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Fujifilm Finepix X100: Prime Lens, Huge Sensor, Big Price

Cameras can be versatile in different ways. You've got your pocket megazooms, which offer the ability to close the gap on faraway objects. You've got your point-and-shoots with manual settings, which give you both fine-tunable controls and easy-to-use auto modes for your images. And, of course, you've got your DSLRs, which have large sensors, swappable lenses, manual controls, and superb image quality that make them the weapons of choice for seasoned photographers.

And then you've got unique models such as the just-announced Fujifilm Finepix X100, which has its own set of checkmarks in the versatility column: extensive manual controls, built-in lens filters that are usually available only as separately-sold accessories, a large DSLR-size sensor without the bulky body, and a bright F2.0 aperture lens that lets you harness enough light to use very fast shutter speeds and achieve shallow depth-of-field effects.

It's also one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful cameras we've seen in recent years, thanks to a throwback style reminiscent of the classic Leica M3. Feast your eyes on this thing.

What's missing is an optical zoom lens; the Finepix X100 has a fixed focal length of 35mm (in 35mm film equivalent), which means you'll physically have to move closer to a subject in order to "zoom in." The tradeoffs for using that fixed focal length, according to Fujifilm, are that the camera has a very fast power-on-to-first-shot time, none of the fringing or distortion you see in many wide-angle, long-zoom lenses, and a lens-and-sensor combination that are tailor-made for one another.

Fujifilm Finepix X100: Specs, Features, and Availability

The Finepix X100 features an APS-C size 12-megapixel CMOS sensor, as well as an EXR image processor that was built specifically for the camera. Fujifilm says the new image processor is designed for in-camera RAW processing, excellent low-light capabilities, sharp resolution, and high-dynamic-range shooting.

At slightly more than 2 inches deep, the Finepix X100 is closer to the size of a compact interchangeable lens camera than to that of most point-and-shoots. Besides a 2.8-inch LCD screen, it has a unique optical viewfinder that overlays in-camera settings data over its field of view.

When looking through the optical viewfinder, you can switch between the traditional "optical view only" display and the data-overlay display simply by pressing a button on the camera.

Another notable feature is the camera's built-in neutral density (ND) filter, which allows for slow-shutter/wide-aperture combinations in bright light. Fujifilm says the filter can be turned on or off by touching a button; when turned on, the built-in ND filter is supposed to block enough light to use an aperture setting three f-stops wider than you'd be able to without it. Aperture settings range from F2.0 to F16, and the camera's nine-blade aperture should create a nice "bokeh" effect.

The Finepix X100 shoots 720p video and has a built-in HDMI mini connector for playing footage back on an HDTV. The camera also offers a one-touch motion panorama mode similar to Sony's Sweep Panorama feature; bracketing settings for exposure, dynamic range, and film-simulation effects; fast access to shutter speeds and exposure settings via top-mounted dials; and an extensive array of buttons to quickly adjust manual controls.

Alas, this is not a cheap camera. It's priced at $1200, and is slated for availability in March. Its price, prime lens, big sensor, and manual controls make it a competitor primarily to high-end niche cameras like the Leica X1 and Sigma's DP series.

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