Fuji X100 Review

As of today, the Fuji X100 stands in a category of its own in terms of features, price and performance.  While other manufacturers have attempted to push the envelope, none have succeeded like Fuji has with the X100.  Armed with a 12.3MP sensor and a fixed focal length of 23mm (35mm equivalent), the X100 is not your ordinary point and shoot camera.  It’s also not a DSLR or what we typically categorize as a “mirrorless” camera even though it has no reflex mirror.

The Fuji X100 stands alone as a game changer in the “pro”-sumer photography realm.

Fuji X100 Key Features

  • 12.3MP APS-C CMOS Sensor
  • 23mm f/2 Fixed Lens (35mm equivalent)
  • 720p HD Video Capture
  • 2.8-inch 460k-dot res LCD
  • Optical/Electronic Viewfinder
  • ISO 100-12800
  • Built-in Flash
  • External Flash Hotshoe w/ TTL Sync
  • Built-in 3-stop ND Filters
  • SDXC Compatibility

Fuji X100 Handling and Controls

Fuji X100

The Fuji X100 feels and acts like a real camera.  The magnesium alloy construction gives the X100 a solid feel, as well as a bit of heft. The grip is raised for your right hand and has a nice tacky surface.

On the back of the camera, the controls are rather common for a digital camera when it comes to menu navigation and making certain adjustments to the camera’s features.  You get a 4-way control dial, a Menu/OK button and a control wheel all wrapped into one.  For the most part these work fine, albeit a little slow at times. On the left side of the LCD are quick access controls for preview, auto-exposure, autofocus, and view mode toggle.

Where the X100 really sets itself apart though is in the exposure controls.  A manual aperture dial is on the lens barrel and a shutter speed wheel resides on top of the camera.Fuji X100

 

Of course, if you want to go full auto with the X100, you can place the shutter and aperture wheels in the ‘A’ mode and it will act much like “Program” mode on DSLRs and other cameras.  Likewise, placing one or the other in the ‘A’ position allows the camera to effectively operate in “Aperture-priority” or “Shutter-priority” mode.  In any of these “auto” modes, you can make use of the exposure compensation dial that rests on top of the camera, which allows you to dial up to +/- 2EV of compensation to your exposure.

Quick access to ISO settings are also available thanks to the default programming of the Fn button up top.  While you can change this setting, I see no reason to do so.  The ISO controls were the thing that took me the longest to grow accustomed to; however, after using the camera for a few days, changing ISO on it became just as second-nature as the other exposure controls.

The hybrid viewfinder on the X100 turns out to be a great design.  While it also took me a couple of days to get comfortable using, it turned into a very pleasant experience.  While you can use it in either electronic or optical modes, I most certainly preferred the optical mode.  Of course, in macro mode, it is necessary to use the electronic viewfinder in order to accurately frame and focus. The third leg of the display experience on the X100 is the rear LCD, which also performed admirably.  On many occasions, I found myself using the X100 like a typical point and shoot camera – framing and focusing on the rear LCD.

Shooting with the Fuji X100

Fuji X100

As you can tell by now, I have enjoyed using the X100.  I found myself reaching for it over both my Canon 5D Mark II and my Canon G12 – even on casual outings.

The f/2 lens lets you make the most of just about any lighting scenario.  And if lighting is bad, you can rest assured that the X100 will deliver solid image quality throughout the ISO range.

Focus on the X100 was typically fast and accurate, particularly for a contrast-detection AF system.  Occasionally, it would hunt a bit in low light, but not so much that I became frustrated with the camera.  (Heck, my 5D probably hunts more in low light than the X100.)

The biggest challenge for me was getting comfortable with life at a 35mm field of view.  I generally prefer living in the 50mm+ field of view – that’s just the way I shoot.  I don’t use wide-angles most of the time.  However, after spending a little time with the X100, the 35mm equivalent field of view grew on me.  I started seeing opportunities in everyday photography to make better use of the wide angle.

