on May 23, 2011
I will start right off who this camera is not for. If you are looking for an all-around camera, this is not it (Get a GH1 or GH2). If you try to use it as an all around camera you will hate it. If you don't have a good fast camera already then this camera is probably not for you. If you are trying to take pictures of moving objects, this camera is probably not for you. This camera takes a fair amount of time to set up a shot so any fast moving subject will be very difficult to capture properly. This camera is in no way a beginners camera. If you are looking to just point and shoot, then you will need to look elsewhere.
If you like to take your time to frame and set the exposure on your camera then this might be the camera for you. If you want a small portable camera, with exceptional picture quality, great noise qualities, and a built in view finder, then this is most likely the camera for you. If you want an exceptionally quite camera, this one is amazing. There really is no other digital camera like it.
This camera reminds me mostly of shooting my Leica M8 and that is a good thing. If you think of the X100 as an automatic manual focus you can get some really nice shots.
I initially bought the X100 to shoot outdoor portraits and it does that very well. Better than any other camera around right now. That was the initial reason I decided to keep the X100. When I first shot with it I really did not like the handling and was thinking of returning it. My big mistake was trying to use this as an all around camera when it is not.
However, I just spent a week shooting the camera in Berlin and I really enjoyed using it. My kit was a GH1, GH2, and X100. I left all of my Nikons at home as they are too big and heavy. With interchangeable lenses and fast handling the GH cameras can cover almost every conceivable shooting situation. With a fixed lens and slow handling the X100 is limited in what it can cover. However, it makes you slow down and really set up the shot the way you want it. The DSLRS and M4/3 are so fast that it is easy to reel off a number of good shots. The X100 makes you savor each shot. Because of that I really enjoyed shooting it. Just as a comparison I shot 750 (2 battery charges) with the X100. And 1300 frames with the GH2. I had 465 - X100 (62%) and 829 - GH2 (64%) shots that I liked. I got 132 - X100 (18%) and 205 - GH2(16%) shots that I really liked. And I got 4 - X100 (.5%) and 9 - GH2 (.7%) that were my favorite of the trip. As you can see the statistics are very comparable. Use a tool in the way it was designed and you should be able to get consistent results.
The X100 fits very nicely in the Lowa Rezo 60 bag that I loop through my belt. It will also fit in a jacket pocket. I don't like carrying the weight around my I neck so I do not use a neck strap. Instead I purchased a very cheap wrist strap and use that to keep the camera secure.
The way I have the camera setup is as follows:
Quick Startup On
OVF power save Off
Display Option - EVF and Back screen
Fn Button - 3 Stop ND Filter
Auto ISO - 3200 / 1/30
The reason I have the camera setup like this is as follows. I switch the camera off to save power when not in use. The quick startup allows for a .7 start. I use the EVF most of the time so I don't need the OVF power save on. Also, the OVF power save option does some weird things so I don't use it. I use the EVF and back display to switch depending on how I want to frame the shot either back screen or EVF. The camera switches between the two based on whether you put your eye up to the viewfinder or not. The 1/1000 max shutter speed is very limiting at f2 so the ND filter gives a 1/8000 equivalent and is built right in but is activated in the menus. I use it very regularly so I have it set to the fn key. I have the ISO set to auto because it is a pain to get to. The camera does a very good job of keeping ISO down until the shutter speed starts to drop below 1/30. The IQ is very good at ISO3200.
Here are a couple of techniques for using the X100. Both utilize EVF.
1) Set your camera to manual focus and spot focusing. Put the focus square on the subject. Press the focus/exposure lock button to focus the camera. Move the center to where you want to meter and press the shutter release half way to set exposure. Now frame for the picture and shoot.
2) Set you camera to auto focus S. Put the focus square on the subject. Press the shutter release half way to set focus and exposure. Frame the picture and press the shutter release the rest of the way to shoot.
On the down side the menus and buttons need some work but they can be fixed with a firmware update. An example of the poor menus deals with ISO. Setting the ISO is on the shooting menu. Setting up the Auto ISO and switching it on and off is on the setup menu. What is labeled as a RAW button would have been much more useful as an ISO button. I have not tried the video as it is a pain to get to buried in the menus and not as a distinct button.
One of the big selling items is the Hybrid Optical/EVF systems. I did not purchase this camera because of this. However, I leave the camera in EVF most of the time. The EVF shows you what the sensor sees and thus allows for accurate framing. The OVF is a guestimate and at close distances is not a very good guess. Therefore, the Hybrid system is overhyped. If Fuji had just put in a EVF I would have been happy. For those who must be able to see outside the frame and who are not bothered by a poorly framed photo then the OVF is a choice. The other issue with OVF deals with focus. The X100 is a spot focus camera. You can move the spot but it still focuses on one spot. That spot does not necessarily line up with what you see in the OVF. Therefore, you can get some out of focus shots when you think you have everything lined up.
A lot has been made of the X100 price tag. One thing to note is there have been some people paying 2x the price on ebay. There is no real competitor to the X100 as it is unique. However, the Leica X1 with OVF and Ricoh GXR with 24mm and OVF are close. The X1 with OVF costs 2x as much. The GXR with 28mm and OVF costs about the a couple of hundred dollars more but is a little pieced together, still has no EVF option and is not on par with the X100 build quality. Also, cameras invariably come down in price so you can expect for the X100 to come down some.
On the whole the camera is very rewarding to use and takes some fantastic photographs. But you are going to have to work for it. Maybe that is why you take more ownership in your photos Because of the high ISO capabilities and extreme quite abilities, this is a great museum camera. For a fixed lens camera, the 35mm equivalent is a good compromise walk around focal length around. Not too wide that you can't use it for portraits and not so narrow that you have to back up to get in wide items.
Great Build Quality
Amazing Photos - weak AA filter
Great High ISO on par with D7000 or K5
Small (Fits in a jacket pocket)
Great Satisfaction in Shooting Great Pictures
Horrible Menus which you are forced to use because of the lack of dedicated buttons or quick menu system.
Manual Focus Almost Worthless
Back Rotating Knob Button Annoying and Frustrating to use
RAW button is a waste and would have been much better as a ISO or fn button
Overall this is a very satisfying and rewarding camera which makes great pictures. The camera is 4 stars because of the poor menu system and controls. However, the intangible reward you get from using this satisfying camera make it greater than the whole and give an extra .5 point for total of 4.5 stars.
Update July 9
I have been shooting with this camera for a little over 2 months now. It is definitely an amazing camera. The firmware update made the camera more useable and the optical view finder is now actually usable. There still needs to be further improvement but it was a definitive move in the right direction.
Something else I have discovered is the Auto White Balance is amazing. It is by far the best in the world. I was shooting at night with all sorts of crazy lights, incandescent, sodium vapor, moon, etc. The auto white balance pulled off the shot. Amazing. During the day the white balance is equally terrific. Additionally, while the autofocus was slow, ISO 1600 and F2 allowed me to catch night shots of slowly moving objects and keep up the shutter speed at 1/30. The results were fantastic. The camera would not always lock focus but it allowed me to take the picture and more often than not the picture was in focus.
Still not a beginners camera nor an all around camera, this camera has some amazing capabilities that no other camera can match.
on January 20, 2012
First, a little about me and why I chose this camera.
I've been a street shooter for 34 years. Went to SVA and studied with Lisette Model at the New School.
Worked as a custom printer and assistant for many photographers in NYC and printed for Modernage and
Berkey K&L.... which is a long way to say, I know film.
I have owned several digital cameras and still shoot 120 film with a Yashica.
I read everything there was to read about the X100. Last year a week after it was announced I started selling my
Lumix GF1, EVF and lenses. The Lumix was just not intuitive for me as a street shooter. I also felt like
I was going to break it. Shooting with Nikon F2's and F3's one gets used to feeling like you could use it
as a weapon if needed. Not so with small plastic feeling cameras.
The X100 has the only things I want or need. Shutter, aperture and focus. Give me a decent meter and I'm set.
I like the fact that the X100 has done away with the nice but unnecessary Program modes. The controls are real metal
knobs. The build quality is like a good film camera. If you hit yourself in the head with it, it's going to hurt.
You have to see it to believe it. I always liked to shoot RAW but the JPEG quality will blow your doors off.
I see no reason to shoot RAW with this camera. The lens is sharp and fast (f2.0). It is matched to the sensor.
The image quality will make you weep.
The built in flash does the best fill flash I have ever done. Your mileage may vary but I doubt it. Read the
review of this camera at Ken Rockwell's website.
