Fujifilm FinePix X100 In-Depth Review
Body and Design
The X100 is a gorgeous-looking camera, no matter what angle you look at it from. It has much the same kind of 'real camera' appeal as the Leica M9, and will doubtless draw more than its fair share of admirers on appearance alone. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, either; plenty of people, after all, are willing to choose a car as much on its looks as anything else, just as long as there's substance behind the style.
The build quality is superb. The top and base plates are die-cast using lightweight, high-strength magnesium alloy, and all the controls and dials are milled from solid metal. Some plastic makes an appearance on the back, of course, for the buttons and four-way controller/rear dial, and it’s also used for the battery/SD compartment door, but overall the X100 gives a rare impression of solidity. Indeed of all current digital cameras, arguably only the Leica M9 can challenge the X100 for its sheer build quality and beauty as an object.
The X100 uses a distinctly traditional control layout, clearly inspired by fully-mechanical compacts from the 1960s and '70s, with top-plate dials for shutter speed and exposure compensation, plus aperture and manual focus rings around the lens barrel. The shutter button is even threaded for a good old-fashioned mechanical cable release, and the rangefinder-esque layout is completed by the big, bright finder at the top corner of the body. Of course these controls aren't at all the same as those on a Leica M6 (for example), because they're electronic rather than manual, but on the whole the illusion works pretty well.
What's perhaps most impressive about the X100, however, is the way Fujifilm has managed to build a high quality EVF into a relatively compact body. This is by itself is an achievement, that's all-too-easy to overlook in the excitement of the finder being 'hybrid'. But it gives the lie, once and for all, to the idea that cameras with built-in EVFs need to look like miniature SLRs, complete with faux pentaprism 'hump'. It would be nice to see the manufacturers of mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras following this direction, 'folding' an EVF's optical path within a slimline body design.
The X100’s trump card is undoubtedly its unique, newly-designed 'hybrid' viewfinder that combines a conventional direct-vision optical viewfinder with an electronic viewfinder (if you prefer, you can also frame your shots using the 2.8" rear LCD, like any other compact camera). The diagram below illustrates how it works.
The EVF is a state-of-the art 1,440,000 dot unit, similar to that used by Olympus in its VF-2 accessory finder for the Pen series. It's large, bright and detailed, and offers all the usual advantages of an EVF, such as true 100% frame coverage, the ability to accurately preview exposure and depth of field, image magnification for critical manual focus, and the overlay of a wide range of useful information such as a live histogram. It can also 'gain up' in low light to give clearer viewing for more critical composition, although at the expense of slowing the refresh rate.
The optical viewfinder is a large, bright 'reverse galilean' design that has most of the advantages loved by rangefinder users - most importantly the sense of immediacy and connection to the scene engendered by real time-viewing. It also shows a wider angle of view than the lens itself, which allows you to keep an eye on objects that are just outside the frame.
The big difference, however, is that the EVF display is also used to overlay data when using the optical viewfinder (such as shutter speed, aperture, ISO etc). This gives the photographer much more information about what the camera is doing than conventional optical viewfinders could ever do. For example, you can display a live histogram, or move the active focus area around the frame to line it up with the subject, eliminating any need to focus and recompose. On the downside, though, there's no manual focus aid, aside from a distance scale that includes a depth of field indication.
Fujifilm’s viewfinder magnification and coverage specifications are a little vague and have been the subject of some confusion, so let’s clear this up. The optical viewfinder has a magnification of 0.5x, which given the 35mm-equivalent angle of view means it's about the same size as that on a typical full-frame DSLR, or the latest high-quality EVFs on cameras such as the Panasonic G2 or Sony Alpha 55.
The optical finder's viewable area covers a substantially wider angle than the lens’s field of view, and within it is projected a white frameline that covers approximately 90% of the frame. This conservative approach will be familiar to rangefinder users – it’s designed to ensure that everything within the frameline should be the final image area, regardless of parallax errors between the lens and viewfinder, or any change in the lens’s angle of view with focus distance. In contrast, the EVF offers 100% coverage, at approximately the same magnification.
At the heart of the X100 lies its fixed 23mm F2 lens, which offers the same moderately-wide angle of view as a 35mm lens on a full-frame camera. This is considered by many to be a classic focal length: wide enough to get plenty of context in the frame, but not so wide as to obviously distort objects towards the corners of the image.
The lens is optically complex for a prime - 8 elements in 6 groups, including a dual-sided aspherical element - yet due to the use of a customized sensor with offset microlenses towards the edge of the frame, the camera is still relatively slim, despite the fast F2 maximum aperture. Indeed the X100 is similar in thickness to the smallest interchangeable lens cameras such as the Sony NEX-5 and Panasonic GF2 fitted with their smallest pancake primes.
