Originally Posted: May 4, 2011
Last Updated: August 8, 2011
In a world of me-too compact cameras, Fuji has come up with something decidedly different. Their long-awaited FinePix X100 ($1199) is a rangefinder-style, fixed lens camera with an APS-C sensor and unique hybrid viewfinder. They're not the first manufacturer to do the fixed lens / big sensor combo (Sigma's been at it for several years), but the FinePix X100 is a lot more professional in terms of design, features, and performance.
Some of the highlights on the FinePix X100 include:
- 12.3 Megapixel CMOS sensor, optimized for the X100's lens
- F2.0, 23mm Fujinon lens, equivalent to 35mm
- EXR image processor
- Rangefinder-style magnesium alloy body (looks a lot like a Leica) with dials for aperture, shutter speed, and exposure compensation
- Hybrid Viewfinder can be optical (with frame and shooting data superimposed) or fully electronic
- 2.8" LCD display with 460,000 pixels
- Full manual controls, with RAW support
- 5 fps continuous shooting
- Electronic level
- Hot shoe for external flash
- Built-in neutral density filter
- 180 degree panorama creation feature
- 720p movie mode with stereo sound
- HDMI output
Okay, you can wipe the drool up off the floor now! The FinePix X100 is one of the most anticipated cameras in recent memory. Does it live up to the hype? Find out now in our review!
|Note: Fuji released a firmware upgrade in June that addressed twenty-three issues, though only one of the issues raised in this review was fixed.|
What's in the Box?
The FinePix X100 has a fairly typical bundle for a compact camera, though it comes in a fancier box. Here's what you'll find when you open everything up:
- The 12.3 effective Megapixel FinePix X100 digital camera
- NP-95 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Battery charger
- Shoulder strap
- Metal strap clips w/protective covers
- Clip attaching tool
- USB cable
- CD-ROM featuring MyFinePix Studio, FinePixViewer, and RAW File Converter
- 121 page camera manual (printed)
Despite its price, the FinePix X100 has the same amount of built-in memory as one of Fuji's $200 cameras: just 20MB. That holds just one RAW or four fine quality JPEGs, so you'll need to pick up a memory card right away. The X100 supports SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards, and you'll probably want a 4GB card to start with. Buying a high speed card (Class 6 or above) is recommended for the best performance.
The FinePix X100 the NP-95 lithium-ion rechargeable battery, which was first used back on the FinePix F30 (remember that?). This battery holds 6.5 Wh worth of energy, which is good but not fantastic. Here's how that translates into battery life:
The only true competitors to the FinePix X100 are the cameras from Leica and Sigma. However, a lot of people will also be looking at compact interchangeable lens cameras, so I'm throwing them in there as well. I'm not sure whether Fuji's numbers are with the LCD or viewfinder (I assume the former), but they're just about average in this group.
Every camera on the above list uses a proprietary battery. These batteries tend to cost more than AAs (a spare NP-95 will set you back a whopping $80, though generics are available), and you can't grab something off the shelf to get you through the rest of a day when your main battery runs out of juice.
When it's time to charge the battery, just pop it into the included charger. For some reason, my battery wouldn't actually stay in the charger (I had to tape it down), but I imagine that it's a fluke with my early production model. It takes a lengthy 3.5 hours to fully charge the NP-95.
Fuji includes a metal (!) lens cap to protect the X100's Fujinon lens. There's no retaining strap included, but the cap seems to stay on fairly well. You can also see the leather protectors on the strap rings, which is a nice touch.
The X100 inside its optional leather case
There are just a handful of accessories available for the FinePix X100, and I've compiled them all into this table:
So there you have the official accessories for the FinePix X100. Looking at the camera, it appears that it supports an AC adapter, but I can't see one listed anywhere.
Fuji includes a number of software products with the FinePix X100, and the first I want to mention is My FinePix Studio. This Windows-only product can be used for transferring photos from your camera to a computer, after which you can edit or share them. On the main thumbnail screen you can filter through your photos in a number of ways (people, events, location) and create "Smart Albums", like in iTunes. Here you can also view a slideshow, print or e-mail a photo, or upload them to YouTube or Facebook.
Editing a photo in MyFinePix Studio
The editing features in MyFinePix Studio are fairly basic. You can do an auto image enhancement, or adjust the brightness, contrast, and gamma manually. You can rotate or crop a photo, and remove redeye. There are also numerous special effects, including classics like grayscale and sepia. Unlike with JPEGs, when you double-click on a RAW image you won't get the screen you see above. Instead, the RAW FIle Converter software mentioned below will load and open the selected image.
FinePixViewer for Mac
Mac users get their own piece of software, but it's not really worth installing. FinePixViewer for Mac hasn't changed in several years, and it's basically limited to viewing, cropping, rotating, and placing text onto your photos. It can't view RAW images at all, so you'll need to use the RAW File Converter software below, or just do everything in iPhoto.
RAW File Converter EX
The bundled software for working with the X100's RAW images is known as RAW File Converter EX. If it looks familiar, it should -- it's SilkyPix. This is a very powerful RAW editor, though the interface is clunky, and some of the English translations are a bit strange. Both Mac and Windows versions of RAW File Converter are included.
