musing: thoughts on X100F as an upgrade from X100T (the good, the bad, and the ugly)

Other posts I wrote prior to this one regarding the X100F: Stealth thumb grip, Fuji case vs Gariz case, X100F Sugru focusing tab, dust proof X100F viewfinderUSB camera battery chargerstacking WCL and TCL converter lensesconvert TCL/WCL I into version II

In Jan 2017, Fuji released the next successor to the x100 series, bringing with it welcoming changes that I’ve always hoped the x100 series would have. During January, I was in China and I didn’t think about purchasing the X100F (yet). In April of 2017, while in Tokyo, I was browsing camera store out of habit and had learned of the last X100F in the area surrounding Tokyo and decided to immediately purchase the it. Since then, having both cameras side by side, I was able to compare the two cameras to arrive to these observations and conclusions.

I’ve been a shooter of all of the previous version of the cameras of the X100 series, and I feel as if the camera is finally ready to play alongside with DSLRs. Many things have changed over the 4 iterations the X100 has gone through, some more important to me than others. For me, the more important aspects of the camera is no other than the speed and the operation of it in practical real world applications.

I don’t own any other x series cameras, so even though I know the focusing system is adopted from other higher end cameras in the series, it's still entirely new to me.

Autofocus

X100S improved autofocus over X100 by a bunch. Back when the X100S came out, it was advertised for being so much faster and having noticeable improvements in performance over the original X100. Comparing to DSLRs at the time, it was still slow and inaccurate. I have been using full frame Nikon DSLRs exclusively and there was really no comparison. Two years later, I’ve upgraded to X100T and while there were few bells and whistles added, the autofocus was still suffering slightly comparing to DSLRs, especially at night. The X100T had adequate focus speeds that I still had to somewhat adapt to every time I use it. For these years since the original X100, I’ve adopted my shooting style to the temperament of the camera. That meant whenever I picked up the X100, it was for a static scene. I wouldn’t be able to rely on it during anything hectic. I would default to my Ricoh GRII with snap focus during a chaotic scene. With the X100F, I finally can have a camera that responds and focus the way I like it to.

In DSLRs and other PD AF cameras, there is often a rhythm (snap) between the half-press of the shutter to the focus lock. The rhythm is noticeable for a fraction of a second but it’s constantly there, beating in the background and being slightly out of sync than what one is used to always make it frustrating. The earlier cameras in the X100 series, I must really slow my mentality down to make it work, I can’t actively jump into a situation and expect the focusing of the X100 cameras to work. With the X100S, I once was on a subway in Shanghai and witnessed people arguing and throwing things around. I was quick enough to pick up the camera but when I half pressed the shutter button the camera decides to hunt and hunt for focus when usually there shouldn’t be a problem with a DSLR. Now I can jump into these situations without worrying too much about the camera not being able to perform under pressure.

The autofocus points also have gotten a huge upgrade. No longer am I afraid to shoot by the hip and miss using the camera. Wide AF mode covers the entire viewable area and even zone AF points can cover a considerably larger square on the sensor (the entire height of the sensor in a square).

You might or might not have noticed the MACRO mode is now missing on the X100F. It’s not missing really, but because with the new AF system, there is no longer a need for the MACRO button. The camera is fast enough to focus far and then close, without much hunting.

Also, I’ve noticed a new mode with the AF system called AF+MF. It’s similar to what you can do on modern SWM and G lenses. You can have the camera lock focus and then use the focus ring to change or fine-tune focus, while having the shutter button half pressed.

Performance:

In the previous versions of the X100 cameras, there exists menu options to specifically configure the performance of the OVF and the camera response, most likely configurable to maximize the battery life. In the menus of the X100F, those options are simplified into HIGH, STANDARD, and ECONOMY. With the new, larger capacity battery, I can leave the camera on HIGH and still not worried about it chewing through battery too quickly. At worst, I will carry the same number of batteries with me as before and still retain the highest performance.

With the new processor, there is also less slowdowns when using advanced filters, and generally the camera is more responsive to controls with less freezes.

Sensor/Image:

The sensor now has 24MP instead of 16MP. Usually it doesn’t make a huge different, though now cropping is easier, and using it as a backup of a backup on commercial jobs is more of a possibility because of the higher resolution files. It also bridges the gap to my DSLR for work (the D810 has 36MP). At night, the camera performs better not only in focus but also sensitivity. ISO performance is by at least a stop in the usable range. I can set the auto ISO up to 6400 and still get very usable files.

With the new sensor (and processor) you can now shoot in ACROS! It’s great if you shoot JPG, having contrasty JPGs straight out of camera, and is a welcome addition to the Chrome we’ve gotten since the X100F. If you shoot RAW like I do, it’ll be a nice in camera preview for you to match your post processing to later.

Compressed RAW is now available with the X100F and Lightroom recognizes it. The file is compressed using lossless compression, shaving the file size in half. Now the 24MP file is slightly larger than the 16MP file on the X100T, a great addition.

Digital teleconverter is a fun feature, though not very useful for someone who shoots all RAW like me. It’s good for getting and idea of what a crop or zoom would be like using said focal lengths, in a pinch. However, I have to say it’s quite cute when you see a 100mm box inside the optical viewfinder when you’ve dialed the TCL-X100 to x2 using the digital teleconverter.

