The Fujifilm X100S looks to build on the success of the Fujifilm X100 – a camera that was an instant hit with photographers. How does it fare? We find out in the What Digital Camera Fujifilm X100S review
Not only that, but it re-established Fujifilm in the eyes of the photographer as a serious camera brand that had been eroded since the launch of their last DSLR back in 2006, the Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro. The Fujifilm X100 also heralded a new line of professional cameras for the company, with the company building on the success of the Fujifilm X100 with the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and Fujifilm X-E1 Compact System Cameras.
Now we have the Fujifilm X100S, and while it may look like very little has changed from the model it replaces, Fujifilm promise over 70 improvements over the Fujifilm X100. Let’s see if they have another classic on their hands…
Fujifilm X100S review – Features
While the 12.3MP sensor used in the Fujifilm X100 didn’t disappoint, it soon looked like the poor relation when compared to the clever 16MP X-Trans CMOS sensor used in both the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and Fujifilm X-E1, so it’s no surprise to see a new X-Trans CMOS II chip appear in the Fujifilm X100S. If you haven’t come across Fujifilm’s X-Trans CMOS sensor before, it does things a little differently to a normal CMOS sensor design that makes it rather special.
This sensor in the Fujifilm X100S is unique. Most digital cameras feature a traditional Bayer filter array to decipher colour information, but this results in aliasing effects such as moiré patterning. An anti-aliasing filter in front of the sensor is then required to eliminate such artefacts, but works by ever so slightly blurring the image and results in a very minor loss in critical sharpness. The X-Trans CMOS II sensor inside the Fujifilm X100S however uses an array of red, green and blue pixels that aren’t arranged in such a repetitive order. With a structure more akin to film, the sensor can effectively minimize moiré and false colour, eliminating the need for an anti-aliasing filter, which should in turn deliver far sharper results than more conventional sensors.
The Mark II version of this chip differs slightly from what’s found in the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and Fujifilm X-E1 in that it features built-in phase-detect AF pixels, but more on that in a moment. On top of this, X100S utilises Fujifilm’s EXR Processor II on board to reduce the effects of image noise over the 12.3MP chip used in the Fujifilm X100 by 30%. Speaking of which, the Fujifilm X100S features a standard ISO range of 200-6400, this can be extended to an ISO equivalent of 100-25,600, though that’s JPEG only.
Lens and viewfinder
The Fujifilm X100S sticks with with the fixed Fujinon 23mm f/2 prime lens that offers a focal length equivalent of 35mm in traditional terms, along with a moderate wide-angle coverage with a 9 blade lens diaphragm for nicely rounded Bokeh. The Fujifilm X100S also takes advantage of the EXR Processor II image engine with a Lens Modulation Optimiser to reduce optical effects such as lens diffraction, while there’s also a built-in 3-stop Neutral Density filter should you wish to length the exposure or work with wider apertures in bright light. If you want to shoot a little wider, then a 28mm equivalent conversion lens is available for around £250.
One of the main attractions of the Fujifilm X100 was its clever hybrid viewfinder, with the photographer benefiting from the option of either shooting with an optical or electronic viewfinder, and this has been improved on the Fujifilm X100S with a boost in resolution of the electronic viewfinder, increasing from the Fujifilm X100‘s 1.44m-dot to 2.36m-dots. One bugbear with the Optical viewfinder on the Fujifilm X100 was how easy it was to get the front coated in fingerprints, but the Fujifilm X100S features a new proprietary coating that resists fingerprints and can be easily wiped clean. Though the EVF has seen a bump-up in resolution, the rear display remains the same, with a 2.8in, 460k-dot screen on offer.
The Fujifilm X100S’s focusing system has seen a number of improvements over the Fujifilm X100, with the X-Trans CMOS II sensor now featuring built-in phase-detect AF pixels to provide the Fujifilm X100S with an Intelligent Hybrid AF system. This sees the X100S ultilise both phase-detection and contrast-detect AF, switching between the two for optimal focusing speed that Fujifilm claim can be as quick as 0.08secs. Just like the Fujifilm X100, there are 49 selectable AF areas to choose from, while the AF area size can also be changed for pin-point focusing.
