This is an in-depth review of the Fujifilm X100S mirrorless camera, which was released on January 7, 2013 together with the X20 compact camera. After the success of the original X100, Fuji upgraded the sensor and the hybrid viewfinder, added some new features, addressed a few important firmware issues and added the “S” to the label of the camera. The long-awaited Fuji X100S debuted with a lot of fanfare, thanks to its big supporters like Zack Arias and David Hobby that provided plenty of coverage of the camera. Being tied up with reviewing newly released Nikon lenses and cameras, I did not have a chance to test the X100S out until the summer of 2013. Another reason was poor availability – the X100S was in such a high demand, that it was nowhere to be found for a long time.
I finally got a hold of the Fuji X100S in August of 2013 and I have been enjoying it since. I requested the X100S to be shipped together with other Fuji gear, as a part of my effort to review every Fuji camera and lens available. So far I have published three reviews: Fuji X-Pro1, Fuji X-E1, Fuji X-M1 and I am planning to start publishing reviews of Fujinon and Zeiss Touit lenses right after this. Having used the Fuji X100S for a couple of months now in different environments, I have a few things to share with our readers in regards to its overall performance, handling, usability and personal or commercial use.
1) Fujifilm X-100S Specifications
Main Features and Specifications:
- Lens: Fujinon 23mm f/2
- Sensor: 16.3 MP (1.5x crop factor), 4.8µ pixel size, same as on X-Pro1, X-E1 and X-M1
- Sensor Size: 23.6 x 15.6mm
- Resolution: 4896 x 3264
- Native ISO Sensitivity: 200-6,400
- Boost Low ISO Sensitivity: 100
- Boost High ISO Sensitivity: 12,800-25,600
- Sensor Cleaning System: Yes
- Weather Sealing/Protection: No
- Body Build: Magnesium Alloy
- Shutter: Up to 1/4000 and 30 sec exposure
- Shutter Control: Leaf Shutter
- Storage: 1x SD slot (SD/SDHC/SDXC compatible)
- Speed: 6 FPS
- Exposure Meter: TTL 256-zones metering
- Built-in Flash: Yes
- Autofocus: Yes
- Manual Focus: Yes
- LCD Screen: 2.8 inch, approx. 460K-dot TFT color LCD monitor
- Movie Modes: Full 1080p HD @ 60 and 30 fps
- Movie Recording Limit: 10 minutes
- Movie Output: MOV (H.264)
- GPS: No
- WiFi: No
- Battery Type: NP-95
- Battery Life: 300 shots
- USB Standard: 2.0
- Weight: 405g (excluding battery and accessories)
- Price: $1,299 MSRP
A detailed list of camera specifications is available at Fujifilm.com.
2) Camera Construction and Handling
Thanks to the magnesium alloy top and bottom covers and overall solid build, the Fuji X100S is a camera that is built to last. Although I wish the whole shell was made out of magnesium alloy like on the Fuji X-Pro1, it would have certainly added to the weight of the camera. Instead, Fuji used a plastic shell for the middle section and covered it with high quality synthetic leather.
The overall look of the camera has not changed from what it used to be on the original X100, whether you are looking at the front, top or the back of the camera. Fuji just changed the locations of some camera markings and swapped the “DRIVE” and “AF” button locations (the “AF” button used for selecting the active focus area has been moved to the rotary dial to the right of the LCD). The biggest change is in the guts of the camera, which I will go over later in this review.
The stylish retro design of the camera is certainly one of the factors that attracts so many people to the Fuji X100S. Having a similar look as old film rangefinders / compact SLRs, the Fuji X100S is a very appealing instrument with a unique “character” to it. Sadly, not something we see in modern mass-produced cameras anymore. I strongly believe that if it was not for this stylish retro design, the X100 probably would not have been nearly as successful. The X100/X100S have that “Leica” look in them, certainly grabbing the attention of those that appreciate such fine instruments.
The X100S handles extremely well. When you hold the camera, it feels “just right” in terms of weight, size and balance. The small 23mm pancake-type lens does not make the camera front-heavy like what you would normally see on a DSLR and it helps to keep the camera small enough to fit in your jacket pocket. When photographing in the cold mountains this fall, I hung the camera on my neck and kept it inside the jacket when not using it for extended periods of time. The weight did not bother me at all and when I needed to use the camera, I would simply unzip the jacket. This could be a great solution to those that often travel and do not want to advertise the camera to everyone, or have small pockets. This small footprint makes the X100S ideal for street and travel photography.
