Fujifilm X100 settings and review

The Fuji X100 my best portrait camera?

Fujifilm X100 product shot 1

Cute doesn't even begin to describe this instrument of image making. The small, retro camera is one of the best portrait cameras I've ever used. The X100 is very intuitive, I don’t fiddle with the settings, I just take pictures. I’ve set it up to suit me so I can just pick it up and shoot.

Every now and then a bit of photographic kit comes along that changes the way I see and capture my world. My first digital SLR camera in 2001 gave me instant feedback and removed the risks associated with creative exposure. Some ten years on and my Canon 100mm f/2.8 L IS macro lens became another of those things that changed my photography for the better. The combination of the perfect focal length for portraits, lightness, image stabilisation, a pin sharp image even wide open and the ability to get right in close is a winning formula for successful portrait making.

This post is about neither of those magic bits of kit it is about a compact camera. There are a great many compact cameras out there but none other seems to quite have the winning combination of the Fujifilm X100. It’s not just the excellent technical specification sheet that gives this camera a place in my life. It’s the unthreatening and unobtrusive nature of the camera that allows me a more candid interaction with my subjects.

I’m not here to praise or knock any camera system, just to report my findings. The technical specification of the X100 reads more like that of a DSLR than a compact camera. It has a large APS sized 12mp sensor. The high ISO performance of the X100 is fabulous and shots right up to ISO 3200 are surprisingly good. However, the X100 has a fixed 23mm lens (35mm equivalent on full frame) that is perfectly matched to the sensor.

Modern day classic

Fujifilm X100 a modern day classic

This shot shows the aluminium lens hood I bought on Ebay. It works very well indeed. I never use lens caps so the lens hood affords the lens a bit more protection.

I marvelled at the Fiat 500 when it was reengineered into it’s modern day guise and the rest of the world did too. It has certainly been a recession beater, and according to Clarkson, far more successful than the other ‘revival’ cars like the VW Beetle, and the BMW Mini. The Fiat 500 is a car with soul, you can’t help but love it, faults and all. A bit like the Fujifilm X100 then. A camera with aching good looks, oodles of style, and more pull than an iPad in the first week of it’s launch. To quote Clarkson’s description of the Fiat 500 “It is cheeky, non threatening without being pathetic. It’s practical without being boring.” And I think that sums up the Fujifilm X100 too. You come away from a shoot not wanting to put it down. I have it right next to me now as I type and I often pick it up and shoot a couple of frames. I’ll photograph anything with it for the buzz I get and to better learn it’s characteristics.

The focus mode switch is easy to knock and so too is the shutter speed dial.
I’ve set the Fn button to access the ND filter so that I can use f/2 in full sun.

My daughter Francesca loves the X100 too and is often taking self portraits with it. She has never shown any interest in the other cameras I own including my trusty compact Canon G10 but the Fuji is irresistible. It’s chic, it’s cool and people of all ages, not just photographers, love it. I used it on a portrait job last week and the 8 year old daughter of my client kept reaching out for my little camera.

I’m using the focus and reframe method with the fuji and because the lens is of simple construction it seems to allow for quite a big framing shift without any change in focus position even wide open at f/2.

I’m not an ambassador for any camera company and I gladly pay full price for my kit. This means I can choose to use any cameras or lenses out there, and I certainly choose to spend my hard earned cash wisely. I am fortunate enough to have both a Nikon D700 camera and a Canon 5Dmk2 with a full range of top shelf lenses for both systems. I like to think I am fairly fast with both DSLR systems and I can react to capture a moment as it happens. It is for this reason I have always found compact cameras to be frustrating with slow start up times coupled with slow and inaccurate auto focus. The X100 is a great leap forward on that score but still not quite at the response time of the top DSLRs.

Taken on an 'Into the Light' workshop using the Fuji X100

I started to get to know my X100 by using the shooting mode that I am most familiar with; full manual exposure combined with auto focus. I soon realised however that it was never going to work. I struggled to get the exposure right and I found accessing the three exposure parameters a bit of a hassle and certainly not as easy as a DSLR. So I rethought my method of shooting and because I’m a problem solver by nature, there was a burning desire to make this camera work for me.

