Fujifilm X70 Shooting Experience: Taking it to the streets
Fujifilm X70 Shooting Experience
The first thing you'll notice about the Fujifilm X70 is that it looks an awful lot like an X100T. The second thing you'll notice is how similar some core specifications are to an established cult classic among street photographers, the Ricoh GR II. And despite featuring retro-inspired dials-on-dials design coupled with a 16MP APS-C sensor and 28mm equiv. F2.8 lens, the X70 turns out to be very distinct from both of those cameras in real-world use.
Basics and Handling
The X70's X-Trans APS-C CMOS sensor is lifted from the X100T and offers the same 16.3MP resolution and hybrid AF system. The lens is new though - it's a fixed 18.5mm (28mm equiv.) F2.8 prime with two aspherical elements tucked behind a 9-bladed aperture diaphragm. Exposure is taken care of courtesy of a leaf shutter, allowing for near-silent operation, and if for some reason you need to be even quieter, the electronic shutter goes all the way to 1/32,000. That's a good thing for general daytime shooting as well, since the X70 doesn't get a built-in ND filter like the X100-series.
|Fly by night. SOOC JPEG, Classic Chrome mode. Photo by Carey Rose. F4 | 1/60 | ISO 200|
The buttons and dials on the X70 leave a little to be desired. For the most part they function just fine, but the dials feel a little less-than-premium: kind of a halfway point between the X-A / X-M and X100-series of cameras. The buttons have positive feedback, but are a little too flush with the body. In fact, though you can reassign the movie button to something else, it's so flush that it's incredibly difficult to press. I've found that it's easiest to ignore it. Also, because the screen protrudes a bit when folded against the body, it gets in the way of you pressing the left-most button on the four-way controller. The playback buttons might seem oddly placed on the top of the touchscreen, but they actually work well there.
All-in-all, though, the act of controlling core settings on the X70 is very similar to the experience of using the X100T, which is to say it works both very quickly and very well.
|One-man dance party. SOOC JPEG using Monochrome mode. Photo by Carey Rose. F5.6 | 1/60 | ISO 1000|
The X70's rubberized front and rear grips are grippy and well-sculpted, and the camera feels comfortable and secure even in one hand. That said, the aperture control ring around the lens and the articulating touchscreen encourage two-handed operation.
But using two hands won't slow you down with the X70. In fact, not much will. The 0.5-second startup time (high performance mode) of the X70 means that the camera is ready to shoot very quickly. This is about three times faster to start up than the GR II and means that subjectively, the X70 just feels more responsive when shooting out and about.
|Play time. Processed to taste from Raw using the Pro Neg Standard color profile in ACR. Photo by Carey Rose. F2.8 | 1/125 | ISO 200|
Focus times in Single-AF for the X70 are also on the sprightly side (at least for Fujifilm). The hybrid AF system does usually undergo a slight hunt before locking focus, but the live view never freezes up. Of course, street shooters will miss a thorough implementation of snap focus, but Single-AF was usually fast enough that we didn't miss it anyway.
So while overall Single-AF speed is good, accuracy tended to vary more than we'd like. The focus would sometimes shift slightly in frames taken in immediate succession, even in daylight. To be fair, I found this mostly when shooting with the contrast-detect-only AF points near the edge of the frame. Your mileage may vary. This focus shifting didn't affect my images much for web viewing, but I definitely noticed it on even a moderate-sized monitor.
Continuous AF isn't really a strong point for cameras of this general type and price point. With the X70 in single-point AF-C mode, you'll get some lag if your subject is too quick, along with a whole lot of hunting. AF-C + Zone, which uses the PDAF area in the center of the frame works better, but the PDAF area is too small for really meaningful subject tracking. AF-C + Wide / Tracking does a reasonably good job of identifying the subject to track, but you'll often get excessive and incessant hunting behind and in front of the desired subject. This was noticeable even if the subject wasn't moving.
I ended up using the X70 in the same way as I use other Fujifilm cameras - in AF-S mode.
The First Fujifilm Touchscreen
What really sets the X70 apart from both the X100T and the GR II is its tilting touchscreen, a first on any Fujifilm X-series camera. Sure, it's made it really easy for me to take unflattering couch selfies, but it mostly makes for a very discreet shooting experience. Using the X70 with the screen as a waist-level finder, you can touch to acquire focus anywhere in the frame and capture your scene without ever lifting your head. Uninterested passers-by will assume you're texting or maybe fiddling with dials on your hipster film camera, and if someone does actually pay you some attention, it just looks like you're going a little heavy on the chimping.
|Just chimping, bro. Processed to taste in Raw using the Monochrome preset in ACR. Photo by Carey Rose. F5.6 | 1/60 | ISO 400|
The tilting screen also helps when it comes to getting the most out of the 28mm field of view that the X70 offers. Unlike a 35mm or a 50mm, a 28mm focal length requires some careful attention to foreground and background elements to keep your images from feeling too flat. Being able to easily frame subjects from ground-level or above my head helped me get a little more accustomed to 28mm, a focal length I normally tend not to gravitate towards.
The sensor inside the X70 is quite literally nothing new. Though this 16.3MP X-Trans sensor is getting a little long in the tooth, overall dynamic range and noise performance are still very good, and as we'd expect, very comparable to the closely-related 16MP sensor in the GR II. We prefer the rendering from Fujifilm's X-Trans sensor in JPEG mode, but Raw files from the more conventional filter array in the GR are easier to handle.
|Camouflage. Processed to taste from Raw using the Pro Neg Standard preset in ACR. Photo by Carey Rose. F2.8 | 1/60 | ISO 1000|
The lens on the X70 though is an all-new design, but in both the studio and the real world, we found the lens on our particular X70 to be noticeably less sharp than that on the GR II. Of course, this could be an outlier (we are using a very early production model camera) but we'll keep an eye on it and do a control test with another sample as soon as we can.
It's worth noting that the lens on the X70 doesn't offer a dedicated macro mode. It doesn't really need to. The close focus distance of 10 cm (~4 in) allows you to get a little more creative with your compositions as well as get some reasonable subject separation despite the vaguely unimpressive maximum aperture.
|It's time for a talk. SOOC JPEG, shot in monochrome mode. Photo by Carey Rose. 1/60 | F2.8 | ISO 2500|
Time to be brutally honest. The spec sheet on the Fujifilm X70 isn't all that exciting. We've seen the sensor, processor and autofocus system before. The lens, a new design, only opens to F2.8. It's appreciably smaller than an X100T, but is more 'coat pocket' than 'jeans pocket.'
In spite of all of this, the Fujifilm X70 is a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging camera to use. Full disclosure: I feel the same way about the GR II, but using it is a completely different experience. If you have a GR II and like it, there's really not enough of a reason to dump it for the X70. If you like your X100-series but were looking into a more portable option like the GR II, the X70 is definitely worth a look. Strictly speaking, these two cameras are capable of achieving very similar results. But as the files between them have their own unique signature, so does the handling, and handling is a very personal matter indeed.
So in the end, is there room for two similarly-specced street-focused APS-C shooters in the marketplace? Time will tell, but with the X70, Fujifilm has created a compact, responsive camera that in terms of both specification and design, is greater than the sum of its parts.