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Fujifilm FinePix X100 review: Fujifilm FinePix X100

Fujifilm FinePix X100

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Lori Grunin
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Lori Grunin

Senior Editor / Reviews

I've been writing about and reviewing consumer technology since before the turn of the century. I'm also a photographer and cat herder, frequently at the same time.

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10 min read

Fujifilm FinePix X100
7.8

Fujifilm FinePix X100

The Good

Thanks to great photo quality, a clever hybrid viewfinder, and a cool, retro design, there's a lot to like about the <b>Fujifilm FinePix X100</b>.

The Bad

Sluggish performance, especially for such a high-priced camera, and a frustrating navigation control make shooting with the camera a lot less fluid than it should be.

The Bottom Line

If you have the bucks and you want the best photo quality possible, the Fujifilm FinePix X100 delivers. But definitely try before you buy to make sure the focusing systems won't make you crazy.

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
Lens 28-140mm
f2.8-4.5
5x
35mm
f2
28-200mm
f2.8-5.6
7.1x
28-112mm
f1.8-2.5
4x
24-90mm
f2-3.3
3.8x
Closest focus (inches) 0.4 3.9 0.8 0.4 0.4
Continuous shooting 1.1fps
frames n/a
5fps
10 JPEG/8 raw
1.1fps
n/a
2fps
23 JPEG/8 raw
2.5 fps
JPEG/n/a raw
Viewfinder Optical Optical/EVF switchable Optical Optional EVF Optional OVF or EVF
Autofocus n/a
Contrast AF
49-area
Contrast AF
99-area
Contrast AF
11 area
Contrast AF
23-area
Contrast AF
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
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hot shoe Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
LCD 2.8-inch articulated
461,000 dots
2.8-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed
921,000 dots
3-inch fixed OLED
610,000 dots
3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
Image stabilization Optical None Optical Sensor shift Optical
Video (best quality) 720/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
Stereo
720/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV Stereo 720/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV
Stereo
720/30p Motion JPEG AVI 720/30p AVCHD Lite
Mono
Manual iris and shutter in video No Iris only No No Yes
Zoom while recording No n/a Yes No n/a
Mic input No No Yes Yes No
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
Weight (ounces) 14.2 15.8 12.6 9.6 9.2
Mfr. Price $499.99 $1,195.95 $499.95 $499.99 $440
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.

And the burst mode is less of a continuous shooting mode than a best-shot mode; it runs at about 5.2fps, but only for 2 seconds, and then you have to wait while it writes those 10 photos to the card.

Though I ultimately rated the X100's design an 8, I feel really ambivalent about it. On one hand, it's undeniably well built with a lovely retro appeal, comfortable to grip and shoot. I was initially skeptical about the hybrid viewfinder, which toggles between an old-fashioned reverse Galilean, updated for the 21st century with an electronic information overlay, and an EVF via a lever on the front of the camera. But it's big and bright and eventually won me over, even though the EVF is a bit sluggish to update, especially when panning. The viewfinder quality is doubly important given how disappointing the LCD is--it's low resolution and difficult to see in bright sunlight.

  Fujifilm FinePix X100 Olympus E-PL2 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 Samsung NX100 Sony Alpha NEX-5
Sensor (effective resolution) 12.3 megapixel CMOS 12.3-megapixel Live MOS 12.1-megapixel Live MOS 14.6-megapixel CMOS 14.2-megapixel Exmor CMOS
23.6 x 15.8mm 17.3mm x 13mm 17.3 x 13.0mm 23.4mm x 15.6mm 23.4mm x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.5x 2.0x 2.0x 1.5x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 6400/12,800 (expanded) ISO 200 - ISO 6,400 ISO 100 - ISO 6,400 ISO 100 - ISO 3,200/6,400 (expanded) ISO 200 - ISO 12,800
Continuous shooting 5fps
10 JPEG/8 raw
3.0 fps
n/a
3.2fps
unlimited JPEG/7 raw
3.0 fps
10 JPEG/ 3 raw
2.3 fps
unlimited JPEG/8 raw
Viewfinder
magnification/ effective magnification
Optical
90 percent coverage/
EVF
1, 440,000 dots 0.47x
Optional plug-in articulating EVF
1,440,000 dots
0.58x
Optional Electronic
n/a
Optional plug-in EVF
201,000 dots
0.55x
(98 percent coverage)
None
Autofocus 49-area
Contrast AF
11-area contrast AF 23-area contrast AF 15-point contrast AF 25-point contrast AF
Shutter speed 30 - 1/4000 sec; bulb to 60 min 60-1/2000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes 60-1/4000 sec; bulb to 4 minutes; 1/160 x-sync 30-1/4000 sec.; bulb to 8 minutes 30-1/4000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 flash sync
Metering 256 zones 324 area 144 zone 247 segment 40 segment
Flash Yes Yes Yes No Included optional
Image stabilization None Sensor shift Optical Optical Optical
Video 720/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV 720p Motion JPEG AVI 1080/60i/50i @ 17, 13 Mbps
720/60p @17, 13 Mbps AVCHD or Motion JPEG QuickTime MOV
720/30p H.264 MPEG-4 1080/60i AVCHD
Audio Stereo Mono; mic input Stereo Mono Stereo; mic input
LCD size 2.8-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed touch screen
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed AMOLED
921,000 dots
3-inch tilting
921,600 dots
Battery life (CIPA rating) 300 shots 280 shots 300 shots 420 shots 330 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 5.0 x 2.9 x 2.1 4.5 x 2.8 x 1.6 4.4 x 2.7 x 1.3 4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4 4.4 x 2.4 x 1.6
Body operating weight (ounces) 15.8 12.7 11 12.2 10.2 (without flash); 10.9 (with flash)
Mfr. price n/a n/a $499.95 (body only, est) n/a n/a
$1,195.95 (built-in 35mm lens) $599.99 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 msc lens) $599.95 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens) $499.99 (est, with 20-50mm f3.5-5.6 i-Function lens) $699.99 (with 18-55mm 3.5-5.6 lens)
n/a $799.00 (est, with 14-42mm and 40-150mm lenses) $699.95 (with 14mm f2.5 lens) $599.00 (with 50-200mm lens) $649.99 (with 16mm f2.8 lens)
Ship date March 2011 January 2011 January 2011 October 2010 July 2010

