Resisting the X100S, Zack Arias hype

I really love Zack Arias’ street photography. He is a fantastic photographer and I have so much to learn from him. When I go around the city, free form, I want to learn how to see compositions like he does.

Recently, Fujifilm released a video of Zack using the X100S in Istanbul. It’s another one of those immensely interesting and tempting videos — a follow on to the first Fuji – Arias collaboration in India. As I watched, mesmerized by the rich tapestry of an ancient city, it got me thinking….


Fujifilm was brilliant to sponsor Zack. Who wouldn’t be unduly influenced by a notable and fine photographer shooting in exotic locals using a beautiful tool that harkens back to the simple life. It does what a good commercial should do. It make you feel uncomfortable. Uncomfortable that you are inadequate or perhaps that your gear is inadequate. It makes you feel that if you can just get that shiny new tool, you can magically fix all of your deficiencies.

Except, you know it doesn’t work. You can buy a X100S and go to Istanbul but that doesn’t make you Zack Arias. The truth, of course, is that the X100S has nothing to do with what makes Zack — Zack. He could shoot with almost any camera and make his great shots. Sure, the small and un-intimidating camera helps in these urban settings. It also makes life more enjoyable since you’re not stuck carrying heavy gear. But any mirrorless Sony or Olympus will do that.

What does the Fujifilm X100S have that other mirrorless cameras don’t? It has a fast syncing leaf shutter that’s great for flash photography. That is about the only tangible thing I can think of. Maybe the analog controls allows quick and simple access, an old style interface that beats the modern equivalent. When you look at test results on DPReview, the vaulted X-Trans sensor really doesn’t deliver. Yes, I know lab tests are different from the real world but analytically speaking I really don’t see the sensor giving Fuji a definitive advantage.

It is easy to give technical and analytical arguments for why something is good or bad but it is the emotional appeal that is hard to resist. These Fujifilm videos appeal to the heart. And perhaps the lure of the Fuji is ultimately not about the technical mumbo jumbo but more about the feel of the cameras. Maybe that is what Zack is trying to tell us.

I need to resist. I am more than happy with my stable of cameras. I must continue to improve as a photographer and not succumb to the fantasy that equipment will elevate me. I must continue to shoot and hone my skill and develop my eye. But once in a while it’s fun to dream. Perhaps someday, someone will sponsor me to travel and shoot in these places. Then I can be that guy that puts unfair, emotional pressure to acquire the next wonder-camera.

21 thoughts on “Resisting the X100S, Zack Arias hype

  1. That’s a cool video and Zack is one of the great photographers for sure. A most engaging character.
    There is no doubt (and there hasn’t been for some time in my mind at least) that SLRs will be replaced by mirrorless cameras before too long. The process won’t happen over night because a lot of people have invested a lot of money in lenses but it will happen as new generations of photographers come on the scene. I’m also betting that we’re going to see more 35mm sensors in mirrorless cameras (Sony have already shown it can be done) and that may well be the final nail in the SLR coffin.
    Anyway, thanks for the post and the link to Zack’s video.

    1. Cedric, thanks for your visit and comment. Yes, I think mirrorless is the future though sales of DSLRs are doing well especially in the US because I think they are more discounted, overall.

      The ago of flapping mirrors will be coming to a close in the future.

  2. Fuji has a reputation for making cameras with sensors or programming that mimics Velvia’s colors. I’ve known several photographers that preferred Fuji cameras because of the skin tones in their photos. That doesn’t mean that other cameras won’t produce the same results, but that they may need tweaking to get the same results in camera. The X100S may be a nice camera, but I have too much time and money invested in other systems to make this kind of change. I think that the thing that will do in the SLR is the quality of the electronic viewfinder. A good electronic viewfinder eliminates the need for a mirror.

    1. I’ve heard good things about the color, especially the skin tones and the fill flash is supposed to work really well.

      I’m not investing in my Canon DSLR for now.

      I’m about built out on my Olympus micro 4/3 system.

      I guess I’m just looking around and getting tempted by other cameras.

  3. The idea of mirrorless cameras seems great.
    that is till one use them.they suck. An EVF that looks nothing like a ground-glass, using a screen, well might as well stay with my point and shoot that have viewfinders..
    over weekend tried out a highly touted so called modern box. First need RAW.
    i don’t want or need RAW. JPEG is perfect. For me!
    The “slight blue” color translated in way off color balance. Like using Kodachrome for artificial light in daylight. Blue,Blue,Blue. The screen invisible in sunlight.. The Touch screen reqd for many tasks incl. that it would take photos on it’s own!
    Zoom feature in menu.Hello? Who designed this catastrophe?
    My Point and shoot has a lil lever for zoom. Up to 12+ times. The test camera 2x and 4x. Wow! That’s fantastic in true sense of word..
    Give me a simple plain FILM camera. No menu, no frigging around a book,ROM-DVD with hundreds of pages of settings.
    Photography is simple. See a possibility. frame, push button.
    Seeing some videos by some photographers with their philosophy and concepts becomes really funny.
    I have been told since the 90’s the new cameras are so much better.
    The photos i see on most forums could have been done, on any camera..Instamatic even.
    Save monies for “Personal Grants” to go shoot the places you wish for..
    Go get ’em Tiger!

  4. Andy…

    I find it interesting that the visual content of this 9 minute commercial is so far below the capability of the photographer — and even that of the camera.

