Sunday, 6 January 2013

Analysis of the new Fuji X100S

The Fuji X100S promises performance to match the looks

So, now it's official.

Fuji's replacement for the X100 is with us in the shape of the modestly named Fuji X100S.

Here is my analysis(in underlined italics)of what they have and haven't done to improve the X100 with main features of the new camera taken from Fuji's own press release.

(1) Sensor performance comparable to full-frame output

The X100S features FUJIFILM’s newly-developed 16.3 megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor with a unique, highly randomised, colour filter arrangement. The benefit of the new array is the elimination of the need for an optical low-pass filter; these are used in conventional sensors to reduce false colour and moirĂ© effects but they also reduce image resolution. The removal of the optical low-pass filter allows the X-Trans CMOS II sensor to maximise the light it receives directly, enabling users to capture much finer detail and optimise resolution levels.
The X100S uses a Lens Modulation Optimiser to reduce optical effects such as lens diffraction, which occurs when light passes through a lens. Even when stopped down to f/16, the X100S retains sharpness and texture in the smallest details, demonstrating the extent of the sensor and lens combination’s capabilities, perfectly.
The excellent sensitivity of the X-Trans CMOS II sensor is coupled with the new EXR Processor II’s advanced signal processing capacity, which can reduce noise by more than 30% (*2) compared to its predecessor. Even when shooting in low-light, at a high ISO setting, the FUJIFILM X100S will produce crisp images with minimal grain.

For me at least, the outgoing Fuji X100 had enough megapixels, however
16.3 megapixel Trans CMOS II sensor looks very promising but also potentially very frustrating.
If like me you use third party raw processing software. Fuji needs to work more closely with the likes of Adobe and Phase One to ensure their files work in these widely used raw processors.
If they don't they could well lose out in the long term.

(2) The World’s fastest Auto Focus and High-speed EXR Processing
With built-in Phase Detection, the X100S offers the world’s fastest AF speed of just 0.08 seconds(*1). The Intelligent Hybrid AF can switch to Contrast AF, dependent on the demands of the subject or scene, to ensure that the camera always auto-focuses quickly and with precision.
The EXR Processor II delivers processing speeds twice that of FUJIFILM’s previous generation processor (*6). The fast responses result in an impressive start-up time of approx. 0.5 seconds (*4), and a shooting interval of 0.5 seconds. In addition the X100S delivers a burst shooting rate of up to 6 frames per second (max. 29 frames) at the full resolution of 16.3 megapixels and the shutter time lag is a mere 0.01 seconds.

At a stroke Fuji would seem to have addressed the number one drawback of the X100. IF these figures translate to a real world dramatic improvement in focusing speed and accuracy they will have made a giant leap forward.
All of this would seem to come from the EXR II processor, potentially giving the X100S the power which it's predecessor lacked, hobbling the camera in so many ways.

Let's hope that this processor lives up to the promise.

(3) Enhanced manual focus performance with the world’s first (*5) ‘Digital Split Image’ display
Making use of the built-in phase detection pixels for AF action, the X100S is the world’s first (*5) camera to offer a “Digital Split Image” feature, which displays dual images on the left and right to be lined up for manual focusing. This enables accurate focusing especially when working with an open aperture or macro shooting.
In addition, the X100S offers a handy Focus Peak Highlight function, which emphasises the outline of the subject focus plane. It provides the photographer with a guide, even in situations where it is difficult to calculate focusing accuracy, allowing users to enjoy manual focusing comfortably, however challenging the conditions.

In my experience 'focus by wire' is never a happy arrangement.

Fuji's options were limited on this front.

Short of an expensive ground up redesign of the entire camera, Fuji had to come up with something which made the best of the design they had.

Digital split image does sound very interesting, how it is implemented and how well it works remains to be seen.

I do use focus peaking on video camera's and it can be very useful, but you end up look at the LCD and not the image itself, divorcing you from the image taking process.

I know Sony use image peaking too and it may work well, but I need to get hands on before I am convinced.

