The Fujifilm X100F is the fourth camera in the company’s legendary compact-professional APS-C lineup that helped launch what would eventually become the pro mirrorless market. While the X100F and its predecessors aren’t interchangeable-lens cameras, the design of the original X100, released in 2010, was a radical departure for Fujifilm, which had been prolific in their release of their FinePix point-and-shoot cameras but hadn’t done anything as ambitious as the X100.
Our Fujifilm X100F Hand-On Video Review
Our video review features an in-depth look at the design, image quality and performance of the X100F
In fact, no one had. In 2010, the only small cameras on the market were based around tiny sensors, and APS-C sensors, like the one found in the X100, were used in bulkier DSLR cameras. The X100 packed a large sensor into a body that was easy to transport, easy to use, and was well received by pros and consumers alike. This camera would, in many ways, set the standard for the pro-targeted mirrorless market.
The success of the X100 not only helped Fujifilm decide to pursue a more ambitious plan for their professional cameras, but likely helped fan the flames of the mirrorless fire that swept the industry.
There were some issues with the X100—slow focus speed, Electronic Viewfinder quality and slow performance chief among them, and each subsequent version of the X100 has worked on improving the performance of the camera. The X100S and X100T (“S” for second, “T” for third, “F” for fourth) both aimed at improving the overall performance through upgrades in the viewfinder, buffer and focusing systems.
The X100F isn’t a perfect camera—few of what I call “ultra-travel” cameras are—but it’s the best X100 camera, by far. Inside the system is the same 24MP CMOS X-Trans III sensor and processor that are found in the X-T2, and on the exterior is a new focus-point-selection joystick, which I feel should be a component found on professional camera these days (but sadly isn’t).
There are some unchanged things from the X100T, namely the LCD screen and the lens. The screen isn’t problematic, but the lens in the X100F seems to be hindering performance because it doesn’t live up to the quality of the high-end Fujinon lenses that Fuji fans are understandably gaga over. Since many of the internals are shared with the lightning-fast X-T2 and X-Pro2, the relatively slower AF speed and performance are likely attributed to the AF technology and the lens. The camera seems to hunt for subjects—especially faces—more than the company’s X-T2 or X-Pro2, for example, which can be frustrating when using it for street photography.
When the X100 arrived, it was the only compact travel camera that had an APS-C sensor, and there was an acceptable amount of trade-off to get the sensor into that small and that comfortable of a package. That was 2010, and since then not only have other manufacturers created some amazing ultra-travel cameras (the super-expensive but high-resolution full-frame Sony RX1R II comes to mind) that have better performance, but Fujifilm’s own cameras continue to out perform it.
Take, for example, the X-T20, a great, tiny camera that has the same X-Trans CMOS III sensor and X-Processor Pro of the X100, but can use any of the X-series lenses. Base price of the X-T20 is below the cost of the X100F ($1,300 for the X100F, $900 for the X-T20, body only), so shooters would need to factor in the price of the lenses when making a purchase choice, but the kit of the X-T20 with an 18-55mm lens is $1,200. The 18-55mm lens doesn’t have the same wide maximum aperture, it’s a ƒ/2.8-4 lens, but it does provide more versatility, and the X-T20 can work with any X-series lenses, and you get modern niceties like a touch-screen display and 4K video capability.
The X100F is more pro-oriented than the X-T20, there’s no ISO dial on the top of the camera, and the design feels more consumer-driven. The X-T20 and the more pro-oriented X-T2 lack the hybrid viewfinder found on the X100F—for that you’d need to step up yet again to the X-Pro2 at around $1,700, body only.
The ultra-travel market has always been about compromise. Think of products like the MacBook Air and the iPad Air, and you’ll see that there are compromises needed to get technology into a small body. The X100F tries—and mostly succeeds—at straddling the line between a full-featured pro camera and an advanced user’s travel camera. There’s no touch screen, no ability to tilt the LCD screen for low-angle shooting, no 4K video, etc.
The closest you’ll come with a competing APS-C system from Sony is the $950 a6300, but the pro-oriented controls make the X100F feel like a whole different kind of camera. Still, you can get an a6300 with a 16-50mm kit lens for around $1,050, and the body would be smaller than that of the X100F. But if you’re considering the X100F, it’s more than likely that the design and ergonomics of the a6300 don’t fit your needs—you’re not finding a host of manual-focus dials on top of the a6300.
If the X100F had come with an updated lens, it would stand out even more against the company’s own competition. As it is, the price of the X100F is low enough and the overall package small enough that some of the issues are easily overlooked. I’d love to see what Fujifilm does with the next iteration of this camera.
For travel photographer and fans of retro styling, the Fujifilm X100F is a great camera, even if it’s not quite shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of the company’s offerings.