Fujifilm X100F review:A first-rate advanced compact shoots for stellar
The Good The Fujifilm X100F produces excellent photos and the updated autofocus system is a great improvement. Plus, it improves on the control layout and retains the manual-optimized shooting design and fast lens that have made it a favorite.
The Bad Sad battery life.
The Bottom Line An advanced compact for wide-angle and manual-photography fans, the Fujifilm X100F improves upon an already great camera with better autofocus performance and a fine-tuned design on top of its already excellent photo quality.
Sharp and snappy
It helps that Fujifilm has finally updated the sensor in the line, increasing resolution from 16.3MP to 24.3MP, and the combination of the new sensor and the sharp, fixed focal-length lens delivers excellent photos. There’s a bit of wide-angle distortion on the edges that’s to be expected from a 35mm lens (especially one that’s physically 23mm), but otherwise it’s sharp edge to edge and has graceful background defocus with round highlights.
The manual warns you that shooting at the Low expanded ISO setting can decrease dynamic range, and it really does blow out more highlights. That’s too bad, because you need lower sensitivity the most when the scene is very bright; there’s a built-in neutral density filter, but it reduces exposure by 3 EV. And I highly suggest you spring for the optional lens hood (which requires the optional adapter ring) if you plan on shooting in bright sunlight. Flare!
Some things haven’t changed: It’s still a solid but hefty-feeling camera at over 2 pounds/470 g, and could still stand to have a slightly deeper grip. It’s got an aperture ring on the lens (now it can be adjusted in 1/3 stops) and ISO sensitivity has moved into the shutter speed dial, which you lift up and twist to adjust in order to change sensitivity.
While it’s optimized for photographers who like buttons and dials and levers and whatnot, you can use it in complete auto if you want; just set the shutter, aperture and ISO to A. Like many a Leica, the X100F is designed so you can choose exposure settings with the camera off — some street photographers like to be able to (somewhat ironically) simply point and shoot without looking, and I occasionally work that way. However, the shutter-speed and ISO sensitivity dials have small text that may frustrate some people, and I really, really wish they were illuminated or glow-in-the-dark, because they’re almost impossible to see in low light. That means you have to look through the viewfinder while changing settings.
One of the camera’s continuing highlights is the versatile viewfinder, in which the front lever toggles between electronic and reverse-Galilean optical with an electronic overlay that can display the frame offset caused by parallax, focus areas and other information. It includes a rangefinder-like split-image for manual focus, which operates by switching to the EVF and magnifying the center. You can choose to have it display in monochrome, as well. It’s quite nice; I’ve never been able to focus via split-image, even back when it was the only focus option on cameras, but the X100F’s is quite usable. It also has good focus peaking. I do wish the focus ring was a little bigger and tighter, though.
An issue with dials is there’s a physical limit to the number of options you can put on them. So there’s now a “C” (custom) option on the exposure compensation dial that provides digital access to a couple more stops of adjustments, from +/-3 EV to +/-5. The ISO sensitivity dial only has one “H” for the expanded range, so you have to preset in the menus whether you want that to be ISO 25600 or ISO 51200. And video shooting is still an afterthought; it’s considered a drive mode and uses the shutter button to start and stop.
Both the front and back dials now function as jog dials — for instance, you access the extended exposure-compensation range by pressing the front dial and turning — and the back controls have been much simplified. I don’t really like layouts where important buttons are on the left side of the display; to use them you usually have to look at the back of the camera. Fujifilm removed all the buttons you use while shooting, leaving just those you use while reviewing images on the right side of the screen. A new joystick (called the “Focus Stick” or “Focus Lever”) allows you to select your focus areas.
Fujifilm also has a pretty robust app for remote shooting, reviewing and transferring via Wi-Fi.
The Fujifilm X100F remains a top choice for people who want something (relatively) affordable and who prize the experience of manual photography as much as the photos.