Fujifilm X100S Review
Conclusion - Pros
- Excellent JPEG image quality - little need to shoot Raw except to correct WB
- Very sharp 23mm (35mm equiv.) F2 lens
- Fast and responsive when shooting (with decent SD card)
- Speedy and generally accurate hybrid AF (but still slower than the best M43 CDAF systems)
- Versatile manual focus mode with effective focus aids (peaking and digital split image)
- Excellent, highly versatile hybrid viewfinder
- Logical and effective ergonomics
- Q menu for easy access to key shooting settings
- Useful DR expansion up to DR400%
- Versatile in-camera Raw conversion
- Film simulation modes are fun, and look great (Velvia for sunsets? Yes please)
- Handy built-in ND filter has little or no negative impact on image quality
- Optional wide-angle converter gives great-quality 28mm (equiv.) field of view
Conclusion - Cons
- AF can still get confused occasionally even in bright conditions
- Histogram does nothing useful in manual mode (when it would be most useful if it worked)
- No face-detection AF
- Rear LCD somewhat prone to glare in bright light (use viewfinder instead)
- EVF switch can be fooled when sun is behind or to one side (occasionally refuses to switch off LCD)
- Rear jog switch under-utilized (should be customizable)
- Rear control dial small and fiddly - lacks clear detents
- Only one-step magnification option in EVF/LCD live view mode
- Highest ISO sensitivities only available in JPEG mode
- In-camera Raw conversion doesn't offer 'live' preview of adjustments
- Still takes 'long press' of shutter button to wake camera from sleep
- In-lens shutter can't offer maximum speeds at wide apertures
- Unexciting video mode, clunky ergonomics, so-so audio and occasional moiré issues
- Shots taken in continuous drive mode still played back in silly 'slideshow' display
- Focus must be acquired for every exposure in AF-S mode (use AFL to get around it)
- Battery life drops considerable when shooting and reviewing movies
- Very little warning when battery gets low (goes to totally empty very quickly)
If you've read this far, you'll know that we're very impressed with the Fujifilm X100S, not only because of the improvements that Fujifilm has made to the basic design compared to the original X100, but also in terms of how well it compares against cameras like the Sony Cyber-shot RX1/R, the Nikon Coolpix A and Ricoh GR. Although Sigma and Leica had made earlier forays into this territory, the X100 really made an impact and it's arguable that there might not even be so many compact, large-sensor fixed-lens cameras were it not for its success. The X100S can at least hold its own against the new pretenders.
As expected, the good stuff about the X100 is still good in the X100S. Its 35mm equivalent F2 lens is superb, its hybrid viewfinder is supremely useful when moving between different shooting situations and lighting conditions, and features like DR expansion and in-camera Raw conversion work very well indeed. The biggest hardware upgrade in the X100S is its 16MP X-Trans sensor. To be honest, we had very few complaints about the venerable 12MP CMOS used in the X100, and although the X100S produces cleaner (and of course slightly larger) images at high ISO settings, the main reason to get excited about the new sensor is its phase-detection AF pixels. In decent light, the X100S focuses very quickly, usually very accurately, and of course manual focus gets a boost too, thanks to the Digital Split Image focus guide, which uses those same phase-detection pixels.
Overall, there's a lot to like about the X100S. The only unequivocally weak area of the camera's performance is in video mode. Although it captures better footage than the X100, the X100S's lack of image stabilization, tinny microphone and tendency to generate psychedelic moiré combine to create an awkward, unfinished impression, enhanced by the fact that you have to enter the drive mode menu to even capture video in the first place.
To be honest though, we'd be very surprised if anyone out there is seriously considering an X100S to shoot video. Its design philosophy, feature set and ergonomics are all aimed squarely at still photography, and as a stills camera, within the strict (and obvious) limitations of its design it succeeds brilliantly.
Build and Handling
At this point, thinking back to using the original X100 with initial firmware feels like recalling a bad dream. That camera was a maddening combination of amazing design decisions (hybrid viewfinder, manual aperture and shutter dials etc.) with horrific firmware. The X100 got a lot better over time, but even straight out of the box, the X100S is in a different league.
The EVF is higher resolution, the menu system has been chopped up and put back together correctly and manual focus is now usable, thanks to a refined focus ring operation and useful peaking and digital split image focus aids. Build quality remains excellent, and although the metal finish scuffs very easily, everything is put together well and the camera, with its various control points, feels solid and well-machined.
