Operation and controls

Top of camera controls

The X100 has a classic rangefinder-style control layout. The lens plays host to aperture and manual focus rings, while on the top plate there are dials controlling shutter speed and exposure compensation (which is available up to +/- 2EV in 1/3 stop steps). Next to these are the shutter button, which is a traditional-looking affair that includes threading for a mechanical cable release, and is surrounded by the on/off switch, and a customizable function (Fn) button.

The shutter speed and aperture rings each have red 'A' (for auto) markings, which together define the exposure mode as follows:

Shutter speed dial
Aperture dial
Aperture Priority
Sets aperture
Shutter Priority
Sets shutter speed
Sets shutter speed
Sets aperture

The shutter speed dial covers 1/4000 sec to 1/4 sec in whole-stop increments, but there's also a 'T' position that allows you to use timed slower speeds as long as 30 seconds, which are selected using the rear dial (in third-stop increments). The aperture ring can be set from F2 - F16 in whole-stop steps, but has no intermediate positions.

This whole-stop aperture and shutter-speed selection doesn't give sufficiently fine exposure control in manual exposure mode, and Fujifilm has come up with a workable, but slightly clunky solution. The rear dial can be used to fine-tune the aperture setting, and the thumb lever the shutter speeds, each to +/- 1/3 or 2/3 stops. These third-stop increments are also available in the aperture and shutter priority modes, controlled in the same way. However we can't help but feel it would make more sense simply to have finer control on the aperture ring itself (although Fujifilm claims this would be too mechanically complex).

ISO (Fn) button

The small button on the top-plate beside the shutter release may be labeled Fn, but it's really the X100's ISO control. It can be re-programmed to operate 10 other, less useful functions, but ISO is a parameter of such importance that we suspect most X100 users will simply leave it there. If you do decide to re-allocate it, the only way to change ISO is then by delving into the shooting menu, which is far from optimal. Also if you shoot mainly using the optical finder, for any other function it will immediately switch across to the EVF (generally displaying a large menu in the process), which is rather intrusive into the shooting experience.

For the record, the Fn button can also be used for depth-of-field preview; but given that the camera stops down to the taking aperture when you half-press the shutter button anyway, this is almost completely superfluous. It can also switch the camera across to movie mode, an operation that normally requires you to press the Drive button twice; however you still need to use the shutter button to start recording, and we think it would make much more sense to allow Fn to be used as a direct movie recording button. For any other function it displays a menu of options in the EVF or LCD, even when there's only two and it could more sensibly act as a toggle (for example ND filter selection); you then have to make a selection using the rear dial or up/down keys.

With Firmware 1.1 Fujifilm has made it easier to change the Fn button's function - press and hold it for 3 seconds and the camera enters the sub-menu that changes its function. This makes it a bit more flexible; you can more easily re-assign it to operate the ND filter in bright sunlight, for example. It also gives a quick shortcut to accessing Auto ISO (which is the next item down in the main menu).

Rear of camera controls - left side

There's a strip of four buttons below the viewfinder to the left of the LCD, topped by the playback button. Below this, 'AE' sets the metering mode (pattern / center weighted / spot), while 'AF' is used to move the active focus area around the frame (this control is only active if you set the AF mode to 'Area' in the shooting menu). These buttons require you to to hold them down while using the 4-way controller to change the setting; they are also used to zoom in and out of images in play mode.

For AF area selection, there's a choice of 25 points (in a 5x5 grid) when using the optical finder, and 49 points (in a 7x7 grid) when using the LCD or EVF. In manual focus mode you can select an area of interest for magnification (by clicking in the thumb lever) from 81 points covering essentially the entire frame, which is illustrated in the image above.

'View mode' switches between using the rear LCD and the eye-level finder, with three options available: LCD, eye-level, and automatic switching between the two based upon the sensor beside the eyepiece (when you select the latter, 'Eye sensor' is displayed on the screen or in the viewfinder for a few seconds). The camera remembers which mode you're using when you turn it off.

Rear of camera controls - right side

At the X100's top right shoulder, well-placed for operation by your thumb, is a Ricoh-esque jog switch that Fujifilm calls the 'Command Control'. Below it is an autofocus/autoexposure lock button, which is customizable to your specific taste. This can be set to control AF, AE or both, and to operate either as a single press lock, or as a toggle (i.e. press to lock, press again to unlock). If the AF mode switch is set to manual, this button can still be used to autofocus, essentially decoupling autofocus and exposure in a fashion that's popular with many photographers.

The DISP/BACK is also used for menu navigation, as well as changing the amount of information displayed on the rear screen or in the viewfinder. Once the available options are displayed, repeated pressing of the button cycles through them. In shooting mode, a 'long press' of the DISP button switches to 'silent mode', which disables the flash, AF illuminator lamp, and all operational sounds (including the AF confirmation beep and synthesized shutter release sound). This can effectively be used as a quick way of turning the AF illuminator on and off.

