For four years now, the Fujifilm 23mm f/2 has been my most used lens and, whilst I can’t stop using the 35mm f/1.4 right now, this little lens was my first love. Despite having this lens, I’ve always dreamed of owning one of the X100 series cameras but for some reason I could never justify it. That was until recently. I finally caved and snagged a used Fujifilm X100F. It’s only been a few weeks but my god the Fujifilm X100F it the greatest thing I have ever held in my hands. It’s absolutely perfect.
You may be thinking, quite rightly, that it’s 2021 and I should have picked up the X100V which looks like a huge upgrade on the four year old X100F. Well, I very nearly treated myself but I managed to save £400 by opting for the older camera. Most importantly however, the X100F matches my two X-T2’s perfectly. It is the best addition to my camera bag since jumping to Fujifilm in 2016; I just wish I’d picked this up sooner.
There are plenty of detailed reviews across the internet and on YouTube for this camera so I won’t go into all of the specifications etc; we’ve known about those since the camera came out four years ago. This is just a post in my usual style setting out my thoughts, my likes and dislikes along with plenty of images to show you what can be done with the X100F. I know I’ll never be Jonas Rask so here’s his review too to help!
The headline is that the Fujifilm X100F and all its previous (and newer) iterations hold a very special place in so many photographer’s hearts and it’s so clear to see why.
MY REVIEW OF THE FUJIFILM X100F
The first thing that you notice with the X100F is just how goddamn good it looks. There’s no doubt that this is the best looking camera out there and what you have is essentially an X-Pro 2 with a tiny 23mm f/2 lens that can fit into your pocket. Perfection.
The body is all-metal and this really adds to the feel that this is an expensive, high end, camera. I’m not going to lie, I place the camera specifically in my lounge as though it was a piece of art, an object to look at and admire not just a box that takes photographs.
I know I’m writing this at a time when most Fujifilm users will be looking at the latest version of this camera, the X100V. Whilst the button layout and design has been tidied up with that camera, there are some specifics that actually led to me choosing the X100F over the V and over the T.
Firstly, the joystick. The best way to flick between focus points. I can’t imagine a camera without this now.
Secondly, and probably most importantly, the X100F retains the d-pad; something which has been lost on the X100V. A lot of reviews will say that its not needed but, for me, I love the d-pad. It allows for such a smooth transition between shooting with the X-T2 and then switching to the X100F. Annoyingly, I haven’t been able to keep the custom d-pad buttons identical to those on my X-T2. The top button is reserved for changing the drive mode so I’ve moved my white balance to the left d-pad instead (just a warning, you can’t save white balance adjustments to the custom settings so this is crucial for me) The right button remains the most used with it allowing me to quickly change between my custom settings (though you can’t rename them on the X100F).
Did I say how beautiful this camera is?
The Fujifilm X100F is a fixed lens camera with a 23mm prime stuck to the front of it. This means that you do your zooming with your feet, getting close to your subject simply by walking (though there is a digital crop feature). The 23mm lens, equivalent to the classic 35mm point and shoot focal length, is one of the most versatile out there.
I will admit that after four years of using the focal length sometimes I felt it wasn’t quite close enough or wasn’t quite wide enough and those thoughts were compounded when I finally got the 35mm f/1.4 (read more about this lens here). That lens is one that I just cannot take off my X-T2 but equally I have been carrying the 16mm f/1.4 for the wider shots. The X100F sits firmly in the middle of those two focal lengths and captures the best of both worlds. Whilst it’s a bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears with it not being close enough and not being wide enough, it is so versatile that there’s nothing you can’t capture. I was pleasantly surprised when I brought the X100F up to my eye and the field of view just felt ‘right’. I’ve definitely missed this focal length and I can’t wait to force myself to use it more.
As expected with a Fujifilm camera, the image quality that this little camera outputs is fantastic. As I said above, the images are practically identical to those produced by an X-Pro2 or X-T2 when combined with the 23mm f/2. It’s not on the same level as the magic produced by the 35mm f/1.4 but its more than good enough.
The only downside to the X100F in terms of image quality is that, as I’m sure everyone knows by now, close up images at f/2 can be very soft. I noticed the same issue after using the 23mm f/2 lens but it wasn’t anywhere near as obvious as with the X100F. Fujifilm say it was intentional but given that the X100V has received a brand new lens that is completely sharp at f/2, I’m not so sure. Anyway, as I did with the 23mm f/2, stop down to f/4 and you will have sharp, crisp images that could rival any lens/camera combo.
The reality is however the above ‘defect’ should not draw away from the excellent images that this camera can produce and won’t stop you from getting ‘the shot’. All of my images throughout this post are JPEGs, pretty much straight out of camera, and they are more than good enough for me. I have used this camera at a wedding too and it was absolutely perfect.
