This Fuji X100 is the first camera in a long time to interest me in any way. On paper it's perfect fit for me. I used to shoot the M9 exclusively with Summicron ASPH 35mm f2 so the kit had same focal length and maximum aperture than this Fuji. I loved that kit and that's why I'm making this comparison. With the price of that beautiful Leica kit you could buy about eight new Fuji X100s. I bought mine second hand for 750€ which is not bad in my opinion.
Here's a little table where I have listed some of the key characteristics that matters to me and which camera has it better in my opinion:
Focusing a rangefinder like M9 becomes quickly a second nature and manual focusing is not a problem. However I do prefer a good auto focus mechanism and never understood the criticism of it. AF also makes it possible to focus using only one hand which is great when out and about with a kid packing a lot of stuff. The lack of range finder also allows Fuji X100 to have 10 centimeters as closest focusing distance which is excellent. I'm not into macro photography but it's often nice to be able to get close to the subject. Rangefinder mechanism in Leica limits closest focusing to 70 cm which is not always enough. The AF speed of the Fuji is not great and it has annoying lag (if used to semi pro DSLR) and often misses focus and you have to half press shutter button couple of times before it locks focus. It's not bad when you get used to it though.
The optical viewfinder of the Fuji X100 is very good and actually better than I expected but it's not quite as clear and bright as the viewfinder of the M9. I prefer OVF over EVF so I only use EVF when I need to focus closer than possible with OVF which is about 75 centimeters.
Good thing is that I feel that the X100 is easier to focus with both eyes open than range finders. I haven't leart to focus with both eyes open with range finder because I just don't see the double image coincide clearly enough. With X100 the focus frame blinks green when it locks focus, so it's easy to see even both eyes open.
I want my cameras to be discrete and not to draw unnecessary attention while photographing strangers on the streets (or my kid). Quiet shutter sound is one aspect of that and Leica has a pretty quiet shutter. However it had quite annoying rewind sound which is lacking in Fuji X100. Fuji has a shutter sound which is pretty close to a compact pocket camera and it is nearly silent which is excellent for shooting kids and people in the streets.
Leica M9 is the smallest full frame camera but it's not exactly small. It's compact but not like Fuji X100 which fits into a jacket pocket if you like. Price of the M9 also might make one to handle it like a precious jewel rather than a tool which it is suppose to be. Fuji X100 can be handled more freely because you will not loose a fortune if you get couple of scratches on it.
Startup could be a lot quicker. I usually keep my camera always on so that I can quickly take a shot. Power saving features saves battery life. This has worked great with Canon 5D, Nikon D700 and Leica M9 and they are instantly ready when half pressing shutter button. This is not the case with X100. It takes a second or two before it's ready to take a shot and it's impossible to tell if it's on or not without looking through the viewfinder. I often find myself trying take a picture but the camera haven't woken up from it's sleep. Either I haven't press the shutter button hard enough or long enough and I end up looking through a mute viewfinder with unresponsive camera like an idiot.
Dedicated wheel for exposure compensation in X100 is excellent. Only one of my many cameras so far have had that feature and that was Epson R-D1. Sure DSLR cameras have buttons for exposure compensation but those are usually used with button combinations and to see the setting you have to take a peek in viewfinder or one of the LCD screens. Nothing is more convenient than the way X100 does it and that makes a camera fast to operate. Using EVF you can also see the effect in real time through the viewfinder or LCD.
I'm not completely happy with the files X100 makes. Quality is pretty good but there is something about them that I can't put my finger on. Pictures are somewhat sterile, lifeless and lack punch in most situations in my opinion. In optimal lighting conditions image quality is excellent but so is my iPhone. I had the same dissatisfaction with files from Nikon D700. The original Canon 5D makes beautiful files and it's still one of my favorites in that regard. Same goes for M9 which makes beautiful files with lots of sharpness and punch. M9 files look great without any post processing (not even sharpening) which is not the case with any other camera.
Pictures from X100 are not as sharp as pictures from M9 due to the lack of anti aliasing filter in M9 but they have plenty enough detail and sharpen well in post processing. Fuji X100 beats M9 in the high ISO department hands down. Highest I used to shoot M9 was ISO 2000 and even then I preferred to convert those pictures to B&W because the colors looked horrible. With Fuji I can use ISO 3200 with no problems. I haven't done any scientific high ISO comparison but my gut feeling is that ISO 6400 picture shot with X100 has about same amount of noise as a ISO 2000 picture shot with M9. That is a huge difference!
X100 has been made to look vintage and retro, like a 70's rangefinder camera. I don't know how it is in other countries but 70's stopped being cool here years ago. Problem is that cameras made in 70's look like that because their design idea has followed function or has some other purpose other than imitation. Fuji X100 design is like a fake vintage Luis Vuitton bag. I don't like ugly things no matter how good they perform. Most of the amateur and professional photographers I know here in Finland agrees with me. X100 might look cool in Asia or Northern US but it's not cool in here. I have owned most of the cameras that this is suppose to look like and I don't want a modern camera to look like them anymore. This looks like it was made by a cheap Chinese toy factory two years ago. I bet it gets boring really fast and the next model will have a completely different design no matter what it has inside. Why not be brave and do something that looks modern? It doesn't have to look like a plastic DSLR but something slightly more modern like the titanium Leica M9. I'm getting used to the look now and it doesn't bother me much anymore, but I might pimp it up a bit with some crocodile skin ;)
I got a cheap eBay version of the lens hood. eBay is cheaper for a reason and I needed to secure the hood with some tape. I also taped focusing mode selector switch because I too many times accidentally turned it to manual focus. My X100 is equiped with Artisan & Artist strap which made out of leather and is a lot longer than the one that came with the camera.
I don't love the Fuji X100 but I feel it's the best option in its class at the moment. With M9 I always felt proud owning it because it is a beautiful no bull shit camera. X100 feels more like a gadget and it doesn't raise any emotions. So I would rather have Leica M9 but for the price I think Fuji X100 is very good. There aren't other alternatives if you like a good optical viewfinder and that is a must for me.
And here's some pictures taken with Fuji X100: