Fujifilm x100 reviewed

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A month ago I bought the Fujifilm x100 and been meaning to write about it since. Unfortunately, haven’t had the time or the availability to really test the camera to its full potential until two weeks ago. And what better situation to do so than a trip to Rome.

For the first three days I used the x100 exclusively, the remaining days I walked around with the 5D Mark II; did so to test each one separately and to clearly see which are each one pitfalls and gems.

This article is divided into the following sections:

Disclaimer: the following is not a review, only my impressions of the camera after a few days on the field. Also, I’ll be making a parallel between the Fujifilm x100 and the Canon 5D Mark II. Apples and oranges, you say. Maybe, but this is not a feature-by-feature full-on comparison; think of it as an exercise of having the 5D2 as a reference and see where each one falls on my photography routine.

Design

Undeniably, the most distinct feature of the Fujifilm x100 is its design. The retro-rangefinder-compact look is refined, polished, and reminds of the Canon Canonet — although considerably smaller. It has an 8-element 23mm f/2.0 Fujinon lens, equivalent to a 35mm angle, which I love. It’s a beautiful neat piece of gear, but there’s much more to this little camera than meets the eye.

The main reason why I wanted the x100 has to do with portability. I wanted a camera to complement the 5D, something light that I could take with me everywhere I go. The 5D Mark II surely is a great camera, but it’s not the first one that pops into one’s mind when they think of shooting photos on a casual going-out. And believe me, I did carry it around a lot.

The x100 is really small and light, perfect to carry around for hours and hours without having a sore wrist or arm at the end of the day. In fact, I find it a bit too small for my hands: although the front has a small bump, the back is almost flush and I have some difficulty griping it comfortably. Actually, the one accessory I’ve been looking at is a thumb grip, the Thumbrest Plus, which would help a lot. In comparison, the 5D2 grip is so big and ergonomically perfect that it just fits my hand like a glove. Quite literally.

Usage

Most x100’s quirks will, unfortunately, fall under this category. Moreso, if we make parallels with the 5D Mark II.

First off, it’s not the fastest camera in the world, probably not even in the top 200. In fact, it takes a couple of fury-inducing seconds to focus on the subject. This is, to this day, the biggest gripe I have with it. Releasing the shutter is fast and immediate, though.

I’ve thrown out more than a couple photos because of bad focusing, so that’s definitely something to consider. In one occasion, I had to shoot about 5 photos to get one focused on the subject (see below).

I found out the best way to get accurate focus is to set the camera to Manual Focus and use the AFL/AEL button on the back to get focus. It even feels faster than using any other AF mode. And don’t even think about using the focus ring, it’s completely useless. It’s a fly-by-wire mechanism and it is slow; you’re better off taking a few steps back or forward to adjust focus — believe me, it would be faster. Macro mode works best using this method as well, meaning you don’t have to switch it on: in MF mode the camera is capable of full range focusing.

It’s not all bad though. Shooting is not a problem: after focusing the shutter is quick and silent. The maximum shutter speed at f/2.0 is 1000/1s (due to its leaf nature), and that’s where the built-in ND filter comes in handy. It reduces the light by 3 stops and it’s more than enough to shoot wide open on the brightest of days.

Recording data to the card is also quick, assuming you’re using a fast one. Many have complained of sluggish recording times, but I’ve never experienced it.

The camera is perfect for street photography, as it is silent as a dandelion spreading its seeds. So silent, in fact, you’ll have trouble figuring out if it shot or not, at first. The 5D, on the other hand, makes a loud sound and you can even feel the mirror’s kick back.

The optical viewfinder with the display overlay is just genius and it makes for such a great experience. The digital VF is also very good in a WYSIWYG kind of way, but sluggish in low light. I honestly prefer the raw aspect of the optical one.

Metering works pretty well, although sometimes it tends to overexpose by 1~2/3 of a stop. It’s easy to quickly adjust using the knob on top, so no worries there.

I guess buttons, dials and menus could be improved on, but the aperture ring makes up for all that: feels solid and has no play, making it a breeze and fun to set the correct setting. The whole interface is responsive actually, even the VF switch on the front. People have bitched endlessly about the menus, but really, how many times a month do you use those? It’s not that big of a deal.

Image Quality

This is, to my surprise and even to this day, where the Fujifilm x100 shines. Even when compared to the 5D2, this camera is capable of producing beautiful images that are faithful and sharp. These camera’s release dates couldn’t be farther apart, but let me tell you: the x100 gives the 5D a run for its money.

The lens was designed specifically to be the APS-C sensor’s better half, and it shows. Pictures are as sharp as a knife, even more noticeable from f/2.8, and the resulting bokeh is stunning. The white balance on this little gem works wonders: it is very, very accurate and solid, working flawlessly every time.

Rendered colors and natural and vivid without being overly saturated or artificial. I’ve been shooting in RAW since I got it, so I don’t know how the emulated profiles (Provia, Velvia, and Astia) look like. Needless to say, I also did not test JPEG compression, but I hear good things about the x100 inner processing.

