Fujifilm X30 Review

September 25, 2014 | Mark Goldstein | |

Introduction

The Fujifilm X30 is an advanced compact camera that offers a retro design, 12 megapixel 2/3-type X-Trans CMOS II sensor with built-in Phase Detection pixels and no low-pass filter, a 4x, 28-112mm, f/2.0-2.8 zoom lens with a manual zoom ring and new control ring, a new Real Time Viewfinder with 2.36M-dots, 1080p movie recording at 60fps with manual exposure, hybrid auto focus system with high-speed AF at 0.06sec, 12fps burst shooting and a tilting 3.0-inch 920K-dot LCD monitor. Other key features of the Fujifilm X30 include built-in wi-fi connectivity, an ISO range of 100-12800, full manual controls, Focus Peak Highlight feature, optical image stabilisation, raw image capture, a hot-shoe, an integrated manual pop-up flash, film simulation modes including the new Classic Chrome mode, 360° motion panoramas, 1cm macro mode, 470-shot battery life, and an electronic level gauge. The Fujifilm X30 is available in black or silver priced at $599.95 / £479.99.

Ease of Use

Available in all-black or the silver and black version that we have reviewed, the Fujifilm X30 is another classically styled camera that recalls film rangefinders from the past, with a lovely retro design that belies its modest price-tag.

The Fujifilm X30 is an amazingly well-built camera, with no flex or movement in its chassis thanks to the die-cast magnesium alloy top and base plates and machined control dials. It's heavier than last year's X20 model, weighing in at 423g with the NP-95 battery and memory card fitted. Measuring 118.7mm (W) x 71.6mm (H) x 60.3mm (D), it's also slightly bigger than the X20, making it best suited to life in a small camera bag or large coat pocket. There are some plastic buttons and controls on the X30, most notably the memory card / battery compartment door and the rear buttons, but other that that the X30 offers excellent build quality considering its price-tag.

The new X30 sports the same 4x, 28-112mm zoom lens as its X20 predecessor. This lens has a fast aperture of f/2.0 at the 28mm wide-angle setting and f/2.8 at full 112mm telephoto, which in combination with the extensive ISO range of 100-3200 makes the X30 well suited to low-light shooting, allowing you to hand-hold the camera in places where you'd usually be reaching for a tripod (if allowed) or other support, especially as the camera also features very effective built-in optical image stabilisation.

The X30 is supplied with a push-on, lined metal lens cap to help protect its 4x optic, although there's no way to connect it to the camera, leading to a few moment of "find the lens cap". You can use filters with the X30, but only by buying the optional LH-X30 Lens Hood and Adapter Ring set accessory, which allows you to fit 52mm filters. There's a subtle but effective hand-grip at the front of the X30 and a rubber thumb-rest on the rear, with your grip helped in no small part by the textured faux-leather surface that runs around the camera. Two small metal eyelets on either side of the body are used for connecting the supplied shoulder strap, which isn't quite as luxurious as the rest of the package. A metal tripod mount is positioned off-centre from the lens away from the memory card / battery compartment, so you don't have to remove the camera from the tripod to change either of them.

Canon PowerShot A2100 IS
Front of the Fujifilm X30

At the heart of the X30 is the 12 megapixel 2/3-type X-Trans CMOS II sensor, a size that was used by several bridge-style compacts in the past but which has recently fallen out of favour. This sensor is larger than those in most compact cameras and promises to deliver better image quality, although not the equal of the 1-inch sensor used in the very popular Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 series.

We ran into some issues in bright sunlight when shooting in aperture and shutter priority modes, where the top shutter-speed limit of 1/1000th second at the full f/2 aperture often caused over-exposure (the X30 actually has a higher limit of 1/4000th second, but only at smaller apertures). Unlike the X100S, the X30 still doesn't feature a built-in Neutral Density filter (something that we complained about with the X10), so you'll have to stop-down the aperture and increase the depth-of-field to avoid blowing out the highlights. The X30 does offer a fantastic close focusing distance of 1cm, so macro shooting is definitely on the cards.

