There are compact cameras, and there’s the X100.
Fuji’s radical rangefinder is easily one of my favourite fixed-lens cameras, and it just seems to get better with every generation. That’s why I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the X100F, the fourth (hence the “F”) and latest addition to the range.
It’s a serious upgrade on the X100T, with more pixels, a faster sensor, and refined controls – but more importantly, keeps the two things that made the outgoing camera such a classic: the gorgeous retro looks, and the unparalleled hybrid viewfinder.
It’s one of the most expensive compact cameras around, though, so is it worth the premium when you could buy a more flexible DSLR or CSC for the same price? I spent a few hours with one to find out
PUSH THE BUTTON
Physically, the X100F doesn’t feel all that different when you first pick it up. It’s reassuringly weighty, sure, but with a similar-looking top plate filled with dials and buttons, you might not think a lot has changed from the outgoing X100T. T
ake a closer look, though – shifting a few buttons around has made all the difference.
First up, the rear buttons have been moved from the left to the right of the LCD screen. You can pretty much shoot entirely one-handed now, rather than scrabble around for the buttons you need.
You still get twin command dials, one at the front and one at the back, but they can perform double duty depending on what you set the top plate dials to.
Set the dedicated EV compensation dial to Command Dial and you can make changes with the front command dial instead. It’s the same deal with ISO – set it to Auto and flip a switch in the menus and the front command dial controls ISO instead.
If that still sounds too complicated, the shutter speed dial now doubles as an ISO dial – just lift and twist. It’ll take some time to get used to, but it’s a real throwback to old school film cameras and it works really well.
While the rear LCD still hasn’t been upgraded with a touchscreen, there’s a new focus lever joystick for tweaking your focus points without having to constantly dive into the menus.
Speaking of screens, that 3.2in LCD is completely fixed in place – there’s no flip-out fun to be had here. That does make high- and low-angle shots a little trickier, so you’ll have to get down on your knees for that arty picture instead.
Inside, you’ll find Fuji’s latest APS-C sensor, the same 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III you’ll find in the high-end X-T2. It’s paired with the X-Processor Pro image processor for super-speedy snapping.
In fact, the X100F is a bit of a speed demon. You’ll notice it as soon as you switch the camera on – the X100F powers up in half a second, and you can keep shooting with next to no delay between shutter button presses.
The 23mm Fujinon lens up front hasn’t changed all that much, but is still just as well-suited to street photography as its predecessors. The aperture control ring is easy enough to find without taking your eye away from the viewfinder, just like it was on the X100T.
You get a 35mm equivalent at f/2, so you shouldn’t struggle to get plenty of light (and delicious depth of field) into your shots. There’s even a built-in ND filter, so you can shoot into the sun or use low shutter speeds when the sun is shining.
It’s still not well suited to macro shooting, though, especially wide open. You’ve got to drop the aperture and take a step back – or think about picking up a different camera.
When you do try low-light shooting, the improved AF system should help you stay in focus. There are 91 focus points now, up from 49 in previous models, and both phase detection and contrast Af have been given a boost.
I really noticed it in the dimly lit library of the stately home Fuji had chosen for the launch – there was no waiting around for focus to lock, it was rapid every time. You can step up to ISO12800 as a regular ISO option now, too – it was only part of the extended ISO range on the X100T.
I might have only spend a few short hours with one, but the sample shots I took away show what’s possible. The X100F is just as flexible as its predecessors, and can take some fantastic pictures in the hands of someone that knows what they’re doing.
HEART OF GLASS
It might be a fixed lens compact, but the X100 has always been more flexible than that, thanks to some funky conversion lenses. In the past, you had to manually switch settings in-camera to adjust to the wider angle view when you bolted one to the front, but not any more.
There are two new conversion lenses that will be automatically recognised when you screw them into place. If you’ve got existing lenses, you can use those too – only you still have to make the change manually.
The 35mm fixed lens uses some digital trickery to triple up as a 50mm and 70mm, too. A Digital teleconverter might sound like sacrilege, but it does the job when you’ve got 24MP to play with behind the scenes. You’ll have to be zooming in or printing on canvas before you’ll notice.
Fuji’s film simulation modes have been around for a while, but the X100F gets ACROS for the first time. This black and white mode is meant to give smooth gradation and deep blacks – have a flip through my sample shots and decide if it works for yourself.
There’s a grain effect to play with, too, with two strength levels to make your digital snaps look like they were shot on film. I’ll need to print a few pictures out to see how well it works, but it could be a great addition for anyone planning to fill their walls with photos.
EYES ON THE PRIZE
A hybrid viewfinder means the best of both worlds – an optical viewfinder to keep nostalgia fans happy, and an electronic viewfinder for tech addicts.
A 60fps upgrade makes the EVF feel a lot more responsive than the X100T, which only refreshed at 30fps. You don’t need to worry about frame rates with the optical viewfinder, but combine the two and you’ve got a setup that’ll handle all kinds of shooting scenarios.
Flick the selector switch on the front of the camera and the X100F switches into Electronic Rangefinder mode, with a digital readout overlaid on top of the optical viewfinder.
You even get an enlarged focus area in the bottom corner for manual focusing – it’s the opposite end of the spectrum from most point-and-shoot compacts.
It’s essentially the same setup you’ll find in the X-Pro 2, which we loved – only here, you don’t have to faff about with interchangeable lenses.
Not bad for something that (almost) fits in a jacket pocket.
FUJIFILM X100F INITIAL VERDICT
It’s got the specs of a premium camera. It’s got the metal build, leather-like retro looks of a premium camera. And now it’s got even more performance. I’m seriously impressed.
With the same internals as Fuji’s top-flight CSCs, that fantastic hybrid viewfinder and all the software tricks you’ll need to recreate the look of classic film, the X100F is a travelling photographer’s dream compact.
Fuji is asking for an awful lot of cash for the X100F, though – you’ll have to be pretty serious about your photography to splash out so much on a fixed-lens compact. Thanks, Brexit.
With no articulating screen, it’s not as flexible as I’d like either, and you’re stuck filming at 1080p. For 4K video you’ll have to step up to the X-T20. Irritating when they share the same internal hardware.
If it’s stills that get you going, though, look no further. You’ll be able to pick one up on the 23rd of February for $US1300 (there’s no local price just yet), in either silver or black finishes. I can’t wait to get one in for a full review.
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