REVIEW: Fujifilm Finepix X100

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2566_X100_frontside.jpgName: Finepix X100 (Fujifilm)

Type: Compact digital camera

Specs: Click here for full specs

Price: £999 from Amazon

Image Gallery: Click here

review-line.JPGIt may look like an analogue relic from a bygone age, but this latest snapper from Fujifilm is full to the brim with ground-breaking, class-leading digital tech that puts other compacts to shame. Is it enough to justify the Finepix X100’s whopping price tag though?
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The Finepix X100 has obviously been a labour of love for Fujifilm. Every single aspect of its build seems finely detailed, recalling the same retro-chic that only Lecia seem to have been able to successfully conjure of late. Mixing a powder-finished magnesium alloy body with a textured leather wrap, its as though the camera’s just jumped out of the Tardis after a trip to 1960s, and it all feels nice and sturdy. Likewise, the metal control dials found on the top are solidly put together too, and even the potentially flimsy plastic control wheel on the rear feels secure to the touch. It’s satisfyingly weighty at 445 grams, though it also means the X100 could hardly be considered pocket-friendly.

For all its old-skool looks however, the Finepix X100 is a decidedly modern camera under its chassis. Despite its somewhat-misleading compact categorisation, you’re actually getting a ton of pro-level features and genuine innovations that a regular point-and-shoot compact could only dream of. If the £1,000 price tag wasn’t enough of a clue, the fixed-lens X100 is aimed squarely at enthusiasts.

An unusual 12.3-megapixel image sensor sits inside, with an APS-C size format. It’s a fair sight larger than the sensor you’d find in the majority of compacts, and sits closer to the DSLR end of the digital camera scale, allowing for great results at high ISO levels by drawing in substantially more light. To illustrate, you’ll be able to hit ISO 6,400 when capturing RAW files and ISO 12,800 when snapping JPEG images.

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The fixed-lens set-up here is just as strange too. Wide angle with a fixed focal length of 23mm with aperture values of f2-f16, it also allows plenty of light to reach the image, and lowers the levels of edge distortion to your pictures. It does however detract from the camera’s flexibility however, as it means the camera doesn’t pack any optical zoom features, which will definitely frustrate casual users.

Rounding off a trio of unusual features is the Finepix X100’s hybrid viewfinder, which is in many respects the camera’s crown jewel. A switch on the front of the camera allows the user to swap on the fly between an optical viewfinder as found on the analogue cameras from which the X100 takes its retro inspiration, and a 1,440,000-pixel electronic viewfinder. It’s a “best of both worlds” scenario; on one hand you get the clarity of the optical viewfinder which is great for establishing a scene, but it offers less coverage than the electronic option which also allows you to overlay shot and settings data across the image, as well as getting the 100% coverage necessary for accurate framing. Used in conjunction with the rear-mounted 2.8 inch LCD panel and it’s a highly efficient system.

Offering a far more detailed level of control than your average compact, it’s a crime to leave the Finepix X100 in auto-mode, though doing so will throw up finely detailed snaps nonetheless. No, delving into the wizardry behind each dial is the order of the day, but as a result this is not a camera for the casual photography fan.

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Aperture settings can be tweaked using a front lens ring, which while responsive, was a little too small to comfortably tweak on the fly. Top mounted dials for exposure compensation and shutter speed sit on the top. Beyond these hardware controls, most other settings can be tweaked with a scroll wheel/control pad set up within deep menus.

Once played about with, the camera offers delightful shots in most every scenario. Colours are rich and without being overly-saturated, accurate without being washed out. Digital artefacting is incredibly low for what is still “technically” a compact, while a welcome bokeh effect (putting sharp objects into relief of their softer surroundings) looks astounding. As mentioned earlier, low light shooting is great thanks to excellent response at high ISO settings, remaining noise-free. Those who like to shoot high-speed action scenarios will be frustrated by the camera’s relatively slow boot time of a few seconds, though will likely find its burst shooting settings of 10 JPEGs or 8 RAW shots at up to 5 frames a second fair compensation.

Though we fell in love with the X100’s quirks and charms, it did have a handful of problems that left us a little wanting. Though the addition of 720p HD video recording is a welcome one, we found its clarity here to be a little lacking in detail, and at times out-and-out choppy. Though options for single and continuous autofocus are available, we found the later of the two options in 720p recording mode a little sluggish. We were also a little disappointed with the afore-mentioned 2.8 inch LCD. Though perfectly serviceable, the 460K res screen could easily have been bumped up to an OLED for this price, and given the size of the camera as a whole, a few simply accommodated tweaks to the rear button layout could have allowed for a considerably larger display. Macro mode left a little to be desired too, with 10cm being roughly the closest that the camera could satisfyingly focus from.

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Verdict:

Not quite as flexible as a DSLR, nor as user friendly as a standard compact, the Finepix X100 is a bit of an anomaly in the digital camera market. It’s lovingly designed, and its hybrid viewfinder may well prove to be a sneak-peek at the future of high-end snappers, not to mention the sheer quality of the images it produces. Though it remains a niche product, those looking for a unique compact offering lots of technical control will find a lot to love here.

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4/5

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Fujifilm Finepix X100 – GALLERY

Gerald Lynch

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