Fujifilm X-S1: The X Story Continues
After the successful X100 and X10, Fujifilm has decided to use a large 2/3-inch sensor in a superzoom body. Does the X-S1 live up to its price tag? Shridhar Kunte decides to find out.
Every manufacturer has been taking different ways to create a separate camera category that lies between DSLRs and advanced compact cameras. Some of them achieve this by including a large sensor in a compact camera, while others do this by offering small cameras that can use interchangeable lenses. With the X100 and X-Pro1, Fujifilm has taken both these approaches. The X-S1 represents a third philosophy. Is it a compact camera? Yes, but it has the large 2/3-inch CMOS sensor that made the X10 so likeable. How is it different then? The X-S1 adopts Fujifilm’s preferred superzoom design and includes a massive 26x superzoom lens.
The XS-1 borrows several features from their own S, HS and X series of cameras. The lens offers a range of 24–624mm (35mm equivalent) and features a bright f/2.8 maximum aperture at the wide end. One can shoot RAW photographs and there is a hot shoe, both of which are important for advanced photographers who do not just want a regular superzoom camera.
Just like the X10, the camera has a complete full array of manual controls, in addition to the company’s proprietary EXR modes, which produce some fine results with either expanded dynamic range, improved resolution or noise performance.
The camera also has 17 Scene modes. The Advanced mode of the camera has three options. The Pro Focus mode helps isolate the subject, Pro Low-light shoots a burst of images at a high ISO and combines them, while the third option allows you make in-camera panorama images. This functionality is quite efficient, as one can make pranoramas of 120, 180 and 360 degrees.
The camera is quite fast, if you are not shooting in RAW. In the Burst mode, the XS-1 fires away at 7 JPEGs every second, and if you reduce the resolution to a respectable 6MP, you can shoot at 10fps.
Besides shooting Full HD video, you can use the camera to shoot some slow-motion footage as well. I personally liked the fact that one can use the Film Simulation modes on not just still photos, but also while shooting video.
As I was carrying the camera around my neck while using it, a lot of people assumed that I was using a DSLR. A majority of the body is covered with textured rubber. The camera is made of high grade plastic and reinforced with glass fibre. This gives an overall feel of a superbly crafted body that has been put together with great precision. It feels as secure as any DSLR, and probably, better than some of them, as well.
The overall length of the lens is just 4 inches at the wide end and the barrel extends further by 3 inches at the telephoto end of the zoom. The manual zoom ring is thick enough to hold for smooth operation. The manual focus ring placed behind the zoom ring is much smaller in size. I believe that the design would have been more intuitive if the MF ring was ahead of the zoom ring. One more thing I would want to mention here is the lack of a zoom lock. Lens creep is quite prominent and while pointing the camera towards the ground, the lens would keep extending downwards on its own. The manual zoom ring and tilting LCD are ergonomic boons.
The X-S1 offers more hands-on control than most superzoom cameras. I still believe that it is not as good as a DSLR. The buttons at the back of the camera are well spaced out. Five of these are situated on the left hand side of the LCD. I must say that the placement of these specific buttons is really helpful, especially when you are shooting on field.
While holding the camera with the right hand, these buttons can be easily operated with the left hand thumb to change ISO, AF mode or White Balance instantly. Commendably, there are also two Function buttons, both of which can be customised to provide access to any essential shooting features.
To the right of the electronic viewfinder is the movie-recording button. This can be operated with the right thumb. There is a small button next to the LCD display that allows you to swap the display between the LCD and EVF.
As you take your eye near the EVF, the LCD automatically switches off and the EVF comes to life. This automatic transition, however, is not as smooth and instantaneous as I would have liked it to be, and sometimes caused me to miss a shot.
Considering the large zoom range of the camera, I was curious to see how it performs. So, I used it to shoot a variety of subjects at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival. The focusing speed is quite good in good light, but it drops as the light levels fall or when you are trying to shoot at the maximum focal length.
The camera tracked moving subjects with good accuracy. But sometimes, the camera finds it difficult to look onto the subject, as the camera makes two or three attempts before locking on the subject. This problem is there in most superzoom cameras, and I think to overcome this, camera manufacturers need to incorporate a hybrid focusing system, similar to the one used in the Nikon 1 cameras.
To see how fast the camera shoots, I used a SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC UHS-I memory card. While capturing RAW + JPEG, the camera freezes for a while after capturing 4 shots. In terms of image quality, I was not impressed with the quality of JPEG photographs as the amount of detail captured is quite poor. However, the magic of this camera lies in the RAW files. The dynamic range is excellent, and far superior to other compact cameras, with the exception of the company’s own X10. Images up to ISO 1600 are easily usable, but beyond this, they lose sharpness. Noise is extremely well controlled. As expected, the lens exhibits visible barrel distortion at the wide end, but the distortion disappears at 40mm. Fringing and flare is very well controlled throughout the focal length. The lens exhibits best sharpness when used at f/5.6 and f/8.
While shooting with flash in some of my images shows lens barrel shadow. This was disappointing, considering the camera is supposed to optimise the flash for use along with the lens. As mentioned in our X100 and X10 reviews, Fujifilm has really perfected the flash, which fills in light without looking artificial at all. That said, I found the Flash Exposure Compensation range of +1 and -1EV to be very narrow.
When I first found out that the camera costs as high as Rs. 59,999, I was wondering what to think. This is, by far, the most expensive camera with a sensor that is only 2/3-inch—it is not even as big as the 1-inch sensor found in the Nikon 1 cameras. But then, the dynamic range of the sensor is exceptional and a lot of people do not need to shoot beyond ISO 1600.
This is where one must say that the camera caters to a very specialist audience— travel photographers who want a do-it-all camera that is lightweight but still delivers with sturdy build and solid performance, would love the X-S1. For the others, you can either compromise on the sensor and buy a regular superzoom camera, or simply avoid the excess zoom and buy an interchangeable-lens camera.
Fast lens at wide angle, TTL-flash
Excellent RAW quality, weak JPEG engine
Solid build, flimsy memory card slot door
Tilting LCD screen, rubberised outer shell
Warranty & Support
Wide service network across the country
Value For Money: 2.5/5 stars
Who Should Buy It?
Photographers who want totravel light, without the bulk of several lenses.
The X-S1 is the only superzoom camera in the worldto have a large 2/3-inch sensor, which ensures good imagequality at high ISOs and excellent dynamic range.
Tags: Shridhar Kunte, Superzoom, Advanced Compact Camera, Raw, march 2012, fujifilm xs-1, fujifilm x-s1, x series, finepix, x10, x100, x pro 1, TTL Flash, 26x Zoom