Recently, during a workshop with a Fujifilm X Photographer, I got the opportunity to test X100F and X-E3, along with some other Fujifilm equipment. Of course, the X-H1 is an interesting camera: refined ergonomics, improved weather sealing, the additional LCD screen on top of the body. I consider this camera really attractive, especially from the point of view of the professional photographer and the enthusiast film-makers. As I really enjoy the night photography and shooting in low light conditions, the performance of X-H1, especially with prime lenses, where there is no O.I.S. sounds so tempting; if this would make you forget about the tripod, in most situations, can be a real advantage for the traveller that enjoys leaving his heavy tripod at home (or in the hotel room).
But as I enjoy the rangefinder style design, there are 99% chances we will get IBIS in a body smaller than X-H1. I just don’t see it happening in the future X-Pro3. Too bad; not a deal breaker for me, but still… Now, back to the two cameras!
It is a camera that you will fall in love with its design (except maybe one thing – more on that, at the end of my story).
I truly love the rangefinder style Fujifilm used in their design to create the X100 series and the X-Pro2 series. I had the X-Pro1 and the reviewed X100S so it is really a question of taste, personal preference and the specifics of your photography style.
There are several upgrades over the old X100 models, as the X100F is “the same”, but totally different. The improved design, better look, the redesigned buttons, even the larger battery from X-Pro / X-T series, upgraded hybrid viewfinder, new materials and new paint, that joystick that is essential for quick focus point selection, the performance – everything makes a huge step forward, especially from my X100S. I am not sure how much progress the X100F brings, related to the X100T, but I know for sure that X100S and X100F are like from two different words.
This camera was on my wish list for my future trip to Japan, until I saw the typical focus hunting, not just once and not only in really poor light situations. I was so disappointed, that it felt like a deja vu, as I was holding my old X100S. And this is a deal breaker for me, as this was the reason I sold my X100S. As long as the X100 series will use the same old 23mm F2.0 lens, I guess I won’t be interested any more in the X100F, or the future model.
I know that X100F is a great camera, loved by so many professional photographers; it’s also a great camera as a backup solution for Event Photography. The biggest advantages using X100F are the hybrid viewfinder, the leaf shutter which helps you sync the flash-light at incredible high speeds, and the built-in ND Filter. But one of the key features in X100F’s design is the hybrid viewfinder, as this is the only Fujifilm compact camera to incorporate this technology. But as I already have the X-Pro2 with this incredible hybrid viewfinder, I don’t see the priority in adding the X100F as a backup camera, or travel camera, just for the sake of a more compact solution. Of course, if the budget permits, you can get all the models and all the XF lenses, so this type of decision is irrelevant and this article isn’t really useful to you.
About the X-E3, I was a bit disappointed that they made it so small, as I enjoy better ergonomics (especially for the photographers with larger hands) and in order to keep the comfort in use, there is a limit (in my opinion) to the compactness of the camera; if you go beyond that limit, you might lose comfort and speed of use. In this regards, the X-Pro series means the best size / design / weight ratio for me. But this slight disadvantage might be corrected by adding a hand-grip. I would consider the smaller, but newer X-E3 as a great replacement for X100F. First, there’s the price, where the X100F is now €1,300 and the X-E3 is around €800; combined with the newer, much faster AF and weather sealed XF 23mm F2.0 (which is around €450), you are still in advantage over the X100F’s price. For that difference, you can get extra batteries, SD cards, or a protective filter (but that’s not the point of our comparison, here).
Another improvement over the older generations of X-E series was the addition of the joystick. I believe the presence of the joystick on X-E3, combined with the use of the touchscreen with the swipe gestures that replace the D-pad buttons (quite a bold change, but useful, when you get used to it), can also be a slight advantage over the X100F, in terms of ergonomics, or speed of use. If not an advantage, just a different approach, but surely not worse. As both models still don’t yet offer weather resistant capabilities, there is nothing to compare in this area, but I have heard about Fujifilm photographers who used their non weather resistant cameras in light rain without any technical problems (it’s not something I would advise you to do).
Today, we get a lot of performance inside our cameras: 4K video, or insane ISO level over 50.000 of value, to name a few things that I don’t see as essential, in small cameras like the X100F and X-E3. Some of us appreciate that the manufacturer packs everything of today’s technology in every camera model, some of us find them not so important. But all of us consider the autofocus performance as a priority (or else, we could all switch to manual focus lenses and it won’t matter to worry about it). This is why we see phase detection via PDAF pixels inside the sensor, as a complement to contrast detection system, we see autofocus linear motors, in dual, or quad configuration inside the lenses, that work almost instantly and silently and all the firmware upgrades that continuously improve. There is always a race towards instant autofocus and I guess we all agree to it.
And then the amazing X100F arrived, packed with almost everything Fujifilm can offer in terms of today’s technology, only to be significantly held back by a very old 23mm F2.0 lens. We all know, more, or less about the strengths and maybe a lot more about its weaknesses. This is why I believe the slow autofocus performance due to the use of the same old 23mm F2.0 lens remains a critical factor in deciding between X100F and X-E3. Getting back to the main advantage of X-E3 over the X100F, I should mention the interchangeable lens feature; this small new camera, combined with the XF 23mm F2.0 weather resistant lens will offer better performance in every aspect, especially regarding the autofocus.
Back to the X100F I still believe this is one of the most beautifully designed rangefinder style camera on the market, today. I don’t know any other model to create a more powerful attraction, than the X100 series; also the strongest flavour of the “love and hate” type of feeling was from an X100 series camera. No other model, or series seem to hold more controversy, this is why the choice, when the budget is truly limited is very tough to make. As a final conclusion / explanation, I believe X100F can be the ideal camera for you, if:
- This is your only Fujifilm camera and you truly love the hybrid viewfinder;
- This is your backup camera, when the main camera is a model without the hybrid viewfinder; or this is the camera for you, or your partner, when travelling as light as possible is really important.
If you already have the X-Pro2, like me and need a second camera (backup, travel light, partner camera), X-E3 seems to be a winner. What do you think?
All photos and text – © Sebastian Boatca 2018 / www.sebastianboatca.com