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5.0 out of 5 stars A review of the X100 by a Nikon dSLR and m4/3 owner, April 9, 2011
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This review is from: Fujifilm X100 12.3 MP APS-C CMOS EXR Digital Camera with 23mm Fujinon Lens and 2.8-Inch LCD (Camera)
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.
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Comments

Tracked by 14 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 47 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 15, 2011 8:45:43 PM PDT
You own the best cameras,comparing x100 to others,does it have a more filmlike look,or is it just the small size you prefer vs others.

How is IQ of d3100 vs D7000??
Thanks
Jay

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 17, 2011 10:54:03 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 18, 2011 12:38:05 AM PDT
LGO says:
My primary use of the X100 is whenever I want to bring a small light and discrete shooting digital camera. I prefer the use of a 35mm equivalent for this purpose rather than a 24mm, 28mm or 50mm so the X100 is ideal for my needs. For other purposes, I have other camera bodies and lenses to choose from.

In terms of image quality, it really depends on what performance parameters one is measuring. Against the D3100, the X100 has a slight edge at Base ISO and a bit more at high ISO. But unless one will be printing large-sized prints, it will not make much of a difference and I would still rank the two about equal for casual carry and photography. The old film-like look can also be achieved with the Nikon D3100 if this is desired but it will require post-processing which the X100 dispenses with using the Astia Film Simulation.

Against the D7000, the X100 loses out in the low ISO range but does fairly well against the D7000 from ISO 800 and above. I would however put the D7000 slightly ahead of the X100 at the top ISO settings. Against the D700, the X100 does well at low ISO but trails significantly behind at high ISO shooting from ISO 1600 and above where the D700 performs very well.

As to the D3100 vs the D7000, the D3100 performs pretty good for what you pay for it but it cannot hope to match the D7000. This is specially so when shooting at base ISO 100 where the D7000 excels and is really very good. The difference narrows a bit at high ISO but the D7000 is still always ahead. In terms of RAW, the ability of the D7000 to shoot in 14-bit RAW is a significant advantage over the 12-bit RAW of the D3100.

Posted on Apr 21, 2011 10:32:50 PM PDT
George says:
What about shutter lag? This is a camera seemingly ideal for street photography, but if there is shutter lag longer than a dslr it will not work for me.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 22, 2011 7:16:49 AM PDT
AMDG says:
As a dSLR user, I have had no issue of shutter lag with the X100.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 22, 2011 9:51:46 PM PDT
LGO says:
Indeed, no issue with the shutter lag on the Fujifilm X100.

Posted on Apr 28, 2011 11:53:24 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 28, 2011 11:54:08 AM PDT
A. Rabun says:
I get the most from my G2 with the Panasonic LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical Pancake Lens for Micro Four Thirds Interchangeable Lens Cameras..sharp and fast and nearly the focal length you are using on your GH2. You should try it for stills. I bought an X100 but chose to sell it at the ridiculous prices auctions are fetching rather than unbox it. I am wondering now if I made a mistake!

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 29, 2011 12:36:29 AM PDT
LGO says:
I do use the GH2 with the 20mm f/1.7 for still photography. Please read my review and you will see my specific mention of this lens. While the GH2 + 20mm f/1.7 produces much better images than the GH2 + 14-140mm, the image of the GH2 + 20mm f/1.7 for still photography is still not as good as image quality of the photos I can take with the X100. This really is not surprising. While the sensor of the GH2 is one generation ahead of the G2, the smaller size and high pixel density of this sensor puts the GH2 at a disadvantage. I should perhaps add that in terms of focusing whether on stills and on video, the GH2 is faster than the X100 but not by much. Like the GH2, the contrast detect auto-focusing of the X100 is very accurate.

Like the GH2, the X100 can display pretty much most of the information that the GH2 can display on its EVF while using the X100 EVF. More decidedly advantageous for the X100, it has an optical view finder which can display many of the information that the GH2 display on its EVF. So the X100 has the best of both worlds - OVF and EVF, but the X100 has still another trump card - the ability to display EVF information on OVF. Fuji did very well on this.

Re selling your X100, you made money on it. And while you may have to wait a bit, nothing stops you from ordering another one. Good luck!

Posted on Apr 30, 2011 10:23:15 AM PDT
J. Hansen says:
One of the other reviewers commented on a 3 second power up lag. Can you comment on this? How is battery life on the X100? My D70 has phenomenal power consumption and I can even leave the camera on for long periods of time without major power drain. I don't think that the on/off lag would impact this camera much since I would only use that power switch when I take it out of the bag or put it away.

Thanks for any comments.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 30, 2011 12:26:09 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 30, 2011 12:32:59 PM PDT
LGO says:
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.

Re battery life, it is nowhere as long as a D70. I used a D70 and D70s before and still have a D70-IR so I have enough experience on this. Fuji used an existing battery for the X100 which would best be described as of standard capacity so it does not have a long life, specially when one uses the EVF of the X100. Having said this, the battery is readily available and is inexpensive (unlike the battery for the Panasonic GH2). It is also slim and light and is very easy to carry an extra battery. I always carry one but for the type of shooting I do with the X100, I have yet to change battery before heading home. In contrast, I have had to change battery with the D7000 and the GH2 even when the battery is always being topped-up after every use and despite the high-capacity batteries used in these cameras due to the type of shooting I do when using these cameras.

I should add that the battery charger for the X100 uses an adapter/spacer to hold the X100 battery while charging. The adapter/spacer can shake loose when not in use for charging and can be misplaced or lost. I wish Fuji made a dedicated battery charger for the X100. This being primarily a review of the X100 however, I still give the X100 a five-star despite the sub-par form factor of the battery charger.

Posted on May 7, 2011 4:22:25 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 7, 2011 4:41:56 AM PDT
Bryan Wayne says:
Great review - thank's for your effort. I currently use a LX5, and it is capable of action shots without pre-focusing/zone focusing. Is the AF on the X100 fast enough for action shots? Some of the reviews suggest that to avoid focus lag/hunting with low-light shooting it's best to set the camera to MF and use the AF button to set focus. This apparently enables fast shooting as long as the subject remains in the focus zone that has been set. Any thoughts?
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