My Fuji X100 review and GF1 comparison

Posted by Mark

Here’s a quick spoiler, I’m very disappointed. When I first saw pictures of the X100 I fell in love with it right away but after playing with the camera all day I’m having trouble understanding how Fuji went wrong with this. The issues this camera has aren’t major but there are many which I am going to try and go through some below.

The first issue is with the Menu/OK button on the rear (pictured above). I read a lot of complaints online about how the button is too small and very difficult to press. I thought psshhht whatever, can’t be that bad. Well it IS that bad, I don’t know how the engineers at Fuji missed this but the button is tiny and nearly impossible to press. Every time I try to press it I end up pressing up or down instead. It’s really bad and very annoying when you’re trying to quickly select an option or delete a file since you keep missing the OK button and spend wasted seconds going up and down instead.

The second issue is with the focusing. It doesn’t focus! It’s ridiculous how terrible the focus system on the camera is. At first I thought I was having problems focusing on low contrast objects but I was just checking some portrait shots I took today and I don’t think any one of them is focused properly. Another issue with the focus is the fact the camera thinks macro mode is like a mile away. With most cameras you need to activate the macro mode when you get super close to objects but with the X100 you have to activate macro mode on objects that are more than 50cm away. And if that’s not bad enough after you’re done taking a picture in macro mode the camera puts it back in regular mode so if you have to shoot another shot in macro you need to activate it again. Finally when in macro mode the optical view finder turns into an electric view finder (which I hate) so during my shoot today the camera spent a lot of time swapping between the two modes and it annoyed the hell out of me.

There are some cool things about the camera, just not enough to make me want to get it. I love the retro look and the metal body although I do wish it was a bit heavier. The X100 has something called a hybrid viewfinder where information is displayed on top of what you’re seeing through the viewfinder. Hard to explain but imagine looking through a view finder and seeing information displayed on top of your subjects [Check this visual]. Some reviewers online complained about the start up speed and recording speed but it didn’t cause me any issues when I was shooting.

Now compared to my GF1 I prefer the GF1 in every way except for two things, the knobs and the optical view finder. I really like the exposure dial on top of the X100, it’s similar to the one I have on the Canon G11 and it’s a knob that should be on top of all the cameras. The shutter speed and aperture ring around the lens are also two things the X100 has and I wish the GF1 had as well. Lastly I wish the GF1 had an optical viewfinder like the X100. The X100 has both an optical viewfinder and an electronic one which you can swap between. I don’t care for the EVF, I have it on my GF1 and would rather have a proper optical viewfinder instead like the X100. Size wise the GF1 is slightly smaller and heavier than the X100. Focusing, although the GF1 isn’t that great focusing and although it gives me trouble every now and then it’s like ten times better than the X100, that’s how bad the X100 is.

Basically because I got to try out the X100 I’ve decided to cancel my Amazon.com order and stick with my Panasonic GF1. I really really wanted to love the X100 but I didn’t enjoy using it and if I’m not going to enjoy using it then whats the point in getting it? Now keep in mind my review was based on my experience with the camera in one day. There are a ton of better reviews online which I’ve listed at the end of this post. But personally I had issues with the camera shooting today and ones that would effect my ability to take shots the way I want. I’m not a great photographer and need every help I can get out of the camera and I felt the X100 was holding me back with some of it’s annoyances. Below are some pictures I took with the X100, they’re not as is from the camera since I’ve color processed them.

The X100 is available on Amazon for around $1,200 [Amazon Link]

Here are some reviews online:
Luminous Landscape 1
Luminous Landscape 2
The Pictorial
DigitalRev
Steve Huff Photo 1
Steve Huff Photo 2
Steve Huff Photo 3
Enticing the light 1
Enticing the light 2
Enticing the light 3
Photo Radar
ePhotozine
DC Resource
135 Street


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48 comments, add your own...


