Fuji X100: My First Impressions [UPDATED August 1st 2011]

by Klaus on July 6, 2011

in Photography

I’ve been eyeballing the Fuji X100 camera since it was announced late 2010. Initially I thought it was too expensive, considering the limitations such as fixed focal length and fixed lens, meaning you can’t zoom (without using your feet, that is) and you can’t change the lens to anything else, like on DSLR and on some of the micro four-thirds camera systems by Olympus.

However, I’m totally digging the design of Fuji’s Finepix X100. It’s quite similar to that of my Zorki 6 (1964 Ukrainian rangefinder camera, 35mm film), and thus X100 has, by some, been given the nickname “The poor man’s Leica”, despite X100 is not a rangefinder at all. It just looks like one.

I’m not going to go too much into technical details here, as there are other reviews out there which specializes in that, so I’m just going to assume you already know about the hybrid viewfinder options on X100, such as EVF (electronic) and OVF (optical), plus of course the back of the LCD screen, which I think most people with X100 won’t even use as a viewfinder.

Fuji X100 first impressions

1) It’s light! To me, it feels light, in a good way. As I mentioned, the design is similar to my Zorki 6 which weighs around 750g. Fuji X100 weighs only 445g. To compare, my Nikon D7000 camera body weighs 780g plus lenses ranging from 300g to 1,300g – so a DSLR system is quite a lot heavier than Fuji X100. Which is why I feel the X100 is a refreshing change as a walk-around camera, it’s just so light 🙂  Of course if you currently own a standard digital camera such as Sony HX5V (read my Sony HX5V review, here) which weighs in at just 200g, you may find the X100 to be heavy and bulky, until you get used to it.

2) Viewfinder is cool! After 1st day of use, I prefer the OVF (optical) viewfinder with some overlay information. It’s so bright! Of course there’s a minor parallax issue (the viewfinder being placed to the left of the actual lens), but the latest firmware update (v1.10, June 2011) adds a menu option in set-up to display “corrected AF”, so it will show you where it will focus if the subject is closer (around 80cm). If subject is within 80cm, you should switch to EVF (or macro mode, which enables EVF) to get the focus right.

3) Accessories are way overpriced! Lens hood (LH-X100) is not included. The lens hood needs an adapter ring (AR-X100) before it can be installed, also not included, and they sell as a pair for around $120. That’s way, way, way overpriced for 2 pieces of metal!! I told the shop, where I got my Fuji X100, that I could buy the pair online (unoriginal) for around half that, so he made me a deal and gave it to me at the same price – because I also bought the X100, of course, otherwise I’m sure he wouldn’t have. You also need the adapter ring in order to install any 49mm filters, otherwise you have to get creative as you can’t just install a filter directly on the lens without any form of dividers, as the front lens element will simply hit the filter when it focuses close.

There’s also a leather case (LC-X100), which is slightly more expensive than the lens hood + adapter ring set. It’s nice quality and really inspired by the old Nikon film days. I like the case, but I would probably also like a cheaper knock-off from eBay. Pictured in the top of this article, I’ve removed the top of the case, so it’s only the “bottom frame” left, to protect the body (known as a “half case). The downside with LC-X100 case is that the “hole” for the lens, in the case, is not big enough to fit a lens hood – and you can’t reverse the lens hood. So when you’re closing the case, you need to remove the lens hood (which is fast, but you want to hold on to that lens hood and not lose is, since it’s so expensive!).

4) Lens hood / cap issue! When the adapter ring is installed, the original Fuji lens hood doesn’t install very nice, it feels as if it could easily fall off. With the lens hood on, the lens cap cannot be installed at all. A generic 49mm pinch lens cap can be purchased in most camera stores for less than $10 (and cheaper on eBay), which I’ve decided to use for now (see X100 photo at the top). I may also just install a 49mm UV or NC filter and keep the lens hood on at all times, and not use a lens cap at all – unless I’m storing the camera for a longer time (like that’s ever gonna happen…).

