There’s no doubt that Fuji has been making some serious waves these past few months with their newest camera releases. The X-T2 has proved to be a worthy contender to the high end options of Canon and Nikon and the new X-T20 is solidifying Fuji’s commitment to improving their video features. In addition, the GFX has made waves through the photo world as a new, affordable medium format option. Fuji also released the fourth iteration of their cult classic X100 series alongside the X-T20 and GFX, and that’s what I want to talk about; the incredibly powerful and discreet underdog that is the X100F. I took the camera out for a few days for both a personal trip to the Columbus Zoo and for a few actual shoots to see how it fared for both serious and casual users.
The X100T, the F’s predecessor, was a hit camera for travelers, street photographers, cinematographers (as a light-weight on set camera), and even portrait photographers looking for an ultra light setup. The F has some distinct improvements that I feel make it a worthy upgrade for owners of the X100T, or even owners of other Fuji cameras like the X-Pro2 or X-T2. Fuji gave the X100F roughly the same makeover that they’ve given their other recent cameras: it’s gained the new X-Processor Pro and X-Trans CMOS III sensor, a combo that has proved itself time and time again in the X-Pro2 and X-T2. In real world use, the new processor and sensor show a jump in image quality both in resolution (24 megapixels in the F versus 16 megapixels in the T), and an increase in low light performance. Dynamic range and color have also improved thanks to the new processor. Essentially, the X100F against the X100T is much like the X-T2 against the X-T1. The X100F also boasts the focus point joystick that has become a hit in the new X cameras which makes adjusting focus points and areas much quicker. Ergonomically, the X100F sees a huge improvement by moving the buttons all to the right side of the camera, making for much more simple and comfortable operation. My favorite feature of the X100 series that has been around since the S, the leaf shutter, is fortunately still in the camera. I believe this to be what makes the X100F somewhat of a secret weapon. I’ll touch on this more later.
“It’s a vastly different approach to making a camera line up than that of Sony, Canon, and Nikon, but it works for them.”
If you’re a Fuji shooter already, you know exactly what image quality the X100F has, since it’s the same as the X-Pro2, X-T2 and even the X-T20. It’s a vastly different approach to making a camera line up than that of Sony, Canon, and Nikon, but it works for them since each camera is distinct in non image quality related features, the X100F potentially being the most distinct of them all. There are some stand out features that aren’t found in any of the other cameras, one of my favorites being the digital teleconverter. Now, I know what you’re thinking, it’s a digital zoom and that sucks no matter what. Fuji did something with the digital teleconverter that actually makes it a useable function though. Essentially once you pick the digital teleconverter in the menu, you can choose either a 50mm equivalent or a 70mm equivalent. From there, the camera crops the image in, but interpolates the data to offer you the “full” 24 megapixel resolution. This feature is only available in jpeg shooting, so some will see that as a no go, but considering how good the Fuji jpegs look I can see some uses for it in the real world. Here are a few images taken with the digital teleconverter applied.
I should also touch on the camera for a more casual use. In my time with it, I took it to the zoo for a day trip to see how it looked and I’m definitely impressed. Mind you, these are all jpeg images you’re seeing since there is no raw file support at the time of writing. I used a variety of film simulations and even the digital teleconverter on a few occasions and it really proved to be a versatile camera for this sort of use. Even in the dim light of some indoor exhibits the X100F performed just like my X-Pro2, providing clean files at much higher ISO settings than we were previously able to get from Fuji cameras. Harping on the small size and weight of the camera, it’s a pleasure to carry around. Even on the thin strap provided by Fuji, I hardly noticed the camera around my neck. It’s even small enough to fit in some larger pockets. While cell phones may be convenient and always with you, the image quality will never compare to something like the X100F and I certainly don’t see a problem carrying the X100F around with me.