  1. moayad says:

    I can see what you mean with the drawbacks, and I understand why you think of them as so. The X100 is supposed to be a rangefinder, which makes is in the class (although much cheaper) of the Leica M9 or the classic film rangefinders of the 1960s and 1970s. Rangefinder are supposed to be used for fast action photography, manly street photography, therefore they enjoy a simple design with the as little controls as possible. You are not supposed to access the menu and change options or delete photos that often. You set the camera once and just shoot! You only need to change the aperture and shutter speed and those are available through the lovely dials. I’m not defending Fuji’s design, I’m just pointing to the classic rangefinder philosophy.

    I actually find it strange that the camera has a macro mode at all! Most rangefinder lenses has a minimum focusing distance of 90-70cm, and there is a good reason for that. When you look though the optical viewfinder of the camera you can not see exactly what the censor sees and thats because the hole you are looking through is few centimetres to the top right of the lens causing ‘parallax’. This small distance may not cause problems when composing far subjects, but the closer you get the bigger the parallax become, in ‘macro mode’ the optical rangefinder is almost useless because you will see a shifted picture from the one you actually are taking.

    Unlike the GF1, the X100 is not supposed to be an all rounder, it is a speciality camera designed to fill a niche market which for long has been dominated by the Leicas.

    Thank you for the review, and those are lovely picture by the way :)

    • Mark says:

      lol dude I didn’t even mention the incredible complicated and horrible to use menu in my review!

      You said something important which is how rangefinders are supposed to be used for fast action photo, street photo and be very simple to use.

      The problem with the X100 is that it doesn’t follow that principle. If there is one rule for this camera its don’t use it to take pictures of moving objects. Landscape photography.. sure but people moving forget about it. If this camera followed “the classic rangefinder philosophy” it would have been perfect.

      My issues with the usability doesn’t even include the menu which you have to access to do stuff like record video, change film kind, change iso (or ND filter depending on what you set the FN button to). But changing from Macro to regular mode is something you need to do very often which again involves interacting with the controls of the camera. Because of the parallax thats why the camera swaps the optical mode to an EVF when you switch to macro but since I had to keep swapping between macro and regular so often, one minute i am looking through optics, the next minute through an EVF. You can never feel comfortable with a camera that keeps changing like that.

      I really don’t know what to say, maybe the camera is trying to be too much all at the same time but sadly the only other option is 10,000$ for a leica and lens which is just too much money.

      • moayad says:

        You know what? Even with a $10,000 M9 you still will not be able to quickly focus on moving objects or even think about shooting macro at all! That’s what DSLRs and autofocus lenses are for, it’s not the job for a rangefinder no matter how expensive it is.

        I don’t really know how bad the X100 menu is since I’ve only tried it once for 5 minutes, but I know that even with an M9 you still need to go through a complicated menu (if not even more complicated than the x100) to setup any of the things you’ve mentioned.

        It’s a matter of the right camera for the right job. The x100 is not an all purpose camera, if that’s what you need then it’s a good idea to look away (and look even further away from the M9 :)). But still, for someone who needs a small, high quality and relatively inexpensive rangefinder for silent street photography there is very little choice out there other than this Fuji. I personally almost bought one, but at the last minute changed my mind when I found a good used M7 ;).

        • Mark says:

          The M9 is manual focus of course so you control the focus. With the X100 the manual focus is unusable due to the fact its not mechanical it’s digital and the auto focus is terrible. Street photography involves capturing a moment, the problem with the x100 is that moment would either pass by the time you focus or if you do focus it doesn’t turn out to be very accurate. That’s based on my short lived experience.

          I never said I was looking for an all rounder. What I said is that the issues with the X100 would hinder my ability to capture the shots I wanted and that was a risk i wasn’t willing to take.

          I don’t know why you seem to think the camera is fine and the problem is with me based on your 5 minutes with the camera. Even if the camera was fine if it doesn’t work for me… it doesn’t work for me. It’s not something you can force.

          • frenchy says:

            use hyperfocal for “action photography”, you wont need to focus.

            Also for macro, well you dont have a leica, but in case you re getting a M9 like mine, just bough the 90 mm macro set :)
            It will cost you a hand as the french expression says

          • moayad says:

            Come on man, I’m not saying the problem is with you, I’m not saying that there is a problem at all :) Sorry if I sounded pushy or something.