If I wanted to shoot video I would bring a video camera. It's 720p, looks nice but it's not an $80k Ikegami. If I want
to shoot video, my phone does that just swell.
The quirks that I had read about:
The manual focus is fly by wire and very slow. What can you do? You spend 15 minutes learning how the camera
auto focuses and you use it.
Focus is slow, writes to the card are slow, start up time is slow. I didn't find any of these things to the extent that I had read about. If I hadn't read these things, I would not have even thought about them. If you know what you shoot and how you shoot and you actually go out and make lots of images, any camera becomes intuitive. The photographers brain is the most important part of the image flow process.... you learn to use the tool and then you don't have to think about it.
It's not a Canon or Nikon or Lumix... it's an X100. Some say the menus are not intuitive and difficult to navigate.
You figure it out and use it. After a while you don't have to figure it out.
It's a 35mm equivalent. The only 2 lenses that I ever use are 28 and 35mm so once again a non issue for me.
Funky filter issue, lens cap and lens shade:
Yeah the filter ring thing is kind of stupid but once you do what you need, it's not. I purchased an aftermarket
lens shade which was 110.00 less than the Fuji. Makes the camera look more like a Leica but I end up taking it off
most of the time. The lens cap is metal, very high quality and you will lose it. I've read some negativeness about this inexpensive lens hood being loose (JJC from A&R). So far no problem... and think about it, if it is so tight that when it takes an impact it translates the force right to the lens barrel that's not good either. It should be like a break away mirror on a motorcycle (BMW only I know or owned) meant to hold until the force begins to exceed the point of doing damage to the more expensive parts and then pops off. Anyway..
the hood and filter mount are fine unless you are going to be using it as a hammer.
300-400 exposures. I purchased two after market batteries for 9.00 each. They last as long, are 45.00 cheaper than the Fuji
batteries and they haven't set the camera on fire. Hey, when you had to reload after 36 exposures, that was something to bitch about. Only then you didn't know to bitch about it.
There is a little plastic piece which holds the battery in place in the charger. Many have complained that it is easy to lose. Two words - Crazy Glue.
In conclusion, some people like to talk about their camera. Some like to wear them out. This camera is for the latter.
If Eugene Smith were alive, this is the digital camera he would use. If you don't know who Eugene Smith is, shame on you.
I have a Nikon D100 that my brother gave me when I had no digital camera at all (He also gave me the Yashica Mat)and the D100 does it's thing very well too. The X100 is just a different tool. These are tools, not jewels. If you want to sit around and talk about your camera and find yourself doing that more than using it, well that's a different kind of tool.
One other thing... I purchased the 8 gig Eye-Fi card. It transfers images to the 8 gig sd on my Android phone. It works. Very cool to have a backup made while you are shooting. It will use your battery though.
on April 9, 2011
I am writing this review from the perspective of someone who owns a Nikon full-frame dSLR (Nikon D700+MB-D10), two Nikon crop dSLR (Nikon D7000+MB-D11 and Nikon D3100) and an m4/3 camera (Panasonic GH2).
I receive the Fujifilm X100 about 5 days ago and since then, I have been slowly learning the features and capabilities of this camera. I will be steadily adding to this review in the coming days but I thought I'd share here my initial impressions of the X100 to help those wondering whether to get this camera make their decision.
Though I tried my hand at using small cameras that can shot RAW and provide full manual controls on aperture, shutter speed, ISO and White Balance (the Panasonic LX-3 and the Canon S90 being among these), I was never happy with the marginal photos that I could take with these cameras. This is mainly due to the small-sized camera sensor. Yet part of my dis-satisfaction with these cameras is also due to the shooting position where one extends one's arms to view and compose with the rear LCD screen rather than the viewfinder to the eye position when using a dSLR. After trying my hand with these cameras, I sold them but knew that my next small and light camera must have a large sensor and a proper viewfinder.
My initial attempt to finally address this issue on poor image quality and sub-optimal shooting stance yet have a small and compact camera was my purchase of the Nikon D3100 which I paired with a Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G DX lens. Equipped with a good-sized sensor, a real optical view finder (OVF) and a very capable lens, this setup provided me with a compact, light, inexpensive and very capable camera setup. I was very happy with the setup and it provided me some relief from using the D700+MB-D10 or D7000+MB-D11 combo. Though I did install and use my other Nikkor lenses on the D3100, it was the Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G DX that was mounted on the D3100 easily 50% of the time. For the other times, it was mainly the Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G at 40% of the time and the Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 or the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 for the remaining 10%. I would have used the Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G far more often with the D3100 than the Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G DX but the large size and heavy weight of the Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G lens does not make for a light and well-balanced combo with the D3100. So as much as I would have preferred matching the D3100 with a 24mm focal length prime lens, the lighter weight and smaller size of the 35mm f/1.8G DX made it the default lens for the D3100.
I also acquired a Panasonic GH2. Though equipped with a smaller m4/3 sensor, the GH2 acquits itself very well for video work and the 14-140mm lens provided good results when shooting outdoors or in good lighting conditions. But for still-photography, the GH2 with the 14-140mm lens is simply awful. For a while, I had the impression that the GH2 was very bad for still photos until I decided to buy an adapter and mounted my Nikkor prime lenses on the GH2. Wow .. what a difference mounting good lenses made on the quality of photos the GH2 can take. I found myself using the GH2 more and more often for still-photos even though I had to manually focus my Nikkor lenses. The GH2 was my first exposure to an electronic viewfinder (EVF) and despite its real limitations when working in sub-optimally lighted conditions, I appreciated the ability of the EVF of the GH2 to display information that an OVF could not display. I decided to add a Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 and 14mm f/2.5 lens and was happy with the resulting setup which was even more compact and lighter than my Nikon D3100 and 35mm f/1.8G DX lens. While the image quality of the Nikon D3100 was still better than the GH2, the smaller lighter size of the GH2 and its excellent video capabilities made it my choice for many situations.
Then came the Fujifilm X100. Combining the small compact size of the GH2 and its compact prime lenses plus incorporating the advantages of both the optical viewfinder of the D3100 and the electronic viewfinder of the GH2, I became seriously interested in the X100. The fact that the lens was not interchangeable was not an issue for me as the X100 lens is a 23mm f/2.0 - the perfect focal length as far as I was concerned. The 35mm equivalent of 35mm would have been my favorite focal length with the D3100 and the GH2 but neither Nikon nor Panasonic makes a compact and light prime lens that has a fast 35mm in 35mm equivalent (Olympus makes a m4/3 17mm but it is just f/2.8). That the X100 lens was also a fast f/2.0 lens was definitely an ace in favor of the X100. While cleaning the sensor of my D700, I realized another reason why the non-interchangeable lens nature of the X100 was a non-issue. With a non-removable lens, the X100 will likely not need any sensor cleaning at all, I happily realized. Yes!
Viewed sideways, the X100 was considerably smaller and thinner than the D3100 with the 35mm f/1.8GDX lens and still substantially thinner than the GH2 with the 20mm f/1.7 lens. The X100 wins against the two others on this point.
Based on my initial test, the image quality of the X100 is excellent and can easily hold its own against the Nikkor D3100 with the 35mm f/1.8G DX lens. This is quite an achievement as the Nikon-Nikkor combo is superb. While the X100 is a bit soft when shot wide-open at f/2.0 compared with the Nikkor D3100 shooting the 35mm f/1.8G DX at f/2.0, I like the way the X100 renders the image which is very pleasing and of a different character than the clinical images I could take with the Nikon D3100 and the 35mm f/1.8G DX lens. Testing both at f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6 and f/8.0 yielded even better results with the X100 while the Nikkor D3100 with the 35mm f/1.8G DX stayed very good as well (it was really good wide-open to begin with anyway). In terms of image quality, I would rank these two at about equal.
What for me tilts the balance in favor of the X100 is the focal length of its lens - 23mm vs the 35mm of the Nikkor. So while the image quality for both are neck-to-neck, I much prefer the X100 because of its lens' focal length. The GH2 ranks lower than the X100 and D3100 in image quality and with the X100 being thinner and having both OVF and EVF and with my preferred focal length lens, the X100 is now my first choice for a small and light compact camera.
CONTINUATION - April 12, 2011
In many respects, while there are similarities among the D3100, GH2 and the Fujifilm X100, each is unique and each serves a specific purpose better than the other.
