Did anyone mention an age of austerity? Certainly not at Fuji Towers, from whence has appeared the manufacturer's most expensive and inevitably most exciting digital camera for coming up to a decade. Announced at Photokina six months ago but just hitting the shelves now for a price of £999.99, the 12.3 effective megapixel FinePix Finepix X100 has got the photographic industry seriously a-buzz.
The basics of the new high-end model are this: it's a compact camera boasting a large APS-C sized CMOS sensor (of the sort normally only found in SLRs), a fixed 35mm equivalent lens with bright f/2.0 maximum aperture, and a gorgeously classic construction. The combination of which should result in superb quality photos, with low light performance being particularly exceptional. Something that is only highlighted by the presence of a maximum ISO12800, the kind of spec found on a semi pro DSLR.
The target audience here is the monied digital SLR user looking for a more portable back up. And one who presumably isn't sufficiently tempted by a compact system camera such as the Sony NEX series, Olympus Pens, Panasonic Lumix G, Samsung NX or even the Ricoh GXR as an alternative. All retail for less money, and all, unlike the Fuji, allow the optic on the front to be swapped. Other yet more portable premium compact contenders include the Canon PowerShot G12, Nikon CoolPix P7000, Samsung EX1, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 and Olympus XZ-1. Again they're all impressive and again considerably cheaper.
The camera the Fuji most reminds us of most though in terms of tongue-lolling luxuriousness is the Leica X1. Like the X100, that too features an APS-C sized sensor just like a DSLR proper, plus a 36mm equivalent lens (in 35mm film terms) to the Fuji's 35mm. At the time of writing the Leica X1 was retailing for £1395, having held its value since its release over a year ago; making the X100 actually good value in comparison. Whereas that model sports a bright f/2.8 aperture though, the Fuji offers up an even brighter maximum f/2.0. Set against that is the fact the Leica branding has a perceived worth of its own, with the emphasis being on perceived.
Inevitably you get Raw capture as well as JPEG, however video isn't so well catered for with just 1280x720 pixel clips at 24 frames per second on offer. Standard focus distance is 80cm to infinity, or 10cm to two metres in macro close up mode.
As we're 'stuck' with the one lens, the X100 has to satisfy as an all rounder as is, which regardless of your photographic merits is always going to be something of a struggle. It's therefore a camera on which your images benefit from a more considered, reflective approach to subject matter. With its maker describing the X100 as delivering the best image quality in its long and illustrious history, has this move towards enticing the well-heeled photo enthusiast rather than typical Argos shopper paid off? Read on to find out...