            I’t just that you keep talking about the miserable macro while this class of cameras are not meant to be used for that kind of photography. If you love macro buy a macro lens for your DSLR, it will give you more stunning results than any compact or hybrid camera in existence, and it would be perfect for portraits too.

            As for the focus, I didn’t know that it was not a true manual, that’s a shame if it didn’t work right. But, as frenchy said, you don’t have to focus at all for street photography, you use the hyperfocus by raising your f-stop and setting the focus to a mid distance.

            You shouldn’t force the camera on yourself, you either get a camera that suits you or you get one that suits the job you require and learn how to use it and work around it’s limitations.

            • Mark says:

              moayad that’s really not the way you should work with cameras. cameras are just a tool, they don’t help you take good shots, they just help you take the shots. If a camera is in the way then it’s not doing its job.

              Just because it looks like a rangefinder and has buttons on top don’t expect it to automatically take great shots for you.

              This is why if its the GF1, X100, X1 or M9, end of the day they all do the same thing which is take photos. So don’t let the camera control you dude.

              • frenchy says:

                Not really, with DSLR you shoot, with a rangefinder, you compose your picture :)

              • moayad says:

                Because it’s a tool you must chose the right tool for the job. The design of the camera affects how you work with it, you can’t help that. A rangefinder will not take better photos for you, but it will asset you with certain kinds of jobs more than any other camera. I love my 5D mkii, but it’s not really suitable to even take out of the bag when I’m in a bus. My D-Lux 4 used to do good work on the street, but it made me look more like a tourist, and it was less than excellent in low light, and hard to manually control.

                My point is, the camera is only in the way the if it was the wrong kind of camera for the job. If it is known as the right tool, and you feel it as so, then you can overcome its limitations with practice. Painting with paint is hard, messy and smelly, but it works much better on canvas than crayons; because it is the right medium. Practice with paint, if you really want to master it, and in no time you will overcome the mess and smell and be able express yourself with it easily.

  2. BAJS says:

    I think the guy who lent you that camera deserves a 1,200 USD thank you Mark, otherwise you would have wasted alot of money on a product that did not meet your expectations. Good review nonetheless, quite the bullet you dodged :P

    • Mark says:

      yeah already thanked the guy a bunch. I’m actually going to be posting information on how to order from amazon japan, didn’t know we could do that but the guy told me how.

  3. n says:

    Now the guy with the 7 UP is going to sue you for bad lighting.

  4. Narain says:

    Thanks for the review. I had the chance to spend about 10 min playing with the X100 about a month ago and was left with a favorable impression. Overall handling seemed great, though it really wasn’t enough time to pick up on the issues you faced with the “Menu” button. I’m surprised that you had such a tough time with the focus as this seemed straightforward enough – again, 10 minutes wasn’t enough to pick up on the macro issues you mentioned which sound very annoying.

    What impressed me the most about the X100 were the physical controls with direct access to aperture and ISO, very similar to the Leica X1. I also really liked the hybrid viewfinder.

    I presently have an Olympus E-P1, effectively the same camera as the Panasonic GF-1 without the EVF and with a lower grade screen but the same internals and I love it. Given the price of the X100 it’s limitations I’ll probably stick with the Olympus for the time being, though I’m tempted to spend some more time with the X100 – I’ve also been tempted with by the Leica X1 but while it takes great shots and the controls are great (except focus which is fiddly) and it is obscenely expensive.

    If I’m not wrong you can pick up the basic Olympus E-P1 kit for around AED 1,900 here in Dubai while the Fuji X100 is AED 5,499 and the Leica X1 is AED 8,000. In terms of value for money and flexibility (interchangeable lenses) the Olympus (and by extension the Panasonic) has the others beat by a mile especially given that image quality is pretty consistent across all of them.

    • Mark says:

      don’t forget as well that with the Olympus and Panasonic you can swap lenses. So you can always get a leica adapter and use a $3,000 lens with your $600 olympus body… if you want :)

      • Narain says:

        For sure. I’ve got the 17mm pancake lens and a telephoto monster in the form the Panasonic 45-200mm both of which are awesome.

