Author Archives: Arne

Fixed Prime Lens: Limitation and Liberation

The main restriction of the Fujifilm X100F is the non-interchangeable prime lens. This article is an opinion piece and summarizes personal experience after more than 10000 exposures.

The typical cellphone camera offers a wider field of view than the X100 and is good for photographing a group of several people. A classic still camera on the other hand often has a lens attached with a bit more magnification. This classic field of view is useful for portraits of a single person. The X100F lens is in the middle. That means it is useful for taking pictures of small groups.

I am not a professional photographer, my photography is not about commercial success. It is about having fun.

Getting more or less field of view

The X100 lens provides a moderately wide angle. To cover more area, the build-in panorama function can be used. Alternatively one can take overlapping images and use software to create a panorama on the computer. Of course, there should be no movement in the frame. I take a photograph of the center first and then cover the edges with some overlapping portions in order to provide good guidance for panorama-stitching software. An alternative would be the optical wide converter which offers a field of view like a cellphone camera. The stitching approach allows an even wider angle of view – if one wants to spend time on a computer for that.

Getting closer instead is easy, because the X100F has a build-in digital zoom. For higher quality I prefer cropping on the computer. One can cut out a part which would be almost equivalent to the aforementioned classic field of view of traditional still cameras, and still get an image which fills the height of a 5K monitor (2880 pixels in height.) For portraits, photographers often use more magnification. When we use the a frame in portrait orientation, cropped also to the image height of a 5K monitor, it is possible to get the typical portrait field of view. With a resolution good enough for 16×24 cm prints.

Now some numbers: Using the 5K-monitor height cropping (2880 pixels height) in landscape mode, we almost get “50 mm equivalent” focal length, in portrait mode we get the equivalent of some 70 mm. Using the optical tele converter results in 1.4x magnification on top of that.

Accepting the frame

I would be too lazy to carry optical converters with me, so I didn’t by them yet – to my regret when I visited a yacht harbor. Some wide angle shots would look impressive, but then I looked around what would be possible with the given field of view.

Using a prime lens saves time: No more adjustment of the zoom factor, also no thinking about zoom. The naked eye cannot zoom, likewise this camera. While restrictive, it also feels natural.

Having a non-interchangeable lens also takes away choices before leaving the house, there is no thinking about which equipment to grab. The replacement battery has to be charged, then one can take the X100F and is ready. During the trip, no time is needed to change lenses.

Instead of looking for details like a far-away church spire, I now experience the environment more as as whole. The moderately wide angle of view helps to keep the photos more honest: If I have a photograph of it, I was there.

With this field of view, there is usually not too much perspective distortion. This adds to a more realistic, documentary-like result. If the place allows it, I like to walk a bit in order to get to a better position. This takes time, but it is time well spent as I experience the location. And think about a good angle and a good frame.

Experience through experiments

Because of the moderate focal length, bokeh options are limited as well. An uninteresting background cannot be easily turned into beautiful bokeh, instead one has to consider the background.

As a wedding guest, I took only the X100F with me. The ceremony was shot by the official photographer, after that I could experience the party, while getting in close range to take my photos. The lightweight equipment allowed to move quickly. With the focal length no longer to worry about, meaning less time spent configuring the camera, there was more time to interact with subjects.

I also use the camera on travel. That felt like jumping into the cold water: Should I consider myself good enough to do this without flexibility in focal length?

In order to get to the extreme, I once used unedited Jpegs. Only the vision provided by the camera was available, but my sight adapted accordingly. It felt like gaining a new ability.

Of course, it still happens that I struggle to find a good frame. Surprisingly few things cannot be photographed in any useful way with this camera, but occasionally the prime lens is too limiting. On the other hand I discovered a lot of possibilities which I previously overlooked.

And I found an immutable focal length quite helpful for galleries: This is the frame in which I tell my story.

Just the beginning

Stitching and cropping is of course still available and can be useful. With the restriction of having no zoom, I thought I would use computer editing more, in order to work around the camera’s limitation. But in reality I often do less in post, perhaps because I take more time before releasing the shutter.

Instead of thinking about what else I could buy to complete my gear, I am thinking about how I can make it work with what I got. Technical perfection might not be achieved using the X100F, but other things are more important. Do I have an idea how to photograph something? If I do a portrait, do I find it interesting and worthwhile to take my time, can I connect with the non-professional model, can I get close with the camera?

