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The Fuji Finepix X100 - Long Term Review

May 08, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

"Fuji X100" "X100 Review"Fuji X100

 

This review of the X100 may be a bit dated seeing as though the X100s has hit the shelves but I want to write about this camera and how it has fundamentally and viscerally re-engaged my passion for photography. This write up will not dive heavy into technicalities but will include some "techie" jargon so you know what you'll get into if you decide to pick one up.  I am writing this review after using the X100 almost daily, for a year. 

 

I will start off saying to any photographer that has grown up in the world of digital and who shoot with nothing more than a dSLR, then you are missing out on the wonderful world of photography. Seriously, get out and try other formats and these new mirrorless cameras.  They are awesomely fun. Most people today cannot afford the luxury to step beyond an SLR and pursue other formats because of the cost but ask around, borrow, rent...take the steps to explore. Film photography is expensive and medium and large format cameras are not cheap to come by (relatively). Many of us know that photography is not a poor person's profession or hobby (however it might make you poor if you get it into your mind to buy a bunch of different lenses, bodies, and accessories).

 

I am fortunate to say I have had the pleasure of learning photography on various different formats in my time as a photographer, everything from expensive and beautiful large format cameras down to cheap plastic Diana's and Holga's. 

 

came into the X100 through a friend of a friend and at the time I was looking for an advanced point and shoot to carry with me at all times.  I love my iPhone, it is a great camera but it is a phone, as a photographer I want to have more control and therefore I needed a real camera. The iPhone cannot compete when compared to the quality of a "real" camera in my opinion. 

 

At first I tried out the Ricoh GR3 (which you can read about here) and that was such a mighty fine camera I considered buying its newer, younger brother the GR4 (As I write this the GRV is coming out and im smiling just thinking about it). If you don't know about Ricoh, go check them out.  They know what they are doing.  Before I pulled the trigger on the Ricoh, I was told to check out the x100. It was a monkey wrench in my plans but I am happy it went down that way.

 

So,  like any big camera purchase I went to the forums and began assimilating all the information I could on each camera. Which of these camera would suit my needs?  Why should I get this over a Canon, a Nikon, or a Sony?  I would eventually answer all of these questions and make a decision.   

I spent days, perhaps weeks really diving into the specs, the image samples, the critiques, and the gripes.  Some are still valid to this day others I could care less about. I ended up buying the X100 and I HAVE NO REGRETS. I am delighted with this camera....mother fu%#ing DELIGHTED. 

 

THAT CAMERA LOOKS SUPER RETRO:

 

Damn straight it does. Retro and sexy looking but dont be fooled, the X100 is packed full of modern tech. If you are coming from the world of dSLR's then using the X100 takes a little getting use to but seriously, it's not that hard. Unlike the Leica M7, M9 or Contax II, the FujiFilm X100 is not exactly a "true rangefinder", the X100 mimics the attributes of one in design and shooting style but because it is filled with all those perviously mentioned "new technologies", it does not have a "range-finding" mechanism like those found on a Leica M7 or M9 to achieve sharp focus.  What it does have is auto-focus and a sweet hybrid viewfinder, something you will not find on a Leica or any other camera on the market. 

Fuji X100 Front

CONTROLS / USER INTERFACE

All I ever need is Shutter, Aperture, and ISO settings at my fingertip and the X100 does this nicely.  Call me simple but the return of a manual aperture ring on a digital device was a big selling point and to this day I am still in love with it. It takes me back to the days of film. The search wheel on the back annoys me a bit but the real shining gem of this camera is the optical viewfinder (OVF) and electronic viewfinder (EVF).  Smashing these two things together is what Fuji calls a "Hybrid Viewfinder".  Through the optical viewfinder the, "rangefinding" function is corrected by an off-set frame to give a perfect idea of what you are shooting. The camera senses the focal distance and corrects for parallax.  It works splendidly.  If you want to look directly through the lens, flip an easy to access switch on the front and bam! it operates like a dSLR.

 

In all the buttons are in good places and once you spend time playing with the camera you'll be able to navigate it like a pro.  Having two buttons (the RAW and Fn buttons) customizable to a number of quick settings aids in personalization.  I tend to keep them set to to operate or toggle ISO and the built in Neutral Density Filter.  Most other settings I can get to in under 3 seconds.       

