Having been a mere audience for all the reviews published online, I am now taking a step to contribute my share into the pot. For my first review, I have chosen Fuji X100.
Now it is important that I put out a disclaimer before I go on. This review is not scientific – not even close. Instead, this is a summary of my experience with the camera for around 2 years. I have ‘abused’ it in various shooting and lighting scenarios, and hopefully what I found could be of a use for those who consider purchasing one. If you prefer charts and graphs, they can be found easily at a more professional reviewer – such as dpreview.
At the time of review, Fuji has launched various models post X100 – including X100’s successor, the X100s. A successor only after 2 years? Yes, it is rather quick though. I can even venture to say that I have rather felt cheated. But again, with the original X100, Fuji had never expected it to take off in such a fashion. It was the first of its kind in the compact segment to have hybrid viewfinder, fix prime and ‘retro’ style. You can even say X100 is more like a ‘beta’ version for the other variances – at least that is how I see it. So does it mean that it is rubbish? Mm no. Not really. Obsolete? Maybe. It depends on your expectation and what you would use it for. Let’s take a look at it.
I think this is one of the areas that X100 excels. It feels really solid. I have taken it out in the snow, light rain, tropical heat, sub-tropical cold – anything ranging from minus 13°C to 40°C with 100% of humidity, and it has never disappointed me. The fixed prime lens relieves any worry for dust issue (yes, I know I am not the only one that has inexplicable fixation on dust – some of you guys out there have worse OCD than I do). Anyway, I think the build quality would satisfy many people.
Now surely there is always room for improvement. The exposure compensation dial is easily knocked, so you need to constantly check it before shooting. This is certainly not ideal for a candid or spontaneous situation. And there is the flimsy wheel control. I think the designer has really small and adept thumb. Unfortunately I do not.
I think it is not exactly the most comfortable camera to hold – especially in extreme cold weather. It is somewhat skinny so rather awkward to hold. But, the most ridiculous thing would be the lens cap. You need an adapter ring in order to fix the hood (which, by the way, you have to purchase separately), and yet if you use this adapter ring – the original lens cap will not fit. I mean, seriously Fuji? Thus as gorgeous as the lens cap is, I have never used it. It is stored somewhere in my closet. Instead I used a cheap Hama plastic lens cap, and could not be happier. It has centre pinch, so your hood can always stays on.
Being critical as I am, I never really had a major problem with build quality per se. It has its fair share of usage, but has not shown any tear or wear.
Control and Operations
This camera is quirky. Having said that, it forces you to slow down when shooting. There is no other way saying it. Some settings are straightforward with own dedicated aperture ring, shutter speed, and exposure compensation dial – and these are relatively quick, though not DSLR quick. However anything that requires digging into the menu would take much longer. For instance is the ISO setting. We can assign fn button as ISO menu to select the ISO value, but the same menu does not allow us to change from manual to auto ISO – or vice versa. For me this is ridiculous. With the firmware 1.30, at least the general menu will have them on a same menu page. Previous version had them separately. No doubt, there are more quirks with X100. But, in the past 2 years, I have grown accustomed to it – and in fact I have enjoyed the slow process of shooting. Surely it is not something that I appreciate in a professional assignment, but for my personal leisure shoots? It is brilliant; it is more ‘organic’.
This is where I think X100 shines. The images produced have a certain character. It is hard to describe, but to my eyes, they are simply beautiful. The colour is brilliant. The sharpness is amazing – sharper than many of my Canon L lenses. It even rivals or perhaps exceeds my Canon 100mm L IS Macro, and that is crazy. The sharpness is credited to the fantastic lens and sensor that does not have anti aliasing filter. Even so, it holds moiré pretty well.
Dynamic range is pretty good too. I have to say however that sometimes I wish I had more resolution to work with. Current 12.3MP is not bad for most uses. I can have an A3 print with no worries, but if I push the file in post process, it will not hold that well.
Although not an issue for me, you may want to know that the Auto White Balance (AWB) is rather hit and miss. Surely determining WB under mixed lighting can be challenging – even for pro DSLR. However my X100 is much lesser of a performer in this department. It frequently gave me inaccurate reading and inconsistent setting. Not a huge problem if you shoot in raw like I do. Set the WB in a ballpark and adjust later in post.
Low light performance is simply stunning for an APS-C sensor. There is little to no noise from ISO 200 to 800. Noise starts to creep out at 1600 and beyond, but really it is still very well maintained. I normally limit my ISO usage to 3200, since I found beyond that would compromise my image a little bit too much. But again, I would still use it when I found the need. Hey, lower quality image is still better than no image. 🙂
From the beginning, I have been pleased with X100’s files – especially the B&W images. B&W conversion from X100 files produces much more pleasing result than my DSLRs. It is much more organic in a way. If you shoot JPEG, the in-camera JPEG conversion for B&W is nothing short of stunning.
Well this is what many people have been complaining about the most, and I tend to agree with them. The AF is slow. It has gotten better with the latest firmware (1.30), but still slow. I remember the first trip using the camera. It was horrible. Not only slow, it was also inaccurate. Whenever the background had a higher contrast, the AF was fooled. Now with the latest firmware I rarely had missed focus (note: using EVF).
Most of my uses are for travel, portraiture and street photography. The AF suffices in most cases. Street photography is a little challenging for the AF, but manageable. For shallow DOF street shots, I would still pre-focus it to a distance I expect my subject will be in order to help the AF lock quicker. Some sort a compromise between manual zone focusing and AF reliance. It increases my hit rate.
Another thing is that 90% of the time I am using the EVF. For me it is more accurate and I know which it focuses before I hit the shutter. With OVF it still likes to focus on the background. Not all the time, but I notice a lower accuracy rate.
Believe it or not, I use this really a lot. It is a handy feature whenever I travel. Since 35mm is not that wide, I find this mode to be particularly useful. 99% I will use the camera in vertical format while shooting panorama; it gives me a taller picture at the end. I have to admite however that it is not perfect. If you plan to make a large print, I would suggest you to stitch your own photos. The result using X100 in-camera panoramic mode is inconsistent. It depends on too many variables – such as: distance, shutter speed, steady hands and rotation, etc. Nonetheless, web uses can be satisfied easily.
Overall, I think X100 is a great little camera. It is perfect for street and travel photography. It is small, discreet and has brilliant image quality. So, it is far from a rubbish camera. Even at the launch price, I would still say it is worth the money.
The situation has changed now with the X100s recently announced. I think X100s will be a much better camera. Fuji has proven to be a good listener to its consumer. It has addressed many complaints from its consumer base. So I believe the new X100s will eliminate most of the issues above.
However, it is to note that the old X100 is still great camera. I do not think it is obsolete. It takes a great image for sure. However it indeed has a different shooting approach than DSLR, but again it does not mean it is worse of a camera.
For those petrol head (USA: gear head) out there, this may ring louder to you. X100 is more of an Alfa Romeo, whereas DSLR is more Honda/Toyota kind of cars.
On that note, many thanks indeed!
© Reynard Laksmono 2017