Fujifilm X70 Review

February 15, 2016 | Mark Goldstein | |

Introduction

The Fujifilm X70 is an advanced compact camera with an APS-C sensor and a fixed 18.5mm F2.8 lens (28mm equivalent). The X70 features a 16.3-megapixel APS-C sized X-Trans CMOS II sensor with built-in Phase Detection pixels and no low-pass filter, EXR Processor II image processing engine, a 180-degree 3.0-inch 1,040K-dot tilting touchscreen LCD, a lens control ring and an aperture ring, 1080p movie recording at 60/50/30/25/24fps at a bit rate of 36Mbps, 49/77-point hybrid auto focus system with high-speed AF at 0.1sec, mechanical shutter and a silent electronic shutter for shutter speeds up to 1/32,000 sec, built-in wi-fi connectivity, ISO range of 100-51,200, 8fps burst shooting, and in-camera time-lapse recording. The Fujifilm X70 will be available in either Black or Silver for £549 / $699. Four dedicated optional accessories are available - the BLC-X70 half leather case, the LH-X70 lens hood, the VF-X21 optical viewfinder and the WCL-X70 wide conversion lens which gives a 21mm focal length.

Ease of Use

Available in silver and black or the more sober all-black version that we received for review, the Fujifilm X70 clearly inherits the classical DNA of its X-series siblings, with a pleasingly retro design that helps it stand out from the crowd.

The Fujifilm X70 is a very well-built camera, with no discernible flex or movement in its chassis and sporting milled aluminium exposure compensation and shutter speed dials and aperture and focusing rings. It's the smallest and lightest APS-C sensor camera in the range, weighing in at 340g with the NP-95 battery and memory card fitted and measuring 112.5mm (W) x 64.4mm (H) x 44.4mm (D), making it well-suited to being slipped into a coat/jacket pocket.

The X70 sports a fixed 28mm-equivalent lens with a fast maximum aperture of F2.8. In combination with the extensive ISO range of 100-6400, the lens' 9-blade aperture and the large APS-C sensor, this makes it easy to throw the background out of focus and even achieve some lovely bokeh effects. The X70 is 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. Note that this camera does not feature built-in optical image stabilisation, although we didn't miss it too much due to the short focal length.

The clever ISO Auto Control setting allows you to set the default sensitivity, a maximum sensitivity (up to 6400) and a minimum shutter speed (1/30th is a good starting point), with the camera over-riding your ISO choice if it thinks you're being too ambitious whilst maintaining a shutter speed that won't introduce camera shake. The X70 also offers the ability to set three different ISO Auto Control settings, so you could customise one for landscapes, one for action, and another for low-light, and then be able to quickly change between them. Auto ISO is also available in the manual shooting mode, complete with exposure compensation, which has now been extended to +-3EV via the dedicated dial on top of the camera.

At the heart of the X70 is the 16.3-megapixel APS-C sized X-Trans CMOS II, a size that is used by the physically larger X100-series cameras. APS-C is a size that's more commonly used by the majority of DSLR cameras than by your average compact, being about 10x bigger than those found in most compacts, and also larger than those in most compact system cameras. It promises to deliver image quality at least on par with DSLRs, and as our test photos and sample images show on the next two pages, the X70 certainly lives up to that promise.

Canon PowerShot A2100 IS
Front of the Fujifilm X70

The X70 is supplied with a push-on, lined metal lens cap to help protect its lens, although there's no way to connect it to the camera, leading to a few moments of "find the lens cap". There's a generously sized hand-grip at the front of the X70 and a rubber thumb-rest on the rear. 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 towards the memory card / battery compartment, so annoyingly you do have to remove the camera from the tripod to change either of them.

The X70 utilises a leaf-shutter rather than the focal-plane shutter that DSLR cameras have. This is a small circular shutter that's built into the lens itself, the chief benefit being near-silent operation. To make the camera even less obtrusive, there's a Sound & Flash menu option which turns off the speaker, flash, AF-assist lamp and most importantly the artificially-created shutter-release sound, instantly making the X70 perfectly suited to candid photography.

The mechanical shutter has a top speed limit of 1/4,000th second, which means that we ran into some issues in bright sunlight when shooting in aperture and shutter priority modes at F2.8. The X70 doesn't feature a built-in Neutral Density filter, so you'll have to either stop-down the aperture and sacrifice some depth-of-field to avoid blowing out the highlights, or switch to the electronic shutter.

Fujifilm have added a completely silent electronic shutter to the X100T which provides a much faster top shutter speed of 1/32,000th second. This allows you to continue shooting at F2.8 in the brightest of conditions without having to resort to fitting a glass ND filter or using external flash and lights. There are some important caveats with the electronic shutter - the ISO range is restricted to 200-6400, you can't use the flash at all, and the slowest shutter speed is only 1 second, but overall it's a great addition that makes the X70 more versatile. The X70 also offers a a respectable close focusing distance of 10cms, so macro shooting certainly isn't out of the question.

