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
- The Official Fuji Finepix X100 website
- Jonathan Fleming’s blog posts often contains great photos taken with his Fuji X100
- The Fuji X100 Digital Camera Real World Review by Steve Huff
- Zack Arias Fuji X100 review – “Burn the spec sheet. This camera is worth every penny.”
- X100 Forums
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: