I just came home from a 10 day vacation in San Francisco, Yosemite, and surrounding areas with my brother and sister. For this trip I wanted to try to dip my feet in some more-serious-than-iphone photography. After researching around a bit, and a friends recommendation, I rented the Fujifilm x100s (LensRentals: $96 for 10 days).
Disclaimer: I'm not a photographer. I have a good amount of head-knowledge when it comes to photography/video, cameras, lenses, etc. but minimal on-the-field experience, especially on my own, taking the process from start to finish. Take everything I say with many grains of salt.
With that said, I really loved my time with the x100s. Here's why:
Appearance, Size and Feel
This thing looks really cool. Modeled after the 1954 Leica M3 rangefinder (had to google that), it has a classic, timeless look to it. I actually had somebody ask me if it was a real camera, and if it took film. The size was perfect what I was looking for, I wanted something in-between an iPhone 5s and the 5D Mark III. Now, I understand there's an entire world in-between those two form factors, but this just seemed perfect, not to big, not too small, and it feels great in your hands. It has a decent amount of weight and density to it, which alludes quality, and makes a shaky hand a little steadier. This was around my neck every day, everywhere I went, and I say about 70% of the time, I was using it one handed, unless I needed to change aperture.
Image Quality, Ease-of-use
I can't really speak to image quality extensively, since I don't have much experience to compare it to, but from I saw, its pretty incredible. You can scroll down to see some of the photos taken with it and judge for yourself. As for the ease of the camera, it does have a pretty extensive menu, with options that get pretty messy and convoluted, especially for someone with little experience, but that's nothing a 40-minute walkthrough video didn't fix. Other than that, it's really easy to shoot with. As I said earlier, I shot mostly one handed with this thing holding it up to my eye, and snapping away. I really enjoyed using the optical viewfinder, and I liked how seamlessly the camera switched back and forth between it and the external viewfinder based on the eye sensor. It also turns on within what seems like a microsecond. I could grab the camera from around my neck, turn it on while bringing it up to my eye, focus, snap a shot and turn the camera off within a couple seconds, all with one hand if the aperture looked good as it was last left. I also was able to set the customizable "fn" button thats right at the top to toggle the physical, 3-stop ND filter on and off, which was great because I was outside in bright daylight much of the time. Auto-focusing was a breeze (except in really low light), and setting the camera to aperture priority and having the camera figure out shutter speed and ISO itself worked out great. It was all so easy.
The Fixed 23mm Lens
This is, of-course, a legitimate limitation and friction point. This is where a DSLR rig will win out every time. I didn't have the option of opting for a 100mm lens, or a 70-200mm lens when I needed too. I couldn't take a telephoto shot of the Golden Gate Bridge from two miles away (sigh). I couldn't compress an image with the choice of focal length. But what it could do, once you accept its limitations, was incredible. Creativity flourishes within boundaries, so the fixed lens causes you to move, to think differently and to adapt to the moment. The obvious benefits also include the fact that the camera weighs in at under 1 pound, and there's no fidgeting with lenses and lens caps and whatnot. It is what it is, and that's all there is to it.
Here are a bunch of my favorites from the trip, all of them edited with a trial version of Lightroom. I'm sure if this camera was in better hands, the results would skyrocket! You can download a handful of images to use for desktops, iPhone backgrounds, or anything you'd like.
Yosemite National Park
Monterey Bay Aquarium and Pebble Beach