Fujifilm FinePix X100 In-Depth Review
The X100 offers a movie mode, although its specification is a little rudimentary compared to the current state-of-the-art. Oddly it's accessed as a drive mode, with recording started and stopped by the shutter button. The implementation is overall a little quirky and half-hearted - it rather gives the impression that Fuji's engineers would have preferred to make the X100 a 'pure' stills camera.
The X100 offers progressive HD video capture at 720p resolution and a fixed frame rate of 24 frames per second - no other options are available. The data is compressed using the H.264 codec, and stored in the easily-shared QuickTime MOV format. Audio is recorded via a built-in stereo microphone situated behind two small holes on the front of the camera, but there's no socket to connect an external microphone, and the X100 offers neither a wind-cut filter nor control over the recording volume either.
|Size||1280x720p (HD): 24 fps|
|Audio||Internal Stereo Microphone|
|Running time||10 min|
Using Movie Mode
To set the X100 to video mode, you first have to select 'Movie' in the drive mode menu, at which point the preview display will switch to the 16:9 format. You can't use the optical finder for movies, so the camera will automatically switch to the EVF if you put it up to your eye. Manual exposure control is limited; you can set the aperture and exposure compensation before you start, but once the camera has started recording it will simply ignore any changes made to these controls. A full press of the shutter button initiates recording, but curiously only a half-press is required to end it. It's not possible to engage the ND filter in movie mode, but exposure turns out correctly even using F2 in bright sunlight.
The implementation of focusing in video mode is poor. Autofocus uses the 'Area' mode only, with the camera focusing wherever it likes in the scene: you can't choose a specific point. The X100 will also autofocus continuously regardless of whether the focus mode switch is set to Single or Continuous (AF-S or AF-C), which means that even with a completely static subject, it will hunt to reconfirm focus every few seconds. We simply can't fathom why the camera shouldn't allow normal use of the AF-S mode.
If you want to lock the focus before starting recording, you'll therefore have to switch to manual focus. This may sound fair enough, but strangely in movie mode it's no longer possible to engage a magnified preview by clicking-in the thumb lever. This means that critical focusing isn't possible unless you switch back to a stills mode, which is scarcely an ideal solution. It's also not possible to adjust the focus manually once you've started recording.
Finally, the X100 is extremely reluctant to autofocus on close-up subjects in movie mode. There's no obvious reason why this should be the case - it can certainly achieve focus when it tries hard enough - but we found it will frequently give up completely with subject distances closer than about 30cm. Again, in such cases it's normally better to use to manual focus instead.
Movie mode displays
|This is the default preview screen in movie mode, which corresponds essentially to the Detailed view for stills shooting. There's no simpler display available via the DISP button, but it's possible to customize this screen to show the details you want.
Note the absence of an AF area box - in movie mode the X100 continuously focuses on whatever it chooses, regardless of whether the switch is set to AF-S or AF-C.
|Switch to manual focus and the familiar distance/depth of field scale appears. Inexplicably it's not possible to magnify the preview image for accurate manual focus in movie mode (you have to switch back to a stills mode for this).|
|Once recording has begun the camera displays a flashing red dot on the screen, and counts down the available time remaining. Movie clips are restricted to a maximum of 10 min in length.|
|You can press the 'AE/+' button to engage a 3x zoom function before you start recording; to disengage it you use the 'AF/-' button.
This mode simply crops into the central section of the sensor to produce an HD quality movie at an equivalent focal length of roughly 105mm, much like similar features on recent Panasonic and Canon cameras.
|You can set the white balance before you start recording, but oddly you're not allowed to use a manual WB for movies. You can, however use Underwater WB (thank goodness).|
|The Shooting Menu in video mode is extremely limited - it offers just Film Simulation (with no parameter tweaks available) and Display Custom Settings for the LCD/EVF.
Note there's no option to engage the ND filter for movie recording, but movies generally come out correctly exposed when shooting at F2 in bright sunlight anyway.
|The full range of film simulation options is available, and previewed both before and during shooting. But none of the detailed tweaks that are available when shooting stills can be applied to video.|
|The Display Custom Setting offers fewer options than for stills shooting, but is remembered separately, so you can tailor your preferences specifically for video work.|
Video quality comments
The X100's video quality isn't bad at all. As when shooting stills, exposure and white balance are normally perfectly well-judged, and colour is natural and appealing. The camera is capable of rendering lots of fine detail when the contrast is high, but 'jaggies' can be visible on diagonal lines, and moiré, quite pronounced with certain repeating patterns (for example railings, brickwork and the like). Low-contrast detail, especially when it's not perfectly in-focus, tends to be obliterated by noise reduction. Rolling shutter ('jello') effects can be visible if you pan fast, but are rarely a problem in normal use.
Sound quality is perfectly acceptable for casual use, but the tiny internal microphone can't work miracles and is quite prone to wind noise under the wrong conditions (there's no wind-cut function either). The mic can also pick up operational sounds from the camera while recording; the focus motor isn't silent, so if you're using AF and there's not a lot of ambient sound then the frequent refocusing will be clearly audible in your soundtrack. A substantial fraction of our movies signed-off with the noise of the shutter button as recording was stopped too. (Note that there's no provision for an external microphone, which could solve these problems to some extent.)
If you choose to apply exposure compensation to your movies, the X100 has an extremely strange way of handling it. The camera starts recording at the normal metered brightness, then quickly adjusts the gain up or down to apply the compensation you've set. This means that the opening moments of the recording are taken up by the brightness changing, which is more than a little distracting.
Because the camera has no image stabilization of any kind, your videos will be highly prone to shake, and a tripod is necessary for best results. This is especially true if you engage the X100's 3x zoom function, and is exacerbated by the use of the shutter button to start recording - many of our movies began with a visible downwards camera movement.
Sample video 1This video is shot using -0.7 EV exposure compensation and autofocus. In quick succession it demonstrates 'gain down' to apply exposure compensation after recording starts, a refocus cycle, and finally operational noise from the shutter button stopping recording.
|1280 x 720 24 fps, H.264 .MOV file, 3 sec. 4.4 MB Click here to download original .MOV file|
Sample video 2This video was shot handheld, and demonstrates the abilities of the X100's inbuilt stereo microphone in an echoey enclosed environment.
|1280 x 720 24 fps, H.264 .MOV file, 13 sec. 16.0 MB Click here to download original .MOV file|
Sample video 3This video was shot handheld in good light and demonstrates the slight camerashake that is inevitable when shooting without any support, or image stabilization.
|1280 x 720 24 fps, H.264 .MOV file, 9 sec. 11.0 MB Click here to download original .MOV file|
Sample video 4This clip gives an indication of the X100's continuous autofocus performance when faced with a moving subject, shot using the 3x zoom mode.
|1280 x 720 24 fps, H.264 .MOV file, 11 sec. 13.7 MB Click here to download original .MOV file|
Sample video 5 Building panningThis demonstrates the X100's video quality with detailed subjects (note moiré in some areas) and moving subjects. The camera was panned slowly on a tripod while recording.
|1280 x 720 24 fps, H.264 .MOV file, 20 sec. 24.0 MB Click here to download original .MOV file|