Finder

The viewfinder is one of the main selling point for this camera and for a good reason. The unique feature added by X100 is the hybrid viewfinder, which projects a 'heads-up display' of all shooting functions into the camera's large optical viewfinder. [2]

Basically you have three options for shooting the X100 : the LCD (1), the Optical viewfinder (OVF) (2) and the Electronic viewfinder (EVF) (2). The usage depends obviously of your shutting style and/or situation.

An eye sensor (3) located near the eye piece is selecting the rear LCD or viewfinder automatically (in the appropriate view mode).

x100-1.jpg

Also, when not in "LCD mode", the front lever (4) selects between the EVF and OVF (the level does nothing if the rear LCD is lit).

Note that the camera will switch by itself to EFV mode if you select the MACRO mode (you cannot use the OVF to shoot close subjects mainly due to parallax errors.

x100-2.jpg

View modes

The VIEW MODE button (5) switches between using the rear LCD and the eye-level finder, with three options available: LCD, eye-level, and automatic switching between the two based upon the eye sensor (3).

For each display, hit the rear DISP-BACK (6) button to swap among various levels of detail.

The LCD

It's an uncoated plastic screen with the following specifications :

  • size (diagonal) : 2.8"
  • 320 x 480 pixels (460,000 RGB dots)

The EVF and rear LCD custom modes are set together

The Optical viewfinder

Multi-coated optics with the following specs :

  • 0.5x magnification.
  • 90% coverage.

There are two modes of display with the optical finder, selectable using the DISP-BACK (6) button.

In the second mode we have the following info that can be shown or not :

  • Frameline : 9 boxes (3x3 lines), 24 boxes (4x6 lines) or 16:9 frame
  • Virtual horizon, turns green when level
  • Focus scale with depth-of-field indicator (the white segment around the selected distance mark)
  • Histogram
  • Aperture, Shutter and ISO
  • Exposure compensation
  • Metering mode (photometry)
  • Flash mode
  • White Balance
  • Film Simulation mode
  • Dynamic Range
  • Frames remaining
  • Image size and quality
  • Battery Level

The Electronic viewfinder

Multi-coated optics with the following specs :

  • 600 x 800 pixel (1,440,000 RGB dots).
  • 0.47" LCD

The EVF uses the same view modes as the LCD, selecting different things on the EVF and the LCD not being possible. You may select however different custom options for each of the optical and electronic finders.

The image in the EVF is delayed about 1/12 of a second (80 ms) from reality [1].
The EVF is using the aperture that will be used for the actual picture, so it gives accurate DOF preview.

Parallax error

As with any camera with a separate viewfinder (not through the lens) there is a difference between the apparent position of the subject viewed through the viewfinder and through the lens. In plain terms, it will be a difference between what was framed in the OVF and what will be recorded by the sensor.

While the framelines are parallax-corrected in the OVF (when the shutter button is half pressed the frameline moves in the OVF to compensate), the autofocus point is not moving. At subject distances close to the minimum allowed with the OVF, this can mean that the AF point indicated in the viewfinder has only a tenuous overlap with that actually being used by the sensor. This means that for close focusing distances and narrow subjects the camera will not achieve focus in intended plane[2].

To illustrate this we conducted a very simple experiment :

  • x100 mounted on a tripod
  • two close subjects (the tube and the plant in the figure below) aligned in front of the camera at different distances
flickr:5817184041
  • Starting with the OVF, we put the focus rectangle (with red border, in the picture above) on the tube
  • If we switch to the EFV, the focus rectangle (yellow border) lays on the flower and NOT on the tube
  • By half pressing the shooter button, the camera will focus were the yellow rectangle (EVF focus point) is and it will not respect the OVF focus rectangle (red). As the picture is showing, the tube is obviously out of focus and the flower is sharp.

The conclusion is that, when using the OVF, the focus rectangle is positioned relatively to what the sensor is seeing and not to what the OVF is showing to the eye.

This effect is diminished when the focus distance grows. Several workarounds are possible :

  • switch to EVF when shooting close, focus sensitive (<2m, to be very sure) subjects
  • use MF (manual focusing) mode, OVF and use the AFL/AEL button to focus. Confirm correct focus by quickly switching to focus confirmation mode (by pressing the back rocker).
  • mentally compensate for the parallax error by assuming the focus rectangle being lower and on the right for close subjects (the effect accentuating as we have a closer subject to focus on)

A good discussion about x100 parallax error is here and here.
For an in-depth explanation of what parallax error means please see this Wikipedia article.

Usage recommendations

The usage of the EVF vs OVF vs LCD largely depends of your preferences, shooting style and situation. As a general guidance, the OVF is brighter in dayligh and the EVF at night. The OVF parallax error is more accentuated as the subject is closer, the OVF being not active at all in MACRO mode.

Note that the instant playback (brief display of the last picture taken) in the OVF brings on the EVF and tend to be substantially darker in daylight than expected.

Bibliography
2. dpreview.com In Depth Review : http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/FujifilmX100