The fixed single focal length lens (which is equivalent to a field of view of a 35mm lens on a full-frame camera) might be a little limiting to those that want wider or longer reach, but if 35mm is your favorite focal length, you will surely love this setup. Personally, I favor 50mm over 35mm for my type of photography, so I am hoping that Fuji will come up with more X100-series cameras with different lenses. I am sure that many street photographers would certainly welcome the idea of walking around with a dual X100 setup, one with a 23mm f/2 lens and one with a 35mm f/1.4.
I am sure by now you have heard of the hybrid optical / electronic viewfinder featured on the high-end X-series cameras (currently on X100, X100S and X-Pro1) – it is one of the key highlights of the X100S. Having tried both, I personally favor the electronic viewfinder for several reasons. First, the optical viewfinder does not show accurate framing when photographing subjects at close distances. The white frame moves to a different spot when half-pressing the shutter, but it is often nowhere close to what the final output will be. Second, I have done a number of tests in both daylight and indoor low-light conditions and I came to a conclusion that autofocus works faster when the camera is in EVF mode. In OVF mode, for whatever reason the camera often switches to contrast detection mode, slowing down autofocus speed considerably. On top of that, if you have “OVF POWER SAVE MODE” turned on, autofocus gets even more sluggish. If you want the fastest autofocus, especially in low-light situations, my recommendation would be to use the EVF instead of the OVF.
The X100S comes with a similar thin strap as other X-series cameras, which is pretty uncomfortable to wear in my opinion. I would highly recommend to replace it with something better and thicker. Personally, I am a huge fan of neoprene straps from OP/TECH. The classic version of the strap would probably be ideal, although if you feel that it is too thick or too big for the X100S, they have all kinds of smaller sizes too. Just make sure to pick up a strap that is thin enough to go through the “ears” on the sides of the camera.
The X100S also comes with a compact built-in flash in the front of the camera. You can activate or deactivate it by pressing the flash side of the rear rotary dial. Compared to DSLR built-in flashes, this one is tiny and not very powerful. Do not expect it to light up a room for you, as the flash is only meant to be used occasionally. It works great as fill flash for a single subject or a small group at close distances, but nothing more. The good news is, you do not have to rely on it if you like working with flash – the standard hot shoe on the top of the camera will work with any speedlight or flash trigger system like PocketWizard. And thanks to the leaf shutter used on the X100S, you do not have to worry about slow sync speeds when using external flashes! This is one of the main reasons why flash gurus like David Hobby went crazy over the X100/X100S cameras. Personally, I have used the Fuji X series cameras with my Nikon speedlights both on and off-camera in manual mode and they worked out great! See the Flash section of this review for some more information and sample images.
My biggest handling complaint on the X100S is the tripod mount placement and the fact that the memory card is located in the same place as the battery (the same problem as in all X-series cameras). This issue is rather annoying, because the tripod mount socket is located off the center of the camera close to the battery/card compartment, making it painful to remove the card or battery while the camera is mounted. I use the Arca-Swiss quick release system and using a generic plate keeps the camera way off center. It would be great if Fuji could move the card slot to the side of the camera, or move the tripod socket away from the battery compartment to make it more accessible. Also, the original problem of allowing the battery to be inserted in any way is still there on the X100S. Although the battery has a slight curve on one side, the battery compartment has a square shape. Fuji can address this easily by changing the shape of the battery compartment a little. Not a huge problem, but something that should be addressed in the future in my opinion.
3) Camera Controls and Menu System
As I have already written in my prior reviews of Fuji cameras, I love the retro-style controls of the high-end X series cameras, including the X100/X100S. These controls are certainly not for beginners (the Fuji X-M1 has more intuitive controls that are more suitable for beginners). If you have only shot with a DSLR before, these controls certainly will take a little time to get used to. The main dial on the top of the camera controls the shutter speed and the 1 stop markings are engraved on this dial. If you want to go in smaller 1/3 increments, you can still do it by rotating the rear rotary dial in either direction to increase or decrease the shutter speed. The red letter “A” indicates Aperture Priority mode, so if you switch to it, the camera will pick the shutter speed in 1/3 increments for you automatically, based on the camera meter reading. The aperture of the lens is always controlled through the lens directly. Thus, the camera essentially has no “Manual” mode.