The primary advantage of the D3100 is that it packs a lot of capabilities and flexibility for its size. These advantages however are lost when one installs a zoom lens on the D3100 as the resulting bulk and weight no longer qualifies it as a light and compact camera. Until such time that Nikon releases several compact and light prime AF-S lenses that will auto-focus on the D3100, the D3100 steps out of the light-and-compact auto-focusing camera competition when equipped with other than the Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G DX.
For video work, the GH2 remains the best tool for the job, with the D3100 and the X100 a far second and third. In addition to a far superior video capabilities, the GH2 has a electronic zoom that essentially gives the user a 2nd lens when using the pancake prime lens. Very impressively, this electronic zoom (or "ETC" in Panasonic parlance) can be used without any significant or visible degradation in the captured video and provides the GH2 a flexibility that other manufacturers would do well to emulate. The availability of several good light and very compact interchangeable pancake prime lenses adds further to the attraction of the GH2 as a video camera - as well as a still photography camera. This makes the GH2 a better tool for those who want to capture still photos and videos at the same time. The only disadvantage that I see to the GH2 is its low-light performance which is best described as adequate but not exceptional. This is partly due to its smaller sensor and higher pixel density. While using fast primes such as the 20mm f/1.7 can often delay the onset of having have to use higher ISO, the GH2 would truly be exceptional if it had better low-light performance and will likely be the toughest hombre to beat among the three.
The Fujifilm X100 as a still camera is excellent for a select group of photographers who are not limited by the fixed-lens as its performance as a still camera is nothing short of excellent. In terms of low-light performance, the Fujifilm X100 outclasses the D3100 when shooting at ISO 3200 and even more so at ISO 6400 where the X100 still yields very good images. Combine with the f/2.0 lens, the X100 users will likely have minimal need of bringing an external flash. For a narrower select group of photographers who are not hobbled by the fixed lens, the Fujifilm X100 is one of the most exciting camera in the market.
CONTINUATION April 15, 2011
Fujifilm's decision to equip the X100 with a fixed non-interchangeable lens has allowed it to make the camera and lens smaller, and to add several features unique to the X100. This setup dispense with the need to use a focal plane shutter so unlike a dSLR where the shutter is found in the body, the shutter of the X100 is found in its lens. The combination of a quiet leaf shutter on the lens and the absence of a mirror-slapping noise means that it is possible for me to shoot the X100 very discretely even in a quiet room. Even continuous shooting with the X100 generates little noise. The shutter sound of the X100 shooting continuously is unobtrusive unlike the loud staccato clatter of the dSLR.
Another feature the fixed lens arrangement allowed is for Fujifilm to install a built-in 3-stops neutral density filter in the X100. I wished this was button activated but its fairly easy to access it from the menu. Once activated, I have a choice of either using a slower shutter speed or to shoot with the aperture wide-open.
The X100 can simulate several colored, B&W and sepia films. The colored setting are named after the Fuji Films. The standard setting is Provia. For landscape (and sometimes even for people), I like using the Velvia for its rich saturated look. Though one can choose the Vivid on the Nikon D3100, I find the Velvia look on the X100 more pleasing, specially when viewed on the computer. The Astia is intended for use with soft-tone palette and yields a less-saturated look. So I took several solo and group shots in the diffused light in the late afternoon with everyone wearing light pastel and earthy colors. The Astia setting yielded a dreamy old film look which I find very pleasing.
The shutter is adjusted using a dedicated top knob beside the shutter release button while the aperture is adjusted using the aperture ring on the lens. The controls work very well though the adjustment is always in increments of one stop. This is one area where the dSLR may provide greater flexibility in that it allows the easy adjustment in increment of 1/3 of 1/2 stop. It is possible to adjust the aperture and shutter speed of the X100 in 1/3 increments but it takes a whole lot longer to do this with the X100. It is by far faster to just adjust the exposure compensation when one is shooting in aperture priority mode. Because of the greater effort, I simply adopted and made my exposure adjustment (shutter speed and aperture) in one-stop increment adjustments.
CONTINUATION April 17, 2011
As someone who cleans his camera after every use upon getting home, one of the things I appreciate about the X100 was that it was designed for photographers who have a nose. =)
As a right-eyed focusing photographer, I can avoid the noise hitting and smearing the rear LCD screen of the X100 whenever I bring it to the eye to look through the viewfinder. Instead of my nose hitting the rear LCD screen whenever I do this, I am doubly pleased that this no longer happens and that cleaning the camera before putting it away is a bit easier and faster at the end of the day.
While video is limited to 720p, it is nonetheless quite good. The advantage of the X100 having an electronic viewfinder (EVF) becomes evident when one uses it for video. With the EVF, one can take video while keeping the X100 to one's eye and this makes for a more natural and steady shooting position just like with still photography. This is similar to the Panasonic GH2 which also has an EVF but in contrast to the Nikon D3100 where the arms would be outstretched in a point and shoot position while using the rear LCD screen take the video. The Fujifilm X100 can autofocus on video and its pretty fast. The Panasonic GH2 autofocuses on video faster still but the X100 is much faster than the Nikon D3100 on video.
Some have complained about power-up lag. First off, the type of SD card you use will make a substantial impact on power-up. A slow SD card can slow down the X100 from power-up to ready-to-use state. Using a fast SD card will help. Assuming that one is using an SD card, power up lag will depend on which viewfinder you are using. If you are using the electronic viewfinder, power lag is about 2 seconds. If you are using the optical viewfinder, the power lag is just a little bit above 1 second. In both instances, unless you have the viewfinder to your eyes and ready to shoot, the power lag does not make much of a difference as you still need to bring the camera up to your eyes upon power up, then need some time to compose, check exposure then shoot. While a dSLR like the D70 is almost instantaneous and is faster, it really will not make much of a difference for 99% of the time.
UPDATE: June 12, 2011
After taking hundreds of photos with this camera, I fully appreciate the solid and sturdy feel this camera imparts whenever one uses it. As such, it imparts a certain sense of confidence and satisfaction in being able to take good photos in a measured and deliberate manner. Never designed for sports speed shooting nor for the urgency of events or wedding photographers, the X100 is best used when one can take his time to frame and compose before taking the photo.
I can also categorically say that in terms of image quality, the X100 camera can hold its own against some of the best APS-C-sized sensored dSLRs in the market such as the Nikon D7000 for the type of shooting that the X100 was designed for. The black and white setting of the X100 can be quite intoxicating. The 3 "film" settings of the X100 (Astia, Provia and Velvia) is superb.
What has also become clear is the value of the silent shutter of the X100. Several times, I have had to take photos inside a very quiet church. The few shots I took with the Nikon FX D700 sounded like gunshots inside a very quiet church and even the considerably softer and quieter Nikon DX D7000 still sounded loud. I could not continue without causing a major disturbance. The X100 came to the rescue and allowed me to continue taking photos quietly and unobtrusively. What has also become of great help is the ability to see the aperture, shutter and exposure compensation settings of the X100 in one glance without needing to view these through the viewfinder. This has been helpful when shooting from the hip again to avoid disturbing the very quiet and solemn atmosphere in a church.
Going on to regular shooting, the electronic viewfinder (EVF) of the X100 allows me to shoot a photo and to review it immediately in the same EVF without need to put down the camera to view the image I just took through the rear LCD screen. I do not know of any camera that can do this ... not even the GH2 which also has an EVF. The EVF makes eye-on-camera video shooting very easy. While limited to 720p with very limited control on the settings, the X100 nonetheless can take very good video even in low light due to its clean images at high ISO.
On the other hand, using the optical viewfinder (OVF) of this rangefinder-type camera, I can see a greater area than what the lens cover and this gives me the advantage of better and greater situational awareness that allows me to better compose or anticipate the different elements that I would like to converge in my photos. With the dSLR, I have to keep both eyes open to do this but it is neither easy nor convenient. The OVF of the X100 make it a cinch to do this.
I should however mention 2 negatives both of which do not go directly into the performance of the X100. The first is the plastic adapter that comes with the battery charger. The battery charger is designed for another battery and an adapter is needed to charge the battery used with the X100. Though this adapter is also supplied with the charger, it is easily dislodged and as a result, could easily be lost making recharging a real challenge. The second negative is how Fuji has chosen not to design the lens so it can take on a filter (49mm) and also failed to include a hood with the camera. One needs to buy an expensive adapter that would allow the mounting of a filter on the X100. Considering that the lens is fixed, scratching the lens can quickly ruin anybody's day. Still on this, Fuji has also chosen not to include a hood with the lens. Like the filter adapter, this is again an expensive accessory. The hood is essential when shooting outdoors in bright sunlit conditions as well as indoors in harsh lighting conditions. Fuji may make a handsome profit when an X100 owner buys these but it leaves a bad taste in the mouth when one has to pay so much for something that should not cost much for Fuji to make and which it should have included with the camera as these are essential items.