But wait, here comes the best part: dynamic range is downright insane. Mind you, I have the lowest possible DR value set up on the x100, which is 100. But I can honestly say that it blows the Canon out of the water, even if you compare the best image out of the 5D Mark II with any you can find from the Fujifilm.

Noise-wise, the Canon is obviously superior, mostly due to sensor size, but the Fuji is capable of delivering decent images at higher ISO. I have shot at 6400, where you get quite a bit of noise, but a usable picture. I like to keep it under 3200 if possible, though.

Conclusion

When going out with the Fujifilm x100, I do not feel I have less of a machine compared to the 5D2. Granted, it is not as responsive as a DSLR, but no one would expect that anyway. The results are brilliant, though, and you won’t probably look back when you switch to this beauty.

Overall, this little camera looks great and it delivers beautiful photos. The worst part is getting the shot you’re looking for, but once you get past the focusing issues, you’ll be able to see the unicorns sliding down through rainbows.

I repeat, the dynamic range is insane and everything looks sharp, a silky bokeh, and beautiful rendered colors. In resume, Fujifilm x100’s image quality will easily put most DSLRs to shame.

The x100 is light enough to carry around all day and although it’s not pocket-size, you can easily take it anywhere. The retro look is so different than most ordinary digital cameras that it can work both ways: it can draw attention, but in most cases it’ll go under the radar as an “old analog” one.

Walking down the street with the Fujifilm x100 wrapped on the wrist and knowing its potential, I now understand why everyone raves about this camera: it’s pure joy to use it.

Moi

The final shot

Hi there, welcome to my blog! I'm Filipe Varela, a designer at Automattic, and am passionate about photography and video. In this site I post photos from my journeys and daily ramblings — in sum, a slice of life. Browse through the archive or check the homepage for the latest posts.

  • Went looking for used X100 prices after reading this ;)

    When it was launched I was seriously considering getting one but after trying it I decided to wait for Canon to come up with something… They never did and now my 5D mk2 sidekick is a Canon S100!

    Awesome “review”!

    • Filipe Varela

      Mine’s used, bought it through FórumFotografia.net.
      Never really considered it before, it was too expensive for me. This bargain made me think otherwise for once. So happy I took the plunge!

      I’ve seen your S100 on Flickr, I actually thought about getting it.

      Thank you, glad you liked it. :)

  • Oh boy… I was thinking towards this already and your words and images aren’t making things easier for me. :)
    Too bad the price tag is a bit too high, as I already have a 5DmkII as well. I see you got it second-hand, maybe I should take a look on that market and take the plunge!

    • Filipe Varela

      It’s a great camera, really worth getting if you’re looking for a 5D2 companion. And you’re right, it is expensive, even considering its qualities. Might be worth waiting for the x200, or look for a used one. :)

  • Jetlag722

    Oh, those photos are insane. What software you used to edit them and what method?

    • Filipe Varela

      Thank you :)

      I used Lightroom and VSCO Film, using basic presets with occasional minor tweaks.

      • Nice! Just purchased a used X100 black edition. Do you shoot raw or jpeg with your x100? What’s your favourite vsco preset? I am travelling to rome in 2months and cannot wait!

        • Hey Toby! I always shoot RAW — I’m used to the process and having the freedom when editing, but the JPGs out of the Fuji are beautiful on their own. I have a few favs, but most are from the first pack they released. Have fun in Rome, it’s beautiful!

  • VSCO is so popular right now… i have VSCO Film 01 but i cant get those looks. When i apply for example Fuji 400++ i always get blown highlights and when i fade the photo it looks miserable. Maybe my camera is bad, I use Canon 550d with 18-55 lens. Nice job with those photos.

    • Filipe Varela

      Same thing happens to me: I look at other people’s photos and always think mine aren’t processed the same way. I can tell you I didn’t mess much with the normal presets on these photos.

      For example, I really enjoy your editing on this one: http://500px.com/photo/4126222

      Also, make sure you’re using the presets AND the picture profiles, your camera is supported as listed here: http://visualsupply.co/film/01/lightroom4/

  • Jetlag722

    Thanks for the responses.

  • Chris

    Nice post.. I’m looking at getting one for a backpacking trip around Australia and Asia for over 12 months. Think it up for the job?

    • Filipe Varela

      Hey Chris! Absolutely it will! And it will be much lighter to carry than, say, a full-fledged DSLR — perfect for your trip.

      I reckon it’s a personal preference, but it’s what I take with me on trips for a few months now. I rarely miss the 5D Mark II on those occasions.

      • Chris

        Brilliant.. I’m pretty much sold on it by looks alone lol. But image quality looks amazing. Can’t wait to get one and start shooting.

  • Bought the X100 two months ago, and I will newer let it go again. Its a wonderful camera, with great picture quality.

    • Indeed, Morten. Glad you like the little X100, enjoy! :)

  • Great review Filipe! Sounds like a wonderful camera, I had a Panasonic Lumix GF1 which was very similar, I sold it to upgrade to a DSLR to capture the faster action of my kids.

    Sounds like the X100 is worth checking out also.