Operating the camera and navigating the menu system is a breeze. While the camera technically has ISO boost levels up to 25,600, you cannot shoot anything above ISO 6400 on the X100S. Unfortunately, the same problem is present on all current X series cameras. I do not understand why Fuji does not allow shooting RAW at boosted ISO levels such as ISO 100, 12,800 and 25,600. There might be a technical reason for this, but it pretty much makes the camera useless for shooting high ISOs above 6400 for those that prefer RAW over JPEG.
One feature that has been enhanced on the X100S, is a more enhanced version of Auto ISO. You can now finally set different thresholds for Auto ISO such as the minimum shutter speed and maximum ISO. To date, neither the X100, nor the X-Pro1 / X-E1 have this implemented. It should be a simple firmware update, so I am not sure why Fuji has still not taken care of it on those cameras. The new Auto ISO function works much better than the automated version on the X100/X-E1/X-Pro1, because you have much more control. In my experience, the shutter speed on previous implementations was not fast enough in auto mode, causing blur that could simply be avoided with a faster shutter speed.
4) Hybrid Viewfinder
Just like the original X100, the X100S also comes with a hybrid optical (OVF) / electronic (EVF) viewfinder. However, the electronic viewfinder is not the same – it is an upgraded version, with a lot more resolution – 2.36 megapixels versus 1.44 on the X100. Is the resolution difference very noticeable? I experimented with EVF on both the X100S and the X-Pro1 (which has an identical viewfinder as the X100) and to be honest, I cannot see a huge difference. The EVF on the X100S seems to be more saturated with perhaps a little more details, but it is not something very obvious. The EVF on the X100S also showed some strange interlacing and moire patterns when looking at fine patterns, while the lower resolution X100 / X-Pro1 seemed to handle those a little better.
5) EVF Diopter
The X100S comes with a very important feature for those of us that do not have perfect vision – there is a diopter adjustment dial to the left of the viewfinder, similar to the one on the X100 and X-E1. The X-Pro1 comes with a removable cover that you can replace, but that costs extra and is not convenient if multiple people use the camera. From that standpoint, I really like the X100/X100S/X-E1 cameras, because you can adjust the diopter to your needs and change it to a different setting if you are wearing glasses or hand the camera to someone else.
6) Image Sensor and Autofocus Performance
At the heart of the X100S sits the new X-Trans CMOS II sensor. The X100S was the first to receive this sensor in the X-series line and there is some groundbreaking technology embedded into the sensor. While the effective resolution stayed the same at 16.3 MP as on the original X-Trans CMOS sensor, this one incorporates phase detection pixels right on the sensor, allowing for much faster autofocus (see the Autofocus Performance and Accuracy section below for more information). Note that the original X100 had a traditional bayer-pattern CMOS sensor with 12.3 MP of resolution, so the X100S not only got a boost in resolution, but also better noise performance.
While traditional sensors with a repeating bayer-pattern color filter array exhibit moire problems and hence need an anti-aliasing filter to reduce moire by essentially blurring the image, the X-Trans CMOS II sensor has a new color filter array that has a more random pattern, which does not cause moire to occur in the first place. Hence, an anti-aliasing filter is not necessary, which in turn translates to sharper, more detailed images.
Here is an illustration of a traditional bayer pattern color filter array compared to the new Fuji color filter array:
Top image: 1) Lens, 2) Sensor, 3) Optical low-pass filter.
Bottom image: 1) Lens, 2) Sensor, 3) Natural random arrangement of the fine grains of silver halide in film.
As you can see, the difference between the two is quite big.
Fuji says that their sensor not only delivers sharper images due to the lack of an anti-aliasing filter, but also has better color reproduction. Does the new X-Trans CMOS II sensor work as advertised? It certainly does, in my opinion. The amount of detail from the camera when using Fujinon and Zeiss Touit lenses is very impressive, especially when looking at images at 100% view. As a long time digital Nikon shooter, I am very impressed by what the X100S does with the colors. Not only does the camera produce beautiful colors, but Fuji clearly knows how to process skin tones – something Nikon is historically not very good at. This is quite evident even when looking at JPEG images straight out of the camera.
