Fujifilm X100F review

Tech Radar

Fujifilm’s original X100 heralded a new era for the company back in 2011, with its retro-inspired design and tactile controls really capturing the imagination of  enthusiast and professional photographers alike.

The first X-series camera, the X100, signalled a sea-change for Fujifilm, beginning its transition from a company that produced an array of forgettable compact cameras to one that now makes some of the most desirable cameras out there. 

Since then we’ve had two more iterations of the X100, the X100S and X100T , which refined and overcome some of the quirks of that original camera, and to these we can now add the X100F.

So, six years on from the X100, does the Fujifilm X100F still have that special something to get photographers excited?

Features

  • APS-C X-Trans CMOS III sensor, 24.3MP
  • 3.0-inch screen, 1,040,000 dots
  • Hybrid viewfinder

As we’ve seen with the company's latest generation of cameras, like the X-T2 and X-T20 , the Fujifilm X100F takes advantage of the firm’s 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor. It brings a welcome boost in resolution from the 16MP sensor in the X100S and X100T, along with an equally welcome improvement to the camera’s sensitivity range. 

The standard ISO range now covers 200-12,800 (bettering the X100T’s limit of ISO6400), with an expanded range of 100-51,200. Further good news is that the expanded settings no longer restrict you to shooting JPEG-only, with raw capture now possible as well.

One of the hallmarks of the X100 series has been the clever hybrid viewfinder, which offers photographers the option of shooting in either optical or electronic modes.

The fully electronic view is rendered via the large 2.36 million-dot OLED display, which gives you a clear view of exposure, white balance, composition and a host of other shooting info, while the bright optical viewfinder provides a more traditional alternative. If you’re focusing on objects near to the camera in optical mode the Real Time Parallax Correction function will kick in, and shift the frame guides to enable assured framing.

One of the hallmarks of the X100 series has been the clever hybrid viewfinder

If you want the best of both worlds though, it’s possible to get an electronic preview in the bottom right-hand corner of the optical viewfinder. This provides a magnified view for checking focus, but new to the X100F is the ability to show the whole frame, should you want to verify exposure and framing. Changing the view is done simply by tapping the rear command dial.

The rear display remains the same – a decent-sized 3.0-inch fixed display with a 1,040,000 dot resolution, although Fujifilm has opted to shun a touchscreen in this instance.

The lens also remains the same as on previous models, with the X100F sporting a compact 23mm (equivalent to 35mm) f/2 prime lens. If that feels a little restrictive, then to ease the pain there are a couple of dedicated lens converters: the TCL-X100 II and WCL-X100 II, equivalent to 50mm and 28mm, while the ‘II’ designation signifies that the X100F will automatically notice whether either adapter is attached and will correct for any aberrations.

If you’re thinking of upgrading from a previous model and want to use your first-generation converters, don’t worry – you’ll simply have to dive into the X100F’s menu to tell the camera what’s mounted on the front.

If you’re wanting to take advantage of Lee Filter’s compact Seven5 filter system or similar, you’ll need to invest in Fujifilm’s AR-X100 adapter ring, which has a 49mm thread. If you want the combined lens hood as well, the two will set you back around £69/$65, or alternatively you can get some great imitations on Amazon for a fraction of the price; we’ve used them in the past, and we’ve struggled to tell them apart from the official Fujifilm versions. 

The X100 series has never be a videographers go-to camera, and the X100F is unlikely to change that. While we’ve seen 4K capture featured on both the X-T2 and X-T20, the X100F sticks with Full HD capture, shooting at up to 60p. 

There’s no NFC communication or low-energy Bluetooth connectivity here either, but the X100F is Wi-Fi enabled, and when used with the compatible app this allows for transfer of images and remote shooting.

Build and handling

  • Magnesium alloy construction
  • New joystick for setting AF point
  • 469g

It may be the fourth generation of the camera, but Fujifilm hasn’t felt the need to tinker with the overall look of the camera too much. And why would it? The Fujifilm X100F is a gorgeous-looking camera in our opinion, and one that’s dripping with retro charm. 