(4) Premium Hybrid Viewfinder for easy image composition
Offering users freedom when composing photos and adaptability for a range of shooting conditions, the X100S’s Hybrid Viewfinder combines both an Optical and an Electronic Viewfinder.
The electronic viewfinder uses a 100% coverage, extra high resolution, 2,360K-dot High Definition LCD panel. It shows depth-of-field during macro shooting, as well as white balance settings, allowing users to accurately compose their shot while continuously looking through the viewfinder.
The premium quality optical viewfinder offers an easy-to-see magnification of 0.5 at a 23mm focal length and a horizontal apparent field of view of 26 degrees. The all-glass construction uses high-refractive index glass to minimise chromatic aberrations and distortion.
While in the optical viewfinder mode, users can make adjustments to shutter speed, aperture, ISO and other settings without having to take their eye off the viewfinder. The shooting frame (Bright Frame) and text brightness automatically adjust according to the ambient light available, to ensure that the information on the display is easy to see at all times.
The system features an OVF Power Save mode, which activates the power-saving function in the optical viewfinder mode to double the maximum number of images per full charge from 300 (*7) in normal operation.
With FUJINON’s proprietary coating, the viewfinder cleverly resists fingerprints and can easily be wiped clean, so that users can enjoy the optical viewfinder’s clear display without compromise.
Amen to that. No other manufacturer has come up with anything near as clever as the Fuji Hybrid viewfinder, and any refinements to this game changing feature can only be welcomed.
(5) FUJINON 23mm f/2 lens offering premium image quality in a compact body
Specifically designed for this model, the FUJINON 23mm f/2 Single Focal Length Lens has a fixed angle of incidence of light into the lens, which facilitates optimum optical design. Taking full advantage of this, the X100S demonstrates advanced levels of image clarity, not only in the centre of the image, but also through to the edges of the photo. The versatile focal length of 35mm (*8) delivers an angle of view ideal for a diverse range of subjects and scenes.
The lens consists of 8 elements in 6 groups, and includes a high-performance double-sided aspherical element and highly-refractive converging glass elements, which deliver a high level of detailed performance with minimal aberration, excellent sharpness and beautiful colour reproduction. Moreover, FUJINON's proprietary HT-EBC coating is applied to effectively control image flares and ghosting.
Other benefits of this lens are the beautiful, soft, round-shaped Bokeh that is produced from the 9 blade lens diaphragm. In addition the lens allows you to get as close as 10cm from your subject in macro mode for stunning close-up shots. And its built-in 3-stop ND filter enables blurring of the background in portraits, or applies a gorgeous creamy look to flowing water even in a bright setting.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.....

(6) Elegant design and sophisticated functionality
The front of the X100S proudly bares the letter “S” as confirmation of its extensive evolution from the FUJIFILM X100. Down to the tiniest detail, the premium build and feel of the X100 is continued in the X100S. FUJIFILM’s top quality Japanese engineering is evident from the high precision components used and the perfectly optimised body.
The X100S’s top and base parts are made of magnesium alloy to achieve a lightweight, resilient, yet delicate design. A specially-formulated coating is applied to give its surface a steel look for an added premium feel. All the dials and rings have been milled from solid metal, with attention paid to the finer details such as finger grips and enhanced operability. The exterior is finished with synthetic leather, which is durable and resilient to the environment yet reproduces the texture of real leather, while still offering the practical benefits of additional grip and comfort.
The layout of the dials and rings allow users to operate the aperture ring on the lens with their left hand, and the shutter speed dial and exposure compensation dial on the top panel with their right hand, meaning all the settings can be adjusted comfortably without having to take your eye off the viewfinder. And to make you feel even more at home, you can even customise your shutter sound by choosing between the four different sounds available: Lens Shutter, Focal Plane Shutter, Mirror Up and Silent Shutter.
The menu system has been also updated to incorporate a Q “Quick” button which allows you to quickly call up frequently-used menu items such as ISO setting and Film Simulation modes. In addition, the Fn (Function) button allows users to assign functions frequently used while shooting, for convenient use at the touch of a button.

By sticking with the quite lovely X100 body, which must have cost a pretty penny to engineer, they have preserved one of the camera's strongest features - a look and feel that eludes most volume camera manufacturers.
That no other manufacturer has followed them is quite baffling.
Imagine a super high spec Canon or Nikon version built around one of their gorgeous rangefinder camera's from the 1950's or 1960's.
It would sell by the truckload without having to slug it out in the market place with the endless and bland mirrorless offerings.

