X100 – you love it despite the madness it causes

Ah, where to start with my beloved X100.

Do I love this camera? Yes, I do.

Does it drive me crazy? Yes, it does.

Do those things happen simultaneously? Why, funny you should ask! Yes they do.

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Look, this review is going to read like I hate this camera, because Fuji have done so many retarded things with it, they really have. But the image quality, when the stars align and everything works, is unbelievably good for something you can put in your pocket.

(You can click through to see much bigger images.)

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The X100 looks like either a throwback to the old days of the Olympus Trip 35 (my mum had one in the early 70s, and it took really good images, even with her driving it) or a Leica. It depends on your motivation, I guess.

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I’ve never used a Leica, but I’m guessing the autofocus on it works a whole lot better than the AF on the X100, because the AF here is like using the outer points on a 5D – just horrible. (OK, update since firmware update1.21 – it’s now a LOT better than a 5D.)

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Also, the menu is going to drive you nuts. I’d call it a “menu system”, but there is no system, unless “random” is now a system. Finding things in the menu is purely a matter of learning where they are, or just fluke, as there’s no way to work it out logically.

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And on the menu, it really needs a “my features” tab, where you can put your own menu choices. This would immediately remove a significant number of issues with the insane menu. Like having the ND filter option on the SECOND page of the shooting menu, so you can’t access it quickly (another update – you can now assign the RAW button, so I’ve got the ND filter there.). Or they could make the custom shooting settings (a great idea) alter more than about five settings (making it a useless implementation of a great idea). Seriously, the menu system looks like they sorted it via a random number generator.

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Further, it has a great feature of auto ISO, which will up the ISO if your shutter speed falls below a user-set parameter. So I can tell it to try to stop the shutter speed falling below 1/30th of a second, and to crank the ISO if that is going to happen. However, it won’t let you set it above 3200, which is nuts, because 6400 is brilliant, and even worse, if you have it switched on, and you manually set the ISO to above 3200, it will DROP the ISO to your top limit when you shoot. Huh? Just bizarre.

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The X100 has a well-reported problem known as “Sticky aperture Blade Syndrome”, where the computer inside tells the lens to stop down to (anything bar f2) but it just shoots at f2 anyway, meaning huge over-exposure. (This happens whether the aperture has been set manually or if the camera does it in (semi or full) auto mode.) Yes, mine has it, so it’s off being repaired as I type. (And it’s was away for FIVE WEEKS, despite Fuji telling me that the X100 was a priority because they know all about this issue.)

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Mine also had all sorts of issues with the AF, meaning that I basically can’t use it in either one-shot or constant AF mode, so I just lock it to MF and use the back button for AF. The advantage of this method is that it will happily run down into the macro range without having to manually switch macro mode on, which seems weird given it can’t do this itself, but there you have it. Unfortunately, the AF on mine is just stupid – you can be focusing on someone’s eye, so the focus point is on their eye and well surrounded by their face/head, and it will focus on the wall three metres behind them. Repeatedly. This wouldn’t be so bad if the MF approached even barely-usable, but it doesn’t, as you need to spin and spin the focus ring to move it the tiniest bit. (I read on on the internet yesterday that the repaired cameras are coming back with a new firmware version (not yet available publicly) that improves this a lot, but it’s still not all that good.) My mate also has one of these cameras and he says his doesn’t do that, so hopefully when it’s back from repair (I told them about that as well as the SABS) it’ll behave. (MF still sucks.)

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It has this really cool viewfinder that will switch between optical and electronic, but I really don’t use it, so I’ll not say anything about it. (I’m so used to a Canon 1-series DSLR that holding the X100 to my face seems really weird and toylike. My mate, who praised the wonderful VF initially and said he always used it and that it was way cool, now doesn’t seem to, so its value is possibly up for debate.)

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Battery life is pretty average, and it has possibly the worst battery charger of all time – in order to keep the battery in the charger and pushed against the contacts (of the charger that was clearly designed for a different battery), they have a little plastic spacer there for you to use, They’re not even smart enough to glue it in place. The internet is full of “lost spacer” stories, just pathetic for a $1200 camera.

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TLDR: I love this camera, it produces great images when it feels like it.
cheers, juice

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