Of course, if you hate shooting at wide angles, the X100 may not be for you since it has a fixed lens camera. There will be no opportunity to buy a zoom or telephoto lens later down the road and change out with the attached lens.

The Fuji X100 has a crazy-high flash sync speed thanks to its 4-leaf shutter.  Using an old Nikon SB-26 in manual mode connected via a Pearstone 6′ extension cable, I did some backyard experimenting with the X100.

Aside from the odd assortment of brands (Fuji camera, Nikon flash, and Canon version of a Pearstone cable), the resulting lighting cocktail that the X100 is capable of wrangling is quite impressive.  And, in case you were wondering, because we’re going all manual with the flash, the flash and cable don’t really matter since it’s just a dumb trigger with no TTL communication.

Here’s a quick shot in mid-day sun at 1/4000s using a single speedlight at 1/64 power at camera left.  Minor adjustments in Lightroom.

Since I was just holding the flash so close, I actually had to stop down to f/4 to keep from blowing out his face.

The above shot is into the sunset at ISO 200, f/2.8 and 1/4000s.  Still firing the SB-26 at 1/64 power.  A good portion of the dark area behind her was lit up by the setting sun; however, the 1/4000s shutter just ate up all that ambient and even gave the Sun a good run for its money at f/2.8.

You can get even fancier by using the built-in 3-stop ND filter and kill ambient even further.  Oh, the fun to have with this thing a couple of speedlights in full sun.

These old speedlights are the perfect mate for the X100.  You can still find them used online; however, if you’ve got a photo store nearby that buys and sells used gear, you can sometimes get great deals on SB-24′s and SB-26′s.

Anything at 1/8 power or lower on the SB-26 gives you a shorter flash duration than the X100′s minimum shutter speed of 1/4000.  Even if you want to drop back to a “slower” shutter speed of 1/1000, you should be able to milk the SB-26 for all it’s worth.

Just in case someone wants to know, here’s the Nikon SB-26 flash duration times according to the SB-26 manual (I’m assuming these are t.5 times and not t.1 times since there’s no specification otherwise. I tried contacting Nikon to no avail. If anyone knows, feel free to drop a comment or shoot me an email):

  • Full power = 1/1000s
  • 1/2 power = 1/1100s
  • 1/4 power = 1/2500s
  • 1/8 power = 1/5000s (shorter than max shutter speed of X100)
  • 1/16 power = 1/8700s
  • 1/32 power = 1/12000s
  • 1/64 power = 1/23000s

The one thing I haven’t looked at is whether I’m losing a bit of the tail end of the power dump at full power (if these times are, in fact, t.5 times).  If you’ve got new Nikon flashes in your gear bag, like the SB-800 and SB-900, they are even faster and will stop down to 1/128 power for shorter than 1/40,000-second flash duration.  No danger of pushing the max shutter speed of the X100 there.

Fuji X100 Image Quality

The Fuji X100 is really second to none in its price range and among its realistic competitors.  Sure, you can stack it up against a Leica M9 or a Nikon D3s and it will lose; however, it looks to be a pack leader among APS-C cameras throughout the ISO range.

The X100 produces JPEG files that are just fine throughout the sensitivity range.  When shooting JPEG files, you can also assign Fuji film profiles like Velvia and Provia, which is fine if you are a JPEG guy or gal.  Shoot in RAW though and you can really unlock the power of this camera when processed in Lightroom 3 or ACR.

Below you will find a chart that covers the sensitivity range of the Fuji X100 for both RAW images exported via Lightroom 3 and in-camera JPEG images. Below the chart, you’ll see links for the full resolution images if you want to download them for your own personal inspection (not for republication).

First, here’s a look at the whole scene so you can get a flavor of what we’re looking at in the chart below.

The 100% crops are taken from the top-left corner of the color chart and include a portion of the wind muff on the Zoom H1.  Note that the ISO 100 and ISO 12800 settings are “expanded” sensitivity settings for which the Fuji X100 does not offer a RAW format capture.