If you want to use Photoshop or Lightroom to edit the X100's RAW images instead, they are both compatible, assuming that you're using the latest versions of the software.
So what are RAW files, anyway? They are files which contain unprocessed image data captured by the FinePix X100. Since the data hasn't been compressed and saved into another format (e.g. JPEG), you have the ability to tweak things like white balance, noise reduction, and color, without effecting the quality of the image. The downside is that file sizes are larger, photos take longer to be saved to your memory card, and that they all need to be post-processed in order to get them into more common formats.
Look and Feel
I imagine that most people would ask how you're enjoying your Leica when they first set their eyes on the FinePix X100 -- the resemblance is uncanny. The X100 has a silver magnesium alloy body with black leather (well, faux leather) accents, numerous dials, and a huge optical viewfinder. It even has the "image field selector" switch found on Leica cameras, except here it switches the viewfinder between optical and electronic.
For the most part, build quality on the X100 is very good. The body is a solid chunk of metal, and the dials feel just right. That said, the door over the battery/memory card is pretty flimsy, and the four-way controller is too small and plasticky for my tastes. I also found that the power button is way too easy to accidentally bump. Being a fairly large and heavy camera, I found it most comfortable to hold the X100 with both hands.
Now let's see how the FinePix X100 compares to the group of cameras I listed back in the battery section in terms of size and weight:
Of the three fixed-lens cameras, the FinePix X100 is by far the largest and heaviest. If you add in the interchangeable lens cameras (with their available pancake lenses), the FinePix X100 and Samsung NX100 are about the same size. The X100 is most certainly not a pocket camera, but it travels well over your shoulder or in a small camera case.
Ready to tour this unique camera? I know I am -- so let's begin!
One of the highlights of the FinePix X100 is its F2.0, fixed focal length Fujinon lens. The focal length of this lens is 23mm, which is equivalent to 35mm. The X100 does not have image stabilization, though the fast lens negates the need for it in most situations. While the lens itself is not threaded, you can add 49mm filters or a lens hood by picking up the adapter ring listed in the previous section. Conversion lenses are not offered. While you can't see them here, there are both manual focus and aperture rings around the lens -- more on those in a bit.
Behind the lens is a 12.3 Megapixel CMOS sensor, which Fuji designed specifically for the X100's lens. It's an APS-C-sized sensor, making it the same size as what's in most digital SLRs, and larger than Micro Four Thirds (and huge compared to what's in most point-and-shoots).
At the top-center of the photo is the X100's built-in flash. The working range of the flash is 0.5 - 9.0 meters at ISO 1600. Since Fuji is using ISO 1600 rather than Auto ISO like most manufacturers, so it's hard to say how the X100's flash strength compares to other cameras. If you want more flash power and a reduced likelihood of redeye, you can attach an external flash to the hot shoe that you'll see momentarily.
What are all those things around the flash? The two small holes make up the stereo microphone, while the larger circle is the AF illuminator. The Leica-style style next to the AF-assist lamp is used to toggle between the optical and electronic viewfinder. And speaking of which, that large box over on the top-right of the photo is the X100's impressive hybrid viewfinder, which I'll explain in detail in just a moment.
Before we can talk about the X100's amazing viewfinder, I first need to tell you about its much more ordinary LCD. This screen is 2.8" in size, and has 460,000 pixels, so everything is nice and sharp. Outdoor visibility is good, though I've seen better. In low light the live view brightens up nicely, so you can still see your subject.
A simulated view through the optical viewfinder, complete with framing guide and a live histogram
Image courtesy of Fujifilm
Now it's time to tell you about the X100's hybrid viewfinder, which is really one of a kind. It can serve as a large optical viewfinder (with a magnification of 0.5x) or a super-sharp electronic viewfinder. And it's not just any optical viewfinder -- you get the added bonus of having a framing guide, exposure info, and even a live histogram and electronic level superimposed over the scene. The viewfinder is quite different than what you're probably used to, and it takes some time to get familiar with it. The framing guide takes up only a portion of the viewfinder (see screenshot), and when you halfway press the button, it will actually move, correcting for parallax error. This framing guide only shows 90% of what is actually captured, so keep that in mind. It's also worth mentioning that you cannot use the optical viewfinder when in macro mode-- it will switch to the EVF when you turn that feature on. I found the viewfinder to be very dark in low light situations, requiring a switch to the electronic viewfinder or LCD.
The view on the EVF and LCD can include shooting data, a composition grid, live histogram, and electronic level
To get to the aforementioned electronic viewfinder (EVF), just flip the switch on the front of the camera. The viewfinder instantly transforms into an ultra-sharp display with 1.44 million dots (480,000 pixels). Now you can see the same things that you would if using the main LCD, complete with 100% coverage. The quality of the screen is very good, with none of the "rainbow effect" that I've seen on other high res EVFs lately. Both outdoor and low light visibility were fairly good.
