Shooting experience

As we set out at the beginning of this review, the X100T is most easily seen as an updated X100S but many of those improvements have involved major re-working of the camera. So, while it still looks essentially the same, the X100T has a totally new body and significantly re-designed viewfinder.

Before I go any further, I should make clear that some of the original drawbacks of the camera remain. The focus is slower than we'd like. The lens sharpness decreases at close focus distances. It's not as responsive as we'd expect of a modern camera. The X-Trans system and its processing aren't to everyone's taste and the video is, frankly, rubbish. And yet, the camera as a whole is extremely good.

There's a lot to be said for the combination of a large sensor and bright lens in a package you can easily carry around with you.

ISO 5000, DR 100%, 1/40th sec, F2, Astia Film Simulation

The hybrid viewfinder, just as much as the retro styling, has always been a key part of the X100 series appeal to me. The optical mode of the viewfinder feels like I'm in very direct contact with the scene I'm shooting: more so than with a DSLR where most lenses provide a very different magnification, compared to just looking at the screen. The X100's finder simply shows you the scene and adds brightlines to show you roughly what will fit in the picture: your view of the world doesn't change when you put the camera to your eye.

Viewfinder changes

Three significant changes have been made to the X100T's finder, compared with previous models: the electronic viewfinder panel is now higher resolution, the user interface overlays have been redesigned and a pop-up 'tab' has been added to the optical finder, allowing a small electronic display to be projected into the displays.

The X100T's viewfinder gains a tab that can pop up on the bottom right corner of the optical view: allowing digital elements to be projected into the view.

In real-world use, I didn't find it made a big difference to the way I used the camera.

The biggest change to shooting with the camera is the addition of that tab. It can be activated when you're shooting in autofocus mode: it shows a digital representation of the area under the current focus point, which can be useful to help ensure you're going to focus on the correct subject, since it doesn't suffer from parallax error (the positional difference between the optical viewfinder and the lens, that plays an increasingly role as you focus on closer subjects). However its main application is for manual focus.

The tab allows the X100T to project a focus peaking or Digital Split Image preview into the corner of the optical viewfinder, allowing the use of these electronic aids without being forced into using the electronic viewfinder. The Digital Split Image view does exactly what the name implies: it provides a monochrome split image in which the top and bottom half of that image come into line when the camera is in focus.

However, its position at the bottom right of the screen (meaning you have to look away from the subject), and the fact it can only be used to check focus at the center of the image limits its appeal for me. Add in the need for the scene to contain a fairly well defined vertical line and its usefulness it restricted still further.

The 'Digital Split Prism' mode uses the phase detection pixels near the center of the sensor to indicate how out-of-focus the image is.

We found this easier to use in full screen mode (pictured), where you can more clearly see the four stripes that need to be aligned.

Oddly, this prevents you using off-center points in AF mode.

Overall I found Digital Split Image more effective for fast focusing using the rear screen or EVF, where the camera combines it with a magnified view. The optical viewfinder tab was more useful for fine focus confirmation using focus peaking, rather than speeding up the process, in my experience.

Customization

My preferred setup involves using the four-way controller to move AF point (speeding up access to off-center points).

This option is chosen from the 'Set-Up,' rather than that 'Shooting' menu, where the other buttons are customized.

The only down side is that this leaves you with only three Fn buttons left to configure.

Other improvements made more of an impact for me, though. The added control point customization made a bigger difference to the shooting experience than I thought. For a start I was able to dedicate the four-way controller to AF point selection - making it faster to select and off-center focus point. Then there's the ability to customize the Q Menu. Straight away I was able to add Face Detection and flash exposure compensation, meaning I can more easily access both settings. Given how complex the menu system has become (a phrase I'm tempted to add to all camera reviews at this point), the ability to choose which settings I need semi-fast access to is a big step forward.

The Q.Menu can be customized. And it's worth taking the time to add any features you regularly use (eg Face Detection and Flash Exp Comp).

Unlike most cameras, it never shows the available options for each parameter (you have to scroll with the rear dial).

Oddly you can't add Macro: that has to go on a Fn button.

The down-side is that devoting four buttons to AF point leaves you only three Fn buttons left. Personally I added ISO and Dynamic Range mode to two of them, since I adjust these quite frequently. My third button I use to engage the camera's built-in ND filter but would probably use for Macro, if I regularly shot such images, since you can't add this option to the Q.Menu, and I wouldn't want to have to delve around in the main menu all the time.