Here are the links to the original files if you want a closer look.  To save a file, right-click the link and choose “Save link as…”

Now, I’ll share some more real world images from the X100, processed in Lightroom 3.  Right-click on the images and choose “Save file as…” if you want to download them for your own personal inspection (again, not for republication).

ISO 6400 - f/2 - 1/150s

ISO 500 - f/5.6 - 1/50s

Fuji X100 Sample Image

ISO 500 - f/2.8 - 1/40s

Fuji X100 Sample Image

ISO 3200 - f/2 - 1/55s

Fuji X100 Sample Image

ISO 1600 - f/2 - 1/45s

Fuji X100 Sample Image

ISO 1600 - f/2 - 1/50s

Fuji X100 Sample Image

ISO 3200 - f/2 - 1/40s

Fuji X100 Sample Image

ISO 3200 - f/2 - 1/13s

Fuji X100 Sample Image

ISO 3200 - f/2 - 1/40s

I was blown away at the noise handling throughout the ISO range.  Even when noise starts to creep in, it’s not too ugly.  A little grain is ok now and then and I feel like I could probably work around the noise at any setting with the X100.

Fuji X100 Accessories

Fuji X100

Fuji NP-95 Lithium-ion Battery – The X100 comes with one of these rechargeable lithium-ion battery; however, if you are going to be shooting for extended periods of time, you may want to pick up a spare or two.

Fuji EF20 TTL Hot Shoe Flash – Designed for the X100 and HS-20, this is a compact shoe mount flash that allows the use of TTL exposure.

Fuji EF42 TTL Hot Shoe Flash – Also designed for the X100 and HS-20, the EF42 is a larger flash with more power output and features.

Fuji AR-X100 Adapter Ring – This adapter ring replaces the standard lens ring on the X100 and allows you to mount 49mm filters on the front of the lens.

Fuji LH-X100 Lens Hood – This is a lens hood for the X100 that also comes with the AR-X100 Adapter Ring noted above.  The lens hood serves as a sun shade and lens guard on the end of the X100 lens.

Fuji LC-X100 Leather Camera Case – A leather carry case that allows quick access to the X100 controls and menus.  Includes a leather strap.

Conclusions

Fuji X100

I can’t say enough good things about the Fuji X100.  It’s the most I’ve enjoyed a camera in a long time.  While it has some quirks in its menu and some slow behavior at times, a recent firmware update should address many initial complaints.

Finally, someone made a camera that looks cool and also performs well.  It has competent autofocus, a nice and fast lens, insane flash sync speeds and overall solid image quality.  No doubt, the X100 is shaping up to be the camera of the year in my book.

Highly recommended.  Period.

The Fuji X100 is available from Photography Bay’s trusted retail partner, B&H Photo, at the following link:

Fuji X100 at B&H Photo

Note that this is a hot item right now, so the stock status is a little hit or miss.

By making your photography purchases at B&H Photo through these links, you are helping Photography Bay to continue bring quality camera tests, news and reviews. Thanks for your continued support.

 

Comments

  1. hasi says

    This is truly the camera for an Arab potentate. Who else would be stupid enough to spend $12oo on it?

  2. Mark says

    Very nice but don’t you think it’s over priced? There is nothing ground breaking in it’s features and a magnesium-alloy body can’t justify the huge price. Maybe they are just trying to make it an exclusive camera like the M9, by over pricing it only a select few will buy it, like hasi said for “Arab potentate” only.

  3. says

    If You get what you pay for, it must be good. If you like a wide angle, small, well built camera
    with an OVF and more, you have to want to see one.

  4. forkboy1965 says

    I have yet to read a review which didn’t sound very similar to yours. It appears Fuji has a made a camera most anyone would be happy to use if they don’t mind/enjoy a fixed lens like this.

    But I’m with the other’s comments regarding price. It’s more than entry- and mid-level dSLRs without any of the additional benefits which come with a dSLR. Of course it does come with the advantage of being rather pocketable in size, but it seems it would not be pocketable in weight.

