I enjoy doing portrait photography on location. Dragging around a heavy bag of equipment can really take the fun out of it though. It's especially unpleasant in the Texas summer with temperatures hitting the triple digits all too often. Lately I've been leaving the heavy DSLR at home and shooting with a smaller rig using my Fujifilm X100. I have to say, I'm really loving it!
The X100 probably doesn't sound like much of a portrait camera. It sports a wide angle lens with a 35mm equivalent focal length. That puts it more into an environmental portrait perspective and I'm OK with that. Take some of the features of this little camera into account and it is a actually a superb tool for location portraits.
First, you have the image quality. The APS sized sensor in this camera is awesome. I really don't miss my full frame Canon 5D when I shoot with the X100. Yes, the image quality is that good. Then there is the f/2 lens. It captures great images wide open. I usually stop down just a bit, maybe to f/2.8 to make sure I've got all the facial features in focus. The sensor is large enough that you can get great background bokeh if that's what you want.
The X100 keeps the noise low. I have shot portraits at ISO 1600 and the images are fine. I have to admit that I haven't always done that on purpose. Daylight in the sunflowers didn't need it but after a long day I forgot to check my ISO setting and fired some shots. It didn't really matter and nobody knew without me telling them.
I was able to keep a hot shoe flash on a low setting, popping it into a decent sized softbox as fast as I wanted to click the shutter at ISO 1600 in the moody shot below. For a shot like this, the higher ISO grain is pleasing. Meant to do it that time!
When I'm shooting with a flash I can confidently take my ISO up to 400 or 800 to keep my strobes at a lower power for faster recycling or to boost ambient light. The results above at ISO 400 and above are cleaner than what I get out of my 5D.
The coolest thing about the X100 for flash photography is the leaf shutter Fujifilm used in this lens. We're talking blazing fast flash sync speeds. Have to shoot in harsh daylight? Drop the ISO down and crank up a fast shutter speed. My Cactus V radio triggers and Nikon SB-28 flashes have no problem firing at 1/1000 sync. That's how I get shots with the sun blazing in the background.
Another really cool feature is the built-in ND filter. It comes in handy for bringing down the daytime ambient when a wide aperture is desired or for making a cloudy day even gloomier.
The small size and weight of the X100 makes it great for quickly moving around to different locations. I find that I am more apt to stay out longer with a willing model, seeking out suitable locations to set up a shot on the fly. A strobist kit built around the X100 carries in a small shoulder bag, perfect for run and gun flash portraits around town.
The X100, of course, can't match the versatility of a DSLR. It's a one trick pony with its fixed lens and the 35mm focal length isn't for everyone. If your style can accommodate it, the X100 is sure easier to carry around and its features give a DSLR a run for the money. I find it creatively liberating.