FUJIFILM X-S1 A BRIDGE TOO FAR

 24mm 624mm

As the digital years roll by and camera manufacturers update, refine and replace their offerings at an alarmingly quick rate, it becomes increasingly difficult to find anything negative to say about their products. Weall had plenty of time to get used to the digital way of things, plenty of time to give feedback on what is and isnso good about a particular cameramake-up. Along with advances in technology, manufacturers have listened and adapted their cameras to the changes required by both the professional and the casual photographer. FujiFilm seem to be on a bit of a roll at the moment with their X100 and X-Pro1 offerings, causing quite a buzz among advanced and professional photographers —the X-Pro1 in particular being lauded as a genuine alternative to a high-end DSLR. Which begs the question: where does the X-S1 fit into the grand scheme of things?

HANDLING

Well, it fits into my hands pretty well —more akin to an entry-level DSLR than a bridge camera of old with a nice weighty feel that is neither too heavy or too light —the nonslip rubberised coating feeling particularly secure, especially in this awful monsoon season we seem to be having. Again, like a DSLR therea nice array of buttons making changes to certain settings unlike the menu hunting pastime you find with compacts. Sticking with the externals, all the dials are machined metal and feel incredibly well made with a reassuring ’on each rotation.

The rubber grip on the lens is a rather pleasing addition making the transition from 24mm to 624mm and anywhere in between effortless, even while wearing gloves. The menus are intuitive and easily laid out —even for those of us who canbe bothered to look at the manual with the usual settings that are only found in the menus: image size, image quality, noise reduction, etc —you could argue that there are a tad too many tweaking options? For example, there are five different settings for the highlights and shadow tone ranging from soft to hard via medium soft, standard and medium hard. The same thing goes for sharpness, and as well as a few film simulation modes, colour can be tailored to similar adjustments. The film modes hark back to Fujifilm days with simulations of Velvia, Astia, and Provia, with further settings for sepia and mono. Okay, the vast majority of the tweaks are trial and error and after testing each variable thereprobably no need to re-visit. That said, at least it shows an attention to detail.

FEATURES

This attention to detail carries through with some rather nice features. Now, I must admit to not being a fan of electronic viewfinders —I would much rather see life with my own eyes rather than a digitised version. However, on this particular camera I cannot fault its clarity and although thereno doubt youlooking through an EVF, the effect isnas off-putting as I was expecting. One neat little trick is the eye sensor —basically the screen is a constant for menus and composing until you hold the camera to your eye when the EVF kicks in and the screen turns itself off, pure genius!

Battery performance didnseem to be effected by having either the EVF or screen in constant use, with plenty of power showing after a full dayshoot. The screen —while only possessing 460,000 dots —is bright and clear, making changes to functions, image composing, reviewing or recording video in HD a breeze, and while non-rotating it does pull out and tilt allowing high or low shooting. Thankfully touchscreen technology plays no part —unless camera screens can be made with the tactile quality and responsiveness of an iPhone/iPad, then itbest not to go down that particular road.

 attention detail

With a lens that has a massive 26x zoom, ranging from 24mm-624mm in 35mm terms, and a sensor sporting 12 megapixels, ithard to think of anything that FujiFilm has left off of this camera.

PERFORMANCE

Itrefreshing to see FujiFilm adopt a ’12 million pixel sensor rather than be dragged along in the megapixel race. 12 megapixels are more than enough, allowing fairly large prints, smaller file sizes and better ISO performance. And, to be honest, for upload to computer or holiday prints of 7x5 or 6x4, half the amount of pixels would suffice. The sensor itself is the new 2/3in EXR CMOS, slightly larger than youfind in a compact and slightly smaller than whatpresent in a DSLR. Who am I to argue?

What does seem to be evident is that therelittle to worry about when adopting a fairly high ISO. Yes, a slight mushiness does creep in above 800 and the highest settings lack definition, but itnothing to be too concerned about and can be improved when shooting in Raw. To be honest, every image can be improved if you choose to shoot in Raw —thatsomething indicative to all cameras not just this one —but thereenough in-camera adjustments and tweaks if youthe kind of photographer who just wants to press and upload or print from a JPEG without messing about for hours processing images.

Metering wise, therenothing to worry about with every picture displaying a healthy histogram —again, therecustom options with adjustments to shadows, highlights and dynamic range but I never felt the need to meddle. The X-S1 also boasts 7fps shooting at full resolution; drop to 6MP and achieve 10fps. While at 6MP —remember, this is still more than enough for a large image on a computer screen —Fuji has what they call Frame Capture Mode’, recording 16 frames of a moving object at 10fps, giving you the ability to choose the best still image from a recorded sequence.

VERDICT

If you were to simply go by price, the X-S1 sits squarely at the entry-level end of DSLRs and near the top of the high-end list of compacts. Handling wise it has all the bulky inconvenience of a DSLR without the lens swapping ability or quite the image quality. Performance wise it has many of the functions of a DSLR with a larger sensor than found in most compacts and, in theory, better images too. That huge focal range is an obvious bonus; going from 24mm to 624mm in just over a quarter of a nicely geared turn and the ability to focus as close as 1cm for macro duties, itdifficult to see a situation where youneed anything else. Okay, a 26x zoom trades a bit of quality for convenience, and on very close inspection images appear a little soft, but not so soft as to be of any consequence. The term Camera’has never been better suited —it really does bridge that gap between a compact and a DSLR. It looks and handles like a DSLR and can be used like one too, even in a studio environment, while at the same time has all the convenience of a point and shoot —no faffing with lens changing or having to carry a myriad of equipment around with you. Ita kind of buy and forget knowing that whatever you need to shoot the X-S1 is more than capable of returning impressive results with all the ease of a compact and very nearly all the quality of a DSLR. I would have liked to see some form of in-camera art filters: cross-process, holga, vintage, etc, to add a bit of fun but thata minor quibble and something that can be replicated in Photoshop. All in all, the X-S1 has all the bases covered.

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