  5. Ronman says:

    So Fuji tried to run with the big boys, and ended up getting a failed Hybrid attempt, too bad they make good cams.

    My wife uses a Fuji Film S7000, I am a Cannon “Fanboy” using a Rebel XTI (aka EOS 450D). both are good camera, but the Fuji, despite the unchangeable lens seem to have the better optical set up in base trim. My Cannon is great but it needs the lens to show it, the kit lens i got just sucks, and i have almost smashed my cam a few times as a result. I don’t have the budget for a big lens, and I have fallen out of love with digital SLRs, i was looking for a good all-round semi hybrid point and shoot with a good handle on manual photography? any suggestions?

    btw one of the things i hate about my Cannon is the sound of the shutter, The Nikon SLR range sounds much more delicious.

    • Mark says:

      Their hybrid attempt isn’t failed, I love the hybrid optical viewfinder and I wish the GF1 had it.

      The lens isn’t that great… at least not wide open in macro mode. The shots end up looking very hazy and dreamy and extremely unsharp. I need to show you the picture to better explain it, will upload it tonight.

      You should check out the GF1, I think it would fit your needs perfectly. I’ve tried the GF2 and although similar I prefer the look of the GF1 with the buttons on top.

    • Mark says:

      get a 50mm prime lens for your canon btw, they’re very cheap and extremely good.

  6. Ronman says:

    Yeah i hear you on the 50mm, should have got that when i first purchased the camera.will look out for them…

    I will check the GF1, I started my photography spree with a cannon, and stuck with them since, but i am considering buying something else for a change. i just hope i dont get as disappointed as when i got a samsung phone instead of nokia some years ago…binned it and got a nokia 2 weeks later…I’m a creature of habit it seems.

    oh i got a sonny point a shoot for free from spinneys, great little pocket cam, but the easy shoot mode is infuriating…and why do we need 12 gazillion megapixels and 6mb photos in a small practical point and shoot, I’m running out of memory, and my DVD Back ups are stacking up. they should come out with great quality photo in smaller sizes for god’s sake…

    • Mark says:

      yeah the prime lens is the first lens you need to get.

      the GF1 was my first panasonic. all my other cameras have been either nikons or canons. I found the menu system closer to canon than nikon so you might find the move comfortable.

      on another note, you back up your stuff to DVDs?? That’s not that reliable, get a proper hard drive back up solution dude specially if the information you are backing up is important.

      • Ronman says:

        no man, after 2 very bad and painful experiences, a hard drive, both mechanical and SS, are not at all reliable. lost 2 so far, and was able to recover 40% of one and about 90% of the other with the use of a back up recovery software, a lot of technical ingenuity (i thank my brother there) and a lot of patience and praying.

        since then (3 month ago) everything goes on DVD, is a secure fire proof box away from harmful UV rays… it’s the most solid of ways to keep the important stuff.

        A HD can just decide to die, the head can stop working because of a slight bump or the disks can get scratched, and it costs a freaking fortune to reassemble them in a clean room ($700 at least for a 60gb Hd) to get a proper back up.

        with a solid state disk, you are dealing with organic material, even with the best quality ones, you have a cycle life span, once you go over that, it’s hard to near impossible to get your stuff back…

        get high density Double sided DVD’s for the very important stuff… that is by my own painful experience

        • Mark says:

          hard drives can die, thats why you need to get something that supports RAID like the Drobo. That way your data is backed up on multiple drives and when one fails you can still recover it. Then you have a back up of a backup and you’re all safe unless the house burns and then you lose everything lol

          • Ronman says:

            This is why i stress, DVD’s don’t die (they just take space), and the fire proof box is to account for that last sentence of yours..LOL

            In that case, you will need a backup of a backup, of a backup…

            one on your main drive, the other on your backup special HD in the closet, a copy of that in the bank safety deposit, and just for good measure a copy of all those on DVD’s in another Bank’s deposit boxes…you never now when shit might happen…

            Nasa might start offering storage space on the ISS..that would be the Ultimate in secure storage, well until a micro meteorite flies through your storage box…Yaykes..ok I’m rambling i will stop now..but think of the possibilities…hehe

  7. Bu Yousef says:

    Amateur Photographer magazine were impressed… Some issues, yes, but nothing serious. I’m surprised to read this review. Something doesn’t add up.