While at it, there are a couple of nitpicks that one can make against the X100 (e.g., difficulty and tediousness of taking multiple shots using a timer) so some of the complaints made against the X100 firmware is justified. Fuji has already released a firmware upgrade and is expected to release a 2nd sometime soon. This gives me confidence that many of the nitpicks will eventually be addressed. And as these minor irritants does not detract from the X100 being a good camera for what is was designed for, I have decided to keep the 5-stars rating for this camera.
Finally, I can understand the frustration expressed by some who have reviewed the X100 when they treat and use the X100 as a substitute for their dSLRs. Having read this review this far, you will perhaps better understand their missives against the X100. The X100 has been designed for use in a specific niche and it excels within this specialized area. Outside this area, there are far better camera models out there that would surpass the X100 in size, weight, price, performance, flexibility, or the various combination of these. A better understanding of the capabilities and design of the X100 will help in avoiding the pitfalls that some have fallen into when they use the X100 as a dSLR substitute. I own an X100 but use my dSLR when I need a dSLR.
on May 16, 2011
My name is Alan, I orderes this camera under my wife's account.
Before this camera was announced I had looked at the Sigma DP2 camera. The Sigma took great pictures but was slow and could not handle candids. I was tempted but not enough. When the X100 was announced it looked like it solved the problems that the Sigma has. I wanted this camera.
This camera is not for everyone. Fuji says this camera is for pros and serious amatures. This is true. In designing the camera to appear like an old rangefinder they incorporated program mode, aperature priority, shutter priority and manual mode exactly as they worked in the old cameras. This left out the "safe mode" that existes in other cameras that limits what you can do in the menus to things that will really screw up your shooting. In safe mode typically you can't enter a white balance any you can't set the ISO to 12,800. If you don;t know what you are doing with the camera you can mess up all your shots. The manual leaves out some details. The camera has seperate ISOs for program, apertature priority, shutter priority, manual and panorama. Until you realize that changing mode also changes ISO you can loose some pictures. You have to put some effort into learning this camera.
The handling is certainly adaquate, but it takes some getting used to. When using the optical viewfinder at close range the focus box in the viewfinder will not correspond to what you are aiming. at. Don't use the optical viewfinder at close range. Problem solved. When you press the shutter button half way down the electric viewfinder freezes until focus is attained. Not a real problem but for a $1200 camera they should have done better. When changing to and from macro the display does not update fast enought. Another thing to get used to.
So why did I rate this camera at 5 stars?
Low light pictures are fantistic. The combination of a state of the art APS-C sensor and a f2 lens lets me take great picures under very low light. Any camera can take good pictures in bright light.
I like the manual focusing. I know some people think it is useless. Not true. This is not a rangefinder with a quick turn of the focus ring going from minimum focus to infinity. It takes a lot of turns to do that. I like that. I use manual focus when auto focus will not work. I went out seveal nights ago and shot a few test shots at ISO 12,800. The camera wouyld not auto focus in that light but using the distance scale in the viewfinder I was able to take acceptable shots. This manual focus is great for macro shots where you are not sure where the auto focuse is focusing.
I like haveing a viewfinder. When using cameras having only screens on the back of the camera I can not see what I am shootine if there is sunlight on the screen. I think I will eventually fully appreciate the hybrid viewfinder, but for now I am glad to have either.
I shoot in RAW. THe large sensor gives me more to play with.
I like the lack of shutter noise.
Having a fixed focal length does not bother me. I think it is actually helping my photograph by making me get closer to my subjects. The pictures are more personnel. (I tried shooting several sessions with my Lumix G1 using only the 29mm lens so I knew this was true before ordering the camers.
I like this camera a lot. I was aware that there would be some shortcoming like a lack of zoom but they were acceptable. They will not be acceptable to everyone. If they are acceptable to you this may be the camera for you.
on May 16, 2011
I would summarize the X100 as equal to a very good DSLR in picture quality and low-light capability, with a fast lens and manual exposure control, in a package slightly larger than most point-and-shoots. I think it represents great value in the compact viewfinder category previously occupied only by Leica at about 8x the price.
I got the X100 on Friday and promptly went off to Vermont for the weekend to try it out. I shot a few hundred frames of travel style photos. I have not used video, flash or the ND filter, so I can't comment on those features other than to say I'm glad they are there.
I normally shoot a D700. I also have three Nikon crop sensor DSLRs that I rarely use because I am in love with the controls and image quality of my full-frame D700. I got the X100 for travel and street photography, because I wanted a camera I could always have with me. I was tired of relying on my iPhone as my carry-around camera when I don't or can't carry a camera backpack. I am 56. I started shooting in 1970 with an Argus C3, a rangefinder 35mm, so I admit I am a little drawn to the X100 for nostalgic reasons, although I have to say I'm not that nostalgic for my C3 (which I still have). I am a computer scientist/electrical engineer, so I am also firmly planted in the digital age.
I don't know of a camera on the market today that I would rather use for travel or street photography. When I'm doing travel it is street photography, landscape, still life, architectural and portrait. I would not hesitate to head off to another continent with only this camera. Since I don't do weddings/events, nature/animals or sports, I don't need a zoom or long lens. With this camera I don't have to compromise on capabilities (other than lens selection) or image quality.
If I want to pack one camera, I have found it in the X100. If I want to take a back pack, then I can take a DSLR with lenses and flash (and now this camera thrown in). The next step up is a carry-on with bodies, lenses, flashes, etc.. I have a larger bag that has to be checked for light stands, modifiers, etc, if I want to carry a portable studio set-up. The X100 has finally given me a one-camera travel set-up whose compromises I can life with.
I'll start with the positives on the X100.
- The ergonomics (except for the manual focus ring, which I will go into later) and looks are attractive to me. I'm 6'3", 200lbs and my hands aren't too big to access all the buttons easily.
- I was astounded by the high ISO performance. I haven't scrutinized the images I have taken in pixel-level detail, but up to 1600, which is as far as I dared venture, I don't notice the difference between the ISO 200 and ISO 1600 images. By comparison, I immediately see the difference on all my Nikons, even the D700. I haven't done any large prints of these first shots, so my opinion may change once I scrutinize the noise levels more closely. But at first glance, the low-light performance exceeded my expectations.
- It is silent (I only use it in silent mode), making it ideal for street and travel photography. You can grab shots you couldn't or wouldn't get with a noisy DSLR.
- You can shoot handheld at slow shutter speeds. Not having the mass of a mirror and focal plane shutter moving around keeps the camera still, which allows for slower shutter speed hand-helds. I may be imagining this, but I was able to do handheld shots at night at shutter speeds I wouldn't attempt with a DSLR. When you combine the fast lens, low-light performance and ability to shoot handheld at slow shutter speeds, it opens up a world of low-light possibilities.
- The lens/sensor combination produces beautiful images. I don't feel like I'm sacrificing quality over any of the Nikons, even the D700. I just think that semiconductor technology has continued to move forward since the D700 sensor was designed and the X100, by combining the design of the sensor and the lens as a single system, represents state-of-the-art technology, and the results are visible in the images.
- The macro capabilities work, which adds versatility to the single 35mm-equivalent lens. I had absolutely no focusing problems doing macro shots using the EVF and the focusing method I describe below.
- I have no complaints with the EVF. I didn't fully understand the viewfinder options before I got the camera in my hands. It really has three modes, EVF, OVF and LCD. I use almost exclusively the EVF. I found the OVF doesn't allow focus confirmation and the electronic framing guide doesn't appear accurate enough for me. I didn't notice the lag times reported by others with the EVF, but I think that is because I am not using the partial-depression auto-focusing method. It is easy to use the lever to switch between EVF and OVF. A button on the back turns the LCD on and off.
- Lightroom supports the RAW format, which I was pleased to learn.
