Fujifilm X100F Review: Overview
Hot on the heels of my first impressions of the Fujifilm X-T2, we now take a look at the Fujifilm X100F. The camera I have here is in black finish, which will not be everyone’s favourite, but I think it’s the more practical option. The silver bodies look lovely, but just as I felt with my Leica bodies, black doesn’t catch the eye (or light) when you’re waving it around. Each will have its fans.
As many of you will know, I own and love the Ricoh GR (which produces staggering image quality at 16MP) and I used to own an original X100. I had a love-hate relationship with the original X100, due to fairly slow AF and an irritating menu. What I loved was the quiet shutter, excellent optics and general feel of the camera body. I did have a play with a X100S a few years back, but did not feel the AF had improved a great deal (assuming updated X100 firmware) and the X-Trans sensor put me off (see X-T2 article for explanation as to why). I was therefore very interested to see what the X100F(ourth incarnation) had to offer.
In this piece, I will go into quite a bit of detail in some areas (such as optical quality) and very little in others. This article will probably be of most interest to those who already have a fair understanding of the camera’s basic features. Seeing as this camera shares the same 24MP X-Trans III sensor as the X-T2, I will write a separate piece on the sensor covering both cameras.
Fujifilm X100F Build Quality
Having handled the silver version and used the black for more than a week, it is abundantly clear that it is more solid than the original X100. It is a bit heavier (470g including memory card and battery vs. 440g), but the mere 30g does not account for the difference in feel. I won’t try to explain it, but the Fujifilm X100F feels very solid indeed and even more dense than a camera like the Fujifilm X-T2.
The Fujifilm X100F uses nicely made, well-weighted buttons, the exposure compensation dial has solid clicks, the power button is nice and tight to prevent accidental movement and the aperture ring is perfectly weighted. In fact, I have not found a single button or dial which does not feel, well…. just about perfect in terms of resistance, ‘clickiness’ or precision. Touches like this are easily ignored, but it is clear that Fujifilm X100F product team has made a very conscious effort to find the Goldilocks zone. The only possible criticism I can come up with is that the battery door is plastic, rather than metal like the rest of the body. It would have been nice were it metal, but there may be reasons why it is not and I am not sure it makes any real difference in any case.
The superb build quality of the X100F places significant pressure on the likes of the Leica Q. I am not questioning the superior feel and apparent quality of the Leica Q, but the X100F does not leave you wondering where your money has gone either. Small touches like the beautifully made metal lens cap help, but if I wanted to raise one question it would be the continued omission of a lens hood. With the lens being so flat (it is effectively a pancake design) and the front element so exposed to fingers and impacts, a hood and filter seem essential with this camera. The Fujifilm hood and adaptor ring is expensive. IMHO they really should be included, even if it were to add a small additional cost. There are, however, third party alternatives available for peanuts and they’re indistinguishable from the originals.
Fujifilm X100F Handling
You may with to read my Fujifilm X-T2 article first, as I will make comparisons between the two rather than restating everything again. Much of what I said for the X-T2 also holds true here.
In short, X100F handling is excellent. I find it easy to find my way around the camera and the X-T2 is similar enough to make sliding between the two fairly smooth. I suspect it would be a smoother transition with the X-Pro-2, due to the similar way they implement ISO changes. Here, the shutter speed dial is lifted and rotated to change ISO, rather than using a dedicated ISO dial on the left of the top plate, as per the Fujifilm X-T2.
I can’t say I found it an issue moving between the Fujifilm X100F and X-T2. It is, IMO, much less of an issue going from a Canon 5D with command dial, to an EOS 6D with a directional pad. I would imagine that operating the ISO dial will be difficult for anyone wearing gloves (compared to the X-T2’s dial); however, operating small press buttons of the kind found on Canons with gloves on is no less difficult!
In my Fujifilm X-T2 article, I commented on the AEL/AFL button not sitting quite proud enough for the most ideal operation, when used as a back focus button. On the X100F, it is perfect.
In terms of the general grip, everything is slimmer than with the X-T2 and the overall feel is more ‘capsule-like’, as per a Leica M (see above photo). I find there is just enough of a swell to the grip to allow me to hold it with my arm by my side, but a small accessory grip would be needed to give the most secure hold. I think this would be worth considering if using this camera for extended periods without a strap. I have been using a Gordy wrist strap to ensure that the camera is at least secure.