The X-Trans CMOS II sensor with a new color filter and built-in phase detection is a great innovation. Sadly, most digital camera manufacturers today, including Nikon and Canon, still rely on the bayer pattern that was invented back in 1976 in Kodak labs. With all the new ultra high resolution sensors coming out, I believe manufacturers need to start adopting such innovations to get rid of the outdated anti-aliasing/blur filter. Nikon has started removing the AA filter from its cameras to get as much resolution as possible from lenses, but at the expense of introducing moire.
The only problem with the X-Trans sensor is rendering issues of RAW files when using Camera RAW and Lightroom. I am not sure why Adobe has still not worked this out with Fuji, but the RAW processing engine in Adobe’s products introduces artifacts to images and weird patterns in different color channels. I really hope that these issues will soon be ironed out, since I am not very keen on introducing another RAW rendering software package to my workflow process.
7) Autofocus Performance and Accuracy
I was pretty excited to test the X100S and its innovative approach with incorporating phase detection sensors right on the X-Trans CMOS II sensor. Fuji claimed that the X100S got a dramatic increase in AF performance compared to the X100, X-Pro1 and X-E1 cameras, thanks to the phase detection autofocus system. I really wanted to test this claim on the X100S and studied the AF system quite a bit while reviewing the unit. Indeed, the autofocus performance has improved significantly when compared to the X100 and other X-series cameras. This is pretty evident when shooting in daylight conditions, where phase detection autofocus works very well. In low-light conditions, the camera automatically switches to contrast detection and the speed remains about the same.
There is one pretty serious problem with the new phase detection system though, which Fuji needs to address as soon as possible. When shooting in daylight conditions, the phase detection autofocus can sometimes get confused and fail to acquire focus. I have seen this a number of times when shooting in the field. Since I was shooting with multiple Fuji X cameras, I tested those exact scenes with the X-M1, X-E1 and X-Pro1 and all three were able to acquire accurate focus without any issues. Take a look at the following image sample:
Although there is plenty of contrast in the scene, the X100S continuously failed to acquire focus with a red “AF” warning in the viewfinder, no matter where I moved the focus point in the scene. It took me a few tries to get the camera to indicate correct focus, but even after confirmation, the camera still apparently did not achieve perfect focus. The above shot looks sharp at web resolution since I resized it to 1024 pixels, but if you look at the image at 100% view, you will see that nothing in the frame is in perfect focus. And this is not the only time when I experienced this issue – I have seen a number of cases when the camera got bad focus, all as a result of this new phase detection AF system. Just when I thought that autofocus accuracy issues were addressed, they are now coming back! I really hope that Fuji can fix this issue via a firmware update very soon. Judging by what Fuji has been doing with firmware updates on its older X-series cameras, I am hopeful that such an important issue will get addressed soon.
8) Fujinon 23mm f/2 Lens
The fixed 23mm f/2 Fujinon lens on the X100S is outstanding in terms of contrast, colors and center resolution. The center and mid-frame of the lens is very sharp right at f/2, which is very impressive. The corners are weaker at large apertures, but improve a bit by f/8. If you are into landscape photography, you might get disappointed by the performance of the lens from f/2-f/5.6. So if you want to get the maximum sharpness, you need to stop it down to f/8. I have taken a few images of distant landscapes with the X100S at larger apertures, some of which I have added to this review. When looking at images at 100% view, the center performance is excellent and you can see a lot of details. Towards the extreme parts of the frame, however, details start getting lost, resulting in lower overall resolution. For most photography needs like portrait and street photography, the Fujinon 23mm f/2 does a very good job though and I would not hesitate to photograph subjects wide open at f/2.
Here are the results from Imatest:
I posted results from both straight-out-of-camera (SOOC) JPEG and RAW images processed by Lightroom (with default 25/1/25 sharpening).
Handling of flares and ghosting depends on the position of the light source in the frame. Seems like the area around the center of the frame results in little ghosting/flare, but it gets much worse towards the corners. Here is the worst case scenario, with the sun on the right of the frame:
I stopped down the lens to f/16 to try to get a star-burst effect. As you can see, the lens did not handle it very well.
