Fuji X100S £1099

20th Mar 2013 | 09:33

Fuji X100S

Fuji makes 70 improvements to its top-end compact

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

The Fuji X100S is a very enjoyable and rewarding camera to use, its hybrid viewfinder is superb, the retro-style controls enable quick control over exposure and the advanced filters are available when you fancy a bit of fun.

Like:

Detail-rich images; Bright lens; Retro-style controls; Solid build;

Dislike:

Filters are JPEG only; Bulky; Limited continuous AF;

Introduction

Fuji's X100 proved very popular with enthusiast photographers looking for a high-end compact camera that produces images on a par with a DSLR. For many, its retro styling and control combined with modern technology made it a real winner, and a natural choice for documentary and street photography.

It was to these passionate users that Fujifilm turned when designing its replacement, the Fuji X100S, and the new camera makes 70 improvements on the original Fuji X100.

The most noticeable of these is the change in sensor design to match that of the superb Fuji X-Pro1. Like the Fuji FinePix X100, the Fuji FinePix X100S has an APS-C format sensor, but it's an X-Trans CMOS II device with an unusual colour filter array.

Unlike most cameras that use a Bayer pattern of red, green, green and blue receptors (usually referred to as RGGB) arranged in a 2 x 2 grid, the X-Trans CMOS II device uses a 6 x 6 RGGB filter array pattern, with a random arrangement of colour filters within each block of 36 photo receptors.

Fuji X100S review

This means that the sensor is less prone to suffering from moiré patterning, and as a result Fuji is able to omit the anti-aliasing filter that overlays most digital camera sensors. The benefit of this is that the camera is able to produce sharper, more detailed images.

Fuji has also boosted the pixel count of the sensor from 12.3MP in the X100 to 16.3 million in the X100S - the same as the Fuji X-Pro1's sensor.

The Fuji X100S is priced at around £1,099 / US$1,299 / AU$1,299, putting it in the same sort of price bracket as the Nikon Coolpix A.

The camera's 16.3MP sensor is coupled with a new EXR Processor II, which the company claims helps the Fuji X100S produce images with around 30 per cent higher signal to noise ratio than those from the Fuji X100.

Fuji X100S review

This processing engine has also enabled the Fuji X100S to have a maximum continuous shooting rate of 6fps for up to 29 images at full resolution, and a shutter lag of just 0.01sec.

In addition, raw files are recorded as 14-bit instead of 12-bit, Full HD video (1920 x 1080) footage can be recorded at up to 60fps rather than 720p footage at 24fps, and the maximum sensitivity setting has been pushed up 1EV to ISO 6400.

There are also two expansion settings equivalent to ISO 12,800 and 25,600 that can only be used when shooting JPEG images - raw file shooting is impossible.

There's also a Lens Modulation Optimiser that applies a reconstruction algorithm to the sensor's output signal. Fuji claims this reduces the impact of diffraction and corner softness to produce sharper images, even at smaller apertures such as f/16.

Fuji X100S review

According to Makoto Ooishi from Fuji's Tokyo product planning division, in the future this Lens Modulation Optimiser technology will be extended to other cameras and lenses, including X lenses for the Fuji X-Pro1 and Fuji X-E1.

Like the Fuji X100, the Fuji X100S has a fixed 23mm f/2 lens made up of eight elements in six groups and including a double-sided aspherical element and highly refractive converging glass elements, which increase detail resolution and reduce aberration. Fujinon's HT-EBC coating has also been applied, to reduce flare and ghosting.

Because the Fuji X100S has an APS-C format sensor, the lens produces images on a par with a 34.5mm lens on a full-frame camera. This and the fast maximum aperture make it ideal for documentary and street photography.

The Fuji X100 has a contrast detection autofocus system, but the Fuji X100S has a hybrid AF system that uses either contrast or phase detection depending on the situation. The camera decides which system to use depending on the AF point selected and the brightness of the scene.

Fuji X100S review

If the brightness of the scene falls below 3EV, the Fuji X100S will default to using contrast detection focusing.

