Viewfinder and Displays

The X100's unique selling point is its hybrid viewfinder, which projects a 'heads-up display' of all shooting functions into the camera's large direct-vision optical viewfinder. We're delighted to report that on the whole it works very well indeed.

Below is the view through the X100's viewfinder, with the information display in its more detailed view - roll your mouse over the buttons to switch between optical and electronic modes. The X100 can display highly detailed shooting information in both modes, along with a live histogram to help judge exposure, plus configurable gridlines and a virtual horizon to aid composition.

Optical ViewFinder Display Electronic ViewFinder Display

In optical mode a frameline is shown which covers about 90% of the final image at infinity focus, to allow for parallax error and any change in the lens's angle of view on focusing. The overall view through the finder is distinctly wider than the captured area, though, as can be seen by comparing to the EVF view. The lens barrel protrudes slightly, but not obtrusively, into the lower right corner of the view. On a bright sunny day (as here) the viewfinder overlay can be a little faint, but it's still quite visible.

In this view we've covered the viewfinder front window to obtain a clearer view of the information displayed (and deliberately activated as much of it as possible). There's a whole array of information across the top of the frameline covering secondary settings - focus mode, flash, metering, white balance, film simulation, dynamic range expansion and ND filter setting to the left, plus shots remaining, file quality/size and battery status to the right. You can customize which of this information you want to see in the Set-up menu (and do so for the OVF and EVF independently).

Hybrid viewfinder displays

NOTE: The images shown here were shot with a camera running Firmware 1.01. With Firmware 1.1 Fujifilm introduced a new feature called 'Corrected AF Frame' that can be enabled via the Setup menu. Once this is turned on the display of the active AF point changes to address issues of parallax error (see below).

In less-bright conditions, the framelines become brighter and clearer, although information along the top of the frame can get lost against a bright sky. Pressing the 'DISP' button allows you to toggle to a simplified view that shows just basic exposure information plus the frameline.
Press and hold the AF button to move the active focus point around the frame using the 4-way controller; press 'OK' to return it to the center. There's a choice of 25 positions in a 5 x 5 grid. The distance scale also shows a white depth of field bar that updates to reflect the currently-set aperture. It's rather conservative in its indication (in fact it appears to have been calculated for a 35mm actual, rather than equivalent, lens).
The line across the center of the frame is a virtual horizon, which goes from blue to green when the camera is level. Half-press the shutter and the AF point lights up green to confirm focus. The frameline shifts to correct for parallax error; however the gridlines don't move, and (at default settings) neither does the AF point. The detailed information (including the live histogram) also disappears to give a less-cluttered display for composition.
One bug you need to be aware of is that the live histogram doesn't work in manual exposure mode, and stays exactly the same no matter how extreme your settings. Here's the EVF view of the same scene (in detailed mode). Much the same information is available, in large white icons scattered around the screen. This view also illustrates the perspective difference between the optical finder and the lens itself at close distances.
In OVF mode, pressing the Fn button highlights the ISO value, which you can then change using the thumb lever, rear dial, or left/right keys of the 4-way controller. However in EVF mode, pressing Fn brings up this distinctly obtrusive menu instead, which is changed using the rear dial or up/down keys of the 4-way controller.
When 'Image Disp' is enabled in the Setup menu, the X100 will switch across to the EVF after taking a picture and show this review image. It has no exposure information at all, let alone a histogram or highlight 'blinkies', making it decidedly less useful that it really ought to be.  

OVF focus point parallax error / correction (FW 1.1)

As briefly mentioned above, while the framelines are parallax-corrected in the OVF, the autofocus point isn't. At subject distances close to the minimum allowed with the OVF, this can mean that the AF point indicated in the viewfinder has only a tenuous overlap with that actually being used by the sensor.

Here we're cropping into the optical finder view - the indicated focus point is clearly limited to the center figure. Switching to the EVF tells a different story - due to the parallax difference between the lens and finder, the AF point is actually on a different part of the scene.

With Firmware 1.1 Fujifilm has introduced a feature to address this. Enabling 'Corrected AF Frame' in the Set-up menu changes the way the AF point is displayed, with a solid white rectangle indicating its position at infinity focus, and diagonally-offset brackets for minimum focus. On a half-press of the shutter, a parallax-corrected AF point is shown in green.

With 'Corrected AF Point' enabled, the display changes to indicate the position of the AF point at closest focus. Half-pressing the shutter adds a green AF-confirmation frame that's parallax-corrected for the measured focus distance.

We think it makes sense to enable the corrected AF frame all the time, because it can substantially reduce the risk of misfocusing at close distances. For the very best results, though, it still makes sense to switch to the EVF for short-range shooting.

LCD/EVF displays

The rear LCD and electronic viewfinder share essentially the same display modes and settings, which on the whole are admirably consistent with the hybrid viewfinder display. The rear LCD also has a 'status panel' display, which is useful when shooting with the optical finder as a way of checking your settings at a glance. But sadly it's just a passive status display, and not interactive in any way - something that would benefit the X100 tremendously.

In the P, A and S exposure modes the display initially attempts to preview your exposure settings, giving an idea of how light or dark the image will turn out; in M mode the preview image is always displayed at a standardized brightness. When you half-press the shutter button, the lens stops down to the taking aperture to preview depth of field, and in low light it also boosts the refresh rate to show smooth motion. This can result in a visibly noisy image to the EVF, and if you use small apertures in low light the display can sometimes become too dark to see. This behaviour can't be turned off.

This is the simplest view, with just basic exposure information visible. You can change to a more detailed view using the DISP button. As with the OVF display, the amount of information displayed here is completely customizable.
There's a third option on the rear LCD, a status panel display to check your settings, which is useful when shooting with the eye-level finder. However it only displays icons when they're changed from default. A half-press in detail view clears most of the clutter for easier composition, and confirms the focus distance.
In EVF or LCD viewing modes, the focus point selection expands to a 7 x 7 grid covering most of the frame. You can also change the size of the active AF area using the thumb rocker switch, with five options available.
In manual focus mode you can move the region of interest around almost all of the frame, across a 9 x 9 grid... ...then press in the thumb controller for a 5x magnified view to check focus. But unlike most other cameras, you can't zoom in any further for really precise focusing.

Manual focus aperture bug

The X100 suffers from one critical problem when using manual focus in live view. The aperture stops down uncontrollably (presumably to regulate the light reaching the sensor) and it's not possible to force it wide open, even in the magnified focus check view. This makes critical manual focus essentially impossible, especially in bright light. (This is the same bug as originally beset the Leica X1, and was fixed via a firmware update on that camera; let's hope Fujifilm does the same.)

Firmware 1.1 preview image display bug

NOTE: the bug described below has been fixed in FW 1.11.

Firmware 1.1 introduced a new display bug, that can be encountered when shooting with the EVF or LCD when the Shadow tone is set to 'Soft' or 'Medium Soft'. Then in low light and/or when using a small aperture, on half-pressing the shutter button the preview image can show noisy posterised grey and black regions across the screen. It's important to stress that this only affects the preview and not the captured image, but it's certainly disconcerting and doesn't exactly aid composition. Firmware v1.11 fixes this issue.

Shadow tone 'Standard' - correct display Shadow tone 'Soft' - incorrect display