The Original Fuji X100

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“Underdog” 2015. Fujifilm was always an “underdog” in a world of giants like Canon, Nikon, and Sony. The original X100 of 2011 helped bring the film giant into the spotlight and into the hearts, minds, and wallets of photographers and camera lovers ๐Ÿ™‚

The X100 is a 12.3 megapixel camera released in 2011 by Fujifilm Corporation.

The camera had an APS-C sized sensor and featured a 23mm f/2 Fujinon lens, which translated to the equivalent of a 35mm lens on a full frame camera.

The X100 was an instant hit when it came out, and continues to be a hot seller for Fuji with a couple of reiterations as the X100s and the current X100t. Let’s make it clear, for this review we are only talking about the original X100.

The original X100 does NOT have the much hyped Fuji “X-Trans” sensor, so X-Trans fans should remember this when considering the older X-100.

As with so many digital cameras today, the X100 has a wealth of features built in, many of which I’m not going to cover here, just to let you know right off the bat. You’re better off going to dpreview or the instruction manual if you need a breakdown of everything. I’m just giving you my experience with the camera and how I use it.

BUILD AND HANDLING

The X100 was an eye-catcher when it first came out. One of the reasons the X100 had such appeal was because of its retro looks.

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“iRetro” 2011. Fuji X100 12.3mp. The Fuji X100 was an instant hit for Fujifilm, no doubt a lot of it had to do with the camera’s retro looks.

I did not set out to get an X100, but I happened to be in Washington Square Park in NYC in May of 2011 when I first saw the X100 in the flesh. It was hung around some guy’s neck. I’m a sucker for cameras as you might know, but I have a special soft spot for the “weird,” “strange” and “different.” Right away, I thought I had to have one! ๐Ÿ™‚

Fuji clearly aimed to capture the hearts of classic camera lovers when they designed the X100! The camera does indeed look like an old rangefinder camera.

The camera feels good in the hand, albeit on the lightweight side, which is actually a good thing if you’re going to be carrying the camera all day. However, as a person who has used several film rangefinders over the years, I have to admit I was a little disappointed in the way the camera felt when I first got it; light and not as solid as the film rangefinders of yore. But that’s just a personal thing as the camera has proven quite durable in the four years I’ve had it.

The controls are well laid out, with the shutter speed and exposure compensation dials on the top right of the camera. The exposure compensation dial moves out of place too easily in my experience, so be mindful of this when you move it in and out of your camera bag.

Also on the top right of the camera is the “FN” or function button, which can be customized to do a variety of things. I personally use it as my ISO button, but I believe you can use it to quickly bring up the built-in ND filter (a cool feature!) or the film simulation settings.

Another nice touch is the “self-timer thingy” on the front of the camera which is not actually a self-timer, but a lever that will allow you to switch between the EVF and optical viewfinder. The dual EVF and optical viewfinder is another great feature that you don’t see very often.

On the back are buttons for playback, AE, AF, and view mode as well as AF lock, AE lock, drive, menu, white balance, and a nifty quick RAW button.

The more I write, the more I appreciate the thought Fuji designers put into this camera!




PERFORMANCE

The X100 is sort of a mixed bag when it comes to performance. Indeed, it’s this “imperfect” quality that gives me a love/hate relationship with this camera.

The autofocus is a tad on the slow side. And not just slow, but it often missed focus, sometimes on “easy” targets. In fact, this was one of the main issues reported by users when the X100 first came out.

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“Dos Caras” 2011. The original Fuji X100 was plagued with focus issues early on. As can be seen in this image, it completely missed the mark on what I would call an “easy” target. Through a series of firmware updates, Fuji has remedied this problem, but have not completely eliminated it.

To their credit, through a series of firmware updates, Fuji has addressed this and now the camera, at least mine is somewhat better in the AF department and more pleasant to use. A little faster, but no speed demon. Certainly more accurate, but still misses the shot and sometimes “easy” shots.

You can manually focus the lens, but it’s too slow a process for me to bother with.

For me, the best way to achieve accurate focus with the X100 is to use the central spot for AF and to focus the camera using the EVF. I find I get a much better hit rate of sharp shots versus just using the back LCD.

IMAGE QUALITY

One thing I can’t deny is that the X100 is capable of superlative images. At its best, it is superb, but it does not always come easy. A lot of it, again, has to do with the slow and sometimes inconsistent autofocus.

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“Camera Art” 2013. Fuji X100 12.3mp. I shot this “from the hip” as I walked by this lady on Khaosan Road in Bangkok, Thailand. I held my breath because of the X100’s quirky AF, but the camera nailed the shot.

The 23mm f/2 (35mm equivalent) Fujinon lens is somewhat soft wide open, at least on my camera, but makes for good portraits at that aperture. The lens has minimal distortion and is very sharp from about f/4 and up.

