Digital Cameras Guide
Design & Handling III
Design & Handling III
If you're used to using a DSLR camera, you might be wondering where the mode dial is on the X100. There isn't any, instead you get an elegant way to determine Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, Manual or Program mode using the aperture ring and shutter speed dial.
Switching Between Modes
Aperture is set by the aperture ring found around the lens. It's been fitted with two handles around the ring, which makes it easy to find without looking, and helps to differentiate it from the focus ring right in front of it. Twirl the ring to set the aperture number manually, and set it to the red 'A' to make aperture settings automatic.
Shutter speed is set by using the shutter speed dial on the top plate. Twirl the dial to the speeds you want; settings include Time (a set shutter speed time) and Bulb (the X100 is compatible with third-party remote releases). Set the dial to 'A' to make shutter speed automatic.
You might have guessed by now how to switch between modes. To switch to Program mode and make both aperture and shutter speed settings automatic, simply turn both the aperture ring and the shutter speed dial to 'A'. To go into Aperture-priority, leave the shutter speed dial at 'A' and adjust the aperture ring. To go into Shutter-priority, leave the aperture ring at 'A' and adjust the shutter speed.
Good But Not Great
Handling the Fujifilm X100 is a good, pleasant experience overall, but it's not great. All over the camera, you'd notice instances where a lot of thought must have gone into their design. For example, the viewfinder lever is nothing short of genius. It makes an essential option easy to switch, and it reacts pleasingly to the touch. The aperture ring and shutter speed dial are elegantly executed, the aperture's two handles are great help, and the large shutter speed dial is easy to use.
In contrast, the camera also has spots where it feels rushed. Fujifilm has taken care 90% of the X100's handling aspects, but there's a remaining 10% of missed opportunities.
The oddest miss opportunity is the dedicated RAW button, located on the bottom right, below the d-pad. This RAW button doesn't toggle the X100 between JPEG or RAW mode, it simply makes the next shot RAW+JPEG and then switches back to JPEG only.
We think most photographers will have already set a preference for JPEG or RAW ahead of shooting, and dedicating an entire button on limited real-estate to a low-frequency button feels like a missed opportunity. Instead of a RAW button, perhaps a second Function (Fn) button would have been more useful for everyone, not just the one-off RAW shooters.
In fact, the Function button on the top plate is one of the best decisions on the X100. Located handily just beside the shutter release, the Fn button can be customized to open ISO settings, preview depth of field or switch to movie mode amongst other options. Another Fn button would have been nice.
The exposure dial, right below the Fn button, is beautifully designed. But it's been turned accidentally more than once in our use, by a clusmy finger, or simply jogged by something in our bags while in transit - so watch out for it before you start shooting.
The control dial on the upper back-right of the camera is useful in some instances. While focusing manually, pressing it magnifies your view. It's not meant to be the control dial we're used to in DSLR cameras however. In manual mode, it lets you change aperture settings, but is limited to two stops either way. The control wheel around the d-pad does the same for shutter speed and is also limited to two stops either way.
A raised outer ring surrounds the control wheel's circumference, helping your thumb to place it. The control wheel itself feels thin and fiddly, and compounded with the d-pad's smaller size it means you may find yourself mashing one button accidentally while pressing the other.
Certain menu items are confusing - why is ISO within the shooting menu, but ISO Control (to make ISO settings automatic) within set-up? Why is the self-timer option in the shooting menu, and not within the Drive options with the other shooting modes like Single or Burst, easily accessed via the top of the d-pad?
We normally wouldn't nit-pick to such an extent, but the X100 is a camera which inspires high expectations, and while delivering on most, makes the slight misses more obvious. While the X100's handling has moments of brilliance, it also has areas where it needs work. On the average it hits good, but it feels like it could have gone for great.