Though I didn’t have the opportunity to test them, Fuji makes two optical converters for the X100F, one that changes the focal length to a 28mm equivalent and one that changes the focal length to a 50mm equivalent. With these you will get higher image quality as you can still shoot raw unlike the digital teleconverter. However, if you wanted to, the digital teleconverter could be applied alongside the 50mm optical converter to reach a (roughly) 105mm equivalent, thus greatly extending the X100F’s useful range of focal lengths. For the traveling photographer, or those that just value simplicity this is possibly the best option available. I can definitely see myself getting an X100F with the two optical converters for this reason. Well and the leaf shutter.
“Leaf shutters, will sync at much higher speeds, in this case 1/2000th of a second.”
Leaf shutters haven’t been very prevalent in digital photography up until the X100s a few years ago they were only available in high end medium format lenses. Since the lens of the X100 cameras is fixed to the body, it’s much easier to make a small, fast lens with a leaf shutter than it would be for an interchangeable lens system. For those that have never used a lens with a leaf shutter, it’s two big draws are the lack of audible noise, and the high flash sync speeds. It also gives better power from flashes as the newer radio high speed sync systems work by flashing a series of pulses in order to properly expose the sensor rather than one flash like normal. The problem that arises is that those few short flashes happen in such quick succession that the flash has to stay at a low power to recycle in time. A leaf shutter avoids this entirely, allowing for the full power range from your flashes, whether they’re speedlights or studio heads. Leaf shutters look much like a second aperture inside the lens, allowing it to close and open across the entire sensor at once, rather than exposing parts of a sensor at a time like conventional curtain shutters.
This defeats the biggest problem with flash sync speeds. Most cameras these days will have a maximum sync speed of 1/250th of a second. That’s because at any faster speed, the shutter will leave a shadow across the sensor from the flash. Leaf shutters, however, will sync at much higher speeds, in this case 1/2000th of a second. That’s three extra stops of ambient light that you can get rid of without the use of neutral density filters. As a side note, the X100F does have a built in three stop neutral density filter that can be engaged. That, in conjunction with the leaf shutter would give you as little ambient light as a 1/16,000th of a second high speed sync (which does not exist). High Speed sync will also allow you to better freeze motion in fast moving subjects, making this an amazing camera for various forms of flash photography.
While the maximum sync speed is a little too much in these examples (there wasn’t a ton of light outside to begin with), it goes to show how powerful of a tool the leaf shutter is. I personally prefer the images that were between 1/500th and 1/1,000th of a second shutter speed as the photo looks more natural to me. Had it been a day with a clear sky, harsher sun, and more ambient light the 1/2,000th of a second shutter would have come in handy. Just being able to go past 1/250th of a second is a standout feature due to how much control it offers you. For the professional photographer, this is revolutionary.
Another improvement the X100F has over the T and older models is autofocus speed. Being an X-Pro2 owner, I’m used to a pretty solid auto focus system with high accuracy and good tracking speed. The X100F seems to be about the same in every regard. Below is a sequence of walking shots that I shot with the model. I had her walk at a normal pace, and I walked in front of her. The X100F kept up quite well. I even had her walked towards me with the camera fixed in position and it was able to track her coming towards the camera as well as my X-Pro2. For fashion and street photographers, this is a big deal. Considering the size and price of the camera, it’s fairly amazing.
“To sum this all up, if you’re thinking about buying an X100F just do it. It’s truly everything you expect and want it to be.”
To sum this all up, if you’re thinking about buying an X100F just do it. It’s truly everything you expect and want it to be. The only caveat is the fixed lens, which for some may not be an issue. I liked the X100T but always felt it lacked something, mostly the speed of both focus and operation. The X100F solves those problems and adds more that people didn’t think to ask for. Coming in just under $1,300, it’s an incredible value considering what it can do even against more expensive X series cameras from Fuji and especially against similarly priced compact cameras. I can absolutely see this camera having an important place in my bag and the bags of many photographers, both working and casual. The X100F is now available for sale and rent at Midwest Photo.