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Fujifilm X100S: What Happened to My Focus?

Fujifilm X100S

Two years of time to think through all the oddball glitches and things that interfere with usability, but the Fujifilm X100S seems to mainly be a warmed-over X100 with all the bad stuff left intact. Sure it has a faster AF and higher resolution sensor, but most of the design warts seem to have been cemented in, with no real improvements in usability.

For example, in manual focus mode, deleting an image completely defocuses the lens, so it has to be focused all over again to take another shot. Other operations also do this though I haven’t tracked down all the cases; the camera feels unstable as a result, forcing me to recheck every time. It’s just a chore to use a camera that has exploding “easter eggs” like this.

Disconcerting too: pressing the shutter lightly even in manual focus mode causes a noise and movement glitch, making me wonder if focus really is where I set it.

Then there is the stop-down behavior; I observed the camera stopping down the lens arbitrarily under brighter conditions: can one trust autofocus or manual focus when the lens diaphragm is stopped down to some random aperture?

On the flip side, if all one wants to do is to use it as an autofocus point and shoot, the focus stuff is irrelevant: point the thing, half press the shutter to focus, press the button. Problem “solved”.

There is more on the cafeteria menu:

  • The X100S still has an off-center tripod socket . Attaching a camera plate blocks access to the battery and card, so carry an allen wrench if using a conventional camera plate. But the must-have solution for tripod shooting is the elegant Really Right Stuff BX100 base plate + grip, which sidesteps the issue completely and also protects the entire bottom of the camera.
  • Really Right Stuff BX100 base plate for Fujifilm X100/ X100S
  • The menu system of the X100s remains as complex and poorly organized as on the X100. Primitive and unwieldy.
  • When shooting RAW, the Q button presents a huge tabular list of settings, many of which are inapplicable to RAW. This is not just a bad design, it’s a failure to design at all. It’s insane to have this facility, and then garbage-dump stuff into it.
  • Self timer mode erases itself if the camera is powered off (turns off the self timer).
  • The push-on lens cap remains a nuisance, ready to be lost. Demands the same solution as the X100: the extra-cost lens hood, possibly with a filter for dirty conditions. Note to Fuji: why not skip the lens cap and instead include the shade and a filter? Probably would save on tech support calls too (“why is the picture blank”).
  • The controller dial remains as ergonomically difficult to operate as with the X100. Trying to use it with gloves on would be futile.
  • A camera be this big (it’s not big but it’s not small) can afford to have a decent grip. The Really Right Stuff BX100 with grip solves this, but it ought to have some kind of grip built in.

I know the Fuji X100s has all the right checkbox-list of features in the marketing materials, but these days I’m looking for intelligent design; sensors are getting so good that what really makes the camera is the ease of use and well thought out features: less is more and more is less. Good design is about the right overall feature set with every little detail nit-picked and forced through a rigorous usability filter. The X100s fails miserably in this regard.

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