Monday, June 11, 2012

Fuji X-S1 Review – Part 2 – Going squirrely against the Nikon D7000

I saw a rabbit in the front yard today (a baby … soooo cuuuute) and ran upstairs to grab the cameras, but when I returned the rabbit was gone. But a black squirrel had camped out under the French Lilac bush, so I started moving slowly into a useful shooting position. Of course, he spotted me and dashed across the street to my neighbor’s Maple tree.

I slowly approached and he just sat there eating something that I could not really identify. He sat long enough for me to rattle of some full zoom shots with the X-S1 and the D7000 with 70-300VR, so I thought I would post these for interest’s sake.

So why compare a bridge camera to a high end dSLR? Well, the price of the D5100 has dropped this week to $649 with 18-55VR lens. Couple that with a used 70-300VR ($350) and you have a combo for $1000 with the same sensor as the D7000. This is only $250 more than the X-S1, which is on sale for $749 this week. So I think there is a lot of validity to such a comparison because the price and size of the X-S1 is close enough to the dSLRs to make it a direct competitor for enthusiasts looking to get more reach, higher image quality, or perhaps to get more convenience. Thus, you will see this theme recur now and again in my review parts.

Here’s a shot of him just sitting there after eating.

fuji x-s1  3200iso  f/6.4  1/220  634mm efl

Note the very high ISO. The camera chose that and still only managed 1/220s. This is something I have noticed on recent Fujis … chronically low shutter speeds. There is rather a lot of grain in the image, but there is also a lot of detail. I think the balance is perfectly adequate for the sensor size.

The D7000 fairs a bit better, and I got a similar shutter speed at 1600ISO and a similar aperture (admittedly 1/3 stops more open.) I do need to set things up a bit more accurately, but this was just a spur of the moment experience report, so don’t get two twisted. The Fuji is clearly slower by 2/3 stops at the least.

D7000  70-300VR  1600iso  f/5.6  1/200  450mm efl  (cropped)

There’s a bit more detail and quite a bit less grain. But both images are quite nice and they are comparable at web sizes. Kudos to Fuji for very clean RAWs and kudos to Adobe that Lightroom handles these very well.

I shot one other comparison – a neighbor has a row of White Potentilla on his walkway and I shot these with his next door neighbor’s chairs in the background and their brick wall behind that. The very long focal lengths compressed the scene very well and the subject isolation is satisfying on both‘

fuji x-s1  1250iso  f/6.4  1/500  634mm efl

D7000  70-300VR  1600iso  f/5.6  1/1250  450mm efl

Despite the shorter focal length, the Nikon has better subject isolation at distance. This is not a surprise as we are comparing sensors at crop factor 4 against crop factor 1.5. Big difference.

But both look great.

WHat I liked

  • Surprisingly good files from the X-S1 at 3200 ISO, even shooting a jet black squirrel
  • Shoots a lot like a dSLR, quirks notwithstanding
  • The EVF does not freeze the way the HS25 EVF did

What I disliked

  • AF gets much harder to lock in with subject in shadow, like a black squirrel in a tree
  • There is a lot of hysteresis with the EVF, meaning that it lags, floating to where it should be slowly enough that corrections make it seem to swing from side to side without knowing quite what would be captured when you press the shutter … this can make it very difficult to get a tight framing at max zoom … I had to shoot some subjects three times to get the right framing
    • Note: When I received the cam, the IS was on the shoot only setting. I did not like it at all so switched to the mode I use with all cameras – continuous. That works well for my style and was the mode I was using when I noticed the above.

Remember that I process all images, so you cannot draw direct conclusions about color in comparison to the D7000 from my images. Don’t bother trying.