The camera powers up from cold in a couple of seconds, meaning a fractional delay as you immediately move your forefinger from power switch to shutter release buton, but this is not too shabby by any means. Moreover, in not having a zoom that allows framing to be altered in seconds, the X100 promotes a more considered approach anyway, which is rarely a bad thing. That said the autofocus does take just that fraction longer than we might hope for if you’re trying to capture moving object such as pets.
Take a shot, and a Fine quality, full resolution JPEG is committed to memory, here SD, SDHC or SDXC card, in around two seconds. A Raw file is only a fractionally longer wait (under three seconds), and there is the opportunity to shoot Raw in conjunction with both a Fine compression level JPEG, and a highly more compressed ‘Normal’ level JPEG.
We were lucky enough to be testing the X100 under some early spring sunshine, giving rise to blue skies and verdant flora, conditions that were bound to show most cameras in (literally) the very best light. Incidentally, this was also perfect weather to test the X100’s built-in neutral density (ND) filter. Surely the Fuji couldn’t fail to impress?
Well yes, and no. Unfortunately such ‘ideal’ conditions very occasionally gave rise to familiar bugbears such as visible pixel fringing – most notably on dark tress branches part silhouetted against a bright sky – as well as burnt out highlights, but as these are common issues with the vast majority of digital cameras neither are deal breakers. It is in low(er) light then where, as expected, the X100 really shines. As our ISO samples show, it’s only really at top whack ISO12800 equivalent setting that we’re seeing visible degradation of sharpness across the entirety of the image as detail is smoothed in the limitation of image noise, but even then the performance isn’t bad at all. We’d be quite happy shooting at up to ISO6400 on a regular basis, and were hard pressed to find sign of any noise at ISO1600 and below. Impressive stuff.
In terms of which colour setting to go for on a regular basis, we found Velvia was the setting that seemed to best match what we were seeing with our own eyes at the time. Comes down to personal preference of course, but in our humble opinion the default Provia setting produced colours that were a tad drab and certainly less well saturated than nature intended, while Astia we felt was not only soft in appearance but also made images appear a little dated in style.
While for us the X100’s pictures don’t quite match the almost 3D richness of shots we’ve taken with the Leica X1, at their best we were hard pressed to distinguish them from those of a mid range DSLR, which, with a decent lens will admittedly set you back just as much as is being asked here. So as a more portable back up to an existing DSLR, provided you don’t need greater lens versatility than what is being offered, the X100 indeed fills the role that Fuji intended it to.
We’ve just skated on the surface of the X100’s possibilities here, but the bottom line is that if you are after a high-quality photo producing tool that will set your creative juices flowing then the X100 is a great choice. It particularly excels in low light and where you want the background thrown out of focus to concentrate the viewer’s gaze. Plus, like those Leicas of yesteryear, the rock solid build quality should allow you to keep shooting for years.
The Fujifilm X100 certainly isn’t for everyone with its fixed lens, sizeable body and even more sizeable price tag. However, its rock-solid build quality, superb image quality – with exceptional low light performance – and more compact stance than an equivalent DSLR means it will have pride of place for many enthusiasts and pros as a back up to their main kit. However, if in the unlikely event that you’re considering this camera without already owning a DSLR, then we’d have to concede that any one of many low- to mid-range DSLRs, such as the Nikon D3100 or Canon EOS 550D, would be a more sensible bet. The Leica X1 offers an almost directly comparable alternative but at several hundred pounds more, the X100 is the clear choice of those two.