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The Fuji X100


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#1 M4cr0s

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Posted 07 June 2011 - 20:17

I am going to make this as short as I can. I think perhaps some of you Nikoniacs also flirt with other brands and "toy" cameras and might be interested. It's impossible to cover all aspects of the camera and for instance dpreview have done an excellent review of it in their usual lengthy style. Personally I've shot some 1300 frames through the X100 over the past few weeks, both business and pleasure. I think I've sort of come to grips with the little fellah. So, this is basically some of the impressions and observations I've made in this time.

Body and physical attributes
Well, it's kind of small, a bit to large for a pocket (cargo pants would be okay), but at 450 grams or so it's certainly no problem carrying around. It feels and probably is quite solid (mine have hit the floor, literally, lens hood took the brunt of the fall though). It feels like what I call good build quality. Any modern Nikon I've handled D80/D90/D300/D7000/D700/D3 had one or other point where you could feel slight movement in the outer plastic layer, often around the battery compartment. The X100 is as tight as anything and feels like a solid, trustworthy tool, almost like a good slide calliper.

General use
A lot have been said on the menu system and various firmware quirks and thats with good reason. This isn't a mature camera with several generations of development backing it, more bits and pieces from what is (presumably) Fujifilms compacts. Some of the bugs and quirks will be improved with the promised future firmware releases, some will undoubtedly remain because they are design choices, no matter how much we would disagree. Yet, fact remains, and this is important, the camera works, it shoots, exposes and produces images reliably. No 9 FPS or tracking focus able to follow a 5 year old ADHD kid fueled on ice-cream and cola, but it locks accurately and securely and I've had very few OOF shots, even in poor light. You have to adjust your focusing technique to CDAF peculiarities and find some kind of contrast do drop your focus point on though, especially in poor light.

The combination of OVF/EVF/LCD is fantastic, three options of what to look through to frame the shot is very useful and all three "modes" work very well and the switching between them is almost instant. Mine spends most of the time in OVF mode, although I do switch to the EVF for critically accurate framing every now and then. Seeing more than what you get makes it easier to frame and compose shots and also to anticipate things entering the frame. If you've ever shot a rangefinder you know what I mean. The OVF is however much brighter and contains loads more information (which can be customized) than any old rangefinder.

IQ
This is where the X100 shines - Image quality. A finely tuned lens and sensor combo, although "only" 12mp, can work magic and so does the X100. Images are sharp from edge to edge and have a very fine quality and look to them. The lens itself is not quite as punchy as certain modern Nikon or Zeisses, it's a different kind of rendering or drawing of colors and transitions, perhaps a bit old school or somewhat subdued/neutral but not as cool as a 85 1.4D or 105 DC. The lens is sharp already at F/2.0, but struggle a bit at focus distances shorter than about 80cm, stopping down to F/4.0 at short focus distances puts things back on track. I understand this is down to some of the compromises they had to do to make it so small. At distances beyond 80cm up to infinity everything is pretty much as good as it gets today. Sharpness is exceptional across the frame, some very slight and easily correctable distortion and pretty much non-existing CA or other aberrations. My jaw literally dropped when I saw the first F/2.0 shots at medium distances and at infinity, the lack of nasty mushiness in the corners and flat, consistent frame..well I cannot stop drooling over the files. There's some vignetting, especially wide open, perhaps a little over one stop at most.

Being primarily a DX-user, I kind of struggle finding a ~24mm F-mount lens as capable as the Fujinon. Probably the only "modern" performance-wise comparable lenses are the 24G, 14-24G and the Zeiss 21mm, although all these are a bit apples and oranges compared to the Fujinons maximum aperture and crop sensor image circle. I can't resist mentioning that all these lenses cost as much or more than the X100 and are actually physically equally large or larger than the camera. Kind of puts things into perspective even if it's just a silly and not really valid comparison.

The files that come out of the X100, be they jpgs or RAWs really have to bee seen and experienced firsthand. The jpg engine is the best I've ever seen, I've never really been that "oooh" over the "famous" Olympus jpgs, but these are something that (almost) makes me reconsider my following of the RAW-cult. The RAWs do remind me a lot of the 12mp Nikon files from the D90, D5000 and D300 in terms of DR and ability to recover highlights and shadows. They don't have quite as much headroom as the D7000, but it's clearly much more refined/evolved algorithms at work here than the slightly outdated 12mp Nikons. The really big difference is the amount of detail. The X100 seems to have a light AA filter and/or better internal processing, because there's more detail than I'm used to from my D90, even with very good glass. I can't quantify this or measure it, it's a subjective impression and should be taken with a few bucketfuls of salt.