At its launch, Fuji claimed that the X100S has the fastest AF speed of any APS-C format fixed lens compact camera (not a huge pool), taking just 0.08 seconds to get the subject sharp. It will be interesting to see how it compares with the autofocus system in the APS-C format Nikon Coolpix A.

There are also changes to the manual focus system, and the Fuji X100S debuts the world's first Digital Split Image display.

This makes use of the camera's phase detection pixels (which double as green pixels) to create a double image that is than merged into the image from the other pixels. It's essentially a form of digital rangefinder focusing.

Fuji X100S review

Keen videographers will also appreciate the addition of Focus Peaking Highlight, which highlights the areas of highest contrast (and therefore best focus).

The Fuji X100 debuted a hybrid viewfinder, and this continues in a modified form in the Fuji X100S. Helpfully, the optical finder now has an overlay that enables you to see the exposure settings and focus point. It also now functions with subjects as close as 50cm away, rather than 80cm away.

The resolution of the electronic viewfinder (EVF) has also been boosted, and it's a 2,360,000-dot device.

A new coating has been added to the viewfinder glass to resist fingerprints.

Fuji X100S review

Like the Fuji X-Pro1, the Fuji X100S has Fuji's film simulation modes. This has now been pushed to include 10 modes: Velvia, Provia, Astia, Pro Neg Std, Pro Neg Hi, Sepia, Monochrome and Monochrome with a yellow, red or green filter effect.

As with the new advanced filter modes (Soft focus, Dynamic Tone, Low-Key, High-Key, Pop Color, Miniature, Toy Camera, Selective Color – purple, blue, green, yellow, orange and red) these are JPEG-only options.

We would like to be able to use them to shoot raw and JPEG files, so that there is the option to have a 'clean' and a processed image. However, it's nice that the camera automatically switches to JPEG-only mode when one of the filters is selected, so there's no need for you to manually switch file format beforehand.

Build and handling

Fuji has stuck with the same design for the Fuji X100S as it used for the Fuji X100. Consequently, the Fuji X100S is constructed from magnesium alloy and has a very high quality feel with retro styling.

Thanks to its textured coating and a shallow ridge on its front, there's just enough purchase to make it possible to carry the camera in your hand between shots rather than on a strap. A little more definition to the front grip and a thumb-ridge wouldn't go amiss, though.

Exposure is set using a shutter speed dial and aperture ring, with semi- and fully-automated control being possible by setting one or both to A. There's also an exposure compensation dial for quick adjustment by up to 2EV in either direction in 1/3 stops.

The button and control layout of the Fuji X100S is the same as the Fuji X100, but the raw button has been rebadged with a 'Q' and it gives access to the same type of Quick Menu as is found on the Fuji X-Pro1.

Fuji X100S review

This is one of the best function or quick menu arrangements that we have come across, since features may be adjusted merely by navigating to them using the navigation controls and then using the dials to alter the settings. It would be nice to be able to customise the options made available in the Quick Menu, though, perhaps to provide quicker access to the advanced filters.

There are buttons to provide quick access to key features such as the flash, white balance, macro mode and drive options, and a Function (Fn) button on the top can be customised to access one of 15 options. We found it useful to access the sensitivity options.

With a minimum sensitivity of ISO 200 and a maximum aperture of f/2, it would be nice to have a fast route to the neutral density filter as well.

Like on many compact cameras, the Fuji X100S's AF point is selected by pressing a button and then using the navigation controls to find the desired point. This is alright but it would be nice to have a more direct route.

Fuji X100S review

The rocker switch above the thumb rest on the back of the camera seems largely redundant, since its function is duplicated by the navigation controls and dial on the back of the camera. Perhaps for the update to the X100S, Fuji could replace this switch with a small joystick to select the AF point? Or maybe the screen could be touch-sensitive to enable speedy AF point selection?

Fuji has changed the shape of the lever that switches between the two viewfinder modes, but we didn't find it made a significant difference. Neither did we notice an appreciable difference to the viewfinder, which we are told has changed shape a little to avoid dust buildup.

