Today I’d like to take you on a tour of the Fuji X-S1, and highlight some of the features I like most about the camera. Whilst the larger than normal sensor and the flexibility of that incredible lens are the two stand out specs, there’s a whole load more to the Fuji than those. The camera is boasts some significant improvements on the Fuji HS10 that I’d owned, and also compared to the Olympus Pen Micro Four Thirds camera I’ve been using for the past year.
Firstly though, let’s check out that sensor. I can’t really take a photo of it, but here’s a useful sensor size comparison chart to give you an idea of what is hiding behind the lens. It’s obviously no where near as big as a DSLR sensor, and is just a quarter the size of the one in my Olympus. But the 2/3″ unit is significantly bigger than the standard 1.2/3″ sensor in most compacts. It’s also a useful bit bigger than what you’ll find in some of the premium ‘large sensor/fast lens’ compacts such as the Canon s100.
Next, I’d like you to check out the EVF on the camera. I’ve had a few compacts with an EVF before. They’ve been utterly useless, and that includes the HS10. You squint and strain, and can just about make out what it’s seeing…and then you go and use the LCD on the back of the camera. And never bother looking through the EVF again. I’ve often wondered why they even bother putting one on there. Equally, I’ve become so used to using the LCD to frame my shots over the years, and found it so easy, that I’d also wondered why DSLR users still raise the viewfinder to their eye.
But I wonder no more. The Fuji’s EVF is a superb unit, comfortable on the cheekbone, and providing a magnificent view of what’s ahead. DSLR viewfinders will be better still, but this unit is not only actually usable, which is a minor miracle for a compact/bridge cam, but a pleasure to use. I have found myself automatically lifting the camera to my eye – by using the viewfinder I shut out all other lights and sights and distractions and focus on framing the shot.
I’ve already seen significant improvements in my own output, with far less adjustments and rotations required in post processing. I don’t think I can emphasise enough just how much this will change, improve and, dare I say, even revolutionise the way I approach my photography. It’s something DSLR owners take for granted. It’s something us compact owning underlings have until now been unable to appreciate.
The camera does of course still have an LCD. Is it redundant? Not at all. Being a swivel out unit, it’s great for taking candid lap level shots or for using close to ground level. It’s also great for overhead shots in crowds. When viewing photos you’ve taken it’s also the better option, and of course it’s still the best way to navigate the menu system – it’s pretty tough to see all the buttons when your eye is up against the viewfinder. It’s not the highest quality LCD on the market, but it’s more than good enough and provides a good quality image on the screen. I will appreciate this – the low res LCD was one of the Olympus Pen’s weak points. I generally had to wait to get home to find out what sort of shots I’d taken.
Next up, let’s have a look at the lens. It’s not the longest on the market, but it is nonetheless a magnificent, class leading beast. I love the manual zoom ring. The HS10 also had this, but on the X-S1 the movement is so much smoother and feels so much more certain. Behind the zoom ring is a narrow ring at the back for manual focus. On the HS10, it was a gimmick. Neither the EVF nor LCD were good enough to be sure you’d actually focused correctly, so it became redundant – you had to rely on the camera’s autofocus. The brilliant EVF on the X-S1, however, means that the manual zoom ring is now a valuable addition to the feature set.
The lens itself is a very bright f2.8 at the wide angle end, and the Super Macro setting allows you to focus on an object just 1cm away. Then you can switch modes and zoom out to catch a passing dot in the sky and identify exactly what airline it is. Awesome flexibility. That is what owning a bridge camera should all be about. Fun to use, ready for any occasion and reasonably portable. The Fuji X-S1 does all that buts throws in a great build quality and great image quality too.
But there’s more. As you’ll have noticed in the first photo and the one above, there’s a ton of buttons on the Fuji. This is a good thing. Whilst some camera manufacturers are trying ever harder to remove buttons for a cleaner look, burying the usability of the camera in a myriad of menus, the Fuji goes the opposite route. The buttons mean you can set the camera up quickly and get shooting. The buttons are all clearly labelled and have already become second nature.
The only things hidden away in the depths of the camera are the electronics you don’t need to know about. I won’t blast you all with a million figures regarding the performance of the X-S1, but suffice it to say that Fuji designed this to be a class leading camera in every way. The start up times, speed of auto focus and continuous shooting abilities exceed other compacts and even match some DSLR’s. Enough said. For now. I have more posts planned. Shooting Modes. Low Light Performance. Super Macro. Super Zoom. And more. Stay tuned!