- The manual focus ring is useless. The focus-by-wire (no mechanical coupling between focus ring and optics) implementation is flawed. It could be the firmware or it could be the focus ring position encoder lacks sufficient resolution. When you turn the focus ring, the servo-controlled optics jump in annoying discrete steps and requires way too many turns. This could be just an extremely poor implementation of the servo control firmware, or it could be that the focus ring position is only readable in coarse increments. Whatever the reason, don't buy this camera if you require the feel of turning a manual focus ring. I was in that camp until very recently. But I don't think this is a show-stopper for the X100, and here's why: I have always hated auto-focus hunting problems and had continued to rely on manual focusing on my DSLRs until very recently. I discovered that with a single focus point and using the AFL/AEL button to focus, you can essentially do what I would call optically-assisted servo-controlled manual focus. This way of using "auto focus" marries the speed and accuracies of the servo control and contrast-detection with the control of manual focus that I insist upon. To do this on the X100 you put it in manual focus mode, make sure you are set to single-spot focus, then put the indicated focus area over what you want to focus on from any of the viewfinders, and press the AFL/AEL button. In my use, the X100 accurately locks on the desired focus point much quicker and more accurately than I could have done by twisting a focus ring and squinting through the viewfinder. Trying to use multi-point and/or partial depression of the shutter release button is problematic in ways I won't go into. Since switching from manual focus ring focusing to this electronic-assisted method on my DSLR, I haven't had any focus problems. On the X100, this is the mandatory method of focusing in my opinion. I didn't miss one shot because of focus problems. I didn't have problems in low-light (even with the AF-assist illuminator de-activated in silent mode) and I didn't experience the reported EVF blanking problems. You have to get the camera set up correctly to make this work.
- Buy an extra battery. The battery charge indicator is inaccurate in the current firmware release. The battery life is short by Nikon DSLR standards. I was not taking measures to conserve battery and I only filled a little over half a 4 GB card with RAW images before the battery went dead on me.
- The bracketing only goes +/- 1/3, 1/2 and 1 EV. For HDR, you need to go at least to 2 EV. This seems like it could easily be fixable with a firmware update.
- The Fn button cannot be programmed to control bracketing or AEL, both of which are more useful to me than any of the many things it can be programmed to control, many of which are post-processing effects not useful to a RAW shooter. I have the Fn button set to control ISO. But I shoot mostly in aperture-priority and I would like to be able to assign AEL to the Fn button. The work-around is to use partial-depression to meter TTL in the desired metering mode, then lock the exposure by just setting the measured shutter speed, switching from aperture-priority to manual exposure mode. The way I have focusing set up, a partial depression won't alter the focus, so you aren't trying to use spot metering and spot focusing on two distinct spots with only one activation button. When I start using flash with the X100 I am sure I would like to be able to assign Flash Value Lock (FVL) to the Fn button. But you can't do that either. In fact, there doesn't appear to be a FVL implemented in the current firmware release.
- The X100 does seem to have a slower processor than my Nikon DSLRs. It does feel like a point-and-shoot at times. For $1200 I think they should have used a beefier processor. But I had just thrown in a 15MB/s card, so I don't know how much of the processing time was write-speed related and how much was processor speed. It could be poor firmware design. It seems to have problems multi-tasking. For example, it blanks the EVF while it processes and stores images. This only was noticeable to me when shooting bursts or bracketing where the time to process and store multiple images became aggravating. This could easily be solved by a faster card and may be entirely my fault if it is a function of storage speed and not processing speed.
I agree that contributing to what I feel is the success of this design is the decision to trade off lens interchangeability in exchange for a viewfinder that works in a small package at a reasonable price. However, I'd like to suggest to FujiFilm that they produce the same model in different focal lengths, e.g. 20 or 24, 50 and 85mm (full-frame equivalents). Then I would just switch cameras instead of switching lenses. After all, you could buy about eight X100's for the price of one Leica M9 with 35mm lens. I'm a prime shooter, and the 35mm focal length is my standard on my DSLRs, so this camera fits me in the current configuration. If you're married to zooms or telephotos, then this is probably not the camera for you.
If I were teaching a series of basic digital photography courses, I would suggest every student start with this camera. Many might find it is the only camera they would ever need.
I learned that if you have it in MF mode and use the AFL/AEL button to focus, you can do a partial depression of the shutter release to lock in exposure (AEL). But you must focus first if using the AFL/AEL button, then move to position you want to set exposure (especially if using spot metering) with a partial depression, then while continually partially depressing the shutter release, reframe and release the shutter. (The AFL/AEL button won't operate the focus while partially depressing the shutter release.) This method gives you the flexibility to focus on one point, set exposure on another, and frame in a third position.
I thought there was no manual control in MOVIE mode, but it appears that you can adjust aperture, but not shutter speed.
on December 15, 2011
I'll save you the time of reading a 10 paragraph review of technical info.
Who/what this camera is for: This is the carry-everywhere camera for the professional or advanced photographer; someone who would love a Leica M9, but doesn't have $10,000+ laying around. It takes amazing pictures of landscapes and nature, but it REALLY excels at pictures of people. Sharpness, clarity, and skin tone reproduction are amazing. It's quick enough to capture action or a candid moment, but not nearly as fast as a DSLR (especially if you're shooting raw, which..who the hell needs raw on a point and shoot?) so don't use it for that purpose. I also own a Nikon D7000 and a host of Nikon's finest glass, but found myself leaving that all at home because I didn't want to lug it around. This doesn't REPLACE your DSLR, so don't expect it to. It complements it for everyday, carry-everywhere shooting. That said, it's not a pocket camera.. it's more of a strap around your neck type of camera. 98% of the time I leave the thing in auto ISO, auto WB, and shutter speed, and generally select the aperture myself. I've shot in full-manual mode (which I do about 100% of the time on my DSLR), but in most cases I'm using this to catch candid moments and I don't want to miss them because I'm fiddling around with the settings. It does a fantastic job of selecting those by itself. It's not perfect, but no human is perfect either.
Who it isn't for:
-Someone who doesn't have $1,200 laying around either. It's not cheap, and because it's a limited run model, it won't be getting any cheaper. Accessories are outrageously expensive if you buy OEM (the hood and filter adapter are about $130, the OEM case is around $150). Yes, cheap knockoffs are out there, but would you put chrome hubcaps on a Mercedes because they kind of achieve the same goal?
-Someone who is easily frustrated. The firmware is buggy and the menus are tough to get used to, but you'll be fine after a couple days of shooting and playing.
-Action shooters. It's just not fast enough, plus the 23MM lens is fairly wide and as such can't really isolate your subject with a narrow DOF.
-IQ is nothing short of amazing.
-Looks. Old school exterior with a refined digital interior.
-Handling. No surfing the menus for aperture or shutter speed, should you choose to take control.
-Feel. Everything feels.. perfect. Fuji spent quite a long time getting the feels of the dials and knobs on the front and top perfect; they are positive and feel like quality, not like cheapo easily broken plastic.
-Sensor. Full APS-C sized image sensor that you'd find in a crop frame DSLR (D90, D7000, D300S, etc). About 35x as much sensor area as a Canon S100 Point and shoot. This translates to substantially lower noise, especially when shooting high ISO.
-F/2 lens. Bokeh is decent, but with the lens being slightly wide don't expect the same kind of results you'd achieve with a fast tele lens.
-Low light shooting. See the above two; fast lens plus low noise performance even at higher ISOs means you don't need flash.
-Fill flash. Meters amazingly well by itself; it gives you the right amount of flash for the situation, meaning it's great for fill flash on faces in outdoor situations. If you expose for a shadowed face on a sunny day, you'll clip the highlights just to get enough brightness on the face. This takes care of all of that without you even knowing it.
-EVF. Very cool, though I rarely use it.
-Price. It's expensive but not overpriced, there's a difference.
-No zoom or interchangeable lenses(relative con). You'll have to just use your feet. On one hand, it's a disadvantage to not have the ability to switch the lens out for a zoom or tele, but on the other hand THIS lens was made for THIS sensor on THIS camera with THIS camera's geometry. Primes are always sharper than zooms, so it's a a tradeoff I'm willing to accept.
-Frustrating menus and firmware. Fuji already fixed a lot of the bugs in a firmware update, so expect more fixes in the future.
-Leaf shutter(relative con). The shutter can't open and close fast enough to shoot the fastest shutter speeds at it's widest aperture, meaning you're limited in your control of DOF on a very bright day. The built in ND filter gives you 3 stops, but this may not be enough. You can use the optional filter adapter ring to attach an extra ND filter to alleviate this, should you need to.
-Fuji's profit-seeking engineering. You can't just attach a filter; the lens body is reverse threaded, and if you just screw a filter on backwards the lens will hit the glass when focusing close. This means you'll need to buy the AR-X100 adapter ring for about $40, or you can Jerry-rig something up (like a second filter with the glass removed) to give you the spacing, but it will look chintzy, especially on a silver camera that's meant to look sleek.