While Fuji has given the optical viewfinder an overlay to display a collection of shooting parameters and the focus point, we prefer to use the 2,360,000-dot electronic viewfinder (EVF).

For a start this shows the image as it will be captured at the selected exposure and white balance settings, but it's also easier to see the framing of the shot with approximately 100% frame coverage.

Fuji X100S review

There were a couple of instances where objects encroached into the edges of the frame but we missed it because of all the information that is displayed in the EVF - something to watch out for.

Thanks to its high dot count there's plenty of detail visible in the electronic viewfinder, and gradations look smooth and natural. Comparing this EVF with the earliest models that have given such viewfinders a dubious reputation among some photographers is like comparing CCTV footage with an HD movie. The technology has come a long way.

At its default brightness setting, the 2.8-inch 460,000-dot LCD screen provides a nice clear view of images even in quite bright light. But because the viewfinder is so good, it's only really necessary to use it to compose images when shooting from awkward angles.

However, when shooting outside it is hard to see the advanced filter text, so when selecting a filter it's best to look in the viewfinder.

Fuji X100S review

Fuji has added two new manual focus assist options, Digital Split Image and Focus Peak Highlight. Selecting Digital Split Image renders the centre of the frame black and white and divides it into four bands. When the edges of the bands match up, the subject is sharp.

It works well, but we found the Focus Peak option easier to use in a range of situations. When this mode is selected, the highest contrast areas of the subject are edged in black and white when it is in focus.

While the Fuji X100S's menu is logically arranged, it's frustrating that there's no My Menu section to assign the most commonly used features to. Also, if the camera is turned off it doesn't remember the last feature accessed in the menu, so you can spend quite a bit of time navigating through the lists.

It's nice to see a quick and easy way of rating images in-camera, but it's rather odd that it's impossible to zoom into images to check sharpness in rating mode. We were also disappointed to discover that the star ratings aren't visible in Adobe Bridge and the like, which renders the system almost pointless.

Performance

As with the X-Pro1, Fuji claims that the X100S's sensor design enables the compact camera to compete with full-frame cameras for image quality. Our tests reveal that this claim isn't too wide of the mark, and the Fuji X100S is capable of resolving an impressive amount of detail.

Noise is also well controlled, with no sign of coloured speckling in JPEGs or raw files taken at the highest sensitivity settings. In fact, even at ISO 12,800 and 25,600 there's little colour speckling visible in raw files viewed at 100% on the screen. But there is some subtle mottling of green and red when the noise reduction is turned off in the supplied SilkyPix raw conversion software.

The details are softened at the highest ISO settings and there's a fair amount of luminance noise visible, but shots taken at ISO 6400 still look good when sized to make A3 (16.5 x 11.7 inch) prints.

Fuji X100S review

We have no major complaints about the Fuji X100S's autofocus system. When shooting outside in daylight it manages to get the subject sharp in most situations. Even in low light the system copes pretty well, and it only struggles in very dark conditions.

In single AF mode the camera focuses the lens quickly, but there's still discernable back and forwards movement, albeit very swift, in most situations. That said, we found it was fast enough to capture relatively slow moving subjects.

The camera's continuous autofocus mode is also fairly quick and smooth, but its usefulness is diminished by the fact that the AF point is locked to the centre of the frame.

Fuji X100S review

On the whole the FujiX100S's general purpose metering system performs well, but we found there were quite a few situations in which the images looked better when the exposure compensation dial was used to reduce the exposure by 1/3EV. When shooting a cityscape under a blue sky, however, we found that the exposure needed increasing by 1/3 stop.

There are a collection of Film Simulation modes available on the Fuji X100S, but the default setting of Provia (Standard) is a good choice in many situations. However, we found that blue skies can sometimes be made to look a little over-saturated, and Astia mode may be preferable when subtler colour and contrast is required.

Just like the film emulsion that it simulates, the Velvia mode can also prove a little too vibrant. Blues and greens can be rendered unnaturally saturated and rather bright, so use it wisely.

Fuji X100S review

We primarily used the Fuji X100S in Auto White Balance mode, and it copes well with many lighting situations, managing to produce a natural-looking result that reflects the atmosphere of the scene.