The size of the camera is about perfect for serious and continued usage, I think. Were it any smaller, it might feel a little fiddly to handle for long periods of time, or it would need to cut back on the buttons and dials in the user interface. I think the Ricoh GR manages the most remarkable balance of small size and accessible features, but there is no doubt it is a simpler camera. It would therefore be unfair to compare the two. The X100F is much more of a fully-fledged camera, rather than a compact on steroids Ricoh GR).
Fujifilm X100F User Interface & General Operation
Again, I was very impressed here. There are some slight differences in the menus, compared to the X-T2, for example. One such case is removing AF from the shutter release. You can do so on the X-T2, which means you can remain in AF-S or AF-C and use the back focus button. However, on the X100F, you cannot remove AF from the shutter release button (not that I can see, anyway). One must therefore switch the camera to MF mode using the slider on the side of the body so that AF does not occur when using the shutter button. This is no big deal, but it does mean that the MF ring on the lens will be active in MF mode, which means it can be moved. Thankfully, the focus distance is very nicely displayed in the viewfinder and you can clearly see where you are at. On top of this the focus ring on the lens is not that easily moved by accident, as it is fairly slim and has no protrusions.
The joystick is a little further in from the edge of the camera and a touch higher, compared to the X-T2 and this helps. Combined with the slightly different grip one tends to use on the smaller and lighter X100F, the joystick is a little more naturally placed. This will aid rapid and intuitive use.
The overall speed of operation is very good. Menus are snappy, buttons are well weighted and are decisive. Once again, it feels like a real camera and not like a gadget. In summary, the user experience is a very pleasant one.
As with the X-T2, the shutter release is beautifully weighted and you know by feel precisely where/when the shutter will trip. Lag seems non-existent. When you press the shutter release down all the way, without the camera yet being focused, it focuses and fires in one ‘shot’. There is no pause whatsoever between focus being achieved and firing. It simply fires the instant focus is achieved. This may not be something many of you are used to doing, but with this camera it feels very slick indeed and comfortable. This is in part due to how the ‘over-travel’ of the shutter is weighted beyond the tripping point. Try this with a Canon EOS 5D III and it feels weird (not to mention hesitant). Not so with the Fujifilm X100F.
The shutter is a beautifully quiet leaf shutter design. This means that even when silent electronic shutter option is not being used and the mechanical shutter is active, it remains almost inaudible. This is one of the best stealth cameras out there, once the sound options have been turned to zero in the camera’s set up.
Fujifilm X100F Viewfinder
Readers will most likely be well aware of the hybrid viewfinder found in the X100 series and the X-Pro cameras, so I won’t elaborate on that. This general feature is extensively covered on the internet, so please do a little read (or ask me about it via a comment) if you’d like to know more.
The Optical View Finder (OVF) is a real pleasure to use most of the time. In very bright outdoor conditions, the frame lines do lose some of their sparkle and the green focus confirmation is less visible than when using the Electronic View Finder (EVF). However, it is of course very nice to have a real window into the world and be able to save a bit of battery life at the same time. I cannot be sure about this, but the finder itself may have improved coatings and/or optical design than previous models. It has more contrast than my X100 finder did and it was clearly superior to the X-Pro2 I used in the shop in terms of clarity/contrast. I could not see any obvious grime on the finder of the X-Pro2, so can only conclude that the Fujifilm X100F has a somewhat brighter, higher contrast OVF.
While the OVF does have a parallax error that cannot be corrected for (after all, it is above and to one side of the lens), the frame lines do jump around to ensure that framing is fairly accurate. As with my original X100, you get more ‘on sensor’ than is shown by the frame lines (as with a Leica M, too), but there is significant extra space around the edge of the frame lines. This means you can see elements entering and leaving the frame, which can aid timing and composition.
The X100F EVF is smaller than the one on the X-T2, but it still feels big enough and I cannot criticise the quality. The frame rate (60 fps) is lower than the XT-2’s (especially when the larger camera is in boost mode, where it reaches 100fps), but most of the time you wouldn’t know. I find the EVF plenty good enough and actually found myself using it much more than I expected. The OVF is certainly not always superior, especially when critical framing is required, where the EVF offers much better accuracy.