    • Thanks Marcus. I did quite the opposite: had DSLRs for years and decided to try something smaller, without hurting the image quality and flexibility I was used to.

      Although I must say, you would feel the difference in terms of overall speed when capturing your kids’ action — a lot of shots would be missed, and for that a DSLR is ideal.

  • brilliant review my friend going to get the x100 today,but it’s going to santa so i’ll see it on the 25th.I also have a 5D mrkII and just like a lot of people want something a little small just to have a bit of fun with.so thank you love your images.www.facebook.com/fotopic

    • keoshi

      Thanks mate, I appreciate your kind words. Just a heads-up: try the x100 before committing to it. I find that the slow focus becomes a bit of a headache over time, but it highly depends on your particular use.

  • Ritesh

    Absolutely amazing review mate… It really helped me in deciding upon buying a x100. Now that’s me Christmas present for myself.. ;)
    Cheers.. :)

    • keoshi

      Thanks for the kind comments and glad I could help! Enjoy it.

  • Great article. Still have one more question, would you suggest buying the x100 over a leica x1 or x2?

    • keoshi

      Appreciate it. I’m afraid I can’t help you on that since I’ve never used either the x1 or the x2. I’d always recommend trying both if you can before buying — try reading the X100 comparison here, it might help.

      • Thanks a lot Keoshi, this is a great article about the comparrison of the X1, X2 and the x100. Still can’t really make up my mind, but at least I have all the info I wanted about these camera’s.
        Online_Marlow

        • keoshi

          My pleasure, hopefully all of this will help you to make a more informed decision. Cheers!

  • Alex

    Hey! Awesome review. I know this is not a really good question, but would you take the X100 as your primary camera, if you had the chance. I am seriously contemplating making it my only camera (selling my Canon 50D), but I am afraid it might not be a good move. I shoot mostly environmental portraits, with a few nature shots here and there.

    • keoshi

      Hey Alex, thanks for the kind comment. I would not have a problem using the x100 as my primary camera — in fact, I did so in several occasions. I wouldn’t, however, completely get rid of my DSLR as it’s an essential piece in my kit.

  • Ange Tolentino

    Hi Keoshi:

    Do you still have focussing delay issues even with the most recent firmware update? I’m hoping to buy an X100 this month, and was wondering if you’re still having problems… Great review though!

    • keoshi

      I do have the latest firmware and focus is still slow. You’re better off getting the newest version: X100s

      Thank you!

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  • Jay

    Loved your review, a more genuine approach to the camera it seems. Also nice photo’s. I’m at a young student who’s always taken interest in photography and manage to get the shot just never the right camera, seriously won over by the x100’s beauty and reviews. Is it a worthy investment for a first camera? I’m taken back by its sheer style and results.

    • keoshi

      Thank you so much!

      The X100 is a great camera with a beautiful lens and a big sensor that allows you to continue to learn while capturing fantastic photographs at the same time. I’d get the newest version — X100s — which is said to be improved quite a bit.

  • Nice review, do you know if the X100S fixed some of the lack you mentioned like the autofocus?

    • keoshi

      Thanks! I managed to sell the x100 and get the x100s, so I can tell for sure that the AF is majorly improved. Unfortunately, the sharpness of the lens is not quite the same as the original x100, when fully open. But overall is a good upgrade over the original model.

  • Yooshik

    Hi, was the first photo in the review shot with the X100, or was it shot with your 5d mk2 with intent to show what the camera looks like when someone is shooting with it? The shot has a very smooth full frame look….

    • Hey Yooshik, you’re right — that was shot with the Canon 5D2 for the purpose of having a photo of the actual X100. :)

  • Mike Freeman

    Yes very good review. Did you process Jpegs or Raw files? I only use Jpegs with X100, and appreciat to know which software you consider the is best for them.

    • keoshi

      Unlike you, I always shoot RAW and edit them in Lightroom, which I love. Thanks, Mike.

  • Hello Filipe,
    Very nice work! :)
    What were the filters used in this specific post?
    Thanks, Miguel.

    • keoshi

      Hey Miguel,

      Don’t quite remember, but from what I do, I’d say it’s a mishmash of VSCO filters from their first release, Film 01: http://vsco.co/film/01/lightroom4

      Cheers and thanks for the nice comment!

  • You are just making my life harder. I was so set on getting the Sony RX1r (though the lack of viewfinder is maddening) but thought I’d give one last glance at the Fuji. Any thoughts on the comparison between the two?

    • keoshi

      Hey Hilary! Funny you mention that because that’s the camera I got to replace the x100. I got the RX-1 (not the r version, although I’d prefer that) because of its smaller size and full frame sensor.

      I absolutely love the Sony, but they’re not quite comparable… the Fuji is 3 times cheaper, for example. Also, the Sony has some disadvantages: no viewfinder, white balance is not as good, slower in low light than the x100s, but its advantages more than make up for these bits.

      In sum, if you have the money I’d go for the RX-1r, no doubt.

  • Finally that review of the X100 make me buy the X100S and I love it. Thanks!
    I also wrote a review on it if your are interested.
    Best regards,
    Xavier.

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