation we have the issue of quality which is directly related to sensor size and I therefore typically look for sensors that are Four Thirds system or larger. I previously owned the LX3 and found it to be a great little camera, but image quality just was not there for me. This really then starts to eliminate the pocket point & shoot end of the market. At the larger camera end we do find some street photographers out there successfully working with the trusty DSLR, however, the whole reason many of us are here is the desire for something more discreet.

1x1.trans Can the Fujifilm FinePix X100 be a Primary Street Photographers Camera?

This now really starts to narrow down the field of contenders, which can be split into those with changeable lenses and those with a fixed or zoom lens. Weighing up camera options from a focal length perspective depends to a degree on what you are comfortable with. My own perception is that the street photographer’s mindset works in fixed focal lengths, the classic being 35mm. So working with a single fixed 35mm focal length equivalent works for me (it might be 50mm for somebody else), although the flexibility of changeable lenses would be ideal. Of course, a camera with a fixed zoom bridges that gap, but this does compromise quality and possibly robs you of a consistent (and dare I say classic) focal length look to your shots.

Clearly a big factor in deciding a camera’s capability as a street shooter is its feature set. Fuji’s X100 viewfinder really has shaken up the competition, other companies often only providing a capable viewfinder via a protruding attachment. Further still, the X100 offers both an EVF as well as a cleverly switchable optical view finder integrated with a digital overlay. The X100 viewfinder thus providing a modern alternative to the traditional rangefinder. This brings us nicely onto a camera’s operation which I tend to distinguish on a scale of digitally automated at one end and manual at the other. The GF2 epitomizes the issue for me, in how it has become a dumbed down GF1, taking important control away for the discerning photographer. Some of these issues prove real deal breakers as we narrow down the competition further.

1x1.trans Can the Fujifilm FinePix X100 be a Primary Street Photographers Camera?

Then, when we have finished shortlisting the contenders based on logic, we are faced with those heart string tugging aspects of style. Do not underestimate the part this plays in our decision making. Camera companies know this full well when they style and accessorize based on classic camera looks.

The analysis

I figured that with so many camera models to take into account, one way of visualizing where the main contenders sit relative to each other might be to try and plot them against a scale (dangerous, yes I know). There’s no science or table of data behind this plot (see diagram below), it purely represents my own feel as to where I position camera types or specific contenders. The plot shows that as we move towards the centre line and to the right, we move towards the sweet spot for street photography.

1x1.trans Can the Fujifilm FinePix X100 be a Primary Street Photographers Camera?

My own preference would be to select a contender above the centre line, that is to say, a camera with changeable lenses. Certainly on paper then, this still positions the M9 as the benchmark camera for street photography. However, the M9 is a massive investment and for those photographers new to (or perhaps just unsure about) street photography, fixed focal length lenses or manual focus, they might be looking for a good alternative to try their hand, maybe as a stepping stone to the M9 or a future successor. Clearly there are a few contenders, but my own assertion is that with its picture quality, viewfinder, control, build quality and style, the Fuji X100 takes that mantle.

Coming back to the original question then, what about the DSLR? If you are looking for a good, flexible camera for all round photography and occasional street photography, the DSLR still has a place. What about the faithful little point & shoot? Well, a professional street photographer could still get a far better picture on a phone camera than what an unskilled photographer might achieve using the best equipment. It may also serve as the camera you always have with you. So although DSLRs and point & shoots may still have a role to play, if your shooting is more purposeful, if you are specifically wondering the urban jungle on an afternoon’s hunting, then you do still want something discreet and more capable. For many, this innovative new camera from Fuji, the X100, can be your primary street photography camera.

Sample photos

1x1.trans Can the Fujifilm FinePix X100 be a Primary Street Photographers Camera?

"Comic shot" - MarkB

1x1.trans Can the Fujifilm FinePix X100 be a Primary Street Photographers Camera?

"Oxygen" -MarkB

1x1.trans Can the Fujifilm FinePix X100 be a Primary Street Photographers Camera?