Fuji X100 Back

 

FOCUSING

 

Not the strength of this camera and by far the LARGEST COMPLAINT from all X100 owners. The auto focus feature works well in bright - medium light, not so well in low light and the manual focus ring is not responsive or intuitive at all because it is based on a fly-by-wire system. Unlike a responsive fighter jet it operates more like your daddy's Cadillac going the same speed.  It's rubbish trying to focus from close to far away but for fine focusing its acceptable.  I have missed many a shot because of the X100's focusing system but over time I have come to understand its faults and master this fickle beast.  My best advise with this camera is shoot things where you can take a moment to focus and utilize hyperfocal lengths and when you cannot. Also keep a valium handy because there will be a period of time when this camera will stress you out.

 

{UPDATE - 9/12/13]: I finally got around to updating the new firmware update for the X100 and boy howdy, it improves the focusing ability of this camera 10-fold.  Its a serious improvement that will have you trading in your valium prescription for an IV of caffeine so you can go out and shoot for longer periods of time. Pure joy.      

 

IMAGE QUALITY

 

Image quality is hands down the holy grail of this little gem.  My black and white and color photographs are stunning, depth of field is amazing, and overall, the images are just fantastic. The people at Fuji knew what they were doing optically with this camera.  Everything under 800 ISO is fantastic.  Above 3000 ISO....eh, prepare to heavily edit your images because noise will become a nightmare.

 

Because this camera has RAW capability, always be shooting in RAW, that's how I do it. The JPEG's look damn fine too. 

 

The Fuji X100 is has a fixed focal length of 23mm (35mm equivalent) so you are forced into a different way of shooting. You will either love it or hate it but then again, if you find yourself using a 35mm lens often this camera is going to rock your world.  

 

OTHER NOTEWORTHY FEATURES: 

Panoramic mode. Pretty awesome handheld. Damn amazing and totally BOSS when paired with a pano-head on a tripod. 

Macro mode. It works very well and produces great images.  Easy to use as well. 

Built in 3-stop Neutral Density Filter. 

Super high sync speed due to the fact that it has a leaf shutter. Amazing feature if you want to balance flash and sunlight in a lifestyle setting. 

Compatible with RadioPopper transmitters

 

PROS

- Compact

- Retro Styling

- Amazing image quality, and I mean A-M-A-Z-I-N-G

- Fixed 35mm focal length (a pro for me.) 

- Nice fast aperture of f2

- Easy to operate

- Hybrid Viewfinder (Absolutely LOVE this feature)

- Low Profile, does not scream "Hey, Im a photographer!!!"

- High Sync Speed with external flashes

 

CONS

- Battery life, not to great.  If you buy this camera be sure to pick up a spare.  I have three and I keep them close.

- Manual focus ring is hands down the most frustrating feature on this camera. With the new focus peaking feature, the auto focus is dead on and there is very little reason to shoot in manual mode unless you are doing street photography and need to set up your hyperfocal range.

- "Turn-On" or "Wake-Up" time to functioning takes way too long.  It's around 3-4 seconds. Believe me that is enough time to miss a shot and it has cost me a couple of great photos. 

 

Conclusion: 

The Fuji Finepix X100 is the perfect compact/professional companion for street and travel photographers. Those that want a camera that will produce stunning images a kin to a dSLR and those willing to step outside their comfort zone and experience a rangefinder style camera you will find a new level of happiness in your photography. The X100 has a nice learning curve but once you understand the hang-ups of the camera and learn to work around them this camera will make you smile when you use it and the results. It fits easily almost anywhere, it is lightweight, and it is the perfect camera to carry everywhere with you.  It doesn't hurt that the batteries are small too.      

 

Sample Images:

The images below have been lightly edited in Adobe Camera Raw. Be sure to take notice of this camera's ability to produce beautifully sharp images and a nice medium focal frame with minimal distortion.  

Sunset - 8_8 - 01 Sunset - 1_29 - 01 Storm Clouds Leaving AM 2013-04-06 - Deus Ex - Sound and Vision - 88 - Version 2

Rileys last day 27 Nick Taylor Long Boarding 2012-05-07 - Out and About 11 - Version 2

2013-04-05 - Evening in Culver City with the Fullscreen Crew 14


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