Thoughts on the Fujifilm X100V

I have now had a couple of months with the Fujifilm X100V. It is an excellent camera, a good compromise of features that fits a specific purpose for me, for every day carry.

This is my outpouring of opinions, hopefully helpful for readers but as always, also for me to organise my thoughts. It follows my first thoughts, which can be found here.

Fujifilm X100V - City of London

The obvious, but unusual point of comparison for me is the Olympus OM-D E-M1 mk II that it replaced for most of my street and some travel photography. It’s clearly a very different camera and the pros and cons are going to be personal. The Olympus remains a wonderful, capable and flexible all round system, but fell short for me with the lack of weatherproofing on the otherwise good small primes.

I am ignoring the most obvious difference - interchangeable lens versus the fixed 23mm f/2. A 35mm equivalent is what I use most of the time, so this is not a big deal in practical terms for me, though is obviously a huge differentiator if this is going to be your only camera. I don’t miss the image stabilisation from the Olympus, not for street photography anyway, as good as it is on the Olympus (and it is excellent, like magic excellent), you just need a fast shutter speed to capture moving people, particularly if you are moving too. To get motion free people in street photography, I will still want a shutter speed of at least 1/125th second and ideally 1/500th if I can.

A number of cameras popular with street photographers don’t have IBIS, the Leica Ms of course, the Leica CL, the Fujifilm X-Pro cameras. Maybe the Ricoh GR III stands alone as a popular street photography camera with stabilisation. That it is included in the Leica Q / Q2 and Olympus OM-D cameras, indicates the broader target market of these cameras. I suspect however I may miss it for some travel photography. Perhaps it makes the X100V a very specific tool, for me at least.

Ergonomics and handling on the X100V are much better than I thought given the seemingly ubiquitous addition of accessory grips and thumb rests. They add bulk and I feel no need for them, maybe because I am used to the similar lack of grips on my somewhat heavier Leica film camera.

But as far as the “user interface”, for me the controls do feel a bit out of date rather than a return to what worked. Retro constrained - not ergonomically refined.

I appreciate this view will be controversial and the analogue controls are a big selling point for Fujifilm users. Indeed Nikon tried this with the Df, but a follow up was never forthcoming.

Some controls can be moved or duplicated to the control wheels in some modes, but this is not consistent and feels like a workaround, the control wheels are also easily moved inadvertently - for that reason I have decided to disable them. That it feels a bit like using my Leica M3 as I commented previously, is not necessarily a positive. But I can live with it.

It’s true that in some circumstances analogue controls are faster as I can preset exposure and ISO, even manual focus holds between power cycles. However a quick aperture or shutter speed change or exposure compensation change, doesn’t feel as quick when the camera is to my eye as the Olympus or Nikon Z6. Whilst the control wheels happily fly round with the lightest brush against a jacket, the aperture and shutter speed dials really feel like they need a finger and thumb to move them.

Leica chose to move away from the analogue controls of the M cameras and X cameras for the CL, I think I prefer the controls on the Leica CL. Not the overall size, lack of weatherproofing or price though.

The Fuji is light and small compared with fixed or interchangeable lens full frame, APS-C and micro four thirds cameras or systems. This is important for the camera I “need” to have with me all the time. In fact, subconsciously it took a little while to look at this as a “proper” camera when it feels like a compact point and shoot. It clearly is so much more.

Lee Filter System on X100V

Image quality is excellent, testament to both the sensor and the new 23mm f/2 lens, now usable at all apertures and focus distances. Whilst it may not be the best 35mm lens I have used, it performs very well. Although it’s difficult to quantify absolutely, despite the Fuji being a “slower” less feature-packed camera than the Olympus when paired with the M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 specifically, the Fujifilm outperforms it in image quality in every situation.

The optical viewfinder is a revelation for quick street photography, I use it most of the time. This for me is a major positive of the camera, I love it. In fact it is probably this alone that will keep the camera with me, at least for now - I think a digital Leica rangefinder would me a more likely replacement for street than a Q or CL for this reason alone. That’s how significant an optical viewfinder is. It is interesting to think that a whole generation of photographers, those that missed DSLRs, let alone rangefinders and went straight to mirrorless will have missed this experience of looking through a real viewfinder and in fact will always see their composition on a screen - from camera to Instagram.

