Fuji's X100 was a fun camera with some frustrating quirks. Its successor fine-tunes the formula.
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The Fujifilm X100 immediately had tongues wagging when it debuted back in 2010. The camera's rangefinder-style good looks, large APS-C image sensor, and fancypants hybrid viewfinder ignited a wave of retro-inspired high-end cameras, setting Fujifilm back on a path to relevance. While the X100 looked gorgeous and took some fantastic images, it wasn't without its faults; the autofocus system was inconsistent and often inaccurate, the manual focus features were lacking, and the overall performance was just slow.
The Fujifilm X100S is an attempt to change all that, improving on the overall experience while eliminating as many troublesome quirks as possible. The result is a camera that is very fun to shoot with, takes great photos, and doesn't frustrate you with inaccurate AF or slow performance nearly as often. In addition, Fujifilm added two major focus assist features—digital split image and focus peaking—making manual focus not only a functional part of the X100S experience, but a main draw of the camera.
On the outside, the X100 and X100S look like identical twins. The bodies are the same size, have the same build quality, and practically the same control scheme. The similarities on the outside belie the major changes under the hood, however. Fujifilm adding an "S" for speed may have been a little too on the nose, but the improvements to the X100S are hardly subtle. While we shouldn't ignore that the X100 took some fantastic photos, it also inspired plenty of griping from users and reviewers alike.
The X100S is driven by a whole new engine, with a new 16-megapixel X-Trans CMOS II image sensor and a new EXR processor paired up with the same 23mm f/2 lens. The results are impressive, with improved color accuracy, sharpness, and noise reduction processing all earning the camera plenty of points in our lab tests.
Out in the field, the X100S is simply more enjoyable to shoot with. The most noticeable improvement is in the overall speed of the camera's operation. The X100 could take as long as 10 seconds simply to turn on, the autofocus frequently hunted for focus even in bright daylight, and writing images to the card took forever. The X100S accomplishes all this much faster, and while the autofocus system is inconsistent, it's still a major step forward.
Fuji also added some significant new manual features to the X100S, in the form of digital split image focusing and focus peaking. The two features are designed to aid manual focus shooters, with the former using phase detection to replicate the experience of shooting with a rangefinder, while the latter brightly highlights the in-focus areas. The new features make focusing manually quick and easy, something that will surely set the hearts of street photographers everywhere aflutter.
The only other major addition to the X100S is the new 1080/60p video mode, up from 720/24p on the X100. In a word, it stinks. The 1080/30p video looks great, but the 60p has some of the worst artifacting and aliasing that we've ever seen, as the bitrate (it's h.264, not AVCHD 2.0) seems too low for the amount of information 60p calls for. While the other additions are welcome and useful, the half-baked 1080/60p is neither.
In the labs, the X100S displayed improved color accuracy, noise performance, and resolution. These numbers were confirmed by our studio shots as well as our own real-world photos. The biggest improvement, we believe, is with the sensor. The 16-megapixel X-Trans II CMOS sensor is rather more advanced compared to the 12-megapixel conventional bayer CMOS sensor found in the X100. The X-Trans II has a "highly random" color filter array and no optical low pass filter, theoretically allowing the lens to resolve more detail with less sampling errors.
That isn't to say the X100 is a terrible camera. If you were to somehow find the best images taken with the X100 and X100S and put them side by side, you'd be hard pressed to say that one camera is better than the other without pixel peeping. They're both more than capable of taking gorgeous images in the right hands. But when you're the one actually going out and taking those photos, the X100S will do the job with far less fuss and frustration.
In our time with the X100S, we found it to be quirky, but acceptably reliable. The focus is faster, the camera responds quicker, and it's just easier to take photos than with the X100. While we don't think the X100S is really the "world's fastest AF" (the contrast-based AF in the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and PEN E-PL5 is much quicker in bright light), it's a big improvement. There are still some nagging consistency issues—it frequently fails to find focus even in bright daylight—but there's no question: The X100S outperforms the X100 across the board.
At this point it should be rather obvious: The X100S is simply a better camera than its predecessor. While we can debate the merits of a $1,299.99 fixed-lens camera, if you're set on one of these two cameras, the X100S is worth the extra money. We'd even go so far as to say that if you own an X100 you may want to think about selling and upgrading to the X100S.
If you do, you'll get a camera with all the same charm and good looks, but with drastically improved speed, a slight bump in image quality, and much better manual focus features. This still isn't a camera for novices—as you can read about in our full review, right here—but for those who know what they're doing, the X100S provides a more enjoyable experience than its predecessor with the same old-school appeal that won the Fujifilm X100 so many admirers in the first place.