X100V... New Kid On The Block
In the World of cameras, the most challenging ones to update are the models that are already excellent! The ones that have attained a strong following, and who's loyal owners expect the manufacturer to consistently deliver models that match their initial experiences with the product whilst adding meaningful improvements!
After three months shooting over 3,500 frames, I finally feel comfortable taking a deeper look at the latest version of what is our favourite digital camera line here at Frame Focus Foto! We are talking about the new Fujifilm X100V! Released in February this year it comes almost exactly three years after the previous model, the X100F. This is actually the first point I’d like to credit towards Fujifilm. In what has become a rat race of ever increasing upgrades to models by camera manufacturers, Fujifilm have bided their time, and not rushed in to the new model. It makes sense too, the X100 was after all, the camera that started the Fujifilm X movement towards smaller, lighter, high quality digital cameras with an analog heart! It was important to get it right!
Readers of this site will already know my love for this line of cameras, and particularly the X100F. So how does the new model stack up and is it worth the upgrade? Let’s find out! BTW... this is a slightly longer read than most of our posts on this site, so I recommend you fill a glass with your favourite beverage while we ponder Fuji’s latest version of the X100 series!
Before we get into it, I’d like to explain my own approach to reviewing camera gear. The sum total of a camera or lens’ usefulness is what it is like to use as a photographic tool. So you won’t be seeing any detailed technical analysis here, there are already loads of websites out there that have done these and to a high standard. I've tried to keep my thoughts about the new features of the X100V brief and relevant from a practical perspective.
So if you have an X100F, what are the main differences you’d expect to find between it and the V? I’ve listed them below.
26.1 MP BSI X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor VS 24.3 MP X-Trans CMOS 3
Touch Enabled, flip screen
Improved ISO dial
Expanded multiple exposure modes
Upgraded EVF & OVF, most notably the EVF is now a 3.69 million dot OLED display.
Advanced Image Quality settings
The items in bold are the ones I've found most meaningful to me in my three months with the camera. Let’s unpack all of these and then I’ll end off with some thoughts on whether the X100V is a worthwhile upgrade.
The new sensor
The slight increase in resolution, in my view is of no relevance whatsoever, the print sizes you could make on the previous sensor are for the most part identical. What I do find though is that there are some small differences in the colour rendition from the previous X-Trans III. Natively the reds in particular seem more muted to me, though if you want the punchy colours of the old sensor it is pretty easy to achieve using some of the new features which I’ll discuss further along in the review.
This must be one of the most asked for features in the X100 series! Certainly it is something I had been hoping for as I think of the X100 series as a “carry everywhere, everyday” kind of camera. If it starts raining I don’t want to feel like I have to get the camera stashed away in a weather proof shoulder bag or backpack. I also love being able to shoot in the rain as it can be ideal conditions for dramatic photographs! That being said, the weather sealing on the X100V does come with a caveat, one only gets the weather sealing if the filter adapter and the 49mm PRF filter are used. When I first picked up the X100V the shop threw in a cheap 49mm filter, it was causing me problems with reflections however as it had no coating. So I decided to pony up for Fuji’s rather expensive PRF49 mainly out of curiosity about whether or not it actually had some built in seals. Looking closely at the filter, it does indeed appear to be beefed up in the areas where the glass is mated to the metal filter ring though I’m not convinced it is genuinely “weather sealed”. More importantly to me, it is also “Super EBC” coated which solved my reflection issues. But a good quality, coated UV filter from Hoya or B+W would achieve the exact same thing and will probably be cheaper too.
I’ve always carried my X100 cameras with filter adapter, filter and hood attached, so this weather sealing arrangement was not an inconvenience for me at all. If you tend to carry the camera in it’s native slimmed down configuration though, this might be a consideration.
This discussion does bring to mind a story about my X100F though. A couple years ago, whilst on our honeymoon in Norway, we went snow sledding. I had thoughtlessly slung the camera over my shoulder. When we reached the bottom of the hill I found my beloved X100F had become a frozen, snow covered block of ice! I carefully removed all the snow and dried the camera off as best I could… it is still working perfectly to this day!