UPDATE – August 1st 2011: Less than a few weeks into using the X100, I decided to get a 49mm filter and stop using a lens cap. There’s no need. Filters are cheap (and I don’t pixel peep enough to be able to notice any difference in lens quality plus I’ve never made a photo where I said to myself afterwards “I wish I didn’t had the filter on”), so if I should happen to scratch the filter or anything, it’s cheap to replace. Plus I don’t need to worry about a lens cap.

5) Start-up and write speed! I’ve read a lot about how slow Fuji X100 is to start up and write photos to the SD card. I must say I haven’t seen any of this. I updated firmware immediately when I got it, and I use it with a 8GB Sandisk class 10 (30mb/s) card and it starts up pretty fast, not slower than your average digital camera – but of course also not as fast as a DSLR which is ready the moment you hit the switch. I haven’t played around too much yet to decide whether or not the write speed will become a problem to me. It seems to save pretty fast, except if you’re bracketing or bursting, then it will take a few seconds – meanwhile you can’t continue to shoot, as far as I’ve figured.

UPDATE – August 1st 2011: I decided to try out a 45mb/s UHS class 1 card which is even faster than class 10 (30mb/s) to see if it made a difference. It did not. With that said, the write speed has not yet become an issue to me in daily use. You can read about my findings here: Fuji X100 SD card write speeds.

6) Manual focus ring is a disgrace! This is the biggest “what were they thinking?!”-thing about Fuji X100, that I’ve found. It takes too many turns on the manual focus ring to get from closest to infinity. For me, I have to re-position my fingers on the manual focus ring 7-11 times to get there. It varies, because it seems there’s some kind of accelerator built-in, so depending on the speed you gain, it will move over greater distances. It also seems to be less sensitive as you get closer (macro), which makes sense, and requires more turns in the close area, than in the tele area. It’s “focus-by-wire” so it’s something that Fuji can improve in firmware updates. Some users also claims that it takes less turns if you’re manual focusing in a bright place, than if it’s dim.

7) Built-in ND filter is awesome! The built-in 3-stop Neutral Density filter is really cool. This cuts down on the light, so you could shoot outside in daylight with a large aperture and blur the background with, say, f2.8, rather than having to go up to f8 or something like that. I’ve assigned my “FN” button to take me to the ND filter on/off menu, so it’s fast and easy for me to enable/disable it.

In all honestly, the ND filter was probably introduced because the way the lens/shutter is built, the shutter cannot go higher than 1/1000 at f2.8 or wider, so by enabling the 3-stop ND filter you’re able to cut down on the light just as much as if you were shooting at 1/8000. Still, being able to “fake” 1/8000 like that is pretty cool as well, my old D5000 couldn’t even go faster than 1/4000, my current Nikon D7000 does go up to 1/8000 though.

These were my initial thoughts on Fuji Finepix X100. It’s an expensive camera. Worth the money? I can’t say yet, to be honest. But it doesn’t have a lot of competition out there if you like a retro-styled camera with a viewfinder and a large APS-C sensor (DSLR-sized sensor) with really great ISO performance.

UPDATE – August 1st 2011: Worth the money? The jury is still out on that one. I’m 50/50. I can usually tell when I have that feeling “I wish I didn’t spend this much money on this product!” or “This product is worth every penny!”. With X100, because it’s so expensive (and it is a lot of money), I’m not really getting any of the feelings. I have not regretted my purchase but on the other side, I don’t exactly feel as if it was a “bargain”. But, I am having a blast with the camera and I’m taking it with me many more places than the DSLR ever came, so I’m definitely getting good value out of it. However, it’s not a camera I would recommend to someone as being the only camera they will own – it’s too much a niche camera for that.

As for the fixed focal length issue, use it to your advantage. Zoom with the feet and learn to get more creative with the 35mm (35mm. equiv.) that you got, over time, it will probably also improve your vision to suit the focal length of the X100.