"Purposeful stride" - MarkB

1x1.trans Can the Fujifilm FinePix X100 be a Primary Street Photographers Camera?

"Temptation" - MarkB

Links

Check out more of MarkB’s thoughts on the X100 as well as his gorgeous images at his website. Also make sure to follow him on Twitter.
www.X100Photo.co.uk

Related Content

Check out Kai’s review of the X100 at DigitalRevTV:

More Fujifilm FinePix X100 Sample Photos

Fujifilm FinePix X100 Unboxing Photos

So do you think that the Fujifilm FinePix X100 can be your primary street photography camera? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

Upcoming Street Photography Workshops

If you want to conquer your fears and meet new peers, join me in Stockholm, Portland, San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto, NYC, Istanbul & More!

See My Upcoming Street Photography Workshops

  • http://www.arovingvision.com Kit Taylor

    Yes, although I will probably often have my DSLR (DX) in a shoulder bag with a 60mm for street portrait opportunities as I can get a narrower DOF with it than with a 23mm lens. No idea when I will actually get my X100, but I’ve had one on order from Adorama since February.

    • Jon33

      Why don’t the camera manufacturers build a decent compact camera? Something like a rangefinder style, it must have manual and aperture and priority settings. All this at a reasonable price, and not a silly over inflated price. The cameras out at the moment are very poor indeed, with the exception of the fuji x100 this is a nice little camera, but very poor video. Also the price is crazy, it should be about £200 in price, there is no need to be asking £700 for it.

      The Fuji x100 is too expensive

  • http://www.derekclarkphotography.com Derek Clark Photography

    I’ve had the X100 since the 21st of March and although I’ve shot my paid jobs on my Nikon gear, everything else has been X100. All of my Project365 shots apart from 3 have been with it http://bit.ly/iabMgf

    I go out to shoot street with the X100 and Yashica Electro 35 GTN Rangefinder. Each time i have went out, I have forgot to take the rangefinder out of my bag. The X100 gives me butterflies when I’m using it…it’s amazing! YES it can be primary street camera!

    The fixed 35mm doesn’t bother me as I’m a prime shooter on DSLR and I find 35mm is perfect for street. If Fuji brought out a 50mm version, I’d buy that too and go out with both cameras.

    I post a daily X100 shot on my street blog at http://bit.ly/dIMbTd

    Regards
    Derek.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/exi87 Jaap Barnhoorn

    Awesome, thanks for sharing Eric. This one is still very high on my WTB List.
    The thing is: I can’t afford it!
    The video was great and proves why this would be a very good camera for streettogs.

    I’m actually thinking of buying a rangefinder camera and use that until I can afford the X100 or find one a bit cheaper than the price it’s listed for atm. Canonet 17QL, Yashica Electro 35, Konica C35; all great camera’s. :)

  • http://silentxpression.wordpress.com/ Simon Wallerstedt

    I ordered one a while back, I hope I don’t have to wait too long. I bought it because of my growing passion for street photography. I intend to use it as my primary street camera. Of course I’ll keep my DSLR, but it’ll probably start to feel a bit neglected once the X100 arrives.
    I feel kinda sorry for it, but I try to convince myself that it doesn’t have feelings, it’s just a camera.. Poor D90 :(

  • cris

    I’m doing some nice street photography with a DSRL which i find very versatile for its interchangeable zoom and prime lenses and the APS-C quality but the real problem with it is the massive size and weight too. I can’t always go out and take it with me, I need to plan my photo sessions and take my time to hunt in the streets but that way I’m missing a lot of opportunities when i’m just out doing something else.
    I’d love to buy a Leica M8 or M9 with interchangeable lenses but i’m not a professional so it is way too expensive just for the pleasure. This is the reason I’m craving for the X100 so bad and I will buy it but only at the official price of 1000 euros (street prices for this model are simply crazy at the moment).
    I wont dismiss my versatile DSRL anyway but I will have the X100 always with me when I cannot carry my Canon.