Another frame from an 'Into the Light' workshop taken on the Fujifilm X100.

I have finally sussed out how to set the X100 for my way of shooting.

Here are my shooting settings and why I use them.

1. Auto ISO. I’ve never used this function with a DSLR but with the Fuji it just works so well. I set my parameters to max out the ISO at 1600, although 3200 is still fairly useable, and a minimum shutter speed of 1/60th. I set the base ISO at 400 because the shots at ISO400 are so stunning there seems no reason to go lower.

2. Aperture priority. I set my lens to f/2, it’s widest setting and leave it there. The shutter speed dial is set to A and that is it. When it is too bright for the parameters I have set I use the inbuilt 3 stop ND filter. I’ve set my programable Fn button to be a quick access to the ND facility.

3. Fine JPG plus RAW. The Jpegs this little camera produces are sublime. Most of the time I use the monochrome film simulation with green filter mode. I shoot RAW as well as Jpeg because I occasionally want to change a picture to colour at a later stage and I want my screen to show monochrome at the time of shooting.

4. Optical and electronic viewfinder. I switch between them as they are both excellent. For moving subjects I use the optical viewfinder and for static shots the electronic viewfinder is perfect. A really cool feature shows you the shot you have just taken in the viewfinder even if you are in the optical mode. There is a heads up display on both viewfinder modes that is incredibly sharp and detailed. It seems that we have finally reached a time where technology is delivering us screen resolutions that are sufficient.

A simple one light portrait taken on an 'Into The Light' workshop using the Fuji X100

Before deciding to go with the Fuji I considered the far more expensive Leica X1 and the cheaper smaller sensor alternatives from Olympus and Panasonic. I did my research carefully and after more than a fair amount of pixel peeping it was fairly easy for me to identify the Fujifilm X100 as my next camera.

I must admit the little Fuji camera blew me away at first with it’s speed of focussing and shooting. I was not expecting such a useable package. During my first shoot I found that the X100 was quicker at focusing in a dark cafe than my Canon 5Dmk2 with it’s f/1.2 50mm lens. Subsequent shoots with the fuji have highlighted a few focussing weaknesses but I’ve learned how to overcome those so it is still a great performer in my view.

One more of the 'Into the Light' workshop pictures taken on the Fuji X100. I will share the others in their own post just as soon as they are edited.

For my intimate portraits on location there is no better tool. I love the fact that people think it is a bit of a toy and they leave their guard down. When a big SLR comes out of the camera bag it changes the personal dynamic completely. The Fuji X100 is almost silent and fast to use. Seemingly every picture I take has a story to tell and a lot of my X100 pictures could even be seen as art.

I will now spend a few months to find my ‘looks’ with this camera and I’ll further develop a post production system for it too. At the moment I import and select the RAW files in Photo Mechanic discarding the jpegs. I then develop the RAW files in Lightroom, export in 16 bit and further adjust in Photoshop. I might eventually add a film grain look too. I love the clean look of Neopan 400 film and the gritty look of it’s sister 1600 emulsion. Maybe a pair of post production looks is what I will eventually choose to use.

You can see some full res pictures and read my first findings on the X100 here

I then updated my first findings here

I ventured into colour this week and here are some of my first colour frames.

Please feel free to comment or add your ouw experiences with the Fuji X100 below.

EVENT NEWS: Join me and Chris at the Manchester Hilton in January 2013 for a styled portraiture training workshop exclusively for Fuji X series owners. Set in the gorgeous surroundings of the Deansgate Hilton Hotel this will be a day of fun and creativity with like-minded individuals. To learn more and to book online click here.

Fuji Creative Shoot

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About Damien

Damien Lovegrove learned his trade as a cameraman and lighting director during 14 years at the BBC, working on programmes such as the Clothes Show, Top of the Pops and Casualty. Fifteen years on, Damien has become one of the foremost trainers of photography and entrepreneurial business strategies in our industry. A published writer and regular columnist, Damien has travelled the globe sharing his knowledge and expertise. “Photography fascinates me” declares Damien. "Much of my photography is inspired by a burning enthusiasm within me” explains Damien. “Picking up a camera gives me such a rush that I’m instantly driven to create pictures.”