As of now, the camera often does not provide all I want, but as it turns out, all I need.

The Fujifilm X100F experience detailed

This is an uncommon type of review, because it focuses on details. The little things, which are often overlooked in reviews, yet are important. Obscure issues like bokeh problems with the mechanical shutter will be discussed as well.

Operation Speed and Raw Files

When switched on, it takes a short moment until the camera can take a photo. Three power modes are available, beside other things effecting wake-up time, autofocus speed and battery life. I don’t like to slow anything down just to have the battery last a bit longer. A full charge will be good for 250-350 exposures only. The camera comes with an external charger, but charging through USB is possible as well. For practical camera operation, one has to buy at least one additional battery.

I rarely switch the camera off and rely on auto-off instead. If the switch is still in “On” position, a half-pressed shutter turns the X100F on.

I tested the buffer clearing speed with several SD cards and several image configurations. This example is for Jpeg (Fine) + Raw (Compressed), measured after an 8 fps burst filled the buffer:

Card writing speed (up to)Buffer clear time
40 MB/s25 seconds
90 MB/s13 seconds
180 MB/s12 seconds

The table shows that the 180 MB/s cannot nearly be utilized because the X100F supports only UHS-I. While the buffer is written, the camera can take additional photos until the buffer is full again.

Further tests with different configurations like Raw-only, both compressed and uncompressed, show that the buffer clearing speed is mostly dependent on the data volume written to the card. This implies that the X100F’s internal processor can handle Jpeg creation and Raw compression without noticeable delay. A fast SD card also speeds up the playback for single shots. I thoroughly recommend to not slow down the X100F with a slow memory card.

Fujifilm uses a non-standard sensor color mask for many cameras, including the X100F. This requires a non-standard approach to convert the Raw data into images on a computer. I cannot recommend any particular application to develop X100F raw files because I know only one.

(C) Arne Seifert

Jpeg Files and Film Simulations

All 3:2 format photos in this article are straight out of camera without any editing on the computer.

The X100F is with me almost everywhere I go. Disk space becomes a concern over time. Even time becomes a concern over time – I don’t have the time to develop all these Raw files. For special occasions I still use Raw, but solid Jpeg options exist as well.

Both Raw and Jpeg can use the camera’s Dynamic Range setting of 200% and 400%. This option increases noise, but helps to reduce white clipping in highlights.

With Jpeg “Fine” compression, images take up to 15 MB. Now I mostly use “Normal”, getting images up to 9 MB. The quality loss is acceptable for everyday use.

The X100F is not a camera which aims to provide a fully neutral Jpeg image output. The standard mode – a so-called film simulation named “Provia” – already processes the image quite a bit, but yields a result which looks good on many different displays. In order to get this robustness, some nuance is lost, and sometimes I find the green tones too saturated. Overall, still a good choice for about everything.

The other simulations focus on a particular aspect, like color, or shades of brightness. Jpeg output can be adjusted with separate highlight and shadow strength. I often use shadows -2, meaning shadows are brighter. Setting highlights to -1 or -2, making them darker, often improves the level of detail in clouds, but small-area highlights lose some punch.

White Balance (WB)

Auto-WB is usually quite good. At daylight, Auto-WB can shift colors slightly to purple, while the daylight WB setting provides almost perfect colors with direct sunlight. The X100F offers a lot more WB modes, which makes the selection impractical as there are too many to scroll through.

As solution I sometimes use the custom image profiles, because they also store the WB mode and can be quickly changed with the Quick menu. But if I expect changing conditions, I rely on the Auto-WB mode – because a slightly suboptimal output is better than having manually picked the wrong WB setting. Doing some WB corrections later on the computer can help to get more natural colors. If perfect colors are required, the Raw option is always available.

(C) Arne Seifert

Function Buttons And Menu Options

Only one button is labelled “Fn”, all other programmable buttons are more or less optically hidden. The D-pad has some assignable buttons as well. I find this very useful, as I was able to set the D-pad function similar to the camera model I used before.

AEL/AFL can be highly customized and re-assigned. The “Raw” function button changes its effect depending on the Jpeg/Raw mode currently set. So it either toggles, or activates Raw just for the next exposure. And there are two different ways to select another shutter/iso profile. One option is very fast, the other one however avoids selecting a fixed iso by accident. The focus assistance changes its function depending on the context, and can do different things depending on how long it is pressed.