Manual focusing has also seen a number of improvements also. The manual focus ring itself has been tinkered with to provide a more responsive and precise user experience for greater control when manually focusing. There’s also Digital Split Image Focusing that works in a similar way to manual focus film cameras, with the split image in the EVF or rear display coming into focus as you align it, while there’s also Focus Peak Highlight that emphasises the outline of the subject for smoother and more accurate manual focusing.
Just like the Fujifilm X100, the Fujifilm X100S features a leaf-type shutter that allows you to sync the flash at any shutter speed you wish, compared to focal-plane shutters on DSLRs which are restricted to a maximum sync speed of between 1/180 and 1/250th sec depending on the model, making the Fujifilm X100S mach more versatile when it comes to fill-in flash and creative lighting – as well as the built-in flash, the X100S also features a hotshoe to accommodate a host of compatible flashguns.
While the Fujifilm X100S may not be a natural choice for videographers, its capable of shooting at 1080p 60fps Full HD video footage, improving on the 720p resolution offered by the Fujifilm X100.
Fujifilm X100S review – Design
One of the many charms of the Fujifilm X100 was its rangefinder-esque, retro design, so Fujifilm has pretty much left the overall design of the Fujifilm X100S untouched, with the most notable difference of a ‘S’ on the button right on the front of the camera signifying the new model.
The Fujifilm X100S is a lovely looking camera that lingers in the mind compared to the more formualic, modern designs sported by a lot of other cameras. It backs this up with a real high-end, premium feel thanks to die-cast magnesium top and base plates. The aperture ring feels the part, producing nice, postive clicks through the aperture range, while the manual focus ring is finely grooved and delivers just the right amount of friction for a quality feel.
There have been some subtle changes round the Fujifilm X100S though. The shutter speed dial now sees a more pronounced space between the A position and the other shutter speed settings, while the EVF/OVF switch at the front of the camera has also be revised for easier operation. To make it to select the more commonly used Single AF mode when shooting with the viewfinder, the AF mode switch has been re-jigged, with it now running AF-S, AF-C, MF as opposed to AF-C, AF-S, MF.
The Fujifilm X100S’s button layout at the rear remains the same, though there have been a couple of changes to what each button does. The Raw button at the button right has changed to Q, providing quick access to an on-screen quick menu of the camera’s main settings, while the Drive and AF selection buttons have swapped round. The Drive mode is now on of the 4 buttons to the left of the screen, with the AF selector is the top position on the d-pad. Speaking of the d-pad, this and on the scroll dial are the only really elements of the camera that feel low end, which would benefit from more tactile materials for a better feel.
Fujifilm X100S review – Performance
The Fujifilm X100S, when used alongside the Fujifilm X100, and the delivers some noticeable performance upgrades that all goes to improve the overall shooting experience with the Fujifilm X100S. This is instantly apparent from the moment you switch it on, with a start-up time of 0.5sec compared to around 2sec for the Fujifilm X100.
The burst mode is also better, with the Fujifilm X100S capable of shooting at 6fps at 16MP compared to 5fps at 12.3MP on the Fujifilm X100, with the Fujifilm X100S capable of sustaining this for 7 Raw files or 75 JPEG files with a Class 10 SDHC card. This compared favourably with the X100, which could only shoot 10 JPEG files, though it was a bit quicker with 8 Raw files, albeit at a slightly lower resolution.
The boost in resolution to the Fujifilm X100S’s EVF is also noticeable, delivering an even crisper representation than the one found on the X100 – so much so that we were surprised how little we used the optical viewfinder instead, with the EVF our choice for most shooting situations. The OVF is still handy to have and is the best around (of the few available on a compact), delivering a 90% field-of-view and a host of shooting info overlaid in the display.