Hybrid viewfinder cutaway courtesy of Fujifilm
So how does it all work? There's a prism in front of the eyepiece (which is in the back of this diagram) that splits the light between the optical image and the EVF that's buried inside the camera. When you're using the optical viewfinder, the EVF is used to produce the frame guide and shooting information overlay. When you switch to the full-time EVF, a door closes over the viewfinder window, so only the image from the tiny LCD panel is reaching your eye. It works exceptionally well, and the only real complaint I have is that you can't see the OVF shooting info or anything on the EVF when shooting in the portrait orientation if you're wearing polarized sunglasses (as I do). Something else I would've liked to have seen is a "play on LCD" option, so photos you took through the viewfinder will be shown on the main LCD after they're taken (as opposed to on the EVF).
The FinePix X100 has an eye sensor that automatically activates the viewfinder when you put your eye to it. You can toggle what information is displayed on it by pressing the Display button located to the lower-right of the main LCD. To focus what you're looking at through the viewfinder, you can use the diopter correction wheel located on its left side.
When you're shooting with the viewfinder, you have the option of having the main LCD display current exposure and camera settings. You can't adjust anything here -- it's for viewing only.
Alright, enough about the viewfinder -- let's continue the tour now, with a look at the buttons on the left side of the LCD. They include:
- Playback mode
- AE [metering] mode (Multi, spot, average)
- AF point select - lets you pick one of 49 points in the frame on which to focus
- View mode (Auto, viewfinder only, LCD only)
The AE/AF buttons are also used for zooming in or out of photos while in playback mode.
Jumping to the upper-right of the LCD now, you'll find the "command control", which doesn't do a whole lot, to be honest. In record mode, it can be used to select menu options (it does the same thing as the left/right directions on the four-way controller), adjust the focus point size, and enlarge the frame when manually focusing. In playback mode this controller will move between the various shooting data screens.
Moving downward, we find the AE/AF lock button, followed by the combination four-way controller and command dial. The four-way controller is way too tight (not to mention plasticky), making it really easy to accidentally press in the wrong direction. For example, when trying to enter the main menu, quite often I got the drive menu instead. Both the four-way controller and scroll wheel are used for navigating menus and reviewing photos you've taken, with the former also handling the following:
- Up - Drive (Still image, burst mode, AE bracketing, ISO bracketing, Film Simulation bracketing, dynamic range bracketing, Motion Panorama, movie mode)
- Down - White balance (Auto, custom, color temperature, sunlight, shade, daylight fluorescent, warm white fluorescent, cool white fluorescent, incandescent, underwater)
- Left - Macro (on/off)
- Right - Flash setting (Auto, forced flash, suppressed flash, slow synchro) - redeye reduction is turned on via the setup menu
- Center - Menu/OK
There's a lot to talk about before we can move on.
The drive menu not only handles things like continuous shooting and bracketing -- it's also how you'll get to the cameras Motion Panorama and movie mode features. The X100 can shoot at 3 or 5 frames/second in its burst mode, and here's what kind of real world performance I was able to get out of it:
The X100 performs pretty much as advertised, though I couldn't quite hit the 5 fps mark, and that's with a very fast memory card. The number of RAW and RAW+JPEG photos you can take in a burst is okay, but the limit of just ten JPEGs is disappointing for a camera in this price range. I should add that it takes 14 and 20 seconds to save a set of RAW and RAW+JPEG images to the memory card, respectively.
There are four different bracketing modes on the FinePix X100. You can bracket for exposure or ISO (both 3 shots), Film Simulation (three shots using standard, vivid, and soft settings), and dynamic range (3 shots at 100%, 200%, and 400% DR). One thing you can't bracket for, unfortunately, is white balance.
Also buried in the Drive menu is the camera's Motion Panorama function, which lets you "sweep" the camera from side-to-side (or any direction), with the result being a single image covering 120 or 180 degrees. The results were just okay -- the image starts off sharp and gets softer in the areas that were stitched together (see example above).
White balance fine-tuning
As for white balance, the X100 has the usual presets, a custom mode (where you can use a white or gray card), plus the ability to set the color temperature (2000K - 10000K). While you can't bracket for white balance, you can fine-tune it in the red-cyan or blue-yellow directions. I am intrigued by the underwater white balance option -- perhaps an underwater housing is in the works?
The final things to see on the back of the camera include the Display/Back button, used for toggling the info shown on the LCD and backing out of menus, and a button that lets you quickly switch to the RAW format when taking pictures, or post-process these files in playback mode.
The first things I want to point out on the top of the FinePix X100 are the two rings around the lens. The upper ring is for manually focusing (it's an electronic system, not mechanical), while the lower ring is for adjusting the aperture. The "A" position on the aperture ring is for automatic control, and you can set it yourself as well, with a range of F2 to F16.
Under the lens is the camera's hot shoe. It'll work best with the two Fuji flashes I mentioned earlier, as they'll sync with the cameras TTL metering system. Fuji provides very little information about what features on their flashes are supported on the X100, but it appears that high speed flash sync does work, possibly at 1/2000 sec. You can also use the camera's built-in flash to control the two Fuji flashes wirelessly. If you're using a third party flash, be prepared to set its exposure manually.