So why did it take Fujifilm so long to add WR to the X100 series when all their other premium cameras have had this feature for years? The answer is the lens! The original lens has been in use from the first X100 all the way to the X100F. The design of this lens was apparently very difficult to weather seal. And on that note, let’s talk about the V’s new optic…
An updated optic to the X100 cameras is probably one of the most anticipated upgrades to the series. The new lens not only afforded Fuji the opportunity to install weather sealing, but it also allowed them to address one of the major “complaints” that many users had about the original lens, which is that it wasn’t particularly sharp when shot wide open at f/2 at close range. The improved optical performance has been achieved by the inclusion of a second aspherical element. There is no debate, the new lens is now critically sharp at every aperture and every focus distance! In fact I believe out of all the lenses that provide a 35mm Equivalent field of view, this might be one of the best I have ever used in any camera and still in a very compact form factor! For a more in depth comparison of the lenses I'd recommend readers visit PCMAG to read their reviews of the X100F and X100V independently. They have assessed both lenses and it's safe to say the new lens possesses significantly higher resolving power!
I’m not sure this is always a good thing though... I mean don’t get me wrong, the optical performance is astounding. But in this age of lens makers chasing “optical perfection” I think pictures lose character. Prior to the X100V, Fujifilm specifically listed the softness wide open at close range to be a feature of the lens. I agree with them, it provided some of that vintage look that I love so much! This is what has often differentiated Fujifilm from other camera makers. They are not afraid to make a product that throws the rule book out the window! Look at the X-Pro 3 for instance! Another lens that comes in for a lot of “criticism” is the now legendary XF 35mm f/1.4 that came out along side the X-Pro line of cameras. It is a lens that has far more in common with classic lenses than most other modern lenses available out there today, with the exception perhaps of the three major Leica M mount makers being Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander who I feel for the most part have still got some classic rendering lenses in their current product lines.
Sadly this quest for lenses that knock the socks off 2 dimensional lab tests has resulted rather flat looking pictures in many cases...
So the X100V’s lens is extremely impressive! But it’s increased sharpness is worth careful consideration if you specifically enjoyed the dreamy look the series used to provide for close up portraits wide open.
The Flip Screen
Another first in the X100 line is the touch enabled, flip screen. I have to confess, when people asked for this in the online groups, I was not a fan. I was perfectly content with a fixed rear screen. But I’m left eating my words! The new flip screen has added neither size nor weight to the body, and being able to use it to shoot from low angles is a huge bonus! When it’s stowed, one hardly notices that it has the ability to flip out as the screen sits flush with the back of the camera. The way it has been implemented is truly masterful. The swipe gestures on the touch screen have replaced the functionality of the D-Pad from the previous models in the series. This is an approach first implemented in another of my favourite Fujifilm cameras, the magical XE3. It’s been a divisive topic amongst Fuji fans. When I first tried it, I thought I’d miss the 4 way D-Pad but I’ve adapted it to it nicely and don’t really miss the D-Pad at all now.
Improved shutter speed / ISO dial
You’ll notice a trend with Fujifilm cameras... A lot of the functions and features they introduce on their cameras tend to stir the “pot” so to speak, fuelling heated debates online. Another of these such features is the dedicated, combined shutter speed / ISO dial. Personally I love this approach! One of the reasons I am so drawn to Fujifilm cameras is their affinity towards analog style cameras. If you have ever used a classic camera like a Pentax K1000 you’ll be right at home with this style of shutter speed / ISO dial! What draws me most to physical dials rather than command dials is that I can set all my exposure parameters without having to turn the camera on!
This feature was first introduced on the X-Pro 2, then the X100F, X-Pro 3 and now the X100V. Of the 4 models, the implementation has been best on this camera. The ISO Dial is controlled by lifting the outer collar of the dial, once lifted it stays in the lifted position by clicking into a detent and you can cycle through the ISO speeds and see the selected speed in real time through the EVF / OVF, on the rear LCD or through the physical ISO window on the top of the dial. Once you have your desired ISO dialled in the collar can be pushed back down into position. I didn’t mind the older spring loaded approach but this is an improvement in my view.
Expanded multiple exposure mode
A few years ago I discovered the unique approach that Fuji took to multiple exposures. It was only able to take two frames and only in “averaged” blending mode. But it still allowed for some really creative opportunities. One could photograph the first exposure in full colour, and then blend it with a second exposure in monochrome for example. I made a lot of pictures this way, both on the X100F and the XE3.
