The Fujifilm Finepix X100F (Affiliate link) – briefly X100F – is Fujifilms fourth (=F) iteration of the cult camera X100. The Web and YouTube are full of praise and emotional love letters for the X100. It is a camera that wants to be touched, picked up, handled, used. It looks gorgeous yet harmless and inconspicuous. The classical controls, with an aperture ring on the lens, a shutter speed dial and a dedicated exposure compensation dial, and numerous configurable buttons let experienced photographers cheer. No PASM dial, no cryptical multi-function dials, everything is immediately “there”.
(This article has been published first in German on the German science and tech blog Durchblog)
But the X100 is no jack-of-all-trades, like a DLSR or system camera with a set of several lenses or a versatile zoom. It is rather a one-trick-pony, much like a Porsche 911 and not so much like a minivan. The main reason for this lack of versatility is the fixed lens with a fix focal length of 23mm. Because the X100 uses an APS-C sized sensor, the 23 mm provide a field of view like a 35 mm lens would on a full frame camera. Before SLRs with their 50 mm prime lenses became popular in the seventies, 35 mm were considered the “normal” focal length and were very common on rangefinders and grandpa’s camera. (BTW, strictly speaking a focal length corresponding to the sensor’s diagonal is defined as “normal”. This would be roughly 42 mm for a full-frame sensor, or 28 mm on an APS-C camera.) It is a great focal length for travel, for street photography and for environmental portraits, showing people in their natural environment (at work, for example).
But Fujifilm offers two converter lenses, each to be screwed to the front lens: the WCL X100 (Affiliate link) is a wide-angle converter and reduces the focal length to 18 mm (corresponding to 28 mm for FF). The TCL X100 (Affiliate link) converter exntends the focal length by a factor of about 1.5 and turns the X100 into a camera with a 35 mm lens, or 50 mm in FF equivalents. Both convertes are very well built, they feel heavy, with a lot of glass (particularly the TCL) and metal. Both have been designed specifically for the X100 and its 23 mm lens. Remaining small optical issues are corrected by image processing. However, obviously the X100 needs to know whether a converter lens is attached and if so, which. For the second generation of converter lenses and the X100F this is achieved in a marvellously elegant manner: the two converters carry a small magnet close to the back lens, and the X100F has a hidden sensor in its lens housing that senses the presence of either converter. Such elegant solutions, simple and genious, are typical for Apple products, and it is nice to see Fujifilm come up with such a brilliant solution.
The two converters extend the X100 to a three “lens” system camera with 18 mm (28 in FF), 23 mm (35 in FF) and 35 mm (50 in FF). And there is even more: the X100F features a smart digital zoom in two magnification steps. The resulting JPEG images are still 24 Megapixel. This suggests that the digital zoom does not simply crop the raw image, but rather creates a 24 Megapixel image by some clever de-mosaicing of the raw data. The Leica Q provides its digital zoom in a different way: it simply crops the full image (and yes, even Leica features digital zoom in a 4000€ full-frame camera).
Mention “Digital Zoom” and (wannabe) Pros will show their deepest disgust. And more often than not for a good reason. Digital zoom comes always for a price, to be paid in terms of image quality. The question, however, is, how high is the price? How “bad” is the outcome? Starting off with 24 Megapixels, there is plenty of data to work with and quite some margin to spend. Furthermore, we should remember how colour images are made: most cameras use a 2×2 pattern of 2 green, one red and one blue pixel, arranged in a diagonal pattern, called the “bayer” pattern. Fuji employs their 6×6 quasi-random X-Trans colour filter layout. In both cases each pixel carries information for one particular colour only before the image processor applies its magic and associates a colour, expressed by a red-green-blue triple, to each pixel. In order to achieve this, the neighbor pixels and their colour channel are used to calculate and – yes – interpolate the colour for each pixel. That means that any (mass market) digital camera employs pixel interpolation to come up with colour images. Apparently, Fuji uses a different interpolation algorith to create a 24 megapixel image from only part of the sensor area when it zooms digitally. So it is certainly worth to give it a try and decide only later whether this is a practical option or a gimick which should be avoided. Of course it is to be expected that the sharpness would suffer at least to some extent.
Possible converter and digital zoom combinations and resulting focal lengths
The following table summarizes the useful combinations of converters and the resulting focal length, expressed in full-frame equivalent terms. Below the table there are images showing the EVF’s representation and how the combination is indicated in the viewfinder. Finally, there is one photo for each combination, always showing the same view – nothing exciting, but probably good enough for a quick comparison.
|Configuration||Digital zoom||Focal length||Focal length in FF equivalence|
|no converter||1. Step||35||50|
|no converter||2. Step||50||70|
Obviosuly, 50 mm can be achieved in two different ways: without the TCL and with the first step of digital zoom (“DZ”) applied, or without DZ but with the TCL. 70 mm can be achieved by a combination of the TCL plus the first step of DZ, or by the second step of DZ without TCL. I did not test DZ with the WCL because these combinations seemed unreasonable to me: they would not extend the focal length range beyond what’s available anyway.
The EVF shows the attached converter lens (if any) and the total focal length (converter and DZ combined, expressed in FF terms) in the upper left of the frame.
All images can be clicked to load a full resolution image, Ready for you to download and/or inspect on pixel level. All images are straight out of the camera JPEGs. No processing of any kind has been applied.
As a reference for comparison: Fujinon 23 mm f/1,4 on an X-T1
The superb Fujionon XF 23mm f/1.4 serves as a reference for the X100, since it has the same focal length. However, please note that it was mounted to an X-T1 which has a different sensor with only 16 megapixels instead of 24 megapicels, as the X100F. Furthermore, the photo had been taken on a different day, with more sun and thus a slighlty different contracts and lighting conditions. A strict comparison of sharpness and resolution is therefore problematic.
I, personally, am very impressed and happy with the two converters, WCL and TCL, and I am also quite impressed how well the digital zoom works. For most applications and for images that are looked on computers rather than huge prints the image quality is very pleasant. The X100F grows into a suprisingly versatile system camera, but remains (mostly) the adorable, small, lightweight, portable and unsuspicious camera. The TCL even retains the fast f/2.0 aperture of the original lens, due to its huge front element that gathers more light than the original 23 mm lens. Furthermore, it provides a remarkably soft and creamy bokeh, as the following images show.
However, the TCL renders everything that’s at close distance almost excessively soft. The X100’s lens is famous for its softness when used wide open and at short distances, but the TCL exaggerates this tendency even more. It can be exploited in a creative manner, but sometimes you may want to stop it down a stop or two (on the expense of the creamy bokeh, though).
A futher small disadvantage of both convertes is that they have to be screwed onto the short and narrow filter thread, which is a lot less easy than changing lenses with a bayonet connector. Often one needs several tries to get the converter properly aligned with the thread.
Buying an X100F, WCL and TCL:
Here are some affiliate links to the featured products on Amazon. If you buy at amazon following these links, the price remains the same for you, but I get paid a small lump of money by amazon. You don’t loose, I win – sounds like a good deal.