With all the excitement in recent weeks about the release of the new Nikon mirrorless camera and its homage to the history of a great camera company, I thought I would take a moment to look back at the evolution of the Fujifilm X100 series into its current form and talk about why it still isn’t truly a mature camera.
Over the years, Fujifilm has taken the performance and ergonomics of their original X100 camera and refined it with each iteration. With Fuji’s newer technologies all finding their way into the camera, it has gone from being a well-styled one-trick-pony into a fully-fledged compact camera that really has no peers. The button layout and overall construction has been refined so much that aside from the general shape of the camera, it is hard to consider the previous models in the same line. The battery life has also been improved significantly (on my X100S, I would get well below the CIPA rating, but on the X100F, I’m getting far more). That being said, I feel that there are still significant improvements that could be made to make this an absolute winner.
As we will see, at least from my perspective, there are still some things that stop me from reaching for this camera when I walk out the door. They are small things that keep this as one of those cameras that gets in the way just enough to remind you that you’re using it. The X-T2 and X-H1 have come to a point where the camera is no longer noticeable and you can shoot all day without having to consider the tool. However, the X100F still has small quirks that get in the way of photography at times. They’re not deal-breakers and they won’t stop you from getting the shots you want most of the time, but they can be somewhat annoying as they tend to break my flow.
This little lens has fantastic image quality (albeit suffering from softness at close focusing distances) and is compact enough that you can still slip the whole camera into a jacket pocket. With the new processor in the X100F, the focus has been sped up significantly and the lens can be forced not to refocus by holding the shutter button halfway down between shots. These are both great improvements as they were issues that made each iteration until now extremely frustrating at times. However, despite all the internal upgrades, the X100F still hunts for focus, even in good light. Fujifilm has made so many lenses now that do not suffer from this issue that it almost feels like they’re leaving this for the next model so we’ll keep upgrading. Honestly, I might!
For the life of me, I cannot figure out why Fujifilm still doesn't include a lens hood in the box. With the front element being so easy to leave a fingerprint on or knock and scratch, it seems like an absolute necessity for this camera and really shouldn't be an expensive accessory. I would love to see this in the box for future releases of the camera.
This, again, is dumbfounding. The X100 series bodies are supposed to be carry-around cameras for every situation, yet the dials and doors are not weather-sealed. Perhaps Fujifilm is worried that a slight increase in the camera’s size with the addition of weather seals would turn people away. Perhaps the added construction complexity would increase the price. Whatever the reason, it seems like something that should be a feature of a compact in this product category. I would not hesitate to upgrade for weather sealing. I’m sure there are many others who would love to stop hiding the camera under their shirt between shots in light rain as well!
The Leaf Shutter and Shutter Speeds
Still the single thing that truly trips me every time I use this camera is the minimum shutter speed variation. Because of the speed with which the leaf shutter can move, the full 1/4000 s shutter speed is not available when using the lens wide open. This is when it is most useful, and it cannot be used. It is extremely distracting when working with the camera to say the least. It's like having a variable aperture lens and having to be constantly aware of it and making decisions based on it. This stops the X100 series, including the X100F from getting out of the way and just being a tool. There must be a way to improve the shutter in a new lens, but if not, I have one more proposal for general photography.
Automatic Activation of the ND as an Option
If advancements in the shutter speed prove to be impossible at this time, having the option to automatically lower the ND filter when the shot will be overexposed would be a useful inclusion. A quick switch in the menu to have the camera drop the ND filter automatically whenever the shutter speed turns red or raise it when the shutter speed gets too low would save plenty of missed shots when the camera is pulled out for a quick photograph.
A Personal Note
I’d love to see a version of this series with a 35mm lens. Personally, 35mm is my most used focal length in the Fuji line, and I would love to walk around with a camera that had a low-profile, fixed 35mm lens. Sigma tried selling multiple bodies with fixed focal lengths, and it wasn’t their most successful series, but I think with the refinement of the X100 series, Fujifilm might find a market for a slightly longer focal length compact.
I know the X100 series is dear to many hearts and I may not be popular in offering criticism of it, albeit constructive. However, I do feel that these few things would take this series of cameras from being good to great. After all this refinement, there are only a few things left to do in my book before this becomes the perfect compact camera. What do our readers think? Do you own an X100 series camera? What do you love about it? What do you not? Are there any other improvements you feel could be made?