The Fujifilm X100S’s rear screen is fine in use for reviewing images – though we’d have like to have seen a higher resolution to bring it a bit more up-to-date – but the lack of touchscreen interface is no surprise considering the ethos of the camera.
With the choice of either program, shutter priority, aperture priority and manual shooting modes, the Fujifilm X100S feels like a focused photographic tool as opposed to some cameras that seem almost overloaded with features. While program mode (both the shutter speed dial and aperture ring set to A) will allow you to use it as a very luxurious point-and-shot camera, the pleasure comes from the hands-on changes to the aperture and shutter speed that makes you feel more involved with the picture taking than a lot of other cameras manage.
Other controls fall to the hand easily as well – exposure compensation sits along the top plate, as well as a function button that’s preset for ISO control. The inclusion of a Quick menu is a real bonus, allowing quick adjustments to the Fujifilm X100S’s core shooting settings, while the revised menu interface is a lot more polished and easier to use than the one found on the Fujifilm X100.
The introduction of phase-detect AF pixels on the sensor has paid dividends, with the Fujifilm X100S’s AF system quicker than the Fujifilm X100‘s in use, though it still slows up in low contrast and low light conditions. In manual focus and the split-screen focusing display works well, while the manual ring itself is weighted nicely.
Fujifilm X100S review – Image Quality
Colour and White Balance
The Fujifilm X100S Auto White Balance behaved very well – in daylight conditions it was a consistent performer, delivering well-balanced images, while under artificial light, the Fujifilm X100S was similarly impressive, with well-balanced images being delivered.
Colours from the Fujifilm X100S and very pleasing, natural results in standard trim, while it wouldn’t be a Fujifilm camera without a host of film simulation modes on offer to the user. Building on the Velvia, Astia, Sepia and Mono modes in the Fujifilm X100, the Fujifilm X100S also features PRO Neg.Std and PRO Neg.Hi film effects to offer a comprehensive suite of colour modes to suit a broad range of photographic styles.
With the same 256-zone metering system employed by both the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and Fujifilm X-E1, there are no nasty surprises when it comes to how the Fujifilm X100S copes with different lighting conditions.
In the main, exposures in Multi-metering were pretty spot-on, though with other X-series cameras, there was the need now and again to dial in a touch of exposure compensation, requiring a couple of clicks of the exposure compensation dial by +0.3 or +0.7to get the exposure bang-on.
On the whole, the dynamic range of the X-Trans CMOS sensor is very good, but if you want to retain even more detail information in the highlights and shadows of the image in high-contrast scenes, the Fujifilm X100S also offers two expanded dynamic range settings, referred to as DR200 and DR400, requiring a base ISO of 400 or 800 to be set respectively.
Employing such a high ISO in some high-contrast scenes may see you select the built-in ND filter to balance your desired aperture and shutter speed, but the results are effective.
The detail available is some of the best we’ve seen on a compact – you’ll have to invest in a full-frame £2599 Sony RX1 compact to better it, while its more than a match for the majority of DSLRs, resolving down to 30 lines per millimetre at ISO 200.
As the Fujifilm X100S is likely to be used under a range of lighting conditions, it’s encouraging to know that the image noise control of the Fujifilm X100S is very strong.
At low ISOs, images are smooth and absent from any image noise. It only starts to impinge on the image above ISO 800, but only then is it very minor, only really becoming apparent at ISO 3200, but there’s still a decent amount of detail rendered.
Shooting at ISO 6400 and the results display an almost film-like image noise structure, and while detail dose suffer slightly, is still more than useable.
The 23mm f/2 lens is a quality optic. Wide-open and sharpness is impressive at the centre, though softening at the edges, while stop it down further and you’ll be rewarded with some incredibly sharp results until f/16, when the image softens due to defraction. It’s worth noting in macro mode that at f/2, softness is an issue (with it recommeded that this setting avoided in the manual), but stop down to f/4 and this problem disappears.
