Refinements | notes on the X100 1.20 firmware

When Fujifilm released the 1.12/1.13 update not so long ago I was… Hmmm, let’s go with miffed shall we? A lot of us had been expecting to get a few of our firmware wishes answered in light of the X-Pro1 interface advances we’d been seeing, and while bug fixes are always a good thing… They don’t do much for the day to day life with a camera. That is, they don’t transform it.

It didn’t help much to see the company releasing some of those features for the X10 – on the very same day no less.

But the wait is over. Almost.

With yesterday’s release of the 1.20 update, the X100 finally comes into its own a year after its initial release. This is a major upgrade that goes way beyond its short release notes.

Raw. Liberated.

You know that dedicated RAW button most of us never, ever use? Ever? It can finally become a second function button. Cue the choir of angels. This is something I think every single X100 shooter had been asking since before the camera was even released. This means that you can, for example, set the fn button to ISO and the RAW button to the ND filter. And in the case of the ND filter option, it’s a straight on/off toggle - no more fiddling with wheels or switches. Click ON. Click OFF. Perfect. Makes operating the camera much more fluid.

ISO or the ongoing saga

Speaking of ISO: you can now set Auto ISO from the ISO section of the shooting menu, as it should’ve been from day one. They’ve also kept it in the set up menu in case you’ve grown accustomed to it being there. I never did.

So now, this means you can use the fn button to switch Auto ISO on or off! Yay!!
Wait… No, you can’t. It’s under ISO in the shooting menu but not in the fn ISO menu. Which looks the same as the shooting menu. Except it doesn’t. Get it?

I dont want to sound snarky but I can’t understand why this is so hard to implement. It’s a menu item in software and it would be completely logical to be able to access it as quickly as possible. Is it because Auto ISO has several subsettings to configure and the function button interface doesn’t allow submenus? I’m just speculating but I guess it could be a reason. I’d settle for a simple on/off switch if that could provide a solution. I’m guessing I wouldn’t be the only one. Keep the detailed settings for the shooting menu and just give us a quick way to toggle.

Mark this one as ongoing.

Btw: The X100 isn’t the only Fujifilm camera struggling with Auto ISO quirkiness. Apparently the X-Pro1 firmware doesn’t allow a custom minimal shutter speed. The camera gets to decide on its own depending on a mix of focal length and internal voodoo. Very odd and a wee bit unsettling.

Unforeseen and undocumented goodies

Two features I absolutely didn’t expect to see: focus zooming in AF-S mode and face recognition in playback mode. The zooming feature has long been available when shooting the camera in Manual mode - you could hit the center of the command control to zoom in on the focus point in the EVF or LCD. Now we can also do this in AF-S. Nice.

But it’s made all the more useful by something I was no longer hoping for from this camera: yes folks, with this firmware update we get usable manual focus. Not a placebo it-sorta-feels-kinda-faster manual focus. The focus ring now actually works. For the record, I would try it after every single update and always end up dismissing it completely. It’s still by wire and it still feels disconnected but I found myself using it for the very first time and nailing focus. For real. Combined with the zoom function in the EVF it becomes an honest to goodness solution. As good as mechanical focus? No way. But I never thought I’d touch that focus ring except by accident. This is a super nice surprise.

Playback face recognition is handy I guess. It detects faces in a picture and automagically centers on them when you hit the zoom function. You can even use the down arrow to jump from face to face. Not the end of the world but hey… It’s comes with the package for the same low price.

The firmware also claims to refine AF tracking in video mode. I did a quick test with a lot of panning and it does seem to do a much better job, less pumping and hunting. Much smoother.

So overall, this update would fall under refinement. It’s a much welcome upgrade that shows Fujifilm aren’t resting on their laurels. Smart. Taking care of your customers can only breed loyalty.

Between my new lens assembly and the 1.20 update it’s almost like I have a brand new camera. And just in time for our upcoming one year anniversary…

More details on the update page here. And the actual firmware can be found here.


P.S. A quick tip RE Auto ISO: instead of hitting the Menu OK button and scrolling through the various menus to switch Auto ISO on or off, you can simply hold fn (or now RAW as well). This shortcut will directly take you to the fn assignment screen and from there two quick left clicks will lead you just on top of the ISO Auto Control item. I know, it sounds like a lot of work but it’s really much faster once you get used to it. Btw, it used to require just ONE left click - the addition of the RAW button in this update has added another.

P.P.S On Twitter yesterday I mentioned I was seeing much faster write speeds. Turns out I was shooting JPEG instead of RAW+JPEG due to the update reset. So… Never mind ;)