Lens Comparison

For this test we took the X70 and the Ricoh GR II to our balcony for an infinity lens shootout.

Lets take a look, through the different demosaicing algorithms (we are looking at X-trans versus traditional Bayer color filter arrays here), towards the center of the scene . The GR II immediately shows its strengths, with a consistently sharper rendering in many parts of the scene. It seems that, as a whole, the GR II is sharper wide open, and at F4. By F5.6 the gap between the two has narrowed, but the GR II still remains strongly ahead. 

The Fujifilm's performance up to F5.6 is disappointing. It struggles a little bit more than the GR II on the far right and far left of the scene when wide-open, but stopping down once again closes the gap.

Overall the Ricoh has a much sharper and more consistent lens that is possibly one of the best we have seen on any APS-C compact. For landscape photographers it will be the better choice for maximum detail and sharpness. 

Autofocus

The X70 makes use of Fujifilm's Hybrid AF system, which uses phase detection for distance information, and contrast detection for precision. We've seen the merits of a strong, high-density PDAF system in cameras like the Sony RX1R II, and the merits of a fast-moving lens with a CDAF system in products like the Leica Q. Unfortunately, the X70's AF cannot keep up to either of these cameras.

The main problem is this lens' 'unit focus' construction, meaning the entire lens is moved by the stepping motor, and its mass inherently slows the whole focusing process down. The RX1R II has a similar handicap, although the ample amount of information provided by the RX1R II's sophisticated AF system means all its lens movements are at least precise and deliberate.

For this shot I framed ahead of time and waited for subjects to line up in the frame, and then released the shutter using "Shot" mode on the touch screen. Even in focus priority and my finger on the male subject, touch AF must not be smart enough for moving objects and completely missed this shot.

With PDAF helping the autofocus system out, in good light the X70 should theoretically focus faster than the CDAF-only GR II, but this isn't always the case in normal use. The system does make some smart decisions, like opening the lens all the way for an initial PDAF measurement, and keeping it open in low light until AF is locked. However, the AF system overall appears to rely heavily on CDAF, given the distinctive back and forth hunting when acquiring focus, often even when using the central PDAF area.

Where the X70's AF system steps ahead is when using the camera at close-up distances. Unlike the X100 and GR series cameras, the X70 does not need a dedicated switch or Fn button to put it in 'macro' mode. Its autofocus system is fairly smart about detecting objects that are close to the lens, and therefore there's no need to switch to a special macro mode, which makes it a bit more convenient in use.

Shooting close-up on the X70 is much easier than the GR or X100, and the lens performs reasonably well at close-up distances

The X70's Hybrid AF system is very competitive in low light. It slows down as light levels drop, but can still acquire AF in most reasonable shooting conditions. In our studio, we found the GR II starts to fumble and have trouble locking focus around 0.5EV. While the Fujifilm doesn't focus quickly in those kind of dim conditions, it was able to consistently lock AF over and over again, making it the more reliable choice for focusing in dark situations.

The X70 features the focus modes first seen on the X-T10: Zone AF, Wide/Tracking and face/eye detection with selectable priority. Face detection works well in continuous AF, although the slow moving continuous hunt means timing of a shot is difficult to nail when using this mode. Zone AF and Wide/Tracking, where the AF point is automatically selected from either a selected grid (zone) or all AF points (Wide/Tracking) seems to like to back-focus when trying to shoot a moving subject, and subject tracking really work effectively. These modes end up feeling too slow or inaccurate to really depend on for nailing focus in the critical moment.

Touch AF is a really handy feature for setting the focus point. Touch-to-shoot can work well, but can also be confused by moving subjects or busy backgrounds. When it works it delivers very sharp photos because touch to shoot releases the shutter the instant AF is locked, leaving little to no time for slight movements to put an object out of the focus plane. When it doesn't work it tends to back focus, especially with backlit subjects or when there are a lot of details in the background.

Overall though, the X70's autofocus is at least on par with the Ricoh GR in good light, much faster than the GR in low light, and offers better controls for setting the focus point.