Chromatic aberrations are handled extremely well, as can be seen from the below chart:
Vignetting levels are also very low. At the maximum aperture of f/2.0, the lens has 0.76 stops of vignetting in the corners and stopping down the lens cuts vignetting by half to 0.32. At f/4, it is reduced a little more and stays the same when stopped down from there. Here is the worst case scenario at f/2.0:
At the maximum aperture of f/2.0, the lens renders out of focus areas smoothly and the bokeh characteristics are very good in my opinion. Take a look at the below image samples, captured at f/2.0:
A number of other images found in this review were captured at the widest aperture as well.
The biggest limitation of the X100S in my opinion is the focal length of the lens – I really wish it was 50mm or longer lens for portraiture! With a 35mm equivalent FoV, you have to be really careful about how close you photograph the subjects. The lens will distort the subject quite a bit, as seen in the below image of my son:
Because I was fairly close to him, his head appears larger than it should relative to his body. Here is another example, where the groom’s head took an oval shape because he was fairly close and his head was close to the left corner frame:
If you want to understand the root cause of this sort of behavior, check out my article on lens distortion.
9) Metering and Exposure
While the Fuji X100S does not have a sophisticated meter as the latest generation Nikon and Canon cameras, it actually works surprisingly well in most situations. The camera does have a tendency to overexpose and underexpose in unusual lighting situations, but that happens even with advanced DSLRs, so it is not anything unusual. Gladly, you can easily tweak the exposure by using the exposure compensation dial on the top of the camera.
If you are a Nikon shooter, you will notice odd behavior on the Fuji, similar to what you see on Sony cameras as well – when the shutter is half-pressed, metering gets locked by the camera. Trying to rotate the aperture on the lens or moving the right dial will do nothing and the exposure will remain locked. The only thing you can do is release the shutter, adjust your exposure, then half-press again to get a different meter reading. On Nikon DSLRs, once you half-press the shutter, you can still continue to adjust the exposure and the meter will continue to adjust automatically. This is not a big problem for me, since I do not mind releasing the shutter and half-pressing it again, but it might annoy others that are used to the DSLR way of things.
10) Shooting Speed (FPS) and Battery Life
The Fuji X100S is a pretty fast camera that can shoot at 6 frames per second in continuous mode. The good news is that when the camera is shot in burst mode, the memory card write process does not freeze the camera like it does on the X100. If you want fast writes, make sure to get a really fast SD card. I used some 45 MB/sec class 10 SD cards and there was definitely noticeable difference between those and SanDisk Extreme Pro 95 MB/sec cards. When shooting in bursts, the camera has an unlimited buffer for JPEG files, which means that you can shoot until the memory card fills up. For RAW data though, it seems like Fuji set a hard limit on how many images are processed at a time. Whether I set the camera to RAW or RAW + JPEG, I could not get the X100S to take more than 8 images before the buffer filled up. Once the buffer is full, it takes about 10 seconds for buffer to clear out and memory writes to complete. These numbers are based on approximate calculations using the fastest SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC 95 MB/sec cards. Slower cards will take even longer to empty the camera buffer.
In terms of battery life, the X100S specs state 300 frames before the battery runs out, but in my experience the realistic number is around 200 frames, with a moderate amount of using the EVF and the LCD. My X-E1 seems to last longer, although it does have a larger battery than the X100S. I am sure the numbers would be better if I used the OVF in power save mode and did not rely on the LCD for viewing images.
11) Video / Movie Recording
It seems like all modern digital cameras are coming out with movie recording options and the Fuji X100S is not an exception. In fact, thanks to the new processor, the X100S can record 1080p high-definition videos at up to 60 frames per second! Some control of exposure is allowed before recording, but not during. You can choose a desired aperture, adjust exposure compensation and a few other camera settings, but you cannot adjust the shutter speed and ISO – those are chosen automatically by the camera based on the camera meter reading. Unlike the X-E1, there is no input for an external microphone on this camera and there is no dedicated video recording button either (only the X-M1 has one). To start recording videos, you have to fiddle with the “Drive” button and the menu system to change to movie recording mode. There is no support for capturing images while recording a video either. The really slow manual focus adjustment through lenses is frustrating when recording anything that moves relatively fast. Lastly, forget about subject tracking in AF-C / Continuous mode, since the camera cannot automatically track subjects and the autofocus speed / accuracy are pretty bad with a single focus point in the center.
