Old Gear Review: The Fujifilm X100

It's time for another old gear review. For the uninitiated, this is where we do a quick review an older piece of gear and answer one question: does it hold up over time? Today, we look at a classic: the original Fuji X100. Not the S, the T or the F. The first X100 with the Bayer sensor and plenty of quirks. I'll be up front about this, I love this camera and it changed my perspective on camera gear. Hey, I never claimed these reviews would be un-biased.

A Classic, You Say?

Yes. This camera deserves the title "classic". It put Fuji back on the map and is known as the gateway drug to the Fuji X system. Once you pick this camera up, whichever variant, you're forever changed. But the original X100 was unique and special. Many say, and I agree, that there's something special about the sensor on this camera. Much like the 5D Mark II, there's just some buttery goodness there. It's not something you can readily identify, but it's got special mojo.

When this camera first came out, I remember reading blog posts and watching YouTube videos about people ditching their DSLR kits for the simplicity of this little range finder-like camera. When I got mine, I became enamored with it too. This is a camera series most photographers will have a love affair with at some point.

Quick Specs

Released in February 2011, the Fujifilm X100 is equipped with a 12.2 megapixel, APS-C sized sensor. Given its size, this sensor is large. The ISO range is 200-6,400, with auto ISO available for various shutter speeds. It has a 23mm f/2.0 fixed lens, which is the equivalent of a 35mm lens on a full-frame sensor. Unlike other mirrorless cameras, the X100 has a hybrid view finder with both optical capability and an EVF with 1.4million pixels at 600 x 800. Autofocus comes with 49 points with selectable area size. Another unique feature is the built-in 3 stop neutral density filter. Enough specs, let's move on. 

What Is It Like To Use?

Cameras have personality and this one has a more dynamic personality than other cameras. It's organic, and it inspires you to make great photos. Not to say the camera itself, because of its specs, will cause you to make great images, but you want to use this thing. The X100 makes you want to go out and shoot. With its manual dials, lightweight and retro looks, it's a joy to use. The simplicity of a fixed lens camera is ironically liberating. You work with what you have and the limitation coaxes more out of you as a photographer. 

Like any great romance, this camera also brings on inner conflict, drama and resentment. It's got flaws. For instance, it has a hard time focusing. The early firmware was particularly bad, but as Fuji often does, it released a series of updates that greatly improved the focus speed and accuracy. Another maddening shortcoming, the EVF doesn't show an actual depiction of your exposure when in full-manual mode, but it does in aperture and shutter priority. Not sure why, but that's the way it is. 

And close-up images with the lens wide open are soft. Back up a bit and it's fine, but up close is bad. The rear LCD screen is less than great. In fact, if you judged image quality based on the LCD, you think this camera was a dud. But, once you upload your images and view them on a computer monitor, you're blown away by how great the images actually look. 

Image Quality And Sample Shots

The rendering from this sensor is something special, and like all Fuji cameras, the JPEG's are wonderful. The newer X100 series cameras have a more modern X-Trans sensor, but this original X100 Bayer sensor has some special sauce. You won’t find the most recent film simulations on this version of the camera (Classic Chrome, Acros or Eterna), but it does have the original simulations like Velvia, Astia and Provia which are all nice. 

Does It Hold Up Over Time?

Some would argue that this camera was okay for a version 1 and that Fuji have addressed the flaws in the newer cameras. That is true, but some of that soul is lost in the X100S, X100T and X100F. The unique rendering of the sensor alone outweighs its flaws. And these cameras can be had cheap if you can find one in decent shape. The answer is yes. The Fuji X100 holds up over time and remains a great camera, deserving the title of a classic. It's got soul (did I mention that?) 

Author: Don Fitzsimmons
Co-Founder of Gear Offer, software developer and photographer.

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