Note: This is a long post! It’s part review and part story, especially on my way to this camera. You might want coffee… 😉
… oh well, what does it stand for now? I think the official explanation is well known: It’s simply the fourth version of the Fujifilm X100. Somewhat boring though… as the F in the name also could stand for fast, or fantastic, or fine thought out, or… simply for fundamental update. But let’s tackle things one at a time…
Shortly after the official announcement – and especially after the publication of its price – the two camps of the well known usual suspects raised: The one camp took the camera for the ultimate, for the third and almost perfect reincarnation of the original X100, now being the much-quoted camera to go with to a desert island. The other camp was going on about the far too high price, too few improvements, the too small sensor, the missing of weather sealing, the absence of a tilting screen, the (alleged) poor lens quality, the… do I really have to continue the list? I don’t think so. Who, in fact, is in the right? Sometimes both… seen from their particular point of view, as it is often the case. Needless to say whose point of view I concur with. 😉
The family tree and the genes
The text following now is not a review in the proper meaning of the word, but a declaration of love. I owned the original version of the X100 and – despite all my love for it – cursed about it often enough. That does not mean it was a poor camera – far away from this – but it also owned a certain eccentricity, which is just a polite euphemism for ‘quirky’. So I have upgraded to the X100S on the very first day of its availability in Germany. That shows how much I wanted this camera because the improvements have been so significant. One reason for this was that Fujifilm admittedly had a lot of visionary ideas for the first version but left plenty of upward scope in the implementation of these ideas.
Nevertheless, the cameras have always been quite capable of reliable daily use – at least after the first firmware updates – and remain so today more than ever before. Since then they have accompanied me, no matter where I’ve gone… even into the dustiest deserts and the wettest tropics.
By the way, my X100S still works perfectly, even if it is starred with some “blue spots”… 🙂
The X100 – regardless of version – has never been a camera for everyone. In any version it wouldn’t have been at the top of a (rather pointless) list of pure technical features. Only for those who realized and needed – or at least thought to need – its unique benefits, the camera became a revelation despite (or partly because) of its characteristics and its concept. Not to say a stroke of genius! There are, for example, the compact form factor, the fantastic hybrid viewfinder, the leaf shutter, the build-in ND filter… just to mention some of its features. It’s quiet, unobtrusive and discreet. Pointing it onto people – of course respectfully and with a friendly smile – normally doesn’t disturb anybody.
It’s exactly the kind of camera to take with you if it’s going to become up close and personal, even if sometimes you need to overcome yourself…
Interestingly, I have never recommended this camera to a friend when I was asked for advice for a camera purchase. Very often they pointed their fingers at this camera and asked me, why I did not suggest this one. The answer is quite simple: Because I think it is a camera for (experienced) photographers, for those who really want to have exactly this kind of camera. Those people don’t ask without prior knowledge which camera they should buy. For some vacation and holiday snaps one surely can find better and cheaper alternatives.
However, especially for serious narrative documentary and street photography I hardly can imagine a better tool…
The third version of the range I’ve skipped though. Yes, I frequently played with it and it’s for sure clearly better, faster, etc. Nevertheless, I haven’t been able to justify an upgrade to myself. Therefore, I’ve missed the big step in the improvements to a certain extent. In contrary to the F.
The new kid on the block
As is well known, hopes and expectations vary widely when introducing a new model or a new version of a camera. Some users would prefer a complete reconstruction while others would like to see it mostly untouched. In my view, such a product reset would have been as senseless as inappropriate in case of the X100, and fortunately this appears to be the manufacturer’s view as well. So far, each version of the X100 has represented an evolution instead of a revolution. That is the case here as well, whereby one should not be deceived by the – on first examination – supposed few innovations. Fujifilm played evolution in its best form with the X100F and did some very useful fine-tuning in so many details. I believe, in fact, that this is the largest – albeit not the most important – update in the product range so far. If major new features are missing it is often overlooked that it’s sometimes the minor evolutionary steps that make the real progress.