    But I applaud Fuji for doing something different. A classic looking, apparently solidly-made compact-ish camera, which shoots raw and does well at higher ISOs.

    I’d love to see this in a shoot-out with something like the Canon G12.

  5. Matt says

    For those who have doubts, please to use it for a week before commenting. I’ve been using the x100 for months, and it has replaced my 5D2 as my daily and weekend camera.

    check out his photos:
    http://www.facebook.com/CTKKITPHOTOGRAPHY?sk=photos
    most of them are taken with x100 with a mini canon flash light. He is using x100 for production shots too.

    The user’s experience with X100 is definitely better than many cameras I have used before. I actually prefer the X100 over my Leica M8, in terms of IQ, form factor, speed etc.

    Good luck.

  6. says

    To all you guys knocking the price: If you think Fuji can’t justify the price, what about Leica? The M9 costs $ 6999,00

    I’d choose the Fuji X100 over the Leica M9 any day!

  7. Chia says

    X100 was poorman Leica… U pay what u get for! It better that my 5D, D700 even 7D i just love it!

  8. Alleycatblack says

    I have been a Fuji zealot ever since their DSLR entry with the S2 and the following that the S3. That was where I stopped. I still think the IQ on the S3 is still one of the most awesome yet, it finally was done in by the lag buffer and I put it in the trophy closet since then.
    Now for a pocket sized backup camera, I cannot compare this camera to the Sony NEX-5. Why would i want to pay $1,200 for a fixed lens camera? Hasi has it right- I couldn’t have said it any better myself

  9. Todd says

    Eric,

    This seems like a very nice little camera and I am very into compact cameras that have lots of slr like features such as easy to access/operate controls for things like iso, aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation etc… combined with a high quality built in lens and the ability to add an external flash and control it via hot shoe. (My own Canon G10 is practically attached to my hip.) But how is this camera different from something like the Nikon P7000 or the Canon G12? Especially considering the huge difference in price? I see that you talk about how good it is with noise but you also said that about the G12 in your review. Also you say it has a 35mm (equivalent) focal length lens on it. Is that the only option or does the lens come off to allow for interchanging of lenses?

    Todd.

    • says

      Hey Todd. Thanks for the comment and questions.

      The X100 is different from the P7000 and G12 in a number of ways. The biggest difference is the sensor size. The X100 uses a DSLR-sized sensor (APS-C format) like a Canon 7D or Nikon D7000. The Nikon P7000 and Canon G12 have rather small compact camera sensors. Both the Nikon P7000 and Canon G12 offer RAW image capture, which is great for a compact camera. And, while the image quality is very good on the G12, it still doesn’t rival the much larger sensors of DSLRs or the Fuji X100. Although I did not go into the details, the optical quality of the X100 is much superior to the G12 or P7000. A compact zoom lens is going to be nowhere near the quality of a prime lens specifically designed for the X100 in the manner Fuji has done.

      The focal length is fixed. However, the Fuji X100 is not a do-it-all compact camera. And, it’s not a camera for everyone. I, for one, love the camera. I didn’t know how I would feel about the fixed lens going into it, but I ended up with a deep appreciation for what Fuji has done with this camera. If you look around the web for comments from others who have actually used the camera, I think you’ll see that I’m not alone in this opinion.

      I hope that helps you understand the differences between the X100 and advanced point and shoot cameras.

      • Todd says

        Thanks Eric,

        Yes that does help me understand. while I do not think this would be the camera for me I think it could be something interesting to try for a day or two. I think an slr and an compact but versatile camera like a G12 are still my favorite combination for maximum versatility in more situations. But I can see the appeal of a camera like the X100 as well. Thank you for your reply and keep up the good work. Your articles are often quite informative.

        Todd.

