Review for members ~ The first 100 days with the Fuji X-s1 camera …
I have written this photo-magazine-style ... hope it goes okay with you
Background to this review-
After 40+ years of SLR film cameras I went digital around a decade ago with the Fuji S-5000. With 3mpx and a zoom lens of 10x optical zoom, its burst operation was 5fps but after 6 years & 90,000 exposures the on-off switch failed, so that was the end of that. During the life of the above Fuji, I obtained a Panasonic FZ30 of 8mpx used for magazine work. With a larger sensor and a 12x zoom lens from Leica, it was superb. After 5years or so, it went to a digital camera beginner.
In the belief that an APS sensor camera would give me a significant improvement in image quality, I purchased a Pentax Kx with a couple of Sigma APO zoom lenses to replace the Panasonic FZ30. While the Pentax did provide significantly better sensor performance than the 5-year old FZ30, none of the 3- Sigma lenses was as sharp as the Leica lens.
So we come to the Fuji X-s1 as a replacement for the Pentax & its multiple lenses. It is a camera that I have come to love despite its shortcomings. It is versatile and powerful and most importantly, it works for me.
EXIF = image-1... 1/420s @ f3,6; 24mm; iso-100 -image-2 ... 1/180s @ f4,5; 140mm; iso100
Why the X-s1?
I have waited for a new superzoom camera with larger-than-usual sensor to effectively replace the Panasonic FZ30 and this camera does that and a lot more. The camera is slightly bigger & heavier than the FZ30 and is similar in size & weight to the Pentax Kx with an 18-200mm lens attached. The 'however' is that the 26x zoom lens on the X-s1 lens is equivalent to 18-475mm on an APS-sensor dSLR camera.
I was pleased that Fuji chose to downsize the megapixels in this sensor – from 16mpx in other cameras to 12mpx in this camera. I am one of many who believe that 10 or 12 megapixels is more than enough for 99% of everyday users.
ps- all images shown here have the lens mm settings as indicated in the lens barrel ... ie 24-624mm full-frame equivalent.
1- Ergonomics & the camera body score 10/10
The overall size and shape of the camera is very similar to most consumer dSLR cameras. The camera body is nicely balanced and easy to hold. It has the usual collection of buttons readily available to alter things like ISO, WB, EV, AF, Burst and Focus method. The auto switching from eyepiece to LCD as I move away from the eyepiece works well, and the “live-view” mode puts to shame every dSLR's live view [cameras that I have seen].
The lens barrel has a heavy-ribbed rubber-like coating that feels good under the fingers. It rotates with perfect ease, no rough or sticky bits and along with the manual focus ring, they both do their jobs very efficiently. The built-in Image Stabilisation works extremely well – being able to easily hand-hold and get sharp images at 400mm to 600mm is great.
2- Lens score 10/10
The lens sharpness and overall image quality is one that I enjoy and make extensive use of. While media reviews of superzoom lenses seem to concentrate upon colour fringing and a minor drop in sharpness at long-lens settings, for me, whatever issues may be there are irrelevant when compared with the extreme versatility of the lens as a whole.
Tests that I have conducted with comparison images at a stated [film camera equivalent] 50 – 100 – 200 – 500mm all show excellent sharpness – at least as good as the Pentax & 18-125 & 70-300mm Sigma APO lenses referred to earlier. Considering that the area of the APS sensor is about 7x larger than the X-s1's CMOS sensor, the APS sensor / Sigma APO zoom lens combination does not display results any better than the X-s1.
Prints from X-s1 shots that I have taken in recent weeks then made up to 10 x 15inch prints are clear and sharp, while 20 x 30inch prints are easily achieved and still are sharp under close scrutiny.
EXIF = image-3 ... 1/180s @ f5,6; 625mm; iso-100 [subject was about 12m away]
EXIF = image-4 ... 1/450s @ f7,1; 500mm; iso-100 [subjects were about 1000 feet up in the sky - note the guy ropes from skydiver to chute]
3- EVF / LCD screen score 10/10
The EVF is magic – extremely clear to the eye, very responsive in both bright and low light and no pixellation whatever in the viewfinder. After a decade of using EVF viewfinders I would never consider returning to the SLR optical viewfinder. In low light – eg- indoors at home or at a restaurant, or city streets an night, the EVF viewfinder is in its element. For black-sky star trails it is no different from an dSLR which also has trouble seeing the stars – it necessitates several trial exposures to double-check focus before starting the star trails long exposure sequence.
