This is an uncommon type of review, because it focuses on details. The little things, which are often overlooked in reviews, yet are important. Obscure issues like bokeh problems with the mechanical shutter will be discussed as well.
Operation Speed and Raw Files
When switched on, it takes a short moment until the camera can take a photo. Three power modes are available, beside other things effecting wake-up time, autofocus speed and battery life. I don’t like to slow anything down just to have the battery last a bit longer. A full charge will be good for 250-350 exposures only. The camera comes with an external charger, but charging through USB is possible as well. For practical camera operation, one has to buy at least one additional battery.
I rarely switch the camera off and rely on auto-off instead. If the switch is still in “On” position, a half-pressed shutter turns the X100F on.
I tested the buffer clearing speed with several SD cards and several image configurations. This example is for Jpeg (Fine) + Raw (Compressed), measured after an 8 fps burst filled the buffer:
|Card writing speed (up to)||Buffer clear time|
|40 MB/s||25 seconds|
|90 MB/s||13 seconds|
|180 MB/s||12 seconds|
The table shows that the 180 MB/s cannot nearly be utilized because the X100F supports only UHS-I. While the buffer is written, the camera can take additional photos until the buffer is full again.
Further tests with different configurations like Raw-only, both compressed and uncompressed, show that the buffer clearing speed is mostly dependent on the data volume written to the card. This implies that the X100F’s internal processor can handle Jpeg creation and Raw compression without noticeable delay. A fast SD card also speeds up the playback for single shots. I thoroughly recommend to not slow down the X100F with a slow memory card.
Fujifilm uses a non-standard sensor color mask for many cameras, including the X100F. This requires a non-standard approach to convert the Raw data into images on a computer. I cannot recommend any particular application to develop X100F raw files because I know only one.
Jpeg Files and Film Simulations
All 3:2 format photos in this article are straight out of camera without any editing on the computer.
The X100F is with me almost everywhere I go. Disk space becomes a concern over time. Even time becomes a concern over time – I don’t have the time to develop all these Raw files. For special occasions I still use Raw, but solid Jpeg options exist as well.
Both Raw and Jpeg can use with the camera’s Dynamic Range setting of 200% and 400%. This option increases noise, but helps to reduce white clipping in highlights.
With Jpeg “Fine” compression, images take up to 15 MB. Now I mostly use “Normal”, getting images up to 9 MB. The quality loss is acceptable for everyday use.
The X100F is not a camera which aims to provide a fully neutral Jpeg image output. The standard mode – a so-called film simulation named “Provia” – already processes the image quite a bit, but yields a result which looks good on many different displays. In order to get this robustness, some nuance is lost, and sometimes I find the green tones too saturated. Overall, still a good choice for about everything.
The other simulations focus on a particular aspect, like color, or shades of brightness. Jpeg output can be adjusted with separate highlight and shadow strength. I often use shadows -2, meaning shadows are brighter. Setting highlights to -1 or -2, making them darker, often improves the level of detail in clouds, but small-area highlights lose some punch.
White Balance (WB)
Auto-WB is usually quite good. At daylight, Auto-WB can shift colors slightly to purple, while the daylight WB setting provides almost perfect colors with direct sunlight. The X100F offers a lot more WB modes, which makes the selection impractical as there are too many to scroll through.
As solution I sometimes use the custom image profiles, because they also store the WB mode and can be quickly changed with the Quick menu. But if I expect changing conditions, I rely on the Auto-WB mode – because a slightly suboptimal output is better than having manually picked the wrong WB setting. Doing some WB corrections later on the computer can help to get more natural colors. If perfect colors are required, the Raw option is always available.
Function Buttons And Menu Options
Only one button is labelled “Fn”, all other programmable buttons are more or less optically hidden. The D-pad has some assignable buttons as well. I find this very useful, as I was able to set the D-pad function similar to the camera model I used before.
AEL/AFL can be highly customized and re-assigned. The “Raw” function button changes its effect depending on the Jpeg/Raw mode currently set. So it either toggles, or activates Raw just for the next exposure. And there are two different ways to select another shutter/iso profile. One option is very fast, the other one however avoids selecting a fixed iso by accident. The focus assistance changes its function depending on the context, and can do different things depending on how long it is pressed.
All controls are comfortable to reach, while the Q button for the Quick menu is even too easy to reach. Once can lock the D-pad and Q button in order to prevent unintended changes. This also helps to prevent operating errors when someone else is asked to take a photo.
If seven function buttons and 16 Quick menu items (which are also changeable) are not enough, one can create a “My Menu”, which then becomes the default menu page.