The X30 has an ultra-fast hybrid AF system with both a conventional contrast-detection system and built-in Phase Detection pixels which enables the camera to achieve a focus lock in as little as 0.06 second. Manual focusing is activated by setting the focusing switch on the front of the camera to M and using the rear thumb-wheel to set the distance, with the LCD display automatically zooming in on the subject to help you judge the sharpness. There's a handy blue distance scale along the bottom of the LCD screen with a red bar indicating the the focusing distance and a white bar showing the depth of field, which actually changes in line with the current aperture - very handy.

Fujifilm have cleverly made the focusing ring more sensitive to how you use it - turn it slowly and the focusing distance changes slowly, but turn it more quickly and the camera quickly moves through the distance scale. It takes less than 2 full turns and a couple of seconds to jump from the closest focus distance to infinity. The X30 also offers a Focus Peak Highlight function, which displays a white line around the subject when it's in focus, something that Sony NEX users in particular have been enjoying for a while.

Canon PowerShot A2100 IS
Rear of the Fujifilm X30

The Fujifilm X30 offers not one, not two, but three ways of composing your images. In addition to the high-resolution 3-inch LCD monitor on the back, which has 920k dots and offers 100% scene coverage, the X30 also features a brand new OLED electronic viewfinder that's also used in the X-E2 compact system camera. It sports the same 2.36m dot resolution, lag-time of just 0.005 sec and 100% coverage as the X-T1, but has a magnification of 0.65x rather than the X-T1's 0.77x. The Live View display can also be set the ‘Preview Pic. Effect’ function to reflect either the current cameras settings or offer a more natural view that displays a plain RAW live view with no film simulations or other JPEG parameters applied, and the displayed settings automatically rotate when the camera is held in a portrait orientation. All in all, the X30's new EVF is a big improvement on the X20's optical viewfinder.

In terms of operational speed, the Fujifilm X30 has some real standout highlights and very few weak points. Shutter lag is virtually non-existent on this camera, so once you have set the focus, you'll never miss the moment because the camera can't fire the shutter quickly enough. Continuous shooting speeds are excellent, with a top rate of 12fps for 18 JPEGs. Note that if you're shooting RAW, the fastest possible rate is a slightly slower 9fps for 23 frames, although commendably still at full resolution. Note that both the focus and the exposure are set according to the first frame in each series, so it's not a particularly good system for tracking fast-moving subjects in varied lighting conditions.

The write speeds from pressing the shutter button to recording to the SD / SDHC / SDXC memory card are perfectly respectable. Shooting a single RAW + Fine JPEG takes about 6 seconds to record to the card, although thankfully you can take another shot almost straight away (with a delay of just 0.5 second). Taking a 12 frame burst took the camera around 5 seconds to save, during which you can take more pictures, but not at the 12fps rate, while shooting a burst of RAW files at 9fps took around 10 seconds to save.

Canon PowerShot A2100 IS
Top of the Fujifilm X30

One area in which the Fujifilm X30 excels is its handling, thanks in no small part to the numerous external controls that make changing the key settings a breeze, especially when holding the camera at eye-level. Surrounding the lens is a manual zooming ring, with 6 markings including Off, 28, 35, 50, 85 and 112mm. This ring performs two functions - it powers the camera on by turning it from Off to the 28mm setting, denoted by a definite click, and turns the camera off again by turning it in the reverse direction. Very clever.

It also allows you to quickly zoom the lens and set the focal length by turning it, with a short and tactile movement that works particularly well when you hold the camera up to eye-level. It's a little more awkward to use when holding the camera at arms length though, where a more conventional zoom lever would be preferable, although markings helpfully appear on the horizontal zoom scale along the bottom of the LCD screen. All in all, though, the manual zooming ring works very well, practically begging you to hold the camera up to your eye.

A new control ring has been added to the X30 behind the zoom ring. By default this allows you change the aperture and shutter speed, but other functions such as ISO speed, film simulation, white balance and continuous shooting can alternatively be assigned using the control ring setting button on the front of the camera. Using the control ring to set the aperture/shutter speed is a much better solution than the X20's rear control wheel, and in combination with the rear command dial it makes using the manual shooting mode very easy indeed.