It was only the mixed lighting of a covered market that appeared to present any problem, with the resulting images having a slight yellow cast. Using a custom white balance setting resolves the issue, but correcting the cast only required a few seconds of work with Photoshop.

JPEGs from the Fuji X100S have a nice level of contrast so images look punchy and sharp, plus they can survive a fair amount of adjustment because there is detail in the shadows.

Fuji X100S review

The raw files also have an impressively wide dynamic range of over 12EV at the lower sensitivity settings, so there's plenty of scope for editing.

The new advanced filters add an extra element of fun to shooting with the Fuji X100S. We particularly like the Selective Color filters that render all but the chosen colour black and white, and the Dramatic Tone filter that boosts saturation and contrast. Dramatic Tone is useful for injecting some interest into a city scene when the light is flat and dull, but it's not to everyone's taste.

Filter effects are very demanding of processing power and this can make the live view feed to the LCD or EVF rather sluggish, so there is a significant drop in the screen refresh rate.

Fuji X100S review

Fortunately this isn't a major problem for the Fuji X100S, and it's relatively easy to track moving subjects when an advanced filter mode is activated. However, we noticed that when Dramatic Tone is selected the final image sometimes looks more dramatic than the preview image.

Although it is a comparatively wide-angle lens, the 23mm optic on the Fuji X100S doesn't suffer from excessive flare and barrel distortion is fairly well controlled, although some bowing of straight lines is to be expected.

Fringing isn't a major issue, with just the odd image suffering from a coloured halo to high-contrast edges. The most extreme example was seen when shooting the bright sky through thick iron bars from inside a dark room, but many lenses would have struggled with this situation.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Fuji X100S, we've shot our resolution chart.

If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the Fuji X100S is capable of resolving up to around 26 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.

For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

JPEG

Fuji X100S review

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Fuji X100S review

ISO 100, score: 26 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X100S review

ISO 200, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X100S review

ISO 400, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X100S review

ISO 800, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X100S review

ISO 1600, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X100S review

ISO 3200, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X100S review

ISO 6400, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X100S review

ISO 12800, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Raw

Fuji X100S review

ISO 200, score: 26 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X100S review

ISO 400, score: 26 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X100S review

ISO 800, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X100S review

ISO 1600, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X100S review

ISO 3200, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

Here we compare the Fuji X100S with the Canon G1 X, Fuji X100, Sigma DP1 and Sony RX100.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Fuji X100S review

These results show that JPEG images from the Fuji X100S have a high signal to noise ratio, outperforming rival cameras the Fuji X100 and Sigma DP1 at every sensitivity setting. The X100S also betters the Canon G1 X and Sony RX100 at every setting but ISO1600-3200, where the three are very closely matched. At ISO 6400 the X100S and Sony again show very similar signal to noise ratios in their JPEG images.

Raw signal to noise ratio

Fuji X100S review

TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Fuji X100S show a stronger signal to noise ratio than those from the Sigma DP1 at every sensitivity setting, while they are also stronger than those from the Sony RX100 at ISO 200-800, and stronger than the Canon G1 X at ISO 200-400. The Fuji X100's TIFF images beat those from the X100S for signal to noise ratio at every sensitivity setting.

JPEG dynamic range

Fuji X100S review

The Fuji X100S's JPEG results for dynamic range are less impressive than those for signal to noise ratio, with the camera sitting below the Sony RX100 and Fuji X100 at every sensitivity setting, and below the Canon G1 X until ISO 6400-12800. The Fuji X100S shows less dynamic range in its JPEG images than the Sigma DP1 at ISO 100, but picks up to produce stronger results than the Sigma at every other ISO.

Raw dynamic range

Fuji X100S review

Here we see that TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Fuji X100S start off with the highest dynamic range of all the cameras here, at lower sensitivities. At ISO 800, the X100S falls a little below the Sony RX100, to the same level as the Sigma DP1, before surging ahead to the lead again at ISO 1600. At ISO 3200 the X100S falls below the Fuji X100 but stays just above the Sony, finishing level with the Sony at the top of its ISO range, ISO 6400. TIFF images from the X100S show stronger dynamic range than those from the Canon G1 X at every sensitivity setting.