Fast access to off-center focus points is key for the kinds of shots I like to take with the X100T.

ISO 400, DR 200%, 1/120th sec, F2, Provia Film Simulation

One of the types of photo I really like to take with the X100T is a fairly close-up picture of a person, shot wide-open. This rules out focus-and-recomposing, since the depth-of-field is shallow enough that you'd notice any movement in the plane of focus. Equally, the camera's Face Detection doesn't live up to the standard set by the latest competitors featuring Eye Detection. It's great for quickly catching a shot of people at greater distances or smaller apertures but it doesn't have the precision to reliably get the subject's eye in focus. At which point, the ability to quickly select an off-center focus point is important to me.

More precise aperture ring

I tend to shoot in aperture priority mode and rarely found myself needing 1/3EV precision when using the existing cameras. It's useful when shooting with flash, though, since the additional control becomes that bit more valuable. Instead I found the improved control over aperture just drew attention to the awkwardness of the camera's shutter speed dial.

Maybe it's because I mainly shoot in aperture priority mode, but I loathe the shutter speed dial (and the need to use two control points to fine-tune shutter speed) almost as much as I love the direct feeling of control that it gives.

Personally I'm not a fan of dedicated shutter speed dials. I appreciate that they look cool and, from a more practical perspective, let you see what shutter speed you're using at a glance. But their importance was significantly undermined by the appearance of auto exposure modes in the 1980s, which meant they'd all but died-out by the time 1/3EV shutters became common. The attempt to reintroduce them brings awkward work-arounds: choosing your shutter speed to the nearest whole stop, then using the rear dial to fine tune by +/- 2/3EV. They look pretty and 'retro' but, as I scrabble around with two separate controls to set shutter speed, I'd put forward the argument they're a design affectation, rather than a functional benefit.

Still overlooked:

There are still things that could be improved, of course. The new, more detailed user-interface is very pretty, overall. It's a lot cleaner than the one in the existing models - taking up less space around the peripheries of the viewfinder and generally looking much cleaner (to the extent that the older cameras feel rather simplistic Fisher-Price when you go back and use them).

The redesigned displays make better use of the higher-resolution viewfinder.

They're unusual in that they're not locked to the edges of the screen, which I find more disconcerting than I probably should.

However, there are odd moments that the new interface feels slightly unfinished to me. Many of the option lists hang awkwardly around a quarter of the way onto the LCD or EVF, making them feel oddly adrift. I saw this behavior on pre-production units and assumed it was an artefact of the beta processing (perhaps they were being rendered along the edge of a lower-res display) and that they'd hug the edge of the screen, in the final version. This isn't intended as a major criticism but it made the camera feel somehow unfinished to me.

A worthy upgrade?

Fujifilm may have added a few bugs to the latest X100T, but the 35mm equiv lens and compact, stylish body mean it's still my favorite camera to document the world around me.

ISO 200, DR 100%, 1/400th sec, F4, Classic Chrome Film Simulation

With most of the previous cameras' shortcomings addressed, I was left with a very positive impression of the camera. The viewfinder tab doesn't quite bring true rangefinder immediacy to the shooting experience, but there's still something joyfully direct about using the viewfinder in optical mode and still having the choice to swap to EVF on occasions that it'll give a more truthful picture. And a hat-tip is owed to Fujifilm for the addition of the choice of whether the EVF previews the final image contrast or gives a wider, more natural looking range.

I wrote at the beginning of this piece that the X100T retains all the major drawbacks of the existing X100 models. But it's also the case that it retains all of their appeal. It's still a beautiful camera both to look at and to use. The viewfinder and direct controls mean it's still one of the most pleasantly involved shooting experiences this side of a Leica M. A good APS-C sensor and a 35mm equiv F2 lens is an excellent combination, and Fujifilm includes nice touches like the built-in ND filter and electronic shutter to let you use that aperture in bright conditions. Add in the user-interface improvements and it's a signficantly nicer camera to use than its predecessor.

There are times you'll appreciate the level of control that the X100T gives you, as well as its often excellent image quality (though there is slight subject motion blur in this instance).

ISO 200, DR 100%, 1/30th sec, F2, Astia Film Simulation

On top of this, Fujifilm's film simulation modes make the results really appealing. Add in Wi-Fi, to mean I can more readily make use of the images it takes and, overall, there are few cameras I'd rather have with me for documenting my life and the world around me.