For a while now, I've been searching for the perfect camera for my style of shooting. I love my Canon 5D Mkiii, it's an absolute workhorse! I know it inside & out, but it's not exactly discreet. At the other end of the scale, I have a Sony RX100V, which is a fantastically versatile camera and excellent for video, but the ergonomics, awkward menu and painfully slow boot up speed make it difficult for street use. If only there was a camera somewhere in the middle, a 'do it all' kind of thing, well we may be looking at the solution!...
All show and no 'go'?...
The first that strikes you with this camera is the looks, it's a thing of beauty. I love Rangefinder style cameras and all of those external dials just add to the vintage feel. The X100F comes in black or silver (I plumped for the stealthy looking black). Picking the camera up, it feels light (469g), but solid enough that it feels like it would take a (minor) fall. The next big tick in the box is the ergonomics, the grip is perfectly formed and the dials and buttons are laid out in a pretty decent fashion, but more of that later. Finally, the physical size. Now I was a little surprised by this as I thought the form would be a little smaller, but it's actually a really good size and if you have larger hands (like me) it doesn't feel like a toy, far from it. On the flip-side, I think calling it pocketable may depend on the size of your pockets! Having carried a Ricoh GR for years, I was use to something that I could slip in a jean pocket. Whereas the X100F comfortable fits in a coat pocket/side bag, if you carry it in you jeans, expect to be asked 'is that an X100F in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?'!
Although it's superficially pleasant, it's what's inside that counts and the X100F certainly doesn't let you down in that department. It boasts a 24.3mp, APS-C size X-Trans sensor. It has a fixed 23mm (35mm equivalent) f2 lens with a digital ND filter. The camera records 1080p video with frame rates from 24-60. The X100F also features a beautiful 2.3m dot hybrid LCD viewfinder with focus peaking. On the rear, you'll find a 3 inch LCD display, though the screen does not articulate. The camera also features a built-in flash, SD/SDHC/SDHX card slot, built in Wifi and USB 2.0 connectivity. On a final note, despite being fixed lens, the body is not weather-sealed. As you can tell from the specs, good things really do come in little packages.
Handling & Build Quality...
Right from the outset, I was in love with this camera. It felt natural in the hand and even though it seems a little strange to say it, it feels like a camera should. It's like you instantly know where all the dials and settings are, well almost all. There are a few minor grumbles, like the ISO selection being built into the same dial as the shutter speed, not sure why? One problem that did rear it's ugly head, which was knocking the dials whilst in my pocket. I know, I know, this is 'user' error and I could quite easily have put the camera in a case, but part of the beauty of this camera is the ultrafast start up speed, which is a god-send for street photography. However, way too many times I found myself staring at a dull or over exposed scene, only to find that I's knocked the exposure compensation in my pocket, by which time, the shot had passed. This is only a minor grumble and completely my fault, but one to bear in mind.
Nonetheless, this is a beautiful camera to hold and use. Furthermore, the build quality feels, well, quality. The dials have a good firm 'click' to them, the body feels sturdy and and even though Fuji have clearly taken the time to consider the 'looks' of the camera, there is nothing there that isn't practical and tactile, it is quite an achievement. That lightweight and tactile feel made the camera a joy to use and meant that I really didn't want to leave the house without it, even popping to the local shop became a long drawn out adventure, just so I could take my new companion out on an exploration. One of the real joys of this camera though was the autofocus, the Intelligent Hybrid AF was incredibly responsive. I have always been pleased with the AF of my little Sony, but the X100F is certainly not a slouch and was ideal for capturing those split second moments in the street, it was a joy to use.
There is no point beating around the bush, this camera creates beautiful images. Having grown use to my (now ageing) 5D Mkiii, using this camera showed me that the smaller, APS-C sensors (and in particular, the X-Trans 3 colour filter) did a fantastic job, rendering scenes in fantastic detail with colour science on a par with Canon's legendary colour wizardry. The sensor seemed to perform fantastically, even at low light and handled blacks wonderfully. Highlights, to me at least, seemed a little more of a challenge but that was only when I really pushed it. If you get a decent exposure, you're fine. My style of shooting (very 'run & gun') meant that I was constantly pushing & pulling the files, either under or over-exposing, sometimes intentionally and occasionally, accidental. However, I was surprised at how manageable the RAW files were, they seemed to have plenty of dynamic range and retained great sharpness throughout, thanks to that coupling of quality lens & sensor.
I will be the first to admit, my style of editing isn't to everyone's taste and the images that you will see below, may look faded and soft at times, this is my 'style'. However, the X100F is a very capable camera and can certainly delivered sharp and vibrant images. Although the lens may not be ideal for sports photography, the 8fps burst mode certainly came in useful for street photography. The f2 aperture made shooting in dimly lit situations a breeze and rarely did I find an image with any noticeable noise issues, which was a surprise coming from the full-frame 5D to see how well the smaller sensor handle lower light.
As good as it's predecessors?...
