I remember when I first heard of the Fuji X100. It had to have been almost a year ago. A quick google and I see that it was announced September 21st at PHOTOKINA 2010. The feeling I got back then is still the same feeling I have for it today: It’s a drop dead gorgeous camera. Love the aperture ring, shutter speed dial & exposure compensation dial. The little lever on the front switches between the electronic viewfinder and the optical one. Oh yeah that right, THIS THING HAS A BUILT IN VIEWFINDER. Sorry for the all caps but after having used a Panasonic GF1 and then a GF2 as my small, go everywhere with me camera the built in viewfinder is a big deal. No way could I go back to something without this key feature.
BUILD & CONTROLS
This thing is built like a tank. A tiny, lightweight tank. Some might mistake the lightness for poor build quality but that really isn’t the case. The body is cast magnesium so it’s strong but light. The rings and dials all click into place nicely. The rear buttons are generally very good with the exception of the tiny circular scroll ring that is also a 4 way controller. That could be a little larger. If you have used a GH2 it has a similar size and learning curve to it. The menu system is fairly simple which I like, no silly art filters or scene modes. I like using auto ISO most of the time. I really like being able to set what shutter speed I want as the lowest shutter speed before the camera ramps up the ISO. I hate how you can’t do that on the GF2 & the GH2 I have used. Not sure if anything changed on the new G3 or GF3 but that was a major annoyance for me in the past.
The 23mm lens is a 35mm equivalent in 35mm terms. Confused? A full frame 35mm sensor is 1.5x larger than the one used in the x100 so by multiplying 23×1.5 you get 34.5. Round up & you get the 35mm equivilence. This is the same sensor size as in the Nikon D90, D7000, etc. Canon’s crop cameras are a little smaller, 1.6x (60D, 7D & Rebel whatever). Olympus and Panasonic use an even smaller sensor that is a 2x crop. Point and shoot cameras use tiny sensors, 5x smaller than full frame which is about the size of a fingernail! When I was shooting with a Canon 5D (yay Full Frame FTW! boo I’m using a Nikon D7000 now) my most used lens was a 35mm F2, I really like the focal length for all around shooting. It’s not too wide and it’s not too zoomed in. The depth of field isn’t super shallow, it’s a lot like shooting at F2.8 on the Canon 5D. Also pretty similar DOF to the Panasonic 20mm F1.7. As long as you have some distance between your subject and the background you can get some decent Bokeh. The lens is pretty sharp wide open as long as there is a bit of distance between yourself and the subject. I would say if you are 2 feet away or less from what you are shooting use f2.8 at a minimum. F4 will be razor sharp. Wide open at F2 it is perfectly wonderful for shooting portraits.
When shooting at F2, 1/1000 is the fastest shutter speed you can use because of the leaf type shutter that is built into the lens. This would be pretty awful if it wasn’t for the built in ND filter. It cuts 3 stops of light. In extremely bright light you may still have to stop down to F2.8 so that the image doesn’t get overexposed. I would max out my GF2’s 1/4000 max shutter speed when shooting the 20mm pancake at F1.7. So this isn’t really any better or worse. I had to purchase a ND filter and screw it on in bright sunlight if I wanted to shoot wide open with the 20mm. At least this thing has a ND filter built in, I wish it was a hair stronger though! Overall I think the benefit of the shutter being almost silent outweighs any cons and is an acceptable tradeoff.
Well I went over the lens already but that is only part of the equation. The sensor is equally important & the x100 has an excellent 12mp sensor. I’ve heard rumors that the sensor is a tweaked version of the one used in the Nikon D90. I’m not sure if thats the case but whatever it is it does a great job. Below is a ISO 3200 sample, focused on the Asahi beer bottle. Shot RAW, exported as a JPG from Lightroom. NO noise reduction added!
Another thing to add is Dynamic Range. Something that is too often overlooked. The range from dark to light is much better than with smaller sensor cameras (and some larger sensor cameras as well!). You can pull back highlights and get details from things that on first look appear completely blown out. Plus you can push shadows and retrieve an amazing mount of detail.
I would compare the focus speed to the Panasonic 20mm on a GF1. Where it becomes slower is when you are close to something and you have to go into macro mode. Sometimes it will focus for me down to about a foot and a half when not in macro mode. Other times it seems like I need to switch to macro to shoot someone that is 3 feet away. This is sort of annoying. I’m using the Electronic viewfinder when it does this as well. I believe when you use the optical view finder you will run into the issue even more. Plus for close focusing you should probably just use the EVF because there is so much parallax when you are up close using the OVF. For manual focusing the focus by wire is a little slow. I really love how it shows a distance scale on the display of how far away you are focused and the depth of field info as well. This is a great help when street shooting. I usually set it to F8 1/500 and focus around 8 feet away.
This thing is awesome. The EVF is so good I almost never use the optical viewfinder. Sometimes outside in very bright light using the OVF is better though since the EVF appears very dark out in the bright sunlight. I thought the EVF was going to be similar to the one in the GH2. It’s not. It’s better! The GH2 reminds me of a crappy DLP projector where you can move your eyes fast and you can see the rainbow effect of the Red, Green & Blue colors separately that combine to makeup the image. Not so with the X100. The only bad thing is that it doesn’t seem sealed very well, I already have a couple of particles inside my viewfinder. It seems like they should have attached the front glass better because you can tap on it and you can tell it’s just floating there. It’s not locked down. I guess that is the one issue I have with this camera that can’t be fixed with a firmware update.
The built in flash is excellent as is the way it is implemented. While in Auto ISO mode the flash always operates as fill. So it won’t say change your ISO to 100 and give your subject the washed out deer in a headlight look where the background is all dark and underexposed. No it seems to keep the exposure just where it was and adds a bit of fill. Very nice! I also look how it will Sync at up to 1/4000 of a second! So you can actually add some fill outside on a bright sunny day.
The Lens Hood and Filter adapter cost $130 together. I ended up purchasing the filter adapter alone for just $50. After discover how much I like using the built in flash and reading that the hood blocks some of the flash I figured I didn’t want the hood. I now keep a B+W 49mm slim UV filter mounted at all times. The model is XS-Pro Digital with nano coating so you know it must be good! Since the lens isn’t removable I would hate to scratch up the lens which is why I use a filter.
Raw button, how I hate you so. I shoot RAW I don’t need or want a button that lets me switch between JPG and RAW with one press. This should be reassignable to something useful, like ISO. I could set the Fn button to ISO but I have it set to the ND filter. Which leads me to my next annoyance…
The ND filter should be able to be set to auto! I don’t like having to engage it when in the sun and then I walk 10 feet into the shadow of a building and need to disengage it. This is San Francisco, the weather changes by the block.
ISO control. Auto ISO is in the set-up menu on page 3 while ISO control is in the shooting menu on the 1st page. Really these should be in the same place. Usually I shoot in Auto ISO but when I need to get out of that mode I also usually need to change the ISO. It takes way longer to change than it should.
The X100 is my favorite camera at the moment. While it doesn’t have a 1080P movie mode and a pet mode or a baby 1, 2 and 3 mode it does offer extremely excellent image quality in a great looking small package that I take almost everywhere with me.