Luxury compact fixed-lens cameras—besides the overtly specific moniker, what’s not to love? This distinctive niche of cameras is a wonderful choice for the prosumer jet-set crowd, as well as purist street shooters. These little wonders offer portability, advanced features and superior image quality in a stylish package.
In this ongoing series, I'll explore some of KEH’s most popular luxury compact fixed lens cameras, focusing on how they handle and the overall shooting experience, on top of the usual specs and features.
Is it luxury?
At its current price point, you could certainly consider it a luxury item. The build quality is also quite spectacular, making anyone who picks it up feel like they’re holding something expensive. On top of it all, its retro styling, complete with analog dials and a signature hybrid viewfinder, makes the X100F an elegant camera.
Is it compact?
At just over a pound and approximately 5in x 3in x 2in, it’s not quite pocketable, but it’s certainly small enough to fit in a purse or a small camera bag. It doesn’t feel heavy around your neck and works quite well on a wrist strap. For an everyday carry, you could do a lot worse than the X100F.
Is it fixed lens?
Yes! Fuji has stuck with the same 23mm lens for all four of its X100-series cameras (the “F” in X100F stands for “Fourth”) and it is exceptional glass with some unique qualities. On the APS-C sensor, 23mm is the roughly equivalent to a 35mm full frame focal length—the standard for generations of shooters.
Is it a camera?
Oh, is it ever.
Handling the X100F
I took the X100F for a long walk around town during Dragon Con, a beloved yearly Atlanta convention covering science fiction, fantasy and all things related to fan culture, and found that the camera handled spectacularly the whole day. The convention brings thousands of cosplayers to Atlanta, and all these wild characters in an urban setting make some surreal scenes.
After spending fifteen minutes setting the camera up to my liking, I was hunting for good light. The controls felt intuitive and unobtrusive from the get-go. The dedicated analog dials put all the basic controls (aperture, shutter speed, ISO) at my fingertips and there’s enough customizable buttons to cover the other functions. It fit well in my grip and it’s laid out so that you can reach almost all the controls with your right hand.
I use back-button focusing, and I found the AEL/AFL button to be further to the left of where I like my thumb to rest, but I got used to it after some use. I also managed to hit the oddly placed Q button (quick menu) by mistake quite a bit, but it wasn’t too distracting.
The people at Fujifilm hit it out of the park with the look and feel of the original X100, and have made slight improvements with every model since, careful not to mess with the formula too much, and it all culminates in this camera. I really enjoyed the quickness of selecting focus points with the joystick, but missed an articulated screen to capture shots from down low or up high.
The shooting experience
Walking through the convention crowds on the streets of Atlanta, I found the X100F small enough not to be intimidating—I got up close to subjects without scaring them off. I also received a few compliments from people on how cool it looks, so that definitely helped break the ice.
The hybrid viewfinder is amazing. The pop-up digital viewfinder allowed me to preview exposure and white balance, while the bright optical viewfinder made it easier to see in darker scenes or when I needed to track people walking into frame—it really is the best of both worlds.
Autofocus was fast enough for my liking, although some DSLR shooters might find it slower than they’re used to. It’s not an ideal camera for fast-moving sports or anything, but I shot some skateboarders with it on Atlanta’s Beltline and found it worked quite well. The continuous shooting mode goes up to 8 frames per second, so you can be sure to capture the right moment with it.
The battery life is a bit of an issue. Unless you want to carry a couple of spares with you during a day’s shoot, I suggest turning the camera off between shots, as well as switching off the back screen and only using the optical viewfinder.
It’s got a built-in ND filter and a 1/4000th of a second mechanical shutter speed (expandable to 1/32,000th with the electronic shutter), so you can shoot wide open at f/2 in the middle of the day with no problem. Low-light performance is also great, getting usable shots up to 12,800 ISO—although I rarely ever find myself needing to go above 6,400. This versatility makes it a great all-around camera able to work a variety of scenes, although I wish it were weather-sealed for shooting in adverse conditions.
It takes pretty good video—if you’re into that sort of thing—but it’s definitely a secondary function, as this is a photo-making tool first and foremost.
Fujifilm has gotten a lot of use out of the 23mm f/2 lens through the X100 series, but I think coupling it with the 24.3 megapixel X-Trans III sensor truly brought it to life. It’s not the sharpest lens, especially up close, but it’s got character and a magical element to it. Best of all, this lens/sensor combo coupled with Fujifilm’s color science generates images that are simply stunning and have a timeless quality—you might be tempted to shoot only JPEGs, because they don’t really need any touch-up.
The X100F is a great camera. Shooting with it is a joy and, like the best cameras, it actually inspires you to use it. Fujifilm has really listened to photographers and has built a near-perfect luxury compact fixed-lens camera. If I was to own one camera and one lens, I’d certainly put this at the top of the list.
If you’re looking for something similar to the X100F, but don’t want to stretch your budget, you’re in luck—all models in the X100 series are all still wonderful cameras with years of good use ahead of them.