High ISO noise is something that interests me as I often shoot in very poor light. Simnply put, the X100 is very close to my D7000 in this department, basically meaning a notch or two above the D90, just below the D700 in most areas. The noise is, like with the D7000, mainly of the luminance variety, meaning it's easy to work with. The X100 files do not however retain color as well as the D7000, but it is clearly better than the D90. One of the reasons the D7000 high ISO files look so good is the ability to maintain color fidelity, something even the D700 struggle with, although the D700 have slightly less noise overall. Basically, the X100 performs extremely well and puts the old but tried and trusted Sony (?) 12.3mp sensor to good use, paired with a couple of years worth of development in processing. It's a camera that you comfortably can shoot down to ISO 3200 and even 6400 with careful exposure and post processing. Oh, the places you can go with 1/40th at F/2.0 and ISO 3200!

Final words
The many nay-sayers, rumors and complaints over the X100 can scare anyone. Yet, the growing enthusiast community, even dedicated forums and the many very, very nice images I saw from it convinced me to give it a go, knowing I could return it. All these people could not be all wrong. Quite frankly, I realize now it's changed the way I shoot and brought a lot of image-making joy back into my life. It goes with me anywhere and I love knowing that I have a camera with me that I trust IQ-wise to the same degree that I trust my DSLRs. For specialized photographic tasks such as macro, sports, portraiture and so forth, there's no way I won't choose to use a DSLR, but for a lot of other stuff the X100 is very much up to the task. Tthe kind of shooting I do, even the paid stuff, is not very demanding and I would not hesitate to use the X100 for an environmental PJ-type portrait for instance.

Yet...this is a camera for those who knows what they are doing, accept the merits and drawbacks of a single prime and are able and willing to learn a new camera with a sometimes confusing logic and some quirks. It's no denying that this is a camera that will feel all to limiting to a lot of people and if you come from a DSLR and expect DSLR-like focus performance and burst rates you will be sadly disappointed.

IF you give it the time, the reward is a camera that is a pleasure to shoot, use and carry while still giving you images of a quality that rivals the state-of-the-art crop sensor DSLRs out there. I'd actually be so bold, that even with the rather high retail price of the X100, you'd struggle getting better IQ for the same price if you consider what a body and high-grade 24mm lens cost today. In FX land there's a whole forest of great 35mms, but then we're also talking several times the weight and size, lens + body. There's also no doubt people respond differently to a small, "old" camera like the X100 than a huge honking black DSLR. Try pulling up a D3 with a 70-200 in a casual social situation and see how people react ;)

I think that rounds it off. If there's any interest I'll come back with some definitely unscientific image samples and more impressions later on.

Cheers,
Mac

This post has been promoted to an article

Edited by M4cr0s, 07 June 2011 - 22:10 .

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#2 whoalse

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Posted 07 June 2011 - 21:50

Thanks for the review, Mac...
It's definitely a pleasure to shoot with X100. I love it...
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#3 roemer

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 14:03

Great review, thanks for the effort. I was nearly in the process of aquiring the new 35/1.4 G, when this little camera popped up. I couldn't care less for its appearance, but after reading several glowing reviews on particularly the great IQ/ISO sensitivity I am having second
about the 35G, maybe this is another way to go. Portable and for the first time true DSLR image quality I have tried the MFT road but found it to be lacking in the noise department (being spoiled by the D700). The only problem is that this camera is (for the moment) nowhere to be found (in the Netherlands, that is)

Edited by roemer, 13 June 2011 - 14:27 .


#4 M4cr0s

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 21:08

Great review, thanks for the effort. I was nearly in the process of aquiring the new 35/1.4 G, when this little camera popped up. I couldn't care less for its appearance, but after reading several glowing reviews on particularly the great IQ/ISO sensitivity I am having second
about the 35G, maybe this is another way to go. Portable and for the first time true DSLR image quality I have tried the MFT road but found it to be lacking in the noise department (being spoiled by the D700). The only problem is that this camera is (for the moment) nowhere to be found (in the Netherlands, that is)


Well, this is guesswork on my part, but I think maybe this come down to two things, how poor light you'll want to shoot in and long-term investment.