-Lens cap. Looks cool, functions crappy. No lock, it just slides on with friction and has no tether, meaning you'll lose it. Just put an ND filter on with the ring and leave the cap in your bag.
-Charger. Seriously Fuji? The batteries will only charge with the included small (quarter sized) piece of non-tethered plastic that holds them in place. I can't believe that this even exists at any level, much less on a $1,200 camera.
-Manual focusing. It's a fly-by-wire system, meaning there's no mechanical connection between the ring and the focusing elements. It is essentially an electronic knob, and it's SLOW.
-LCD Screen. It's a decent 460k pixel screen and the color is accurate, but at this price level I'd have liked to see a 921k pixel screen that comes on the higher end DSLRs now. Seems kind of antiquated after I've used that amazing screen on my D7000 for awhile now.
on May 5, 2011
Yesterday I picked up my Fuji X100 and it looks like it's everything I hoped for in a camera I use mostly for cruises and street photography. Working around the water a lot, my 2 absolute requirements were a high-quallity lens and a great viewfinder. The X100 has a really nice optical viewfinder, a high quality electronic viewfinder (as good I think as the one on the Lumix GH2 that I recently sold), and a reasonably good LCD finder on the back. I went straight from the store to Marina del Rey to try it at the California Yacht Club on a bright sunny afternoon. The optical finder was impeccable, showing a really bright framed image with the important exposure info underneath the frame (a first I believe); the electronic finder was fair since in bright sunlight it (just as my GH2) tends to go dark, and the LCD which was essentially useless as nearly all LCDs when faced with very bright sunlight and reflections off the water.
When I go home and uploaded the shots to my computer they were really high quality and could easily be enlarged BEYOND 8x10. Fuji says 13x19 without noticeable loss of quality).
Handling-wise, the camera is a (mostly) beautiful dream. It looks and handles like my Nikkormat FTN with a 1.9 50mm lens that had seen service with a military photographer in Japan in the late 1950's and I had used in the early 1960s. It's just as fast, light, well-balanced and quiet as a classic Nikon; and 2 yacht club members who saw me on the docks with it stopped me and asked me admiringly what it was, how much it cost and -- even after hearing "$1200" -- asked me where they could get one.
There are only 2 flies in this proverbial ointment.
First -- just like the Nikkormat when I was working my way through college doing photography and I couldn't afford additional lenses to shoot weddings and sports events -- it comes with only one lens (an f2.0 35mm equivalent) and that lens is not interchangeable. However I find myself enjoying the simplicity of toting only one small camera and a semi-wide angle lens; and I think I'll end up a better photographer by imposing this discipline on myself. Also, for most of the kinds of photography I enjoy, cruise photos and street photos, the 35mm lens is ideal. For the remainder I'll relay on another camera with a zoom lens and that fits in my pocket. For now it's a Canon S95 that I really enjoy. However, I blew up some photos yesterday that I took at the same time with both cameras, and while both of them produced excellent results, at higher levels of enlargement the Fuji with its much larger sensor blows away the Canon. In the future, if I can get a really good buy on a small used DSLR which I can equip with one of the very light 28--270 zoom lenses that have just come out, maybe I'll pick up that also as a (gulp) third camera.
The second fly in the ointment is that this is definitely a camera you need to READ THE WHOLE DAMN MANUAL!!! I want to go beyond the basics and take advantage of its additional capabilities that justify its price; and so far I've put in about 5 hours of reading the manual and the better reviews to gain the info I need . It's far from intuitive and quite different from the Canons and Panasonics that I've been using almost exclusively for the past five years.
However, with these 2 caveats, the X100 is to cameras what Regent, Silverseas, Crystal and Seabourn ships are to cruising. All are exquisitely made and of impeccable quality. If that fits your lifestyle, don't hesitate to buy a Fuji X100!
A few days later:
I started off a thread on Cruise Critic's Camera Discussion Group by posing the question: If weight is at a premium, what's the best combo of camera equipment I can take on my next cruise? For the last few years I have carried a Panasonic Lumix GH1/GH2 and a Canon SD780IS, and I've gotten tired of leaving my 6-8 pound gadget bag in the cabin or on the bus, and just grabbing the GH1/GH2 with one lens, or the cigarette pack-sized Canon, while walking around on a tour. Therefore I sold this outfit and decided to start out fresh.
I can now proudly report that I've cut down my gadget bag weight to 47 ounces and increased my quality to boot. I'm now packing the Fujifilm X100 and the Canon S95: That's 15 oz. for the X100; 9 oz. for the S95 and its Case Logic case and spare battery & SD card; and 23 oz. for Lowepro Edit 120 gadget bag, a spare battery & SD card for the X100, and the battery chargers and USB cords for both cameras (naturally they're different).
Spurred on by my promise to the members of the discussion group to try out the X100 on shooting birds in flight, I went down to the Marina del Rey boat dock today and got a terrific picture of a crane landing on the dock, taken while the bird was still in flight. If someone can tell me, offline, how I can post this large jpeg, I'll be happy to post it. I also got a nice image of another crane flying about 50' away in which the bird was dead-center in the photograph and quite sharp for a small bird flying fast about 30' high. I finished off the day by taking some very nice and very sharp candid shots at our Mother's Day brunch which we celebrated a day early.
Suffice to say that I really believe the Fuji X100 is the best digital camera I've ever used. I would have to get back to shots I took in the 1960s with Nikkormats, Rollicords, and Yashicamats to equal its combination of sharpness, size and easy handling.
By the way, the day before I had tried out the Canon S95 at the bait dock. Due to the bright sun, this was a complete bust! The shots are exposed properly but framing was usually far from satisfactory due to the difficulty I had with using the LCD to track birds flying over the water. On less challenging tasks, such as candids I took last week in a restaurant, it served admirably except that it's available light shots were not as sharp as the X100s when I blew them up to 8x10 size.
In summary, I think the X100 is the ONE camera I'll take whenever I leave the ship; although I'll try to smuggle the Canon into my wife's fanny pack for emergency uses or when cameras are "forbidden" or when a 90mm zoom is essential. Its optical finder is so useful on the water that I don't anything, short of a heavier and complex DSLR or electronic finder camera such as the GH2, can keep up with it.
For the past 6 months or so, my favorite travel camera has been the Fuji X100. It has logged about 3000 shots that were taken on a cruise from Los Angles to Barbados; a cruise from Istanbul to Athens; and during 2 yacht races where I shot more than 1000 shots from the committee boats.
I've been tremendously satisfied with the camera, despite its well-documented quirks and fixed 35mm-equivilent focal length, because of its unparalled ability to shoot "a black cat in a coal bin," its choice of 3 finders, its great handling, and its sharp & colorful images. Nevertheless, I've got the new Sony NEX 7 on order in the hope of getting an even better cruise and street camera.
Then, a few weeks ago, my wife was going to a costume event and was dressed up in the style of Cindy Lauper. She asked me to shoot her as she was leaving the house. I did so and liked the results so much that I ordered a 16x20" print done on a framed canvas for her birthday. The canvas photo arrived yesterday and the results -- without any touch-up or sharpening -- were stunning: great color and razor-sharp without any flaws or blurring. Frankly, in 45 years as a professional and advanced amateur, it's probably the best 16x20" I've ever produced; surpassing hundreds of 11x14s and 16x20s I took with the top film cameras.
We have truly advanced to a new era. I'm eager to see if the NEX 7, equipped with the Zeiss 2.0 fixed 36mm equivalent lens, can equal the X-100's images or whether the NEX 7 will have a short stay in my home.
on December 12, 2011
I've been using the X100 as my main "carry everywhere" camera since receiving mine in May (sans several weeks where I sent it in for service and resent it back because Fujifilm service totally screwed up the original repair. They eventually made it right, but don't expect anything close to CPS level support). I've been shooting Canon DSLRs for over a decade, and have gone through way too many point and shoots from just about every major manufacturer in that same time (Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fujifilm, Leica/Panasonic, Samsung). I'd increasingly succumbed to the convenience of phone-shooting, but the X100 really caught my eye when it was announced as something that could deliver much-better-than P&S quality in a much-smaller-than DSLR package. Since then, I've shot a few thousand frames (including a few that I liked).