The X100F is a gorgeous-looking camera

Available in either the silver you see here or a more understated all-black finish, the X100F is a beautifully crafted camera, and has a real premium feel when you pick it up. The magnesium top plate and finely-machined exterior controls all enhance the shooting experience.

Fujifilm hasn’t simply scrubbed the T off the body and replaced it with an F though, making a number of changes and tweaks to the controls in an effort to bring even more refinement.

As we’ve seen in the previous generations, the top plate features shutter speed and exposure compensation dials, but both have been revised. The shutter speed dial now mimics the one found on the X-Pro2, offering dual control to change the ISO – this is done by lifting, turning and then dropping the dial to select the ISO you’re after. As we’ve experienced with the X-Pro2, this works fine when you’ve got the camera in your hand, but it's a faff when it’s raised to your eye. 

You can get around the faffing though – select ‘A’ and take advantage of one of the three Auto ISO modes on offer, or, with ‘A’ still set, use the new front command dial to flick through to your desired setting. You’ll have to head into the menu to jump between these two options, but it’s nice to be able to customize this key control.

The exposure compensation dial keeps the ±3EV range of the X100T, but adds a new ‘C’ setting on the dial. This lets you set compensation up to ±5EV using the camera’s new front command dial – and don’t worry if you’re using this to control ISO as well, as a quick depress of the dial will let you toggle between the two. As on the X-T2 and X-T20 we found adjusting exposure this way much easier than manually adjusting the nicely-machined dial, but that’ll come down to personal preference. 

The back of the Fujifilm X100F is where perhaps the biggest changes have taken place. The controls that ran down the left-hand side of the display on the X100T have (mostly) been shifted over to the right. The reason? Fujifilm believes this re-arrangement will make one-handed control much easier. 

Most welcome though is the addition of a small joystick/focus lever, which makes focus point selection so much easier and quicker than on previous models, especially now that there are so many more AF points to choose from (more on that shortly). 

While one of the four-way control settings is hardwired to the X100F’s drive modes (it’s moved from a dedicated button near the viewfinder on the X100T), the level of customization, enabling you to tailor the X100F to your shooting habits, is impressive. 

The remaining three points on the controller can all be assigned functions, as can the function button on the top-plate, AEL/AFL button, rear command dial and a new function button that’s embedded in the front of the camera’s viewfinder selector.

This new function button is initially set to select what the manual focus ring controls (when not being used for focusing); it's a new feature on the X100F, with the choice of White Balance, Film Simulation modes or Digital Teleconverter – a JPEG-only mode offering 50 and 70mm crop views.

The aperture ring encircles the lens, and while only whole stops are marked the lens can be adjusted in 1/3 stops. Set it to A and aperture will be taken care of by the camera; have the shutter speed dial set to A as well and the X100F will automatically set both.

Autofocus

  • 325-point AF
  • Eye-detection AF
  • Choice of 6 AF modes

The Fujifilm X100F takes advantage of the company's latest AF system, which we’ve already seen in the likes of the X-T2 and X-T20.

This means you get a broad 91 AF points to choose from, with a central 7×7 grid featuring phase-detection points, while the two 3×7 grids are contrast-detection only. This delivers good coverage, while there’s also the option to dive into the menu and opt for a 325-point grid if you really want that extra precision.

We found, however, that the X100F lent itself to the 91-point arrangement in use, either using the camera’s single-point or Zone AF modes (which use a 3×3 cluster of AF points) to acquire focus, as well as face detection for snaps and portraits.

The central 7×7 grid of phase-detect AF points copes well in a range of situations

Compared to the slightly creaky 49-point AF system used in the X100T, the Fujifilm X100F's setup is a much quicker proposition when it comes to focusing. The X100F locks on at a decent clip for most subjects when the central phase-detection points are used, even performing well when the light-levels drop.

