New FujiFilm X100

Disclaimer: I am no gear addict and the usual discussions about camera and lens bother me… I just need a good tool I am comfortable with and that gives good results. For information the current camera I use is a Fuji S5 DSLR (basically a Nikon D200 with Fuji sensor) and a Tamron 17-50 f2.8 zoom, most of the time at widest focal (which gives an approximate 26mm width in equiv 35mm film). I like this combo, it is not that bad – although it is not the most appropriate gear for what I am after. My real concern is that the sensor is not FF and cropped sensors (x1.5 or so) really suck for wide angle (you get the distortion of a 20mm for a 35 frame). And for sure I would prefer a RF camera, with 24 or 28 and 35mm primes. But I don’t want to invest on a Leica M9 because frankly it is too expensive and IMO way overpriced.

But yesterday I learned that Fujifilm is about to issue the new Finepix X100, a new 12M digital compact camera which looks like that:

… and it looks really good, isn’t it ?

OK, it looks good, but will it be really good ? The first thing that I find is misleading is that you might think it is a rangefinder camera. But it is not. It is basically a compact camera with both optical (*) and electronic viewfinder. Optical viewfinders differ from RF which are completely different beasts, especially  for (manual) focusing purpose.

The X100 will come with a 23mm f2.0 prime lens which is described as very good. It is a fixed prime, as far as I understood. Together with the cropped sensor x1,5 magnification you come up with 35mm frame. Here I have the same concern that with my Fuji S5, and the focal length is not wide enough for me. But if the lens is good I probably can live with that, at least as a second all-purpose camera.

One thing I wonder is focusing. Does the X100 allows manual focus operation ? It is not quite clear from what I have read so far. But I noticed that 1/ the lens does not seem to have a manual focus ring (I believe the ring is for aperture) and 2/ the lens barrel has no distance/DOF scale (see pic below, view from top).

And that – together with a mere optical viewfinder – is a clue for a not-so comfortable manual focus (assuming that manual focus is possible with the X100). I personally almost always use pre-focusing technique for street shots, and that lack of DOF scale is a real flaw for me.

So… is the X100 just a (probably good) compact camera with vintage Leica/Contax look ? Or is it a valid substitution product for way-too-much-expensive digital RF camera ? Wait and see…

(*) – EDIT – and the Fuji website says the optical viewfinder of the X100 has only 90% coverage, which is disappointing.

10 thoughts on “New FujiFilm X100

  1. These camears puzzle me. Their intentions seem to be to replicate SLR qualities? Are they adapted to enable older lens’ to fit? Because the advantage of film is not the camera mechanics in my opinion, but the organic and more pleasant form of achieving an image, subsequently having more pleasing tonal values. I’ve seen the Leica M9 and it looks no more than simply a point and shoot camera from the 80s. What advantages do such cameras have? Won’t tones achieved in digital images always have a similar look?

  2. I agree Alex. And if it were not for the tedious film processing operation I would certainly go back to film which indeed looks better. But since I am more capture-oriented than final-result oriented (I doubt any of my pic will be hanged on any gallery) I think I will stick with digital, which is more handy and much less costy.

    But mechanics and ergonomics matters too. The pros (and cons) of a RF camera over a (D)SLR are the same whatever it is film or digital. With film camera you had way more choice at any price, from cheap second-hand to expensive high-end SLRs/RFs (not too speak about larger formats). Instead I find the digital camera market pretty narrow. All products are somewhat similar and the second-hand market is not that relevant. Today there is no alternative to big$$$ Leica M9 if you want to shoot FF digital and RF. And that sucks.

  3. Lol…. I stand corrected again – not in the photo on dpreview either, but there is a photo of it at photokina that I saw today where the marking for AF-S, AF-C, and MF are clearly marked on a sliding switch… honest:)

  4. That is nice info, thank you for that. I did check out some of the pics available and saw now hint about MF operation. So it could be that the 2 things on each side of the lens barrel are for aperture and the larger ring for MF. Anyway it is a shame that they forgot the distance scale on barrel.

  5. Hi Jaques,you could mark up your own distance scale couldn’t you? Never tried but with a bit of planning it might be do-able. . . They will probably come up with an add on wide angle lens like the RicohGX200 has for instance, and probably a telephoto add on too. There might be an option for pre set focal distances in the software in the camera ( like the GX200 in ‘snap’ mode ).
    I want to know if the results from an X100 will be as good as from a D90. if so, I might be seriously tempted. As for film, digital will be able to ‘impersonate’ the look and feel of film more and more closely soon, results wise, which will ultimately leave film with it’s organic process and the mindset that goes with that as the main (but still significant) difference. Whether ‘impersonating’ film is desireable or ethical is an interesting issue. .

    • Hi Jon. Yes, you are probably right about the distance scale. It is not a stopper for me anyway, just too bad Fuji did not think about it. OTOH you can’t expect camera makers to fulfill all your desire, it is part of the fun to sort it all out 🙂

      Interesting you mention WA/tele lens add-ons. There seems to be lot of buzz around the X100 and especially about the fixed lens concern. But I did not see the add-on option mentioned so far. But that makes sense of course.

      I think the big problem (at least to me) is not really in emulating film per se but to get enhanced dynamic range (which is the very drawback of digital IMO).

      Let’s wait some further tests and review of the X100. optical quality, sensor quality and response time will be the most important things to me. And if it is not overpriced I might really be tempted.

  6. I am also concerned about the lack of information on manual focusing and lack of distance scale. Marking up your own scale is not an option if the ring is electronic (i.e., it doesn’t matter where you start and stop turning). One way they could work around this is by having a digital distance scale and fixed manual focusing distances, similar to the Ricoh GRD cameras. Will have to wait to know more, it seems.

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