And what a strange two months it has been! Luckily I managed to get in a proper fashion photoshoot just before the UK lockdown took hold, more on that later. Since lockdown started I’ve been using this camera almost every day just to document life. However, I wanted it for more than that. I wanted to use it on shoots, and at weddings, I wanted to take advantage of that leaf shutter. I’ve been held back in the past mostly by the nagging doubt that the lens was not quite up to the job. So lets get that bit out of the way first.
The New Lens
The lens on the older versions was actually pretty good as long as you didn’t get too close to your subject with it wide open at f2. The problem is, I love shooting like that so I’d often forget, and end up with a unusable shot. Still, I got plenty of useable ones. Here are a couple from the F and the T.
The new lens is a different beast though. Not only is it sharper across the frame, it’s fine for those close ups wide open. I’ve been limited on what I could shoot with it, but here are a few shots that hopefully give you an idea of how good the lens is for close up subjects.
Autofocus and Speed in general
As is ever the case with a new version of this camera, it has been given a significant speed bump. It’s basically an equivalent of an XPro-3 with a 23mm f2 lens, where the lens is slightly better and the autofocus maybe a little bit more sluggish due to the physical constraints of the lens on the X100V. It’s plenty fast enough to capture some great moments though, and being effectively a 35mm f2, the depth of field is fairly forgiving. Certainly I have no issues capturing my kids doing stuff, and the eye-af is pretty good, definitely way more useable than on the X100F. Being able to rattle off 11 frames per second on a camera like this is a bit crazy, but it’s a nice to have and you can customise your slow and high burst speeds to something a bit slower if you wish.
Classic Neg and general customisation options
This camera comes with all the bells, whistles and tweaks you could wish for from the XPro-3. This includes being able to tweak the color temperature of your monochrome shots in camera. This is a lot of fun, you can see in the two shots above that I made the lower one warmer, this was done in camera. The film sims are more than a gimmick, they really add joy to the camera for me and I spend ages tweaking and refining them to see what I can get out of camera. It used to be that these film sims only affected the jpegs, but in the latest version of Capture 1, the recipes you apply in camera carry through to the raws as well, which is fantastic. You can of course reset the raw if you prefer to do so, but it’s great to have the in camera look AND the flexibility of the raw file. Classic Negative is quite a strong film sim, in the right light it looks fantastic, in bad light, terrible. However, I find it a nice edition to have and I shot the below fashion shots using it. They gave me a good basis for the final tone of the edit. You can also tweak the tone curve in camera.
Using the X100V on a fashion shoot
The shots above kind of happened by accident. I took the X100V along to this shoot to shoot some behind the scenes shots. Towards the end of the shoot I thought I’d give it a try with the Godox flash system I was using. I was unhappy with the tones on my Sony A7R3 for the indoor shots. I took a quick shot with the X100V and it looked amazing, so I carried on using it. In the end three of the shots ended up being published in a magazine. Looking at them online and in print, you really couldn’t tell them apart from the Sony ( well, the colours looked better and needed less post processing! ). Using the flash was simple, as I had a Fuji good flash transmitter handy. Past iterations of the X100 have been a bit fussy with flash, but the V just works ( as long as it’s not in silent mode ). And of course you have the glorious option of synching up to 1/1000 at f2 and even higher speeds at narrower apertures. Plus you have the built in ND filter ( now up to 4 stops from 3 in previous models ). This camera is a powerhouse when it comes to using flash. Here are some more from the fashion shoot. Such was my confidence in this little camera’s new lens, that after this shoot I immediately sold my 35mm lens, as I realised the X100V could replace that lens ( modelography is the site name I use for my fashion/model work in case anyone is wondering! ).
Ergonomics, look and feel
I have to admit I was dismayed to learn about the D-Pad disappearing off the back of the camera. I often used it to change film simulations, and sometimes to accidentally change white balance and then start swearing at the camera. I miss the former but not the latter. I’ve mapped the film sim button to the front fn button of the camera and now I don’t miss it at all! Build quality to me seems to have gotten better, the camera looks more premium and the top plate feels better. It certainly seems to be tougher. I’d scratched the top plate within a week of getting the X100F, two months in and my V looks mint still. The new ISO dial is great, definitely an improvement. They’ve made the front silver strip even across the camera, which adds to the premium look of the thing. It’s just a gorgeous camera, it makes you want to pick it up and shoot with it. Sadly we are still in lockdown as I write this so I’ve literally run out of flowers to point it at! My kids run and hide every time they see me going for the camera. Here is another shot of my daughter before camera fatigue set in…
Battery life seems around 20% better. The layout of buttons on the back works fine if you are holding the camera with your right hand and using your thumb to preview and delete images. If you try to do this with two hands you can easily trigger the eye sensor due to the layout. I’ve gotten used to this but it was initially a little annoying. The other new big thing which I almost forgot to mention is the flip out screen. The reason I forgot about it, is that it’s such a brilliantly subtle design that you can easily forget it’s there. It doesn’t stick out or otherwise spoil the ergonomics at all. If you hate flappy screens you can just ignore it and within a day or too you will literally forget it’s there. For the rest of us, it’s very handy indeed and I’m happy they put it in.
No camera is perfect so here are my gripes. The side panel with the USB-C and micro-HDMI port is very cramped. Unless you are using particular brands they both won’t go in at the same time ( bye bye WebCam use scenario). Also, the single card slot is an issue for me if I want to use this camera at weddings ( which I do ), and the card slot is UHS 1 not UHS 2, which means it buffers very quickly. You are not likely to be using it on burst mode too often, but still, this is an expensive camera, UHS 2 should be standard here. I have not experienced the warmth issues people reported, I suspect they occurred in on early batch of cameras. There are normal heating issues when you use it for long videos or extended burst shooting, but nothing I would consider show stopping.
I am a stills shooter only ( for now ) so I’ve yet to use this camera for video. From what I’ve heard it’s a very capable video camera but not really suitable as your main video camera. I’m afraid you will need to look elsewhere to learn more about the video capabilities of the X100V.
I’ve always loved the X100 line and owned most of them aside from the very first one. They were always love and hate cameras for me. There was always something that slightly marred the overall performance, wether it was that awful small battery they initially had, to the soft lens, to the sluggish AF. Well, finally, pretty much all my complaints have been addressed and this is now a very complete, premium, take anywhere camera that is incredibly powerful but small and beautiful. The lens and weather sealing was really the only thing holding back the F. The AF tracking in low light is still not brilliant, but it’s better than it was. Eye-AF is very good, but I guess could be snappier, it’s not at XPro-3/XT-4 levels for sure, but that’s probably down to physical lens issues. Most importantly this is a camera that will make you pick it up and take everywhere with you, and want to shoot with it. That, perhaps, is it’s greatest strength and in this current iteration of this series you will rarely, if ever, find it wanting.