The playback function is intelligent: When zoomed in, the camera remembers the zoom and position when switched to the next image. The rear dial button jumps directly to the focus area with max zoom, allowing a quick focus check. Switching to the next image will now zoom into the new image’s focus area.
There is no way to set daylight saving time. One has to either change the internal time, or use the option to setup a second time zone.
The built-in Raw converter is quite basic, one cannot even change Jpeg size/compression. If Jpeg images are cropped, the new image is not saved in the optimal new resolution and instead in one of few standard resolutions, with “640” labeled wrong.
If the Adobe RGB color space is selected for Jpeg recording, the camera playback function displays those images with less saturation. (Some, but not all computer applications do the same mistake.)
The X100F autofocus can miss. Not in the sense of focusing on another area than selected, instead it just focuses wrong, so that the entire image is out of focus. Before taking an important exposure, the focus has to be checked, for example using image magnification. As an alternative, a focus distance indicator is available. In most cases, the focus works fine, but it can miss when left unchecked. This is my number one annoyance with the camera and continues to cause frustration.
Because I sometimes accidentally move the ring around the lens, I would like to get the option to disable it in autofocus/Jpeg mode.
Sometimes I work with a manual focus set to a medium distance, also using a smaller aperture, so that the image will be sharp enough without having to refocus at all. This circumvents any delay before the shutter release. Since firmware 1.01, the camera remembers the manual focus distance when turned on again.
In order to photograph through leafage, manual focus is required because even the smallest spot-AF area is too large. If one wants to frame and focus-check at the same time, the hybrid viewfinder mode can be used. A bit cumbersome, but it can be done.
The manual focus mode offers a few assistants. A 6x magnification with pixel highlighting is the best option, allowing precise focus checks even though the image appears a bit grainy at this magnification level. There is a 2.5x magnification as well, appearing roughly as large as with the naked eye. While in manual focus mode, one can use the AF-lock function in order to have the camera perform an autofocus. This can serve as a quick start for further manual focusing. The alternative is to use autofocus by default, with subsequent manual changes.
Another manual assistant is the digital split image. While not providing the highest precision, nor the full analogue experience, it is possible to operate the X100F quasi-analogue. This is useful to remove unnecessary distractions and instead just doing some photography. I also disabled many information overlays, however some are quite useful, like the electronic level.
Using The Display And The Viewfinder
In many cases it is convenient to let the camera do the focus. The autofocus points are evenly distributed, with phase detection in the middle and contrast-only points left and right. For the spot-AF mode, additional points are available, which are placed exactly between the other ones. I enjoy this regular AF pattern.
Both the optical viewfinder and the rear display are optimized for landscape mode, very few elements rotate when the camera is used in portrait mode. However, the electronic viewfinder rotates its overlay completely.
There is no PSAM mode wheel on the X100F, as the shutter and aperture value have their own wheel each, but the camera can show the current mode in PSAM nomenclature on the display, helping users which come from other cameras.
The display has a resolution of 720×480 RGB pixels, the EVF uses 1080×720 pixels, both at 60 frames per second. The viewfinder image is not as big as in a big camera, and there are also some lag issues, for example it takes a split second until the EVF is ready, or until the autofocus starts in hybrid mode. Nevertheless, I use the viewfinder a lot, in all modes, and like that I get this much flexibility allowing me to adapt to any situation.
Shutter And Bokeh Issues
The mechanical shutter (MS) is sometimes not fast enough to keep up. With the full f/2 aperture, the X100F restricts the mechanical shutter in auto-mode to 1/1000s. Even then, the exposure begins only at a time the two shutter blades are already closing, leaving a wedge-shaped actual aperture. This affects the bokeh.
Manual operation allows 1/4000s for the mechanical shutter, though the camera warns at f/2, resulting now in even more deteriorated bokeh.
If the shutter speed is set to auto, those issues are rarely ever apparent. However if bokeh is paramount, even 1/500s should be avoided at f/2.
The electronic shutter (ES) usually appears to be a good alternative, having none of these bokeh issues. However, artificial light which works with very fast pulses, will cause dark stripes in the image. Quick movement in the frame will show the sensor readout pattern which apparently reads every eighth line at a time. The flash cannot be used, nor extended iso values. All these issues are gone with the mechanical shutter.
In order to keep the mechanical shutter usable for short exposures, once can enable the build-in grey filter, which lengthens the time by a factor of eight. However, said ND filter impacts the sharpness of the image if looked at closely.
While all this sounds negative, the X100F is in fact very good: The mechanical shutter with two leaves shows less artifacts compared to a slit shutter, and is quite fast for a camera of this class. Also, the shutter is very quiet. The ND filter option is always there without having to get extra equipment and allows to use large apertures with the mechanical shutter. The electronic shutter option allows extremely short exposure times and the best bokeh. Also, it is completely quiet.
