Some impressions of the FujiFilm X100S

I’ve been silent most of this week because of family stuff last week and a busy week in work this week. One notable arrival this week was the X100S last Saturday which I’m still trying to find time and light to take shots with. This meant the departure of my X100 but it’s gone to a good home and good luck to its new owner.

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I’m really liking the X100S with a few quibbles. The AF speed is very good and the colours are sublime.

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The improvements to AF seem very useable and I was right at home with the digital split image feature. The camera is very snappy and the EVF is an improvement too.

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I should probably point out that no test charts or scenes will be touched on during the course of this post, which will be entirely user experience based. Note that pictures are RAWs processed in LR 4.4 unless otherwise indicated.

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Overall experience

I like this camera a lot. I was very happy to see this camera when it was announced, simply because it was the same shape and took the same batteries. I hate changes in shape or batteries for changes sake. I kept all the spare batteries, the case, the hood and the WA adaptor from the X100 and they all work great on the X100S. Just like the X100 it is fun to shoot with. I can almost feel the people who own the X100 who didn’t like the X-Pro1 directing their hate at this camera. They shouldn’t, because it’s more similar to the X100 than it is to the X-Pro1. The controls are similar with minor improvements. The biggest difference is to controlability in manual focus. I can’t say how happy I am with the improvements to manual focus.

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It’s worth noting that the new EVF is really very good. I don’t think I would use it all the time (it would be a waste of the OVF) but the EVF is a big improvement over the X100 and X-Pro1. It also doesn’t suffer from the blurring issue that afflicts the X-E1 EVF (while being a little dimmer by virtue of being a LCD panel).

Not really an improvement over the X100, but those who have never used a camera with a leaf shutter before will be pleasantly surprised at just how quiet it can be. It’s a unobtrusive camera that’s the antithesis of your average DSLR with the mirror “slap”.

MF Improvements

I can only say that these are great. First of all, it is much more controllable and doesn’t require 47,000 turns of the focus ring to go from close focus to infinity.

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The peaking implementation isn’t perhaps as good as Sony’s on the NEX series, but only by a little. However, digital split image works well and is great. People should be aware though that it works best in magnification, so it may not add to your speed of focus if you are good at dealing with magnification MF.

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However, I find it avoids that faffing back and forth on micro adjustments to focus – much like a rangefinder.

AF Speed

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Definitely improved in good light (close to but not faster than the E-M5, faster than NEX cameras I’ve used), a bit better than the old X100 in poor light (probably attributable to having a faster processor). The PDAF on sensor does help (I’ll admit I was wrong about that). What it doesn’t do is turn this camera into a CAF/AF-C demon, but anyone who buys a fixed lens compact for that is smoking something better than me…

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Flash use and Sync

This isn’t a new feature (vs the X100) but one of the most amazing features of the X100S is the flash sync speeds you can use with it, all the way up to 1/800. No example shots here but if you’ve never used a camera with a leaf shutter, this aspect will have you amazed. Note that the EF-20 flash may give you uneven brightness intensity if bounced at 1/800.

Controls

They are largely the same except for the swap of the Drive and AF buttons on the back, the menu button being raised, a Q button to replace the RAW button, the switch of the AF/MF switch to put AF-S/SAF and MF at either end (a much better implementation) and the dials on the top being a wee bit stiffer to turn. I still think the rear control wheel is a botch but the implementation of the menu button is superior. The buttons on the back feel more solid and better made than they were on my X100. The response on the buttons is great too. I’ll be honest, I still knock the exposure compensation wheel, but it isn’t as bad as it was on the X100.

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IQ improvements

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The pictures from the X100S are great, very sharp, very defined, similar to the X100 but with the extra tonal graduation from the X-trans sensor and the extra resolution of a 16mp sensor. You do seem to be able to push a bit more out of the sensor (it’s perhaps a hair better) compared to the X-Pro1/X-E1 at high ISOs and some of the shots at ISO 3200 have been very attractive indeed – I generally don’t go mad on noise reduction as the noise is actually similar to film grain.

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ISO 3200

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ISO 3200

At ISO 6400 you begin to get quite noticeable noise. That said I’m pleased with this example, taken just after midnight on a tripod. The difference between the two shots (which is the same shot) is the application of noise reduction (you might like to click on the pictures so as to get to the larger versions posted on Flickr):

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ISO 6400 – No noise reduction

In this second shot the noise reduction (about 35) cleans up the sky nicely but the detail of some branches is lost.

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ISO 6400 – Noise reduction applied (about 35 for noise and colour sliders)

Still, stunning output for an APS-C camera to my eye.

The jpegs are fantastic and aside from colour, exposure and dynamic range adjustments I don’t think people would see much difference to the processed RAW files. That may change with final support from ACR/LR and C1.

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The exposure latitude is much better than it was on the X100. I always found that if I over or underexposed I would have to make compromises as to image quality with X100 shots. No need to do that with the X100S. No change in the WB performance – but that’s not a bad thing, both the X100 and X100S have great auto WB.

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Nuff said re IQ!

Example Jpegs SOOC

Just some examples of the quality of the jpegs because I know plenty of people shoot jpeg only with the X100 and X-Pro1.