  • Pingback: the street photographers camera?()

  • http://martoscbox.wordpress.com/ [Gm]

    Thank you for the article.

    For me, the cost is still too much for the benefit. Definitely not the best bang for my buck.

    Don’t mean to compare the image quality and all, but I think Canon S95 would be better for my needs and affordability :-).

    *still saving money for second hand S95 :D

  • http://carlosdanielhc.blogspot.com/ carlyteen

    Very interesting article, especially about the diagram of the cameras for street photography.
    You do a great job here on your blog, I follow every post you do…

    Congrats!

  • http://www.jmcdonaldphotography.tumblr.com Jason

    Thanks for this review, Eric. I’m gonna have to agree with [GM]. While I love the camera and everything it does, it’s too expensive for me. And my Nikon does just fine :)

  • http://www.50-mm.com/ Ariel Sinson

    The X100 looks appealing. I been checking out users reviews and thoughts about this camera for a while. What draws me to this camera is the optical viewfinder.

    The fact it has the characteristics of a rangefinder in terms while making a photograph the screen does not go black is a very important factor in getting the photograph as you saw it.

    Also I like that Fuji integrated film like analog controls …. making adjustments
    so much faster. In my option having analog controls similar to film is faster then going to menus within the camera to make adjustments.

    I heard that focusing manually with this camera is not so great. I like that they put the aperture reading on the lens… but what would be great if Fuji had design a Lens Marking Primer. That would be awesome and I hope to see this in there next version of this camera.

    What I love about film cameras over digital… SLR or Rangefinder is that the functions are simple. The photographer spends less time navigating though menus and more time actual making photographs. The draw back is of course changing film speed and buying film… a pain in the butt lol.

    I’m happy that Fuji has created a camera that has the functions of a traditional film camera.

    What I would love to see in there next generation of the X100

    Rangefinder Focusing
    Interchangeable Lenses with Lens Marking Primer
    Full Frame… but this would drive up the price

    If they can do this then I think it would be a true contender to the M9… with is way overprice… :(

    The X100 looks appealing. I been checking out users reviews and thoughts about this camera for a while. What draws me to this camera is the optical viewfinder.

    The fact it has the characteristics of a rangefinder in terms while making a photograph the screen does not go black is a very important factor in getting the photograph as you saw it.

    Also I like that Fuji integrated film like analog controls …. making adjustments
    so much faster. In my option having analog controls similar to film is faster then going to menus within the camera to make adjustments.

    I heard that focusing manually with this camera is not so great. I like that they put the aperture reading on the lens… but what would be great if Fuji had design a Lens Marking Primer. That would be awesome and I hope to see this in there next version of this camera.

    What I love about film cameras over digital… SLR or Rangefinder is that the functions are simple. The photographer spends less time navigating though menus and more time actual making photographs. The draw back is of course changing film speed and buying film… a pain in the butt lol.

    I’m happy that Fuji has created a camera that has the functions of a traditional film camera.

    What I would love to see in there next generation of the X100

    Rangefinder Focusing
    Interchangeable Lenses with Lens Marking Primer
    Full Frame… but this would drive up the price

    If they can do this then I think it would be a true contender to the M9… with is way overprice… :(

    Keep up the great articles Eric!

    My Website
    http://www.50-mm.com/

    Cheers,
    Ariel

  • http://www.50-mm.com/ Ariel Sinson

    opps sorry for the double comment… cut and paste once to many lol

  • pierre

    yes I am the first customer in France for this wonderful device!
    is mine I have just been delivered! (Ordered on the internet) and I can share my impressions =
    Wawh-how fast! it looks like a Leica M …. It comes in a stylish package as the Leica x1-an impression of solidity, of boutons/bagues- al’ancienne, which remain in place (not like the x1) reactivity astonishing, immediate display, and a bright viewfinder specific (hybrid viewfinder is stunningly beautiful and it automatically!) – Picture perfect (as x1 that I had and sold quickly due to its deplorable slowness and lack of viewfinder) –
    a quibble = button back end of the pad is too small and poorly easy to use-it lacks any zoom! a little big to fit in your pocket
    the price is also quite high = 1200 € approximately (- x1 expensive than all the same)
    In summary a great camera, a success, a large number who will make history!
    Finally I have a poket high quality!
    FUJI thank you!