In summary, the X100 is a fantastic piece of equipment, however it's also (as the price hopefully hints at) a bit of a specialty camera. It requires a fair amount of commitment to figure out its sharp edges and peculiarities (of which there are many). I'd specifically *not* recommend the X100 if you're planning on using it for casual/social use. If you are, prepare to miss a lot of shots. It has meh HD video and (also meh) sweep panorama, but you won't bother with those as switching modes is a pain and a half and not why you'd get this camera. Also, while it's being marketed to pros, if you've been spoiled by modern DSLRs, prepare for decidedly non-pro responsiveness/speed/battery life/and absolutely yes, AF. The X100 was a particularly big adjustment for me because I prefer to shoot natural/low light (wide open) medium close ups (of people), and the X100's CDAF performs beyond miserably for that combo.
Now, that's a very big list of caveats, and yet, I describe the X100 as "fantastic" and am giving it 4 stars. Unlike some, I'm not an apologists for the X100's weaknesses. There really are some really bad things (most of the firmware comes to mind), however, the X100 does some things *so* well that it overshadows most of its negatives (as long as you're aware of them).
First and foremost, the X100 really does deliver on the IQ front. The APS-C sensor is fantastic; completely usable at ISO 1600, and even decent at 3200 (although very ugly banding sometimes crops up in higher ISOs). The 23mm (35mm equiv) lens is super smooth (great bokeh), and tack sharp (f4 and up). The lens/sensor combo gives you depth of field you won't find this side of a DSLR, and the fantastically silent leaf shutter is something you won't find on any DSLR, full stop. Out of camera colors are great; color balance and exposure are usually spot on. I shoot always shoot RAW+JPG, but these days am quite happy w/ OOC JPGs 90% of the time. If you do shoot RAW, I'd recommend you shoot with the fastest card as you can (this year, it's been the SanDisk Extreme Pro 45MB/s cards) as the files are huge (20MB each). Also the card speed actually affects all operations, including turn-on time. (I mentioned the firmware was crap, yes?) Also I shoot single, not burst mode as you can't perform adjustments while it's buffering. (...)
The other big feature worth pointing out is the amazing optical viewfinder (OVF). As a hybrid, it allows switching to a decent EVF (good resolution and brightness, but rather mediocre framerate) which can help w/ framing/fine-focusing, but you won't want to use it because the OVF is just too pretty. It also sports some high-tech projection capability, overlaying realtime data, including parallax-corrected framing guides, and more importantly, the range guide. There's no focal screen/patch of any sort, so the range guide on the bottom is going to be invaluable when you're shooting - not for MF, which is pretty much useless, but to let you know when the AF is completely wrong. The range guide includes (conservative) DOF ranges which makes it also extremely useful for zone-focusing. When zone-focused, the X100 is extremely responsive (although even w/ all settings to manual and OVF only, the aperture still inexplicably "dances" when releasing the shutter. This is worse in *bright* light).
Ultimately, what makes X100 so special, despite its flaws, and beyond any individual feature, is that the X100 delivers a very satisfying and authentic photographic experience that's missing in most lesser cameras. The X100 is a photographic tool that you can really master/bond/immerse yourself with. The retro design is more than skin deep, and MF excepted, by and large delivers the tactile controls (aperture, shutter, EV dials) that, along w/ the OVF really does just get out of the way when you're shooting. In my day to day use, I am almost never touching the screen (in fact, I've had it gaffed over in prep for an international trip, and it hasn't been an issue at all). Granted some more fn buttons would be useful (I'd probably use the ND more, but I'd rather avoid the menus, which like the rest of the firmware are... not good). Also, sadly, there is no physical ISO dial.
Tip: For the first few months I shot in Manual w/ the AF-L to focus. Because of the way MF is designed however (to be zoomed/fine-focused w/ the EVF), the focus area is much larger/less precise than in AF. These days I mostly shoot in AF-S (which also has a parallax corrected focus area option) w/ AF-L set to toggle. This seems to be generally more effective, although with some caveats: MF mode will focus much closer than AF-S, which while improved, still sucks (this is sometimes a problem in regular social/candid shooting situations). Also, even w/ the AE/AF-L set to AF-L only, the current (v1.11) FW will still improperly AE-L as well when in toggle mode. What this means is that you have to unlock even to be able to manually change the aperture/shutter.
on October 14, 2011
This camera is not for everyone.
I used to carry a big DSLR rig with me everywhere. I commuted to work with a camera backpack containing my body, some lenses, my laptop and other stuff. Then I had one kid... and two kids... and three kids... and carrying around a DSLR, even just the body and one lens, got to be a huge hassle. So I turned to point-and-shoot cameras. I used a PowerShot S90 as my primary camera for quite some time, but I was never satisfied with the fact that I couldn't get the same kind of image quality out of my PowerShot as I was able to get from my DSLR.
I needed to find something that had the image quality of a DSLR and the portability of a point-n-shoot. Of course, there is no such thing. But the X100 is as close as it gets. I carry this camera with me everywhere, all the time, in the outside pocket of my "man purse". And the image quality coming out of this camera... well, I think it's stunning. I love the color, contrast and sharpness this camera can produce. Its lens flares are lovely, its bokeh is sublime. There is something about this camera's output that is really unique. I think my infatuation with the X100 began the minute I saw sample photos.
But this is not an easy camera to use. Unfortunately it is highly idiosyncratic and a little buggy. It took me a few weeks to understand all the little rituals I had to go through to use it properly: Don't forget to take it out of macro mode before putting the lens cap on. Remember to compensate for the macro focus-shift bug by moving backwards ever so slightly after autofocus lock. Use manual focus with the auto-focus override to take a series of macro photos without waiting for the unbelievably slow macro autofocus. The list goes on.
But once you learn how to get the most out of this camera it becomes a very powerful photographic tool. I have taken stunning low-light long-exposure photos. Awesome snaps of the kids. Long exposures in very bright light (the ND filter rocks). Incredible action shots taken at very fast shutter speeds. Pictures of unbelievable sharpness and detail. This list goes on, too.
Something else about this camera is the fact that it's a pure joy to hold and operate. The build quality and feel are off the charts. Everything is solid and precise. It looks and feels like you're holding a vintage Leica. People are drawn to it. Many think you are indeed holding a vintage Leica. It's simply beautiful.
The unique hybrid viewfinder on this camera is also something special. I don't tend to use it in OVF (optical viewfinder) mode that often, but I can see how it would be perfect for landscape photography and the like. Personally I use it in EVF (electronic viewfinder) mode. I like this mode because it saves battery, reduces glare, shows me exactly what I am framing, and allows me to point the lens at very bright things (i.e. the sun) without hurting my eyes.
I should mention this is a great camera for street photography. Use zone focusing, carry it about, no one cares at all. It's unobtrusive, and perfect for capturing life as it happens.
Battery life is very good. It's almost as good as the battery life on my PowerShot S90, and that's saying something. It's far better than the battery life of any DSLR I'm aware of.
So, why shouldn't you get this camera? Well, there are four primary reasons:
The first is that this camera has a terrible focusing system. It's almost inexcusable. The autofocus is very, very slow. And the manual focus-by-wire is also very, very slow. Learning how to combine manual focus with autofocus for faster picture taking is one of the hurdles to using this camera. I take a lot of kid pictures, and this camera struggles to keep up with them. It can be hard getting the shot I want, and I have been frustrated more than once because I missed something even the cheapest DSLR would have gotten.
The second reason you might not want this camera is the fixed lens. I hope you like the focal length because you don't get to change it.
Next, the weird threading on the lens makes attaching normal accessories like filters and hoods a bit of a pain, and the Fujifilm accessories for this camera are astronomically expensive and hard to find.
Finally, you might not want this camera if you are not willing to invest the time necessary to learn how to use it properly. It is not user friendly. It's buggy. You have to learn how to work with it, and around it. For some people this is a huge barrier to entry, and I personally don't blame them. I think Fujifilm dropped the ball here.
But, all that said, if you are fine with the cost and the bugs and the learning curve and the fixed lens and everything else, what you are left with is a camera that is utterly joyful to shoot with. Carrying this camera around just feels right. It's simply pleasurable. And the photos you get can be of astounding quality.
So what you are considering here may not be a purchase so much as a relationship. The X100 and I are pretty happy together. ;-)
on May 10, 2011
Beautiful compact body. Large APS-C sized sensor with outstanding low-light performance and class-leading DxOMark score. Fast f2.0 lens from top-tier lens manufacturer. Innovative optical/electronic view finder. Favorable initial reviews from trusted sources like Luminous Landscape. Could this be the perfect carry-everywhere camera? I could not resist any longer and was fortunate enough to get one from the first batch of Amazon orders. WOOO HOOO!!!!!
