It's time for a camera review: the Fuji X100F. While there are hundreds of other reviews covering this camera, I hope to offer my own unique perspective on this little wonder and why it's my ONLY camera. I ditched all of my other photography gear and will be shooting with the X100F exclusively for the foreseeable future. No doubt I'll be very biased in this review (previous post gushing over the X100) but I really feel the need to share some thoughts on why I think this camera is droolworthy and what I think needs improvement (spoiler alert, very little).
I'm new to Fuji having shot Sony for many years (way before mirrorless). But, I ended up trading a Sony camera (RX10) for the original Fuji X100 earlier this year. I fell in love with this little camera very quickly. Yeah, it has retro looks, but the feel of it is so unique that I couldn't put it down. Despite its quirks and limitations, I wanted more. For me financially, it was a bad deal. The Sony was worth twice the Fuji, but in terms of changing the way I approach photography, I ultimately won on that deal for sure.
Anyway, after procuring my X100 I decided to explore some other Fuji cameras like the XE2s and the XT-1. Both are great, but I settled on the X100F because I like the simplicity and the fact that I only get one lens. Yep, I like that limitation. I call it a liberating constraint (write that down). I ended up buying a brand new X100F despite favoring the purchase of used gear typically. This time I got black instead of silver. It's more stealthy. So that's how I ended up with the Fuji X100F. Oh, I sold all of my Sony gear too (a6000 and 5 lenses) and as I mentioned, I'm fully committed to this Fuji and its 23mm lens although I'm sure I'll end up buying the 50mm converter at some point for the occasional portrait/strobist shoot. This camera fits my needs for the time being.
Compared to the original X100, the X100F is a bit heavier and a little thicker. I like this change because it feels more substantial in my hand. I'm sure the slight increase in size and weight is due to the larger battery. It's a good thing. Of course, like the other X100 cameras, it leaves something to be desired when it comes to grippage with its slippery faux leather surface. I solve this by using an aftermarket thumb grip and once that's on, I can hold the camera for hours with a high degree of confidence that I'm not going to drop it.
The dials feel more affirmative and precise than the original and the buttons are meaty so they're easy to find when the camera is at my eye. The aperture ring is nice and firm. It's not so easy to accidentally change my f-stop like many of the Fuji XF lenses. The multi-purpose focus ring is nicely dampened and turns smoothly. One thing I noticed on the original X100 is that the power switch stuck out a little bit so I would accidentally turn the camera on or off sometimes. Not so with the X100F. They shortened that little nub to prevent this, but honestly, now it's sometimes hard to find the power switch without looking down.
The black version has a really nice finish. It's a bit glossy and the paint seems thick. You can tell that the finish will last. I found that some of the silver models age quickly as the finish isn't quite as robust. My original X100 looks like it's been through the war, which actually gives it a nice bit of character. I'm torn about which finish I like better, but I guess I have both colors now so, whatever. Overall, the build quality is solid and much improved over the original model and like the original version, I just want to get out and shoot with it. Isn't that what really matters?
Controls and Setup
Put a modern Fuji camera in your hand and the first thing you'll notice are all of the dials. So many glorious dials. You'll also notice the absence of a traditional mode dial. No PASM on the X100F. With the X100F, you can now glance down at the top of the camera when it's off and know exactly where your settings are. That's thanks to the addition of the physical ISO dial atop the shutter speed dial. Previously, there where manual controls for everything but ISO. Now we get the whole exposure triangle in physical form. I know, some people hate the location and function of the new ISO dial. It's a bit fiddly, but I like it. Rarely do I find myself riding the ISO. I typically use ISO as a base setting and adjust my shutter speed as required. To each his own.
Aperture is of course controlled by the ring up front while the shutter speed dial is the largest of all. Your exposure compensation dial is off the right and we now have two control dials: one on the back and a new one up front. These control dials can be programmed with some limitations. For instance, the front control dial can only be used to adjust ISO when the top dial is in the T position, or it can adjust exposure compensation. I'd like to use the front dial to adjust the shutter speed but that's not an option currently, you can only use the back dial for that. Despite knowing this, I always try to adjust shutter speed with the front dial. Got to train my brain.
There's also a new push-button on the view finder switch up front. I find this to be good position for focus lock because my middle finger naturally lands there when holding the camera to my eye. I've also heard other reviewers say they use it to review images in the EVF without having to take the camera away from the eye. Options, options. Speaking of the EVF, it's good, but it's tough to go from the EVF on the XT-1 to this one. If you've had the pleasure of shooting with an XT-1 or XT-2 you know how huge that view finder is.
That's not say the EVF on the X100F is bad, it's exquisite, but my limited use of the XT-1 spoiled me. I find the EVF to be fast and very clear, even in dark conditions. It's better than the EVF on the Sony a6000 for sure. And it's light-years ahead of the EVF on the original X100. Man, that thing is slow and clunky, but it was a marvel in its day. Being a hybrid viewfinder, you also have the OVF, which I rarely use. In bright conditions maybe, but I don't have much to say about it other than it's nice to have.