In addition to a great manual aperture dial on the lens, the X100 has shutter-speed and exposure compensation dials on top; in its default configuration, the Fn button brings up the ISO sensitivity options. Despite the retro look of the front and top, the back has the typical layout of a digital camera. On the left side is a switch for selecting among manual, single-shot autofocus and continuous AF. The AE button brings up metering choices, while AF lets you choose the AF point (when in the default area AF mode). The jog dial Command Control in the upper right triggers a zoom view in manual focus, as well as duplicates functions of the dial such as program shift. And I love having a raw override button.

But.

I loathe the command dial/navigation control. It's nearly impossible to press the menu button without hitting one of the other buttons and vice versa. I lost a shot fumbling to enable the neutral density filter. Constantly having to switch between macro and normal shooting mode using that control made me want to scream; I had to slow down to hit the buttons, sometimes using my fingernail. The whole point of a camera designed like this is to get out of the way of your shooting, and that control is the photographic equivalent of a speed bump.

And there are just a few too many things for which you have to use the menu system. It's great that the camera has a built-in neutral density filter, dynamic range and film-simulation presets, and the ability to configure three sets of custom settings, but you can only map one of them to the Fn button--that is, if you want to change it from the default ISO sensitivity mapping. Otherwise you face the hurdle of the interface. And why is the self-timer in the menus instead of under drive modes, where everyone else puts it, and movie mode under the drive modes? It almost feels like the camera needs to be either more digital, with an interactive control panel (and a better navigation control), or more analog, with more buttons and dials.

Aside from what I've already mentioned, there aren't a lot of glitzy features, just basics (for its price) like the ability to adjust color, sharpness, highlight tone, shadow tone, and noise reduction. Oddly, it incorporates Motion Panorama, which operates like Sony's Sweep Panorama: as you pan it records a 120- or 180-degree scene either horizontally or vertically. You can 3-shot bracket the dynamic range and film simulation presets, as well as ISO sensitivity and exposure, but I can't help but think it should have more exposure bracketing latitude than 3 shots up to 1 stop for HDR work, and how nice it would be to have an intervalometer.

Conclusion
For some people considering this camera, autofocus performance won't matter; for instance, it's a great choice for landscape photography or portraits, or using it like a fixed-focus camera for street photography. If you want to use manual focus, you really should try before you buy to make sure you'll be comfortable with the mechanism and viewfinder.

For others, the price is a stumbling block (and in the wake of Japanese shortages, the prices have been rising rather than falling). While the X100 is probably the best photo quality you can get for about $1,200, I think many people will be perfectly happy with the trade-off of slightly less fab photos you can get out of an ILC with a prime lens for a lot less money.

Shooting speed
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Raw shot-to-shot time  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2
0.9 
0.9 
0.7 
0.7 
0.4 
Sony Alpha NEX-5
0.4 
0.9 
0.9 
0.8 
0.4 
Olympus PEN E-PL2
0.8 
1.4 
1.3 
0.7 
0.4 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
1.6 
1.7 
1.4 
0.8 
0.4 
Fujifilm X100
2.6 
2.1 
1.5 
0.9 
0.5 
Canon PowerShot G12
2.1 
2.5 
2.2 
0.6 
0.4 

Typical continuous-shooting speed
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Fujifilm FinePix X100
7.8

Fujifilm FinePix X100

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 6Image quality 9