4- P-A-S-M and EV+/- operations score 9/10
Overall I would say that the P-A-S-M operations are very good. When selecting A or S or M via the shooting mode dial, the rotation of a second knob alongside the first whizzes the shutter speeds &/or apertures up or down. When adjusting EV values with the EV +/- button pressed, the same rotary knob is used to alter exposures via a very clear scale in the viewfinder. In P-A-S modes, the shutter speed range as per the light meter is 4secs to 1/4000sec. Manual operation allows exposures down to 30 seconds before going to Bulb.
5- Exposure & image colour score 9/10
Exposure accuracy is great – there have been very few images discarded due to incorrect exposure issues. Even though image colour is very pleasing in the camera's default-colour mode, I have set it to Vivid as I like a bit of 'spice' with my images. Although the menu options for the sensor to alter saturation, noise, hardness etc are all there, the sensor seems to provide great images out-of-the box.
6- ISO Performance score 9/10
The X-s1 performs extremely well to 800-ISO and very acceptably to 3200-ISO. [I well remember push-processing Kodak High Speed Ektachrome to 1600 and its results were more grainy than the noise of today's digital cameras] The camera's excellent performance to 800-ISO means that I can now set ISO as Auto (800) for all day-to-day shooting. It's interesting to watch the EVF display as it offers me speed & aperture information coupled to whatever ISO is deemed appropriate at the time.
EXIF = image-5 ...1/4s @ f3,2; 45mm; iso-1600 [hand held]
EXIF = image-6 ... 1/6s @ f4,0; 100mm; iso-12,800 [hand held]
7- Focus operation score 3/10
The autofocus operation is one area where the camera's response is poor - something I note that other Fuji “X” series camera owners also raise. Often I will be aiming at a subject and the camera will focus [and double-beep] instantly … then a minor sweep sideways to something alongside and even after 6-8-10 attempts, the camera is unable to focus - and if anything, the focus gets worse & worse as though the focus-sensor is going the wrong way and is hopelessly lost. Please don't mis-read this text … for 95 out of 100 images, the focus clicks 'on' quickly and easily, but it so often seems that the missing 5/100 are annoyingly frustrating when the damn camera refuses to focus. .
8- Burst score 8/10
Burst operation is another area where I have made a great discovery - The X-s1 is the first camera I have had that can write faster than the cards I had available. Updating to a Class-10 card the camera now literally flies - I get 15 frames in 1-1/2 seconds before the buffer slows things down.
9- AEL / AFL button score 10/10
I use the AEL button regularly with panorama images ~ after aligning the camera on the tripod and checking the side-to-side sweep, I centre the camera and lock the exposure with the AEL button before commencing a series of 9 to 15 exposures. I am extremely pleased to find this button works so well – it was one of my constant gripes with the Pentax that even though the AEL button was activated, the Pentax self-cancelled exposure settings at all sorts of inconvenient times, forcing me to go to full-Manual every time I wanted to create a panorama.
10- AF Focus choice button score 5/10
On the camera's back panel are the usual set of shortcut buttons – the AF button however does not have all the options as available via the camera's main menu. Pressing the AF button displays a 7 x 7 focus-point grid and via the back panel arrow buttons all I can do is meander the focus point around the screen. I am unable to alter the focus modes of centre-weighted vs multi vs full screen vs tracking a moving subject – for this I must enter the menu system. This I consider a poor decision on Fuji's part as its mating button for exposure immediately goes to spot or multi or full screen.
Overall score = 83/100
Recommended for others?
Yes, very definitely, but the target user needs to be properly considered beforehand. I would strongly recommend the Fuji X-s1 to anyone wanting a powerful all-in-one camera where one avoids the issues of lens-swapping etc. The ergonomics are good, feature set is all there and despite the issues I refer to above, it is a great camera. I believe that it is very suitable for travellers who want a fine performing camera weighing in at under 1kg with a good and very capable lens & exposure system.
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A bit about me...
Phil Jones lives has been a keen photographer for over 50 years. He has been active in camera clubs in both Melbourne and Canberra, and has exhibited his photographs at both camera club level and national exhibitions of photography, and has staged exhibitions of his work in Canberra. He has conducted adult education in photography since the mid 1970s and has been prominent at the Adult Education campus of the Canberra for many of those years.
Phil 'retired' in 2006 and now travels Australia enjoying photographing this beautiful country and its people. He has taken his old , revamped them to suit non- students and now offers digital photography short and weekend workshops to rural and outback Australians. He and his partner now travel eastern Australia in a comfortable motorhome for 6 to 8 months each year. Home these days is a small coastal community on the New South Wales north coast about 300km north of Sydney.
Phil's "Travelling School of Photography" is a proud sponsor of Aus Photography