Shortly after I bought the Olympus Pen-F, I decided to buy a second camera. Having been an Olympus user for many years — in fact, when I shot film some decades ago, I used Olympus cameras — I wanted to try a different company’s system. In addition, I wanted another camera with a different feature set because I’m writing more about photography and I’m working on a book about editing photos.
So I decided to pick up the Fujifilm X100F. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) This is a very different camera from the Olympus; they have many similarities, and they are complementary, because of their differences. Most people won’t want or need two cameras, but comparing these two shows the strengths and weaknesses of each one.
The Olympus Pen-F is a mirrorless micro four-thirds camera with a resolution of 20 Mp. Like standard DSLRs, it allows you to use a wide range of lenses, making it a versatile camera. The X100F, on the other hand, is a fixed-lens camera. It has a 23mm f2 lens built into the camera body to make it extremely compact. This can obviously be an advantage or disadvantage; I will address that later.
The X100F is a 24 Mp APS-C sensor whose native aspect ratio is 3:2 like most DSLRs. (Micro four-thirds cameras have a 4:3 aspect ratio.) I’m not a specialist of these details, and I haven’t looked into the pros and cons of these different sensors, but both cameras take excellent photos at an excellent resolution. (If you are looking for a highly technical review of this camera, look elsewhere; I’m interested in the real-world usability not specifications.)
The X100F packs a lot of power in its compact size. It’s much smaller than standard DSLRs, and much lighter: with a lens hood and filter, it’s just over 500g. Its fixed lens has fast auto focus, and the camera’s capability in terms of in-camera JPEGs is excellent. The JPEGs this camera produces are good enough that many photographers won’t need to shoot Raw, or will only make the simplest modifications to their photos. I shoot JPEG + Raw, so I have the better quality file to fall back on if necessary, but I find that the JPEGs are often excellent and use them.
Some of the interesting features in this camera include an optical viewfinder (like that of a rangefinder), but also an electronic viewfinder and a hybrid viewfinder, where there is a small electronic overlay on the optical viewfinder. I use the electronic viewfinder; the parallax effect of the optical viewfinder — the fact that what you see through the viewfinder is not exactly what is coming in through the lens — makes this too annoying for me, but it can be a good way to compose a photo before you’re ready to shoot.
The camera’s controls are well laid out, highly customizable, and very easy to use. I would say the same for the Olympus Pen-F, but the X 100 F has one very practical button: the Q button. Press this and you get quick access to a number of settings that you can change by moving the rear dial: autofocus mode, dynamic range, white balance, aspect ratio, shadows, highlights, and much more. You can also record a number of custom settings that you can activate through this menu.
I’m less interested in the gadgety parts of cameras than in the photos they produce. This camera takes excellent photos, both in JPEG and raw, and features a number of Fuji’s film simulations, which create in-camera JPEGs that range from Velvia (saturated colors) and Classic Chrome (muted colors) to Acros (black and white, with red, yellow, and green filter options).
I generally shoot in aperture priority, and there is one element of this camera that I don’t particularly like: to change the aperture you have to move a ring around the lens that is almost flush with the camera body. It is difficult to grip this easily because I find I have to twist my left hand to get a hold of it. But I have found a workaround: I have set everything to automatic — shutter speed, aperture, ISO — and I have turned on “program shift” mode. This allows me to use the rear dial to select the aperture, even in this automatic mode. As I move the dial, the camera switches through a combination of shutter speeds and apertures, and changes the ISO if necessary. (See page 49 of the X100F manual.)
One thing the Fuji is lacking is image stabilization. The Pen-F has 5-axis image stabilization, which allows you to shoot one or two stops slower than you would without this feature. No Fuji cameras sport image stabilization, and this might be a dealbreaker for some, especially if they shoot a lot of video. I find it very useful to have, for shooting at slow shutter speeds.
As you can see in the first photo above, this camera is very compact, and the lens only extends a bit more than an inch from the camera body. I have added a UV filter — yes, I think they are useful to protect lenses — and Fuji’s lens hood. Note the to put a filter on this lens you need to first add an adapter, otherwise the filter will be too close to the lens and prevent it from focusing. Fuji sells the lens hood and adapter together. The Fuji model is, of course, expensive, but I picked it up on sale on Fuji’s website for just £20. Alternatively, you can buy the much less expensive JJC LH-JX100 Lens Adapter and Hood. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)
Another addition I made was to buy a screen protector for the back LCD. This is the first screen protector I have bought for any device since the Palm Pilot. I bought a glass screen protector because many people have commented that the LCD scratches easily. I also found that it gets very blurry, and the glass screen protector I bought stays a lot cleaner, and reduces glare. (I bought the JJC screen protector (Amazon.com, Amazon UK), but there are plenty of others that will work just as well.) I rarely use the LCD; I take pictures through the viewfinder, and occasionally I look at photos on the LCD, but I don’t use it to compose pictures, or, even, to change settings most times; I do that to the viewfinder as well, so this is more to protect it than to make it more usable.
Other things I like about the X100F include the ability to transfer photos to my computer and charge the camera by plugging a USB cable into it (which means you can charge it from any portable battery pack, as long as you have the right cable). In fact, except for the first few times I used the camera, I have not removed its memory card. I like the silent shutter, and the customizability of the dials and buttons — for example, I have set the front dial to change exposure compensation, since this is much easier to use than the top dial for this feature.
If you are content with the 35mm equivalent focal length, then this small, light Fuji camera might be for you. The lens could be a limiting factor for many people, and Fuji sells two conversion lenses, one that provides a 28mm equivalent focal length in the other a 50mm equivalent. These are a bit bulky, in contrast with the svelte design of the camera. I discussed them in this article. If you find this focal length too much of a limitation, then the Pen-F, with its many available lenses, might be a better choice. The camera does have a digital zoom, to 50mm and 70mm, which is great for many uses, but it’s not an optical zoom, so the resolution is not as good, and it doesn’t act like a true higher focal length lens.
Again, if you want more technical information about the camera, you will find plenty of reviews about it. But my bottom line is this: if you want a very easy to use camera that takes excellent pictures, this is an excellent choice. I find that the X100F and the Pen-F are complementary: the former is a great camera to take with you when you go out and have no plans to take pictures. The latter is the type of camera you take when you know you will need several lenses. Depending on the type of photography you’re interested in, one or the other might be better for you. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)
Note: a few people have asked what the strap is. It’s a Leica strap that I bought here.
Here are a few sample photos: