UPDATED, NOVEMBER 2012: Launched in March 2011, the Fujifilm FinePix X100 was the first model to grace the company’s premium-grade ‘X-series’ range. Packing an APS-C sensor, hybrid viewfinder and fixed 35mm lens into a rangefinder style body, the X100 lacks the proprietary X-Trans sensor of more recent X-series models. Does it still have something to offer? We find out in the What Digital Camera Fujifilm FinePix X100 review…
The new model showcased a bold new direction for the company, with traditional DSLRs abandoned in favour of the company’s new flagship X-series range.
Fast-forward to March 2011 and the Fujifilm Finepix X100 went on general sale, becoming the first model to showcase the new X-series range. There are now six models in the Fujifilm X-series line-up and
the range has certainly helped to enhance the Fuji brand, certainly in the eyes of enthusiasts and professionals.
But, of course, two years is a long time in digital camera circles, and while the Finepix X100’s clever ‘hybrid’ viewfinder is still unique to Fuji, newer X-series models such as the X-Pro1 and X-E1 come with newer technology, most notably Fuji’s clever X-Trans CMOS sensor. This uses a unique colour pixel array that enables the anti-aliasing filter to be removed, which in turn enables X-Trans equipped camerasto produce much sharper and finely-detailed images than is possible with a regular CMOS sensor and anti-aliasing filter in place.
Perhaps more problematic to the X100 is that both the aforementioned X-Pro1
and X-E1 are interchangeable lens cameras, whereas the Fujifilm Finepix X100 uses a fixed 35mm,
f/2 optic. Still, that’s not to do the Finepix X100 down; while its fixed lens and
older sensor technology mean that it occupies something of a unique niche market position, taken on its own terms it still remains a very good camera.
Read on to see what we made of the Fujifilm Finepix X100 when it first arrived on the What Digital Camera test bench…
Fujifilm FinePix X100 review – Features
The Fujifilm FinePix X100 sports a resolution of 12.3MP but unlike the majority of compacts available, which have sensors roughly the size of your small fingernail, the FinePix X100 features a much larger APS-C sized sensor – just like you’d expect to find in most DSLRs.
While this is not a revolutionary move in a compact camera as Sigma was the first to incorporate an APS-C sensor into their DP1 compact camera, it’s only one of a handful of compacts to feature a chip this size. And the advantages are obvious – though other compact cameras may share a similar or larger resolution to the X100, the bigger physical size of the X100 chip means that the Photodiodes (or pixels) can be larger, improving their light gathering capabilities with a stronger signal-to-noise ratio for reduced noise, better colour reproduction and a broader dynamic range.
The ISO range runs from 200-6400 at full resolution and can be expanded to 100-12,800 if you’re not wishing to shoot Raw. This extra flexibility is thanks in part to a new generation EXR Processor that features dual CPUs, the EXR Core and a Reconfigurable Processor for improved high resolution, high sensitivity, low noise and wide dynamic range capabilities.
In an effort to keep size down and maximise quality Fujifilm has opted for a fixed focal length lens for the FinePix X100. The ultra fast f/2 23mm Fujinon prime offers a 35mm focal length that offers a moderate wide-angle coverage suitable for a range of shooting situations, though some may feel restricted by this. Having a fixed lens has allowed Fujifilm to engineer the sensor specifically with this lens in mind, optimising its light-gathering capabilities for improved sharpness and reduced vignetting in the edges of the frame.
One of the most impressive elements of the Fujfilm FinePix X100 is the ‘Hybrid Viewfinder’ which is both optical and electronic (EVF). It’s a very clever piece of design, allowing you to compose with either a 90% coverage Reverse Galilean optical viewfinder with overlaid customisable electronic shooting information, or instantly swap to the 1.44m-dot Electronic viewfinder with 100% coverage should you prefer. Shots taken when using the optical finder can be instantly fed back to you via the EVF, meaning you don’t have to lower the camera from your eye.
At the rear of the FinePix X100 is a 2.8in, 460k-dot LCD screen – perhaps any larger and it would have compromised the overall size and design of the camera.
Autofocus is done via contrast-detection, using 25 points when using the optical viewfinder or an automated multi-zone system utilises all 49 AF points. There’s also the option to flick between single and continuous focus, as well as manual focus, too.