    • Mark says:

      For me it just didn’t fit my requirements. I need to be able to trust the camera and I can’t trust a camera that can’t focus right. I also expected to be hefty like the Leica M9 which it isn’t. It was a bit too light for my liking but to other people that’s a really good thing.

      A camera is a very personal thing.

  8. Ronman says:

    I think a camera,its Human Machine Interface, and the way it fits in its owner’s hands is a vastly subjective matter that outweighs the details in the technical department for amateurs and everyday photographers.

    in the end, who need a gazilion MP? i think 3.2 to 5mp is more than enough for the daily family shooter and tourists. I’m amazed to see rock botom base point and shoots with 12 million mp…amateur’s can’t tell the difference, and if they could they would buy a better cam…

    • Mark says:

      3.2 or 5mp is a bit too low since it doesn’t allow you to crop in much. I think 12mp is just perfect.

      There is one feature in the x100 i didnt get the chance to try out and that is the high iso. Supposedly it’s very clean and extremely usable up to 3200iso. With the GF1 i don’t go higher than 800 or it gets too noisy.

      Personally gonna stick to the GF1 now and maybe jump on the D700 replacement once it comes out to take the spot of my D90.

  9. Ronman says:

    I used a Canon power-shot 3.2 for about 3 years, and most of its photos were pretty ok for its range and use then. i printed a few, but even with my better cameras now, printing off digital is never going to be like the good old 35mm…

    I’m not against more mps, i would prefer higher, but for the people that will never print, enlarge or modify, just to post on FB etc…i think 5 is more than enough (of course that is 5mp with a half decent aspect ratio, not the small dimensions you get in most phoned cams)

  10. Q8Stig says:

    I guess after trying the big DSLRs i will never be satisfied with a picture from such a small camera, but now i realized that i need one. the GF1 reviews are cool. but I want something more slim! and water proof.

    but i remember you used a converter to used Nikon Lenses on the GF1?

    • Mark says:

      Q8Stig, the picture quality from the x100 could easily rival a lot of DSLR’s. But if you’re going after something slim and waterproof you are really limiting yourself to basic point and shooters. Don’t expect quality photos that rival DSLR’s or even micro 4/3 cameras.

      I have a Nikon lens converter for the GF1 but I haven’t found a need to use it yet. Been very satisfied with the 20mm 1.7 lens that came with the gf1

  11. Zi says:

    You didn’t mention the mini-workout aka manual-focus

    Great review nonetheless

    • Mark says:

      the manual focus works like on the gf1.. terribly. Basically Unlike on my D90 or unlike say on an M9, the focus ring doesn’t mechanically control the focus of the lens, the focus ring controls the focus digitally. So you really don’t get a solid feel for it. Then you have another issue which is from infiniti to close distance you have to turn the focus ring a full 3 times!

  12. Mathai says:

    What a shame. Its a beautiful camera, too bad about the multiple minor annoyances.

  13. frenchy says:

    You cannot compare rangefinders to a pana gf1.
    It is like comparing a fiat to a ferarri. Not the same product etc…

    it s another philosophy, you should get used to this concept first by buying a Leica M3 or a voight with “argentic” film. You will learn a lot, hate it or love it.
    I cannot think right now to use something else then a rangefinder.

  14. Zi says:

    I just counted.. 7 turns.

    High iso is superb in fact, its one of few reasons im keeping this camera

    1- The viewfinder
    2- High iso performance
    3- Form and build quality
    4- Fuji film simulation

    and my hope for a firmware miracle

  15. ahmad says:

    mark i have the canon g10 (no professional use )

    what do you give it out of 10 ?


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