Most of the time when I'm shooting, I'm in full manual mode or aperture priority mode with my ISO set manually. I know a lot of people love the auto ISO function on the Fuji cameras, but I just can't get used to it. I'll keep trying but I like being in control of my ISO. I use many of the default settings for the function buttons but, like I mentioned before, I use the front viewfinder button to front-button focus. I set the Fn button to switch focus modes. I have played around with the flash and I think there are certain situations where it could actually work as many on-camera flashes are pretty lousy, this one might have potential.
Getting used to a new camera takes time. My muscle memory is fully trained to work with the Sony a6000, but the more I shoot with the X100F, the more in tune I become with this little camera. One of the biggest advantages to the X100 series is how small they are. They aren't Sony RX100 small, but small enough to carry almost anywhere. The size alone improves the shooting experience because I have it with me. I can't say that about the many other cameras I've owned. The other thing that's so great is that I have no internal debate about which lenses to bring when I go out and shoot. Analysis paralysis be damned, I have only one lens!
Once you've shot with a particular focal length for any amount of time, it becomes intuitive to bring the camera to your eye knowing exactly what you're going to get. That's a big advantage and shooting with the X100F and its 23mm (35mm equivalent) focal length becomes natural very quickly. The manual dials also allow you to change settings for a given situation without ever switching the camera on and, like I said before, I really like that. All of these little things add up some big advantages with regard to speed and being ready, which is something any street shooter will appreciate. After a few more months of use, I fully expect to achieve device oneness (write that down) with this thing. Yep, camera Zen. That's when you're so used to a device, you don't even realize your using it when shooting, keeping all attention on the subject, on composition, on light.
I'll admit it: I'm a pixel peeper, but only at first. Once I use a camera for a while and I get to know its strengths and weaknesses, there's no reason to keep zooming into 100% in Lightroom. Anyway, image quality. Surprise surprise, it's really good. The new 24 megapixel sensor on the Fuji cameras is what you would expect, nothing short of fantastic. The images are sharp, the colors are breathtaking and the file size is just right for making large prints if one so desires. I opt to shoot using compressed RAW, reducing file sizes by around 20 megabytes and I can't see a difference in quality between compressed and un-compressed RAW files for the life of me.
The lens on the X100F remains unchanged since the inception of the series. Many have complained that Fuji should update it, but I disagree. If something is working, there's little reason to change. As others have noted, the lens is well matched to the new sensor, which speaks to its versatility having gone from 12 to 24 megapixels and still resolving detail masterfully. Yes, the lens is fairly soft up close at f/2.0. So what. Once you know this, you either avoid that situation or take advantage of it when it makes sense. I shot an XT-1 with the 23mm f/1.4 and I will say that XF lens is sharper, but the X100F's 23mm has its own character and character matters...so I'm told.
The un-nameable thing. The quality that's hard to describe because it's emotional, that's the XFactor. The Fuji X100F oozes XFactor. I call it soul. It's got soul. And what is soul but a unique personality? One of a kind. I know it's just a piece of equipment. A tiny image-making computer in a retro body, but there's something about this electronic device that inspires me. Not just me, but countless other photography pros and enthusiasts. All the while Fuji has slowly improved the inner workings of this camera series, they haven't compromised its personality. The X100 series hasn't jumped the shark after 6 years and 4 iterations. It just gets better.
Okay, it's not all wine and roses. I'm human and if there's anything humans are good at, it's complaining about things that are otherwise really good. The freaking Q button! Who the hell decided to put the damn Q button right where my thumb naturally rests? C'mon! This shortcoming is easily remedied by using a proper thumb grip, but WTF? Also, as I already mentioned, why can't I adjust the shutter speed with the front dial? You see, my issue here is that I have take my thumb off the thumb grip, dial in my shutter speed, re-position my thumb then shoot. If I could just use the front dial with my already free index finger for the shutter speed, I'd be much faster. I know, I know: firmware update. Let's hope. But no firmware update will change the position of that damn Q button! Okay, I'm done. Those are my major gripes and as you can see, they're both few and petty.
Should You Buy It?
I don't know. Am I a mind reader? If you're looking for the Swiss Army Knife of cameras, don't buy this, consider the Sony RX10 series. If you like to shoot sports and action, well, this ain't the tool for you. Do you need maximum, high-megapixel resolution for your commercial and fashion work? Nope, keep shopping. Shooting video for...well any video? This is not your camera.
If you're into street photography, documentary photography or just want some casual family event coverage, the Fuji X100F is for you. That's not to say it isn't a serious camera because it's a formidable contender for many genres. I take street, documentary and family photography very seriously and this camera is perfect for my type of work. If you like simplicity and suffer from analysis paralysis, get this camera. It has a single lens so there's no decision to make. It's small. It makes life simple.
So there you have it. Hopefully I've added something to the discussion on the Fuji X100F. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.