The Fujifilm FinePix X100 also uses a lens-internal shutter which means that the built-in flash can be synced at any shutter speed you desire (not the 1/250th or 1/200th sec that’s the norm on DSLRs with focal plane shutters) allowing you to use fill-in flash easily in bright sunlight. There are also two dedicated external flashguns available for the X100 (and soon to launch FinePix HS20) in the shape of the EF-42 and EF-20.
There are some other nice touches with the Finepix X100 like the built-in selectable ND filter, allowing you shoot at 3 stops slower than normal to help you achieve movement in your shots. So if you were shooting at 1/60th sec without the ND activated, for example, you’d be shooting at 1/8th sec with. It’s worth also noting that, because of the type of shutter used, some fast shutter speeds may not be available when the lens is set to a wide aperture – at f/5.6 and below 1/2000th sec or faster isn’t possible, while f/4 and below a shutter speed of 1/4000th sec is out of the equation. This is only an issue in bright sunlight and the built-in ND filter can play its part in reducing the shutter speed and still allow you to shoot wide-open should you wish.
If you’d like to shoot a panoramic image with the Fujfilm FinePix X100 there’s a motion panorama mode. Unlike the majority of systems that produce low-resolution files, due to video capture being used, the Fujfilm Finepix X100 takes a series of still images in quick succession (similar to the process used on Sony’s NEX-5). A 120° horizontal pano produces a 7.3MP file and a larger 180° sweep is also possible, with both settings providing the option to shoot both vertically or horizontally.
One of the main appeals of the Fujifilm FinePix X100 is the classic design it’s been cloaked in. The Fujifilm FinePix X100 is a lovely looking camera with a retro appearance that has an obvious nod to rangefinder cameras like the Leica M-series, and a two-tone black and silver finish.
Proportionally it has a footprint a little larger than a Compact System Camera such as the Panasonic LUMIX GF2, with a bit more height due to the inclusion of a viewfinder.
You’re left in no doubt that as soon as you pick it up that the Fujifilm FinePix X100 is a incredibly high-quality, precision instrument. The top-plate has been constructed from a strong and lightweight die-cast magnesium that’s also used on the base of the camera. Its very comfortable to hold, with a small but well proportioned handgrip, though you’ll probably find your little finger supporting the underneath of the camera. Weight-wise it’s just the right balance of being heavy enough to ensure confidence that it’d take the odd knock (not that you’d want to), without weighing too much that it’d become tiresome over a day hung round your neck.
Round the short neck of the lens is a manual focus ring and aperture ring that both use the same lightweight, die-cast magnesium as the top-plate. The aperture ring produces nice, positive clicks as you change aperture, while the manual focus ring is finely machined and weighted just right. There’s no built-in lens protector, but there’s a push-on lens cap that has a felt lining inside – another nice little touch – while on the front of the body is a switch to flick between the optical and electronic viewfinder that’s perfectly positioned for you middle finger to reach.
The top-plate features a shutter speed control and exposure compensation dial that have little finger grips and just about the right amount of resistance to extend that overall luxury feel of the Fujifilm FinePix X100. In between those is the on/off switch with the shutter button nestled inside, which also features a traditional screw cable release attachment. There’s also a small function button, with its control assigned in the menu of the Fujifilm FinePix X100, while there’s also a hotshoe that accepts Fujifilm’s two new flashguns already mentioned.
Positioned on the far left on the rear of the Finepix X100 is the hybrid viewfinder, with an eye-sensor just to the right to active either the electronic or Reverse Galilean viewfinder. Then along the left-hand side are buttons for Play, Metering, AF and View Mode, while on the other side of the screen is the scroll-wheel/d-pad to navigate and apply most of the X100’s settings. All are constructed from plastic, so it would have been nice to have seem some metal elements been used here too. Above the focus lock/exposure button is the Command Control which can be used for a variety of controls, including adjusting aperture in 1/3 EV steps in Manual exposure and zooming in on the focus area during manual focus.