    http://flic.kr/ps/uevTA

    Il est magnifique, on dirait un petit Leica M9.! -wawh quelle allure! . il est présenté dans un coffret très élégant comme le Leica x1-

    -une impression de solidité, des boutons/bagues- a l’ancienne,qui restent en place ( pas comme sur le x1) une réactivité étonnante, un affichage immédiat , un viseur clair et précis,( le viseur hybride est une beauté remarquable et il bascule automatiquement ! )- images parfaites !

    -un petit reproche= le bouton du pad a l’arrière est trop petit et mal aisé a utiliser-il manque éventuellement un zoom!un peu grand pour tenir dans la poche-
    -le prix aussi est assez élevé= 1200€ environ ( – cher que le x1 tout de même )
    -en résumé un superbe appareil, une réussite, un grand numéro qui marquera l’histoire!
    -enfin j’ai un poket de grande qualité!
    -merci FUJI!
    -mes premières images au Fuji x100= http://flic.kr/ps/uevTA

  • http://Www.wanderinglulu.com Ewanglee

    Wow! I’ve been resisting because I wanted to see how it performs and boy, does it look like it can perform! Thanks for this post. Now, do I really need it? I keep switching back and forth. The price point makes it hard to justify. To buy or not to buy, that is the question…

  • Pingback: The Street Photographer’s Camera | Fujifilm Finepix X100 News & Rumors()

  • http://myx100year.blogspot.com Ben Mathis

    I managed to get an X100 up here in Iceland (long story, it came from New Zealand) and I’m running a photo blog that’s updated almost daily: http://myx100year.blogspot.com/

    I also did a quick review here: http://myx100year.blogspot.com/2011/04/my-x100-review.html

    Short version? I haven’t touched my 5D+35L (my other camera) since it came in. The x100 never leaves my neck.

  • http://www.x100enthusiasts.com/ crmarks

    I have an X100 on pre-order since March, I’m excited for them start shipping next week in the US.

    Lately I’ve been using my Canon 60D with a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 for street photography, and I’ve found it to be very intimidating to people. It’s as if anyone that notices it immediately becomes suspicious of me.

  • Charles

    I have been tossing and turning over deciding on weather or not to buy this camera. I am noe compared the Fuji X100 to the Nikon D5100 with 35mm f1.8 prime. Other than the difference in video capability, how would you compare these cameras to each other? Are they even comparable? Is focusing speed an accuracy an issue with X100 and is it better on the D5100?

    Interchangeable lenses vs. smaller more discreet camera
    Plastic vs. metal body
    Tilty-flippy screen vs. simplistic design
    Better battery power vs. old school nobs for manual and semi-manual control

  • Stillshunter

    Great meander through your thinking on street shooting requirements. I notice you left one notable camera out of your analyses….the Sigma DP2. I have the DP2s and find it plenty fast and 41mm a comfortable fixed focal length. With the hot-shoe mounted OVF, manual focus with negligible shutter lag, it is a sweet little set-up for the street….and the image outputs!!!! Gotta love that Foveon pop.

    Irrespective, the x100 is a very serious and tempting proposition. So thanks for making it even harder for me ;)

  • eric

    I’ve been coveting this camera for about five months now. I pre-0rdered it at the end of February and still haven’t received it yet. Reading posts like this get me more and more excited, but more impatient too! I can’t wait another day longer…

  • Jonathan Geach

    Just a word, there is no way the m9 is smaller than the NEX-3, not even the same category. I am not saying it is a better camera for street photography, but it is much smaller

  • Pingback: Fujifilm FinePix X100 Available at B&H Right Now! — Eric Kim Street Photography()

  • Pingback: black white()