The Fujifilm X100F’s Surprising Features
Before purchasing the X100F I of course did my research to make sure that I was perfectly happy with my choice. However, even after reading plenty of reviews, I was really surprised and impressed by the following features:
Leaf Shutter – This was the best surprise for me. I don’t really like shooting with an electronic shutter even though I love that it is completely silent. That issue is completely resolved with the leaf shutter – it is practically silent, can sync with flash at high shutter speeds (not that I’ve used flash yet but I may well for portraits on bright sunny days) and it doesn’t leave the ‘rolling shutter’ effect that you get with the electronic shutter. The silence is what makes this my number one surprise feature though as it really helps with being stealthy whether on the streets or at weddings.
Built in Neutral Density Filter – The X100F has a three stop neutral density filter built in which essentially blocks the amount of light reaching the sensor. This is such a great feature for being able to use slower shutter speeds in bright daylight; think panning shots on the streets and silky smooth waterfalls (though you might need more than a 3 stop for this). I’m really looking forward to testing this out!
Hybrid Viewfinder – This wasn’t something I was expecting to use at all but the viewfinder is very interesting. You have three choices; the Electronic Viewfinder (that I use on the X-T2), the Optical Viewfinder (you actually see the real life scene in front of you) and the Hybrid Viewfinder. The Hybrid viewfinder is the best of both worlds – you have the OVF so you can see exactly what is happening in front of you both in and just outside of the frame but with a small EVF in the bottom right corner allowing you to see the image with exposure and your custom settings dialled in.
Autofocus – Whilst I’ve never been let down with the autofocus speed from the X-T2 with the 23mm f/2, for some reason I was expecting the autofocus to be much slower with the X100F. Luckily for me, that is not the case at all. The autofocus is really snappy and definitely on par with what I’m used to with the X-T2. Those with newer cameras may notice a little difference but for street and travel photography there will be no issues here.
Slow Shutter Speed – Finally, something I’ve been really impressed with, is the X100F’s ability to produce sharp images at relatively low shutter speeds. At 1/30th, I can get a perfectly usable photo without any signs of blur. This really helps as, when combined with high ISO, you can still take photos in extremely low light situations.
The Drawbacks of the Fujifilm X100F
I know I keep saying this is really a perfect camera but there are some drawbacks that I’ve found that ever so slightly annoy me. It’s always best to be honest and hopefully you’ll be able to consider these when balancing whether or not to buy the Fujifilm X100F.
As I outlined above, the lens produces soft images at close distances at f/2. I think Jonas Rask described it as looking as though someone has just smeared vaseline all over the lens. Not terrible but better to use f/4 and this will never be an issue again.
I think this has been mentioned a few times by others and, at first I wondered what they meant. After a good few weeks with the camera now, I definitely agree that the Q button is in the wrong place and I keep catching it with my thumb; annoying.
The size of the camera is a huge positive meaning that it can be pocketed so it’s with you at all times. Not only is the camera small but there’s no thumb grip or hand grip like on the X-T cameras so I have, a few times, almost dropped the camera. You can buy third party accessories that helps this but I’ll see how I get on for now.
Whilst I love the hybrid viewfinder, at the moment I keep getting drawn back to using the EVF. The switch to EVF isn’t instantaneous though when you lift the camera up to your eye. There is a slight lag as the camera has to switch from OVF to EVF and that lag takes longer than I expected. I’m talking milliseconds here but it’s noticeable.
It took me a few attempts to get used to the aperture ring which sits very close to the camera and my hands seem far too big! I think I’m used to switching the aperture now and just use my thumbs when the camera is up to my eye. I normally leave it on f/4 anyway as I find that’s where this lens really shines.
Finally, another drawback that’s not necessarily a huge issue is that the X100F lacks the ability to rename your custom settings. I have them set up identically to those on my X-T2 but I miss the ability to name them as I normally include the WB shift to remind me! Of course, if you own one of the newer Fujifilm cameras, this won’t matter to you as you can actually save the WB shift in each custom setting. A huge positive but not yet enough for me to upgrade!
Without doubt, the Fujifilm X100F stands the test of time. Whilst you technically get a better lens, access to weather sealing and more film simulations with the X100V, for me at least, the X100F remains an extremely good camera. The question many people will be asking is whether the X100F is still worth purchasing in 2021? The answer is a resounding yes.
I’ve fallen back in love with the focal length and I can carry this camera everywhere with me (in my pocket!!) meaning I am ready for absolutely anything. I still need to get back to a bigger city (damn you Covid) to really test out the street capabilities which is no doubt where this camera really shines. Don’t think the X100F isn’t versatile though, it’s great for travel, portraits and weddings. It’s great for those shots you would ordinarily take with your phone; your lunch, your beer on the table, quirky interiors, a view out of the train window. This is the camera that can do everything.
I was really worried about getting rid of my 23mm f/2 lens to claw some money back on this purchase but I’m sorry, the X100F is too good and just far sexier (there I said it). Thanks for the memories my little 23mm f/2, you were great around Australia and Asia but I’ve moved on.
So if you were caught in two minds and have the budget available, I’d highly recommend getting the X100F immediately. If your budget stretches that little further then yes of course get the X100V but, with that spare £400, you could get another lens (if you have another Fujifilm body). This camera will no doubt make you very, very happy.
One day I will settle on the perfect Fujifilm camera setup but with the purchase of the X100F I am now oh so close.