The first thing you notice when you switch on the Fujifilm FinePix X100 is that not a lot happens for the first couple of seconds while it gets itself into gear. By the time you’ve raised the camera to your eye and the eye-sensor activates the viewfinder you’ll be ready to shoot, and the EVF has to be one of the brightest and crispest examples available on a compact camera. Shooting info is displayed clearly along the bottom of the frame, while you can customise the display to feature a wide variety of information that includes a framing guide, electronic level, AF distance indicator, Histogram and Aperture/Shutter Speed/ISO info.
As mentioned previously it’s a simple flick of the viewfinder selector switch on the front of the Fujifilm FinePix X100 to swap to the optical viewfinder. The change to the OVF is pretty much instant, with the field-of-view a touch larger to allow you to easily locate subjects just off to the edge of the frame. The same amount of shooting information that can be accessed with the EVF can be overlaid in the X100’s OVF display and again is completely customisable. A useful feature is that the shot you’ve just taken is instantly played back via the EVF while you’re using the OVF, allowing you to quickly review the shot before you continue shooting. Whether you use the OVF more than the EVF will depend on your shooting style and environment you’re in, but together they work extremely well.
With the hybrid viewfinder so good, you’ll find that the rear screen hardly ever gets used for composition. While shooting you can use it as a quick reference for your information and settings, including the position of the AF point. For playback, and while it may not carry the highest resolution screen, it’s very good for assessing sharpness when you’ve magnified your images.
The Fujifilm FinePix X100 is naturally going to appeal to photographers wanting to capture those spontaneous moments, so will the autofocus cope with these kinds of demands? When compared alongside the performance of a phase-detect system found in a typical DSLR it falls slightly short, but compared to other contrast-detect systems, both in compacts and Compact System Cameras, it’s pretty fast. AF is not instantaneous, with a very minor delay while it locks on with ease to most subjects. When contrast or available light is low there’s an AF-assist lamp to aid focus which can be turned-off in the menu should you want to be unobtrusive.
AF point selection is carried out by pressing and holding the AF button at the same time as using the d-pad/control-wheel to select your AF point – it can be a little fiddly initially when you want to use the viewfinder to compose, but it soon becomes second nature to position your left thumb on the AF button. Most of the time you’ll probably find that you rely on the central AF point to focus, then recompose.
In manual focus, the distance scale in the viewfinder comes in really handy, while pressing the Command Control at the rear of the camera, zooms the feed in to the point of focus to ensure you get your subject in focus. Thanks to the characteristics of a compact camera and the naturally short distance from the lens to the sensor, it’s possible to focus pretty close – up to 10cm away in Macro mode.
While the Fujifilm Finepix X100 is not intended to be a fast action camera, it has a selectable continuous shooting speed of either 3 or 5fps, achieving a burst of 8 Raw files or 10 JPEG files. You can also set the Fujifilm FinePix X100 to shoot HD videos at 1280×720 at 24fps with stereo sound. While you can change the aperture and shutter speed before recording, that’s about it, and manual focus isn’t possible during recording, relying solely on the contrast-detect AF system. It’s clear that the HD video function is seen as a handy little feature, but not a key element to the Finepix X100.
Unlike a lot of compacts, which have got a plethora of automated features and gimmicks, the FinePix X100 is refreshing in it’s simplicity, with four exposure modes – Program (where both the shutter speed and aperture are set automatically), Shutter priority, Aperture priority and Manual. If you’re looking for a load of scene modes, then you won’t find them on the Finepix X100. With a basic understanding of photography (let’s be fair, if you’re spending this kind of cash on a compact you probably will have) then the Finepix X100 is incredibly easy to use. Both aperture and/or shutter speed are incredibly easy and quick to set, while the exposure compensation produces that same hands-on, instant connection. Set the Function Button (Fn) to ISO, and once you’ve set your image quality, you’ll hardly need to dive into the menu while shooting. The FinePix X100 is an incredibly nice and rewarding camera to shoot with.
Fujifilm FinePix X100 review – Image Quality
Here are a small selection of images taken with the Fujifilm Finepix X100, for a full selection please visit our Fujifilm Finepix X100 sample image gallery.
