Performance

Performance improvements compared to X100

The X100S's new sensor and processor add up to improved performance specs compared to the X100. Here's Fujifilm's own comparison between the two:

  • Improved AF speed: 0.07 sec in good light (10EV), compared to 0.22 sec for X100
  • Quicker startup (0.9 sec vs 2 sec)
  • Faster continuous shooting (6 fps vs 5 fps)
  • Substantially larger buffer, 31 frames vs 10 frames (JPEG Large/Fine)
  • Improved shot-to-shot time in single shot drive mode (0.5 sec vs 0.9 sec)
  • Can immediately switch to playback mode after shooting (no need to wait for file to write to card)
  • Buttons that were unresponsive immediately after shooting are now fixed

Overall Performance

When it comes to performance, the first thing you'll notice when picking up an X100S after using its predecessor is the speed of the newer camera. Fujifilm isn't lying in the list provided above. For starters (literally) the X100S is ready to take pictures within a second of turning it on, compared to about two-and-a-half seconds in the case of the X100. This alone contributes greatly to a sense of responsiveness.

The X100S is in most respects a pleasantly responsive camera, although the 'long press' of the shutter button (~1 second) to wake it up from sleep can take some getting used to.

One lingering (albeit relatively minor) frustration though is that the X100S can still take a while to reactivate from auto-power down following a half-press of the shutter button (it can't be 'woken' by any of the other controls). A gentle tap isn't enough - you have to hold the shutter button in its half-press position for a long moment, and the camera will wake up within a second or so of initiating the press. This is fine (we'd prefer an instant response, but one second isn't so bad) but it takes a while to get used to the 'long press'. Even after long experience with the X100, we still find ourselves jabbing at the X100S's shutter, on occasion, trying to get it to come to life.

Continuous Shooting and Buffering

We're very pleased to see that the X100S has not inherited the X100's habit of locking up the camera functions completely while images are being written to its memory card. In the X100S, with a UHS-I card installed, shot-to-shot time is negligible, and to all intents and purposes it is limited only by the speed of AF acquisition. Even after shooting a continuous burst of Raw images, you can still adjust whatever setting you want while the buffer is being cleared. This is true in single and continuous capture modes.

The X100S has a choice of two continuous drive speeds, labeled 3 and 6 fps. Our measurements show both stated rates are spot-on. The camera's buffer is pretty impressive, allowing unlimited shooting in JPEG mode at 3fps (you can just keep your finger held down until the card is full). In Raw mode, you get 3fps for eight shots, before the frame rate slows to around one frame every 1.5 seconds. In its maximum speed 6fps continuous shooting mode the X100S can - again - shoot indefinitely in JPEG (Fine) mode, and for around 8 frames in Raw mode before slowing to around one frame every two seconds. For a camera of this type, where sports and action photography is really unlikely to be a serious priority for most users, these figures represent good performance. Less worthy of praise is the X100S's behavior when storing and playing back continuously-captured images. In image review mode the X100S displays the 'burst' of shots in a bizarre little rapid slideshow on-screen. You can stop this (and you will want to stop it) by hitting the down button on the 4-way controller, at which point you can scroll through and magnify the individual exposures exactly as you'd expect to be able to. Presumably, this made sense to someone at Fujifilm, at some point. One final note on continuous shooting - live view is disabled in both 3fps or 6fps continuous shooting modes if you're using the LCD/EVF. Naturally, if you choose to compose images using the optical finder, viewing is uninterrupted (at least until you blink).

3fps Continuous Shooting *

File format
Buffer
Write Time
Large / Fine JPEG
Unlimited
N/A
RAW
8 frames
13 seconds
RAW + LF JPEG
8 frames
13 seconds

6fps Continuous Shooting

File format
Buffer
Write Time
Large / Fine JPEG
Unlimited
N/A
RAW
8 frames
13 seconds
RAW + LF JPEG
8 frames
13 seconds

* UHS-I - SanDisk Extreme Pro 45MB/s Class 1 UHS-I

Autofocus speed / accuracy

Fujifilm claims that the X100S's focus speed has been greatly improved (in favorable conditions) compared to the X100, and this is borne-out in our testing. Outdoors, the X100's focus speed was fine - not outstanding, but basically fine most of the time - and the X100S is roughly twice as fast in good light, where its phase-detection AF pixels can make the most difference. In our testing, the average time from initiating autofocus to image capture hovers around 0.3 seconds for the X100S, and approximately 0.7 seconds for the X100. In low-ish indoor light, the difference is less noticeable and in this sort of environment, AF speed is pretty much the same from both models, at around 0.7 seconds. This is true regardless of the position of either camera's AF point.