Just like all other Fuji X series cameras, the X100S comes with a standard size hotshoe that can be used with Fuji’s flashes such as EF-20, EF-X20, EF-42 and third party flashes and radio triggers such as PocketWizard Plus III. The X100S lacks a PC sync port on the side of the camera, but it won’t be a major issue for many of us that like to use external flash, especially once you realize that the camera has a leaf shutter, which essentially lifts the 1/180th sync speed limit that is present on the focal plane shutters of the X-series cameras like Pro-1 / X-E1 and X-M1. This opens up a lot of opportunities for high speed photography, like photographing subjects with flash in daylight conditions. Here is a sample image that I captured with the X100 at 1/4000 @ f/2, completely killing the background behind my subject (which was a fairly well-lit room):
I placed a single Nikon SB-900 slave flash behind an umbrella in a shoot-through configuration, placed it very close to the subject and set the flash to full power. Another SB-900 was mounted on the X100 and was set up as a commander, pointing directly at the slave flash. Technically, the practical limit on the X100/X100S is around 1/1000 at f/2, but that’s only when you need to illuminate the whole frame evenly. With a leaf shutter, anything past 1/1000 at f/2 will result in darker corners, because the shutter will not be able to close fast enough to illuminate the corners. In the above case, the model was actually placed in the center of the frame and the corners were pitch black. Lola edited the image and purposefully placed the subject off-center for better composition.
Thus, the X100S opens up a lot of potential for creative flash photography. I have used the X100S with my Nikon speedlights and PocketWizard triggers and it performed very well. For me, having a standard hotshoe is a big plus, since I do flash photography quite a bit. Here is another example of flash photography with the X100S, taken outdoors:
For the above shot, I utilized my Nikon SB-800 flash unit in an off-camera flash configuration behind an umbrella and triggered the flash using a set of PocketWizard Plus III units. Because it was so dark, 1/125 shutter speed was good enough to freeze the motion, as there was little ambient light reaching the sensor. I had to use a slower shutter speed to let more ambient light in, but it had to be fast enough to freeze the motion of the jumping dog.
13) Dynamic Range
When it comes to dynamic range, from what I can tell from JPEG and RAW images, the new X-Trans CMOS II sensor seems to deliver the same great dynamic range as the original X-Trans sensor. It is no Nikon D800, but you can still recover plenty of details from the shadow areas without adding too much noise. I have been waiting for test results from DxOMark, but they have not released any information on any of the new Fuji mirrorless cameras with the X-Trans sensor, probably due to RAW file support issues.
14) ISO Performance at low ISOs (ISO 100-800)
Some technical information:
- White Balance: As Shot
- EXIF information is preserved in the images
- Focusing was performed through Live-View Contrast Detect
- Long exposure NR: Off
- High ISO NR: Off
- Image Format: RAW
- Image Processor: Lightroom 5.2
- Lightroom export: sRGB JPEG Quality 80
Let’s take a look at how the Fuji X-M1 performs at low ISOs. Here are some crops at ISO 200, 400 and 800:
RAW output on ISO levels 400 and 800 looks very clean. There is a hint of noise at ISO 800, but it still looks really good.
15) High ISO Performance (ISO 1600-6400)
High ISO performance is a very important measure of sensor quality for low-light photography. Here is how the Fuji X100S performs at high ISO levels between ISO 1600 and 6400:
ISO 1600 adds a little more noise, but the image retains a lot of details. ISO 3200 adds more visible noise, especially in the shadows and there is some loss of color in the image. ISO 6400 is obviously the grainiest, but still pretty usable in my opinion. Shadow details are lost quite a bit here and we see loss of details in bright areas of the frame as well.
I could not provide samples from ISO 12,800 and 25,600, because the camera does not allow recording boosted ISO levels in RAW format.
Now let’s take a look at how the Fuji X100S compares to older X-series cameras.
I spent some time evaluating the performance of the X100S’s sensor and it turns out that the X-Trans CMOS II sensor is no different than the original X-Trans CMOS sensor in terms of ISO performance. The only difference between the two is the built-in phase detection pixels on the second version of the sensor. Performance-wise, both are identical, as can be seen from the below comparison to the Fuji X-E1.
16) Fuji X100S vs Fuji X-E1 (ISO 200-800)
Here is a comparison between the two cameras at low ISOs between 200 and 800:
Both look about the same to me from ISO 200 to 800. There is a very slight difference at ISO 800 with the X100S grain looking smoother.