Tone & Exposure
Tonally on the Fujifilm Finepix X100, images displayed a smooth graduation through the range with plenty of detail in the mid-tones, helped by the EXR processor. Metering is calculated with a TTL 256 multi-zone metering system, with the choice of Multi/Spot/Average metering modes. In Multi, the metering system coped extremely well under a range of lighting conditions, delivering consistently well-exposed images. In some cases, it was necessary to just underexpose a touch to produce a slightly more pleasing result – though this was only by 2/3rds of a stop.
White Balance & Colour
If you’ve used Fujifilm’s colour film emulsions in the past, then you’ll be with some of the Fujifilm FinePix X100’s Film Simulation modes – the default mode is Provia/Standard, which is intended for a wide variety of subjects. Then there’s Velvia/Vivid – the film stock was a popular choice for nature and landscape photographers, and the extra punch in colours is noticeable. For Portraits, there’s Astia/Soft, which gives the subject slightly more subdued colour and contrast. If you’re unsure which to use, then you can set the Finepix X100 to shoot 3 versions of the same shot. There’s also a whole collection of B&W settings, with the choice of either standard B&W or Sepia, along with the option of yellow, red or green mono filter setting.
The auto white balance performs consistently well, while there’s a broad choice of WB presets: Custom, Color Temperature, Fine, Shade, Fluorescent Light-1, Fluorescent Light-2, Fluorescent Light-3, Incandescent and Underwater.
ISO sensitivity and Image Noise
The standard ISO range of the FinePix X100 runs from 200-6400, and while it’s also possible to shoot at both ISO 100 and 12,800 you’d need to be happy with a JPEG file and not a RAW.
Results through the ISO range are incredibly good – and some of the best results we’ve seen from an APS-C sized chip. Up to even ISO 3200 results display minimal levels of noise, allowing you complete freedom to work in low-light with confidence without flash. Even at ISO 6400 noise is kept very well under control and will allow you to produce decent quality prints. It’s only at ISO 12,800 where the saturation falls off a touch and noise encroaches that images degrade, but it’s still impressive considering the sensitivity.
Currently the only Raw converter to process the Finepix X100’s Raw files is the bundled MyFinePix Studio 2.1 Raw converter – a version of the Silkypix Raw conversion software that offers a lot of control for a free package, though in time you may want to use more intuitive options, such as Lightroom 3 or Photoshop CS5 to convert your files.
Comparing an unadjusted Raw file alongside a JPEG showed that the JPEG file had a bit more contrast applied, which was most noticeable in the shadows, while there was also more punch thanks to the extra saturation. The level of sharpness was also noticeable, but the Raw files can be pushed further and offer greater flexibility.
Sharpness and Detail
The amount of detail resolved by the Finepix X100’s 12.3MP APS-C sensor is extremely impressive, allowing you the confidence to produce prints at A3+ an above. The sharpness of the lens was also very strong, producing pin-sharp shots across the aperture range, with hardly any sign of fringing or vignetting when wide open – an excellent optic.
Value & Verdict
With an original March 2011 launch price of £1000 the Fujifilm FinePix X100 was by no means cheap – although compared to its closest rival at the time, the Leica X1, it still looked like excellent value. Fast forward to November 2012 and the X100 can now be picked up online for around £615, which makes it a much more attractive proposition.
Compared against its newer X-series siblings, the X-Pro1 and X-E1, and the Finepix X100 still looks like pretty good value. Put simply, £650 will barely buy you half
of an X-Pro1 body, while the newer X-E1is still commanding body-only prices
of around £730, or body plus kit lens prices closer to £1150. There are, of course, a number of technological and practical sacrifices to be made, but the savings are pretty big nonetheless.
With the Fujifilm FinePix X100 it’s quite clear that Fujifilm has pulled out all the stops when it comes to this camera. The look and feel of the camera is superb – as soon as you pick up the X100, it’s obvious that you’re dealing with a quality photographic tool. The stripped-down controls make the X100 easy and quick to use, while the unique Hybrid Viewfinder works a treat, though the AF can be a touch slow. All of this is backed up by fantastic images straight out of the camera, delivering some of the best results yet from an APS-C sized sensor. It’s not for everyone however, and those looking for a creative compact-sized camera may find it hard to justify over a Compact System Camera, but once you pick up the X100 and see the results, you’ll want one.
Watch our video review for more information and our verdict on the Fujifilm Finepix X100.