Canon PowerShot A2100 IS
Front of the Fujifilm X30

On top of the X30 are tactile dials for changing the exposure compensation and the shooting mode, the tiny Movie Record button, a small but responsive shutter release button with a thread for a very traditional mechanical cable release - there's no need to buy an expensive dedicated accessory for this camera - an external flash hotshoe for suitable dedicated external units, and finally the camera's built-in pop-up flash, which cleverly only appears when a flash mode is selected and which has a range of 50cm - 7m at ISO 800.

The X30's LCD screen is bigger than the X20's at 3 inches and higher resolution (920k dots) too to match the rest of the camera's high specification. I actually found myself using it less than with a DSLR, due to the ability to use the electronic viewfinder, and you could conceivably turn off the LCD altogether to help eke out the much-improved 470 shot battery life even further.

The LCD screen can also now be tilted up and down, although not enough to take that ubiquitous selfie. Instead the camera can very effectively be held at waist level for more candid shots or above your head to shoot over a crowd. The tilt mechanism feels sturdy and certainly matches the rest of the camera's build quality.

Canon PowerShot A2100 IS
Side of the Fujifilm X30

The LCD screen has a handy Info view which presents all of the key settings at once, or you can switch to the Standard or Custom Live View modes, with the latter offering a multitude of customisable options. To make the camera less obtrusive, there's a Silent menu option which turns off the speaker, flash, AF-assist lamp and most importantly the artificially-created shutter-release sound, instantly making the X30 perfectly suited to candid photography.

The X30 features built-in wi-fi connectivity. Install the FUJIFILM Camera Remote App and you can transfer your pictures immediately to a smartphone or tablet PC and then edit and share them as you wish, transfer stills and video onto the camera, and embed GPS information in your shots from your smartphone. You can also control the camera remotely, with the list of available functions including Touch AF, shutter release for stills and movies, shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity, Film Simulation modes, White Balance, macro, timer and flash. The built-in wi-fi also provides a simple means to backup your photos to your home PC.

The Fujifilm X30 can record full 1080p movies at 60 with stereo sound, turned on by selecting the Movie option on the shooting mode dial. There are also several slow motion options - 30fps or 80fps at 640x480 pixels, 150fps at 320x240, and 250fps at 320x112. You can now set the aperture and shutter speed during recording, and you can also set the Film Simulation mode, so black and white footage is possible. Continuous auto-focusing is possible, and you can manually focus too, which encourages some more creative effects. There is a HDMI port for connecting the X30 to a high-definition TV, although as usual there's no cable supplied in the box. Also missing is a paper copy of the otherwise helpful manual, which is supplied on CD-ROM instead, along with the consumer My software the slow and rather unintuitive RAW converter (essentially a specially customised version of the commercial Silkypix application).

Canon PowerShot A2100 IS
Tilting LCD Screen

The X30 has a revised rear control layout to take account of the new tilting LCD screen. The X20's vertical row of four buttons on the left of the LCD screen has gone, with the buttons instead moving above and to the right of the screen. Directly above are buttons for image playback, the View button to toggle between the electronic viewfinder and the LCD screen (there's also an eye-sensor that does this automatically), and the Drive/Delete button.

On the right are the rear control dial, customisable AEL/AFL button, and the Q button. This calls up the very handy and configurable Quick View screen, which provides quick access to 16 frequently used shooting settings including the ISO speed, White Balance, File Size and File Quality, with the 4-way controller and command dial used to quickly change them. Each of the four direction buttons can be re-configured to another function, and you can even set them up to quickly set the AF point without having to press the AF button first, something that X-T1 owners can't currently do.

The navigation pad can be used to change the shutter speed and aperture and select other settings, and four options around it for setting Macro, flash mode, AF mode and the self-timer focusing mode. In the middle of the control wheel is the Menu button, which accesses the Shooting and Set-up main menus. Underneath are two buttons, the first for changing the LCD display or going back, and a configurable Fn button that accesses the wi-fi mode by default.

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