(7) Artistic photography

The X100S features FUJIFILM's proprietary 'Film Simulation Modes'. Users can choose from ten simulation options which replicate the results achieved by FUJIFILM colour reversal films (Velvia / PROVIA / ASTIA), professional colour negative films (PRO Neg. Std / PRO Neg. Hi), monochrome filters (MONOCHROME, Ye filter, R filter and G filter) and SEPIA.
Also available on the X100S is the Advanced Filter function; users can choose from 8 different artistic effects which can be previewed on the LCD screen:
Pop Colour - great for boosting contrast and colour saturation
Toy Camera - create shaded borders as if you were taking a photo on a toy camera
Miniature - adds top and bottom blur for a diorama or miniature effect
Dynamic Tone - create a fantasy effect by dynamically-modulated tonal reproduction
Partial Colour – highlights one colour and leaves the rest of the image in black and white (choose from red, orange, yellow, green, blue or purple)
High Key - enhances brightness and reduces contrast to lighten tonal reproduction
Low Key – create uniformly dark tones with few areas of emphasised highlights.
Soft Focus – blurs the focus of the image edges to create a softer effect
In addition a Multiple Exposure function enables users to combine two separate images together for special creative effects. And for greater artistic freedom, the aspect ratio can be selected from 3:2, 16:9, and 1:1 (square) to accommodate a wide range of photographic styles.

Whatever floats you boat I suppose.....a feature set which will appeal to a few but will not have troubled the R&D budget.

(8) Full HD Video Shooting
The X100S can shoot at 60fps during Full HD video recording (1920 x 1080) for very smooth video capture. Plus shooting at the high bit-rate of 36Mbps will result in reduced noise and enhanced image quality that reveals every detail, from individual leaves in the trees, to subtle changes in facial expression. During video recording, users have access to many of the additional modes available in still image capture. Film Simulation modes can be used, White Balance settings can be adjusted, you can even make the most of the fast lens to produce beautiful bokeh and also operate the Intelligent Hybrid AF for high-speed and high-precision focusing.

I have never shot video in the 'real world' with an X100, but doubtless some will.

60fps at 1920x1080, at a comparatively high bit rate of 35Mbps.

What we can draw from this data however is that the X100S processor/sensor is combo packs quite a punch.

(9) FUJIFILM X100S Key features list:
· 16.3 megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor
· EXR Processor II
· High Definition Hybrid Viewfinder (OVF / EVF)
· FUJINON 23mm f/2 lens
· Intelligent Hybrid AF (with the world’s fastest AF speed of 0.08 secs (*1))
· Start-up time of 0.5 secs (*4)
· Shutter time lag of 0.01 secs
· Shooting interval of 0.5 secs
· High-contrast and wide viewing-angle 2.8-inch Premium Clear LCD (460K dots)
· Super Intelligent Flash
· Burst shooting rate of up to 6 frames per second at full resolution (max. 29 frames)
· Focus Peak Highlight function
· Digital Split Image display
· Artistic filters
· Full HD movie recording (60fps / 30fps)

My Final Assessment

The Fuji X100S is evolutionary not revolutionary and is all the better for it I would say, and though I reserve full judgement until I have used one in a 'real world' situation, I reckon Fuji may well have pulled it off and have at last given their special little camera the wings to fly.


ohnostudio said...

All that art filter stuff - I honestly wish they would leave that stuff off. More crap we really don't need.

The design - yes I love that body. As for Canon and Nikon, from Canon we got the EOS M which Canon had slipped up and admitted it is a Girlie Cam

From Nikon we got that abomination that is the Nikon 1 series, and they've just released another version. I have been hoping Nikon would come to their senses about this for years. When I wrote on a board a few years back that I would love a Nikon FF small body like Leica with no shit on it, everyone laughed. Now with the introduction of things like the Sony RX1, everybody wants one.

On 60fps video - I've got to see it - the only stellar slow mo I've seen is from the Phantom.

Focus Peaking - wish my lowly first gen PEN cameras had it. It's sort of like going into Adobe Raw and having Clipped Highlights turned on. Only for edges. All depends on how they implement it.

