I have been fortunate enough to be given access to an advanced copy of the new v2.0 firmware for the X100 for testing. The latest v2.0 release includes a number of additions and improvements to the X100, some long-awaited, some unexpected, some missing.
Quick summary of features/improvements in v2.0
- AF speed improvements.
- Reduced close-up distance before having to switch to macro (like the X100S).
- Focus-peaking added to MF.
- AF area selection mode updated.
- Faster startup.
A more in-depth look..
Let’s deal with the easiest one of those first - faster startup. If you read carefully, you’ll notice that it relates only to the Quick Start option being OFF, so if you’re already using the X100 in Quick Start mode then you won’t notice any difference. Initially it might seem pointless and may seem a little bit of a gimmick as I reckon a lot of you are using the X100 in Quick Start anyway, but if we think deeper the Quick Start mode reduces battery life. So, being able to turn it off, get a faster start-up time and improved battery life is definitely a good thing. 0.2s might not sound like a lot, but it is definitely noticeable when you really want to get that shot quickly from cold.
Focus peaking - I’m impressed that Fuji have added this to the X100, I’m sure it will make a lot of X100 users very happy to be included in the party! MF was always a weak point on the X100, Fuji have steadily improved the operation of the MF ring, but adding focus peaking will make things much easier. Still a shame the only colour is white though, a red or yellow lines option definitely helps under certain circumstances.
Reduced close-up AF distance - This was actually one of the main things that made me switch to the X100S – the ability to use ‘normal’ focus mode more often, especially when shooting the kids as they would often be just in that range between normal and macro mode, making focusing awkward. The reduction of the range you can use before switching into macro mode is a definite bonus for most of us. I’m guessing this was made possible with the speed improvements that have been made to the AF routine as that under 1 metre range was always a bit slow on the X100.
AF button selection mode - It was always an awkward one – pressing and holding the AF button and using the controls on the other side to adjust the AF point position. Now the AF button works like a toggle, press it and the AF area selection comes up, press it again (or the shutter button) to set the position. A much better implementation.
Now the biggie - AF speed improvements! AGAIN!! I don’t think anyone expected Fuji to still be working on the AF algorithm of the X100 (a now discontinued product) but here we are with yet another advance, which Fuji reckons can give a 20% speed boost and according to the Press Release, drastically improves the performance of the AF. That’s quite a claim, so is it really “drastically” better?! In a word - YES! A big fat shouty YES!
I had to say when I read it in the press release I thought, here we go… I’ve heard it all before. The big jump that they were supposed to have made on the X-Pro1 wasn’t as big as they made out, but this truly is a big step forward for the X100. Most importantly for closer range and macro shooting, which is exactly where the X100 had significant issues. Landscape, and anything beyond about 2-3 meters was never really a problem, at least I never found it to be so. It was only that stuff under about 1 metre that used to cause headaches. I can honestly say that it’s almost like picking up a new camera now. I’ve tested it side-by-side with the X100S and the X100S still has the edge, but it is literally by a fraction of a second in most cases.
I’ve done a very quick video below to show the older version against the new version – please excuse the screen being a bit too bright on the latter part of the video – I don’t have a good enough video camera! I think you can get the idea though. Where v1.3 fails to focus every single time, v2.0 nails it, and a lot quicker (especially in macro mode) than it did before. This video only shows one example, but I’ve used v2.0 in lots of different scenarios now and I can tell you that it transforms the use of the camera for me as I like to shoot a lot of fairly close-in portraits with it – you know, the just sitting across the table from someone distance.
It is another stepped improvement, compare v2.0 to the when the camera was first released and you could very well call it a revolutionary jump. It’s easy to forget just how awkward and irritating the AF on the early X100 models was. Not long ago I got my hands on an X100 with v1.11 firmware still installed and couldn’t understand what was wrong with it until I later checked the firmware version – and that was after Fuji had already made some early improvements! Anyone who gave up on the X100 in the early days should really come back and have a look again, it is totally unrecognisable from what it was initially.
For anyone with an X100, these improvements definitely make it worthwhile keeping hold of your X100 for a bit longer rather than upgrading. AF is still behind the X100S in good light where the phase detection of the X100S wins out, and personally I feel the IQ of the X100S is better, so for me I’m not disappointed to have bought the X100S. If you can get hold of an X100 (WEX still have some for £549) it makes them even more of a bargain buy with these improvements and additions moving it closer to the X100S in terms of features and performance. The choice for existing X100 owners to upgrade to the X100S suddenly becomes a lot harder!
With improvements to the X100 AF, I’m left wondering if there is anything more than can be done in the X-Pro1 and X-E1 cameras to improve their AF systems. I don’t know if they use the same algorithm, but it would make sense that they do share a lot of similarities…. here’s hoping there may be a little mode Fuji can get out of those too!
So what’s missing?
A HUGE shame that the Q Menu hasn’t made it to the X100 – not sure why this one has been left out as it’s an obvious one to add from the other cameras, even the X10 got it. The omission of this will be a big disappointment to a lot of X100 users who were desperate for this to come to the X100. I think a lot of them were expecting it in the next firmware release.
The screen still locks up sometimes when it is focussing, but because it focuses so much quicker this is much less of an issue than it was before. It would be nice to have seen that lock up eliminated.
Fujifilm is the only camera company I know that continues to develop their cameras well after release. Sure, there are the very occasional fixes released by the others, but nothing close to the dramatic improvements and additions we get from Fujifilm. The X100 is now well over two years old and has even been superseded by the X100s, yet despite that Fujifilm haven’t abandoned the camera and their loyal users, trying to force them into a new model as so often happens. I’ve said it before, but when you see things like this it gives you confidence to buy an X-Series camera knowing that you’re going to get the support of Fuji several years into the future and not just dumped when a new model comes out 9 months down the line!