Canon PowerShot A2100 IS
Rear of the Fujifilm X70

The X70 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 0.1 second. There's a 49-point Single Point mode for high speed and precision focusing, and Zone and Wide/Tracking modes that use a larger 77-point area to capture moving subjects.

Manual focusing is activated by setting the focusing switch on the front of the camera to M and using the lens control ring to set the distance, with the LCD display automatically zooming in on the subject to help you judge the sharpness. 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.

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. You can also use the AFL/AEL button on the rear of the camera to set the focus automatically, then use the lens control ring to micro-adjust the focus manually, if required.

The second manual focusing method is the Digital Split Image feature. Harking back to film cameras of the past, this displays dual images on the left and right which then need to be lined up together for accurate manual focusing, enabling accurate focusing especially when shooting wide-open or for macro shooting. It's much easier to understand in practice than written down. The third method is the Focus Peak Highlight function, which displays a coloured line (customisable) 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
Top of the Fujifilm X70

The lens control ring can alternatively be assigned to set other functions such as ISO speed, film simulation, white balance and continuous shooting can. Using the control ring to set the aperture/shutter speed is an excellent solution, and in combination with the rear command dial it makes using the manual shooting mode very easy indeed.

The Fujifilm X70 only offers way of composing your images, using the high-resolution 3-inch LCD monitor on the back, which has 1,040k dots and offers 100% scene coverage. 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 14 customisable options. The completely configurable Quick View screen, opened via the Q button on the rear, 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 full rear command dial used to quickly change them.

The LCD screen can be tilted up and down through 180 degrees, enough to take that ubiquitous selfie. 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.

The X70 has the honour of being the first X-series camera to feature touchscreen control, a long overdue feature in our view. The Touch Screen Mode menu option offs three choices - off, touch shooting and focus area. As the names suggest, Touch Shooting sets the focus and takes the picture with one touhc of the screen, while Focus Area just sets the focus point (our preferred option). In addition, during playback you can swipe, drag, pinch in/out, and double-tap to review your images, although you can't control the menu system.

Canon PowerShot A2100 IS
Tilting LCD Screen

Surrounding the X70's lens is a circular aperture ring, with 6 markings from f/2.8 to f/16 and an Auto setting just in case you want the camera to take control. This dial helpfully allows you to choose third-stop apertures too. On top of the X70 is a large, tactile control dial for setting the shutter speed, with settings ranging from 1 to 4000th second, an Auto option, a T setting for longer exposures up to 30 seconds, set via the rear command dial, and a Bulb mode for exposures up to a whopping 60 minutes in length. Alongside the shutter speed dial is another tactile dial for changing the exposure compensation, going up to -+3EV.

Five other controls complete the X70's top-plate. The small but responsive shutter release button is encircled by the On/Off switch. Alongside is a tiny Movie button, which by default turns movie recording on/off, but can be customised to suit your own needs. The Drive button accesses the various continuous shooting, bracketing, advanced filters and panorama modes, while the new Auto Mode switch selects the fully automatic Advanced SR Auto mode, where the camera automatically chooses the optimum settings. While this is a nice addition for beginners, its positions near to the on/off switch meant that we frequently turned set the camera to Auto when we didn't really want to. Finally there's an external flash hotshoe for suitable dedicated external units, supplemented by the camera's built-in flash positioned top-right of the lens, which has a range of 30cm - 7.9m at ISO 1600.

The Fujifilm X70 can record full 1080p movies at 60fps, 50fps, 30fps, 25fps and 24fps with stereo sound at a high bit rate of 36Mbps. You can set the aperture, shutter speed and ISO 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 2.5mm stereo mic jack and a HDMI port for connecting the X100T 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 MyFinepix software and the slow and rather unintuitive RAW convertor (essentially a specially customised version of the commercial Silkypix application).

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 X70, 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, and you can send images directly from the camera to the Instax SHARE Smartphone Printer for instant Instax prints.

Canon PowerShot A2100 IS
The the Fujifilm X70 In-hand

In terms of operational speed, the Fujifilm X70 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 good, with a top rate of 8fps for 10 JPEGs or a slower 3fps for unlimited JPEGs. 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 8 frame burst took the camera around 5 seconds to save, during which you can take more pictures, but not at the 8fps rate.

The X70 has a revised rear control layout to take account of the new tilting LCD screen, with all of the buttons located above and to the right of the screen. Directly above are buttons for image deletion and playback. 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 control dial used to quickly change them.

Each of the four direction buttons can be re-configured to another function - by default they set the AF Mode, flash mode, AF point and the self-timer mode. Even better, you can set them up to directly choose the AF point without having to choose that mode first, which massively speeds up operation of the camera's auto-focusing and is something that we'd like to see implemented across the X-series range. 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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