The lever that switches between OVF and EVF does so very smoothly, but I wonder if it would be better if it had more feel. The weighting is spot on, IMO, but there it moves quite a bit before engaging the switch. Ideally, I would prefer something that tells you by feel exactly the point at which you have switched, much in the way a shutter button tells you the difference between not taking the shot and actually taking it. Maybe this is just me, but I think it would be a real improvement if at the end of the lever’s travel there was a distinct ‘click’ felt. Without this, unless you push it all the way to the end of its travel, you cannot be 100% sure that the OVF/EVF will switch over.
The eye sensor is effective and sensitivity seems about right. It would be nice if the shut-down of the LCD and start-up of the EVF/OVF were a bit quicker, however. It is absolutely fine for general use, however, if you’re using the internal finder (not the LCD) and timing is everything, you’re advised to leave the internal view finder on the entire time to ensure there is no lag between raising your eye and everything being visible in the finder.
Fujifilm X100F Manual focus
Manual focusing is nicely implemented. I like being able to press the rear dial and get a zoomed in images to tweak focus. This is quick and easy. The digital split image option also works well, but to be honest I don’t see the need with a modest wide angle like the 23mm f2 in this camera. Were I shooting a long fast lens, it might deliver extra accuracy, but as it stands, the zoom in option is quicker and easier to use.
The weighting of the focus ring is good. I would perhaps like it to be a touch heavier, but this is personal and others may well disagree with me (I tend to like quite heavy damping). The knurling is easy to grip and operation is smooth. As for travel, I am finding it about right.
All in all, manual focus seems to have been done well. I see it as a very useful addition to the AF and back focusing options otherwise available. I would not expect to use it much myself, but I am sure there are some who would.
Fujifilm X100F Autofocus
Pushing it hard (from near to far objects), I would describe single shot AF (AF-S) as comparable to (and at times, quicker than) the X-T2 with the 18-55 f2.4-f4 lens, but a good step up from the X-T2 with the older lenses with screw drive focusing (like the 23mm f1.4 R). In the main, it feels quick, decisive and it is fairly quiet (it is not Canon USM quiet). I suspect that the vast majority of people using this camera for its intended application will feel more than happy with the X100F autofocus performance. It is a huge improvement on the X100 (original) with the latest firmware, but I cannot comment on the X100S or X100T, because I am not intimately familiar with them. If you are used to the Ricoh GR, then the X100F will feel a lot faster.
When you stop doing silly extreme near to far tests, things change. The truth is that we don’t spend much of our time focusing on something a few feet away then far away, then close, then far. The world we photograph tends not to be like that and I struggle to imagine real world scenarios like this. We tend to work a subject or ‘zone’ in which the subjects are mingling, or shifting (or against which we are). Under such scenarios, where the camera is making moderate adjustments in focus, the AF-S of this camera changes from fairly swift to very quick indeed. I feel that the improvement here is greater than with some other cameras, which tend to see less of an improvement. By way of comparison, my Sony A7 II does of course speed up when focusing on various subjects within the same general distance range. However, at its best, it is not nearly as quick as the Fujifilm X100F AF. On top of this, the Sony has much more shutter lag, so that all in all the focus-fire process is not nearly as slick.
When not pushing the tiny little lens to its extremes, focusing is often near instantaneous and commensurately quieter. For me, this is what I think is important and I think that out on the street, perhaps taking candids of wedding guests, shooting travel work…. the X100F will feel very fast and sure footed in the AF-S department.
I have done some preliminary testing in very poor light with the AF illuminator switched off. My impression is that speeds diminish, but it is still acceptable. I would also add that the camera seems to be very accurate even when contrast is poor. All this is with static subjects.Moving subjects are another matter and this will require further testing.
At this stage I have not tested AF-C, but aim to update the article when I have. I wouldn’t see myself using it much with a camera like this, but I can imagine that some of you might. Not for sports, but for moving humans, such as children, or documentary subjects.
Fujifilm X100F 23mm f2 Lens Quality
Please note that I will place a selection of images in with the text and then make a much larger number available within the next day or so in a follow on post. These will fill in any gaps and give you an idea of exactly what the centre and corner performance is like at various distances and apertures. You will also see many more Acros JEPGs, for those of you who are interested.
Firstly, we are often told online that the 23mm f2 Fujinon lens on the X100F is the same lens that goes right back to the X100. While this may be true, I can’t help but feel that it has been tweaked, if not more substantially improved. I owned an original X100, but the X100F’s lens performs at a significantly higher level.
