By Josh Fate
With no mode dials or scene modes, you will need to know a little about using a camera manually to operate it. Both aperture and shutter speed dials feature full manual control and an A mode. With both settings at A (Auto), the camera will be entered into a "P"rogram mode. You can also enter aperture or shutter priority modes by leaving one dial in the A position, and manipulating the corresponding dial. This saves you time in switching your shooting modes. Movie, Panorama and all burst and bracketing modes can be found under the Drive menu. On the top right of the camera is another dial that controls the exposure compensation. While this is convenient while shooting, the dial is very easily moved and is often not where you left it when you take it out of your camera bag/case. This resulted in several over or underexposed images during our tests. Operating the 4-way controller is the only other part of the camera that we had trouble with during our testing. While the dial around the controller works easily, the controller itself is not stiff enough, making it difficult to select the option that you are trying for.
There are two options for framing and viewing your images, either using the 2.8-inch, 460,000 dot LCD screen or the new hybrid optical/electronic view finder. The X100's LCD is the easiest way to view your captured images and is a good option for framing your next shot.This is one of the few cameras on the market where the LCD it is not the highest quality framing option available. Your best framing option is the hybrid viewfinder. Electronically, it features a 1,440,000 dot resolution screen that features 100% frame coverage. Here you will see all of the shooting information from the LCD screen and there is no worry about any glares from bright lights or the sun. There is also the optical viewfinder which shows a very useful amount of information as well. It also allows the camera to increase its performance by reducing shutter lag times down to 0.01 seconds. Here you also have the option for an information overlay, allowing you to see all of the EVF information in the OVF, just with a different look. Next to the viewfinder is an eye sensor that automatically switches from the LCD to the viewfinder when the camera is put up to your face.
Performance from the X100 lives up to Fuji's claims pretty well. With the camera's quick startup turned on and using the optical view finder (fastest option), it is able to capture its first image in just 2.1 seconds. With the camera pre-focused, the shutter lag is less than 1/10 of second, although we are not equipped to tell if it is as fast as 1/100 of a second. While allowing the auto focus to work, it took approx. 3/10 of a second to capture an image. Its shot-to-shot delay is 8/10 of a second without the flash and 9/10 of a second with it. Fuji claims the Burst rates on the camera are 5fps and 3fps. At 5fps, the camera came up just a little shy in our tests, giving us a rate of 4.55fps (up to 10 frames, 8 frames with RAW capture). At 3fps, the camera came out to exactly that, capturing 10 images in 3.0 seconds (up to 10 frames, 8 frames with RAW capture). Turning on RAW shooting does not have a big impact on performance, except for the number of images that the camera can capture at a time. All times captures using Program mode, ISO 200, and a Class 10 SDHC memory card. Times may vary depending in camera settings used, lighting, media, etc.
Looking at our outdoor sample images, you can see that the X100's image quality is outstanding. The new EXR system provides image quality that has far surpassed what we are used to seeing from Fuji. Its samples are incredibly sharp with great exposures and amazing color. Even when looking at the images at 100%, there is nothing that stands out as a flaw in the images. Chromatic aberrations, ghosting and image noise are well controlled, leaving us with images of exactly what the photographer's eye sees. Our macro mode sample shows the amazing, high resolution image that the camera is capable of. The detail and textures shown within the image speaks for itself.
Our indoor sample scene shows with even more detail how clear of an image the X100 is capable of capturing. All the way from ISO 100 (LOW), to ISO 12800 (HIGH) and all of the normal levels in between, each setting provides amazing quality. Up until ISO 1600, you will see relativley no noise within the image; what you will see is an amazing amount of detail that far surpasses most low to mid range dSLR cameras. Looking at the higher settings in our tests, there is not one that shows an amount of image noise that is too much to use for at least an 8x10-inch print. Assisting with your low-light image capture is a small but powerful built-in TTL flash unit. With an effective range of up to 29.5ft. at ISO 1600, this unit can provide enough light for a mid-sized room with no problem. Combining this with the incredibly low noise levels allows you to comfortably use these higher ISO settings for your indoor shooting. If you need to provide even more light, Fuji also sells some optional external TTL flashes that can mount onto the camera's hot-shoe.
Since there is no special scene modes, there is no Portrait shooting mode or face detection. As you can see from our samples, just focusing on a face is more than enough. These images came out so clear that you can see the details all the way down to the texture of the skin and individual hairs on their heads. Even when using the flash there is incredible detail and absolutely no redness in the eyes of our subjects.
Fuji did include a couple special shooting modes to assist you with a few special shooting situations. All of these options are found under the camera's drive menu. First we have the Motion Panorama mode, allowing you to just pan with the camera while it does all the work capturing images of either 120° or 180°. The camera uses a smaller image file for this mode, but as you can see in the sample, it puts together a seamless panorama image. Its other shooting modes include the burst capture (above) modes and some useful bracketing modes. You will find bracketing for Film Simulation, ISO, Exposure and Dynamic Range.
The X100 also boasts 720p HD video capture. With the quality of the other features and functions on this camera, this seems like it could have been a last minute addition. Its image quality is better than most digicams, and control over your movies is limited to the size, aperture and manual/auto focus. With aperture selection, you will want to keep it as low as possible, and the manual focus is not very effective for following a moving object. Sound is recorded in stereo by two very small microphones built into the camera, but Fuji did not include a way to hook up an external mic for sound that would match the image quality. Your movies are also limited to 10 minutes, no matter what size and speed SD card you are using.
Powering the X100 is a large 3.6V, 1800mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. While completing our tests, we captured 215 images and videos without having any battery issues. In fact, there was plenty of power left. This fits well with Fuji's claims of approx. 300 images on a single charge. Also included with the camera is a portable quick charger, allowing you keep several batteries charged and on hand at all times. Extra batteries are a must if you plan on long trips or vacations with this camera; especially considering that this camera boasts a battery life more in line with a consumer point-n-shoot, rather than a dSLR or EVIL camera.
Bottom Line - Fuji's FinePix X100 is a huge step in image quality and performance for them. Their new APS-C EXR system performs without a hitch, providing amazing image quality and excellent performance. The fixed, high quality 35mm equivalent, f/2.0 lens makes low-light shooting a pleasure. Although this is designed more for advanced shooters and hobbyist, its exposure control ranges from Program Auto to Full manual control with a few options in between, which will allow less experienced users to "learn" the exposure process while using the camera. With a MSRP of US $1,199.95, this is an expensive camera to say the least, rivaling the cost of many mid-level dSLRs. However, if a high quality, fixed lens camera is interesting to you, you will not be disappointed with the X100's feel, image quality, and performance.
Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.
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