On upgrades in general - no one twists your arm here. But we have this "gotta have it" culture now that just makes people crazy.

My own mirrorless purchase for this year will be the Oly OM-D EM-5. I love my first gen PEN cameras, I just need that little bit more in low light because with the old PENs I am really tempting fate at 1600 when shooting C Mount lenses low light. There are rumors of an OM-D successor soon, and I don't even care. I'm done with the upgrade mania myself and will only buy things that have been positively defined as useful to me.

You have a glorious evening. Only almost 1530 here in NY and things are grey, dank, gloomy. No sun today. Glad you found the release link I sent useful.

Drew Gardner said...

Hi Libby

Good points.

The 60 Fps is by no means super slow mo, but isa good barometer of the data thorough put of the sensor/processor combo.

You have called the Eos-M right.

If Canon had gone with their hearts and not the market research it would have been a different story I think.

I have not used a Nikon 1 but know people who have who share your view, personally I have never used a small Nikon which I liked.

OM-D is nice looking camera and some of their mirror less offerings have been compelling, let me know how you get on.

Wise words on the pointless upgrade mania by the way...



Unknown said...

Hi, I just hope it keeps the leaf shutter from the previous incarnation! The ability to flash synch at 1/4000th (f8) is the icing on a frustrating but addictive cake. I see no mention of ND filters and aperture/shutter speed combos so I assume they are the same as the x100.

I hoped for a tele version too, might try the x20 for that.

Drew, will you be making the upgrade? Do you find yourself cropping the x100 images much? I am a bit worried about the RAW conversion, how bad do you see the problem as being?

Pretty sure the upgrade is worth it for the amount I use this camera and the X system is still evolving, probably buy into that later but the leaf shutter is still a stand out feature for me.



Unknown said...

PS: I do rather hope they fix how the camera performs burst mode, I would rather it worked like every other good camera, and the way they play back!

ohnostudio said...

Drew and Mr Unknown: All kinds of Fuji goodness over at APUK for you

Even if I don't intend to buy, I always dissect the stuff a bit, especially if I own a previous generation of the camera. Enjoy!

ohnostudio said...

PS And the requisite stuff at DPReview too, but this line item intriqued me

Know what? The smart ones know if they need FF or not, just as the MF people know when to go that route. I think the that they even addressed this in such a fashion is freaking hilarious! I guess Full Frame is the new marketing buzz phrase.

Unknown said...

Lens size. The APS-C quality is fine for me for a lot of my favourite photography. Full frame just increases the lens size and weight. The RX1 is a nice technical exercise but a 90mm or 14mm lens would be massive despite Sony's wizardry. Plus DSLRs do full frame so well, I would rather compact fast lenses for lightweight photography.

Although if Fuji made a leaf shutter fixed 80mm MF digital camera for sensible(ish) money....

ohnostudio said...

That's why I referred to it as market buzz in a way. Canikon is in a full frame frenzy. I still like my DX cameras, but I know when I need to go FF. And I oh so love the MF look and I get to borrow one when I need it, but it's not the best solution for absolutely everything.

Drew Gardner said...

With reference to the full frame comment by the guy from Fuji I'm tempted to say 'he would say that wouldn't he?'

Full frame MIGHT give some benefits but the bottom line is that the APS C sensor is good enough.

I would go as far to say that I have never hankered for a full frame sensor in the X100, just a full feature set that actually worked when I wanted it to.


Good old Clive said...

Re third party RAW convertors, some have tried adobe dng convertor before import to lightroom with X-Pro1 files, apparntently it cures most of the problems concerning colour smearing. Try it it's free.

Drew Gardner said...

Hey Clive

Thanks for the tip.

It does sound like a solution but not perhaps an ideal one.

I maintain that in this very competitive market place Fuji will suffer in the long term if they don't work a little more closely with the third party software manufacturers like Adobe and Phase One.



Good old Clive said...

Agreed Drew. Personally the sensor, camera design, layout and image quality appeal to me so much I'm willing to overlook the present problems, at the same time let's hope they sort it for the sake of further development.

Drew Gardner said...

Hey Clive,

Me too, when all is said and done it is still my most used camera.


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Thanks very much for this interesting post. Wating for the next one ! .......Photographers in NJ

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