Firstly, the 35 1.4G + a D700/D3/D3s compared to the X100, how to that calculus ad up? One thing is sensor capabilities, clearly the FX bodies are better at high ISOs, depending on how you measure ISO performance, 1 to 2,5 (D3s) stops better probably. Plus, there's that stop of light too from the lens. Yet, I do not know if one of the aforementioned FX bodies with the 35 1.4G at F/2.0 are better across the frame (sharpness/flatness/edges) than the X100 at same aperture for instance and there's that thing about distortion too, the 23mm Fujinon should according to "tradition" and even laws of physics exhibit more distortion, especially close up and it does too. Those who should know claim the 35 1.4G to be a marvel of a lens and I have no real reason to doubt them. Still, there's that thing about when is good enough, good enough? Not to defend that tin can, the X100, but do you need the very most extreme of low light performance available to man such as the 35 1.4G and say a D3s would offer and are you willing to take the weight?

On the other hand. In three years the X100 will be worth 1/3rd of it's original retail price, unless Fujifilm goes bankrupt and the X100 become some kind of weird cult thing. The 35 1.4G on the other hand, will still be good for 70-80 % of it's retail price... I'm sticking to the X100 because I decided that the overall convenience of a small, light camera with relatively good overall performance/quality is a priority to me. Financially however, forking out 50 % more (if I was an FX shooter) for the 35 1.4G or 24 1.4G (as I am a DX guy) would be a much better long-term investment. Then again, maybe I'll get some (money) shots with the X100 I'd never get with one of the possible DSLR combos since I would not carry them with me ;)

Mac

Edited by M4cr0s, 13 June 2011 - 21:10 .

"I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this years fashions."

Lillian Hellman


#5 jramskov

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Posted 14 June 2011 - 16:33

Thanks for the review, it is an intriguing camera for sure.
Joergen Ramskov
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#6 stenrasmussen

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 08:40

I really want to like this camera but the camera's lack of an open mouth prohibits me to vary my lens choices.
Having said that, the lens and sensor I really do like!

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#7 Dallas

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 10:07

Thanks Sindre! I have promoted your review to an article so that all members and the public can read it, and also added you to our contributors group (which means you don't have to renew your subscription :)).

Win a thinkTank Retrospective 30 camera bag just by making a post to Fotozones this week! 

 

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#8 vivionm

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 11:53

I am trying very hard not to like this camera. But this review is making this very hard for me.

#9 stenrasmussen

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 16:33

Another example.

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#10 Luc de Schepper

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 19:00

Very tempting camera and a brave effort by Fuji. Fine pics shown in this thread, they look very good.

#11 Larry

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 17:31

Heads up for X100 owners. Firmware Version 1.11 now available for downloading using this link:

Firmware Version 1.11 Download

Improvement in focusing quite noticeable.

Edited by Larry, 18 October 2011 - 17:32 .


#12 M4cr0s

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 22:56

Thanks Sindre! I have promoted your review to an article so that all members and the public can read it, and also added you to our contributors group (which means you don't have to renew your subscription :)).


Hey, thank you Mr. D! Didn't notice until now, been off the grid.

Mac

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Lillian Hellman


#13 Uncle Frank

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 01:48

I'd actually be so bold, that even with the rather high retail price of the X100, you'd struggle getting better IQ for the same price if you consider what a body and high-grade 24mm lens cost today. In FX land there's a whole forest of great 35mms, but then we're also talking several times the weight and size, lens + body.


I've admired the images from the X100, but a D5100 with the 24/2.8D has the same FOV, and will be a better performer, less expensive, and pretty compact in size.
Warm regards,
Frank

#14 RogerB

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 03:01

Hi Mac,

Thanks for the very nice review and introduction to the X100. I ran into a "problem" earlier this year and the X100 was the answer. I needed a travel camera and because of the rigors and other parameters of the travel, none of my DSLRs were an option. Much earlier I had purchased a D700 and 16-35mm f/4 AFS VR and 24-120mm f/4 AFS VR for this trip and suddenly it became just too much to deal with. Fortunately I was able to find a X100 and it was an excellent choice for this trip. I've done a lot of international travel on business and I've often had to limit myself to a smallish body and 35mm lens. Before it was a FM2 or something in that ilk (Contax T3).

There are days I want to fling the X100 as far as I can, but mostly I have to spend some "awe time" chimping.