AF speed can take a bit of a knock, though, when you shove the AF points out onto the furthest reaches of the frame when contrast-detect AF takes over, but stick to the central 49 phase-detect points and you’re onto a winner.

Performance

  • 8fps burst shooting
  • 390-shot battery life
  • 0.5 secs start-up time

Though it's not designed to be an action camera, the Fujifilm X100F can still rattle off a very respectable 8fps in burst shooting mode should you need it, shooting a consecutive 60 JPEG files or 23 uncompressed raws. If that feels a bit like overkill, the frame rate can be reduced to 5, 4 or 3fps should you wish – you also get the benefit of the live view feed in between shots when you drop the speed from the upper limit.

A welcome but unglamorous upgrade to the X100F over its predecessors is a new battery, the NP-W126S borrowed from the company’s X-series mirrorless range. This packs much more power (7.2 volts compared to 3.6 from the old NP-95 used by the X100T), and boosts battery life from 330 shots to 390. Not only that, but because the user interface now displays battery life as a percentage, you can have a much clearer idea of how much juice is left than from the three bars that either displayed as full or empty on older models.

The optional electronic display in the bottom right of the frame works really well

With the camera raised up to your eye and with the electronic viewfinder selected the display is nice and bright, and while it's not the largest out there, it doesn’t feel cramped to look through either.

Flick the viewfinder lever on the front and the optical display provides a more traditional way of shooting, and one which you may favour in poor light or when focusing manually – the optional electronic display in the bottom-right of the frame works really well here.

The rear 3.0-inch display on the Fujifilm X100F doesn’t improve on the one found on the X100T, but it’s still very good – it’s crisp and bright, with plenty of detail. The omission of a touchscreen could be seen as an oversight, and while it would have been nice to have this functionality when playing back and reviewing images it isn’t a concern when shooting, thanks to the amount of easily-accessed controls. You could also argue that it would be nice to be able to tap to focus, but the new joypad makes AF point selection a doddle.

The X100F’s metering coped well under a range of conditions

The X100F’s TTL 256-zone metering system does a solid job, and you have the luxury of getting real-time exposures in the EVF or rear display, while should the need arise to dial in some exposure compensation, the new ‘C’ exposure compensation mode makes this a quick process.

Image quality

  • ISO200-12,800, expandable to 100-51,200
  • Film simulation modes
  • +/-5 EV exposure compensation in 1/3 or 1/2-stop increments

We’ve been impressed with the 24.3MP sensor used by the Fujifilm X100F in other Fujifilm cameras, such as the X-T2, and it doesn't disappoint here. The slight difference here, though, is that unlike the other X-series cameras this sensor’s been used in, the X100F is relying solely on its 23mm f/2 lens.

Wide open at f/2 and it’s easy to throw the background out nicely

This lens has featured on all four X100 iterations, and even with the increased pixel count of the sensor it delivers decent corner-to-corner sharpness. One issue is that if you use the lens wide-open at f/2 and focus close to your subject results tend to be a touch soft. As long as you’re aware of this limitation, and stop down to f/2.8 or f/4, you’ll overcome this.

The 24.3MP sensor delivers excellent levels of detail

That aside, the level of detail resolved from the 24.3MP chips is very good. As you’d expect, it does tail off a touch as the sensitivity range is increased, but even at ISO6400 things still look very good.

Even at ISO1000, noise is well controlled, with nicely saturated images

Sticking with the X100F’s sensitivity range for a moment, and this is another strong area for the X100F, with results at the lower end of the sensitivity scale appearing to be very clean with good colour rendition. It’s only at ISO3200 that luminance (grain-like) noise in flat colour areas starts to rear its head, with results at ISO6400 and ISO12,800 starting to see colours become a little more muted, while chroma (colour) noise become more pronounced. 

The Arcos film simulation mode was one of our favorites

Pretty much most cameras come with their own picture styles, but Fujifilm’s Film Simulation modes easily have to be the most successful. The X100F is packed with 15 of them, and they can produce some lovely results – we particularly enjoyed using PRO Neg standard for portraits and the Arcos for mono images. In some instance you might be more than happy with the processed JPEGs straight from the camera rather than tinkering in Lightroom with a raw file.

