Fujifilm FinePix X100

finally got mine
Canon 5D Mark II, 100/2.8L IS, ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/200

The X100 is arguably the most anticipated camera this year, and rightfully so. Instead of adding crap superzoom lenses, or packing more unusable MPs onto the sensor, Fujifilm decided to include a 23mm f/2 Fujinon prime lens, a 12MP APS-C size sensor, optical viewfinder with electronic viewfinder inside (more of this later), solid body with throwback styling, and quiet leaf shutters. If you do the math, the X100 has a pixel density of 3.3MP/cm²! As a reference, the Canon 5D Mark II’s full-frame sensor has a pixel density of 2.4MP/cm² (lower is better), that’s pretty damn impressive for a cam that is small enough to lug around town. On paper, the X100 is pretty much the perfect “decisive moment digital”. I knew I had to get one to test it out, I was on the pre-order lists at almost everywhere that took X100 pre-orders, I got lucky when Amazon had them in stock for a little while last week, they have since sold out.

I’ve had it for 500 frames now, it’s by far the best small camera I’ve shot with, and I’ve tried most of them out there: G11, LX3, X1, GF1, GF2, E-P1. A couple quick points on the X100 with image samples:

Pros

  • Small and lightweight, yet build quality is superb
  • the leaf shutter is extremely quiet
  • 23mm f/2 lens is very sharp, even at wide-open. Contrast is also very good
  • _DSF0400
    ISO 800, f/2, 1/240

  • 9-blade round aperture, bokeh is better than any non-L lens I’ve seen, and it’s almost as good as L lens with curved blades
  • _DSF0506
    ISO 200, f/2, 1/250

  • Noise control in high ISO settings is spectacular, noise is very film-like. I don’t mind noise, but I do mind SHITTY noise from crap small sensors. ISO 3200 is very usable, in-camera noise reduction in JPEGs is amazingly good, luminance NR in Lightroom 3 also works really well
  • Love in Washington Square
    ISO 3200, f/2, 1/5 (handheld)

  • Color rendition, at least in JPEGs, is great. If you’re used to shooting Fuji negatives, you will like the colors. I haven’t figured out how to get the colors to look right in RAW yet, and there is no color profiles for the X100 in ACR or Lr3 at the moment
  • The tiny built-in flash works great as a fill flash, flash metering works great. I used it in slow sync mode and it worked really well
  • OVF is bright and the superimposed info and AF points are useful. Using a VF also helps stabilize the cam when you’re shooting at shutter speeds that you probably shouldn’t be handholding at
  • EVF image review is great, I had an “holy shit” moment when I first saw it pop up
  • EVF allows live-mode shooting, great for macros and when you need precise framing
  • The AF pattern is awesome, much better than the odd diamond pattern on my 5D Mark II, off-center AF is relatively fast
  • Built-in sheet-type ND filter reduces light to 1/8 (3 stops), this is useful for shooting portraits outdoor at wide  apertures
  • Metering is very accurate, I shot mainly with “multi” metering setting with EV compensation adjustments. It handled tricky situations flawlessly
  • ISO3200
    ISO 3200, f/2, 1/40, multi-zone metered with 0 EV

  • Manual controls for EV adjustments, apertures and shutter speeds

Cons

  • Small buffer and slow SD card write speed, worse yet, you can’t change AF point or any camera settings during SD writeback
  • MF is difficult, it takes forever to turn the focusing ring. If you’re used to using real rangefinders, by the time you put your eye to your VF the lens should already be in focus from experience. You can’t do that with the X100. You also can’t use OVF to MF (X100 is NOT a rangefinder, in case you’re still confused)
  • Need more customizable buttons, the RAW button is unnecessary, there’s only 1 programmable button, I set it to ISO adjustments, but also want a button for DoF preview
  • Some features are silly, like fake shutter sounds (you can choose between leaf shutter, focal plane shutter, or mirror reflex sound). At least for me, I love how the leaf shutter is quiet and I don’t need any stupid sound when I press the shutter
  • It’s hard to hold the AF switch in the back of the cam to choose AF points. There should be a AF points selection mode, and you should be able to enter that mode with a switch accessible with your right hand while shooting, leaving your left hand on the lens
  • Menu is not very intuitive, it’s also slow, and I find the command dial a bit hard to use
  • OVF is only good to 80cm because of parallax, the X100 should automatically switch to the EVF when it’s below that
  • Battery takes forever to charge, I have no idea why, it’s not a super high capacity battery. The charger sucks, it has no flip-out prongs

