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
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.
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
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…”
- ISO 100: RAW (N/A) – JPEG
- ISO 200: RAW – JPEG
- ISO 400: RAW – JPEG
- ISO 800: RAW – JPEG
- ISO 1600: RAW – JPEG
- ISO 3200: RAW – JPEG
- ISO 6400: RAW – JPEG
- ISO 12800: RAW (N/A) – JPEG
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).
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 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.
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.
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