All controls are comfortable to reach, while the Q button for the Quick menu is even too easy to reach. One can lock the D-pad and Q button in order to prevent unintended changes. This also helps to prevent operating errors when someone else is asked to take a photo.

If seven function buttons and 16 Quick menu items (which are also changeable) are not enough, one can create a “My Menu”, which then becomes the default menu page.

The playback function is intelligent: When zoomed in, the camera remembers the zoom and position when switched to the next image. The rear dial button jumps directly to the focus area with max zoom, allowing a quick focus check. Switching to the next image will now zoom into the new image’s focus area.

Missing Features?

There is no way to set daylight saving time. One has to either change the internal time, or use the option to setup a second time zone.

The built-in Raw converter is quite basic, one cannot even change Jpeg size/compression. If Jpeg images are cropped, the new image is not saved in the optimal new resolution and instead in one of few standard resolutions, with “640” labeled wrong.

If the Adobe RGB color space is selected for Jpeg recording, the camera playback function displays those images with less saturation. (Some, but not all computer applications do the same mistake.)

The X100F autofocus can miss. Not in the sense of focusing on another area than selected, instead it just focuses wrong, so that the entire image is out of focus. Before taking an important exposure, the focus has to be checked, for example using image magnification. As an alternative, a focus distance indicator is available. In most cases, the focus works fine, but it can miss when left unchecked. This is my number one annoyance with the camera and continues to cause frustration.

Because I sometimes accidentally move the ring around the lens, I would like to get the option to disable it in autofocus/Jpeg mode.

(C) Arne Seifert

Manual Focus

Sometimes I work with a manual focus set to a medium distance, also using a smaller aperture, so that the image will be sharp enough without having to refocus at all. This circumvents any delay before the shutter release. Since firmware 1.01, the camera remembers the manual focus distance when turned on again.

In order to photograph through leafage, manual focus is required because even the smallest spot-AF area is too large. If one wants to frame and focus-check at the same time, the hybrid viewfinder mode can be used. A bit cumbersome, but it can be done.

The manual focus mode offers a few assistants. A 6x magnification with pixel highlighting is the best option, allowing precise focus checks even though the image appears a bit grainy at this magnification level. There is a 2.5x magnification as well, appearing roughly as large as with the naked eye. While in manual focus mode, one can use the AF-lock function in order to have the camera perform an autofocus. This can serve as a quick start for further manual focusing. The alternative is to use autofocus by default, with subsequent manual changes.

Another manual assistant is the digital split image. While not providing the highest precision, nor the full analogue experience, it is possible to operate the X100F quasi-analogue. This is useful to remove unnecessary distractions and instead just doing some photography. I also disabled many information overlays, however some are quite useful, like the electronic level.

Using The Display And The Viewfinder

In many cases it is convenient to let the camera do the focus. The autofocus points are evenly distributed, with phase detection in the middle and contrast-only points left and right. For the spot-AF mode, additional points are available, which are placed exactly between the other ones. I enjoy this regular AF pattern.

Both the optical viewfinder and the rear display are optimized for landscape mode, very few elements rotate when the camera is used in portrait mode. However, the electronic viewfinder rotates its overlay completely.

There is no PSAM mode wheel on the X100F, as the shutter and aperture value have their own wheel each, but the camera can show the current mode in PSAM nomenclature on the display, helping users which come from other cameras.

The display has a resolution of 720×480 RGB pixels, the EVF uses 1080×720 pixels, both at 60 frames per second. The viewfinder image is not as big as in a big camera, and there are also some lag issues, for example it takes a split second until the EVF is ready, or until the autofocus starts in hybrid mode. Nevertheless, I use the viewfinder a lot, in all modes, and like that I get this much flexibility allowing me to adapt to any situation.

Shutter And Bokeh Issues

The mechanical shutter (MS) is sometimes not fast enough to keep up. With the full f/2 aperture, the X100F restricts the mechanical shutter in auto-mode to 1/1000s. Even then, the exposure begins only at a time the two shutter blades are already closing, leaving a wedge-shaped actual aperture. This affects the bokeh.

Manual operation allows 1/4000s for the mechanical shutter, though the camera warns at f/2, resulting now in even more deteriorated bokeh.