Next up is the manual shutter speed dial. No more endless button-pressing to set the shutter speed -- it doesn't get any easier than this. You can also select from time (T) and bulb (B) modes. The former lets you preset your shutter speed from 30 - 1/2 sec (using the command dial), while the latter will keep the shutter open for as long as the shutter release is pressed. A remote shutter release is highly recommended. By the way, you can also use the command dial or command control to fine-tune the selected shutter speed or aperture, even when you've manually selected a value. If both aperture and shutter speed are set to auto, then these same controls can be used to move through various exposure combinations (this is known as Program Shift).
Next up is the power switch, which has the shutter release button inside it. The power switch is way too easy to flip, and I found myself turning the camera on or off accidentally quite frequently. The shutter release button has threads, to which you can attach a third party remote shutter release.
Just to the right of the power switch is the customizable Function (Fn) button, with the manual exposure compensation dial below it. By default, the Fn button adjusts the ISO, and I'll tell you what else it can do later in the review. The exposure compensation button was also pretty easy to accidentally turn. I think some of these dials need to be sturdier, or at least offer some kind of locking mechanism.
The only thing to see on this side of the FinePix X100 is its focus mode switch. You can choose from manual, single, or continuous AF. In manual focus mode you'll use that fly-by-wire focus ring around the lens to set the focus distance. The center of the frame can be enlarged by using the command control, and a guide showing the current focus distance is displayed at the bottom of the LCD or viewfinder.
The single AF mode locks the focus when you press the shutter release button halfway. The continuous AF mode is always trying to focus, which reduces focus times, though it's at the expense of battery life.
On the opposite side of the camera, under a plastic cover of average quality, are the camera's I/O ports. The top port is for USB output (too bad its proprietary), while the one on the bottom is a standard mini-HDMI port. Do note that HDMI is the only way in which you can connect the camera to a television -- there's no composite A/V out support on this camera.
That little square at the very bottom of the photo is through which you'd theoretically thread the power cord for an AC adapter, if one existed.
Our tour ends with a look at the bottom of the FinePix X100. Here you'll find the speaker, the off-center metal tripod mount, and the battery/memory card compartment. The plastic door over the battery/memory compartment is surprisingly flimsy considering the price of the camera, and you won't be able to get at what's inside it while the camera is on a tripod.
The include NP-95 li-ion battery can be seen at right.
Using the Fuji FinePix X100
At default settings, it takes approximately 2.2 seconds for the FinePix X100 to power up. That's quite slow for a fixed lens camera. However, you can turn on a "Quick Start" mode, which reduces the delay to under a second, which is much more reasonable. Do note that Quick Start puts an extra strain on your battery, and that it only works for the 20 minutes that follow the powering off of the camera -- after that, you're back to 2.2 seconds.
Autofocus speeds varied quite a bit. If the lighting is good and your subject has a lot of contrast, then the X100 will typically lock focus in 0.3 - 0.5 seconds. The camera did struggle to lock focus at times, sometimes because contrast wasn't great, and other times for no apparent reason. Macro focusing takes around a full second in most cases, so make sure you have this feature turned off if you're not shooting close-ups. In low light, you'll wait for around a second for the camera to lock focus, which it does fairly well.
One thing that's definitely not an issue is shutter lag. Press the shutter release button, and the camera takes the photo without delay.
Shot-to-shot delays are about 1.5 seconds, regardless of the image quality or whether you used the flash. That said, if you're shooting RAW or RAW+JPEG, you will be unable to enter the menus or change any camera settings until the images have been saved to the memory card. That can be a bit annoying, as it takes the X100 five seconds to save a single RAW image to the memory card (RAW+JPEG takes seven seconds). And that's with an SDHC card that writes at 45 MB/sec!
There's no way to delete a photo that you just took -- you must enter playback mode to do so.
Now let's take a look at the image size and quality options on the X100:
And now you can see why I recommended buying a large memory card earlier in the review!
The X100 supports the RAW image format (whose benefits I touted earlier as well), and you can take a RAW image along, or along with a JPEG of the size of your choosing. Do note that you cannot use ISO 100 or 12800 when using the RAW format!
|Shooting menu||The horizontal rule appears to be a divider, when it's not|
The FinePix X100 has an attractive, but somewhat difficult to navigate menu. The main problems I have with it are that it's one huge list of options (some more tabs would be helpful so you don't have to keep scrolling), and the horizontal line under the currently selected option is a bit confusing. There are also some options that are in the setup tab that should really be in the shooting tab instead.
