Recently, Fujifilm released its fifth-generation Fujifilm X100V camera, an update that has been two years in the making. By now there are a lot of reviews out there, but my goal here is to focus on why I believe this is the best camera on the market for street photography. The X100V works really well as an everyday travel camera and even as a daily a cityscape/architecture camera, but I think that street photography is in the camera’s DNA.
I’ve been using the X100 since the first version, released in 2011, as my everyday camera and my primary street photography camera. Since then, it has transformed the way that I work as well as the quality of my work. Full disclosure: Fujifilm provided me with a loaner camera to review.
How the original X100 transformed street photography
The original X100 rocked the photography world in 2011. It embraced the design and ergonomics of old rangefinder film cameras and combined them with a cutting edge hybrid viewfinder and excellent image quality. And the cost was fairly affordable considering everything that was packed inside it.
While a few other camera companies had come close, no company had yet to put together such a small, tight, and refined (after some firmware updates, admittedly) street photography camera. Many photographers began to ditch their SLRs and prime lenses for the X100 and its later models.
And while many companies have created incredible cameras for street photography, most of them have a significant flaw or two that hold them back in some way (or they cost $10,000). I still don’t believe there is a camera company out there that has put together the entire package for street photographers in the way that Fujifilm has. It continues to lead the pack.
What’s new in the X100V?
The X100V comes with a host improvements over the previous models, including:
- More reliable autofocusing: This may be the major reason for upgrading the camera for some of you.
- New 26.1-megapixel sensor (shared by the X-T3): You get a modest resolution bump and much faster readout speeds.
- Newly weather-resistant body: You will need to purchase an attachment to make the lens itself weather resistant, but I have shot significantly with older versions in the rain with an umbrella and never had an issue with it getting fairly wet. A weather-resistant body would make me even more comfortable in doing so.
- Newly developed lens: The lens redesign is two years in the making and improves corner sharpness and close-distance focusing.
- Slightly sleeker design: Streamlined lines and new top and bottom aluminum plates with a satin finish make the camera even more aesthetically appealing.
- Two-way tilting screen: The screen is so thin, you hardly know it can tilt.
- Updated hybrid viewfinder with a new OLED panel.
- 4K Video: For any street photography videos you may want to make.
Now let’s take a look at why I think the X100V is perfect for street photography.
Size and ergonomics
While the benefit of the Fujifilm X100 series is its complete package of features, the size and ergonomics of the camera are what stand out the most for me. With its very compact 23mm (35mm equivalent) lens, the camera is tiny and a pleasure to carry around all day. It is both inconspicuous for street photography and light enough that it allows you to photograph in a quicker and more spontaneous manner.
The X100V just makes you want to take it outside and walk around all day
The camera has dials for all the major camera functions, which makes it easy to change your settings on the fly without going into the menus. The viewfinder allows you to move between an optical view and an electronic view, which I do frequently depending on what I am shooting.
The X100V just makes you want to take it outside and walk around all day. And it’s tough to understate that, because that’s really the key to street photography: getting out there with a camera consistently and having as much fun as possible.
Part of the genius of the X100-series is the restraint that they showed in building it. The choice to have a fixed lens and an APS-C sensor could have been thought to have been features that held this camera back, but instead, they were the features that defined this camera. Both choices allowed it to hit a perfect mix between size and image quality. The photos that come out of it look great and I easily feel comfortable blowing them up to giant sizes, even at remarkably high ISOs.
I find that the colors and black and white tones that come out of this camera are nothing short of remarkable, and in recent years Fujifilm has provided a wide variety of color and black and white profiles that allow you to create a variety of looks depending on your style and the particular image you’re working with.
High ISO and autofocus
I’ve found the X100V to be a beast for night photography, whether it’s street or architectural. I tested this camera up to ISO 6400, and found the noise was fairly minimal. The photographs were sharp as well. I would certainly be comfortable printing ISO 6400 photographs and I would even be comfortable using ISO 12,800 in a pinch. The level and look of the noise in the newest version of the X100 is something that I could not have imagined even five years ago.
Mix the ISO capabilities with the size and inconspicuousness of the camera, and shooting street photography at night is so much easier. In general, street photography at night is incredibly hard to do, but this camera speeds you up enough to significantly lessen some of the primary constraints with night street shooting.
Autofocus, what was originally one of the main issues with the first X100 camera in 2011, is now one of its strengths. The X100V has incredibly reliable autofocusing and performs remarkably well for a camera of this size. It’s still is not as fast as an SLR, of course, but with each new iteration, they get closer.
The Fujifilm X100V comes with the option to purchase 50mm equivalent and 28mm equivalent attachment lenses. I’ve found that 35mm and 50mm primes are my bread-and-butter focal lengths for street photography: wide enough to get close and intimate while showing a lot of background, but not too wide. Many street photographers love to use a 28mm equivalent as well, although that is usually too wide for me unless I am on a very crowded street corner.
The act of using a prime lens like this has allowed me to capture so many more split-second moments than I would have missed otherwise. With a zoom, I feel like I am a part of the camera, but with a small prime, I feel like the camera is part of me.
The battery life over the last few versions is remarkably improved, particularly for a camera of this size. I still find that I need three batteries for an active day of shooting, but the battery life has been turned from a detriment to a benefit over the five generations of this camera.
Street photography settings and tips
While I think that the silver version of the camera is the prettiest, people tend to notice it frequently. It still works great for street photography, but I suggest getting the black version, which is more inconspicuous and gets fewer comments.
The X100V has a leaf-shutter, so is already very quiet, but you can disable all other sounds and enable an electronic shutter for completely silent shooting. This is particularly helpful for indoor and especially quiet situations.
I also lengthen the time that it takes for the camera to go to sleep. I find this option necessary since the camera will go to sleep occasionally just as a fast-moving moment appears out of nowhere The ‘Boost’ option also enables even faster autofocus speeds. Both of these options will significantly reduce the battery life, but with three batteries, you should have more than enough for a full day of busy shooting.
Street photography accessories
While Lensmate has not yet released a thumb-grip for the new design of the X100V (here it is for the X100F), I’m sure one is coming soon. This type of thumb grip makes the camera much easier to hold, particularly with one hand.
I also find that a soft release button makes the camera more comfortable and sensitive to shoot with: My personal favorite is the Abrahamsson Mini Soft Release. Purchase a couple of these because they can unscrew in your bag and get lost easily. I lose one a year usually and I’m very careful.
The overall aesthetic of Gordy’s camera straps goes very well with the camera and are incredibly comfortable. I typically keep the strap shorter than normal to keep the camera higher on my chest, which makes it easier to shoot quickly with and isn’t bothersome since the camera is so light.
The X100 series has been around for almost 10 years now, and it only gets better as Fujifilm works to find smart and subtle ways to improve it and the photos that come out of it without straying from the initial spirit of the camera.
I’ve found that the Fujifilm X100V has helped turn me into a more spontaneous street photographer. I can react faster, am able to manipulate the camera easier, and have gotten really in-tune with the fixed focal length. If you decide to get one for yourself, I think you’ll feel much less self-conscious and afraid of getting close and intimate with your photographs.
The combination of all of these factors has allowed me to capture images that I would not be able to come back with before. And to be honest, I don’t know what camera I would use for street photography if the X100V didn’t exist. I can’t say I would be as happy or comfortable with any other.