Bokeh example (C) Arne Seifert

If the shutter speed is set to auto, those issues are rarely ever apparent. However if bokeh is paramount, even 1/500s should be avoided at f/2.

The electronic shutter (ES) usually appears to be a good alternative, having none of these bokeh issues. However, artificial light which works with very fast pulses, will cause dark stripes in the image. Quick movement in the frame will show the sensor readout pattern which apparently reads every eighth line at a time. The flash cannot be used, nor extended iso values. All these issues are gone with the mechanical shutter.

In order to keep the mechanical shutter usable for short exposures, once can enable the build-in grey filter, which lengthens the time by a factor of eight. However, said ND filter impacts the sharpness of the image if looked at closely.

While all this sounds negative, the X100F is in fact very good: The mechanical shutter with two leaves shows less artifacts compared to a slit shutter, and is quite fast for a camera of this class. Also, the shutter is very quiet. The ND filter option is always there without having to get extra equipment and allows to use large apertures with the mechanical shutter. The electronic shutter option allows extremely short exposure times and the best bokeh. Also, it is completely quiet.

Look And Feel, Accessories

Button and wheels are not exactly on par with a professional device, but almost there. No parts feel cheap, not even the two doors which are made of plastic. The artificial leather coating is okay, but I almost always put the camera in the Fuji leather case (optional purchase) anyway. From time to time I clean both sides of the viewfinder.

The backside of the body looks very clean despite the many controls, because there are very few pictographs and labels. I protect the display with a rather thick plastic foil. The front face of the camera looks very nice, and there are no distracting labels or numbers, only the lens has a description printed on.

The X100F appeal stems from its somewhat analogue looks and the flat lens with a rather small front lens diameter of just some 11 mm. Actual analogue film cameras often have a much larger front lens diameter, like 25 mm.

(C) Arne Seifert

However I use a 49 mm protection filter, which requires an adapter ring. That ring makes the lens barrel much longer, and some people regard the filter as the front lens element. The camera now looks like a high-performance device and loses some of its cuteness. In some cases I remove this protection in order to get the appealing X100 shape back.

For everyday use, I keep that filter on, with the adapter ring also serving as a mini-lenshood, though flaring is still an issue. At least, the Fuji leather case can be closed with this configuration.

Tripod mounting is only possible when the Fuji case is taken off. I then also use a cable release (original Fujifilm X cable release). This looks cool, it also allows to take an image with less shake caused by the release. The alternative with a two-second timer would remove the ability to take a picture at the right moment.

Optical Performance

In most parts, I like the lens – so let us now get to the limitations. The corners of the frame in the standard 3:2 format will always be soft. An open aperture can cause color fringes, and night shots will show a strange corona around bright spotlights. In close range, even the image center will become soft with additional sharpness loss outside. Regardless of aperture, there is a bit of barrel-shaped image distortion. Scattered light and lens flaring can be a problem as well.

Some effects can be corrected in digital postprocessing, other issues have to be considered before the photo is taken. This requires some experience. But even with moderate apertures, the image is not as as tack sharp as a full-size lens could offer.

If someone spends 1400 Euros on a camera, I can imagine one expects near-perfect images and then will be disappointed by the X100F. In addition, the bokeh options are limited with 23 mm physical focal length and the f/2 maximum aperture. Would I like to see an f/1.4 lens instead?

Absolutely not. Such lens would introduce larger optical issues, and/or be considerably bulkier, heavier, more expensive.

Again this chapter sounds negative, but the X100F is a compact camera, so it cannot be compared with a full-size device. The lens was apparently optimized for medium aperture with quite good results, and keeps wide open aperture settings usable in many cases. I am impressed by its performance and versatility.

In the right circumstances, non-ideal lens properties can even be used as an asset. The geometric image distortion, which is overall hardly noticeable, helps in group photos as it somewhat counters the wide-angle distortion. Flaring and scattered light, while difficult to control, can be used for dramatic sunlight effects. The open aperture sharpness falloff at close range draws an invisible circle around the comparably sharp image center. When photographing two heads, that effect underlines the closeness of those two.

The X100F lens is like the whole camera: You have to know what it is for.

(C) Arne Seifert

Value

If looked at individual properties, the X100F always leaves something to wish for. Many parts are a compromise in order to allow a compact body, also there is just one memory card slot and the battery life is mediocre. Some things are completely absent: There is no image stabilization, no weather sealing, no touch or tilt function for the screen. And on top of that, the non-interchangeable lens does not zoom.