The camera arrived last week and since it arrived I have been taking pictures with it every day in all the situations where I wouldn't normally bring my GH1 or D3S. Inside and outside. Bright light and low light. People and things. Pictures of friends and family at home, out-and-about, on nature walks, in restaurants, at school. Pictures of food served in restaurants. Pictures of my children's classmates in the classroom and on the playground. Pictures of flowers and bugs and plants. And each picture I took dragged me kicking and screaming and ultimately crying to the unavoidable conclusion that this camera is fatally and tragically flawed.
Like the hero of a Greek tragedy, the Fujifilm X100 has the most promising of attributes, each with a fatal flaw, and the outcome is photographic tragedy. This camera has delivered more out-of-focus shots than I have ever experienced in my three decades of photography. Of more than five hundred pictures that I've taken with the X100 in the past week, less than 50 are in focus and only a handful are keepers. With firmware 1.01, the X100 can only reliably take good pictures of stationary well-lit subjects, like static scenes or posed people.
Let's start with the innovative optical viewfinder (OVF). It has a white rectangle in the middle that turns green when the camera acquires focus. But the OVF doesn't tell you what part of the scene is in focus and it most definitely is not that white rectangle in the middle. (This is partially mitigated by the 2011/06/24 firmware update.) My only consistent success with the OVF is with static scenes entirely contained in the chosen depth of field, like pictures of a wall. If you want to know what part of the scene is in focus, you must use the electronic viewfinder (EVF). But the EVF has a perceptable lag so you can't use it to time your shutter. And even worse, when you initiate auto-focus, the EVF is momentarily frozen and by the time it unfreezes and you can see your subjects to be in focus and properly framed, your subjects may have moved on, so when you release the shutter you end up with another out-of-focus shot. My only consistent success with the EVF is with static or posed subjects, like the ones that appeared in the Luminous Landscape and Steve Huff reviews. Don't believe me? Check the X100 image samples on dpreview -- there are only two pictures with non-static subjects (DSCF0345, two girls on a rocking horse, DSCF0422 couple hugging), and they're both out-of-focus. I didn't count DSCF0426 (woman in front of mosaic) even though the woman was out-of-focus because the mosaic was the subject.
Second consider the fast f2.0 Fuji lens that I have coveted since the X100 was announced at Photokina 2010. It lacks optical image stabilization (OIS). So if you're shooting handheld, you have to keep the shutter above 1/60 or better still 1/125 to avoid handheld motion blur. Its soft at f2.0. So if you want a sharp image, you're going to have to stop down to f2.8 or better yet f4.0. And now you're looking a camera that's not so great at low light anymore unless you stick it on a tripod and what's the point of a compact camera that must be mounted on a tripod?
Third the auto-focus. It only works well for subjects that are well front-lit. As the light decreases or moves behind the subject, the X100 quickly gets to the point where it can't auto-focus at all even with the very intrusive AF assist light. "No problem," I thought, "I'll switch to manual focus and use this beautiful focus ring on the front of the camera". But that focus ring is only tenuously connected to the camera's focus point, and the connection is 100% electronic. You can turn the focus ring 10 times in the same direction and still the focus will only have changed a tiny bit. Even something so basic as using the ring to move the focus to the closest focus point (4") or the farthest focus point (infinity) is 100% unpredictable and 100% annoying. So if you want to acquire accurate focus, you have to use the auto-focus with the EVF, a wide f-stop, and the scene better be well front-lit or the auto-focus will hunt hunt hunt and never acquire focus.
Fourth the camera's controls. The X100 has dedicated controls for aperture, shutter speed, and exposure compensation. As expected, you change those settings whenever you want and they take effect immediately (provided you don't switch between automatic and manual modes). The X100 also has a dedicated ring for manual focus and dedicated buttons for metering, auto-focus point position, changing OVF/EVF/LCD, macro mode, flash, white balance, shooting mode (aka "drive"), menu, and a custom function button that can be set to the ND filter or ISO (among others). Unfortunately you cannot use any of those controls or change any of those settings while the camera is recording an image. With a premium 30MB/s Sandisk Extreme SDHC card, the X100 takes between 7 and 10 seconds to record a single RAW+JPG image and 30 seconds to record a burst. During that time, you can't switch between the OVF/EVF/LCD, change the metering mode, move the auto-focus point, manually set the focus, turn the ND filter on or off, change the ISO, or turn the flash on or off. Nor can you switch between auto-aperture and manual aperture, or between auto-shutter and manual shutter while the camera is saving an image. That's right, after every picture the X100 controls are frozen for 7-30 seconds, including the manual focus ring. It's so difficult to believe, so out of the range of thinkable thought, that few reviewers have noticed it. It's annoying if you're shooting a static scene, but the scene isn't changing so you can just wait until the red light stops blinking and then change your settings. But if you're recording a dynamic scene, it's intolerable.
That's the synopsis of Greek tragedy that is the Fuji Finepix X100. All the desirable attributes of a camera in a camera that can only consistently take good pictures of well front-lit static or scripted scenes. Over the past week, I grew to appreciate my Nikon D3s even more by way of contrast with the X100. I realized that my D3s is big and heavy but it is the ultimate clutch camera. No matter what the photographic situation, I am sure to walk away with some outstanding shots from the D3s. The Fuji X100 is the exact opposite - in most photographic situations, I am likely to walk away with no good shots at all. The Fuji X100 is the ultimate choke camera.
There are some other problems with the camera that I would gladly overlook if the camera could take more in focus pictures. But I'll include them anyway in case you wouldn't be able to overlook them.
The camera is uncomfortable to shoot one-handed. It's significantly heavier than a LX3 or GH1 w/ 20mm f1.7. It doesn't have a grip and the front is covered with slippery plastic material so that when shooting one-handed you have to support it from the bottom with your pinkie, which quickly becomes uncomfortable. Even my monster D3s with the 24-70mm f2.8 zoom is more comfortable to shoot one-handed than the X100.
There's one customizable "function" button but no dedicated button for ISO, the ND filter, for burst mode, or to take a movie. I set it to the ND filter, which means I have to trust to the (mostly good) auto ISO setting.
The 720p24 movies that the X100 takes are good, although they are often out-of-focus and the camera is very slow to reacquire focus. If I had to take a movie, I'd pick my GH1 and TM700 far ahead of my LX3, D3s, or X100. Next on the list (and far down) I would probably pick the D3s with manual focusing even though I dislike manual focusing - at least I could choose an appropriate lens for the situation and there's always hope that the movie would be in focus and if not I could only blame myself. The LX3 movies are always in focus but the colors are faded and grainy even in bright light so I would more likely take a chance on the X100 than enduring the LX3 movies.
The X100 can capture more detail in a static well-lit scene than the Nikon D3s does with a similar number of pixels. The colors in the RAW files are chalky and the greens in the RAW files are very brown. Not sure how this affects the JPEG conversion since my favorite RAW program (DxO) doesn't yet support the Fuji X100.
The menus aren't any better or worse than the menus from Panasonic, Canon, or Nikon. The lack of "menu resume" is annoying.
The on-camera flash is excellent. Somehow Fuji has programmed the on-camera flash to emit just the right amount of flash to improve the picture. It's the only camera I have with a built-in flash where direct flash pictures can often look better than non-flash pictures.
To save batteries, I turn off image review, turn on "OVF power save mode", and reduce the LCD intensity, so I haven't yet had a problem with battery life. I appreciate that Fuji decided to use one of their standard batteries and chargers instead of making a new battery size for every camera like Panasonic does to my great annoyance.
Ultimately, the Fuji Finepix X100 is a very limited use camera. It can't replace an LX3, GH1, D7000, or D3s. In perfect conditions it is capable of taking better images than any of those cameras, but in real world use it is unlikely to do so. You broke my heart, Fuji.
On June 24, 2011, Fujifilm provided a firmware update 1.10 that claims to fix an astounding twenty two defects in the camera. Most of the repaired defects were related to inconsistencies in the user interface. The 1.10 firmware also adds a "Corrected AF Frame" feature that appears to improve the operation of the OVF. According to the updated X100 user manual (p.87), "A second focus frame for focus distances of about 80cm will be added to the display in the optical viewfinder. The focus frame for the current focus distance is displayed in green when the shutter button is pressed halfway." I no longer have an X100 to test, but it sounds like the corrected AF frame gives a better idea of what the camera is focusing on when using the OVF.