The Fujifilm FinePix X100 is a very special camera indeed. It's a compact, but not as you know it.
It looks like an old Leica rangefinder, has a lens that won't zoom no matter how much you fiddle with it, houses an SLR-quality sensor and boasts a unique hybrid viewfinder.
The design is beautifully retro – very 1950s, with a wealth of gnurled knobs. It’s been nicely done, with engraved, paint-filled logos on the top plate and a faux-vulcanite covering. There’s even a threaded shutter-release socket for using an old-fashioned mechanical plunger cable release when tripod mounted.
The weigh-in game
It’s a lot lighter than you might think – especially if you’ve ever used a Leica M-series camera. The use of magnesium where old Leicas had brass accounts for the light weight, which you might actually find a blessing if you’ve ever lugged a Leica around your neck all day. Still, we might have liked a little more heft for our £1000.
The controls feel natural and logical. There’s a large shutter-speed knob and the lens has a manual aperture ring. It would’ve been nice to have an ISO dial, such as the one on the Canon G12, but it’s easy enough to get to the ISO settings and there’s a nice exposure compensation dial on the top right.
More than meets the eye
The eye viewfinder is a unique hybrid, featuring an optical finder with a digital overlay that can be switched to a full digital finder. And it works a treat.
The optical finder is extremely clear, and has a digital overlay for shutter speed, aperture, ISO, exposure compensation and shooting mode. It also shows a rectangular frameline like you’ll find on old rangefinder cameras, which cleverly moves as you focus on closer subjects, to correct for parallax error.
The fully digital finder mode is essential for manual focusing and macro close-ups, so it's just as well that it's superbly sharp. When you take a shot using either the optical or digital finder, the digital view will automatically appear to show the shot you’ve just taken without you taking your eye from the camera.
Flicking between the optical and digital finders is done using a fantastic retro switch, which is styled like the self-timer lever on the old Leicas and positioned in the same place.
Gonna be all wide
The 23mm lens gives a viewing angle equivalent to 35mm on a 35mm film camera. That’s considered the ideal focal length for street photography, although it’s a little wide for our taste.
It has a manual aperture ring and a focusing ring that sadly has little feedback. It also comes as standard with a pressed-metal, push-on lens cap that looks and feels just like the caps on classic cameras, right down to the felt-like substance that helps it grip to the barrel.
The lens is super-sharp at every aperture, starting from a very fast f2. Autofocus is also incredibly nippy, putting all those sluggish compact system cameras to shame.
Review continues after the break…
The 12.3megapixel sensor is APS-C size, the same as the chip on most digital SLRs and 40% bigger than the Four Thirds sensors on the Olympus PENs and Panasonic G series. It does an amazing job of noise reduction, with minimal grain even up to ISO 12800! Colours and detail are also absolutely outstanding.
It's hard to place the X100, but if you've been craving a Leica M8/M9 but can't afford one – and are content with just a 35mm lens – this is actually incredible value. And an incredible camera.
Like the digital Leica rangefinders, it makes photography a whole lot more fun.