Fujifilm's X100 series of cameras have won the hearts of photographers the world over. As a second body on client shoots or a walk-around camera with excellent image quality for travel or recreation, there are not many cameras out there that can take its place. On the fifth iteration of the camera, the X100V, Fujifilm made some major changes to the camera, but are they enough to make it a worthwhile upgrade from previous models?
You’ve heard the specs by now. You’ve seen all the first looks and initial reviews. If you waited this out and are still on the fence, this review is for you. I was in that same place a few months back when I finally decided to take the plunge. Here, I’ll be giving you the details on what I think makes this camera stand apart from its predecessors and what I think doesn’t.
Let’s get this out of the way: I’m a fanboy. When I hold a Fujifilm camera, I want to make photographs. Much like using my Nikon FM, I get lost in the process of making images. The X100 series of cameras have been the absolute pinnacle of this for me. I’ve owned all of them except the X100T now, and have even had two X100Fs at this stage.
While I do feel that the X100V is the best rendition of the concept overall, there are still some things that could be improved and a couple of omissions that make the X100F a better choice for some users. From my perspective, there are a few issues that can still be addressed and a couple that has been created by changes to this camera. As an everyday Fujifilm user for both work and pleasure, I’m not nearly as enthusiastic as Alex Cooke was in his initial thoughts on the camera. Let's find out why.
I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it to upgrade from the X100F for the lens alone, but I wasn’t disappointed. The difference was immediately noticeable, even on the rear LCD. There are a night and day difference between the Mark I and Mark II lenses. A simple shot of a page in Chris Orwig’s excellent book Visual Poetry shows the stark difference between the two lenses. Contrast, sharpness, and chromatic aberrations have all been improved significantly. But, that doesn’t show us entirely how it behaves in the real world. There is more to this upgrade.
This improvement has certainly stolen the show in reviews so far. This is not without good reason. The new lens is a huge step up in this regard. Contrast and sharpness wide open are in a different league from the previous lens. Rather than having to stop down to f/4 to get good sharpness (especially at close focus distances), f/2 is now perfectly usable.
In the example below, this means I could work at ISO 2,000 with an aperture of f/2. The lens rendered great details with none of the glowing edges I'd expect from the first generation lens. Using the older lens, I would have been tempted to stop down to f/4, which would have meant losing this shallow depth of field and increasing my ISO to 8,000 to compensate. These are both tradeoffs we no longer have to make to get great image quality.
With the previous lens, from time to time, we’d see strange ghosting and flares around point sources, especially wide open. It looked like what you might see from many smartphone-camera lenses. While sometimes, this was an interesting addition to images, most of the time, it ended up being a distraction and was a reason to take another camera with me. Thankfully, this odd behavior is gone in the new lens, and the result is extremely clean-looking night images.
One improvement I didn't see talked about before I picked up the camera and tried it myself was the increased speed of the leaf shutter. With previous models, the shutter speed was capped at 1/1,000 when the lens was used wide open. This has been increased to 1/2,000 with the new shutter and lens combination. Having a full extra stop of shutter speed available wide open makes for a much more versatile experience.
One thing that I mentioned in my review of the X100F was that I'd like to see an option to automatically enable the ND filter when the camera reaches its fastest shutter speeds. This wouldn't need to be on all the time, but having it as an option would be great. Basically, if this was on, the ND would drop into place after 1/2,000 of a second to still give you good exposures without having to remember to enable it. As of now, the camera warns you it will overexpose by turning the shutter speed red in the EVF, but it will still take that overexposed image and save it to the card. With an "Auto ND" option, the camera could drop the ND filter down automatically and give you the correct exposure. Perhaps this would wear out the mechanism too quickly or cause another issue I'm not aware of, but it would certainly be a nice feature to have.
The combination of the new lens and the upgraded sensor and processor bring about huge improvements in the autofocus department as well. Just how much this benefits you will depend on how you use the camera, but here are a few improvements I have noticed.
Firstly, the X100V is mostly able to confidently focus in even the lowest light. This is a huge improvement over previous models that would struggle unless good contrast was present. This improvement also carries over into bright and high-contrast situations, where the camera barely hunts anymore. Since the X100V uses the same X-Trans 4 sensor we see in models like the X-T4, the whole frame is covered by PDAF pixels now. These are faster and more accurate than the old CDAF/PDAF array, and the result is the improved speed and low-light ability I mentioned above.
I have also noticed fewer false positives from the AF system. With earlier models in the X100 series, I found myself always making several images and refocusing between frames to ensure that I’d get good focus. Through the tiny viewfinder, it was hard to tell, but I’d often get home to quite a few completely out-of-focus images. While not a huge number in the grand scheme of things, it was enough to lose trust in the camera and take away some of the joy of using it. With the X100V, the number of these completely out-of-focus images is greatly reduced. However, there’s still plenty of room for improvement, and the X100V is still not on the level of the X-T or X-Pro series cameras when it comes to AF accuracy, especially as you focus farther away.
If you plan to use continuous autofocus with the X100V, there is good news and bad news. When compared to flagships like the X-T4, it does not perform to the same level. Having said that, the new sensor and lens are able to track moving subjects much more effectively than the X100F. Looking at the sample image below, we can see an example of something I would never have dreamed of coming from the X100F. This cyclist was moving towards me at quite a pace and I was able to track and get him in perfect focus at f/2.5. So, in a pinch, the X100V will track if needed.
