On Fujifilm’s new X100S…

X100S
Image Courtesy of Fujifilm

David: News of Fujifilm’s new X100S, a seminal update to the venerable game changer (IMHO) hit the web a few hours earlier than the NDA scheduled due to a uhmmm… accidental leak on Fuji’s UK website (riiiigghhht), but rumors of it have been floating around the net a few days before, so it wasn’t a complete shocker to me.

But what a camera…. what an update. Rather than go through all the specs laboriously one by one (other sites do it better, e.g. Fuji’s own X-series website), as a X100 fan and active user, I want to highlight the key features of this update which may have eluded those of you unfamiliar with the X100. This is NOT a news update, but think of it as my ode to one of the most enjoyable cameras I’ve ever used. So, here goes…..

That AF system

The most welcoming change to the X100 as a camera is the updated AF system. With phase detect sensors embedded in the new X-Trans II 16 megapixel CMOS sensor, and new modes of manual focusing, the X100S promises the world’s fastest auto focus, though the disclaimer text puts it as fastest among fixed lens APS-C sensor cameras. While that claim doesn’t impress me (the original X100 being fast enough for me after a series of firmware updates) this does indicate to me a company who is willing to listen and address the major bugbear of the original X100. More importantly, they have also

  • included focus peaking to aid manual focus
  • included a revolutionary (in today’s digital camera terms) a digital split image manual focusing system reminiscent of yesteryear’s SLR split image system (though not the same as typical rangefinder type split image focusing) *Edit: I do think this is only available with the EVF, a pity. I hope they can update the firmware to project the focusing rectangle even in the OVF mode.
  • sped up the manual focus ring response so that it wouldn’t require 10,000 turns to move the focus by an inch…..

That’s a whole host of AF and MF improvements. I’m a rabid X100 fan, and even though I use it far less often now, due to me acquiring an M9, I still think the original X100 heralded in a new era of the old days (an oxymoron in itself) – the old days where dials can be operated by feel instead of settings being changed by poking on touch screens; the old days where the rangefinder window provides an uninterrupted view of the world without mirror blackout; the old days where the aesthetics of camera inspires as much as the actual functionality.

The new X100S promises improvements to the major bugbear of the original camera, the AF system, and this alone shows Fuji is listening to its customers. To be honest, after all the firmware updates, I do not find anything amiss with the AF and I’ve learnt to use the camera in a variety of situations, in OVF mode and not miss any focus. A lot of of the complaints from users were also due a lack of understanding of the possible parallax errors that comes with a non through the lens viewing system.

This is not the place to do a dissertation on the use of the AF system but what I wanted to state is, the original X100 was a great pleasure to use and AF problems can be overcome if one takes the time to master it. That the X100S makes further improvements to the AF system is a HUGE bonus.

That Sensor

There wasn’t anything wrong with the 12mp CMOS sensor in the original X100, which delivered beautiful files all the way from ISO 200 to 1600, and even at ISO 3200, colors remain faithful. I have no issues with using it at even ISO 6400. Fuji promises to improve this further with the use of their new X-Trans sensor, a version II apparently, with embedded phase detect sensors and coming in at 16 megapixels. The questions on most people’s minds are

  • What is the RAW support going to be like for the new X-Trans sensor?
  • Will they have the same color smearing issues in foliage under certain conditions as those of the X-Pro1 and XE-1?
  • How long must we wait for proper RAW support for our favorite RAW converters?

It’s a risk that Fuji is taking with the X-Trans sensor, but I just saw a tweet from @thefujiguys that Fuji has given all the necessary information to Adobe (and presumably all other companies) for supporting the X-Trans sensor so there should be no more excuses. The increase of another popular X-Trans camera will also add pressure to the software companies to get their act together.

Other Improvements

Numerous other small touches promises to make the X100S shooting experience between sweeter including

  • re-purpose of the RAW button as a “Q” button for quick menu access (though for the original X100, the button has already been re-purposed through a firmware update)
  • the swapping of the AF button with the “Drive” button, for more direct access to change AF points.
  • more tactile feel for the “OK” button

I can’t wait for it to be released!

 

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