Notes, experiences and observations on the X100F

We've said already that the X100 series has been a huge hit with keen photographers, so it should probably come as no surprise to find that most of the DPReview writers, whose common trait is that we're all keen photographers, have owned or extensively shot with them.

Fujifilm has improved almost every aspect of the camera, but has it undermined what made it special?

Several members of the team leapt at the chance to shoot with the X100F and were all asked to report back what stood out to them.

Speed

Speed was one of the first things everyone mentioned: 'It's much snappier to focus,' says Barney: 'and seems more accurate in marginal light.'

This had come a surprise to me, too. Adding phase detection didn't significantly speed up focus on the X100S and T, so I assumed we'd hit the limits of how fast the X100's lens could be driven. I can't help but wonder whether it's the change in battery voltage providing more torque from the drive motor but, whatever it is, it works.

And it's not just the focus speed that's changed: 'the incredibly fast startup time makes a huge difference,' says Carey.

Joystick

The other thing almost universally agreed upon was the benefit of the autofocus joystick: not just conceptually, but in terms of implementation, too. 'The (long hoped for) joystick for AF positioning is lovely,' says Barney: 'as we expected.'

Dale and I both felt another benefit of the joystick: the freeing-up of custom buttons.

'One of my ongoing frustrations with the X100T is that I use all the custom function buttons to access frequently used settings,' says Dale: 'which means I'm unable to use those buttons for direct AF point selection.'

'As a result, if the AF system doesn't pick the right target I sometimes fall back on the old focus-and-recompose technique, especially if I'm rushed. The joystick removes this significant block in my workflow; I can still take advantage of all my custom buttons while using the joystick to quickly select the AF point.'

Handling

On the subject of handling, Barney highlights one change that no one else spotted, but that's critical to his way of shooting: '[it] no longer seeks to re-acquire focus when you take a second shot with the shutter still half-depressed. I.e., you no longer need to hold down the AF lock button between shots.'

The ISO dial, set within the shutter speed dial is a nice retro flourish but not exactly the quickest way to operate. Its function can be passed to the front dial, if you prefer, and aren't content to rely on Auto ISO presets.

This makes it easy to fire a second shot, immediately after your first; something that can help you capture the perfect expression on your subject and so easily missed if you have to wait for the camera to re-acquire focus.

Carey had another pleasant surprise when it came to handling: 'moving more controls to the right of the screen so that more of the camera is usable one-handed makes a big, positive difference to me.'

Can a camera be too competent?

In what might be the first diagnosed case of camera-contracted Stockholm Syndrome, Carey was concerned the X100F might seem too competent, compared with the original X100 he loves: 'now the camera feels so polished and capable, it almost feels a little more 'professional' and a little less 'fun' than before.'

I have to say, while I can understand Carey's concern that this newfound capable might take away some of the camera's idosyncratic charm, I found I hugely enjoyed shooting with the X100F and will find it harder than ever to go back and shoot with one of the older models.

Barney had a different take on the latest iteration of the interface: 'it has too many dials.'

'I don't know why it needs this many command dials,' he says: 'Two on the body (three if you count exposure comp) and one on the lens, plus the aperture ring, shutter speed and ISO dials. Too. Many. Dials. It just ended up confusing me when I accidentally brushed them. You only need exposure comp and the manual aperture ring to shoot, and a single rear dial to flip through images and navigate the menu. This isn't an X-T2.'

On a camera with dedicated controls for aperture, shutter speed, ISO and exposure comp, it's not obvious why you'd need two additional command dials. Still, they're handy in playback mode and allow you to tailor the camera's controls if you want even quicker control over exposure comp, shutter speed or ISO.

It's a fair point. As soon as he's said this, I realized that by leaving the ISO dial on 'A' (and using a button if I need to switch between Auto ISO settings), disabling the focus ring/dial, and assigning nothing to the front and rear dials, I was leaving four of the camera's dials unused for most of my shooting.

Would any of us be tempted to upgrade?

The fourth generation of a niche camera not only has to stand on its own two feet, but tower over its predecessors, if it's going to sell in decent numbers. Does it do enough?

Carey is ambivalent: 'This is the first X100 model since the original that's really tempted me to upgrade. However, for all the benefits this camera brings, I can't help but still love the color output of the original, even above this new one. There's just something about it that's hard to put my finger on.'

Barney seems more tempted: 'The X100F basically solves all of my major frustrations with the X100/S/T and, unlike the T, might be enough to make me upgrade. If it weren't for that Leica M6...'

For me, I think it does enough. I'm more than happy with the image quality and surprised by how polished the experience now feels, even in comparison with the X100T I borrowed over Christmas. It's enough that I can imagine I'll be scouring my finances, once I've worked out this year's taxes.

It's X100T-owner Dale that seems most won over though: 'new features like the front control dial, larger battery, extra megapixels and Acros film simulation? Those are great, but I wouldn't pay just to upgrade those things. The joystick? Yeah, I'll pay for that!'