60 thoughts on “Fujifilm X100 settings and review

  1. Thanks Lloyd. I love to take a minimalist approach at times. I’m glad it’s not just me that likes less rather than more. Cheers, Damien.

  2. Hi, Great article.
    I am just in love with the x100.
    I have ordered one, a week ago, but here in Denmark where i live, it is out of stock for the moment, :-(

    I wonder, you wrote; “Subsequent shoots with the fuji have highlighted a few focussing weaknesses but I’ve learned how to overcome those so”

    Please, tell us what you have learned.

  3. Informative – thanks Damien

    What is the battery life like? I was wondering if this is a good option as a travel camera in Asia.

  4. Hi DT,

    The X100 is okay for travel photography if you are happy to have a fixed lens. The batteries last well and at only £8 each for non OEM replacements you could have a few extras with you in Asia.

    Regards, Damien.

  5. Damien

    Cracking post and very informative, mine turned up today and strangely enough by the time I have digested the manual and been for a four hour walk with the camera and manual in hand, my settings turned out near enough the same as yours apart from base ISO which I left at 200 to deal with shooting wide open in bright conditions.

    Had a struggle removing the threaded bezel to fit my eBay adapter and hood, but apart from that having a blast so far.

    Weekend of wandering planned to get some practice in, looking forward to next week when camera will be coming to the office with me all week. So fun lunch breaks on the south bank wil be had.

    Will keep an eye on the blog as I am sure it will not be long before you are tinkering with some off camera flash. Have tried my SB 800 with the sc29 and have been getting some good results at 1/2000 in bright sunlight. Only downfall it’s all manual, but that is a small price to pay for shooting wide open.

    Regards

    Nigel

  6. Hi Damien,

    If you’ve shown the pictures first without mentioning the camera used, no one will ever think it was captured nicely with such a small body camera… I think the photographer took more role than the equipment, just like Bjorn Borg plays with the old wooden racket…

    I just bought Olympus Pen E-PL2 as my second camera (beside 5D mkII) and you just make me feel bad… since E-PL2 doesn’t works good on high ISO (at least in my experience). Please “stop” this tempting article…

    As for the picture, I love the lady on the couch for the rich background and your “signature” piramyd pose…

  7. Hi Didit,
    You are right, when faced with a well lit and composed scene virtually any camera can make a pleasing capture. I wanted to show what this little camera can do when given all the opportunities.
    Thank you for the compliments.
    Damien.

  8. it is a lovely camera and it feels so nice in your hand too, if i’d have known just how much they are selling for yours may not have made it round the room in Bristol : )

  9. Hi David.

    The focus is set to centre zone and I focus then reframe my Fuji X100. This is perfect. If I want to lock the focus I just switch it to manual. I’m very happy using the Fuji at f/2 all the time. It is a pin sharp lens and my shot success rate is way higher than my SLR. My 50mm Canon prime doesn’t work with a focus reframe method when the subject is off centre, as far as I understand this is due to the complicated optics employed to make it a flat field lens.

    The Fuji X100 is my camera that is most accurate at focussing. It can be fooled by high contrast background but it’s obvioius when this happens.

    I hope this helps,

    Damien.

  10. I love the look of the little camera, I also love the results in the right hands in produces.

    I would personally love to own one if I could some how justify it as a business expense and owning a little old film slr that is similar that just feels fun to use, a word I think is some times forgotten when taking a photograph.

  11. Damien,
    Your reviews of the X100 are both informative and entertaining with the side comments. I am quite intrigued with this camera and interested to see what the X10 will be like as well. Currently, I shoot with Canon’s 7D and G9. I do a lot of concert coverage from the front of the state in the pit, mostly and wonder how the X100 would do with that. What focus issues have you encountered and is it easy to see focus with either of the two viewfinder options?
    Rob

  12. Hi Rob,

    I’d say the X100 is not as good as a Nikon D700 or D3 by a very long way at focussing in low light. At about 900 lux and above it is fine for focus, reframe and shoot work. The image quality in low light is as good as my Nikon D700 at ISO 3200 but the focussing is slower. It is super accurate though and I get more ‘in focus’ pictures with my Fuji X100 at f/2 than I do with my Canon 50mm f/1.2 at f/2.8 on my 5Dmk2. The Fuji camera and lens combination is simply amazing but it is not a DSLR. Focussing is identical with both viewfinder options.