The X100F now shares the same sensor and the same image processor with the top duo of the Fujifilm X product line. This means that we now have the same workflow, the same files, a slightly higher resolution, Acros and in – in my case – Classic Chrome (without tweaking the exif data in postprocessing; remember I’m still working with the X100S)… yes, these points alone would have been enough for me to justify an upgrade! In my opinion this central imaging unit is outstanding. This applies both to the overall image quality as well as to the noise behaviour under low light conditions.
Right after unpacking the product another change becomes visible: the energy supply. Until last I did not believe the rumours concerning the harmonisation of the batteries within the X line. It is therefore all the more gratifying that this point has been implemented. Since I use several X cameras, this is a highly appreciated improvement – in particular when taking the equipment on the road.
The joystick and, above all, the faster and more sensitive autofocus are more than just appreciated though. The latter is, by the way, arguably also in parts a consequence of this new battery. I don’t know if one can take more pictures with it now – probably not. However, the change also led to an increase in voltage from 3.6V (NP-95) to 7.2V (WP-126/s), which might be one reason for the higher processing power. Even though I’ve been able to cope with the autofocus of the X100S most of the time, the fusion of desire and reality is highly welcome here. I could not tell the difference to the X-Pro2 in this field – provided a fast focusing lens, such as the XF35 F2. In low-light condition the autofocus actually works incredibly well.
The much beloved viewfinder concept is still existent for sure. Except that now all the main characteristics of the X100T and the X-Pro2 were merged together with the result of having here the best hybrid viewfinder of all X cameras. In essence it shares now all the advanced features with the X-Pro2 – apart from the specific functions for different focal lenghts of course. It is as big as the one in the other cameras of the X100 range though. This is really great fun! Not to mention the considerably approved EVF. Even though this one did neither reach the top of what is technically feasible nowadays nor does it have a higher resolution than in the X100T. But a slightly higher refresh rate (60fps vs. 54fps) combined with its favorable size (magnification 0.65 vs. 0.59 in comparison to the X-Pro2) make it really good. Period.
Apropos merging. All in all we can see in many other aspects an alignment with the X-Pro2 as well. The key assignment, the menu, the ISO dial, the exposure compensation dial, the front control dial,… one feels familiar with a lot of things and that makes operation much easier when using different cameras of the Fujifilm X line. In some cases first functional improvements are introduced as well, e.g. the often-requested possibility to change the ISO without using the ISO dial. You now can programme the front dial to act in this way; a choice that for sure will be provided within one of the next firmware updates for the X-Pro2 as well.
The gradual evolution…
It’s not only the major technical changes that form the overall impression. At least for me, small details and especially the ergonomics of a camera are essential points. Fujifilm has done a great job here.
Starting with the design and the senses – the camera feels even more sturdy and valuable now – to the buttons and switches virtually everything has been revised. Thanks to the replacement of the main buttons to the right side of the display you can now use the camera one-handed without removing it from your eye – analogous to the X-Pro2. The control dials and buttons are in a good position and the pressure points and turning resistances are perfect in each case. The rear and front dials are more pronounced and therefore handier than the ones at the X-Pro2. The exposure compensation dial is neither to tight (as with the X-T2) nor it is too easy-running (as with the original X100), but just right. Only the Q button could have been placed better. It’s good when being used, but I always press it when I pick up the camera. All things considered, I think ergonomics are very good and consistent tough.
Furthermore, here and there some smaller innovations appear that are not apparent at first sight. Firstly, another fn button has been added to the front OVF/EVF selector lever. Like in the X70, in auto focus mode the focus ring now controls the ‘digital zoom’ with a field of view of 50mm and 75mm – equivalent to the 35mm format. This mode functions surprisingly well and scales the picture again to 24 megapixels by sort of extrapolation. Unfortunately, this feature works in JPEG only. I would have liked to see the implementation for RAW+JPEG mode as well. In the current form I can’t use this feature though.
Has Fujifilm delivered?
