X100 – First impressions

A few first impressions of the Fuji X100 camera:

Fuji X100 Pic - Photo: Michael Willems

This, like all my reviews, is a “first impressions from the field”. Not a full review: for those you can read dpreview.com and other sites.

These sites are great. But 23 pages of review are all very well: what do they really mean? I mean – to a user, a photographer, not someone who sits in his loft obsessing?

I have had my X100 for a day so I think I am qualified.

First, I upgraded the X100. And rather than by following the two-page instructions from Fuji that involve at least two files, I did it the simple way:

  1. Download firmware file (.DAT).
  2. Copy this to a freshly formatted card.
  3. Start camera with RAW pressed while powering on.
  4. Say YES to the upgrade dialog.


Why on earth Fuji needs to include an “upgrader app” file and spend two pages of convoluted instructions making it so complicated I would hesitate to do it, I will not understand. Engineers making it complicated again. I am an engineer so I can comment: KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid.

On to the camera. I am not worried if the review (of the original, not upgraded) software says bad things about the firmware. I want to know what it means to me, not to a theoretical user. So “Auto ISO is hidden” does not bother me – I do not use auto ISO (or if I do, it’ll be all day, so I will find it). And interface stuff you can learn is not a serious drawback.

In a few words:

The camera is a delight. The hybrid electronic/optical viewfinder is a. ma. zing. The camera is well built. Retro looking. Solid. Offers excellent image quality. Has a JPG conversion engine that does a great job: this camera may be the first one in many years that  I actually use in JPG mode. Great 23mm lens (equivalent to 35mm “real” lens).

So this is basically a Leica M9 at a fraction of the price?

Sure. But since there are no free lunches, what are the drawbacks?

That is what I am talking about because this camera is so good.  Get one, unless one of the issues below is a showstopper for you.  I am skipping through the trivial ones (“auto ISO is hidden”, “The ISO dial turns the wrong way”, and so on.). These, while true, are unimportant. But there are some real ones – “issues that could get in the way”, rather than “issues I’d rather see done some other way”.  My main ones among these are:

  1. The focus points are hard to shift. I want a quick way to shift my focus point. I do this in every image. So it must be quick. Instead, I need to use both hands in unusual positions. I can never find the button without looking at the back, necessitating me moving the camera away from my face.
  2. Focusing in low light often fails.The battery/memory card door opens way too easily. Happens regularly.
  3. The central “Menu/OK” button is very hard to press, unless you have the fingers of a six month old embryo. You will inevitably press the other, surrounding, buttons instead.
  4. Battery life is not great if the “quick start” option (which is needed!) reduces it by half.
  5. Focusing is impossible at less than 80cm (ca 2.5 ft) unless you use the electronic viewfinder.
  6. Even with new firmware, startup time is slow.
  7. Not enough buttons are customizable.
  8. The maximum speed goes down with large ISO and aperture settings. At 400 ISO and f/2, the camera cannot shoot above 1/500th second, for instance. And the ND filter which was designed to handle this is many key-presses away.

These are not fatal, but they are the ones I really notice as a photographer. Many of them (though not point 3) will be solved in upcoming firmware, I imagine.

A few snaps (where as per previous posts, I make the viewer tell his or her own story):

Fuji X100 Pic - Photo: Michael Willems

Fuji X100 Pic - Photo: Michael Willems

Fuji X100 Pic - Photo: Michael Willems

I think “street”… I cannot wait to get to Toronto to do some street photography with this wonderful camera. It’s winning – and not in the Charlie Sheen way.

Canadians: Happy Canada Day. More tomorrow.

Post Note: As reader Duke S. points out: I could well refer to this camera as “Preciousssss…”

Post post note: Second impressions and third impressions now also online here.

6 thoughts on “X100 – First impressions

  1. Have mine since two days and haven’t understood as well what the whining about the “complex” menus is all about.I haven’t experienced yet the issue about the the battery compartment, but i fully agree on the center menu button being hard to get right.

    One thing that isn’t very intuitive is the Auto-ISO setting. The max value is set in the main menu, and the manual ISO setting sets the min value. Also if we you have DR set to 400 you may get higher Auto-ISO settings than with DR 200. If you get a lot of high Auto-ISO detections you should check your DR / manual ISO setting.

    • Yes, that sounds right. I do not use auto ISO so I don’t much care where it lives, but yes, why not put it in the same menu option that the ISO value selection is on?

  2. Today’s Gay Pride Day is expected to draw one million folks to the streets of Toronto. It’s going to be hot hot hot so taking the Olympus EPl-2 and the D90 and a bag of lenses downtown for the day. Photos to follow…

    And congrats on the X100. Tried it out at a camera show and liked it. Not as much as my old Leica M4 but then again there’s nothing I liked as much as the M4.

  3. Pingback: X-100 Review « www.peterwestphoto.com

  4. Pingback: Fuji X100 & New Rangefinder Madness - Dachaworks || Dachaworks

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