Monday, June 11, 2012

Fuji X-S1 Review – Part 1 – The Arrival

I was not expecting anything from Fuji this week. Yet today Mr. FedEx arrived with another huge box containing the now-ubiquitous transport case of another new Fuji camera. The X-S1 was next up and that’s what I found in the case.

Interestingly, someone at Fuji (strictly speaking, MSL) has an impressive sense of humour, decorating the case with airline tags and stickers. FUJI AIRWAYS is the name of the airline and the cargoe flew “X-CLASS” from Kenya to Toronto apparently. Hyuk hyuk hyuk …

So once I got over chuckling at the clever décor, I opened the case to find a return waybill (these have been missing the last two times so I’m pleased to have it there) and the X-S1 manual and camera (and case candy of course.)

The camera itself is surprisingly chunky, looking rather similar to the D7000 with a smallish lens on.

It has a very nice feel in the hand (but there are issue, which I will get to shortly) and it has a lovely feel on the lens. Very smooth focus ring and very smooth zoom, although there is a very slight tendency for friction to build a bit.

I took it outside and shot a few garden images, as is my wont. I set it up as I always set up EXR cameras and processed from RAF in Lightroom 4.1. The results are quite lush – I have to say that the image quality is very nice.

Here, my green pool has really cleared up in only two days since I opened it. A bottle of shock and a bottle of clarifier really do the job. Last year I was much less aggressive and it took two weeks to get to this point.

Fuji X-S1  100iso  f/6.4  1/170  A-Prio  24.4mm  EFL                         (CLICK IMAGE to see 1000px version)

The bokeh at full zoom (634mm, just short of the HS25 and HS30) is very smooth when shooting macro. Here, what I think is a dogwood is blooming at the end of the pool.

fuji x-s1  800iso  f/6.4  1/500  634mm efl

This shot of my Canadian Anemone shows the nice white flowers and the excellent foliage. These things grow 1 foot tall and will squeeze out almost any other species until stopped by a sidewalk or a wall. Very nice for this location.

fuji x-s1  800iso  f/6.4  1/250  634mm efl

The Hansa rose continues to bloom. This is a hardy and prolific rose that is native to Canada. What I like about these is that the blooms look a bit like roses with all the ruffles etc. Or maybe Carnations :-)

fuji x-s1  160iso  f/6.4  1/250  634mm efl

There is no lack of detail in these shots, despite the relatively high ISO. So macro mode works very well as it did with the HS25. Focus is much better with this camera, although it is not perfect. It still misfires the odd time when the light is a bit low.

What I like

  • Solid feeling camera with good heft
  • Very clear EVF (infinitely better than that on the HS25)
  • Smooth zoom rings
  • Lots of controls
  • RAF

What I am not so fond of so far

  • The lens really does wiggle at full zoom, a lot
  • The write speed is a little pokey for a high end camera
  • the thumb falls very naturally on the video button (WTF?) instead of the AE-AF Lock button, which requires a cramped hand position to reach – what were they thinking?
  • The control wheel is huge and stiff, which means that the thumb cannot quickly change settings, instead forcing you to use the thumb and forefinger – what were they thinking?
  • The forefinger falls beautifully over the shutter button at the fleshy part between the knuckles, just as it does on my D7000 … but my D7000 has a nice rounded shutter button and the X-S1 has a flat shutter button. This forces you to again relinquish the nice tight grip you have on the camera and lift the forefinger off to shoot. One is supposed to squeeze a shutter button, but they more or less force you to stab it by design. What were they thinking?
  • The “up” position on the control wheel has always been delete image in playback mode … and now it if FN2. But FN2 cannot be assigned “delete image” in playback mode. What were they thinking? (In fact, there is no separate assignment ability for playback mode, so they should have just made it work the old way.)

My first impression overall is that I like this camera. One gets used to these quirks, but they are so blatant that I have to think that Fuji engineers are not photographers. This is tragic, as these cameras could be next to perfect if these details were right. (And where are their product managers. Surely there is a photographer in that group …)

I think this camera will be fun to review. I look forward to shooting with it as I am definitely attuned to long reach cameras. If I am lucky, I’ll get it to a concert or some sort of game where reach really matters.