(Pocket-lint) - For years Fujifilm has been making the finest fixed-lens cameras in its X100 series. These street photography cameras are certainly specialist - given the retro styling, unusual viewfinder, and lack of zoom - but there's nothing else that can compete in this class.
Back in February 2020, around two-and-a-half years after the release of the X100F, Fujifilm revealed an eagerly-awaited update: the X100V. So what's new for this fixed-lens camera that might attract you to buy one?
Is the X100V's design new?
- Adds 4K video
- New ergonomic grip
- New lens construction
- Adds touchscreen controls
- Adds vari-angle bracket for screen
- Adds weather-sealing (requires adapter ring & filter, sold separately)
- 26.1-megapixel X-Trans CMOS IV sensor (new generation ups resolution from 24MP)
While Fujifilm hasn't gone back to the drawing board for the X100V - in that it looks much the same as the X100F - there are some nips and tucks. According to the original press release, the grip has been redesigned. But having now handled the camera, we can't find any noticeable difference with it. No biggie, though, as the subtle curve of this grip works just fine for a camera that doesn't have a massive lens on the front.
A much bigger change is that the LCD screen can now flip out away from the body, up to 90-degrees vertically, or about 30-degrees facing downward. This has been implemented really nicely, without excessive bulk, just a little nub to the side of the screen to aid in pulling it away from the camera body. Or leave it in a fixed position, as the choice is yours.
There's also the prospect of weather-sealing. You'll need to attach the AR-X100 adapter ring and PRF-49 protection filter to achieve that resistance, none of which comes in the box. We think Fujifilm should have gone all-out in making the X100V sealed straight out of the box really. Although such sealing won't be an essential for everyone.
- Lens is still a bit noisy
- Close-focus sharpness limitations
- No exposure compensation dial lock
Front-on and the X100V looks identical to earlier X100F. Some changes in moving controls have taken place around the back to accommodate the bracket-mounted screen, but in general you're getting the same fairly large scale compact and all the goodness that brings.
We looked back over our X100F review from 2017 and it's clear that the X100V takes many minor complaints we had back then and solves them. For example: that bracket-mounted screen now includes touch control, bringing this camera into the modern world of hands-on operation. There's also 4K video, should that be your thing.
It's only really with the exposure compensation dial where nothing has changed. It still can't be locked into position, which sees ours spin into the wrong position from time to time. Not the end of the world, but it'd be great to see this solved.
How does the X100V handle?
- 23mm Fujinon single focal length lens (equates to 35mm), f/2.0-f/16 aperture with ring control
- Hybrid optical/electronic rangefinder-style viewfinder unique to this camera series
- 35mm (equivalent) focal length; 50/70mm (equivalent) crop options available
- 425-point autofocus system
At first glance you might think the X100V's lens is identical to its predecessors. In many regards it is: the focal length, a 35mm equivalent, is the very same. So is the f/2.0 maximum aperture and manual control ring. The difference lies in the construction: although the eight elements arranged in two groups remains the same, two of those elements are now aspherical (in the X100F it was just one molded ASPH element).
Why is this useful? Aspherical lenses are a more oval shape and help to deliver a 'flatter' image appearance because the lens doesn't bulge in a spherical way. This will, for example, make for more natural portraits from a relatively wide-angle lens. The new lens is also said to be capable of resolving higher resolution, delivering lower distortion, and focusing closer to subjects - all things that we've wanted from this series in the past. Yay.
However, the close-focus distance of the X100V is the very same as the X100F, at up to 10cm from lens. And if you're shooting with a wide open aperture then you still won't be able to resolve crisp detail in such close-up shots. There's nothing to stop you shooting at f/2.0 but close-to-lens subjects won't be sharp, even if they're within the focal plane, delivering a milky 'halo' as a result. The camera doesn't warn of this - it's just something you have to learn as you go.
Still, as high-end compact cameras go, we love the X100V. It's a camera like no other - in looks and operation - and we've always had such a soft spot for this camera series. Drop the aperture for f/4.0 and you'll squeeze a lot more sharpness potential out of it. Coupled with the large sensor size that still enables shallow depth of field control no problems.
The autofocus system also offers a huge spread of focus points throughout the screen's breath, and with the ability to adjust their size they function in a fairly pinpoint fashion. Of the 425 autofocus points, there's a 117-point option, while combination of phase-detection and contrast-detection systems makes for good performance. The more sensitive points are outlined as distinct, larger squares so you know what's what.