Performance wide open is exceptional. It is very sharp on centre at f2, without being etched or ‘wire sharp’. Shen shooting fairly flat/planar subjects at a few metres, performance across the field is pretty surprisingly good. f2 is better than I expected and it just keeps getting better from there until at f4-5.6 it is pin sharp from centre to extreme corner.
*Please note that I am nit picking here*: As great as this lens evidently is, as with the original X100, there may be some slightly funky things that can happen at different apertures and distances. I won’t claim to understand or to have unravelled the rules yet, but almost all lenses do this. Lenses can have changes in field curvature at various focus distances and changes in aperture can affect how this presents itself, due to depth of field.
I am getting the feeling that, just with the original X100 I owned, that there are (probably) three general things to bear in mind:
- The lens does not perform well at extreme close ups. I can’t say I have every wanted to use a lens like this, but hey, YMMV. This is widely known about the X100’s 23mm lens.
- The 23mm f2 Fujinon is at its very best in the mid-range, say 3-30m (very, very rough estimation).
- Beyond its absolute sweet spot of about 5-10m, there is some curvature of field at the corners (and edges?) peeling back towards the camera.
On top of this, f5.6 may be a slightly finicky aperture at *some* distances. I have no idea why this may be the case, but let me tell you about a very controlled test I did with my original X100 five years ago: I noted that when shooting at a planar/flat subject at about 8m away (my garden fence), the edges were good at f2, great at f2.8, a touch weaker at f4, weakest of all apertures at f5.6, f8 was like f4 and f11 was like f2.8. I really thought I was going mad, but I could repeat it as often as I liked with the same outcome. f5.6 just seemed to be the worst at the edges from a resolution point of view. When I used the camera in the real world, I saw exactly the same results when shooting over longer distances: f5.6 was almost always worse than wider or smaller apertures if the subject matter at the edges of the frame was also far away. While f11 lost some central resolution over f2.8 (due to diffraction) depth of field negated the impact of what seemed to be curvature of field at the edges of the frame.
Back to the X100F, I find the lens in this camera markedly superior to the one in my old X100 in every way and it isn’t to do with the pixel count. It is sharper wide open on centre and sharper at the edges at all apertures and distances. I am hugely impressed with it! I suspect, however, that the lens is knowingly optimised for medium distances, i.e. the sort of distances a street, documentary and possibly travel/people photographers are most likely to operate at. I suspect that this is a design compromise the makers decided upon due to its primary application and the restrictions imposed by small size and the desired price point. In some respects, it makes me think of another lens I own: the Sony Zeiss 35mm f2.8 Sonnar. Much like with the Sonnar, my tentative conclusion with the X100F is that, when shooting distant scenes, it is wise to focus a bit further into the scene than you might otherwise, to ensure that the edges remain nice and crisp for distant tree lines, buildings etc. In the next post on the Fujifilm X100F, where I will show lots of examples, you may see what I mean. Anyway, the end result is very sharp, beautifully rendered photographs, so let’s move on!
Contrast wide open is much better than the original X100 and it is capable of resolving a huge amount of detail on the 24MP X-Trans III sensor.
The Ricoh GR’s lens may be wider (at 18.3mm/28mm FF equivalent), but it is also slower. The GR’s little lens is always like a razor across the field regardless of distance. At the same time, it may be considered to be a bit too sharp by some, or even a bit too perfect. For landscapes and scenics, I would say the Ricoh GR’s lens still sets the standard that few other lenses outside of Leica can challenge (and even some of them can’t match). For the human environment (and people themselves), the 23mm Fujinon is, IMHO, the superior lens. It draws in a more gentle manner, while retaining lots of detail. With it being a longer focal length and one stop faster, you can achieve subject/background separation you simply can’t with the Rich GR’s wider angle. Where there is a reduction in resolution towards the edges or corners, it is so beautifully done. Some lenses are very sharp until suddenly becoming caffeinated fuzz in the corners or at the edges. Not so with the X100F. Everything is smooth and inconscpicuous.
On the subject of bokeh, I find it very pleasing indeed with this lens. It draws smoothly and never delivers ‘energetic’ backgrounds, which are so often the case with highly corrected ‘perfect’ lenses. With a lens like this 23mm f2 Fujinon, you’re never going to get ‘Oooo-ahhhh’ bokeh, as the focal length is too short, but the bokeh always gets out of the way of the image, which is what counts.
