This update of the celebrated X100 has faster AF and a larger sensor
After achieving near-instant cult status with its rangefinder homage, the X100, Fujifilm had to tread lightly in designing the follow-up model. Fiddle too much with success of this fixed-lens compact camera, and risk alienating the many photographers who loved the original. That original, though, left considerable room for improvement: sluggish autofocus by today’s standards, manual focusing that didn’t really feel like a rangefinder’s, and some camera functions buried deep in the menus.
With the X100S ($1,300, street), Fujifilm has addressed with aplomb most of the issues we had with its predecessor. Of particular note is the addition of phase-detection AF sensors embedded in its imaging sensor (an approach that has been gaining favor ever since Nikon introduced it in its System 1 cameras). Fujifilm points to this as one of the reasons for the increased AF speed in the X100S compared with the X100. These phase-detection sensors are also employed during manual focusing to allow for a new visual aid, dubbed Digital Split Image. This mimics the split-image area found in rangefinders and many film-era SLR finder screens.
Also of note is the 16.3MP APS-C-sized X-Trans CMOS II sensor used in the X100S. The X100 had a 12.3MP CMOS sensor using a conventional Bayer color filter array instead of the X-Trans array Fujifilm created for its X-Pro 1 and XE-1 camera bodies. The increased resolution pays off nicely, as we discovered when we ran the X100S through our battery of lab tests.
In the Test Lab
The boost in resolving power that the new sensor brings was just enough for the X100S to earn top honors in our resolution test. The camera served up 2525 lines per picture height at ISO 200 when we converted shots of our test target from RAW to 16-bit TIFFs using the special version of SilkyPix software that ships with the X100S. (Like the X100, it allows the option of ISO 100 only with JPEG capture. Here, the camera achieved 2550 lines, its best resolution result.)
The result at ISO 25,600—also JPEG only—was 2140 lines, and marked the X100S’ lowest resolution in our test. At ISO 6400, the highest setting at which you can shoot RAW images, it resolved 2310 lines. Compared with its predecessor, the X100S gains 200 to 300 lines across its standard range of sensitivity—a noticeable improvement.
In our color accuracy test, the X100S showed an average Delta E of 6.0 (essentially the same as its predecessor), easily earning an Excellent rating.
But when it comes to noise, the extra pixels in the X100S might be seen as a detriment. At every standard ISO, the images converted from RAW resulted in higher noise than we saw in its predecessor. Furthermore, the camera kept noise to acceptable levels only up to ISO 1600, one stop less than the X100 did. The X100S managed to keep noise to a Low or better rating up to ISO 400, our cutoff for maintaining an Excellent rating in overall image quality, which also requires Excellent ratings in both resolution and color accuracy. Coincidentally, ISO 400 is also the highest ISO where the X100S retains enough resolution for an Excellent rating. At ISO 800 resolution was 2450 lines (for an Extremely High rating) and noise scored 2.3 (for a Moderately Low rating).
In the Field
While it looks nearly identical to its predecessor, the X100S proved even more pleasing to use. The hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder has been upgraded to a 2,350,000-dot LCD EVF. While this stutters a bit during burst capture, it’s not much of an issue with this camera, which we don’t see being used often for rapid-fire shooting. The optical finder shows an overlaid bright frame to indicate the edge of the image area; other info, such as an exposure-compensation scale, shutter speed, and ISO, surround this frame. Meanwhile, a small box inside the bright frame indicates the location of the AF point. If you notice the frame guide shifting when you’re focused on objects very close to you, don’t be alarmed. That’s just the camera adjusting for parallax error. Trust the framelines, and your pictures will turn out composed as you intended.
While the metal chassis and magnesium-alloy top and bottom plates carry over from the X100, a couple of buttons are different. The RAW button on the X100 has been replaced with a Q button that lets you access the very useful quick menu. The AF button that used to be to the left of the LCD has been swapped with the drive function and now occupies the up position on the four-way controller, located to the right of the screen. Since you use the four-way controller to select the desired AF point, this makes a lot of sense and proved faster to use in our field tests. There is still no dedicated button for ISO, but you can change it through the quick menu. Or, you can do as we did and assign it to the tiny function button to the right of the shutter-release button. As we did with the X100, we left this button assigned to ISO for nearly our entire field testing.
In our test of the X100, we criticized the camera for behaving more like a point-and-shoot than an advanced compact in certain functions. For instance, it would let you use the self-timer for only one shot before reverting to non-timed capture. That’s no longer the case. The menus are now grouped into numerous tabs on the left of the LCD screen, making it fairly easy to find whatever you might want to adjust. And though it’s now easily accessible in the quick menu, we appreciate that Fujifilm placed the self-timer atop the first menu page.