As might have been thought, I have not been short of enthusiasm and joyful anticipation. The only question was: Would the camera fulfil the very high expectations? The moment I held the camera in my hands for the first time the already slight doubts vanished. Promptly. All essential functions are plain and simple better than before.
A higher overall speed? Check! A better menu navigation? Check! A better battery capacity? Check! A higher image quality? Check! I do not want to say anything more at all. Since I’ve said almost everything about the inner workings in the reviews (German only) of the X-T2 and X-Pro2 there’s no need to repeat this here. These specifications can be found in the X100F now, which is a very good thing. In my opinion we now have three top models, with two of them being system cameras with interchangeable lenses and the latest one is a compact camera with a fixed lens.
I really hoped to get all this. Since the introduction of the X-Pro2 I’ve almost stopped using my trusted X100S. As is well known, better is the enemy of good and the X-Pro2 is simply so much better in almost every single aspect. From now on there would exist a mini X-Pro2 without interchangeable lenses, but instead with all its other advantages and presented in a compact version. A dream comes true! So I decided to order that dream even before the official announcement at my trusted local dealer. 😉
There’s one more positive aspect to mention. As is known, some X cameras – especially the newer X-T2 and the X-Pro2 – sometimes behave a little bit difficult when being pointed into very bright light sources within a certain angle. Then they can produce these unpleasant purple flares. That’s a phenomenon that can be observed with other mirrorless cameras as well, without producing these special grid artefacts like the X-Trans CMOS III sensor though. Without turning it into a severe problem – it’s a very rare phenomenon in real life situations and additionally you can see it in the EVF before taking the picture – there’s good news here: The X100F seems to be unsusceptible to it. 🙂
Everything said above of course is based on the comparison with the X100S. By logic the progress towards the X100T is a little bit smaller. Since I’ve never owned this one, I’m not able to make a practical comparison here. But as said before, the great sensor and the really good autofocus alone…
For me personally, there are none. I’m able to stand with the missing of weather sealing (see above) and I don’t care about the non-tilting screen. The same applies for the nonexistent touchscreen and the dual card slot simply doesn’t fit into this small camera. There are conceptual limits and not everything always works like you want it. Period.
The only annoying is that the welcomed alignment to the X-Pro2 concerning the software has led to a takeover of the two following points: the unfortunate implementation of the view mode while the display is turned off and the automatic link-up of AEL when the release button is half pressed. I have already mentioned these two points in detail here (unfortunately in German only). Especially the first point sucks and was better solved before. I really would be delighted if these points would be fixed in both the X-Pro2 and the X100F in one of the next firmware updates.
The small wish list
Anyone who has read the text so far might guess that this list will be comparatively small. Moreover, the first two points are somewhat design related and more of a general nature. Basically, I could imagine that this camera will remain my own until it comes unstuck. My X100S is now four years old and without the introduction of the F I would continue using it…
If I was asked, then I would like to see (besides the already mentioned requests for the next firmware update)…
- Image stabilisation – I know, but in this case one could reconstruct the lens. Perhaps the next X100 will be the first Fujifilm X with IBIS.
- Weather sealing – this wouldn’t be a game changer though, but nevertheless it would be appreciated.
- Coupled AEL/metering – come on Fujifilm, it would be so easy to give us the possibility to couple the AEL with a specific metering mode.
- Faster formatting – please give us a shortcut for formatting the SD card without diving deeply into the menu oder breaking your fingers.
- A better location for the Q button – e.g. at the left side underneath the selector buttons.
- Digital zoom for RAW+JPEG – best implemented with the RAW untouched.
- A touchscreen – but only because another point didn’t occur to me… actually I don’t care about it. 😉
That’s it… hardly worth the words though, right?
There’s one more thing…
Almost at the very end I would like to take up the issue of the lens. Opinions seem to diverge strongly on that question. As far as I can see, most owners of the X100 cameras – including myself – are very happy with this lens. I’ve never had something so say against it. The fact that it’s somewhat soft when used wide open at a close range is well known. So well known that this point even is mentioned in the manual of the camera – a fairly unique circumstance as far as I know. Obviously there was no other way to construct it. At least not at an adequate cost and not in its compact dimensions. I’ve never had any problems with this point and have used this sometimes intentionally. At an aperture of 2.8 or 4 everything is fine again though. And yes, the lens is capable to operate with the higher resolution of the new sensor without any question. Therefore, I don’t see any problems here, not to talk about a showstopper.