Sample images

Fuji X100S review

Click here to see the full resolution image

There's plenty of detail in the feathers of this duck, although there are some artefacts in the highlights of the JPEG file - but they are only visible if you pixel peep.

Fuji X100S review

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The raw file version has some colour noise in the highlight areas on the duck's feathers.

Fuji X100S review

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Colour, contrast and exposure are spot on here.

Fuji X100S review

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The macro focus option was required to get this flowerhead sharp.

Fuji X100S review

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Taken in low light at 1/60 sec at f/2.0 and ISO 400. Noise is well controlled.

Fuji X100S review

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The mixed lighting of a covered market proved a challenge for the automatic white balance system and has resulted in a slight yellow cast to this image.

Fuji X100S review

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All the noise reduction was turned off when processing this ISO 6400 raw file using the supplied SilkyPix software, but there's little colour noise visible.

Fuji X100S review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Taken using the Dramatic Tone advanced filter to boost saturation and contrast.

Fuji X100S review

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Using the Green Selective Colour advanced filter has rendered all but the green of the bicycle frame black and white.

Fuji X100S review

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The Fuji X100S produces some nice monochrome images in-camera, with a good tonal range and contrast.

Sensitivity and noise images

JPEG

Fuji X100S review

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Fuji X100S review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 100

Fuji X100S review

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ISO 200

Fuji X100S review

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ISO 400

Fuji X100S review

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ISO 800

Fuji X100S review

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ISO 1600

Fuji X100S review

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ISO 3200

Fuji X100S review

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ISO 6400

Fuji X100S review

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ISO 25600

Raw

Fuji X100S review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 200

Fuji X100S review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 400

Fuji X100S review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 800

Fuji X100S review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 1600

Fuji X100S review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 3200

Fuji X100S review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 6400

Verdict

The Fuji X100S isn't likely to find favour with novice photographers, but many enthusiast photographers will love it.

Its retro-style exposure controls are a joy to use, and turning an aperture ring or a shutter speed dial makes a pleasant change in an age of button pressing. You somehow feel more connected to the camera when you use an aperture dial.

Fuji's Quick Menu system is also a great addition that speeds up making settings adjustments, and the autofocus is fast enough for most situations.

We liked

Fuji's combination of retro design, robust build and excellent image quality makes the X100S a very desirable camera.

The hybrid viewfinder provides a superb view of the scene, and it makes a pleasant change to compose images with the camera held to the eye.

We disliked

There's no getting away from the fact that the Fuji X100S is large for a compact camera. In the past we might have been able to excuse it because it has an APS-C format sensor rather than a piddling 1/1.7-inch device or the like, but the APS-C format Nikon Coolpix A is much smaller, and Sony has proved that a full-frame sensor can be squeezed into a tiny camera body. That said, the Sony RX1 costs in the region of £2,600 / US$2,800 / AU$3,000 and it doesn't have a viewfinder built-in.

Given its retro design and the presence of an excellent viewfinder, we are prepared to let the Fuji X100S off for not having a vari-angle screen, but it would be nice to have a touch-sensitive screen.

Final verdict

By taking some of the best elements of the Fuji X-Pro1, such as the sensor design and Quick Menu, Fuji has produced a worthy update to the X100, and many owners of this camera will feel sorely tempted by the X100S. The improved handling and image quality makes it a very desirable step up.

The Fuji X100S is a very enjoyable and rewarding camera to use, its hybrid viewfinder is superb, the retro-style controls enable quick control over exposure and the advanced filters are available when you fancy a bit of fun.

While the autofocus system isn't on a par with those on a DSLR or some compact system cameras, it is fast and accurate enough in most situations.

Using a fixed focal length lens is also rather liberating, making you more inclined to walk around a potential subject to find the best vantage point.

Most importantly, the images (especially the raw files) have plenty of detail, and noise is well controlled.

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