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“Bugster” 2011. Fuji X100 12.3mp @ f/5.6, an example of the crispness possible with the X100.

The bokeh is good, not outstanding, but neutral to my eyes. The lens gives a very nice flare that I like when pointed close to a light source, i.e., the Sun.

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“Sprout” 2011. Fuji X100 12.3mp. An example of the flare and better bokeh possible with the X100.

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“New Year’s Day” 2012. Fuji X100 12.3mp @ f/2. An example of the neutral quality of the Fujinon’s bokeh. And in Washington D.C., nothing changes on New Year’s Day! ๐Ÿ™‚

You can count on great images from ISO 100-3200, even 6400 and 12800 will do pretty well when you need it.

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“A Dollar & A Dream” 2011. Fuji X100 12.3mp. An example of a (for me) very usable ISO 12800.

The Fuji X100 is also capable of delivering bold and rich colors and tones, something Fuji has always been known for. I have not played around much with the film simulations, although I do like the Velvia and Provia presets. However, for the most part, I’m pretty much a straight shooter and I will do some post processing work afterwards in Photoshop if need be.

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“Fuji Colors” 2011. Fuji X100 12.3mp. The X100 delivers rich colors and tones, something Fuji cameras have been renowned for.

On the basis of image quality alone I can’t fault the camera. Some people claim the original X100 has a certain “magic” to the images not seen in the X100s and X100t. I have not used either of those cameras so I cannot compare them. I will say at its best, I can see the “magic” but it takes the right photo op and circumstances. In other words, the X100 is also capable of very ordinary looking images, a lot of which I can blame myself for ๐Ÿ™‚

The camera takes wonderful HD videos too, although as I’ve mentioned before I’m not a video guy so don’t take my word for it ๐Ÿ™‚

One thing I will say about the video function is that there is no dedicated “video” button. You have to push the “wheel” near “DRIVE” up twice. Easy enough, but in the beginning I often pushed it by accident, got into video mode at the wrong time and couldn’t figure out how to get out of it fast enough.ย Just an FYIย because this always happened to me at the wrong time!

MY LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE X100

As mentioned before, I love this thing, but at times I hate it.

On one hand it looks so lovely, but when I pick it up, I feel like I’m holding a glorified digital point and shoot camera. On the other hand, it’s so well designed I appreciate the thought they put into designing it.

On one hand, it has given me some very nice images, some of which I really love. On the other hand, it has given me many lousy images due to mis-focusing and slow operation. Sometimes I hold my breath when I take a shot because I’m not sure I got the shot.

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“Nekkid Buck” 2011. Fuji X100 12.3mp. I took this shot of the “Naked Cowboy” as we walked passed each other in the crowd. To be honest with you, I’m surprised the X100 nailed this shot!

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“Night Stalker” 2011. Fuji X100 12.3mp. I couldn’t get over the man’s intense stare at the vendor ๐Ÿ™‚

One thing for sure, this camera has got character! And I don’t mean just the lens, I mean the camera itself feels like a spouse that you love one day, hate the other, but somehow the good outweighs the bad and you decide to stick with them ๐Ÿ™‚

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“Zig Zag Zoe” 2011. Fuji X100 12.3mp. The X100 has given me many images, such as this one, which I cherish. While a lot of it has to do with the camera’s abilities, a lot of it also has to do with the subject at hand ๐Ÿ™‚

BOTTOM LINE

The X100, despite its quirks and maybeย becauseย of its quirks, is a standout among digital cameras.

It was an instant hit and brought Fujifilm out of the abyss and into a new era of popularity that it had never seen before. Fuji was always a cult favorite, but the X100 and its siblings helped the company grow into a major player in the digital camera field. It seems Fuji did everything right, in stark contrast to the once almighty Kodak, another film giant, which seemed to have done everything wrong in the digital arena.

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“Out Of The Abyss” 2011. Fuji X100 12.3mp. Hard to believe that only four years ago, the Freedom Tower in NYC was still half done! Just like the Tower, the X100 took Fujifilm out of the abyss and into superstardom in the world of modern digital cameras.

If seeking an original Fuji X100, prices are trending at $350-500 depending on condition, accessories, etc.

The X100 is an enigma that is capable of superb images, yet at the same time can frustrate you with quirky operation. But the camera is unique, it has character, and I have no doubt it is a Camera Legend.

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“X Champ” 2012. The Fuji X100 12.3mp is the original “champion” of the Fuji X clan ๐Ÿ™‚

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2 thoughts on “The Original Fuji X100

    1. Thanks Jim, right on the mark with that statement! I’ve gotten around my frustrations with the X100 by using it as if I were using a film camera and hoping I got the shots ๐Ÿ™‚

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