Fuji FinePix X100 Review

Using the Fuji FinePix X100

Record Mode

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:

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # images on 20MB onboard memory # images on 4GB SD card (optional)
Large (3:2)
4288 x 2848
RAW 19.0 MB 1 210
Fine 4.9 MB 4 820
Normal 3.1 MB 7 1300
Large (16:9)
4288 x 2416
Fine 4.2 MB 5 960
Normal 2.6 MB 8 1530
Medium (3:2)
3072 x 2048
Fine 3.2 MB 7 1260
Normal 1.6 MB 14 2470
Medium (16:9)
3072 x 1728
Fine 2.7 MB 8 1490
Normal 1.4 MB 16 2950
Small (3:2)
2176 x 1448
Fine 1.6 MB 14 2470
Normal 800 KB 28 4760
Small (16:9)
1920 x 1080
Fine 1.1 MB 21 3750
Normal 700 KB 32 5630

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 [100], 200 - 6400, high [12800])
  • 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
200% DR
View Full Size Image
400% DR
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:

  • Date/time
  • Time difference (Home, local/travel)
  • Language
  • 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!

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

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:

ISO 6400

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 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

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:

ISO 6400

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.

Movie Mode

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:

Click to play movie (1280 x 720, 24 fps, 7.7 MB, QuickTime/H.264 format)

Playback Mode

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).

RAW editing

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
  • Color
  • Sharpness
  • 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.

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