Speaking of the shooting tab, here are the options that you'll find in that section of the menu:
- Self-timer (Off, 2 or 10 sec)
- ISO (Low , 200 - 6400, high )
- Image size (see above chart)
- Image quality Fine, normal, fine + RAW, normal + RAW, RAW)
- Dynamic range (Auto, 100%, 200%, 400%) - see below
- Film Simulation (Provia/standard, Velvia/vivid, Astia/soft, monochrome, monochrome + yellow filter, monochrome + red filter, monochrome + green filter, sepia)
- ND filter (on/off) - reduces the amount of light coming through the lens by three stops, which lets you use slower shutter speeds or larger apertures
- WB shift - discussed earlier
- Color (Low, medium low, mid, medium high, high)
- Sharpness (Soft, medium soft, standard, medium hard, hard)
- Highlight tone (Soft, medium soft, standard, medium hard, hard)
- Shadow tone (Soft, medium, standard, medium hard, hard)
- Noise reduction (Low, medium low, standard, medium high, high)
- AF mode (Multi, area) - the first is an automatic, multi-point mode, while the latter allows you to manually select one of 49 focus points
- Flash exposure compensation (-2/3EV to +2/3EV, in 1/3EV increments)
- External flash (Off, on, on/commander) - the last option lets you control Fuji's external flashes wirelessly
- Select custom setting (1 - 3) - access three sets of your favorite camera settings
- Edit/save custom setting (1 - 3) - edit or save your favorite camera settings
- Display custom setting (Framing guideline, electronic level, AF distance indicator, histogram, aperture/shutter speed/ISO, exposure compensation, photometry, flash, white balance, Film Simulation, dynamic range, frames remaining, image size/quality, battery life) - separately choose what info is displayed in the viewfinder and LCD
Something that bugged me a bit about the X100 is that the self-timer is buried in the menu. You can assign it to the Function button, but then there's no direct ISO button. The self-timer is also only active for one shot, so you need to activate it for every photo. Perhaps more annoying is that settings are also reset every time you enter playback mode. Thus, if you were in macro mode and then review a photo in playback mode, you'll have to turn it back on when you return to shooting.
While it doesn't bother me personally, it's worth pointing out that the X100 does not have face detection -- at least, not in the traditional (autofocus) sense.
The only other thing I want to mention here is the Dynamic Range feature. By using this, you can reduce highlight clipping and brighten shadows in a photo. In other words, improve the overall contrast of an image. You can select from 100%, 200%, or 400%, though note that the ISO will must be set to 400 or 800 for the last two, respectively. You can also bracket for dynamic range, allowing you to take a photo at each setting in one fell swoop. Here's an example for you:
|100% DR (default)
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
The improvement that you gain by using the DR feature is pretty obvious. The highlight clipping that you can see on the left side of the frame starts to disappear at 200%, and at 400% a lot of the detail that was once lost has returned. While the ISO must be boosted to 800 in order to use the 400% setting, noise levels are low enough that it's worth doing.
Now let's take a look at the items in the setup tab of the menu:
- Time difference (Home, local/travel)
- Silent mode (on/off) - you can also quickly turn off all of the camera's noises by holding down the Disp/Back button
- Reset - back to defaults
- Format - internal memory or a card
- Image display (Off, 1.5 sec, 3 sec, continuous) - post-shot review
- Frame numbering (Continuous, renew)
- Operation volume (Off, low, middle, high)
- Shutter volume (Off, low, middle, high)
- Shutter sound (1, 2, 3)
- Playback volume (0 - 10)
- LCD brightness (-5 to +5)
- Auto power off (Off, 2 mins, 5 mins)
- OVF power save mode (on/off) - doubles battery life but reduces AF speed and does not display shooting info until you halfway-press the shutter release
- Quick start mode (on/off) - reduces startup time significantly but decreases battery life
- Function [Fn] button (Depth of field preview, self-timer, ISO, image size, image quality, dynamic range, Film Simulation, ND filter, AF mode, movie recording, custom settings) - define what this button does
- ISO auto control - this option is way too buried
- ISO auto control (on/off)
- Max sensitivity (400, 800, 1600, 3200) - how high you want the ISO to go
- Minimum shutter speed (1/4 - 1/125 sec) - how slow the shutter speed can go before the camera increases the sensitivity
- Redeye removal (on/off) - a digital tool that removes redeye when a photo is taken; only works when a face is detected, and is not available in RAW mode
- AF illuminator (on/off)
- AE/AF-Lock mode (When pressing, on/off switch) - whether you need to hold down the button to lock exposure and focus
- AE/AF-Lock button (AE lock only, AF lock only, AE/AF lock) - what this button does
- MF focus check (on/off) - whether you can enlarge the center of the frame by pressing the command control inward when in manual focus mode
- Focus ring (Clockwise, counterclockwise)
- Focus scale units (Meters, feet)
- Framing guideline (Grid 9, grid 24, HD framing)
- Color space (sRGB, Adobe RGB)
- Long exposure NR (on/off) - reduces noise in long exposures but processing times are longer
- Save original image (on/off) - whether unprocessed versions of photos taken using the redeye removal mode are also saved
- Auto rotate playback (on/off) - whether portrait images are automatically rotated on the LCD/EVF
- Background color (Blue, purple, pink, orange, green, black) - for menus
- Guidance display (on/off) - whether "tool tips" are shown in ceratin situations
I think I explained all of those options well enough in the list, so now let's move onto our photo tests!
I've got zero complaints about how the FinePix X100 handled our macro test subject. The figurine is tack sharp, with plenty of detail captured. Colors look good, and there's no noise to be found.