However, the lens is quite noisy when shifting focus. The mechanical sounds are reminiscent of a miniature printer seeking out its ink.
The addition of optional touch control is really handy, especially with the screen tilted outward for waist-level work. You may not go using the screen that much though. It's the viewfinder that really sells the X100V. It's always been the pinnacle of this camera series: offering a wider-than-100-per-cent optical view, so you can predict what's coming into the frame, thanks to a digital border outlining the edges of the shot you're about to capture. Just make sure you're keeping a keen eye on that digital white outline - as that's where the picture magic happens.
When adjusting to the 50/70mm crop options, that digital border moves - you'll see it get smaller within the view, to represent the new capture area. Parallax adjustment is also catered for in this situation, which means the frame edge will move accordingly if you've focused on a closer subject (necessary given the different placement of the viewfinder window and through-the-lens alignment to the sensor) to accurately focus on what you intend.
A flick of the X100V's finder switch - which is positioned towards the front - opens up an in-camera rangefinder-style preview window to the bottom right corner, which can be used to view the whole frame, or 2.5x or 6.5x magnification, to see exactly what you're doing. Flick the finder switch the other way and the whole viewfinder goes fully electronic - which can be handy, as it means zero parallax error (everything is operating through-the-lens) - but we far prefer the more fluid vision of the optical viewfinder with its electronic overlay. It's a thing of beauty.
What's the X100V's image quality like?
- 26.1-megapixel X-Trans CMOS IV sensor
- ISO 160 - 12,800 (80 - 51,200 ext.)
- 4-stop ND filter built-in
The X100V doesn't lavish the image sensor with lots more resolution compared to its predecessor. The bump from 24- to 26-megapixels is all you're getting for this generational jump. But that's a sensible approach: overloading the sensor with too many 'pixels' would mean they would be smaller and less able of gathering light.
As it stands the X100V can deliver exceptional quality, but it's situationally dependent. As we've pointed out prior, a lens and sensor combination such as this can't handle close-up focus with a wide open aperture. Even if you're shooting 30cm from the lens you won't want to shoot wide open at f/2.0 - we'd suggest stopping down at least once stop to deliver the best possible crispness.
The sensor has an wide-ranging sensitivity, although it begins at ISO 160, which isn't necessarily the best pairing with such a wide aperture lens. Thankfully there's an extended ISO setting, but more usefully - in order to maintain the dynamic range of the image data - is the built-in neutral density (ND) filter, which can step in for up to four stops.
We've found the lower sensitivities to deliver crisp and colourful images, although when pushing into four-figure numbers the precision detail isn't quite as present (a number of ISO 2500 examples show this). Not that you'll capture lots of image noise within a frame thanks to the large sensor and processing abilities. The lens really is great, assuming the subject is just far enough away.
Another potential perk with the X100V is the leaf shutter within the lens. This opens in an outward-from-centre motion, rather than upward focal-plane motion, which means much higher flash sync speeds are possible. It's great for catching flash-lit subjects while causing the background to not receive the same degree of lighting and, therefore, provide a darker appearance - like the subject is highlighted beyond it, even in outdoor scenes.
During times of lockdown it's rather hard to test a camera, but on our evening exercise sessions we've been stopping to quickly shoot market stalls, flowers and such like - all hands-off - to get a greater understanding of how the new lens fares. We must say that distortion is very low, so in terms of setting up those perfectly straight-line shots the X100V is ideal. Sharpness dwindles only a little towards the edges, which is very impressive.
Overall, this is a specialist camera designed for a particular and meticulous way of working. If that suits you down to the ground then, well, prepare to be blown away with the overall quality that you'll be able to get - and the process of getting there.
Like we said of its predecessor: there's no ignoring the the X100V is a niche product that won't suit a great many people.
For starters there's no optical zoom, which is a must-have for the majority. But the X100V isn't a majority camera, it never pretends to be; it's a specialist bit of kit that's a highly accomplished tool.
So for those who it does suit, the X100V will be a dream. It's truly unique - a word that we rarely to never get to use - given its hybrid viewfinder offering and the kind of process of photography that it offers. Plus the addition of a bracket-mounted touchscreen shows that Fujifilm is evolving this series for the better.
You might need to be as rich as a king to buy one, but then the X100V is indeed king of the fixed-lens compacts.
The V's predecessor is about three years old, which means you can probably pick it up at a cut of the price. There's no bracket-mounted screen or touchscreen control, otherwise the bulk of operation and quality is more or less the same.