The X100S is far less prone to focus failures than the X100, but every now and then, the camera does get confused and fails to achieve AF lock. This is usually an issue in poor light but from time to time it can also happen in broad daylight. To focus this shot, I had to move the AF point to various areas around the plane's nose until I got a 'lock'.
I expected this scene to be trickier for the X100S, and indeed it took several attempts before I could get the camera to 'lock' onto the face of my partly-backlit subject (I had more success with the portrait of the young girl, below)

One of the minor frustrations of working with the X100S is that in single-shot drive mode, focus needs to be re-acquired after every shot. So if you want to take a number of pictures of the same scene (good practise for portraits) you'll need to re-focus each one.

You can get around this by engaging the X100S's continuous drive modes, use manual focus or by holding down the AFL button after AF has been acquired (it's a bit awkward but perfectly manageable).

In theory, for best AF performance the X100S needs to be put into its 'high performance' mode, which you can find in the power management section of the set-up menu. In practise, we could not measure any consistent difference in AF speed in this mode compared to default settings.

Where the X100S's AF is very clearly more capable than the X100 is at close focusing distances. The X100S had a minimum focus distance in (non-macro) AF-S mode of 43cm, and this has been halved in the X100S. In practise, what this means is that if you're coming from the X100 you'll find yourself needing to switch to macro mode less when shooting everyday subjects (like close-range portraits of kids) with the X100S. The X100S also seems much less 'fussy' about AF when approaching the limit of its focus range. Both cameras have an absolute minimum focus distance of 10cm in macro mode.

This is the kind of shot that we'd have really struggled to get with the X100 - a low (ish) contrast subject, backlit and pretty close to the camera. The X100S had no problem hitting accurate focus. Close-range portraiture is a positive joy with the X100S, compared to its predecessor.

Compared to peers like the Ricoh GR and Nikon Coolpix A, the X100S's AF performance is on a par, but not noticeably faster either indoors or outside in the sun. In terms of speed It's still roundly bested by the fastest contrast-detection AF systems inside newer M43 models from Panasonic and Olympus, but in general use there's nothing much to complain about beyond very occasional hiccups.

Oddly, like its predecessor, the X100S has no face detection autofocus system. This was disappointing two years ago, but is even more so now that the feature has become almost ubiquitous in mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, and indeed DSLRs/SLTs. This omission is particularly odd as Fujifilm was one of the very first manufacturers to introduce the technology, even applying the 'fd' suffix to several models right back at its infancy in 2006. The X100S's little brother, the X-M1 has face detection, as does the X20, and from various conversations with engineers, Fujifilm seems to believe that the feature is not appropriate for 'high-end' models - a decision we think photographers would prefer to make themselves.

Perhaps Fujifilm thinks that that the X100S's target user base should be sufficiently well-versed in the use of off-center focus points and focus-recompose techniques not to need such a crutch. The problem with this argument, though, is that face detection has been improved and refined to such an extent that it's now a genuinely useful photographic tool on many of the X100S's competitors. Interestingly, the X100S can recognise faces (sort of) in captured images when you apply red-eye reduction to portraits. Ho hum.

Battery life

The X100S uses Fujifilm's venerable NP-95 battery, the same as we saw in X100 and before that, the company's 'Real 3D' compacts and the FinePix F30/F31fd. Unfortunately in the much larger-sensor X100S it can't match the prodigious lifespan it offered in with these legendary compacts. As always, battery life is highly dependent upon how much you use the rear LCD: with mixed viewfinder usage and image review on the LCD we routinely got a couple of hundred shots, but this could undoubtedly be stretched substantially further if you only use the optical finder. Note too that shooting movies will greatly reduce battery life.

The camera's battery level meter isn't a huge amount of help - there's only two steps below 'full', and the dreaded red 'exhausted' often follows 'part-empty' after just a few shots.

The X100S comes with the same battery and charger as the X100, with one very small change. The X100's battery charger came with a small plastic insert, separate in the box, to shim the NP-95 battery to sit against the contacts snugly. This popped off with little provocation, and was easily lost. With the X100S, Fujifilm is bundling the same charger, with the same insert (visible on the lower-right corner of the charger) but now it's glued on. Hooray!

If you mainly shoot with the optical finder you can turn on 'OVF power save mode', which promises to increase battery life by not continually reading data out from the sensor. The data display and framelines are a little dimmer in this mode and the live histogram is no longer available - instead the X100S shows a sad, empty box in its place. If you mainly shoot in manual mode, the live histogram isn't very useful anyway, so turning OVF power save on is worth considering; however in other exposure modes the histogram is a sufficiently useful that we'd be inclined to keep it at the expense of battery life.