In normal operation, the minimum focus distance on the X100 is 80 cm. When you turn on macro mode, that distance drops to 10 cm. As I said in the tour section, you cannot use the optical viewfinder when shooting macros -- it switches to the EVF automatically.
Since the X100 has such a wide lens, I couldn't take the usual night photo from Treasure Island. Instead, I kept driving across the Bay Bridge and took the photo in the opposite direction. The results here are impressive as well, with the camera bringing in plenty of light, though keep in mind that you may have to use the control dial to get at the shutter speeds in between those on that dedicated shutter speed dial (e.g. 1/3 sec). The bridge looks pretty sharp to my eyes. There's little in the line of noise here, though there seem to be some hot pixels mixing in with passing aircraft in the sky. There is some minor purple fringing here, most notably on the left side of the bridge.
Alright, now let's use that same scene to see how the X100 performed at high sensitivities in low light. Since I was shooting RAW+JPEG, I was only available to get at the standard ISO range (100 and 12800 were locked out). Remember to view the full size images, in addition to the crops below!
The FinePix X100 has very low amounts of noise through ISO 800, with just a slight increase at ISO 1600. Even then, a large print at this setting is not a problem. There more grain-style noise at ISO 3200, but again, still quite usable. Even the ISO 6400 photo is relatively clean, thanks to Fuji's very light touch with noise reduction, which keeps details intact.
So, can you improve things by shooting RAW? Let's use the ISO 6400 crop from above to find out:
JPEG, straight out of the camera
RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw 6.4)
RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
It's a testament to the quality of the X100's JPEG engine when I can't really improve on a photo by shooting RAW. The touched-up version is a little better, but not by a whole lot. I imagine that you might see better results at ISO 12800, but since you can't use RAW at that setting, we'll never know.
We'll take a look at how the FinePix X100 performed in normal lighting in a moment.
The FinePix X100 will digitally remove redeye from flash photos in which a face or faces is detected (except when using RAW). As you can see above, the camera did a good job at eliminating this annoyance, which is good news. Should some redeye slip past the camera initially, you can also try removing it via a tool in playback mode.
There's nearly zero barrel distortion to be found on the FinePix X100's 23mm (35mm equivalent) lens. There is some unusual distortion in the corners, but since I didn't see anything funny (and that includes corner blurring) in my real world photos, I'm not overly concerned. Vignetting wasn't a problem, either. This is definitely a quality piece of glass!
Now it's time for our studio ISO test. Since this photo is taken under the same lights every time, you can compare the results with those from other cameras I've reviewed over the years (not that I've reviewed any of the X100's true competitors). With the usual reminder to view the full size images in addition to the crops, here we go:
ISO 100 (L)
ISO 12800 (H)
The FinePix X100 performed extremely well here, with clean photos all the way through ISO 3200. ISO 6400 is still very clean, though there is a slight drop in color saturation. You can even get away with using ISO 12800 for small and midsize prints. I'm impressed.
You already saw that there was not much of a benefit to RAW conversion back in the night test. As soon as I saw the results above, I knew that the same would be true for this test, but I figured I should show you some proof:
JPEG, straight out of the camera
RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw 6.4)
RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
Again, there's a slight improvement in quality, mostly in terms of color and sharpness, but for most purposes, you could get away using the JPEG. I'd test this out at ISO 12800, but as you probably know by now, you can't use RAW at that sensitivity.
I came away very impressed with the FinePix X100's photo quality -- it's excellent. Photos were well exposed, with highlight clipping kept to a relative minimum. If highlight clipping is an issue, using the Dynamic Range feature will reduce it. Colors were nice and saturated, and photos were nice and sharp. As the tests above have illustrated, noise isn't an issue until the very highest sensitivities, and even then, it's not really a problem. Purple fringing levels were very low.
Just in case you don't believe me, have a look at our FinePix X100 photo gallery, and judge the camera's photo quality with your own eyes. I think you'll be equally impressed.
The FinePix X100 has the ability to record movies at 1280 x 720 at 24 frames/second with stereo sound. As you might imagine, movies are a bit choppy at that frame rate. You can keep recording until the elapsed time reaches 10 minutes. Strangely, no lower resolution options are available.
Movie recording is a point-and-shoot experience on the X100, as focus, exposure, and white balance are locked when recording starts. You might think that you can adjust the aperture or focus rings while you're recording, but that's not the case. A digital zoom feature is available, which boosts the focal range to 105 mm.
The X100 uses the H.264 codec and stuffs the video into QuickTime files.
Here's a sample movie for you:
The FinePix X100 has a pretty nice playback mode. Basic features include slideshows (complete with transitions and face highlighting), image protection, DPOF print marking, favorite tagging, thumbnail view, and playback zoom. One thing I wish you could do in playback zoom is move from photo to photo, while maintaining the same zoom and position setting, but alas, you cannot.
In addition to viewing photos one at a time or as thumbnails, you can also search through them by date, whether there are faces, if they're tagged as favorites, by data type (stills, movies, burst, RAW), and by upload location. Speaking of upload location, the X100 allows you to tag photos for later upload to YouTube or Facebook (works with Windows only).