Handling

When it comes to added buttons and configurable menu options, I now finally have extra slots open in the Q menu, whereas before there were features I had to omit to make the more important ones immediately available.

All the controls moved from the left side of the screen to the right of the screen. Not necessarily a bad thing, but we did lose the WIFI button which I use a lot, to make room for the joystick.

I’ve grown used to using center AF and refocus on the previous X100 cameras, just because changing focus points is a huge process involving lots of clicking and pushing. With the joystick I can use to quickly change focus points. It’s so new that I often forget it’s there. As of now, I must constantly remind myself to use it when necessary.

The ISO dial is nice because there is now physical controls associated with each corner of the exposure triangle (aperture, shutter speed, ISO), and not having it on a button makes it slightly less confusing (and annoying) during operation. Before, it was very annoying to switch ISO on the fly, so I left it on Auto and forgot about it, now I can change it without referring to the screen.

Drive button is now on the up side of the 4 way buttons, I almost never accessed it before having it being in such a weird place (near the thumbrest on X100T). Though with the higher FPS, AF tracking and higher resolution compressed RAWs, I can occasionally use the burst function a bit more liberally.

View mode button has moved next to the viewfinder, which I find makes A LOT more sense ergonomically, for single handed operation.

AFL button is also in a better place, to the left of the wheel. For those of us who are used to back button AF, this is a welcomed addition that makes operating this camera much more natural.

The camera is still difficult to grip without any modifications, here I use a simple and un-intrusive mod to make the camera a lot more grippable.

TCL and WCL:

I am a huge user of the converter lenses, and it has been a consistent pain to change the lens profile through the menu each time I put on (or take off) the lenses. Often, I forget to change it and end up with an overcorrected RAW file in camera (changing it applies in camera distortion correction). Eventually I assigned a button dedicated to changing the lens profiles on the X100F and even then, I still sometime forget to change the profile in the heat of the moment. Now, through simple yet clever engineering, they’ve added a magnetically activated switch inside the lens barrel. It uses different polarity of the magnet inside the TCL-X100II and the WCL-X100II to communicate with the camera what lens is installed. Optically the I and the II lenses are identical, the only thing added is a magnet switch. If you’re crafty, you can add a 1x2mm magnet to the inside of the older lenses to make them trigger the camera like the new lenses.  I use this trick to stack the two lenses.

For those of you who are upgrading and still have V1 of the lens, use this modification to make your lens auto-detectable.

WIFI:

In X100T, the WIFI was a welcoming addition I didn’t know I needed. Though I’ve grown to really use it when I need to be discreet. Using the smartphone to control the camera is even better than having and articulate screen. I can hang the camera on my side and still through while looking like I’m being distracted on my phone. I have been having problems with the newer versions of the Fuji app using the older camera. It could be due to the more complicated interface and control options in the latest version of the app. With the X100F though, I have not had any problems yet and I seems to get more control of the camera through WIFI (whereas before all I can change was EXP COMP and aperture, now I get a myriad of options including size, quality, film modes, highlights / shadows, and more).  The photo below was taken with the Wifi function on.  I was literally sitting with arms reach of her, and can't really look through the viewfinder or the screen and look like I'm taking photos.

THINGS I KEEP HOPING TO GET FIXED (but has been broken for 3 generations, LISTEN UP FUJI)

Seems like maybe I am a part of a very small group of user who always has a broken X100 after a year and half. I'm using it regularly, turning the camera on and off while pulling and putting it in and out of my camera bag. After 3 iterations of cameras, I keep finding same flaws happening to every version of the camera I had before the X100F.

On and off switch: It gets sticky after a while, I don't think it's because of dirt and grime inside the switch but a mechanical malfunction.  While I had the X100S, I used it enough that eventually the switch became more and more difficult to turn on and off with only 1 finger.  I sent it in for service and apparently according to the Dept the switch popped out of its socket.  The same thing is now happening to my X100T and it's no longer under warranty (BUMMER).  They've fixed it on the X100S under warranty and if I recall correctly, the surgery is around 600USD.  My one solution is to stop turning the camera off so much but that's hardly a solution at all.  Hopefully with the X100F they've changed the design, only time will tell.

Viewfinder dust:  After using the cameras regularly, taking it in and out of the camera bag, both my X100S and X100T looks like operation Desert Storm inside the viewfinder.  There is so much dust inside there.  While it has not affected the image quality, it is still very annoying to see giant specs of black when using the OVF.  My solution so far is to put Sugru over the diopter adjustment hole.

Sticky focusing ring:  The focusing ring isn't sealed, and over time sand and grime will get underneath it, making it sometimes impossible to turn.  The focusing ring of my X100T is no longer smooth, so much that I can no longer manual focus reliably.  Once again, these will happen after your warranty expires (BUMMER AGAIN).  My one solution is to use one of the 3d printed focus rings to protect and shield the focusing ring from coming in contact with anything and everything, on the X100F.

Thank you for reading this far.  Check out my Instagram for the latest work taken with the X100F and leave comments below if you have any questions.

Categories: diy, equipment, fujifilm