    I hope this helps, Damien.

  13. Hi Chris,

    Try using 1/80th for the Auto ISO min shutter speed and 3200 for the max ISO. I also love the green filter monochrome setting too :)

    Kind regards,

    Damien.

  14. Dear Damien,

    I googled “X100 settings” to find a good starting point for my workflow with this little jewel and I found your wonderful site.

    Thank you for sharing your work, your art and your technique.

    My inspiration begins here.

    Cristiano

  15. Thanks for letting me know your settings on the X100. Finally I get really really great photos. I just love this camera now! Going to New York in December and will use it with your settings all the way! :) / Jan

  16. Hi Damien, I’m one of the lucky ones to own the x100 (went into the shop to get the canon 100mm 2.8 Macro…came out with a new camera!) anyway, I recently noticed I’m having huge variations between the screen image and the actual image loaded into lightroom. Do you know how to sort this out please?
    I’ve lost some great shots that can’t be saved. Mostly night shots where detail is now replaced with just black. The screen showed a perfectly exposed photo.
    I’m shooting in RAW (just changed to RAW with Fine JPG after reading your posts), I’d planed on using this fantastic camera for a baby portrait shot (as well as my dslr…minus the macro!)
    Any help you have would be greatly appreciated.
    Kind regards,
    Jamie

  17. Hi Jamie,

    Lightroom rebuilds a preview based on a guess of what you want the shot to look like and it’s never anywhere near. For instance if I shoot on monochrome with a green filter setting I get sublime black and white image on the camera screen and Lightroom renders me a colour one. If we want the camera image we need to use the jpeg. It’s fab quality and I often struggle to get as good a mix using Lightroom. I do perservere with Lightroom though because I love the gradient tool, the noise supression, and the brush tool etc. After a minute or so in Lightroom I get the enhanced image I wanted.

    I hope this helps,

    Damien.

  18. Hi Damien,

    Loving the site and your candid, true to life commentary. (Examples are great too!)

    I am seeing some strange things happening with focussing – I can take 3 shots in a row of same model and 1 will be great and 2 out of focus. Camera seems to like having a hard/straight line to lock onto for focus? Any ideas/tips.

    Am shooting AF-S and doesn’t seem to make much difference between having the “Corrected AF Frame” on or off…

    Help – any light you can shed on the situation?
    PB

  19. Hi Peter, The X100 doesnt maintain focus between frames in the same way an SLR does. With an SLR you can take multiple frames at the same focus point by not releasing the shutter beyond a half press. The Fuji refocusses every frame. Some shooters use manual focus and set focus with the AFL button then just shoot away (assuming the subject to camera distance stays the same). This is generally considered the fastest focussing mode. It can focus right through the macro scale too without needing to access the ‘flower’ menu.

    I hope this is useful.

    Kindest regards,

    Damien.

  20. Hi Damien,

    Thanks for the prompt reply and update.

    So I am guessing that probably the best way to work will be manual focus, with the AFL as needed but use EVF rather than OVF for anything less than 2-3 meters away…

    PB

  21. Great review,

    I’m soooo looking forward to picking up the x100, can’t seem to find ome in Montreal. I’m a wedding photographer who shoots with a 5D, I think this little guy will compliment my 5D quite well.

    Thanks again

  22. Thanks for this follow up post! I came across one of your initial posts about the X100 when I was sitting on the fence about buying one. Your shots from the diner definitely gave me a nudge towards my purchase :) While its not going to have me leaving my 5DMKII at home for most of my bigger shoots it will still have its place. I like the fact that I can grab this camera and head out with a model and shoot anywhere, wander downtown and duck into buildings to shoot in interesting hallways or staircases etc without drawing tons of attention. I just wish it were summer already :)

  23. Great advice, I have just bought one of these baby’s I am a pro photographer in England. I have set lowest shutter at 80th& max film @ 3200 it freezes perfect at f2 for my street reportage.
    Thanks dude

