From a market standpoint, the pricey Fujifilm FinePix X100 is a bit of an oddball. Though we traditionally call models like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 or Canon PowerShot G12 "large sensor" compacts, their CCDs are relatively tiny compared to the APS-C-size CMOS in the X100. ILCs like the Sony Alpha NEX or Samsung NX series have APS-C sensors, but they're higher resolution with smaller photosites. The X100 also sports a prime lens with a 35mm-equivalent focal length, while the less expensive, more mainstream-focused compact models incorporate zoom lenses; no matter how short the zoom range, a prime will usually deliver superior sharpness and clarity. But you can stick a nice prime on those ILCs as well.
So what does the X100 deliver? Stellar photo quality and disappointing performance in a tanklike semicompact body with a cool but frequently frustrating operational design, all for a high--but circumstantially justifiable--price.
As far as I can tell, the X100 delivers better photo quality than all of its less-expensive competitors, generally comparable to or better than the midrange dSLRs in its price range. It produces extremely clean images as high as ISO 800, with usable ones as high as ISO 1600. Although the results get a bit soft at ISO 3200, images don't look like they've been run through a filter, and they remain very saturated. Furthermore, it supplies a decent amount of latitude for fixing underexposed images without introducing excessive noise.
I was most surprised by the high quality of the camera's JPEG processing; I couldn't easily get better noise-reduction results from processing the raw version--your mileage may vary--which is unusual. It renders natural-looking but sharp images, in part thanks to a thinner-than-usual high-pass filter over the sensor, as well as to the solid prime lens. As I'd expect from an expensive prime lens that's not especially wide, there's little distortion. It also has excellent edge-to-edge sharpness, falling off only in the extreme corners, and no fringing that I could spot. The nine-bladed aperture and undistorting lens in the X100 yields lovely round, soft, out-of-focus highlights.
While the X100 delivers excellent color accuracy in its default standard film profile, it does tend to oversaturate very saturated colors, especially reds. I noticed hue shifts in very saturated reds, as well as the tendency to blow out details in reds compared with other colors in the scene.
You can shoot 720/24p videos with the X100, with control over aperture and continuous autofocus. The video looks good, especially nice in closeups at wide apertures, and the built-in stereo mic is reasonably sensitive. But my shots with sky in them had that vignetted appearance with center bleached out and gradual darkening to a cyan around the sides.
|Canon PowerShot G12||Fujifilm FinePix X100||Nikon Coolpix P7000||Olympus XZ-1||Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5|
|Sensor (effective resolution)||10-megapixel CCD||12.3 megapixel CMOS||10-megapixel CCD||10-megapixel CCD||10-megapixel CCD|
|1/1.7-inch||23.6 x 15.8mm||1/1.7-inch||1/1.63-inch||1/1.63-inch|
|Sensitivity range||ISO 80 - ISO 3200||ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 6400/12,800 (expanded)||ISO 100 - ISO 3200/6400 (expanded)||ISO 100 - ISO 6,400||ISO 80 - ISO 3200|
|Closest focus (inches)||0.4||3.9||0.8||0.4||0.4|
10 JPEG/8 raw
23 JPEG/8 raw
|Viewfinder||Optical||Optical/EVF switchable||Optical||Optional EVF||Optional OVF or EVF|
|Metering||n/a||256 zones||256-segment matrix||324 area||n/a
|Shutter||15-1/4000 sec||30 - 1/4000 sec; bulb to 60 min||60-1/4000 sec||60-1/2000 sec; bulb to 16 min||60-1/4000 sec|
|3-inch fixed OLED
|Image stabilization||Optical||None||Optical||Sensor shift||Optical|
|Video (best quality)||720/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
|720/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV Stereo||720/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV
|720/30p Motion JPEG AVI||720/30p AVCHD Lite
|Manual iris and shutter in video||No||Iris only||No||No||Yes|
|Zoom while recording||No||n/a||Yes||No||n/a|
|Battery life (CIPA rating)||390 shots||300 shots||350 shots||320 shots||400 shots|
|Dimensions (WHD, inches)||4.4 x 3.0 x 2.0||5.0 x 2.9 x 2.1||4.5 x 3.1 x 1.8||4.4 x 2.6 x 1.7||4.3 x 2.6 x 1.7|
|Availability||October 2010||March 2011||September 2010||January 2011||August 2010|
And now we head from the sublime to the ridiculous: By any metric, the X100's performance is slow given the camera's price, especially if you use autofocus. It's roughly comparable to far less expensive models like the Canon PowerShot G12, and significantly slower than competing interchangeable-lens models. In its default configuration it takes 2.6 seconds to power on and shoot--that's a shot missed in street-shooting time. You can turn on Quick Start mode to reduce it, but that will decrease the already way too-short battery life. In optimal conditions, shot lag runs 0.5 second, and in dim that increases to about 0.9 second. That's mediocre enough, but the focus is inconsistent as well, especially in macro mode; during my shooting, it frequently thought it had locked focus but clearly hadn't.
Macro performance becomes especially important because of an inconvenient optical characteristic of the lens: in standard mode, it can only focus at 2.6 feet or beyond. That means you'll end up using macro mode far more often that you might otherwise.
Two sequential JPEG shots take about 1.5 seconds--raw, 1.7 seconds--mostly because of inefficient autofocus, but also because it takes a little longer than it should to write images to the card. Flash bumps that up to 2.1 seconds.
You can alleviate some of the performance issues by using manual focus or continuous autofocus. Unfortunately, neither of those is an optimal solution. I really don't like the manual focus ring; it doesn't feel precise or responsive enough to me, and even with magnification the view seems too coarse for accurate focus. It would really benefit from peaking. Continuous AF solves the speed issue, but once again drains the battery.