Throwback Thursday: Fujifilm X100
The X100 wasn’t the first compact camera to include a truly large sensor: Sigma gets the credit for that, but it was the first to get enough right to really grab the attention of photographers.
We’d been asking manufacturers to build a small camera with a big sensor for a number of years, so you can imagine the buzz in the office when Fujifilm showed up in London with a pre-production X100 and asked ‘Is this what you meant?’
The company had recognized that its most successful niche (the S-series superzooms) was becoming a commodity market, with most customers caring more about how many ‘X’ the zoom range was, rather than which brand name was printed on the front. So it set out to build a product to appeal to serious photographers.
Its response was to create a retro-looking camera that recreated the look and concept of the fixed-lens rangefinders cameras that sold so well throughout the 60s and 70s. But the X100 wasn’t a rangefinder, instead incorporating a clever ‘hybrid’ viewfinder that let you switch between an optical and digital preview, depending on what you were trying to shoot. And photographers loved it.
|The X100's fixed 35mm equivalent lens, relatively small size and easy-to-access external controls make for an exceptional 'walk around' second camera. Photo by Carey Rose|
The camera’s size and styling meant it immediately caught the photographic imagination. The fixed lens design meant that users of other system didn’t have to worry about lens compatibility or changing systems, it was another tool that did a different thing, which helped it find space in the camera bags of all kinds of photographers.
In the wake of this success, we’ve seen several other manufacturers try to burnish their photography credentials by introducing large sensor, prime lens cameras. Sony went full frame with the capable but quirky RX1, Nikon followed Fujifilm’s lead and stuck its consumer compact branding on the 28mm-equiv Coolpix A and Ricoh gave its GR series a new lease of life by putting an APS-C sensor inside, but none of these have hit the combination of features, price, capability and downright desirability that the X100 achieved.
That said, at launch, the camera was more cool concept than polished product. It was slow, it was full of maddening quirks and it needed to be switched to Macro mode at exactly the focus distance you wanted to use it at. In fact it was so far from the level of refinement that we were used to that we included a whole page listing the bugs, quirks and idiosyncrasies at the end of our review.
And, to its credit, Fujifilm listened. In a series of firmware updates the company not only smoothed-over a host of the camera’s most annoying rough edges, but then went about adding features.
It’s hard to remember, now, but as recently as 2010 it was very rare for camera makers to do anything beyond fixing critical bugs with firmware. A combination of not wanting to acknowledge any shortcomings and of wanting to divert development resources to the next project meant that cameras didn’t tend to get much better after launch.
|Even in the troubled early days, the files - and especially the colors - from the X100 were as handsome as the camera itself. Photo by Carey Rose|
Fujifilm rode-out the internet sniping about ‘releasing unfinished products’ and established a model of mid-life improvements and updates that is being increasingly adopted across the industry. More than three years after the X100’s launch, Fujifilm continued to offer not only autofocus improvements but also additional features such as focus peaking that hadn’t even been considered at the camera’s original launch.
And there are some aspects of the camera that firmware could never fix. The manual focusing remains vague and fussy, the lens’ otherwise excellent performance drops off significantly at close distances and the focus mechanism, which moves a relatively large, heavy focusing group, is never going to be ‘snappy.’ Yet the X100 and its successors remain versatile, likeable cameras.
A camera to love
Our original (initial firmware) review concluded that ‘the X100 is too flawed to quite earn our outright recommendation, but if you're prepared to tolerate its foibles as the price to pay for its superb image quality, it's a camera you can easily grow to love.’
And it’s that last sentiment that captures the X100 perfectly. In spite of all of its flaws, several members of DPR staff went out and bought the camera and there’s barely a member of staff since who hasn’t owned at least one camera from the X100 series.
|Onward and upward - though Fujifilm has been busy keeping the X100 line up to date, we'll always have a soft spot in our hearts (and for some of us, a space in our camera bags) for the original. Photo by Carey Rose|
In the six years since the launch of the original X100, retro design has become commonplace, large sensors in small cameras have become ubiquitous but the X100’s combination of concept, capability and style still help it stand out. For all its faults, its status as a classic, rather than a camera designed to resemble one, looks assured.
Do you own any X100-series cameras? Will you be buying the new X100F? Let us know in the comments!