More shots from the X100


ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/600, ND filter


ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/500, ND filter, +1/3 EV

_DSF0422
ISO 800, f/2, 1/240

_S030426
ISO 800, f/2, 1/20

_S070431
ISO 800, f/2, 1/450, -2/3 EV

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10 Responses to Fujifilm FinePix X100

  1. galumay May 9, 2011 at 3:37 am #

    Great review, reflects my experience with the camera pretty much. Re the charger, get an Apple duckhead and it will plug straight into where the lead goes to give a compact plug connection with no lead.

  2. wch May 9, 2011 at 6:37 am #

    The small Apple flip-out AC adapter found in products like the Airport Express fits the anemic Fuji charger perfectly. Inexpensive generic replacements for the Apple AC plug are easy to find.

    I think MF is intended for EVF mode and for static situations where critical focus is essential. Zone focusing in MF works is practical in OVF mode when DOF is wide.. Also, in OVF/MF mode a press of the AF/AE button will set the initial focus point quickly. The focus/DOF bar confirms the result with just a glance. When parallax error becomes important I focus in EVF (usually using AFS mode) and switch to OVF to compose.

    People who hate AF or distrust AF should not consider the X100. The camera was not designed for MF-only use. The AF can be quick at the sacrifice of battery power and accurate (in EVF mode with a small focus box area). I have no issues focusing in EV 5-6 light if there is a focus point with some contrast. Again I use EVF and switch to OVF.

    The X100 is not set up for constant chimping.

  3. A. Nonymous May 10, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

    Your shots are all either posed or static scenes so you're not stressing the X100 auto-focus mechanism. Try taking some pictures of moving subjects esp;. in low light and please let us know what you find.

    • ayn May 10, 2011 at 9:26 pm #

      The ones with the model were posed actually.

      The X100 isn't meant for sports photography. Use the right gears for the job.

      • A. Nonymous May 11, 2011 at 5:22 am #

        I don't understand how the X00 can be a good camera for capturing a decisive moment if its auto-focus can't cope with moving subjects.

        • ayn May 11, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

          Who said it couldn't?

        • mmmke May 13, 2011 at 11:21 pm #

          The X100 performs pretty well in most situations, although sometimes the contrast detection AF is hit or miss. I'm used to the quick focus of the Nikon DSLR cameras that use phase detection.

          When I took the X100 to the streets where photo ops are always fleeting. It was able to keep up for the most part. I'd say 10% of the time, AF misses the target when set to "Area Mode." Area Mode allows you to pin point where it should target the focus. It also has an alternative setting called "Multi." I don't even bother with "Multi" mode. It increases the focusing misses exponentially.

          My preference is to use "Area Mode" AF and just use the center focus point as my target. Pressing the shutter button halfway engages focus lock. I also had to learn to adjust and work with the contrast detection system. You have pick carefully and quickly what you have to focus on your subject that will benefit the contrast detection system. Admittedly, the auto focusing system is slow, but there are ways to force it to work with you so you don't miss those quick decisive moments.

          I found that once I adapted to working with its focusing system, I am able to make quick decisions and capture everything I needed. Even manual focusing is manageable in a quick fashion when you employ the use of the AFL/AEL button for assistance. In a way it's a lot more engaging because the system is fussy and sometimes mildly frustrating making the ability to make it work and capture good photographs more rewarding in the end specially when you get proficient in doing so.

  4. NigelCH May 11, 2011 at 6:20 am #

    Good review, concise and to the point on all the major issues. Accords with my experience of this good, but not perfect, camera.

  5. Alan Grinberg May 14, 2011 at 11:51 pm #

    Thanks for your review here.
    Looks like a sweet camera, and I can tell you would like to design your own, as I would.
    – Alan

    • ayn May 14, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

      Thanks Alan.

      What I really want is this: http://re35.net

      There are of course some serious challenges to make that a reality, but it would surly be amazing.

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