Lens characteristics (cont.)

Macro Focus

The X100 has impressive close-up capability - it can focus to just 10cm from the front of the lens, giving an image area of approximately 81mm x 54mm, equating to a maximum magnification of approximately 0.3x. This is one significant benefit over its most direct competitor, the Leica X1, which has a rather limiting 30cm closest focus distance.

As mentioned above, wide open sharpness in the macro range (and at minimum focus especially) is highly lacking, with the lens suffering badly from spherical aberration. Fujifilm warns about this in the manual, and advises against shooting with the lens wide open at such close subject distances; however for certain subjects this defect can be used creatively to add some atmosphere to the shot. Stopping down to F4 improves matters substantially, and the lens becomes critically sharp at F8.

F2, JPEG, minimum focus 100% crop, center
F4 100% crop, center
F8 100% crop, center


The X100's flare characteristics are, like the camera itself, distinctly individual. With bright light sources inside the frame it's impressively resistant to overall contrast loss, but it does tend to produce an array of ghost images radiating outwards, which as usual become increasingly defined on stopping down. Where the lens can occasionally come unstuck, though, is with light impinging obliquely on the front element, which can result in image detail being degraded significantly. This kind of flare can be guarded against simply by using a hood.

F8, sun in corner of frame F8, sun directly above and ahead

The X100's flare characteristics tend to be most obvious (and, depending on your point of view, problematic) when shooting in low light or at night, which is when flare patterns and ghost images can become most visible against dark backgrounds. The X100 can also give quite extraordinary flare effects at F2, with psychedelic radial streaks emanating from point light sources covering an angle of about 150 degrees. This is quite unlike anything we've ever seen before - it certainly adds an unusual look to images.

F2, bright white LED 'flash' Detail of flare pattern

Background blur ('Bokeh')

One of the advantages of the X100's APS-C sensor and fast F2 lens is the ability to blur the background to some degree (and rather more than with typical small-sensor compact cameras). The degree of background blur is mainly a function of the lens's angle of view and the diameter of its entrance pupil, and this means that the X100's 23mm F2 lens offers broadly similar capability to the Panasonic 20mm F1.7 for Micro Four Thirds, or a 35mm F2.8 lens on a full frame camera.

The X100 is capable of producing quite pleasingly blurred backgrounds, and in most situations the quality of the blur is attractive enough. Under certain situations backgrounds can get a little fragmented and 'busy', mainly with complex distant backgrounds at intermediate subject distances (around 2-3m) and with the lens wide open. Closer backgrounds are notably smoother and more pleasant, and on the whole there's not much to complain about here.

F2, distant background 50% crop, top right
F2, close focus 50% crop, top centre