Finally, the dynamic range is also very good – at low sensitivities it's easily possible to recover a good amount of detail in the shadows and highlights (as long as they haven't been clipped) in post-processing without the quality of image degrading. You can expect four stops latitude, while there's also Fujifilm Dynamic Range mode as well – the highest DR400 allows you to preserve a good amount of detail (with both JPEG and raw files), but this does require the sensitivity to be raised to ISO800. 

Verdict

Fujifilm's philosophy of 'Kaizen', or continuous improvement, is perfectly illustrated with the X100F. 

Since the arrival of the X100 back in 2011, the company has tweaked, refined and added new features to each iteration. All three models before the X100F have had lots going for them, and while each version has improved the proceeding model, none has quite hit the heights we've been hoping for. However, with the X100F, Fujifilm's pretty much made the perfect enthusiast compact camera.

While on the face if it it may look like not much has changed, the X100F heralds the biggest set of improvements yet. Image quality is very good indeed – it handles noise well at high sensitivities and dynamic range offers plenty of flexibility, while the Film Simulation modes deliver lovely results. 

It's the refinement of the control layout where the biggest changes have been made though, with the arrival of the front command dial and focus lever at the rear transforming the handling of the camera. The ISO dial has been a little less successful, but set it to 'A' and either use the command dial to adjust ISO or simply rely on Auto ISO, and this becomes a mute point. Factor in the other tactile body-mounted controls and unique hybrid viewfinder and the X100F is a lovely camera to go and take pictures with.

Autofocus might not quite be the quickest solution out there, but it's now much more responsive than we've seen on previous models and delivers a noticeable step-up in performance. 

Compared to some cameras out there, the X100F with its fixed lens is perhaps a little niche and for many will be a indulgent purchase to supplement an existing camera system. 

The growing range of 1-inch sensor premium compacts may offer greater flexibility thanks to their zoom lenses, but can't match the X100F's shooting experience, while the likes of the Leica Q is almost three times the price. That's even when you factor in the lumpy price hike over the X100T. 

The X100F then may be a touch pricey, but there's nothing quite like it. It's an exquisite camera to look at and shoot with, and those that treat themselves to one won't be disappointed. 

Competition

Panasonic Lumix LX100

One of our favourite compact cameras. Panasonic has shoehorned a Micro Four Thirds sensor into a pretty compact body. Rather than a prime lens though, the LX100 is equipped with a 24-75mm, f/1.7-2.8 standard zoom, while there's a host of body mounted controls too. There's also and EVF and it can shoot 4K as well. The LX100 was expensive when it was launched, but the price has fallen steadily, and this is still an amazing and unique camera.

Read the full review: Panasonic Lumix LX100

Leica Q

Leica and Sony are the only companies that make a compact camera with a full-frame sensor and while Sony's RX1 models are great, the Leica Q (Typ 116) has won our hearts. The biggest downside to the Q is its price, there's no getting around that. But for that huge stack of cash you get a Leica Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH lens, a superb electronic viewfinder with 3,680,000 dots, a 3-inch 1,040,000-dot touchscreen, snappy autofocusing, traditional exposure controls and the ability to create stunning images. It's a cracking camera, but a huge jump up in price from the X100F.

Read the full review: Leica Q

Sony RX100 V

Sony's original RX100 was a landmark camera that fused a 1-inch sensor in a compact, metal body with the controls and image quality demanded by enthusiasts. The RX100 V goes a step further, though, with a 'stacked' sensor design for high-speed data capture. This means it can shoot 4K video, amazing 40x slow motion and 24fps in continuous burst mode. That's not forgetting the neat little built-in electronic viewfinder. More compact than the X100F and packs a decent 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 zoom lens, but doesn't offer the tactile controls or quite the same satisfying shooting experience. 

Read the full review: Sony RX100 V

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