  24. Damien ty for a most excellent discussion. I can’t seem to get any sharp or crisp photos however depit appearing in focus. My understanding is that f2 is not going to give one the sharpest images but rather 4 5.6 8 etc. which I have tried but still not too shrp. I bought my x100 after owning an lx5 which produces very crisp clear images. Should I adjust my expectations for the x100 to a different kind of photographic milleu. Any thoughts on sharpness would be most appreciated. Btw gorgeous work.
    Cherio.
    Laurence

  25. Hi Damien

    have recently purchased the x100,,,, great camera,,,

    however locking focus onto a small foreground image and recomposing is posing a problem,, do i read correctly that you are using camera in manual focus using the focus lock button?

    Thanks

    Mark

  26. Hi Laurence,

    The X100 should and does deliver super crisp images wide open at f/2. There is no image stabaliser so I reccomend a shutter speed of at least 1/60th of a second, I use 1/80th or 1/100th if I’m hand holding and even then I take great care at the moment of shutter release to keep the camera as still as I can. Do not use the cross hair type focus method, use the box method and all should be fantastic. If not your camera has a fault. The X100 instills a great deal of confidence in me when I’m shooting simply because it nails focus every time.

    Kindest regards,

    Damien.

  27. Hi Mark,

    First of all I hope you are enjoying your X100. I rarely use manual focus and focus button unless I’m shooting close. It does save setting Macro in the menu. I always use the small box focussing method and I find focus reframe works well for me. Technique is a personal thing. I have to practice practice practice until I find a combo that works for me. I need at least 1/80th second to get a sharp image because I’m not as steady as some shooters etc.

    I do hope you have come to love shooting with your X100. It can change lives :)

    Regards, Damien.

  28. Thanks Damien,,

    Yes I am loving my x100,,

    It had its 3 outing out this weekend being used in anger at weddings,,,,

    This camera is ideal for ceremony shots and has the approval of Vicars and Registrars due to its silent operation.

    Thank You

    Mark

  29. Hi Damien,
    I came across your blog/site while searching for X100 settings. Very informative and wonderful site!

    I was wondering if you adjust other setting like dynamic range, colour, sharpness, highlight tone, shadow tone and film simulation? If so, would you be so kind to share your settings (especially when shooting colour)?

    FYI, I typically just use the jpeg out of the camera as it’s pretty darn good but just in case I need RAW I have it set to (jpeg+RAW). My settings: Film simulation- Astia, Auto iso 200, Max sensitivity 3200 at min shutter 1/80, Dynamic range auto, color-mid, sharpness-std, highlight tone-std, shadow tone-std, noise reduction-std. I like shooting in Aperture Priority mode.

    Thanks.
    -Ken

  30. Hi Ken,

    Have you seen this post on my 15,000 frame review of the X100? It has my settings at the bottom. I think you have it nailed. I rarely adjust any image adjustment parameter from standard with the X100. Very different to my settings with the X-Pro1 though.

    Stay inspired and enjoy that camera of yours.

    I’m running an X100 workshop too :)

    Kind regards, Damien.

  31. Yours is some of the nicest work I’ve seen with the Fujifilm X100. I went on line this evening to see if anybody was using this little marvel professionally. The X100s has just been announced, and I expect more pros will be adding this new model to their toolkit since it purportedly has solved many of the perceived problems with the X100.

    The X100 has become just about my favorite camera. Though it is just a tool and no one tool can replace a whole set as we all know, it’s amazing how versatile it is. I take it with me virtually everywhere. I’ve devoted a small section of my website to it. I’ve seen posts where photographers state their favorite settings such as “I always shoot on manual in black and white,” but I’ve found it very instructive to take advantage of the camera’s many features. The last couple of days, for example, I’ve been shooting with auto ISO and on autofocus, which allows me to surreptitiously withdraw the camera from my shoulder bag and test its capabilities in various environments. I also have downsized the focus rectangle to see if I can focus on one eye in when doing portraits.

  32. Hi Jon,

    Thank you for the wonderful feedback. The X100 changed the way I took pictures and is my favourite camera that I’ve ever owned. It took time and above all willingness to change the way I work and now I’ve been rewarded with a renewed vigour and passion for photography.

    Stay inspired,

    Damien.

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