Speak to most people at Photokina 2010 about the highlight of the show and the Fujifilm FinePix X100 will be top of the list. Doing what Leica has been up to for years now, the Japanese camera company has come up with digital device in the shape of an old rangefinder. The good news is that this version is a fraction of the price. A small fraction. One that has a double figure at the bottom. And a one on top. It’s $1000. And if you think that’s a lot, then take a look at the Leica M9 Titanium.
Now before we go any further with this First Look review, let’s bear in mind the limitation of what we had access to. First, the camera was firmly nailed down to the tripod. Second, it’s pre-production at the moment, and thirdly, it doesn’t actually record any pictures right now, so we can’t tell you how the results compare. What we can do though is describe how it looks, feels, works and all about the buttons, dials, viewfinder and screen. Sadly, again, there’s no official software in place, so no word on the menus. That said, one of the beauties of this little 12.3-megapixel APS-C sensored snapper is that with all of the major controls operable by hand, you shouldn’t need too many.
So, let’s give you the bottom line nice and high up here. The Fujifilm FinePix X100 is lovely. It’s mostly magnesium alloy with a leather imitation outer. It doesn’t quite have that Leica shine and there is a little plasticy touch about it but it certainly feels good enough - especially for the money.
Obviously, there’s no moulded grip, but the ergonomics are good in terms of functionality in that all of the buttons and controls on the camera are in natural places for your hands. Aperture and shutter speed selection are on the focus ring and top side respectively, as well they should be, and the exposure control dial has been included too with increments of 0.3 between +2 and -2. The real treat though is the hybrid viewfinder and the perfectly positioned old front lever which has been commissioned on the X100 to switch between the electronic and bright frame modes with a cinematic black swipe if you happen to be looking down it at the time.
The good news is that both ways of doing things look superb as you line your eye up. They cover 100 per cent of the field, there’s no edging at the corners of your view where you can’t get close enough, and every frame looks spectacular through it. It would be nice if the whole world looked like that all the time. What’s more, in both modes you get a subtle, well placed, non-obtrusive set of read outs at the bottom of the frame telling you what aperture, shutter speed and ISO you’ve selected.
So, give or take, you can do most of your photography without even bothering with the screen on the back. All the same, you might want to because the 2.8-inch LCD is a really pretty stunning 1.4 millon dot display and offers excellent levels of contrast and details of what it shows. It looks to be a winner particularly for playback mode when you’ll genuinely be able to tell if you’ve captured that shot in the way that you’re after.
There’s also just about the right number of controls on the back and sides of the X100 to let you operate the thing as a modern compact; with flash toggling, scene modes, AF type select and white balance all available at the touch of a button. Doubtless there’ll be all sorts more to play with once you bring the menus and jog wheel into action, but we’ll have to discover just how far down the rabbit hole Fujifilm lets you go when the X100 officially comes to market.
What is great to see though is that despite the old school looks, the X100 will still let you shoot 720p HD movies and rattle off snaps at 5fps and all through an F/2 max aperture of that 35mm equivalent fixed lens. Stirring stuff.
From what the world knows about the Fujifilm FinePix X100 there is every reason to be excited. It looks good, it’s well designed, it does everything you could want from a stylish compact and it simply has one of the best viewfinders we’ve ever seen anywhere full stop. If it all comes off as it should, then we’re looking at a Leica for those that could only dream before. Fingers crossed and time to start saving the pennies.