Original Fujifilm FinePix X100 Sample Gallery
Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page).
We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it. Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution.
Note: Please click through for full-size images from this legacy gallery.
SmugMug Films has shared its latest film, Streets in Mind, which takes a look at the life and work of London-based street photographer Alan Schaller.
We were in Japan earlier this month for the annual CP+ show in Yokohama, where we sat down with senior executives from several camera and lens manufacturers, among them Nikon.
Sony has released firmware version 5.0 for its flagship mirrorless camera, the a9. The update brings AI-driven autofocus modes, an improved menu structure and other updates.
Night Sight, Portrait Mode and (surprisingly) wide-angle selfie mode are features that we're currently loving about the Pixel 3's camera.
The Auschwitz Museum has asked visitors to be more respectful after an upsurge of pictures posted on social media showing people posing on the train tracks that lead to the main gate.
This week Chris and Jordan take the new Leica Q2 for a spin, and while most of us in the Northern Hemisphere are welcoming spring, they head even farther north than usual to visit ice castles. Because #Canada.
Harvard is facing a lawsuit over profiting from 19th century daguerreotypes that captured the portrait of a slave and his daughter on a South Carolina plantation.
From the detailed textures in rural landscapes to the incredible lighting inside futuristic buildings, the photorealism of Unreal Engine 4 is blurring the lines between fiction and reality...you know...aside from the spaceship.
According to a report from The Informant, a number of Instagram users' passwords were shared as plaintext in URLs used to download their data.
We've added Panasonic's new Lumix S1 and S1R full-frame mirrorless cameras to three of our buying guides. If you're looking for a quick summary of each model, then have a read.
YouTube channel Photoshop Cafe has shared a video detailing ten tips and tricks you can do to both fix and speed up Photoshop when it's running slow and sluggish.
It's not going to be the banger of the year, but it'll get a few laughs.
DJI has confirmed its drones won't be affected by the GPS 2019 week rollover.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery has teamed up with Kodak to release a beer that's capable of doubling as a film developer.
The Diana Instant Square is a retro-inspired camera with manual controls that's fun to shoot in good light, but largely unpredictable in its operation.
Residents of a Paris street plagued by Instagrammers, selfie takers and music video crews are asking the city government for a weekend and evening ban to give them some peace.
The adapter plugs into the Osmo Pocket's USB Type-C port and features a 3.5mm TRS jack to plug in various external microphones.
Checkout allows Instagram users to select products for purchase and make payments directly in the app.
GauGAN as it's known, can create photorealistic images from basic drawings using the power of artificial intelligence.
The EOS RP is Canon's latest full-frame mirrorless camera, with diminutive dimensions and a diminutive price. Find out how it stacks up and get our thoughts in our early review.
Montana judge Dana L. Christensen has ruled the Republican National Committee did not infringe upon the copyright of photographer Erika Peterman after they took a photo from a Democratic candidate's Facebook page without permission and altered it to use in a derogatory promotional mailer.
Nikon has launched updates for three of its programs to address various bugs and glitches that could cause crashes and unwanted results.
LEE Filters has launched the LEE100, its next-generation filter holder that improves the design and looks in all the right places.
With the arrival of some much-needed sunshine and final production firmware for the Panasonic S1, we've been able to get outside and really start putting the camera through its paces.
Importing, culling and tagging photos is about to get a whole lot faster and look a whole lot better with the impending arrival of Photo Mechanic 6.
On its own, the FTZ adapter retails for $250 and when bundled it dropped the cost to just $150. Now, Nikon is offering it for free with all Z6, Z7 purchases in the United States.
Profoto said it spoke with Godox back at Photokina 2018 and continues to contact Godox in an effort to stop it from marketing its V1 light.
Product renders in Italian publication Notebook Italia show an unusual design that conceals all cameras with the help of a slider mechanism.
Canon says its new EF 400mm F2.8L IS III and EF 600mm F4L IS III lenses can suffer from an intermittent flickering when shooting video in M or Av modes with certain cameras.
Leica recently announced the Q2, a digital rangefinder with a fixed 28mm F1.7 lens. It's a heck of a lot of fun to shoot with, but is it right for you? Based on our time with the camera, and its specifications, we've examined how well-suited it is for common photography use-cases.