The camera allows you to rotate, resize, or crop photos. You can also remove redeye from photos in which faces were detected. Perhaps more exciting is in-camera RAW processing, which lets you adjust the following items:
- Push/pull processing (-1EV to +3EV, in 1/3EV increments) - a fancy term for adjusting exposure
- Dynamic range
- Film Simulation
- White balance
- WB shift
- Noise reduction
- Highlight tone
- Shadow tone
- Color space
The resulting image is saved as a JPEG.
There are no movie editing tools of any kind on the X100 -- not even a "trim" option.
Another trick the camera can do is create photo books. These aren't books you can have printed; rather, they're more like electronic albums. You can manually add photos to a book, or you can use the image search to help pick them. You can view the results on the camera, or on your Windows PC in MyFinePix Studio.
As you'd expect from a camera in this class, you can see plenty of data about photos you've taken. There are actually two buttons to do this -- the command control to see the "text data" you see above, and the Disp/Back button to see the histogram.
The FinePix X100 moves between photos instantly.
How Does it Compare?
The Fuji FinePix X100 has been making a lot of waves in the digital photography world since it was first shown at Photokina in 2010. How could you not drool over a rangefinder-style camera with an APS-C sensor, fast prime lens, and unique hybrid viewfinder? When I got my hands on the FinePix X100, I was instantly impressed. The viewfinder and user interface took some getting used to, but once I became familiar with the camera and its quirks, I found it quite enjoyable to use. And did I mention the excellent photo quality? There is room for improvement in terms of performance, user interface, and manual control limitations, but for a first effort, Fuji has done a very good job. The pricey FinePix X100 isn't for everyone, but for those looking for a portable camera with a fast lens and D-SLR photo quality, it's not to be missed.
The FinePix X100 could easily be mistaken for a Leica M9 if you spotted it on the street. It's pretty much an exact copy of a Leica rangefinder camera, but hey, it works. The camera is made of magnesium alloy (in most areas), and has a faux leather panel on the front to make it easier to grip. Being a rangefinder-style camera, you should not be surprised to hear that the X100 has manual focus and aperture rings, as well as dials for setting the shutter speed and exposure compensation. Build quality is very good in most respects, though I don't care for the flimsy plastic door over the memory card/battery compartment, the too-small four-way controller, and the easy-to-bump power switch. I figure that a good portion of the X100's price tag is due to its fantastic F2.0, 23mm (35mm-equivalent) Fujinon lens. This lens is quite sharp, and has little in the way of distortion or purple fringing. The camera supports filters via an optional (and expensive) adapter, but conversion lenses are not available. A built-in neutral density filter will reduce the amount of light coming through the lens by three stops. The X100 has a built-in flash -- as well as a hot shoe -- and the former can be used to wirelessly control Fuji-brand flashes.
Besides the lens, the other big highlight on the FinePix X100 is its hybrid viewfinder. It can be a large optical viewfinder with a composition frame and tons of shooting data superimposed over the field-of-view or, with the flip of a switch, it can be a high resolution electronic viewfinder. When you're using the optical viewfinder, you'll be able to see all kinds of things (besides your subject), including exposure and focus meters, a live histogram, and an electronic level. Actually taking pictures does take some getting used to, as the shooting frame moves when you halfway-press the shutter release button, and even then only shows 90% of what will be captured. The viewfinder is also hard to see in low light, and when you're shooting portraits with polarized sunglasses on (sounds petty, but most sunglasses are polarized). Flip the switch on the front of the camera and the optical viewfinder becomes electronic. This EVF is one of the best I've seen, with 1.44 million dots, no rainbow effect, and good visibility in low light. As you'd expect, the EVF shows the same things as the main LCD (and has 100% frame coverage), including menus and image playback. One important thing to note is that you cannot use the optical viewfinder when taking macro photos, due to parallax error. The camera will automatically switch to the EVF as soon as you turn on macro mode. The other way in which you can take photos is via the main 2.8" LCD, which has 460,000 pixels and good outdoor and low light visibility.
The FinePix X100 is an enthusiasts camera, so you won't find any auto or scene modes here (aside from a cool panorama-creation tool). You will have plenty of manual controls, support for the RAW image format, white balance fine-tuning, and four types of bracketing (but not for white balance). Being able to adjust the aperture and shutter speed with the manual dials is great, though you will need to use the command dial to access "in-between" shutter speeds. The camera has an ISO range of 100 - 12800, though neither of those ends are available if you're shooting RAW, for some unknown reason. The user interface leaves something to be desired, as well. The menu system is essentially one huge list, which means lots of scrolling to find items buried inside it. As I mentioned, the X100 has a Motion Panorama mode, which allows you to sweep the camera from side-to-side to create 120 or 180 panoramas in seconds. Two other tools I like are the Dynamic Range setting (which reduces highlight clipping) and the in-camera RAW processing feature. The FinePix X100 can also record movies at 720p (24 frames/second) with stereo sound. Unfortunately, it's a point-and-shoot affair, with no manual controls or continuous autofocus, and recording time is limited to ten minutes per clip.
