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Fuji X100 - the extended review

I've owned the Fuji X100 since August. This extended review won't cover too many technical details so if you're in the market for one, dpreview.

 

Here it is. The camera itself is surprisingly compact. It's essentially a mirrorless camera with an APS-C sized 12.3MP sensor.

 

The large APS-C sensor is really where the X100 shines. Unlike many other mirrorless cameras, it has stunning noise performance. These were shot in ISO3200 and they show no significant sign of noise.

 

The sensor is quite capable in a gamut of lighting conditions, whether it be natural or artificial. 

 

Colors are also vibrant yet deep, in typical Fujifilm fashion. 

 

Many cameras have a hard time of accurately capturing red. Fuji does a nice job here too.

 

Dynamic range performance is also quite fantastic. There's so much detail that is captured in the shadow/highlights that it's almost HDR-esque. 

 

Another photo showcasing the level of detail in both the shadows and highlights. Many cameras would only have a usable upper or lower half in a photo like this. 

 

I have written a Coffee Time post on my thoughts on the design of the camera. Being a hypocrite, I went with a very retro looking case. Fuji makes their own leather jacket but it's crazy over-priced. I went with this $40 third-party option.

 

This case is quite nice though. The X100 feels a little bit fragile so I recommend some kind of light protection.

 

There is one thing that's functional about the retro design - it makes the camera unintimidating. People avoid you when you point a SLR at them. They just think you're a hipster with a film camera when you point the X100.

 

It also has a near silent leaf shutter that will make you a photo ninja. I've even tried shooting in an Apple store and an employee came to ask what brand my messenger bag was, not to kick me out.

 

The controls are intuitive and super functional. The exposure compensation dial is most useful - especially since the X100 tends to slightly overexpose everything. You can see some light dings that I've gathered during my travels: magnesium is light but slightly on the soft side. Steel or brass (like Leicas) would have been optimal.

 

Here is an example of the X100 lightly over-exposing as usual. Once you learn how the camera is going to behave, it's easy to compensate for it.

 

As you may have noticed, I use the filter/lens-hood adapter on the X100. Using a UV filter also mitigates having to carry around that fiddly lens cap completely. My hood is made by a company called JJC and costs $15. Fuji's official hood is a crazy $140. 

 

Without the hood, you can really see how compact this lens is. It's 23mm and fast at f/2. 

 

23mm is seemingly perfect for my style of photography. I usually like to line everything up in the photo for a more organized appearance.

 

The lens is wide enough to take photos of buildings but also zoomed in far enough for street photography. This really is the sweet spot for me. 

 

And because the 23mm lens is not removable and optimized specifically for the X100's sensor, it is sharp as a knife. It is slightly soft when wide-open at f/2 but is fine from about f/2.8.

 

Now here is the dark part. The camera is absolutely horrible at auto focusing. It is slow, inaccurate and has made me lose plenty of shots during my time with it. Fuji has issued multiple firmware updates to speed things up, but it's not been of much help. Manual focus is even worse because the lens is motor driven resulting in a big delay. This constant battle to focus forces you understand how the camera is focusing and makes you think more about how you'll be executing that shot.


Any photo that is at this distance or closer will also require you to manually change the camera to "macro mode". This is a huge irritant. I've done this so many times that it's become natural but it's definitely something that it shouldn't require human help with.

 

 

One of the first things that I test when I try out a camera is white balance performance. The Fuji X100 shines here too. The iPad was lit by natural light, the Nokia by mixed lighting, and the headphones were under nasty fluorescent lamps.


In conclusion, the Fujifilm X100 is simply the most lovable camera I've owned. It has one huge flaw, which is the horrendous autofocus. This makes it a hard camera to recommend to anyone but if you are patient and willing to put up with it, the X100 will reward you with beautiful pictures. Now that I've been using it for many months, my shooting style has been transformed by the camera. In product design, we always talk about how a product need to be used effortlessly. Not the case here at all. However, there is something about the X100 that makes me appreciate this difficulty. You have to earn your right to be able to use the camera. The X100 forces you to prepare and think about every photo you take. The X100 is definitely not a point-and-shoot. If you are prepared to take on a challenge and learn the ways of Fuji, this just might be the camera for you. Wax on, wax off.

 

For more sample photos:

Seattle Central Library 

iPad 3rd Generation Review

Ducati Sportclassic Review

Photos from SF.