The first prototype of the Fujifilm X100 was unveiled at Photokina last year and after a patient, six- month wait, it was refreshing to see the first working models of Fujifilm’s flagship compact at this year’s Focus on Imaging show. Breaking new ground in Fuji’s compact line up, first impressions shout class, elegance and style wrapped in a retro body, but is it as good as a compact gets?
Features & Build
The X100 shares a likeness to Leica’s X1 in terms of styling, build and design, the big difference being in the price, with the X100 costing £396 less. The retro design and basic array of buttons are clearly inspired from previous generations of rangefinder cameras and there’s a real sense of attention to detail – even the inside of the lens cap is lined in felt! Beside the flash there’s a novel hybrid viewfinder, which is used as either a conventional optical viewfinder (OVF) or an electronic viewfinder (EVF).
The elegant lever switch controls the optical pathway through the viewfinder and though the OVF offers a heads-up display of aperture, shutter speed and ISO, it displays 90% coverage compared to the EVF’s 100%. The EVF also has the benefit of having a 1.44million dot resolution for sharp and precise viewing.
At the heart of the X100 is an APS-C sized CMOS sensor, which is the same size as in most D-SLRs. Sigma was the first to squeeze an APS-C sensor inside a compact with its DP1, and the Leica X1 followed suit. The X100’s 12.3Mp chip offers an ISO range of 200 - 6400, expandable to 100 - 12800, and it’s partnered with Fujifilm’s EXR processor, enabling high-speed 5fps continuous shooting and HD video recording at 720p@24fps. At the front, Fujifilm has equipped the X100 with a fast and fixed 23mm f/2 lens. Slim in profile, and protruding just 21mm from the body, taking the 1.5x crop factor into consideration it offers a 34.5mm film equivalent that’s versatile for a wide variety of shots, but could be restrictive for some users.
At the rear, the X100 is well laid-out; AF, playback, metering and view mode buttons are found to the left of the 2.8in, 460k dot LCD screen and the four-way controller features a super smooth scroll wheel round its circumference. Like its closest rivals, the X100 shoots RAW and JPEG images, the former in Fuji’s .RAF Raw format (yet to be supported by Adobe Camera Raw). Elsewhere there are four simulation modes replicating Provia, Velvia, Astia and Monochrome film effects and the ND filter mode reduces shutter speed effectively by three stops.
Performance & Handling
It’s clear a lot of thought has gone into the X100’s menu system; it’s concise and uncluttered. The minute Function button beside the shutter is customisable and is great for setting ISO quickly, and the Exposure Compensation dial is well-placed for controlling with the thumb. For exposure control, there’s very simply Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or Program modes, great for traditionalists who want precise control over settings, not an endless list of Auto and Scene modes. Shutter priority is controlled by setting the lens aperture ring to ‘A’ before dialling in the setting required with the dedicated shutter dial on the top-plate. Aperture priority is set in the opposite way. Set the shutter dial to ‘A’ and use the lens ring to control how much light passes through to the sensor.
The aperture ring offers a satisfying movement between the 7 aperture settings and moves into place with reassuring clicks. The on/off switch around the shutter juts out, making it easy to access and like those on old rangefinders, the shutter button is threaded, so you can screw in an old, plunger-style cable release – exquisite! On the side of the mottled black body there’s a switch for Single, Continuous and Manual focusing, with either AF Area or AF Multi modes to choose from. Based on a Contrast-Detect system, AF points are controlled by holding the AF button and using the directional buttons, and though operation was fairly swift for a compact, occasionally we had to depress the shutter twice to find sharp focus. The 80cm minimum focusing distance is a bit limiting for close ups, but there is a Macro mode that allows you get as close as 10cm from your subject.
Value & Verdict
There’s no denying that £1000 for a compact is very steep and this is likely to put it out of reach for many people. This is a shame, because it’s a beautifully crafted camera that feels superb in the hand and offers excellent results from its APS-C sensor. The EVF is fabulous; we relied on it in bright shooting conditions and though it’s nice to have the optical viewfinder, it does give a slightly barrelled and distorted view.
So does it prosper in every area? Not quite – the AF isn’t as rapid as we’d like, but it does provide high-quality results. Is the X100 desirable? Yes. Is it affordable? Unfortunately not. A cheaper and more viable option would be the Panasonic GF2 CSC with its 20mm f/1.7 lens, costing a hefty £312 less. It features a similar, solid build and has the advantage of an interchangeable lens design, offering much wider flexibility. That aside, the X100 is an attractive camera that’s a joy to use, and it will deservedly find its way into the pockets of those who aren’t worried about the price.
Detail retained by the X100’s APS-C sensor was impressive and we produced prints to be proud of at A3+ size. Metering was spot-on, delivering good exposures where there were bright and dark shadows to contend with. Our lens chart results did reveal some softness in the corners at f/2 and f/2.8, improving beyond f/4, and vignetting is evident at f/2 and f/2.8, too. Distortion is well handled, and there’s barely any fringeing.
- Street Price: £330 (Secondhand price as of July 2016)
- Resolution: 12.3Mp (4288x2848)
- Lens: 23mm Fujinon (34.5mm film equivalent)
- Metering: 256-zones, Multi, Spot, Average
- Shooting modes: Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual
- Shutter range: 30sec-1/4000
- Write times: Raw: 2.8 secs, JPEG (fine) 1.7secs
- ISO range: 200-6400 expandable to 100-12800
- HD Video: Yes 720p@24fps
- Monitor: 2.8-inch, 460k pixels
- File Formats: RAW+JPEG (Fine or Normal)
- Storage Media: SD/SDHC/SDXC
- Weight: 445g, including battery & SD media
- Dimensions: 126.5x74.4x53.9mm
- Visit: www.fujifilm.eu/uk
This review was first published in the July 2011 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.