Oh, almost forgot, the box X100 came in (not the limited version, just standard) is quite nice. I’m not going to show you any photos of that, it’s best you experience it yourself if you decide to get this camera!

Useful Fuji X100 resources

And here’s a short video from Fujifilm that shows how they got X100 production back up and running after the Japan earthquake in March 2011:

Comments & Leave a Comment

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Anita July 7, 2011 at 19:52

I need a good small camera with a decent sensor size and I’ve been thinking about the Leica or micro four thirds but the x100 seems like the better option. I also like that it looks very rangefindery. Thanks for the review
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Suhanesh Madav July 7, 2011 at 22:51

I love Fuji Products,I think Fuji lens is far better than Sony considering the cost for both.
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Harpreet Singh July 8, 2011 at 19:11

Fuji is great brand ……..make such a great technology of cams i also use fuji cam and its great………
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digital world July 8, 2011 at 19:19

looks great. what’s the cost??
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Klaus July 10, 2011 at 10:57

It’s around $1200 from new.
Klaus recently posted… Fuji X100: My First Impressions

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DJ ARIF July 9, 2011 at 19:04

Wow, this Fuji X100 is not expensive but got evety features that I need…. really cool… liked it.. 😀
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Fujifilm X100 July 10, 2011 at 07:08

The X100 really is an incredible camera. I love that it’s compact and retro in design while really being a technological breakthrough camera with it’s hybrid viewfinder and large sensor. Like you wrote, it’s an excellent camera for those who would like to own a rangefinder style camera without the high cost of a Leica M, of which it resembles the M3 the most. However, in operation it’s similar to the Leica X1, but the Fuji X100 also has the much loved hybrid viewfinder.

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Gagan Arora July 10, 2011 at 21:44

nice camera from fujifilm …..thanks for sharing

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Shane Ryans July 11, 2011 at 15:56

It sounds like a great little camera but with all the others out there with more features, I can’ t say i would purchase something of this sort.
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Will July 13, 2011 at 14:27

I have been looking for a new Lightweight camera, definitely one to consider
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Anders July 25, 2011 at 13:06

“6) Manual focus ring is a disgrace! ”
Just use the AFL-AEL button in MF mode to get quick focus and then use the focus ring for fine adjustments.

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Klaus July 25, 2011 at 13:15

Yes, that’s definitely a workaround. Still, the actual manual focus sucks 🙂
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Sam August 3, 2011 at 17:23

This is one beautiful looking camera it could even give the EP1 a run for it’s money – but as it doesn’t have interchangeable lens then it couldn’t compete on functionality – but as for the looks!!!!! a nice piece of kit.

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John Hays August 4, 2011 at 13:25

Impressive, but I’ll stick to my Nikon D90!

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Richard August 5, 2011 at 13:54

There is a few cameras in this segment of the market now but I know of some people who are really missing optical viewfinders on smaller cameras and this might make the difference. Love the retro looks.
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Katrinna August 5, 2011 at 23:08

WOW! i should show this to my husband i like to buy this, it’s perfect side i don’t need to carry a big bag to put my camera in it.i can’t wait to buy this one…
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Alexandria August 6, 2011 at 20:15

This looks like a nice review of Fuji X100. I have a good look at the picture it looks like very light and for the quality of the pictures. It really looks well enough for people who just shoot on something,jut for the fun of it. Maybe I should get one since I love taking pictures I’ve been through.
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Daniel Black August 6, 2011 at 22:59

This camera looks great. To be honest i don’t really understand the technical side of the camera but by the looks of it, seems to be a good thing to own. A bit pricey though…
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Larry Lourcey August 8, 2011 at 05:02

I’ve been very curious about that camera myself, but I wonder if I would use it. I got a cool retro Loma camera last year and it is still in the box. I would hate for that to happen again.
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