Loïc Magnien Street Photography Switching to Compact Camera 1

Fujifilm X100F Review

I recently switched from DSLR to compact camera. I have now been using the Fujifilm X100F for a month including the latest road trip in Iceland. There is my honest review on that camera. I am going to highlight the main difference in terms of experience between a compact mirrorless fixed lens rangefinder camera and the setup I was used to for the past decade, the single lens reflex with interchangeable lens (Canon EOS).

The big change: The Rangefinder

The Rangefinder is a total relief, it is bright and the overlay of the technical information is well done. I can see more than the final output, i.e. the range finder displays a frame within the frame so I have a greater field of view than the final frame so I can clearly wait and anticipate the position of my subject when entering the frame. As the lens and the range finder are not aligned there is a parallax effect when you are shooting a close focusing distances.

The overlay in the Optical View Finder (OVF) of the information is nice, the most important feature being the correction for parallax in real time, i.e. the frame displayed in the range finder changes size and position depending on the focusing distance so you know what is in your frame without using the the Electronic View Finder (EVF). I found myself using the EVF very rarely, mostly in dim light to check the exposure without chimping.

Controls: The ‘Menu-Free’ Experience and the Analog Feel

The menu system is, by far, the less intuitive one I have ever used. it took me 2 days to get used to it and this slows down your learning curve on that camera drastically. I hated the menu that much that I decided to assign shortcuts for the all the main features to the function buttons. The purpose was not really to make use of the function buttons but to avoid going back into the menu. However once you customized your shortcuts, you are ready for the fun, I have seriously never opened the menu apart from formatting the SD card and even this is a massive pain as ‘Format Card’ is hidden at [Menu] > [Wrench] > [User Setting] > [Format].

Fujifilm did a really good job in bringing back analog control experience, i.e. the Aperture ring, the shutter speed dial, ISO dial, Compensation dial, Focusing type and all the custom buttons to setup. You can check your parameters at all time and adjust the main ones even when your camera is OFF or without bringing attention. One drawback is that if you are using the OVF and want to change the metering mode, you need to press a function button and then the OVF will switch to EVF for the change of the menu, it would be nice to have the metering modes within the OVF as well but I understand the challenge of opting for an upgradable firmware and the convenience of the EVF for that solution.

Optics: Built-in ND Filter, F/2.0 Aperture, Flash and Leaf Shutter

There is a 3-stops ND filter, which cuts down the amount of light to 1/8. This is definitely a good feature for my type of shooting which revolves around the wide open lens – Hum, F/2.0 – and allows me to make use of it in the daylight without blowing out the highlights. At F2.0 however the lens is very soft and I tend to slow it down to F2.8. Another thing I noticed is that when you shoot close subject, in addition to the parallax problem, you have ‘interesting’ results in terms of bokeh due to the leaf shutter. The leaf shutter is an amazing feature when it comes to flash photography and the built-in flash is very good to fill the shadows and the combination of both the leaf shutter and a nice built-in flash is very convenient.

The lens itself is a fixed aspherical 23 mm F/2.0 lens, with the crop factor of the APS-C sensor you get a 35 mm full frame equivalent lens in terms of focal range but the aperture suffers and a F/2.0 becomes a sort of F/3.2 and once slowed down to F/2.8 you get a F/4.5 in terms of Depth of field even if the light coming in is still a F/2.8! So don’t expect any jaw dropping bokeh out of that lens but this is definitely compensated by the sharpness of that lens once you reach the F/8.0-F/11.0 range and by the fact that there is virtually NO distortion nor chromatic aberrations. I installed a clear UV filter as I do on any of my lenses to protect the front glass. I understand the choice is your with interchangeable lenses, but in the case of a fixed lens… there is no choice. This is your only lens, it is fixed, protect it.

Output: 24 MP sensor, JPEG film simulation and RAW files

The Fuji sensors are great, seriously. One problem with the Bayer arrays sensors (Typically Canon EOS) is that Moiré artifact occurs as two regular patterns overlap and interfere with each other creating a pattern that does not exist in reality. You will notice it when taking a picture of a display for example when the pixel pattern of the display overlap with the pattern of the Bayer array. The Fujifilm sensor tackles this a low pass filter and a X-Trans array mimicking the ‘randomness’ of the silver particles of film.  Combined with a nice processor and serious film simulations the JPEG are really good out of the camera. The most important feature is the 14 bit .RAF raw files which will require you to upgrade to Lightroom CC 2015.9 or 6.9. That has been a drawback, however if you can’t afford to upgrade I would recommend using a workaround of converting your 14 bit .RAF file into a 12 bit .TIFF file with the native Fujifilm raw file converter software.  Special thanks to my friend Wiktor Malinowski for showing me that trick.

Drawbacks: No GPS and Terrible Fuji app

That’s my main problem with this camera: there is no built-in GPS. This feature is, in 2017, everywhere. Even my Canon EOS 6D has it. I am a fan of geotagging so I had to use the Geotag photos 2 app as a workaround to be able to produce map plots with the locations of my pictures. The Fujifilm App says there is a way to geotag the photos but it’s seriously not sustainable, you have connect to the app (which is already a challenge in itself) and then use your current coordinates to geotag the next shots… not really what you expect for travel photography or to pin your good spot for street photography. Talking of the app, the transfer doesn’t provide a good flow, you need to:

  1. Go to your camera
  2. [Play] your pictures
  3. [Menu] > [Wi-Fi] > [Connect]
  4. Move to your phone
  5. Connect to the wifi hotspot of your camera
  6. Open the Fuji app > Photo transfer
  7. Go back to your Camera
  8. Select and transfer one by one the pictures
  9. Do it every time it snaps (and it jams quite a lot!)

Fujifilm, Why?!

Final considerations

The Fujifilm X100F is, in my opinion, the best travel and street photography camera your money can buy. This is definitely the market Fujifilm was aiming at with it and they totally succeeded. I got mine on Ebay for £150 cheaper than the main street retail store. If you’ll order one you will need to consider some extra accessories:

This camera would be awesome with a minimal weatherproofing, however I took it out in the biblical horizontal rain in Iceland within a zip-lock bag and it survived the frozen rain. I will upgrade if the lens is changed for a F/1.4 and if the newer version includes the GPS geotagging features.