17) Fuji X100S vs Fuij X-E1 (ISO 1600-6400)
Both handle noise very well, but the X100S seems to be a tad cleaner at ISO 1600, 3200 and 6400. Note that the grain size on the X100S seems smaller, which is especially noticeable at ISO 6400.
18) Comparisons to Other Cameras
Since the performance of the X100S is very similar to other X-series cameras, I did not bother with providing comparisons to the Nikon D800, Canon 5D Mark III and Olympus OM-D E-M5. I have already done that in my previous reviews, so if you want to see the comparisons, please see my Fuji X-E1 review. In short, the X-Trans sensors are amazing and the image quality is pretty comparable to full-frame cameras, especially when comparing JPEG images.
It has been more than two years since I published my original short Fuji X100 review, where I expressed my frustrations with the camera and its autofocus system. Since then, Fuji worked hard on fixing autofocus issues and the original X100 is now a whole different camera (just like the Fuji X-Pro1, which I ended up re-reviewing). Thanks to Fuji’s continuous releases of firmware updates, the X-series cameras have gotten much better and many of the bugs and quirks that came with the original cameras have been addressed. Overtime, the X100 grew in popularity and exceeded all sales expectations, allowing Fuji to focus its efforts in creating interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras and the new amazing X-Trans CMOS sensor, making headlines as the first APS-C sensor that can compete directly with full-frame cameras in terms of image quality and noise performance. And as I have shown in my prior reviews of Fuji cameras, the X-Trans sensor indeed produces beautiful images and beats any other APS-C or Micro Four Thirds sensor on the market, often by a margin.
Inevitably, Fuji decided to refresh the X100 and include a new generation X-Trans CMOS II sensor, which has the same excellent performance as the older X-Trans sensor and also has a built-in phase detection autofocus system for faster autofocus operation. A few extra enhancements such as a faster EXR PROCESSOR II, higher resolution electronic viewfinder and other design/firmware updates were added to the camera and that’s how the X100S was born. Unlike Nikon that shamelessly released the Nikon D610 just to address the dust issue of the original D600, the X100S was not a small incremental update. Overall, close to 70 enhancements were added to the X100S.
The Fuji X100S is an amazing camera. Both the X100 and the X100S created a new generation of avid followers that love everything about these cameras, especially their exceptional image quality, light weight, small size and a great-looking retro design. While the X100S might not be something that professionals will use a primary camera due to its focal length and other limitations, it nicely complements a full size DSLR.
I only have a couple of concerns on the X100S, which I hope will be eventually addressed via firmware updates. The first is the phase detection autofocus system. While it certainly does a great job in enhancing the speed of the autofocus system, it sometimes fails to acquire proper autofocus even in bright daylight conditions. I provided an example of such behavior earlier in the review and it is something I am certainly concerned about. I don’t know the technical reason behind such AF issues, but it is something that needs to be addressed by Fuji as soon as possible. In terms of reliability, the previous generation X-series cameras are more reliable in my experience. Second, the focus peaking mode in manual focus mode is not as good as on Sony NEX series cameras in my opinion. There is no option to setting the outline colors and the outlines themselves are pretty small, sometimes making it difficult to use. On the other hand, I really like the “Digital Split Image” mode that uses phase detection pixels though – it is a great innovative approach to using manual focus effectively. Another concern is Adobe’s inability to properly render RAW images. Although the quality has gotten better with the latest versions of Lightroom and Camera RAW, there are still issues with artifacts and outlines in different color channels. Hopefully Fuji will collaborate more with Adobe in making sure that the RAW output matches the output of its SilkyPix software.
The biggest limitation of the X100/X100S is its focal length. 35mm equivalent field of view is a nice compromise, but it is a little too short for commercial needs like wedding photography. I would love a Fuji X100 with a 50mm f/1.4 equivalent lens for portraiture. Armed with two of these, it would be a killer combo for commercial photography needs – a 35mm lens on one side and a 50mm on another. Perhaps someday…
29) Where to buy and availability
B&H is currently selling the Fuji X100S for $1299.
20) More image samples
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- Build Quality
- Focus Speed and Accuracy
- Image Quality
- High ISO Performance
- Metering and Exposure
- Movie Recording Features
- Dynamic Range
- Size and Weight
Photography Life Overall Rating