Vigenetting is well controlled – it’s only marginally noticeable wide-open, but disappears once you stop down, while distortion is kept very well in-check.
Raw and JPEG
Side-by-side, and at lower sensitivities, there’s very little to choose between the two – the JPEG has a bit more saturation, with the unprocessed Raw file having the edge on detail when images are closely inspected.
At higher ISOs, in-camera noise reduction is apparent in the JPEG file, with slightly smooth images, though as before, the Raw file retains more detail.
Fujifilm X100S review – Verdict
The Fujifilm X100S is priced just over £1000, which is a lot to pay for a compact. However when you look at the compariable options in that field, it’s not too bad – Sony’s fixed-lens, full-frame RX1 doesn’t feature a viewfinder and it costs over double that, while Nikon’s Coolpix A, which is closer in spec to the Fujifilm X100S, is £100 or so cheaper, but again lacks a built-in viewfinder.
Interestingly though, perhaps one of its nearest rivals is not a compact at all, but Fujifilm’s own X-E1 Compact System Camera. With a similar spec (admittedly with just an EVF), handling and build, the X-E1 is currently around the same price with either the prime 18mm f/2 or 35mm f/1.4, and cheaper with the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 zoom.
What type of camera you’ll opt for is down to you, but as compacts go, the Fujifilm X100S is one of the best we’ve seen.
The most notable update is the sensor, and the addition of the 16MP X-Trans CMOS sensor coupled with the high-quality fixed prime delivers fantastic results. The AF has improved thanks to the addition of the phase-detect pixels, but its still not quite as quick as we’d like, while the screen could be a higher resolution.
It may not be as pocket-sized as some of its rivals, but the extra bulk is worth it for the excellent (and improved) Hybrid viewfinder. The bulk is even more managable when married with the tactile controls and no-fuss handling, making the Fujifilm X100S a pleasure to shoot with.
While it may not appear to be a massive leap from the Fujifilm X100, the Fujifilm X100S has improved in most of the areas it needed to while keeping the charm that made us fall in love with the Fujifilm X100 in the first place.
The Fujifilm X100 when it was released prooved to be very popular and
now we have the Fujifilm X100S, and while it may look like very little
has changed from the model it replaces, Fujifilm promise over 70
improvements over the Fujifilm X100. Let’s see if they have another classic on their hands in our Fujifilm X100S video review.
Sample Image Gallery
These are just a small selection of images from our Fujifilm X100S review. For more, head over to the Fujifilm X100S review sample image gallery.
One of the most popular cameras of recent years, Fujifilm’s X100, has finally been succeeded by a model said to carry over 70 improvements. The most significant improvement in the new Fujifilm X100S concerns the newly developed imaging sensor, which is based on the same X Trans CMOS technology as featured in the Fujifilm X-E1 and Fujifilm X-Pro1 Compact System Cameras. APS-C in size, the 16.3MP sensor not only presents an advantage in resolution over the 12.3MP X100, but together with the new EXR Processor II, Fujifilm claims the new model delivers images with 30% less noise too.
The new processor is also said to benefit the Fujifilm X100S in a range of other ways, from a claimed 0.9sec start-up time and faster shot-to-shot speeds, to a 31-frame burst depth, now at 6fps. Furthermore, the processor also allows for a new Lens Modulation Optimizer feature, which is said to help counter the effects of diffraction at smaller apertures among other aberrations.
As if that wasn’t enough, Fujifilm claims the Fujifilm X100S delivers the fastest autofocus speed of any current compact camera equipped with an APS-C sensor and a fixed lens.
The new model retains the hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder of the Fujifilm X100, although the resolution of the electronic panel now stands at 2.35million dots, next to the X100’s 1.44million. Another improvement comes with the camera’s HD movie functionality, with full HD recording at 60fps next to the X100’s more basic 720p option. Fujifilm has revealed that the price of Fujifilm X100S will be £1099. It’s expected to be available in time for Focus on Imaging 2013. For more information visit: www.fujifilm.eu/uk/