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Advanced Filters

Fuji took some stick for this from die hard X100 users but they included some digital filters of the sort found on M43s and NEX cameras. These are fun little effects that can be used to liven up an image without post processing it. Here are some examples:

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Toy Camera

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Miniature

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Pop Color

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Hi-Key

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Low-Key

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Dynamic Tone

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Soft Focus

There are also colour filters:

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Yellow Filter

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Green Filter

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Red Filter

There are also orange and purple filters, but I was running out of appropriately coloured objects. These are all fun if you like them and you don’t have to use them! One feature that would be cool though is to allow for RAW shooting when using them (you have to shoot jpeg to use the filters) and to allow for them to be created through in camera RAW processing (c’mon Fuji, you know you want to…).

IQ Issues

It wouldn’t be a Fujifilm camera with new tech if there weren’t a fly in the ointment. There is an issue with RAW files processed in ACR/LR which looks like the pictures aren’t sharp (there is a low level blur), but it’s only visible at 100%. I suspect it comes down to the change to 14 bit RAWs in the X100S. You can exaggerate or reduce the effect with the detail slider in ACR/LR.

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I’m not going to pixel peep examples here because the over obsession with what can been seen at 100% magnification or more has always seemed odd to me, but this is what people are seeing in examples posted on DPR and Steve Huff’s website. It isn’t that bad and certainly isn’t the same effect as was present prior to LR 4.4 in other x-trans camera RAWs in ACR/LR.

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No doubt Lloyd Chambers is working on another post about how the x-trans sensor is misguided based on this. I sense he should go and find an alcoholic beverage (or other diversion) and relax a wee bit more…

Update 03 April 2013: looks to me like Lightroom 4.4 release version, which was released today, largely fixes the issues I identified above. The x100s files are looking much more detailed at 100%. A small “woo-hoo” from me!

Is it worth upgrading from the X100?

Yes, if you have the money. The X100 is a fine camera, but there have been enough improvements that it becomes a no brainer. Really, the X100S is that good.

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Conclusions

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The minor quibble is that the switch to 14 bit RAWs seems to have caused some issues in RAW files at 100%. I’m pretty sure (since this isn’t an issue with X-Pro1 and X-E1 files) that this is quickly solvable. [Update, it has been much improved in Lightroom 4.4, and the images now look stunning even at 100%, with even more detail – bring on C1 support though!] Everything else about this camera is a distinct improvement or no worse than the X100. This won’t be a camera for everyone, I still feel that most people would benefit more from an ILC with a range of lenses if that were their only camera. But as a conscious choice of fixed focal length or as a second camera it is magnificent. The new sensor really improves the output and gives more latitude around exposure and the lens remains outstanding. There is very little to dislike here!

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Just a note – I plan to update this post from time to time with some further thoughts (if any)…

13 thoughts

  1. Thanks for posting these; I enjoyed them. I particularly like the shots of the horse, your S.O., and the mother sheep and lamb are just wonderful. They are both smiling!

    • Thanks Stephen. I was particularly happy with the shots of my partner and the sheep and lamb because they were both at higher ISOs, both have some noise (I didn’t remove it all), neither looks the worse for the noise which does have a more film like grain. That’s where this camera excels I think, it can practically see in the dark.

  2. Great real world review, I’m really interested in getting a x100s, held off buying an x100 due to the quirks. This one now seems to have resolved those issues. The only leaves the price, too high for me to justify right now.

    • Thanks Julian. It is expensive right now (although I didn’t feel it was overpriced), but don’t be surprised if it’s in more realistic territory in about 3-4 months. Also, even if the price does stick, it will have to come down once the X-Pro1 replacement is released.

  3. Pingback: miXed zone: tips for photographers, X-series reviews… and Happy Easter! | Fuji Rumors

  4. Thanks for the review. I hope the price does drop later in the year.
    I am wondering whether to get the X100s or wait for the X-E1s.

    I see you have the X-E1. Do you happen to have the Fuji 18mm pancake lens? I amd interested in seeing what the size is like compared to the X100s. (Pocketability is important to me).
    If you do have it, would you be able to post a photo of the 2 cameras together? (shot from above so the relative depths of the 2 can be judged. Shot with a camera phone if necessary!)

    Now worries if you can’t! Cheers

    • Thanks for posting. The X100S and X-E1 have almost the same body size, but the 18mm lens is bigger than the fixed lens on the X100S. See this comparison (vs X-E1 with 18-55mm kit lens): http://j.mp/WNyPu9
      The 18 mm is larger than people think, though it isn’t huge, its probably about as big as the distance to the grip on the zoom section of the kit lens.
      The soon to be released 27mm (40mm equivalent) pancake will be smaller and offer better IQ than the 18mm.
      If I get a chance tomorrow I’ll post a picture of the cameras from above.

  5. Pingback: X100S + WCL-X100 = Great | sgoldswoblog

  6. A great review, I’ve been shooting with X100s for a month now.

    It’s the closest thing to film I have ever experienced with digital. Just like my original canon ae1 program. I have my X100s with me all of the time. I can’t believe how intuitive it is.
    Fallen in love with photography all over again. I’ve stopped using my Nikon D90.

    This is the only camera I will ever use. The image quality is sensational.

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