In this light, the price tag of 1400 Euros seems laughable.

However, because I use the camera very often, I feel that the price is adequate. And the good looks, the oldschool yet efficient controls, the fast mechanical shutter, the fast operation speed, all this is fun. Add a flexible viewfinder, an X-Trans III sensor and a fast 35 mm equivalent lens, and you get a package which feels complete in itself.

The X100F can be used for many different applications, but I want to focus on just one thought: Fujifilm removed decisions and distractions. Like “which parts of my camera equipment do I take with me?”. Like “which new features – sensor shift, post focus, touch gestures – do I need to learn in order to fully utilize my camera?”. Even like “which zoom will be the best for this frame?” And if Jpegs are used, a great portion of subsequent digital editing can be removed as well.

All this allows me to do what I want: To concentrate and take a photo of what I see.

Some things cannot be photographed in a useful way with this camera, but the X100F experience changed my assessment of a camera. I no longer ask “What photos could I take with it” and rather “What photos do I take with it”. Because I get a lot of good photos with the X100F, I consider the high price tag acceptable. But anyone afraid of not having great focal length flexibility, weather sealing or an articulating screen, should not consider this camera at all.

X100F review (English)

During some two months, the camera was used a lot: For bicycle tours, private gatherings, and even a wedding. Because of a faulty viewfinder, the camera was then sent to repair and after quite long time, I got a whole new camera.

The Fujifilm X100F is a compact without zoom and without image stabilization. It still costs 1400 Euros. Let me be upfront, this model has its weaknesses: The battery life is mediocre. The autofocus does not work well in certain situations. And the camera has some quirks, meaning there is a lot of stuff one has to get used to. This leads to some quite frustrating moments, and it seems one is never done. This review summarizes the experiences so far, it will describe the joy, but also the issues with the X100F.

X100F in the leather case

F like Fourth

This photo shows the camera with a protection filter attached, normally the camera looks even friendlier with its pancake-style lens. This is my first Fuji and I am impressed by the attention to detail. For example, the aperture ring moves easier trough one-third stops than through full stops.

Model F (fourth) is the fourth release of the X100. Since I have no experience with older models, I just describe the F as-is. The camera is a fine piece of engineering, with a solid feel to it. Very few plastic parts, and a lot of metal instead. But the camera is not weather sealed, I also hope I don’t drop it. Also, the silvery surface is not particularly scratchproof.

I use this camera with the separately sold official leather case. The upper part of the case can be taken off, leaving the lower part as a half-case. The bottom has a latch to get to the battery and memory card, however the tripod thread can only be used if the case is completely removed.

The camera offers a moderately wide angle of view without any zoom, but has a fast lens and a quite large sensor. Technically speaking, it is a 24 megapixel sensor with crop factor of 1.52. The lens has a focal length of 23 mm, resulting in an angle of view like a 35 mm lens used on a full-frame camera. The widest aperture is f/2.

This photo demonstrates the angle of view:

Sample photo straight out of camera

F like Features

All example photos taken with the X100F in this review show different camera settings, but are not edited any further.

For staged portraits I normally use a tripod and a cable release, because this looks classy. I check the image with the rear display. For trips I put the camera in the leather case around my neck. But then I don’t want to look at the display and use the viewfinder instead, because it allows me to cut out the environment.

The X100F viewfinder can be used as an electronic viewfinder, or as an optical one. The optical mode still allows to show a lot of information – it can even add a small digital image. This is the hybrid mode of the viewfinder. The digital image can show the entire frame, a low magnification around the focus spot, or a high magnification.

The camera does not have any kind of image stabilization, that is why I set two out of three automatic modes to short exposure times. It takes a while to get into the menu settings.

Beside the classic Jpeg file output, the camera of course also supports a raw format which keeps all sensor data without losses. Raw files allow to show more depth in bright clouds, or to get finer details out of bushes or foliage. But after a photo trip, I have no time for long editing sessions on the computer. If raw files are needed, the camera can compress them without losses, reducing the file size from 50 MB roughly to its half. A Jpeg in full resolution takes about 9-15 MB. I use the Jpeg output much more often now.

