Often described as a pro compact, Fuji’s X100 marks a new direction in the evolving camera market. Released in early 2011 after Fuji recognized “a space in the market for a premium grade fixed lens compact camera,” the X100 has proved popular with pros and amateurs alike, in spite of the $1,700.00 price tag.
To begin with, the camera feels nothing like a compact. The quality build of magnesium alloy and leather-like finish give the small 126.5mm x 74.4mm body a solid feel. This superb build also makes the lightweight body (445g, including battery) feel like a professional camera when you hold and handle it.
The X100‘s greatest selling point has to be its spectacular image quality. This camera delivers gorgeous color richness, as well as black and white images that are a real treat for the eye. It renders light beautifully, and even at 6400 ISO, manages to render clean, true to life light and skin tone. The F2 to F16 aperture lens (full stops only) delivers pin-sharp images with a flattering softness to them. This can be partly attributed to the Bokeh effect, which is particularly visible at F2 and F4 opening.
Color modes include Provia, Velvia and Astia, whose qualities would be familiar to many from Fuji’s positive film range, while B&W can also be shot with Yellow, Red and Green filters.
The hybrid viewfinder is an X100 innovation that lets you toggle between optical and electronic modes with a single touch. The customizable optical view displays useful information while you shoot, such as aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance and exposure compensation. Clear and impressive as the viewfinder is, I wish Fuji put their incredible know-how into an iPhone-like touch screen with fast, intuitive control.
Other excellent features include a one-touch button to switch from the default JPEG to RAW, and a built-in ND filter equivalent to 3 F stops. There is also 200 to 6400 sensitivity, great Panorama, and the Macro mode, which delivers stunning detail but is tricky to focus. I found manual focus to be slow, and wished for a quicker way to turn the ND filter on, rather than having to use the menu each time.
This gorgeous camera is a pleasure to use. The superb build, classic design, clear viewfinder and multitude of controls make it a joy to handle. Above all, its sophisticated lens delivers stunningly beautiful images, richly detailed and sharp with a flattering softness throughout.