To be honest, I was not planning on writing a review of the Fuji X100 camera. First, because the camera was sent to me in error. As I was preparing to send it back, I was asked if I wanted to try it out, so I agreed to check it out and ended up shooting with it for a week. Second, I did not have a chance to do a thorough analysis and comparison, because I was busy testing 35mm lenses. That’s why this is a “mini” review – I will just lay down my thoughts about the Fujifilm X100 and show you some image samples from the camera.
When I asked about the X100, I was told that “it was a hot, almost revolutionary camera”. I guess that’s why I decided to give it a try and see what it is capable of. Once I unboxed the camera, I immediately put the battery into it and started playing with it at home. It took me a couple of minutes to figure out the basics and once I put it in Aperture Priority mode and took some pictures, I was actually pleasantly surprised by what I was seeing.
- The first thing that struck me was the optical/digital viewfinder/rangefinder that not only provides all the camera information but also displays captured images. Now that is one cool thing I wish all DSLR cameras had! Being able to look at captured images in an enclosed space is great. With DSLRs, you either have to block the light hitting the rear LCD or you have to use third-party tools such as a Hoodman Loupe to be able to look at pictures in daylight. And the X100 does it in a smart way too – if you put your eye close to the viewfinder/rangefinder, the image is shown there. Once you move the camera away from your eyes, the image gets transferred to the rear LCD.
- The second surprise was after I transferred the first images to my computer and started looking at them at 100% – the image quality was outstanding. Indoor images were shot at ISO 800 and above and the amount of noise present in the images was very low, at least when compared to APS-C sensors. Sharpness, colors, and contrast looked good right out of the camera (first shots were taken as JPEGs).
- Third, the camera felt great in my hands and for the first time, I felt like I could take this little camera with me everywhere I go. No matter how good images from my iPhone might look, I just do not like taking pictures with it. Sure, iPhone images might look great for the web, but you can’t print them large or use them in your portfolio. Lugging around a large DSLR is not an option either; I forget it at home most of the time anyway. It felt great when I was able to put the X100 into my jacket pocket before I left the house.
- Fourth, because of the 4 leaf shutter on the X100, the flash sync speed can be super fast (see the 1/2000s shot below).
- And lastly, people did not look intimidated by the camera when I took pictures of them. They seemed to think that it was just a point and shoot (which it kind of is), so it felt like this camera would get super popular among street photographers.
I then decided to take it for a spin at a wedding and that’s when my love with the X100 started fading away. Let me talk about the negatives now.
- As my primary camera I was shooting with the D3s and used the X100 as a backup pocket camera for some indoors and outdoors shots. The first frustration was with the X100’s autofocus system. Initially, I noticed that some of the images I took at home were blurry, but since it was my first day, I thought I made some errors while taking pictures. Then the same thing happened at the wedding – many of the images I took were out of focus! And that’s with the camera beeping and letting me know that the image is in focus. It happened once, I recomposed, refocused took another picture. Then it happened again. And again and many many times after that. In many of the shots, it seemed that the camera was back-focusing, even though I was making sure to use areas with high contrast on my subjects. Well, the light was challenging in some situations, so I thought that perhaps the camera was having a hard time with the available light. Surprisingly, most images that were out of focus were taken from a close distance – once I moved away from my subjects, the focus seemed just fine. We then went outside after the groom and the bride got dressed and I took a few more pictures there. Same darn thing! I did not want to waste my time and I simply put it back into my pocket and never used it again that day. I have shot with many different cameras, including point and shoot and I have never seen anything like this before.
- After we got home from the wedding, I started looking for a way to manually focus the X100. It turned out manual focus was a bad idea – it was even worse than AF. I know that I should not be comparing DSLRs and DSLR lenses with the X100, but when I switch to manual focus on my DSLR, everything is easy and intuitive. If my subject is out of focus, a slight turn of the focus ring is often enough. With the X100, it took me 10+ turns to find the right focus on a close subject! I just kept on turning and turning and turning the lens ring and eventually got tired of it. Forget about manual focus with this camera.
- The battery on the X100 did not last me a day – it was empty before I could fill my 8 GB card (the battery was fully charged).
- The Fuji X100 is one slow camera! On the second day, I started shooting in RAW and the write speeds on a 30MB/sec SD card were painfully slow. I used the same card on the Nikon D5100 and the camera had no problems writing to the card – I was getting 4 FPS on it. And the X100 is useless when it is busy writing to the card.
- And finally, with all of the above problems, the Fuji X100 costs a whopping $1,200 – as much as a brand new Nikon D7000!
So, what is my overall impression? Until Fuji fixes the AF and Manual focus issues (hopefully via a firmware upgrade), I cannot recommend this camera for any sort of serious work. It certainly has great potential, especially for street photography, but for now, it is just an overpriced point-and-shoot camera. If you learn how to live around its limitations and problems, you could get great results with it though.
P.S. I did update the X100’s firmware to the latest version and it did not resolve the focus issues I described above.
Image Samples (EXIF data is embedded):
Here is an example of a focus issue (with a bokeh example) – I focused on the “Bridal” text, but it is clearly out of focus:
The camera works great for landscape photography:
Some sample portraits using flash:
Example of 1/2000s high speed sync:
Some B&W and sepia conversion in Photoshop:
- Optical Performance
- Build Quality
- Focus Speed and Accuracy
- Image Quality
- High ISO Performance
- Size and Weight
- Metering and Exposure
- Movie Recording Features
- Dynamic Range
Photography Life Overall Rating