Starting with the X-Pro 3, the ability to shoot up to 9 frames in multiple exposure mode was introduced and has been included in the X100V! Not only that but option of up to 4 different blending modes were included. Namely Additive, Average, Bright and Dark. The other great thing about the new multiple exposure mode is that it also saves the individual frames. So if there was a standalone frame in the sequence that you wanted, that too is saved!
In terms of the new blending modes, I've still found "Average" to be the best. But my approach is to try a few sequences with each of the modes until I see something I like.
Updated EVF / OVF
One of the most unique features of the X100 / X-Pro cameras are their hybrid EVF / OVF viewfinders. To date they are the only company in the World to have built a camera with this unique style of viewfinder. Like all of Fuji’s cameras these viewfinders are fully customisable to display as little or as much information as you like. The X100V’s EVF is slightly larger than that of the X100F with a higher resolution 3.69 million dot OLED display. The OVF has also seen an upgrade. It’s slightly larger and brighter than the OVF of the X100F and retains the parallax correcting frame lines.
But there has been a change to the OVF that I feel is less ideal. In the X100F there were AF brackets (see the included photo) that would allow one to anticipate where the AF point would be dependent on the distance of the focus point from the camera, essentially correcting for the parallax error inherent in this style of viewfinder. In the X100V these AF guide brackets are not available and so it is at times difficult to anticipate how far the AF point will move from the selected point in OVF which is dependant on how close to the camera you focussing. Again in practice I haven’t often found this to be a real problem, but the older system was definitely better. Perhaps Fujifilm will be able to address this in a firmware update.
On the X100F a view mode selector was available on the rear of the body beside the viewfinder to select the LCD only, LCD / VF auto select depending on whether you had the viewfinder to your eye, or viewfinder only mode. In the X100V this mode selector is gone and the camera automatically switches between LCD or VF depending on whether or not you’re holding the camera to your eye. Personally I prefer a little more manual control in this regard but credit to Fuji the X100V’s automatic switching is extremely fast and reliable and hasn’t caused me any real concerns in the field.
Advanced Image Quality Settings
Fujifilm has built a reputation of delivering solid JPG quality straight of camera, a feature I have heavily used and to date the overwhelming majority of my Fujifilm images are out of camera JPG’s but with a bit of a caveat here that I’ll explain at the end of this section. In the X100V the JPG’s the camera can deliver are even better than ever before with more latitude than ever for unique output. The three latest features are Monochromatic Color, Colour FX Blue, Colour Chrome Effect and Clarity.
Monochrome Colour: Fairly self explanatory, but briefly, it simply allows you to give. a B&W image a tint of your choice, the tint can be selected off the same type of grid one is presented with when making fine tuning adjustments to White Balance.
Colour FX Blue: Quite useful for landscapes, this adds some saturation and reduces luminance to all the cooler tones in the photograph. This feature can either be Off, Weak or Strong
Colour Chrome Effect: In the same way that Colour FX But works, this slightly saturates all the colours and also slightly reduces their luminance. I found this most noticeably effects the reds and restores some of the punchiness that I am used to from the X-Trans CMOS 3 sensor from the previous generations of Fuji cameras.
Clarity: Increase definition in the same way that Clarity in Lightroom would do. I never use this in camera, if I need to increase it, I’ll do it in post.
So as I mentioned at the start of this section I like to use the JPG's that come out of the camera, but I record my images as JPG and RAW so that I can process the RAW file in camera, essentially creating different versions of the out of camera JPG that I can choose from and add final tweaking to in post. This is an approach that has worked well for me over the years so the above features are definitely a welcome addition, though your mileage may vary.
The last thing I'd like to say here is that the Color FX Blue and Colour Chrome effects are very easy to attain in post, and possibly more accurately by using the HSL sliders available in almost all editing software these days.
In this latest iteration of the X-Trans sensor the Base ISO is reduced to 160 in comparison to 200 and the pulled ISO goes down to 80 rather than 100. On the high side of things both cameras stop at ISO 12800 and then have extended High ISO settings of 25600 and 51200 ISO. To my eye 6400 ISO is the highest setting to still retain an acceptably clean digital image, though on my X100F I have had satisfactory results at ISO 12800 particularly in B&W images. I simply would never use 25600 or 51200 as the results are not great for my needs. If you planning only to post to the web though then perhaps this would still be useable.