It is not only the technology, the design of the camera also helps to increase the chances of getting a good photo: Used in the public, the camera does not appear as a threat, and one can act like one wants to take a picture of a thing in the background – while the interesting part is near the edge of the frame, without someone noticing. In a private get-together, one can take pictures without having to handle a large camera which makes others uncomfortable. The almost-analogue design of the X100F also brings back a sense of the old days. A roll of film had less than 40 exposures; every photograph was a special moment. The X100F is a digital camera of course, but party guests pay more attention than they show for a cellphone camera.

The X100F uses a leaf shutter, which means it is very quiet if you disable the loudspeaker. One can also use an electronic shutter which is completely quiet. The internal frame buffer allows to take a lot of shots in rapid succession.

Sample photo straight out of camera

F like Functions

The large sensor is able to retain subtle nuances. The hardware sensitivity stretches up to iso 12800. With this setting, the images will of course get a bit dull and noisy, but the output can be still be used for typical computer monitor sizes. The good iso performance is important if the camera is used at night. In daylight, or twilight, the images are very clear with almost no noise.

Even with the default dynamic setting, the camera shows texture in bright light as well as in dark shadows both in the same frame. With increased dynamic, the camera shortens the exposure time to avoid overexposure. The shutter speed is compensated with an effectively higher iso value for the dark parts. Apparently this approach is used even for standard dynamic, this would also explain the minimum iso of 200.

In order to open the aperture in bright sunlight, one can employ extremely short exposure times. If that is still not enough, just use the build-in ND filter. The X100F tends to underexposure at seemingly random occasions, also when used in normal conditions. However one can correct it later on the computer without noticeable loss in image quality.

The unique selling point of the X100F appears to be the versatile viewfinder. The digital finder image is good enough for most content, except for very bright or dark parts. Users who like to focus manually, have access to several tools, including a digital split image. One can show (or hide) a lot of additional information – even a level. The finder image is of course not as big as in a reflex camera, the compact body of the X100 seems to put a limit on the viewfinder size.

With this camera, I like to have a solid body and I am happy that the screen cannot be moved and is instead fixed. The body offers wheels, buttons, a d-pad, and a joystick – I don’t miss a touch screen at all.

I also like the omission of a PSAM mode wheel. Instead, one sets aperture, shutter speed and light sensitivity directly. Full and semi automatic modes are still available. The basic controls can be reconfigured for other wheels, this also allows finer steps for the shutter speed.

And there are seven function buttons which can be reassigned as well. This almost lets me feel that Fujifilm put me in the position of being the engineer of my own camera. The device also allows to configure the “My Menu”, and an even faster “Quick Menu”, and some custom image profiles on top. I never have a hunch that the maker left out features in order to make a camera upgrade more attractive.

Even pixel mapping is offered which allows to detect defective sensor pixels. The replacement camera had a small group of hotpixels which were always white. Once pixel mapping was applied, new photos have no more hotpixels, this applies also to raw files. A sensor could develop more pixel defects over time, I am glad that this option allows me to keep the images free of artifacts.

Sample photo straight out of camera

F like Fujinon

I bought a protection filter to safeguard the front lens. Since filters can only be used with an adapter ring, the lens barrel gets quite a bit larger and no longer appears as appealingly unobtrusive. Thankfully the optional Fuji leather case considers this option, the full case can still be closed.

With a fixed lens, there is always the anxious question of how good it is. Fuji released the setup: There is one double-sided aspherical element, but otherwise it is a construction with conventional lens elements. Because of its flatness, the X100F lens does compromise. The issues now listed appear only if the aperture is wide open: Spotlights in the night show a strange corona. Both night and day, high-contrast edges show purple fringes. In close range, the image loses contrast. In other words, these problems rarely affect the photographer’s daily routine, and when the problems do arise, one can stop down to remove them.

Independent of the aperture, there is a slight barrel distortion. If one looks closely, this can affect architecture photos enough to warrant correction later on the computer. Interestingly though, the barrel effect can be useful for group shots because it somewhat compensates the wide-angle effect near the frame border. In most photos, one cannot notice any distortion at all.

When direct sunlight hits the lens, one gets lens flares. This can be bad, I then try to block the sunlight with the hand. Depending on the sun’s position this is not always possible, resulting in bright spots including an obtrusive red one. Sometimes however I use the flaring and scattered light deliberately.

When getting intentional background blur, the so-called bokeh shows over-correction. The overall bokeh provides a suitable compromise between blur and distinguishable light discs.