For me, many of the popular objections have faded with use. Occasionally I do get into some mode that I can't diagnose. Often after taking a deep breath I can "undo" the quirky behavior, but so far I can't find the "entry point". When undone, the images are IMO excellent. They don't come easy. There is a learning curve to the camera controls and menu. Auto behavior is surprisingly reliable, but the entire camera seems to bias exposure towards f/2. The lens is excellent at f/2. The sensor delivers excellent raw results to IS06400. I'm not a jpg shooter, but I'm amazed at what this can deliver. I just don't have the patience to always protect the highlights and I find that exposing to the right sometimes difficult to implement as the nature of the histogram display doesn't seem to be entirely consistent.

I'm referencing some images that I've taken with the camera while traveling. These are not carefully thought out or implemented images, but many are taken in conditions that would challenge my D700 with a f/4 zoom. I consider these a typical representation of what this camera can do. So bear with the snapshot routine - questions welcome. I'm a dedicated Nikon user who found that this camera met a particular need and there was no Nikon that would for me fill that gap at that time.

The first images taken with this camera - my learning curve.
http://snappix.smugm...6065793_xmn8Zbg

Trying to figure out the jpg noise reduction, metering and dynamic range
http://snappix.smugm...9037285_8hZVVRS

Images taken of a fast paced two week guided tour of Italy. These are really grab and go images taken under the pressure of not holding up a group and some in stealth mode. These galleries also contain a mix of LX3 images. You can use the keyword string at the bottom of the larger image to pick the x100 only images.
http://snappix.smugm...e-Florence-Rome

Edited by RB, 17 November 2011 - 04:02 .

Best Regards,
Roger

It's still just aperture, shutter-speed and ISO.... right?
D700 | 16-35mm f/4 AFS VR | 24-120mm f/4 AFS VR

#15 Luc de Schepper

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 19:10

I've admired the images from the X100, but a D5100 with the 24/2.8D has the same FOV, and will be a better performer, less expensive, and pretty compact in size.

The lens of the X100 is really special, the 24/2.8D is no match for it, not at f2.8 and certainly not at f2 ;-)
I've seen a lot of X100 images, this camera is capable of outstanding images even if you're spoilt by FX-sensor images.
Personally I would prefer the X100 over any DX setup, unless you replace the 24/2.8D with a 24/1.4G ...

#16 Noct

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 20:41

The lens is really special indeed, sharp across the whole frame. The only minor is the ghosting on highlights.

The auto white balance is also very good, and the camera is quiet. Super quiet. I like that a lot.
Despite the small size and weight, (probably due to the central shutter mechanism) it can be handheld at relatively slow shutter speeds.

Does it replace my D700 with 35/1.4G? No, certainly not. But I can take it with me when the Nikon stuff has to stay home due to size and weight constraints.

ISO1600, F/2, auto white balance, raw (.RAF) file converted with ACR. No further processing other than Save for Web.

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#17 Steinar

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 20:57

I've admired the images from the X100, but a D5100 with the 24/2.8D has the same FOV, and will be a better performer, less expensive, and pretty compact in size.


I ended up with the same answer after at lot of research - just the 35 1.8 instead of the 24/2.8D, but you are right the 24-er gives the same FOV, I just took the 35 1.8 because it is so good and small (and fast)

Edited by Steinar, 17 November 2011 - 20:58 .


#18 Ron Scubadiver

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 21:06

I've admired the images from the X100, but a D5100 with the 24/2.8D has the same FOV, and will be a better performer, less expensive, and pretty compact in size.


No auto focus (I believe) with that combination, also no f/2.

There is also the DSLR factor. Some places or people will allow photography with anything but a DSLR because DSLR's are "professional" cameras. I have to admit that can get fuzzy because the zoom lenses on some mirror-less cameras are fairly large, which could cause the same reaction.
See my photography at http://ronscubadiver.wordpress.com/

#19 Anthony

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 23:34

The lens is really special indeed, sharp across the whole frame. The only minor is the ghosting on highlights.

The auto white balance is also very good, and the camera is quiet. Super quiet. I like that a lot.
Despite the small size and weight, (probably due to the central shutter mechanism) it can be handheld at relatively slow shutter speeds.

Does it replace my D700 with 35/1.4G? No, certainly not. But I can take it with me when the Nikon stuff has to stay home due to size and weight constraints.

ISO1600, F/2, auto white balance, raw (.RAF) file converted with ACR. No further processing other than Save for Web.


Candles look rather fuzzy. I do not think I would put this forward as a fine example of technical image quality.

#20 Noct

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 07:25

Candles look rather fuzzy. I do not think I would put this forward as a fine example of technical image quality.


"The only minor is the ghosting on highlights". The picture shows the effect of that with multiple, over-exposed light sources close together.




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