Fujifilm FinePix X100: Right On The Edge

 
Fujifi lm FinePix X100

Fujifilm FinePix X100

The sense of freedom K Madhavan Pillai experienced with the Fujifilm FinePix X100 was simply exhilarating. The only question is… is it really meant for you?

From a DSLR standpoint, the Fujifilm X100 is far from perfect even though it commands a price similar to that of a mid-level DSLR. Photographers who can appreciate the merits of working with the constraints of this type of camera will love the X100. It is a superb camera because it does some things extremely well. The problems, however, become exasperating to this kind of photographer, especially if some of them could have been easily avoided.

Features
The X100 is a brilliant blend of the advantages of traditional control systems with digital technology. It features a 12.3 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and a 23mm fixed f/2 lens (non-interchangeable, with a 35mm equivalent on a full frame camera). The lens has a minimum focusing distance of 4 inches and houses a leaf shutter. This also means that the camera can sync with its in-built flash at all shutterspeeds up to 1/2000 sec. The lens has a traditional aperture ring from f/2 to f/16, ending with ‘A’ or Aperture Priority Auto.
A regular shutterspeed dial on the top of the X100 includes 1/4sec to 1/4000sec, ‘B’ Bulb setting, ‘T’ Time setting (which can be programmed for 1/2sec to 30sec), and ‘A’ for Shutter Priority Auto. When both aperture ring and shutter dial are set to A, you enable Program Auto Exposure.
The X100 also sports a pathbreaking Hybrid Viewfinder system that combines an optical and an electronic viewfinder (EVF) system overlaid on top of each other. In the electronic view, the optical window is blocked so that the EVF is brightly visible. It shows the same data seen on the main LCD panel of the camera. The optical view has got exposure information, a live histogram, horizon level, framing guidelines, compensation, and a distance scale on which DOF is indicated in the manual focus mode.
Other features include an extended ISO range of 100–12800, HD video (1280 X 720 at 24fps) with stereo sound (with AF, AE and auto WB during recording), and continuous shooting at 3 or 5fps. The camera shoots 8 RAW images or 10 Fine JPEGs in a burst, after which the camera stops for about 20 and 10 seconds respectively, while the data is written on to the card.
It also has AF-S, AF-C and Manual focus modes, Motion Panorama (180° vertical at 7680 X 2160 pixels, horizontal at 7680 X 1440 pixels), Film Simulation of Fuji transparency films like the Velvia, Provia, and Astia, a good Monochrome mode (including the emulation of red/yellow/ green filters), a Sepia mode and dynamic range adjustment for greater image details.
Interestingly, the camera has an in-built ND filter (equivalent f-stop reduction of 3) which proves useful in bright shooting conditions. By default, the X100 automatically calculates the exposure to balance ambient light with the in-built flash for smoother tones. Flash exposure can be manually compensated. The X100 can also fully synch with external Fuji flash units through its hot shoe. It has the option of using its in-built flash in the remote commander mode, allowing remote synching with external flash units from other manufacturers.
Bracketing options include exposure and ISO bracketing, film simulation bracketing, and dynamic range bracketing. A large number of playback options and a good set of RAW to JPEG image processing options are also available from the menu. You can even opt to have the shutter release sound like a leaf shutter, a focal plane shutter or a reflex mirror!
With this type of camera, I would have been just as happy with fewer features, and have certain other aspects of the camera more refined.

Handling
Rangefinders allow you to be quick and spontaneous. I found the X100 quite responsive. The most relevant controls are easily accessible. Within a week of use, I got used to the buttons and control layout on the back. However, the rotating input dial and the Menu/OK button at its center are small, unfriendly to use and poorly fi nished… a contrast to the rest of the X100. I found myself switching to the wrong settings frequently. Luckily, one can make do without using this rotary dial too much.
A serious gripe I have with the X100 is its poor manual focusing capabilities. The X100 uses a focus-by-wire system to actuate manual focus. It is painstakingly slow and it takes several full rotations of the focus ring to run through the entire focus range, making it practically unusable for street shooting. Besides, why are there no automated hyperfocal distance settings for different apertures? For the X100 with its fixed 35mm equivalent lens, it would have been a great feature to have.
Thankfully, the AF works quite well, even in low light. At distances closer than 2.6 feet down to 4 inches, the Macro mode needs to be enabled, which automatically switches from the optical to electronic viewing to avoid parralax errors. Apart from this, the X100 is indeed quite pleasurable to use. The fact that it is small, goes unnoticed and is versatile ensures that you carry it with you all the time, getting you more pictures in general.

Performance
With a range of colour modes and options that can be tweaked just to your liking, excellent dynamic range in JPEGS and lots of latent details in RAWs, image quality is top notch. Noise is well controlled even at the highest ISO settings, making the image quality of the X100 comparable with the best available APS-C sized cameras today.
The hybrid viewfinder is just fantastic. The lens produces hardly any noticeable fringing, and the center-to-edge sharpness is good even at the widest apertures. Though the lens controls flare from light sources within the frame quite effectively, flaring with light sources just beyond the edges of the frame, especially in low light, is a problem. Fujifilm would have done well to include the optional lenshood and the filter adapter along with the kit.
The camera startup time is a couple of seconds and there is no perceivable shutter lag. In terms of shooting speed, the X100 can shoot a frame every 1.5 seconds, which is more than sufficient for a camera of its type. It could have had a bigger buffer for more images in the continuous shooting mode, though.

Conclusion
If you enjoy shooting with a 35mm fixed lens, or if you need a secondary camera, the Fujifilm FinePix X100 is a great choice. On the whole, for what it delivers, it makes an exceptionally good package. At a price of Rs. 66,999 in India, you need to be certain that the X100 is the kind of camera you want before you take the plunge. But let me assure you that it would certainly make a worthwhile investment. In fact, at this very moment, I have a strong urge to buy one.

Final Ratings
Features
HD video with AF, ISO 12800, Hybrid viewfinder, in-built ND filter, poor MF
27/30

Performance
Superb image and optical quality of the lens
28/30

Build Quality
Magnesium alloy body
19/20

Ergonomics
Small, compact, traditional system of controls, poor rotary input dial on the rear
11/15

Warranty & Support
Two years warranty with a wideservice network
3/5

OVERALL: 88%
Value for Money: 4.5/5 Stars

 

Tags: K Madhavan Pillai, may 2011, Fujilfilm FinePix X100