The 'RAW' button has two functions. In playback mode, it gives direct access to the camera's in-camera raw conversion abilities. While shooting, it allows you to quickly turn raw image recording on or off, which works for a single shot only. We're not convinced this is a sufficiently important function to get its own dedicated button, and we'd love to see it customizable to cover a wider range of options.

Four-way controller functions

The four-way controller offers direct access to drive mode, macro focus, flash mode and white balance; in its center is a MENU/OK button that calls up the menu, and confirms settings. The drive, flash and macro selection menus disappear about 2 seconds after you've pressed the button to call them up, but the white balance selection menu is 'sticky', and only dismisses on a half-press of the shutter (we'd prefer the other three to do the same). The settings available are as follows:

Drive  • Single
 • Continuous
 • Auto Exposure bracket
 • ISO bracket*
 • Film simulation bracket*
 • Dynamic range bracket*
 • Motion panorama
 • Movie
- 5fps or 3fps
- 1/3, 2/3, 1 EV; 3 exposures @ 5fps off single shutter press
- 1/3, 2/3, 1 EV bracketed development of single exposure
- Develops single exposure to Provia, Velvia, Astia modes
- Shoots 3 frames at same ISO, DR100, DR200 and DR400
- 120 or 180 deg; left, right, up, or downwards sweep
* ISO, Film Simulation and Dynamic Range bracketing modes disable raw format recording
Flash  • Auto*2
 • Forced*2
 • Suppressed
 • Slow sync*2
- Only available in P mode

- Only available in P and A modes
*2 Red-eye removal (using a single pre-flash) can be enabled in the Set-up menu
WB *3  • Auto
 • Custom
 • K
 • Fine
 • Shade
 • Fluorescent Light - 1
 • Fluorescent Light - 2
 • Fluorescent Light - 3
 • Incandescent
 • Underwater
- Point camera at white/grey card and press shutter to set
- 2500 - 10000K
*3 White Balance Shift can be set in the Shooting menu (+/-9 Red/Cyan, +/-9 Blue/Yellow)
Macro  • Off
 • On
- Min focus ~0.7m from front of lens (OVF); ~0.45m (EVF)
- Range 10cm - 2m. OVF unavailable due to parallax error

Jog lever functions

The 'Command Control' thumb lever on the camera's shoulder can either be pressed in like a button, or pushed left and right to adjust various parameters. It's little 'spongy' in feel, but works just fine.

  • In manual focus mode, press in to toggle to a magnified live view image for critical focusing (if you're using the OVF, the camera will switch to a magnified EVF view)
  • In OVF mode, use in conjunction with Fn to adjust the ISO (when assigned)
  • Fine-tunes the aperture setting (+/- 1/3 or 2/3 stops) in A and M modes
  • In program exposure mode, sets program shift (but only when flash is turned off)
  • Often, but not always, duplicates the left/right key functions on the 4-way controller
  • In playback mode, clicking-in enlarges the area around the selected focus point to check sharpness; flicking left or right overlays image with detailed processing and exposure information

Rear dial functions

The four-way controller is surrounded by a dial that's used for navigating menus and setting options, and sits within a shallow bowl-shaped plastic moulding to minimize accidental changes. Its functions include:

  • With the shutter speed dial in the 'T' position, sets speeds from 1/2 to 30 sec (1/3 stop steps).
  • In EVF / LCD viewing mode, use in conjunction with Fn to adjust the ISO (when assigned).
  • Fine-tunes the shutter speed (+/- 1/3 or 2/3 stops) in M and S modes
  • In program exposure mode, sets program shift (but only when flash is turned off)
  • Often, but not always, replicates up/down functions on the 4-way controller.
  • In playback, scrolls through images

Shutter speed / aperture limitations

The X100's lens-shutter design means that certain shutter speed / aperture combinations aren't available (the shutter can't open fast enough to reveal the whole aperture opening at the highest speeds). The camera will warn you about this by highlighting the shutter speed or aperture value in red, and according to the manual "the desired exposure may not be achieved" (we'll look into this in more detail later in the review). The maximum shutter speed available at each aperture is shown below:

Fastest shutter speed available
1/1000 sec
1/1300 sec
1/2000 sec
1/2500 sec
F8 and smaller
1/4000 sec

If you want to shoot with the lens wide open in bright light, you will therefore have to engage the camera's built-in neutral densty filter, which reduces the light reaching the sensor by three stops. This should be sufficient to cover pretty well any lighting conditions, but does require a trip into the menus to operate (it can also be accessed from the Fn button).