From what I have seen, performance with regard to Chromatic Aberrations (CA) is fine. I see nothing to worry about and it is certainly better than the 23mm f1.4 R for X mount. I have seen a bit of CA on shots with strong contrast edges, but only in images shot wide open or very close to it. CA just does not seem to be much of an issue with this lens. Personally, its a non issue.
Distortion also looks fine. I did not notice it on any of my photos, including those in the city. Nobody will buy the X100F for dedicated architecture work, but it is nice to know it won’t let you down if you find yourself near straight lines.
In summary, the Fujifilm X100F has a remarkably good lens. To get better will cost you more than the entire X100F, the lens will be significantly larger and most likely require a body with a red dot on it. But hey, even the Leica Summicron-M 35mm f2 ASPH has focus shift…. Get to know the Fujifilm X100F’s lens and you will have an optical powerhouse in a small package. I can only finish up by saying that, in overall terms, it produces some of the most pleasing images I have ever made with a wide angle on a digital camera. Maybe I should have said that at the beginning.
Fujifilm X100F Preliminary Conclusion
As with the Fujifilm X-T2, I can’t help but feel that this generation of Fujifilm X100F really does hit the spot. It isn’t a perfect product, but few are. Does it focus as quickly and silently as a modern M43 camera? No. But how many M43 cameras have 24MP APS-C sensors with lenses of this speed, size and quality? Image quality appears to be absolutely fantastic, not just from the lens, but the sensor (shared with the X-T2) is also really impressing me. I will do a separate piece on image quality from the X-Trans III sensor, but I’m certainly not feeling any real concern at this point in time.
Five years ago when the original X100 was released, there was nothing like it on the market. In 2017, I am not sure the situation has changed much. The Leica Q1 is 2.5 times the price, which is almost three times the release price of the X100F. With the X-Trans III sensor doing so very well at high ISO and with the 23mm f2 Fujinon lens being so impressive, the Fuji X100F makes a strong case for itself. Doubtless the Q has some advantages, but these come at considerable extra cost. The Rx1R II is a similar price to the Leica Q and provides enormous 42MP files with a much less pleasing camera interface and handling. Once again, the X100F comes out of this comparison looking rather good value.
This camera isn’t cheap; however, if you’re a fan of the 35mm (on full-frame / 23mm on APS-C) focal length, the X100F may make more sense in real terms (pick one up and try it) than it does on paper. If you like to shoot prime lenses on multiple bodies, perhaps ask this question: why own an X-Pro2 (or any other camera) with 23mm f2 and another identical body with another focal length on it, when the 23mm f2 option can be taken care of more cheaply and with less weight in the form of an X100F? The Fujifilm X100F does this angle of view so very well, while providing advantages of its own.
As I said earlier, I will delve into much more detail on the 24MP X-Trans III sensor in a separate piece, but at this stage I am happy to say that I would feel completely at ease shooting with this sensor myself, for a wide range of applications (using Adobe Lightroom). My initial impressions (in the context of the X100F) is that the level of detail present in the files matches what I am used to seeing from 24MP Full Frame cameras with very good prime lenses attached. There are very few zooms that can come close to this lens and a great many primes fall short. With the sensor absolutely holding up its end of the bargain, this is a camera that will put many cameras and lens combos four times its weight to shame. As many of you will know, I am more interested in B&W results than colour, but suffice to say the X-Trans III and this 23mm lens are pushing out very impressive files indeed. I am reminded of shooting with my (film) Leica MP and favoured 35mm Summarit-M f2.5: ‘creamy smooth sharp’. The Fujifilm X100F has a very organic feel for a modern digital set up. I would say that there are some differences between this sensor and an equivalent 24MP sensor using a Bayer filter, but this comparison sees pros and cons for both types. As I say, I will say more about this another time.
Right now, I can see this camera strongly appealing to street photographers, those pursuing documentary and reportage, wedding photographers looking for the most portable 35mm (equivalent focal length) prime platform and anyone looking for a simple yet potent walk around prime lens set up. I really do feel that the additional speed of the new X100F, combined with the (seemingly) Adobe Lightroom friendly X-Trans III files, transforms the X100 platform as a prospect. I would have given my right arm to be able to shoot with this little gem in Afghanistan for years. I had a 35mm f2 Biogon or 35mm f2.5 Summarit welded to the front of my black Leica MP (film camera) for the best part of five years. Were I doing it again tomorrow, the X100F would be in my bag….