Sunday, 20 March 2011

Fuji X100 first impressions review

105th @ F8, 800 ISO. Focus preset at 3m 

I've owned the new Fuji Finepix X100 for about a week now and think I have a pretty good idea of how it performs and thought it was about time to post my first impressions. I'm no camera reviewer so I won't be posting performance graphs and crops displaying sharpness comparisons and artifacts (what are they again ?) but will purely describe in simple terms how the camera has handled now that I'm used to it and how happy I am with it's handling and image quality .
The kind people downstairs in the pro department at Jacobs Digital in New Oxford Street had one on pre order for me since the camera was announced at Photokina and when it arrived I shot a series of quick tests before parting with any cash.
I was instantly surprised at how good it was shooting at high iso, 3200 looked great and 6400 is more than usable . After a few tests in the shop at high film speeds I moved outdoors and checked the shutter lag and autofocus. Shooting with the Fuji X100 was pretty straightforward and the camera felt responsive enough, with relatively quick autofocus and minimal shutter lag. I then switched over to manual focus flicking the switch on the side of the camera and using the rear dial to adjust the distance to 3 meters and set the aperture ring to F8 . Immediately the camera came into it's own and I snapped away without anyone taking any real notice, the image above of a canoodling couple on new Oxford Street was shot then, apparently completely oblivious to my presence.


The viewfinder is a joy to use, for years I've felt unimpressed with the lack of built-in viewfinders on higher end compacts and it makes such a difference to the way I shoot, the optical viewfinder is fantastic displaying the necessary information one needs such as aperture, shutter speed, iso and an exposure scale. With the simple flick of a lever you can switch to EVF mode which was surprisingly pleasant enough to use , and having the added advantage of displaying the sharpness of the image before capture. You can even have a quick review of the image after capture in the viewfinder which is great to check exposure etc but can be somewhat distracting.The digital overlay of horizon and grid I do find a bit to busy for my liking, keep it simple. Having an aperture ring on the lens and shutter speed/exposure top dials on top of the camera make adjustments a cinch whilst on the move and really make you feel "in charge" when shooting, unlike a regular "pro"compact .

60th @ F4, 1600 ISO


A few days later I used the camera at Crufts, my first time there ever and slightly bewildering, but in the astonishingly poor mixed lighting the Fuji X100 performed well again and I filed images to the newspaper shot at 1600 iso without a moments hesitation .

The light meter and white balance are both accurate enough, the images shot with the X100 do still have the "feel"of a compact as opposed to an SLR though. I can't really put it better than that but the files certainly don't have the creaminess say of the 5D MkII . Once in Photoshop though with minimum tweaking the files definitely improve.



240th @ F2, 400 ISO


Now it's not all a bed of roses, the buffer is poor when shooting at 3/5 fps and has put me off using it in high speed mode unless absolutely necessary.
Focusing in low contrast and backlit conditions at around 1meter from the subject can sometimes be a problem also but strangely switching from optical finder to EVF seems to remedy this most of the time.
This could be to do with the fact that the minimum focus distance with the optical finder is 80cm(not far off a Leica M9 digital rangefinder) whilst with the EVF 35cm, so watch your distances !
The control dial on the back is also very fiddly and switching over to macro mode, changing iso and other menu options can sometimes be frustrating . There are however some shortcut buttons on the camera that can help with some of these issues.
Battery life isn't fantastic either, after a days shooting you will definitely need to recharge, in this day and age with new battery technology and at this price point I expected better.

125th @ F2.5, 200 ISO


In conclusion, I really like this camera, it has it's bugs, the fiddly menu dial and buffer speed, but nothing so serious that I regret in any way buying the thing. The camera looks and feels great with it's retro styling and weighty magnesium body, it's a joy to use. The hybrid viewfinder, sharp lens, excellent file quality and high iso are fantastic for a camera of this size and I only hope that Fuji don't release a version in black in the near future as that would really be annoying !


14th @ F4, 800 ISO

4 comments:

Leon Neal said...

An interesting read, Heathcliff. There have been a lot of people getting way too giddy about it online recently so it's good to read a more balanced approach. Nice one.

jonathanjk.com said...

There is a fix for the slow buffer, buy a faster SD card. This one will get you real fast write speeds:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/SanDisk-Extreme-UHS-I-Memory-45Mbps/dp/B004JJU6I4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=computers&qid=1299923962&sr=8-1

It was discussed here on Flickr, it makes a difference.
http://www.flickr.com/groups/x100/discuss/72157626105148145/

regardlese said...

yes I am the first customer in France for this wonderful device!
is mine I have just been delivered! (Ordered on the internet) and I can share my impressions =
Wawh-how fast! it looks like a Leica M .... It comes in a stylish package as the Leica x1-an impression of solidity, of boutons/bagues- al'ancienne, which remain in place (not like the x1) reactivity astonishing, immediate display, and a bright viewfinder specific (hybrid viewfinder is stunningly beautiful and it automatically!) - Picture perfect (as x1 that I had and sold quickly due to its deplorable slowness and lack of viewfinder) -
a quibble = button back end of the pad is too small and poorly easy to use-it lacks any zoom! a little big to fit in your pocket
the price is also quite high = 1200 € approximately (- x1 expensive than all the same)
In summary a great camera, a success, a large number who will make history!
Finally I have a poket high quality!
FUJI thank you!

http://flic.kr/ps/uevTA

Photography Indonesia said...

Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
thank you :)