  10. Jeff Lever says

    It’s an attractive, portable format, and the images look great quality, even at high ISOs. However, for a cheaper way of getting that attractive “classic rangefinder camera” format, not too big, not too heavy, why not consider a Micro Four-Thirds format Panasonic Lumix GF2 + Panasonic’s 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens (equivalent angle of view to a 40mm in the 35mm format). I enjoy using that fast lens indoors and out, without flash, day and night. And then I have the versatility to change lenses. Yesterday I used it with a compact Olympus 9-18mm wide angle lens inside a house built in the 1680s. It could take in a whole room in one go. And last week I took it to the park with Panasonic’s 45-200mm lens capturing telephoto shots of the waterfowl on the lake with their newly hatched young.

  11. Steve says

    This camera is a joy to use. I have owned a 5D2 and 5D, Canon G11, Canon S95, Olympus EP1, Olympus 620 and have presently the X100 and Olympus XZ1. Bulky SLR cameras just do not allow normal use and the compacts images struggle to be cropped. The beauty of the X100 is its viewfinder which is truly stunning, its unassuming around the neck (not attracting thief’s attention) is small enough not to leave at home but its massive plus is its ability to perform at ISO 800 + and still present wonderful photos. The flash is perfect time after time, the panorama is breathtaking (see Ken Rockwell’s site) and the fixed lens just means you taylor your photography around its ability. Never a SLR again unless I need it to earn me my living. If you cant afford one don’t bleat about it have the super performing EP1 but with the mark 2 14/42 lens not the old as its too soft above 14mm.

  12. Claude says

    Price not so high for quality of body and pictures. Leica M9 (better ok) with one lens is about
    7-8000 €, middle range Nikon as D7000 with excellent 35mm DX 1.8 cost about 1400€ and bigger.
    Fixed lens is not an issue, because optic quality and fast. Zoom low price are never fast, if high price you get only f:2.8 but heavy +++. In most case, if you are not running for safari, the free zoom you have is your feet to go back and forward for good pictures.
    FX 100 seems great, if you mind to have it anywhere you go. I sold my D3 and pack of fast zooms because I am just a man not a horse. Often with heavy materiel you spend money to let it in hotel safety box.

  13. Pat in San Jose says

    Fantastic photos at ISO 3200! I’m planning to move up from an LX5 and that is just the kind of low-light performance I’d hope to get in a coat-pocketable camera. Still, at that price I’d like to see a comparison of the X100 with some alternatives. The NEX-C3 with its 16mm prime would seem to have equivalent IQ (but people complain about that lens not being sharp on the edges and corners). It also has features like sweep panorama that might be attractive, and it’s only half the cost of the X100. I think it might be possible to justify the extra $600 for the X100, but I’d like to see someone like Eric really lay it out. Another option would be the E-P3, which might be able to get the same shot at a slower shutter speed because of image stabilization. Thus maybe I should be comparing ISO 1600 on the Olympus with ISO 3200 on the Sony and Fuji. So I’m still looking for reviews like Eric’s that will help me make up my mind, but the more direct comparisons I can find, the better.
    I still struggle with giving up the telephoto on my LX5. Claude (and lots of other people) tell me I should use my feet for the zoom, but if you are, for example, taking a picture of a building, you don’t get the same angle of view when you have to move in closer. You may even have objects in the way, blocking the shot. You invite keystoning.

  14. Aslam Khaleel says

    Just feel nstalgic at the shape & design. It goes back to our starting times of Yashica Electro 35, Olympus Trip 35. I think soon the DSLR will follwo the classical dials, as sometimes people like me a re lost scuttling through the elctronics.

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  1. [...] Fuji X100 Review As of today, the Fuji X100 stands in a category of its own in terms of features, price and performance. While other manufacturers have attempted to push the envelope, none have succeeded like Fuji has with the X100. Armed with a 12.3MP sensor and a fixed focal length of 23mm (35mm equivalent), the X100 is not your ordinary point and shoot camera. It’s also not a DSLR or what we typically categorize as a “mirrorless” camera even though it has no reflex mirror. July 4, 2011 [...]