The unusual layout of Fujifilm's X-Trans color filter array lends images a slightly unusual appearance when viewed at 100%, especially when it comes to the rendition of foliage (or anything green) which can look strangely 'knitted'. This is a consequence of the green-filtered photodiodes on the X30's sensor being diagonally continuous, and is a (relatively minor) feature of all X-Trans-equipped Fujifilm cameras. In terms of sheer resolution, at low ISO sensitivities the X30 compares very well to traditional Bayer-pattern sensor competitors. 

ISO 200, f/2.5, 1/50 sec @ 50mm equiv.
ISO 200, f/2.0, 1/640 sec @ 112mm equiv.
 ISO 800, f/2.8, 1/40 sec @ 28mm equiv.

As is so often the case, noise reduction becomes more of an issue than noise when the ISO reaches 1600 and above. Fuji's in-camera work does a fine job of cleaning away the grit and speckles of high ISO noise, but at the same time removes much of the fine detail of the scene, leaving us with blur and smooth areas that clearly should be textured.

 ISO 3200 JPEG
 ISO 3200 Raw

In some examples taken in a pub at night, JPEGs show hair processed to the smoothness of a helmet at ISO 3200, while the Raw files allow the strands to make their presence known. Middle-distance grass in JPEGS beyond ISO 800 takes on the look of a snooker table's baize as the blades blend into one another to form a furry green soup. 

Color 

If there is a weak spot in Fuji's color management it is in its white balance judgements rather than in its ability to render colors truthfully. Under flash-lit conditions and with the white balance set for flash the relationships between reds, greens and blues is very well ordered. Outside however, in late overcast light and with the white balance set to daylight or auto I couldn't get an image that reflected what I could see. In the daylight setting, which should most accurately recreate what our daylight-balanced eyes record, the world is a very cool cyan and blue place.

ISO 100, f/4, 1/30 sec, -1.33EV

Perhaps a desire to enhance a blue sky can't distinguish between the blue of a clear sky and the blue of an evening overcast sky, but whatever the reason the enrichment of these cooler shades has an impact on the way the sky is reflected in leafs, the grass, water and pale buildings. The camera is equipped with a cloudy white balance setting, but of course this attempts to make a cloudy day look warm and inviting. 

Matters are made worse on a dull day if you are trying out the new Classic Chrome film simulation mode. In many conditions this is an excellent addition to a line-up that remembers five Fuji color emulsions, with the muted blacked-up colors of the new setting producing a look that is quite different to the others the camera allows. But on an overcast day we end up simply with too much black and not enough color.

ISO 100, f/11, 1/125 sec with flash in Astia mode

If you'd prefer to create your own image look it is worth getting to know the highlight and shadow tone settings, which can render a rather nice low contrast image when mastered. Fuji's film simulation modes are generally very good. The standard mode is supposed to reflect the colors and contrast of Provia professional slide film, while the Velvia mode is busting with contrast and saturation (a little more than the film produced, to my eyes) and Astia forms a more pastel and muted set of colors. The high contrast and low contrast color negative films are effective and produce more neutral colors, while Classic Chrome gives a cooler color balance and adds black rather than less saturation to the primary colors. Colors remain muted, but not in the same way that the Astia mode paints a white haze over them. It is a good mode to use but, as with film, we need to choose each for the particular occasion, as none suit every situation. 

Dynamic range

While base ISO JPEG files at default exposure and unworked Raw files don't show the camera's dynamic range very well I have been surprised by how much detail can be drawn out from both shadow and highlight areas, especially when using Capture One software. Bright skies that appear to have no detail recorded at all can often be completely rescued and have the clouds magically added back, while shadow detail can be lifted into view without an HDR effect becoming obvious. I suppose the desire for punchy images with impact has led to added contrast that lets highlights burn out, but Raw shooters will be able to make the most of these files, and create images with an impressive tonal range. 

It has been Fuji's habit to offer a wide dynamic range mode since at least 2005, when the SuperCCD SR was introduced in the S3 Pro. The X30 doesn't have the same type of sensor at all, but it does offer dynamic range expansion modes – albeit via the camera's internal software rather than by dual sampling using twin photodiodes.

In the Q menu we can select DR options for 100%, 200% and 400%. At ISO 100 only 100% is selectable, and at ISO 200 we can choose between 100% and 200%. You have to be working at ISO 400 to access the full range. 

DRO 100 DRO 200 DRO 400 DRO Auto

The modes are effective, and from my experience of Fuji products I automatically selected to shoot with 200% most of the time. None of the settings gives us a HDR effect that would make viewers recognize the technique immediately, but in some situations the 400% setting can work a little too hard to draw highlight detail from near-burnt out areas so that edges become blocky and plain tones rather too smooth and unrealistic. Having said that, the modes are all pretty accomplished and moderate considering they are conjured in-camera on JPEGs. I noted much increased background detail in a series of test shots I performed while shooting a potted plant in a shed window. Although the exposure shifted slightly for the 400% image, there is a good deal more readable detail in the bright areas while shadows reveal what is happening in the darker tones. 

In-camera Raw processing

The X30 isn't the first X series camera to feature in-camera Raw processing, but it is a function that is still worth pointing out, because it is very useful. Once a Raw file is recorded it is possible to reopen it and alter the principle settings used so that a new JPEG can be made with a different film simulation mode, for example. Some of the settings are a bit limited, such as there being no negative exposure compensation available when ISO 100 has been used, and exposure correction stretching to only +/-1EV in either direction for all images, but it is a fun and creative feature that lets us rethink the way we shot.

It would be nice to be able to see the effects of our changes as they are made in real time, instead of having to dial them in and then press Q to see a preview of what has been created, but at least the feature allows multiple adjustments to be made at the same time. It would be nice to have a re-sizing feature too so we could create small files in-camera for sending to a smartphone for posting online or emailing. The camera already re-sizes images to 3MP as it transfers them to a phone, but we have no option to change that size to anything else. 

Video

I'm not sure how many people are likely to buy the X30 with shooting video as their primary purpose, but enough stills photographers will want to shoot clips of motion that movie mode is an important feature. The X30 is capable of shooting up to 1080p at 60fps. We are offered a range of ISO settings from 100-1600, as well as auto, and options to shoot with quality that prioritizes movies or that prioritizes taking stills from the footage. 

Although there is a stereo mic set-up built in to the front of the body above the lens, Fuji also provides a socket for an external mic. The socket is for 2.5mm mini jacks, which some will find annoying. I used the Panasonic DMW-MS1 mic that was designed for the equally silly socket of the Lumix DMC-GH3. It is telling perhaps that when you type '2.5mm microphone' in to Amazon's search, the first item is an adapter to convert small jacks for 3.5mm systems. On a windy day the external mic made a big difference, as the tiny sunken mic sockets of the X30 seem to attract the wind and record its interference very well. 

Motion is captured reasonably well at 60fps, but the camera’s shortcomings are in noise at higher ISO settings and moiré when panning.

I gave up using the AF during video capture as it seemed to consistently find a subject other than that under the AF point and then refuse to be corrected. The manual focusing function though, with magnification and peaking, is very good. Manually controlling aperture and shutter speed at the same time as using manual focus means we are rather short of control points on the body, so a good memory for how to switch between iris and shutter controls is required.