Video

The X100's video mode was basic to say the least, but the X100S boasts much improved specs. Movies are still a bolt-on to what's fundamentally a stills camera, and accessed as a drive mode (there's no 'red button' here). Note there's no image stabilization either, optical or electronic, so hand-held movies are liable to be jittery.

The X100S offers progressive HD video capture at 1080p resolution and a choice of either 30 or 60 frames per second. The data is compressed using the H.264 codec, and stored in the easily-shared QuickTime MOV format. Audio is recorded via a built-in stereo microphone situated behind two small holes on the front of the camera, but there's no socket to connect an external microphone, and while the X100S does offer control over audio recording level, there's no wind-cut filter.

Size 1920x1080p (HD): 60 fps / 30 fps
Audio Internal Stereo Microphone
Format H.264 .MOV
Focus Automatic (AF-C) and manual

Using Movie Mode

The X100S's movie-specific menu is pretty slim, and contains basics like quality settings and microphone level adjustment, as well useful extras like film simulation modes, and a toggle for applying distortion correction for the optional wide conversion lens, if you have it attached. Movie mode is a 'drive' mode in the X100S, and when you select it in the menu, the screen switches to a 16:9 aspect ratio to preview framing. A full press of the shutter button initiates recording, but oddly, a half-press is all that is required to stop it.

To set the X100S to video mode, you first have to select 'Movie' in the drive mode menu, at which point the preview display will switch to the 16:9 format. You can't use the optical finder for movies, so the camera will automatically switch to the EVF if you put it up to your eye. Manual exposure control is limited; you can set the aperture and exposure compensation before you start, but once the camera has started recording it will simply ignore any changes made to these controls. A full press of the shutter button initiates recording, but curiously (like the X100) only a half-press is required to end it. It's not possible to engage the ND filter in movie mode.

The implementation of focusing in video mode is better than the X100 but still limited. Autofocus uses the 'Area' mode only, with the camera focusing wherever it likes in the scene: you can't choose a specific point. The X100S will autofocus continuously in AF-C mode, which means that even with a completely static subject, it will hunt to reconfirm focus every few seconds. Shooting in AF-S mode (and acquiring focus prior to movie recording) obviously solves this problem, and of course there's manual focus, but that might not help much, since in movie mode it's not possible to engage a magnified preview by clicking-in the thumb lever.

This is one bug that has not been squashed since the X100. What it means is that critical focusing in movie mode just isn't possible unless you switch back to a stills mode first, focus and then initiate recording, but this is hardly an ideal solution. You can adjust focus manually during shooting, but without a magnified view, there's no guarantee that you'll hit accurate focus. You can still use the distance scale for manual focusing though, which is something at least.

Another factor to note if you're considering seriously using the X100S as a video camera is that battery life drops like a stone when shooting and reviewing movies. On a recent weekend trip, we managed a day of still shooting (about 30 pictures), some 20-30-second bulb exposures and a handful of video clips before the battery died completely.

Video quality comments

Despite the more advanced specifications of the newer camera, our observations regarding the X100S's video quality are much the same as those we made about the output of the X100. In general, video quality is good. Metering and white balance are accurate, as with stills, and the camera is capable of rendering lots of fine detail in decent lighting. Disappointingly though, moiré is quite pronounced with certain repeating patterns (we've seen spectacular moiré in clothing, distant brickwork, railings etc.). Rolling shutter ('jello') effects can be visible if you pan fast, but are rarely a problem in normal use.

Sound quality is perfectly acceptable for casual use, but the tiny internal microphone can't work miracles and is quite prone to wind noise under the wrong conditions (there's no wind-cut function either). The mic can also pick up operational sounds from the camera while recording; the focus motor isn't silent, so if you're using AF and there's not a lot of ambient sound then the frequent refocusing will be clearly audible in your soundtrack. A substantial fraction of our movies signed-off with the noise of the shutter button as recording was stopped too. (Note that there's no provision for an external microphone, which could solve these problems to some extent.)

Because the camera has no image stabilization of any kind, your videos will be highly prone to shake, and a tripod is necessary for best results. You can see in one of our examples, below, the effect that this lack of stabilization has when shooting footage from a moving vehicle.

Sample videos

These videos were shot in a range of different environments, and at a range of different settings. Dpreview.com is partnering with Vimeo to bring you high-quality embedded video in our test pages, but as always, the original files are available for download from the links beneath the thumbnails. We've turned HD playback on by default for our embedded videos, but depending on the speed of your internet connection, you may get better performance by turning it off.

Sample video 1

This video vividly illustrates the 'jittery' quality of the footage which we mentioned earlier. Without any form of image stabilization, shooting movie clips from a moving vehicle (even one which is literally 'on rails' as we did here) produces movies that are liable to induce motion-sickness. On the plus side, there's plenty of detail in this clip and exposure adjusts nice and smoothly, although if you loo closely at the rails at lower left you will see some moiré.

1920x 1080 60p, H.264 .MOV file, 25 sec. 110 MB Click here to download original .MOV file

Sample video 2

Prepare to enter a different dimension... we shot this short clip on an outdoor film set, and while sound is good, and there's plenty of detail in the footage, watch the actor's blue shirt as he gets closer to the camera. That's some pretty intense moiré, we think you'll agree. In normal use, this is the biggest issue that we have with video footage from the X100S. Moiré appears suddenly, it's really intense and it's virtually impossible to remove, even with high-end editing software (but if you're using high-end software you're probably using better video cameras).

1920x 1080 60p, H.264 .MOV file, 9 sec. 42 MB Click here to download original .MOV file

Sample video 3

This clip shows the X100S panning (relatively) smoothly, mounted on a tripod. The aperture is set to F2 here, deliberately to highlight the camera's attempts to refocus the scene as it is panned. It's subtle, but at about the 10-second mark you can see the X100S refocuses slightly belatedly on the nearmost potted shrub, and quickly snaps back to infinity once it's left the scene. Focus is virtually silent, and for normal use, the system works perfectly well. If you pay close attention, you'll also notice some moiré in the cityscape in the background in this clip - but no-where near as severe as the clip above.

1920x 1080 60p, H.264 .MOV file, 20 sec. 91 MB Click here to download original .MOV file