Although autofocus is not the fastest, it’s quick enough. By way of comparison it certainly isn’t as quick as my Nikon Z6 or the Olympus. There is virtually no shutter lag so with exposure preset and using the optical viewfinder, you are very easily able to catch a fleeting moment with precision.

The X100V is virtually silent, even with the mechanical shutter. Certainly quieter than my Leica M3 and in fact any camera I have used including some very old film cameras, also with leaf shutters.

How I use it. After fiddling through the various modes, as usual I have settled on aperture priority - manually setting ISO and aperture, letting the camera choose the shutter speed, with some use of exposure compensation. In more challenging light, I tend to switch to full manual exposure. It is worth noting that although I don’t use it, the ability to set automatic ISO within three different customisable ranges is well thought out. Matrix metering is generally accurate for most situations.

Most of the time I use single servo autofocus, but manual zone focus is perfectly usable despite the quite small focus ring, particularly as the X100V holds the preset distance between power cycles. I do miss the snap back, distance scale marked focus ring of the Olympus 17mm.

Face and eye detection is still a maybe, I’m continuing to experiment but not yet convinced other than for quick portraits. There is also no point using it in my mind without using the EVF as opposed to my preference of the OVF.  It is certainly accurate, which is useful at close range wide open, but for street photography in continuous AF, in a fast changing environment beyond my control, there remains the risk of bouncing around as subjects move uncontrollably and therefore missing focus altogether. It’s a limitation of “Eye AF” with any camera though, not Fuji specific.

The built in ND is very good, though I found myself using it much less than I thought I would, though as expected for depth of field control in brighter conditions, rather than for deliberate motion blur. Of course this is also achievable by using the electronic shutter. It’s real function is to allow flash with wide aperture I think.

X100 compared - This camera is actually pretty unique. It is frequently compared with the Ricoh GR III, though I would say the Ricoh GR series is a better comparison with the short lived Fujifilm X70, both in size and features - despite the similarity in sensor size and being fixed lens APS-C cameras, the focal length differences and lack of built in viewfinder are significant. The X100V also has weatherproofing.

In my opinion it’s in a different league to the 1” sensor compact zoom cameras with which it is also compared, although Larry Fink now makes great use of his!

There are larger sensor cameras with fixed lenses, the Sony RX1r and the Leica Q2. They are bigger and arguably more capable, though in reality probably just more crop-able. Other options could be smaller form factor interchangeable lens cameras like the XE3 or X Pro from Fujifilm, a Sony A6000 or Lumix G and of course I bought this to replace an Olympus OM-D E-M1!

I could define the “type” as a (jacket) pocketable, high image quality, weather sealed camera with 35mm equivalent field of view - and it would be unique. And that’s why it fits for me as that’s really what I was looking for.

A fairer definition may well be an everyday carry camera, and of course your tolerance of what fits every day carry will be different to mine, so the X100V may not be as good a fit for you as it is for me.

Finally on the subject of size, I have a minor gripe over weather sealing - with dust and not to mention UK weather, I don’t want to put the required filter and extension ring on and off all the time and with a filter on, wouldn’t consider not using a lens hood. This makes it significantly thicker (around 50%) and less pocketable - even with the very compact Squarehood. Sealing the lens barrel would have been a major improvement. If that was possible.

In conclusion, it’s one of those cameras without peers, some come close but nothing really competes for me. In that way and in outward appearances only, it’s a bit like a film Leica.

It’s not a substitute for my Nikon Z 6, nor does it particularly attract me away from Nikon Z towards the Fujifilm system, perhaps because I am not tempted by the JPEGs, excellent though they are, or the retro handling. In my previous article I talked about the famous Fujifilm film simulations and my opinion hasn’t changed, I tend not to use the simulations as they are, I prefer less contrasty mono and perhaps more natural colour - I know what I prefer from the image myself so I start with something relatively flat and work towards what I like inn Capture One. At the moment I am having to spend a bit more time with the RAW files than I do with Nikon, but that’s just practice, there is no doubt the “data” or “light” is in there and that colour is good, although I find I need to be a bit more careful with auto white balance.

The real test for the camera will be if and when it disappears in my hand - it’s not there yet, but it’s growing on me.

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