Fujifilm North America has announced that its FinePix X100, that was unveiled at the Photokina trade show last September, is set for release next month. Aimed at professional or enthusiast photographers, the fixed lens, large sensor digital camera sports classic non-digital camera controls and a hybrid viewfinder that allows users to switch between optical and electronic modes.

In appearance, the new FinePix X100 has a certain Leica M9 look about it ... but Fujifilm says that "the combination of a hybrid viewfinder, large APS-C sensor and a precisely matched prime lens, make this camera unique to anything else in the market, and is presented within a rangefinder design that makes it an instant modern classic."

The top and bottom surfaces are made from die-cast magnesium alloy, the dials and rings are milled from metal and the chassis has been finished in leather-like accents. The upper dials allow the user to program camera settings without powering on the camera, and the large 12.3 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor has been internally optimized and exclusively developed for the X100. Its ISO sensitivity runs from 200 to 6400, but this can be expanded to ISO100 to ISO12800, giving the camera "approximately 10 times the sensitivity of a conventional compact."

In addition to the non-collapsible structure mentioned previously, the FUJINON 23mm Single Focal Length Fixed F2 lens has a macro capability as close as four inches, and the adoption of a 9-blade aperture diaphragm assists in capturing images with a circular soft out-of-focus or bokeh effect.

"The true enjoyment of photography begins with the thrill of seeing the world through a viewfinder," says Fujifilm. "The new Hybrid Viewfinder has been developed to reintroduce users to this essential camera experience. It combines the window-type 'bright frame' optical viewfinder found in rangefinder-type film cameras such as the classic 135-size or medium-format cameras, with the electronic viewfinder system incorporated in most compact or mirrorless digital cameras."

A prism for the LCD panel image on the viewing screen in the reverse-Galilean optical viewfinder allows the hybrid system to show both the shooting frame and electronic shooting data at the same time. The 0.5x magnification optical finder features all-glass elements and benefits from low chromatic aberration and distortion. The brightness of the supplied data in optical mode, which is constantly updated, is automatically adjusted according to the scene area.

At the press of a button, the user can switch to electronic viewfinder mode and benefit from "through the sensor" preview or playback of the digital image at a 1,400,000-dot resolution. Users are offered a choice between a 49-point auto electronic viewfinder focus area or a 25-point optical viewfinder focus area in addition to being able to select from five different focus area sizes in the electronic mode.

The X100 can record 720p high definition movies which, when using the aperture priority setting, can take advantage of the soft, defocused background effect. Onward viewing on a big screen television is catered for via an included mini-HDMI connector.

The camera's 120 or 180 degree motion panorama mode is worth a quick final mention, with users being able to print results as A3-sized (11.7 x 16.5-inch) enlargements.

The FinePix X100 will be priced at US$1,199.95.