For me the X100F is undoubtedly the most beautiful camera on the market. Fortunately, Fujifilm managed neither to sacrifice the functions for the sake of its look nor to implement many senseless features into this camera. Well done! A famous and far too young passed away IT-visionary once said: ‘Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.’ Check!
In the very beginning of the text I called the X100F a fundamental update. I’m pretty sure not everyone will agree, but I stand firmly by my opinion. In the first instance, the X100 have been a wonderful concept. Their two successors then have refined this concept into really capable cameras. With the F Fujifilm has succeeded in taking a crucial step forward and made it an outstanding tool. It’s huge fun to tell a story in images with this camera, because it’s small, it’s unobtrusive, it’s fast and it’s simply damn good!
However, The X100F will not please everybody – and nor should it. But the camera embodies in its fourth version that, what it stands for, to an extraordinary extent – for my own style of photography even close to perFection. In other words:
Let’s dance! It’s the sexiest camera alive! 🙂
P.S. There’s of course still the thing with the pricing. Yep, it hurts a little bit… but fortunately once only. But then you get, what you pay for…
On the internet some users complain about a known behaviour of the EVF an the display: the flickering. This happens if you don’t make a picture after having focused and then release the shutter button. It has something to do with the interaction between the autofocus (which always works with the widest open aperture) and the live view, whereby depending on light conditions the apertured blades will be closed step by step. It’s the way Fujifilm has implemented this process and other cameras, like the X-Pro2 and X-T2, act in the same way. I don’t like it either und have given a detailed report on this issue here (unfortunately in German only) and I have uploaded a video for this purpose here. I assume this will never disappear completely but might become better with future firmware updates. I barely notice it anymore…
Even if that has not been implemented very well, I think there is no valid reason to call it a severe bug or even a showstopper though. 😉
Yesterday a discerning reader has drawn my attention to a fact I did not mention yet: The camera does not display the currently used ISO value in AF-C mode if Auto-ISO is activated. Since I really never use the AF-C mode, I did not recognize this before. That’s also the reason why I did not say a word to the autofocus in that mode. In principle, this minor “bug” is consistent to the behaviour of other X cameras, like the X-T2 or X-Pro2. It’s the same story there. In comparison, the X-T2 gives you the possibility to deactivate the compulsorily saving of measurement with half-pressed release button in AF-S mode. Unfortunately, then we see the same problem. In this case the ISO value will not be displayed as well (before FW 1.10 the shutter speed has not been displayed).
I have mentioned the latter point in the relevant review (German only) in detail and have opened a support ticket with Fujifilm. I’m pretty sure that this “bug” will be rectified with one of the future firmware updates.
After one month of use – even if to my great regret still not in the intensity needed and desired – I would like to add some words to three points:
- The battery – I still have no idea how many more pictures one would get using a standardized test. Fact is, however, that for my type of use I can see a significant improvement compared to its predecessors as well as to the duo X-Pro2/X-T2. The latter I don’t understand in detail, especially in case of the X-Pro2. And I can’t say exactly how much better is is, but my feeling tells me it’s maybe about 20%.
- The ISO setting with the front dial – I am less impressed by the possibility to change the ISO there in itself – I hardly ever use manual ISO setting. However, which has proved to be very useful is the thereto related possibility to change the three ISO automatic modes as well. This in turn I use very often.
- The autofocus – I would like to express my personal opinion to that point once again: The autofocus is fantastic! And this is true also in very poor lightning conditions – what I’m particularly happy about. That’s a huge step forward.
I am really looking forward to use this camera for my photographic project and travel through Europe that I will start in a few weeks from now. I’m pretty sure it will not disappoint me.