In terms of the differences between the V and the F, the older model performs slightly better at the High ISO setting but the V has a third of a stop advantage in dynamic range at Base ISO. From a practical point of view I feel the differences in sensor performance is negligible baring in mind my earlier comments about the colour rendering.
I’ve already been rambling on about the differences between the V and F for too long here! A camera is neither made nor broken by the spec sheet so let’s talk about how the new camera is when you actually start photographing with it! The answer is seamless and stunning! Everything I have loved about the earlier models is here but improved! In one of my first blogs on this site I described how the X100 series cameras are the most inspiring digital cameras I have ever used, and this is still very much true to me!
Any Down Sides?
No camera is ever perfect. That holds true for the new X100V too, however my complaints are minor. I've already detailed my thoughts about the lens, suffice to say if the X100 series is your main camera and you want some character in the rendering the X100V might not be the model for you.
The Q button on the the V is a little too small and a little too flush with the body, it makes it less than easy to find by feel. This was better on F, it was easy to slide my thumb up towards the top right of the body, finding the Q button with my eye still at the viewfinder.
I've also mentioned above that I am not a fan of the removal of the viewfinder mode button. I liked the ability to manually configure this the way I wanted. But again, I've not found it to be a real issue in the field, and the default setup for the V works well.
I do miss the D pad, and there is certainly sufficient space on the back of the V's body that would have allowed for it's inclusion. But I've got used to the swipe gestures courtesy of the XE3, and in truth don't actually use them all that often.
One thing I love on the XE3 is that uploading photos to my iPad from the camera via wifi was fast! It was not the same for the X100F, and Fuji have failed to apply the same wifi transfer speeds to the V as well. This is a shame as I like being able to back up my photos to the iPad via wifi whilst travelling. Of course it still works on the F and the V, it's just much slower than the XE3.
The way I have my Fuji's set up to record images is both JPG and RAW. Most of the time I am very happy with the JPG's made in camera, but sometimes I also like to process the RAW files in camera to get different looks from the same image. It would be nice if Fuji would offer a method to select a group of images for batch editing in camera. This is a very specific need to me, and most people probably don't process images this way. But I don't see why it would be difficult to implement. I guess this is an overall comment about all Fuji cameras as to the best of my knowledge none of the models have this kind of feature.
Should you upgrade to the V?!
So the question that will be most on everybody’s mind is whether the X100V is worth it, and the answer as always is “it depends”. If you are currently shooting with an X100F then the improvements are marginal and therefore the V is only worth it if there are specific features that you find meaningful, such as the weather sealing, flip screen, sharper lens, or the expanded IQ control of JPG’s. In my case the Weather Sealing was a big deal, and the expanded in camera multiple exposures function, as that is a style of image I enjoy making. After buying it I also became incredibly reliant on the flip screen for low angle compositions and the expanded in camera JPG image quality control is superb too. I am very happy with the new lens, yes I do still crave the classic rendering of vintage glass, but I scratch that itch with other cameras. In reality if one really does love the way vintage lenses render then buying a mirrorless body and adapting vintage glass to it would be the best way forward! Or even better, just shoot analog cameras! We will be covering a lot more about adapting lenses in the coming weeks and months.
If the X100 series is your only camera and you like the old lens' rendering then sticking with the F may be the way to go. For landscapes and travel that lens is still superbly sharp, I have made large prints with it, and was left with no complaints. If you were in the group waiting for an X100 series with a sharper lens, you have got it now! It is a better performer than the original lens by a large margin!
The easier question to answer is if you are upgrading from the original, or the S or T then the V is a no brainer! It surpasses the first three iterations in almost every respect! I do still have friends using the very first X100 though, and they’re loving it! So your mileage may vary!
The other question that is easy to answer is if you are coming to the X100 family for the first time! Firstly welcome to the family!! And YES! The X100V is the perfect camera in the series to start with! You’ll be investing in the system that started with a magnificent product and has only got better with time! No matter the photographic situation that you might be presented with, the X100V will deliver results every single time!
Wishing you happy and safe photographic adventures!!