The X100S is a lovely little camera which turns out very pleasing images. Like its predecessor, exposure and white balance are generally spot on, colors are lovely (and of course you the film simulation modes are on hand if you want to achieve a specific look) and dynamic range expansion is very effective when it comes to balancing contrasty scenes, thanks in part to the X-Trans sensor's low noise.
This sensor isn't new - we've seen it before in the X-Pro1 and X-E1 and it impressed us in both cameras. Like its interchangeable-lens brethren the X100S delivers very good resolution, low noise and excellent dynamic range. The addition of phase-detection AF pixels has no discernible impact on image quality, and we're just as happy with the pictures produced by the X100S as we are the results we've seen from earlier X-series cameras.
Good Light, Low/Medium ISO
This shot, taken at F9, at ISO 400 (on a hot hazy day) shows off the X100S's 35mm equivalent lens pretty well. Sharpness is high from corner to corner.
Another ISO 400 shot at F4, and there's bags of detail here in my subject's hair and clothing, despite the low-contrast, murky conditions.
At ISO 800 with DR set to 400% this scene displays a very wide tonal range with no highlight clipping and no visible noise.
Another DR400% ISO 800 shot, taken with the optional WCL-X100 wide-angle converter, which gives an effective focal length of 28mm (equivalent). Sharpness is very impressive.
Between ISO 200 and 800 the X100S delivers images which contain effectively no visible noise. This, coupled with the inclusion of a 3-stop ND filter means that it is entirely possible to shoot at ISO 800 outdoors in bright daylight for the sake of better dynamic range (see DR expansion modes section on the next page). In our everyday shooting we alternate between DR200% and 400% in especially tricky conditions, and we've learned not to worry about the consequent increase in 'base' ISO.
At F2, The X100S's lens is very sharp in the center, and and coupled with the sensor's low noise at mid-high ISO settings, this makes the camera a great tool for candid photography in medium to low light.
The X100S has a small built-in flash which comes in handy for close-range portraits like this one, but lacks the power for much else (that's what the hotshoe is there for).
I used slow-synchronization flash mode for this shot, and exposure is very accurate. Red-eye is an issue though. Red-eye removal can be performed post-capture but the X100S refused to recognise my male subject's face, and consequently did not fix his glowing red eyes.
As you can see from the examples on this page and in our studio comparison, the X100S is capable of superb image quality which compares very well against its more conventional 16MP peers. With a bit of practise, and with judicial use of film modes and dynamic range expansion settings (both of which can - within some limits - be applied to raw files post-capture using in-camera Raw conversion) it is possible to get results from the X100S which are nothing short of stunning.
Low Light, High ISO
It's hard to say definitively that the X100S gives 'better' image quality than the X100 at low ISO sensitivities (the improved AF speed and operational refinements are without doubt the main reasons to buy the newer camera over its predecessor) but at high ISO settings, the X-Trans sensor is definitely superior to the X100's 12MP CMOS, both in terms of detail capture (there's more) and noise (there's less).
This picture was shot in very low lighting, at F4 using ISO 6400. There's very little noise, and detail capture is extremely high.
I shot this image on a film set - testament to the X100S's near-silent shutter and at ISO 5000, with DR set to 400%, the exposure is almost noise-free, and there's no highlight clipping.
A quick ISO 6400 grab shot at F2, but again, very little noise, good sharpness, and a print-ready exposure with no highlight clipping (DR 400% again).
As you can hopefully see from the examples above, the X100S produces very clean results at high ISO sensitivity settings, which contain plenty of detail. You'll find more examples on the image quality comparison and Raw pages of this review (and of course in our sample galleries at the end).