(this is not meant as a review, just my summarized experience)
The main reason I chose the DSLR path so many years ago was its presumed low-light performance (I also admit that I believed that bigger would mean “better”). However, I was never really impressed, not even when I discovered the 35 mm f/1.8 prime that let more light in.
ISO 1600 was the maximum I could tolerate on my Nikon D70s, ISO 3200 on my Nikon D7000. Unfortunately there were numerous occasions where I needed a higher ISO and the noise levels became unacceptable. I countered this by increasing noise reduction that killed too much detail, or using a big bad flash that killed the natural look-and-feel of the moment.
Shortly after I got my Nikon D7000 I read about the Fuji x100s and was stunned by its high ISO performance. I immediately regretted my decision buying the D7000. Not that it’s a bad camera, it just didn’t satisfy my low-light needs.
A year went by, got some more money on my bank account and finally pulled the trigger for a Fuji x100s. Am I impressed? You bet I am! Below image was taken in a dark pub at ISO 6400 (click to see a bigger version):
(Fuji x100s @ f/2, 1/70s, auto-iso 6400 – note that I could have managed with a lower ISO and longer shutter when I really wanted to)
If that doesn’t look convincing enough I snagged two screens from dpreview.com comparing the Fuji x100s with the Canon 5D Mark III (full-frame), Nikon D800 (full-frame) and Nikon D7100 (APS-C) at ISO 6400. Note that I generally don’t care much about these technical comparisons – real world performance is what counts – but I wanted to include it here because it unmistakably shows how great the Fuji is.
These comparisons speak for themselves: the 1000$ Fuji performs on par with or even better than full frame SLR’s costing much more. It’s even more impressive when you know that the Fuji has an APS-C sensor with a 1.5 crop, just like the Nikon D7100. Wow!
Sharp and colorful!
Images are véry sharp, colors pop and people look great. What can I say? This camera delivers.
(Fuji x100s @ f/2.8, 1/150s, auto-iso 800)
Dropping the weight and unwanted attention
I was tired dragging my Nikon D7000 around all day, even with the light 35mm prime on it. Full frame bodies and lenses are even worse. Not to mention the unwanted attention they often draw (“Are you a journalist?”, “What DSLR is this?”, “I don’t want to be photographed.”, “Hey let’s all pose for the camera!” …)
The Fuji is light, small and unobtrusive. Shooting the Fuji makes me look like an eighties amateur. Nobody cares about me! That would be a disadvantage in any other situation in life, but not when I’m taking pictures. I can do what I want: nobody starts posing, feels threatened or asks me any questions. And I can do it all day without the annoying weight the SLR brings. I love this.
There are disadvantages: auto focus is not as fast, the battery only lasts for about 200 pictures, there’s only one lens: a 23mm prime (35 mm equivalent) that can’t be interchanged and you can’t look directly through the lens itself .
Does that bother me? No. I don’t shoot action, I keep 2 spare (inexpensive) batteries allowing me to shoot 600 images, I never use zooms (35mm is all I ever use on my D7000) and looking through the lens is not that important since there’s an optical viewfinder (not always suitable to correctly compose close objects), a digital viewfinder (problem solved) or you can use the LCD at the back of the camera.
Depending the kind of photography you’re practicing these may actually be disadvantages for you. I will never claim this is the best camera for everyone, but it is for me.