It's not perfect, though. The on-screen histogram still doesn't work in manual exposure mode, and in single-shot AF you still have to acquire focus for every exposure by default, although you can use AFL to lock focus (or focus manually). Like the X100, the X100S's shutter speed is limited to 1/1000sec if you're shooting at F2, because the shutter can't open wide enough fast enough above this point (this logic is explained in detail here).
It'd be nice to have more control over magnification in live view mode on the EVF or LCD, as well. Like the X100, the view can be enlarged in one step, using the rear jog switch, but that's it. And of course there's video mode, which still feels like (and likely was, for some of Fujifilm's engineers) an afterthought. But honestly, these are minor concerns in the grand scheme of things. Overall, the X100S is a pleasure to use, and in terms of build quality it compares well against much more expensive products.
As we've seen with previous X-Trans-equipped cameras from Fujifilm, the X100S delivers excellent JPEG image quality. The 16MP X-Trans sensor is optimized for the lens, and sharpness is excellent between F2-11 (the edges look a little wishy-washy 'wide open' but central sharpness is superb), with diffraction taking the edge off at smaller apertures. Bokeh is a pleasant and edge-to-edge sharpness is very good indeed once the lens is stopped down to F5.6. We weren't able to definitively test the efficacy of the 'Lens Modulation Optimizer' but from our real-world shooting, we have no serious complaints about the performance of the X100S's 23mm F2 lens at all.
Technically speaking, the X100S's sensor may be considered virtually 'noiseless' to any practical extent until at least ISO800. Even above this setting, noise doesn't really start to seriously erode image quality until its very highest sensitivities, which is impressive stuff indeed. The X100S's highest ISO settings of 12,800 and 25,600 are JPEG only modes, so if you habitually shoot Raw or Raw+ JPEG you'll be unable to access them, but we've found that in a pinch, underexposing Raw shots taken at ISO 6400 and pushing levels up afterwards using raw conversion software can deliver usable results. That said, as we've pointed out elsewhere in this review, unless you need to fine-tune white balance after the fact, there's little real need to shoot Raw with the X100S - the JPEGs are excellent.
After long (yes we know - this review was started a long time ago) experience with the X100S, we've learned to treat ISO 400 as our 'base' in everyday shooting, with DR at 200% and using the built-in ND filter if necessary to keep shutter speeds down and apertures wide. In especially contrasty conditions, DR400% can really help, too, but midtones can start looking a bit 'flat' at this setting. There's an exposure limit too, obviously (even with the ND filter you'll struggle to shoot at ISO 800 at F2 on a really sunny day, with a maximum shutter speed of 1/1000sec) but much of the time it's a perfectly sensible way of working, if you don't mind losing some 'punchiness'.
It should be noted that the ND filter has no noticeable effect on image quality. In fact, we accidently photographed our resolution chart with the ND filter activated, and when we realized our mistake and re-shot the target, the results were indistinguishable.
The Final Word
I hate it. Just kidding - I really like the X100S. And given that this review has been in progress so long I'm going to drop the third-person narrative and wholeheartedly recommend the X100S to you, assuming that you haven't gone out and bought one already while you were waiting for me to publish.
I've been using the X100S almost exclusively now for many weeks, and not just because I needed to, in order to gather shots for dpreview. The X100S has gone almost everywhere with me this year because it's a really nice camera that looks sharp, takes great pictures but takes up little space, and is trustworthy in a way that the original X100 never quite was. It's also discreet to the point of being almost invisible in social situations, making it much more of an extension to my eye than a typical DSLR could ever be.
In short, as you've probably guessed by now, I've grown to love it. Fujifilm's PR reps have let me keep hold of our review sample for far longer than originally agreed, and when I can't fend them off any longer I might actually buy one. If you can cope with the obvious limitation of the 35mm equivalent focal length (and/or 28mm via the excellent but bulky optional adapter) the X100S will likely keep you very happy indeed for some years to come.
The only thing about it which feels wrong, and outmoded is the video feature, but let's be honest - that's not why you're reading this review. Despite some minor annoyances, the X100S wins our coveted gold award. Sorry it took so long!
Category: Enthusiast Large Sensor Compact Camera
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
The Fujifilm X100S is a hugely likable, very capable camera with some useful tricks up its sleeve. Almost all of the bugs from the X100 have been ironed out, and image quality from its 16 MP X-Trans sensor is excellent.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.
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