The focus ring isn't mechanically coupled to the lens's focus group, but is instead 'focus-by-wire'. In principle the system is geared such that fast rotation changes the focus distance rapidly, while slow rotation allows for very fine adjustments. But while this makes for high precision MF, but does mean that multiple complete turns of the focus ring are required to cover the full distance range. It's not the most responsive manual focus system we've ever used, to be honest - it can feel rather laggy and slow - but it is accurate.
In an interview with CNBC, Leica Chairman Andreas Kaufmann said he dreams of a 'true Leica phone,' and hinted at what's next for the Leica and Huawei partnership.
Wildlife and nature photographer Peter Mather tells the story behind this exceptional shot of a mama grizzly and her cub searching for salmon in Yukon, Canada.
Popular YouTube channel TastyTuts has put together this 33-video Beginner's Guide to Adobe Photoshop—a godsend for anybody who wants to learn Photoshop from scratch.
The long anticipated replacement for the popular Rode VideoMic Pro is almost ready for shipping. The price of the upgraded VideoMic Pro+ will be £290/$300 when it goes on sale in mid-August.
A new iOS app called Explorest wants to help you find new locations to shoot. It's limited to Singapore for now, but the app is packed full of useful location scouting features.
Nikon's D850 development announcement is extremely light on details, so we assembled a wish list of upgrades and features we'd love to see.
Nikon has announced the development of the long-awaited replacement to its full-frame D810: the D850. Nikon says that the D850 will build on the strengths of its predecessor and offer 'new technologies, features and performance enhancements.'
Lens manufacturer Voigtlander has introduced a 65mm F2 macro lens for Sony E-mount that it says "rates as one of the finest in the history of Voigtländer."
The UK released a preview of their upcoming drone safety regulations, and it looks like drone pilots will have to both register their device and pass safety awareness tests.
National Geographic photographer Bob Holmes talks about light, and why you need to learn how to 'see' and not just 'look' at your subject.
Photographer Alessandro Barteletti shares the story behind his National Geographic Italia cover, shot with a 10-year-old DSLR and an iPhone flashlight.
Fashion catalog photographers in China have some next-level models to work with. In this video, you see one model hitting 30 poses in 15 seconds as the photographer snaps away.
Photographer Paul Adshead breaks down 11 photography-related smartphone apps he couldn't live without—from a pocket light meter to a lighting diagram app.
Fast-growing Chinese flash brand Godox is teasing a brand new flash trigger... for smartphones. The Godox A1 is a 'phone flash system' that can act as both flash and 2.4GHz trigger.
On July 12, Canon opened its newest Technology and Support Center, designed to serve the motion picture industry, in Burbank, CA. DPReview got a sneak peak and takes you behind the scenes.
The Sigma 14mm F1.8 Art is truly one-of-a-kind. It offers the fastest aperture of any lens that shares its focal length, produces beautiful sunstars and is incredibly sharp to boot. If you're in the market for a fast ultrawide prime, this looks to be the one to get.
In this article, expert macro photographer Thomas Shahan shares advice for successful closeup photography of bugs, insects and small animals.
DJI's new firmware makes it difficult to fly in restricted airspace, even when you have proper clearance. Is DJI placing themselves between professionals and the FAA?
Go behind the scenes with National Geographic photographer Renan Ozturk and see what it takes to capture a dangerous, harrowing, stunning Nat Geo photo essay.
Erez Marom tells the story behind this ominous photo of the sand 'reaching up' towards the mountains at Skagsanden beach in Norway. He calls this photo 'Torment.'
DPReview staffer Carey Rose has taken the Panasonic Leica DG 15mm F1.7 along for everything from a city-side boat ride to a bachelor party across the mountains. Find out how the little Leica fared.
Canon just unveiled the largest 12-ink printer on the market. The new imagePROGRAF PRO-6000 printer can make prints from 17 all the way up to 60 inches wide.
"Standing in one of the holiest places on earth, I felt uneasy," writes Wired's Jason Parham. "Most of my fellow visitors, I realized with a brief bloom of nausea, were taking selfies."
Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk has been receiving great reviews, but it's a challenge to see it in its full glory. This handy infographic reveals the aspect ratio chaos that is wrought as the industry retreats from film.
Anti-bullying organization Ditch the Label's Annual Bullying Survey 2017 reveals yet again that Instagram, more so than any other social network, has the worst effect on youth mental health.
It's been a crazy day for innovative patent news. Apparently Sony is thinking of developing a medium format curved sensor camera.
An update to the Silkypix Raw converter fixes some bugs and adds support for several popular new cameras.
This crazy custom-built underwater camera shoots 8x10 large format film. It's supposedly "the first successful underwater 8x10 ever made," and it can be yours for $5,800... plus shipping.
Blackmagic just reveled a new accessory for their Cintel Film Scanner. The Cintel Audio and KeyKode Reader can capture KeyKode data and high-quality audio from film in real-time as it is being scanned.
A new Nikon patent shows a lens designed for a curved full-frame sensor. Could this be the high-end Nikon mirrorless camera people are hoping for?