With experience, the lens provides fan-tas-ti-cal results. I dare say the mathematically less-than-ideal lens creates an overall feel which was intended by Fujifilm exactly so.

Sample photo straight out of camera

F like Film

The good low-light performance of the camera can be ascribed to good sensor hardware which includes copper wiring, but to software as well – for example its quite strong color noise reduction. This allows to process the brightness component not as much, meaning the overall image keeps a lot of its light atmosphere without drowning in noise.

The sensor uses an uncommon color pixel array, called “X-Trans”. While conventional color arrays use a very regular pattern, the X-Trans pattern is less regular. This is a bit closer to analogue film, as the light-sensitive parts of a film are randomly spread. Is that now better, or just different? In any case, the camera maker tries to set itself apart.

Our eye is more sensitive to levels of brightness than to levels of color. The brightness of a digital pixel is predominantly determined by its green component. A common sensor has 50% green pixel coverage. X-Trans has a larger green portion, which allows better brightness gradation. This comes at the cost of color resolution. Overall, X-Trans is closer to the optimum.

That is the theory. In practice Fuji uses a digital image processing trick, letting objects seemingly pop out of the image. In order to do this, the boundary of areas with different color is rendered very sharp. In addition the image gets more depth by artificially dark shadows. However the shadows are not just clipped to black, instead they still show shades if viewed on a good monitor. The image output can be modified to personal taste with shadow strength, highlight strength, sharpness and color saturation.

Fuji goes one step further still, and also considers the characteristics of color reproduction and the brightness curve of chemical films. The Fujifilm marketing uses the name of some actual photographic films.

Sample photo straight out of camera

F like Fidelity

With the “Velvia” simulation, colors are more saturated, and sky-blue and sun-yellow are slightly red tinted, which results in a stronger color impression. The Velvia image is carried by its color. The opposite is “Classic Chrome”. Especially striking color tones are subdued, the entire image appears enjoyably discreet. On the first look you just think “this is a good photo”. It takes a closer look to notice that the colors don’t punch out of the screen. Instead, the variations in light are particularly well visible.

There are a handful of other options. The default output is a film simulation as well, called “Provia”. This is my favorite. I like the colors of Provia very much. The photograph is balanced and does not rely on any effect which could wear out. The shopwindow photo with the vases uses this simulation. There are some other simulations especially for portraits, but Provia provides good skin tones as well.

Using Provia for landscape or foliage reveals that green image parts are bit too saturated and too dark. This is similar to common color films – what a surprise. The approach of the camera is a real asset for me: Instead of just adding more megapixels and pointing to the raw file capability, the X100F integrates pixel processing which produces a balanced image.

As a guest photographer at a wedding I used the “Pro Neg Hi” simulation. The somewhat pale skin colors, but also more contoured shadows translated the digital image exactly to the photos I wanted to get. Some other guests took images which show more detail, but they also used much larger cameras.

For friends of black and white photography there is a standard monochrome mode, and additionally the simulation “Acros”. Only because of Acros I began to take some images in black and white. Areas with similar brightness are still discernible because of the very nuanced gradation. Very bright and dark ranges also retain an amazing level of detail. An Acros image shows pleasant film grain when magnified.

Sample photo straight out of camera (Acros simulation)

F like Focus

In order to use the X100F as a point and shoot, I recommend the autofocus mode “Wide”. As an alternative I sometimes use the manual focus with the digital distance indicator, which allows quick operation. Since firmware version 1.01, the camera remembers the last manual focus when turned on again. Both “Wide” autofocus, and the manual focus using just the distance indicator provide photos with acceptable sharpness in most cases.

To get full control over the autofocus, the “Spot” mode should be used. The focus point can be moved around using the convenient build-in joystick. In most cases the camera focuses perfectly. Unfortunately there are some cases in which the focus loses its way and for example sets the distance to 3 meters while the trees are in fact 50 meters away.

Beside trees, also slate roofs, meadows or reed can confuse the autofocus. In some cases there is no identifiable reason why the camera falsely confirms the focus even though no part of the image is sharp. This issue seems to occur more often on sunny days. The overall image waste is still rather low, but I find it annoying that a false focus can occur. Re-doing the focus by half-pressing the shutter release then often results in a sharp image, but the rear display or viewfinder is too small to know if the focus is right.