Buttons and Controls
If I’m honest, my main reason for holding out on the X100V was to do with the changed button layout, and it still bugs me a little, even after a few months. Personally, I never had a problem with the position of the Q button, the ISO dial, or the four-way selector. In fact, I used the four-way selector so much, I didn’t think I’d be able to enjoy the camera so much without it. That was my breaking point and the core reason I initially dismissed the camera altogether.
After getting the camera, I quickly set things up how I normally would and found that I was, somewhat, holding on to having all of my Fujifilm cameras set up the same way. Since my X-T series cameras all have the four-way selector, every camera is set up the same to avoid confusion. My X100F was no exception. I know that if I press the downward selector, I will enable face detection on all of my cameras. Now, both the X100V and the GFX 50R have different setups, and I have to think about unimportant things while I am working with both cameras. In the end, I have found ways to program my most used functions and place lesser ones in the new Q menu. While this is a Band-Aid solution, I would still prefer to have the four-way selector back on the camera.
The new Q menu now allows complete customization like other new Fujifilm bodies. A set of 4, 8, 12, or 16 customizable tiles is now available depending on your needs. No more wasted space is taken up by what Fujifilm thinks is important for you anymore. It almost seems strange that with a brand new lens and sensor to get excited about, one of my most enjoyed features of the new camera is actually a customizable menu.
One pet peeve is the switching from iconography to lettering on the buttons. This is one of those things that makes the camera more difficult, especially for non-English speakers, to operate. I don't see any benefit at all with changing the garbage can icon to the word "DELETE." It does nothing to further the design or operability of the camera. While we're on that, the PLAY button has moved again. I really wish Fujifilm would nail down a design language for all their cameras to make things a bit more universal. These are small, non-deal-breaking changes, but changes that didn't really need to be made.
The Built-in ND
One other small change in the X100V is the increased strength of the built-in ND filter. In previous models, this was a 3-stop filter intended to allow the camera to use its wider apertures in extremely bright light. At f/2, for example, the leaf shutter could only get to 1/1000 accurately. In this case, 3 stops of ND was generally enough to get a good exposure in daylight. In the X100V, we now have a 4-stop filter. This, combined with the faster leaf shutter, allows us to underexpose daylight with a wide-open aperture now.
I have actually found this new ND most useful when combined with external ND filters to allow for extreme long-exposure photography. For example, in the image below, I combined my Haida M7 Red Diamond ND 3.0 with the internal ND for a total of 14 stops of ND. This allowed for an exposure time of four minutes in the middle of the day. With the built-in ND alone, I was able to get a three-second exposure, but this still left some unwanted texture in the water.
The LCD and EVF
Both the LCD and EVF of the X100V are new and improved over the X100F. The brightness and detail rendered by both are immediately noticeable and certainly give that "wow" moment when you first pick it up. However, these aren't Fujifilm's only improvements here.
The EVF now has two modes, which can be changed in the EVF PERFORMANCE menu. The refresh rate of the EVF can now be optimized for brightness (if you're outside and need the extra boost to see your exposure clearly) or smoothness (if you're in dim light and need the increased refresh to reduce tearing when you pan the camera. These are effective but again would benefit from an automatic setting so we don't have to dig through menus.
In a move many of us would not have expected, Fujifilm also built a tilting screen into the X100V. To be perfectly honest, I have flipped it out once to see how it would work but never actually used it. It will certainly be a great upgrade for some photographers, but I will not comment on it here. The one thing I will say is that Fujifilm made a great move keeping it flush with the back of the body. For those of us who don't need it, it stays right out of the way and keeps the profile of the camera the same as previous models.
It's not often we dedicate an entire section to a review on weather sealing, but this really is a big deal in the X100 series. For cameras that are designed to go everywhere, this is a very welcome addition. Once the adapter ring and a filter are attached to the lens, the X100V becomes completely sealed from the elements. The port cover and battery door have been upgraded in this process as well and feel much more robust than on previous X100 models.
To date, I've had to take my X100Fs in several times to have the shutter button "unclogged" from a mix of dust and sweat that plagued them from day one. So far, even in the height of summer and all through our monsoon season, I haven't had this issue with the X100V. I hope this is a good sign of things to come.
Fujifilm has done quite a good job of maintaining the essence of the X100 line and making a camera that any X100 user can simply pick up and feel at home with. For me, it has been the little things: the refined Q menu, the more accurate EVF, the full PDAF coverage, the increase to 1/2000 useable shutter speed at f/2, and even the better quality battery door that have made this a worthy upgrade.
For the way that I use the camera, the tilting LCD, inclusion of updated video specs, the touch screen, and increased frame rates in still shooting are all "nice to haves" that will likely benefit others more than me.
On that note, I hope that this review has been helpful for you. Have you upgraded to the X100V? Do you see it in your future kit? What made you purchase it or what would keep you from doing so?
What I Liked
- Much improved lens
- Faster shutter speeds available wide open
- Stronger built-in ND filter
- Improved Q Menu
- EVF and LCD Improvements
- Tilt screen doesn't interfere with the X100 profile
What I Feel Could Be Improved
- Still misses focus from time to time
- Missing an auto-ND feature
- Bring back the four-way selector
- Auto EVF performance mode option
- Lettering on buttons