    Even the still images cut into the video are used to little effect. The shot of the man approaching his own shadow in a dimly lit alley is a terrific photo. But see it on Zack’s blog if you want to see it.

    The only other worthy still from that session that I’ve seen is the one showing pigeons bursting into sudden flight against a background of a wall.

    All in all, you’ve done better work capturing your surroundings with the XZ-1.

    And your DC interiors with the Panasonic 14mm plus wide angle adapter kick the hell out of his interior views of exotic locales in Istanbul. Subtract the added value of exotica and there’s nothing left.

    1. Mike, you are too kind. Thank you.

      I like the Istanbul movie but I like the one from India more. Those images from the beautiful Indian model are spectacular and I also like his late night traffic motion blur.

      So in some ways, I agree with you about the latest video. I still have a good deal of respect for Zack. And despite your kind words, I know no where close to his league.

      But between the Pens and the XZ-1, I’m trying to hone my skill. Having fun doing it too. Thanks for reading and coming back to my blog.

  5. Just found your blog today reading opinions about the E-PM2 and came across this which also struck a chord. First, Zack is amazing. Secondly I think his enthusiasm for Fuji’s is not just advertising. He genuinely loved the X100 which is how he got invites from Fuji, not the other way around. Even in that DigitalRev video you can see his X100 hanging off him!

    That said, while there is a lot of hype at present about the X100S, the X100 is still a brilliant camera. I love the simplicity of it, the ‘knowing what settings things are in before looking at the screen’ control system (by far one of the best things about it). The other X’s are not the X100/X100S – which are the pure form of the concept. The other thing to love about the X100/S is that as a m43’s shooter as well as my SLR system, the X100 doesn’t require buying into a new system, it just is a device into itself. That and the fact that an X100 is cheaper than a fast 35mm equiv on Sony NEX and about the price of one for m43’s, makes the original (now at bargain basement prices and in many ways more enjoyable IQ than the much fawned over S) an easy buy. Sure the S is better, but being you can pick up the original for $500 and less, it isn’t THAT much better 🙂

    Hope I’m not affecting your GAS though 😉

    1. Matt, GAS is always a problem. I’m thinking of making some major changes soon.

      I’ve talked about the Fuji’s many times here on my blog. Part of me really likes them and part of them is still not totally convinced, I go back and forth. If I didn’t have all my micro 4/3 gear I would be more interested I think.

      As you mentioned, I do like the fact that the X100/s is one camera and I don’t need to buy more lenses. A used X100 is enticing but ultimately I would like to pay extra for a fast focusing system, I’ve gotten too spoiled by the fast Olympus focusing.

  6. Someone photographed my dog recently with the X100S and I was really taken with how the camera looked, so I researched it a bit, saw an extensive overview of its features in a video on youtube, as well as Zack’s Turkey video, and wound up here too … however – I’m not impressed with the images, the noise on moderately high ISO shots is unattractive. Searching flickr, it’s hard to find anything stunning shot with this camera. It seems to have a lot of nice adjustable features and a beautiful appearance, but other than this, it doesn’t appear to have a lot else on other point and shoot digital cameras. It certainly doesn’t come close to the caliber of image that can be produced with most any DSLR (even other APS-C ones).

  7. specialmonkey, I dont know why you said that..check at this photo in flickr :

    Long exposure Fuji x100 and som playing with snapseed
    amazing,right?..as you can see it was shot with the x100, and there’s more amazing shots there. For me it will never be the same as my 1D, remember that the x100 is a compact camera still… but it is definitely a nice and good little camera that make me fall in love more and more with photography everyday..my Canon’s are amazing, but I see them more as a tool for work, the x 100 make me feel like when i was a teenager and was experimenting with photography back in school. Thanks for this blog Andy and …I dont know what to say about Zack Arias..for me, in my opinion..I didnt see anything in his art that moved my floor but i do recognize that his workshops and talks are really appealing and touching..those moved my floor!..his experiences , how he became in a photographer,etc..those messages touched me lots so..as an encouraging figure and as example I agreed with his job…but not that much with his art which is , again, my humble opinion.There’s other Photographers around that I think deserve more merit than what he’s getting, John Free,Lee jeffries and Thomas Leuthard for example..and many more, every photographer has his own vision, maybe that’s not my vision..so…I’m sorry for all his followers if someone get upset with my comment. And Mike is right..your DC interiors with the Panasonic 14mm plus wide angle adapter are really great.

    1. Thanks Alex, for your comment. There are certainly a large number of excellent photographers that will not be as recognizable as Zach. BTW, ultimately I was not able to resist. I bought myself a Fuji X100S earlier this year.

  8. Fuji has a marketing team big deal. Ive shot with DSLR’s & I don’t care about lab tests. The Fuji sensor is the most dynamic & beautiful Ive seen on a digital sensor. The cameras are beautifully designed. Three years ago I sat in a marketing focus group for Canon over mirrorless camera’s. Much of the designs were horrible & unergonomic, like a flask bolted to a pocket calculator. Horrible cameras. I said the first person to make a digital version of a Contax G2 would get my money. Fuji did that, end of.

    1. Jez, since I wrote that post, I too have purchased and been using the X100S. Shot about 20,000 plus frames. I do enjoy the camera. Regarding Canon mirrorless, I agree with you. It’s baffling how bad the EOS M is. I just assume that they don’t want to adversely affect their DSLR sales.

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