The X100F certainly builds on the success of the X100 'S' & 'T' - the differences are somewhat more practical improvements rather than revolutionary. Fuji have bumped up the pixel count from it's older siblings but the look and the feel of the camera are practically the same. This is certainly, in some respects, an 'if it's not broken, don't fix it' situation. Things like Facial Recognition, the speed of the AF etc. really set the X100F apart from the older iterations. This camera is a great option if it's your first delve into the Fuji line-up, but for those needing the added versatility of interchangeable lenses, knowing there are other options such as the X-Pro 2 and the XT-3 - Fuji have you covered. For me though, the X100F is very much a 'do it all' camera and if you can live with the fixed focal length, you're onto a winner.
One thing that Fuji does really well, is it's 'film stock' emulations, which the X100F continues to build on and deploy in great fashion. These are basically in-camera presets that emulate some of Fuji's historic range of film types. They work in a great way, though the output is Jpeg (obviously) and for the hobbiest, it's an easy way to 'see' what kind of looks you can achieve. I did not fully explore this as I was shooting RAW and have my own editing techniques, but it's nice to see Fuji continuing this tradition in it's newer cameras and opening up the options to those just finding out about film emulsions.
The camera is an absolute joy to use, there is no doubt about that. I had one day in London with a few hours to spare around meetings. I couldn't wait to get out and shoot some 'street' kind of stuff. The X100F made this a breeze and ultimately, it was only me being an idiot that got in the way of me grabbing the shot. As previously eluded to, on occasions I would knock the exposure compensation dial without realising and then I would wonder why everything was under-exposed. Equally, I had been shooting some shots at f16 and completely forgot to change this for some of the night-time shots, making the cameras life incredibly difficult - This was me being stupid and rushing the shots rather than thinking - so I can not fault the camera for this (though I still like some of the photos, even if they are out of focus etc.). One of the other little treats on this camera was the Hybrid EVF - it is bright, clear and having all of the shooting info in the frame (and being able to see how the exposure will look before you take the shot!) certainly helps negate some of the accidental dial spins - but again, I was to blame for just ignoring the warning signs!
The autofocus is lightening quick, the high ISO performance is fantastic, colours are beautiful - so there really isn't much to complain about. However, there are things that you need to 'get use to' such as the bizarrely placed ISO adjustment or the menu structure which, although it is clean and simply designed, is not the most intuitive at times. On the other-hand, there are customisable buttons to make your life easier and having those manual dials is a lot nicer than digging into menu systems like on the RX100V. Ultimately, this is a very capable camera that you will love to use and have no problem taking with you, practically anywhere.
Some practical stuff...
There are a few considerations to make with a camera like this. Mainly, is ‘what do you actually want to shoot’? There is no doubt that this camera can handle landscape photography, everyday family portraiture, I could even see it being used in more creative ways - but it really does jump out as a Street Photographers dream! So if you're going to be shooting all day on the street, there are a couple of other things to take into account. Most importantly is that 23mm (35mm equivalent) lens. It's a beautiful lens, though slightly prone to sun-flare (easily avoided by picking up a lens hood - shame it's not supplied though). The lens itself is wonderful, though in the great tradition of fixed length lenses, it does mean that you will have to 'zoom with your feet' and either move closer or further away to frame your shot. That big 24mp output does mean you have plenty of pixels to crop, but for those considering shooting street, you may need to closer to your subject!
On a different note, I found the battery life was great and barely noticed any drop in power, even after shooting for several hours. The rear LCD screen is lovely, it's bright and the switch between rear LCD and EVF when you bring the camera close to your face works as expected. However, I did find certain situations where a tilting LCD would have been useful so that I could 'shoot from the hip'. Equally, a touchscreen LCD would have been great for picking focus points or discreet shooting - but I have to say, the silent shutter mode and the well placed joystick for moving the AF point, meant that 'sneaking up' on scenes and grabbing a shot like a Ninja was easy and fun!
So to round things up, I have absolutely loved using this camera. It has become somewhat of an instant classic and I can see why. Fujifilm have an excellent reputation and if the continue to produce products of this quality, that will long continue. I never thought I would come across a camera that I enjoyed using as much as the Ricoh GR. However, the X100F certainly gives it a run for it's money. Not only is it fun to shoot with, beautiful to look at, but it really packs a punch and delivers fantastic images quality.
It's not without it's quirks, but I feel almost that if Fujifilm addressed them, then nobody would really need to buy the X-Pro or XT range of cameras (other than for the interchangeable lenses), it's almost perfect. It is certainly not cheap, but this camera delivers more than good quality images, it makes photography a joy again and makes you want to get out and shoot more and whether you are an amateur or a Pro, that is something very special.
Leave a comment below with your experiences of your Fuji or if you have any suggestions for other great street cameras. Don’t forget to give it a like and a share, thanks.
For a full specifications list, please visit: Fujifilm
*Please note that these are smaller, compressed images and have been edited, they are not RAW files etc.