The X100F can magnify the image around the AF point in order to allow a focus check. The hybrid mode offers this even using the optical viewfinder. As a quick helper the digital distance indicator is available. That is typical for the X100F: The camera provides all tools, but one should also use them.

It is also possible that the autofocus is just slightly off. The photo will still be usable except when magnified. An exposure with a perfect autofocus – the usual case, but sadly not a permanent condition – shows more detail than expected of a camera of this size.

Beside Wide and Spot autofocus, there is a mode which combines the two, called “Zone”. This would be the optimal mode for many applications, but false focus confirmation can still occur. Checking the digital distance indicator is required to avoid unusable results. However the camera usually does get the focus right so you forget to check until you get some out-of-focus images again.

Sample photo straight out of camera

F like Fixed Focal Length

All my previous cameras had zoom. Being confined to a moderate wide angle now seems to be less an impairment, more a liberation. The naked eye cannot zoom as well. With the X100F I pay attention to the scene and just take a photo.

To emphasize an object, I sometimes use the portrait mode or a square frame. Or I crop later, with 24 megapixels there is a lot to play with.

In the first days after the purchase I constantly had a weird feeling: So much money for a prime lens? There are two digital zoom options, of course with degradation in image quality. Fuji offers two converters (which are sold separately) for an optical change of the field of view. One offers a wider angle, the other gets the image closer. I don’t have any converter, but I feel more relaxed because those options are available.

My “zoom” is: Walking. While I walk I already engage with the subject in my mind, of course I only walk when I think it is worthwhile. Taking the photo when I am at the location incorporates a sense of honesty, because I was actually there and didn’t just zoom in. It is not always possible to get close enough to, or far enough away from the scene, but one develops an sense of what can be photographed using the field of view available. This results in new experiments not thought of before.

A non-interchangeable prime lens is not for everybody, just because I now like it does not mean I generally recommend it. The non-zoom will make the X100 a nice second camera option for many users. I use it as my only camera. This excludes some photography subjects as those cannot be shot in a useful way anymore. But I no longer ask what picture I could theoretically take. Instead I look at the shots I actually take.

Sample photo straight out of camera

F like Factor X

Zoom, image stabilization, display articulation, a touch function – the X100F says no to features which are commonplace for today’s compact cameras. A video function is available somewhere in the menu, but it is nothing to talk about. There are also panorama options, those are no highlight either. But when taking a normal still picture, the camera provides a sense of “I am now photographing”.

Looking through the viewfinder, releasing the shutter, thank you. The precise controls, the friendly look of the camera and corresponding reactions of the people, all this is fun.

When there is too much shadow, the build-in flash provides good fill. Because all actually important features are implemented, one can just take this camera and is ready to go.

The front face of the X100F, except for the lens description, has nothing else printed on. No megapixel count, not even a model number. There is only the photo camera.

X100F in the leather case

F like Final Thoughts

The good things first: The X100F excels in photographing small groups of people. After some practice, I now get pleasant results when photographing at workplace or private events. The camera can also be used to document the surrounding environment or landscape, while it is compact enough to carry it to any place.

The lens is strikingly good for its compact size. There are some rather small compromises and some of them can even be considered options for creative effects.

While the “film simulation” is seemingly part of a marketing strategy, the Jpeg output is in fact so good that it can often be used just with cropping and perhaps some exposure compensation. Raw is available as well of course, even with lossless compression.

The hardware issue with my X100F (the viewfinder light cover could become stuck) lets me question Fuji’s quality control, but perhaps I was unlucky. However, the looong turnout time of some five weeks is just disappointing. I expect better customer service for a €1400 part.

Putting this personal story aside, the X100F camera design has some issues, which however could all be fixed with firmware additions:

  • Fix the occasional false autofocus confirmation.

There are more requests of course – the f/2 spotlight issue at night could be circumvented with an option to set the maximum aperture for automatic modes. Also an option to correct the image distortion could be helpful. I would also like to get an alternative to digital zoom, namely digital crop.

The most disruptive issue however is said occasional – meaning rare – false autofocus confirmation which means that it can happen that the camera focuses on a close range, while in fact every object in the image is far away resulting in the photograph being entirely out of focus. This can be avoided with attention and experience, but still: If this issue would be addressed one way or another, allowing to always rely on the autofocus, I could easily live with all other quirks.