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.
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. Lateral chromatic aberrations are handled extremely well and 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.
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.
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 as 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 a 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 the 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.
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 the 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. 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 slower shutter speed to let more ambient light in, but it had to be fast enough to freeze the motion of the jumping dog.
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.
See the next page for the X-Trans CMOS II sensor ISO performance and comparison to the original X-Trans CMOS sensor.
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