Look And Feel, Accessories
Button and wheels are not exactly on par with a professional device, but almost there. No parts feel cheap, not even the two doors which are made of plastic. The artificial leather coating is okay, but I almost always put the camera in the Fuji leather case (optional purchase) anyway. From time to time I clean both sides of the viewfinder.
The backside of the body looks very clean despite the many controls, because there are very few pictographs and labels. I protect the display with a rather thick plastic foil. The front face of the camera looks very nice, and there are no distracting labels or numbers, only the lens has a description printed on.
The X100F appeal stems from its somewhat analogue looks and the flat lens with a rather small front lens diameter of just some 11 mm. Actual analogue film cameras often have a much larger front lens diameter, like 25 mm.
However I use a 49 mm protection filter, which requires an adapter ring. That ring makes the lens barrel much longer, and some people regard the filter as the front lens element. The camera now looks like a high-performance device and loses some of its cuteness. In some cases I remove this protection in order to get the appealing X100 shape back.
For everyday use, I keep that filter on, with the adapter ring also serving as a mini-lenshood, though flaring is still an issue. At least, the Fuji leather case can be closed with this configuration.
Tripod mounting is only possible when the Fuji case is taken off. I then also use a cable release (original Fujifilm X cable release). This looks cool, it also allows to take an image with less shake caused by the release. The alternative with a two-second timer would remove the ability to take a picture at the right moment.
In most parts, I like the lens – so let us now get to the limitations. The corners of the frame in the standard 3:2 format will always be soft. An open aperture can cause color fringes, and night shots will show a strange corona around bright spotlights. In close range, even the image center will become soft with additional sharpness loss outside. Regardless of aperture, there is a bit of barrel-shaped image distortion. Scattered light and lens flaring can be a problem as well.
Some effects can be corrected in digital postprocessing, other issues have to be considered before the photo is taken. This requires some experience. But even with moderate apertures, the image is not as as tack sharp as a full-size lens could offer.
If someone spends 1400 Euros on a camera, I can imagine one expects near-perfect images and then will be disappointed by the X100F. In addition, the bokeh options are limited with 23 mm physical focal length and the f/2 maximum aperture. Would I like to see an f/1.4 lens instead?
Absolutely not. Such lens would introduce larger optical issues, and/or be considerably bulkier, heavier, more expensive.
Again this chapter sounds negative, but the X100F is a compact camera, so it cannot be compared with a full-size device. The lens was apparently optimized for medium aperture with quite good results, and keeps wide open aperture settings usable in many cases. I am impressed by its performance and versatility.
In the right circumstances, non-ideal lens properties can even be used as an asset. The geometric image distortion, which is overall hardly noticeable, helps in group photos as it somewhat counters the wide-angle distortion. Flaring and scattered light, while difficult to control, can be used for dramatic sunlight effects. The open aperture sharpness falloff at close range draws an invisible circle around the comparably sharp image center. When photographing two heads, that effect underlines the closeness of those two.
The X100F lens is like the whole camera: You have to know what it is for.
If looked at individual properties, the X100F always leaves something to wish for. Many parts are a compromise in order to allow a compact body, also there is just one memory card slot and the battery life is mediocre. Some things are completely absent: There is no image stabilization, no weather sealing, no touch or tilt function for the screen. And on top of that, the non-interchangeable lens does not zoom.
In this light, the price tag of 1400 Euros seems laughable.
However, because I use the camera very often, I feel that the price is adequate. And the good looks, the oldschool yet efficient controls, the fast mechanical shutter, the fast operation speed, all this is fun. Add a flexible viewfinder, an X-Trans III sensor and a fast 35 mm equivalent lens, and you get a package which feels complete in itself.
The X100F can be used for many different applications, but I want to focus on just one thought: Fujifilm removed decisions and distractions. Like “which parts of my camera equipment do I take with me?”. Like “which new features – sensor shift, post focus, touch gestures – do I need to learn in order to fully utilize my camera?”. Even like “which zoom will be the best for this frame?” And if Jpegs are used, a great portion of subsequent digital editing can be removed as well.
All this allows me to do what I want: To concentrate and take a photo of what I see.
Some things cannot be photographed in a useful way with this camera, but the X100F experience changed my assessment of a camera. I no longer ask “What photos could I take with it” and rather “What photos do I take with it”. Because I get a lot of good photos with the X100F, I consider the high price tag acceptable. But anyone afraid of not having great focal length flexibility, weather sealing or an articulating screen, should not consider this camera at all.