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Fujifilm FinePix X100 In-Depth Review

May 2011 - Revised July 2011 | By Andy Westlake


Review based on a production X100 with Firmware 1.10

NOTE - On 21st March 2012 Fujifilm updated the X100's firmware to Version 1.20 with a number of new features - most notably the ability to customise the 'RAW' button. We recommend familiarising yourself with these improvements and bearing them in mind when reading this review, which is based on the previous FW version.

In amongst all the cameras announced at Photokina 2010 - including enthusiast SLRs such as the Nikon D7000, Canon EOS 60D, Pentax K-5 and Sigma SD1 - one utterly unexpected model stole the show. Fujifilm unveiled the FinePix X100, a compact camera with an SLR-size APS-C sensor and traditional analogue control dials, that hides ground-breaking technology inside a retro-styled body with looks to die for. It's the company's first camera with a large, APS-C sensor aimed at professionals and advanced amateurs since the S5 Pro DSLR of 2006.

Fujifilm may be a company that’s currently best-known for its prolific production of compact cameras, but in reality it has a long tradition of making somewhat left-field, unique cameras aimed at serious enthusiasts and professionals. The company regularly sought out market niches in the days of film, from its Fujica 6x9 format rangefinders, through the GA645Zi medium format ‘zoom compact’, to the TX-1 35mm panoramic rangefinder (better known in Western markets as the Hasselblad XPan), all of which still command premium prices on the used market today. In the digital era it has concentrated mainly on its innovative SuperCCD sensor technology, employing it to provide class-leading dynamic range on cameras such as the S5 Pro and the EXR series of zoom compacts. Along the way it has made some genuine cult classics, including the F30 and F31Fd compacts which earned a reputation as excellent low-light performers.

The X100, though, is something totally different. It’s a beautifully-designed rangefinder-styled camera that squeezes an SLR-size APS-C sensor into its compact body, and sports a fixed, fast F2 maximum aperture semi-wideangle lens with a classic 35mm-equivalent field of view. It uses traditional analogue control dials for shutter speed, aperture and exposure compensation, alongside an electronically coupled (‘focus-by-wire’) manual focus ring. But the biggest story is its innovative and unique hybrid viewfinder, which combines a conventional direct-vision optical viewfinder with a high-resolution electronic viewfinder, offering the best of both worlds plus a few unique tricks of its own.

The large-sensor, fixed-lens compact isn’t a new idea, of course, and both Sigma’s DP series and the Leica X1 have already visited this territory. However these haven’t been entirely convincing products, plagued by slow operation, low-resolution LCDs and, in the case of the Sigmas, a somewhat quirky interface. For this reason they’ve struggled to establish a compelling raison d’etre, especially in the face of competition from the new breed of interchangeable lens mirrorless compacts typified by the Olympus Pen series and Sony NEXs. So the big question is whether Fujifilm has managed to refine the concept, and produce a camera that’s as compelling to shoot with as its specifications (and looks) suggest.

There’s no mistaking what Fujifilm’s design team were thinking when they created the X100. Its two-tone body and analogue controls hark back to old rangefinder compacts, and it doesn’t look at all out of place in the company of these 1970s classics. Both Olympus and Leica have recently released retro-styled small cameras in the shape of the E-P1/2 and X1, but the X100 takes the concept to a whole different level. Its flash is even placed in the same position as was once occupied by rangefinder windows.

Key features

  • 12 megapixel APS-C sized CMOS sensor
  • Fixed 23mm F2 lens (field of view equivalent to a 35mm lens on full frame)
  • 2.8" LCD screen, 4:3 aspect ratio, 460,000 dots
  • Hybrid optical / electronic viewfinder
  • OVF with 0.5x magnification, projected framelines indicate approx 90% of field of view
  • EVF with ca 0.5x magnification, 1,440,000 dots
  • Traditional-style control dials for shutter speed, aperture and exposure compensation
  • ISO 100 (L), 200-6400, 12800 (H)
  • Flash hot shoe and built-in flash
  • Built-in neutral density filter (3 stops)
  • 1280x720 HD movie recording with stereo sound

Compared to...

The composite image below gives an idea of the X100's size relative to some of its competitors, both fixed- and interchangeable-lensed. It's a bit taller than the Leica X1 with which it most closely competes, but this mainly reflects the X100's built-in hybrid viewfinder (X1 users have to make do with the rear LCD or an add-on optical viewfinder). It's also noticeably larger than interchangeable lens cameras like the Panasonic GF1, and particularly the APS-C Sony NEX-5 (from which it's poles apart in terms of control philosophy); but again, neither of these have an eye-level viewfinder either. Of course the X100 is distinctly smaller and more portable than any DSLR fitted with a similarly-fast lens.

Specifications compared

The table below lists some of the key specifications of the X100 and its competitors. What's notable is the combination of an unusually fast lens and a large APS-C sensor, which together bode well for its low-light capability.

Camera Lens* LCD Dimensions & Weight
(with lens, battery + card)
Sensor
(effective pixels)
Fujifilm FinePix X100 35mm equiv,
F2
2.7"
460k pixels
126 x 74 x 54 mm, 445g
5.0 x 3.0 x 2.2 in, 15.8 oz
12.3 Mp CMOS
(ca. 23.6 x 15.8 mm)
Leica X1 35mm equiv,
F2.8
2.7"
230k pixels
124 x 60 x 50 mm, 330g
4.9 x 2.4 x 2.0 in, 10.9 oz
12.2 Mp CMOS
(23.6 x 15.8 mm)
Panasonic
DMC-GF1
40mm equiv,
F1.7*
3.0"
460k pixels
119 x 71 x 61 mm, 448g
4.6 x 2.8 x 2.4 in, 15.8 oz
12.1 MP LiveMOS (17.3 x 13 mm)
Sony NEX-5 24mm equiv,
F2.8*
3.0", tilting
920k pixels
111 x 59 x 54 mm, 361g
4.4 x 2.3 x 2.1 in, 12.7 oz
14.2 Mp HD CMOS
(23.4 x 15.6mm)
Sigma DP2 40mm equiv,
F2.8
2.5"
230k pixels
115 x 64 x 56mm, 280g
4.5 x 2.5 x 2.2 in, 9.9 oz
4.6 MP x 3 X3F
(20.7 x 13.8 mm)

*The Panasonic DMC-GF1 and Sony NEX-5 both accept interchangeable lenses


If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.

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DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2011 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

 
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Comments

Total comments: 2
sixtiesphotographer
By sixtiesphotographer (11 months ago)

On October 18, 2013, Fuji updated the firmware once again to revision 2.0

2 upvotes
Dennis
By Dennis (11 months ago)

Fujifilm Finepix X100 firmware V1.30
http://www.dpreview.com/news/2012/05/15/Fujifilm-WCL-X100-wide-angle-converter-lens-firmware-v-1-3-0

Fujifilm Finepix X100 firmware V2.00
http://www.dpreview.com/news/2013/10/18/back-from-the-dead-fujifilm-boosts-x100-with-major-firmware-upgrade

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
2 upvotes
Total comments: 2