Performance is probably the X100's weak spot. Depending on the "quick start" setting, the camera can start up in under a second, or in 2.2 seconds, though the Quick Start setting only works for 20 minutes after the camera is powered off. Focusing in good light was fairly quick, though not as good as the best compact or interchangeable lens cameras. Typically, you'll have focus times of 0.3 and 0.5 seconds, though on several occasions the AF got fussy and took longer (or didn't lock focus at all). If you're in macro mode, expect focus times of around a full second, and the same goes for shooting in low light situations. Shutter lag wasn't a problem, and shot-to-shot speeds were good, with one important note. If you're shooting RAW or RAW+JPEG, you can't change any camera settings until the images are saved to the memory card. That takes 5 seconds for RAW and 7 seconds for RAW+JPEG, and that's with the fastest SDHC card money can buy. The camera's burst mode also gets mixed reviews. While you can shoot as fast as 4.8 frames/second, you're limited to eight RAW or just ten JPEG images, with the latter being especially disappointing for a camera in this price range. In addition, the camera will be locked up for 14 - 20 seconds while a RAW or RAW + JPEG burst is written to the memory card, again with a 45 MB/sec SDHC card. The X100's 300 shot per charge battery life is about average compared to similar cameras.
While I had some issues with the FinePix X100's performance, the opposite is true when it comes to photo quality: it's excellent. The X100 takes well-exposed photos, with not much in the line of highlight clipping. Should highlight clipping occur, you can reduce it using the Dynamic Range feature. Colors were pleasing, and photos were nice and sharp for the most part, with no corner blurring or vignetting. The camera captures a ton of detail, and noise does not appear until the very highest ISOs. Shooting at ISO 3200 is no problem, and even the very highest setting (ISO 12800, only available for JPEGs) is usable for small prints. Unlike most cameras I test, there's not a huge improvement to be had by shooting RAW and doing your own noise reduction, which is a testament to the quality of the JPEG engine on the X100. Purple fringing levels were low, and I didn't find redeye to be a problem either (possibly due to the available digital removal system).
There are just a few other things to mention before I wrap things up. One of the biggest things going against the FinePix X100 is its price of $1200. It's an impressive camera -- I'm just not sure if it's impressive enough to justify that price. Second, the tripod mount is not in-line with the lens, and you won't be able to access the memory card while you're using a tripod. Finally, I don't know why Fuji even bothered putting internal memory on the X100, as the 20MB that's included holds almost no photos.
All things considered, the Fuji FinePix X100 is a very impressive fixed lens camera, and I imagine that they'll sell a boatload of them, despite the price. It offers superb photo quality, good performance (in most respects), a rangefinder-style body with a one-of-a-kind viewfinder, and plenty of manual controls. The camera does have its issues, mostly related to buffer memory and the user interface, but for a first generation camera, Fuji has done a great job. Despite needing work in a few areas, the "pros" ways outweigh the "cons", making the FinePix X100 a camera I can highly recommend.
What I liked:
- Excellent photo quality, with very low noise levels
- Cool rangefinder-style body, complete with manual aperture/focus rings and dials for shutter speed and exposure compensation
- Very fast, sharp F2.0, 23mm (35mm-equivalent) lens
- One-of-a-kind, large hybrid viewfinder can be optical (with a framing guide and tons of shooting data overlaid) or electronic (with 1.44M pixels)
- 2.8" LCD display with 460k pixels is sharp and offers good outdoor/low light visibility (the EVF is similar)
- Full manual controls, with RAW support and four types of bracketing
- Handy electronic level
- Hot shoe + wireless flash control
- Built-in neutral density filter
- Customizable Function button
- Dynamic Range control reduces highlight clipping
- Redeye not a problem, though a removal tool is available if you need it
- In-camera RAW processing in playback mode
- Motion Panorama feature creates decent-looking panoramas with just a "sweep" of the camera
- Records movies at 720p (24 frames/sec) with stereo sound
- HDMI output
What I didn't care for:
- Optical viewfinder takes getting used to due to moving frame and 90% coverage; viewfinder is hard to see in low light, or when wearing polarized sunglasses and shooting in the portrait orientation
- Design annoyances: plasticky four-way controller is too small and easy to press the wrong direction; power switch too easy to bump
- Buffer memory fills up quickly; long write times when RAW images are involved (and camera may be locked up during that time)
- Autofocus could be flaky at times; focus times a little slow when in macro mode or low light situations
- ISO 100 and 12800 not available when using RAW format
Camera resets many settings (e.g. macro, drive) when you enter playback modefixed in firmware 1.1
- User interface could use some work
- No manual controls or continuous AF in movie mode; limited recording time
- Flimsy door over memory card/battery compartment; can't access memory card while on tripod
- Very little built-in memory
The FinePix X100's closest competitors are the Leica X1 and Sigma DP2s. Some interchangeable lens cameras that you may want to look at include the Olympus E-P2, Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2, Samsung NX100, and the Sony Alpha NEX-5.
As always, I recommend heading to your local camera or electronics store to try out the FinePix X100 and its competitors before you buy!
Check out our gallery to see how the FinePix X100's photo quality looks!