Operation and Handling

The X100S is one in an increasingly-popular class of cameras whose 'traditional' control logic means that operation is very much a two-handed affair, unless you set everything to auto. Aperture is set using a ring around the lens, with a red 'A' for automatic operation when the camera is used in shutter-priority or full auto (the latter being program mode, effectively). A shutter speed dial on the top-plate hosts shutter speed settings from 1/4000sec to 'B'ulb, and this too has a red 'A' setting, which allows either aperture-priority or full auto shooting.

A small jog-switch on the X100S's shoulder acts (when pressed inwards) to magnify the view in the camera's EVF display or rear LCD, and in aperture priority or manual mode it also allows control over aperture, by jogging left or right in 1/3EV steps around the selected value. A physical exposure compensation dial on the upper right of the camera can be used in any of the X100S's three AE modes (aperture/shutter priority and program).

On the topic of exposure compensation, Fujifilm has tightened up the rotation of the exposure compensation dial itself, which was a little too easy to jog accidentally on the original X100. This is a welcome improvement, albeit a small one (we've used several X100s and some were looser than others).

Unchanged except for a minor ergonomic tweak is the viewfinder mode switch on the front of the X100S, which sits in the same position as it did on the X100, in an ideal location for operation using the index or middle fingers of your right hand. This switches between an electronic viewfinder display and a hybrid optical view. More on that further down this page.

Changes to rear controls, compared to X100

X100S
X100

This comparison shows the apparently small but important differences in control layout on the rear of the X100S compared to the X100. As you can see, 'DRIVE' and 'AF' buttons have swapped positions, and the AF button is now found at the 12 o'clock position on the 4-way controller. This is more convenient for operation when the camera is held to your eye. The X100's 'RAW' button has become a 'Q' button, which, when pressed, brings up a Q(uick) menu of key shooting settings.

In playback mode, the Q button initiates the in-camera Raw conversion dialog (only if you're shooting in Raw mode - if you're shooting JPEGs it doesn't do anything) and in both modes - shooting and playback - a long press of the Q button activates a bright screen mode for better visibility outdoors.

In your hand

The X100S has the subtlest, most minimal of hand grips, but it’s just sufficient to prevent the camera slipping out of your hand. The shutter button falls naturally under your index finger, just as it should. There's ample button-free space on the back of the camera to provide a positive grip for your thumb. The jog lever on the right shoulder, AEL/AFL button and rear dial are all within easy reach of your thumb.

Overall operation and user experience

Compared to the X100 with original firmware, the X100S is a wonderful camera to use. But that's a pretty low bar. Compared to most other modern cameras, the X100S is still somewhat quirky but as regular X100 users (with the bruises to prove it) we're delighted to find that the X100S is generally a pleasant and reliable companion for everyday photography, with a predictable control logic, and some solid and useful features - several of them unique.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves though, the X100S is one of those cameras that's hard to talk about without addressing what went before - specifically, the decidedly quirky X100, a camera that began life as (let's be frank) a buggy mess, but which was subsequently improved by a series of firmware updates. The X100S is a breath of fresh air by comparison.

Among other improvements, the Focus mode switch now has the least useful option (continuous AF) as its central position, allowing you to quickly flip between AF-S and MF simply by shoving the switch to its extremes. The AF point control has been moved from tactile anonymity on the left of the LCD screen to a new position at the 12 o'clock on the 4-way controller and the X100's RAW Button is replaced by 'Q' which provides quick access to an onscreen menu of key shooting settings. Under the hood, the X100S's menu system is greatly improved, manual focus now works as it should (more on that later) and Auto ISO is now an option in the ISO sensitivity dialog (rather than a separate menu option). This is all good news.

The X100S features a 'Q' menu (accessed using the Q button) for quick access to commonly-used shooting settings. This, plus the redesigned menu system makes the X100S far less frustrating to use when you want to take in-depth control over its operation.

Specific handling issues

The X100S is a considerably more satisfying camera to use than its predecessor, but some issues remain. The dial that forms the 4-way controller on the camera's rear appears unchanged and as such it is too easy to rotate accidentally, and lacks firm detents, which makes it all-too-easy to miss the option you're aiming for. Likewise, the rear jog switch remains under-utilized, and cannot be customized in any way. We'd love to be able to assign this control to something other than live view magnification during shooting - ISO, for example, or as a shortcut to activate the built-in ND filter. Sadly, like the rear control dial (and in fact the Q button) you get what Fujifilm gives you, and nothing more.

The X100's rear dial and jog lever are both somewhat under-utilized, and disappointingly neither can be customized in any way. They're used for fine-tuning exposure settings, but we'd love to see the option of assigning them to other functions - for example direct control of ISO, activating the ND filter or flash exposure compensation. We'd like to see the Q button customizable too.

ISO setting and Auto ISO control

By default ISO is set using the X100's 'Fn' button, but if you decide you want to use this to operate something else (such as the ND filter) instead, then ISO can be set via the Q menu or (if you really really want to for some reason) from within the main shooting menu. Although the Q menu represents a great improvement over the X100, we're still a little disappointed that ISO - effectively an key exposure setting on digital cameras - does not have a dedicated control point. Ideally, it should be as easy to set as shutter speed, aperture or exposure compensation.

Fortunately Fujifilm has implemented a highly-customizable version of Auto ISO that allows you to set both the minimum shutter speed, with a good range of options around the key (1/effective focal length) range, and the maximum ISO you want the camera to use, up to ISO 6400. And (happy day!) this is now accessible via the ISO sensitivity selection option in the menus, not separately, buried deep in the menu, as it was on the X100. That said, there's still no way of customizing Auto ISO from the Q menu, where you might select your ISO setting from.

X100 ISO Auto Control Menu Options
ISO Auto Control Off, On
Max Sensitivity 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400
Min Shutter Speed 1/125, 1/100, 1/80, 1/60, 1/40, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8, 1/4 sec

Note that ISO range (auto and manual) is also influenced by the DR setting - if DR is set to Auto or 400% the camera will aim to use ISO 800 whenever it can, dropping to ISO 400 at DR 200. This complex behavior means that it can be easy to lose track of what exactly what's going on, but since noise is so low up to ISO 800, there isn't all that much to worry about.

Auto ISO is available when using manual exposure, but disappointingly it doesn't respect the exposure compensation setting in this mode, which reduces its usefulness. If exposure compensation in manual mode sounds pointless, consider how handy it would be to select your desired shutter speed (maybe a safe speed to avoid camerashake) and aperture (for desired depth of field) and then be able to nudge exposure a little up or down using ISO sensitivity. Have you imagined it? Hopefully you had fun, because you can't actually do it. (Pentax Ricoh is the only company to explicitly offer such a Shutter + Aperture priority mode)