Cameras

Fujifilm X-S1 Digital Camera Review

The X-S1 brings DSLR feel to the superzoom class with an excellent build and user experience.

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Introduction

The Fujifilm X-S1 is a high-end bridge camera aimed at the gap between superzooms and DSLRs. The idea here is to combine reach and all-in-one convenience with natural handling and superior image quality. Fujifilm seems to be marketing the camera toward enthusiast nature photographers, but like any superzoom, there's broad appeal to be found if the design is executed well.

Basically, the X-S1 is a mash up of the HS20EXR superzoom and last year's X10 premium compact. It's built around the same oversized, 12-megapixel, 2/3-inch EXR CMOS sensor as the X10, but stuffed into a full-sized body with a huge 26x zoom lens strapped to the front.

We'd already put together a hands-on preview of the X-S1 from CES 2012, but we've just finished up a few weeks of proper testing. The design and user experience are plainly awesome, but the image quality falls short of what we'd hoped to see from at $800 camera. Read on to see where it shines, where it struggles, and whether it might be worth your money anyway.

Video Review

Front

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Back

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Sides

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Top

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Bottom

In the Box

Box Photo

Contents of the Fuji X-S1 retail package.

• Fujifilm X-S1 digital camera

• rechargeable lithium-ion battery (NP-95)

• battery charger (BC-65N)

• USB cable

• shoulder strap

• lens cap and tether

• lens hood

• CD-ROM

• owner's manual (English and Spanish versions)

Lens & Sensor

The X-S1 looks like an interchangeable lens camera, but it's fixed with an f/2.8-5.6, 6.1-158.6mm (24-624mm equivalent) 26x zoomer.

It's a manual-zoom lens, controlled with a ridged, rubberized twist-barrel. Fujifilm claims that they built it with some of the same techniques they use in their professional broadcast-quality lenses, including a greased barrel. It’s very smooth, with a nice weighting and consistent resistance throughout the focal range.

The lens also has a focus-by-wire ring on the close side of the barrel, and accepts 62mm filters. That's huge even by superzoom standards, but that's the price to pay for such a wide focal range on a camera with a relatively large sensor.

In super macro mode, the X-S1 can focus from as close as 1 cm—doesn't get any better than that. Even with macro mode turned off, it focuses reliably from about six inches.

The X-S1 is built around a 12-megapixel, 2/3-inch, EXR CMOS sensor. That's about 50 percent bigger than the 1/2.3-inch sensors found in most superzooms (including the class-leading Panasonic FZ150 or Canon SX40), and even bigger than the 1/2-inch sensors in previous Fujifilm HS-series cameras.

As a CMOS sensor (as most sensors are these days), it's a speedy operator with quick bursts, short shot-to-shot times, and 1080p HD video capability. Fuji's proprietary EXR design is noteworthy as well—the pixels are arranged differently than on most sensors, opening up more processing possibilities.

For anyone keeping track, it's the same chip used in last year's Fujifilm X10 premium compact—which means that yes, unfortunately, it's also the same chip behind the White Orbs problem.

There had been speculation that maybe the White Orbs were caused by a firmware problem, but an update failed to fix the issue. We thought that the X10's bright f/2.0 lens might've been behind the problem; that could be a part of it, but with the f/2.8-5.6 X-S1, we spotted the same perfectly round, hard-edged white discs in highlight areas of dark photos, usually at low ISO settings. It definitely boils down to the sensor. Check out our Low Light page for more.

Viewfinder

The X-S1 comes equipped with a great electronic eye-level viewfinder. At 1.44 million pixels, the resolution is much higher than we see from the cut-rate EVFs on most superzooms, and approaching the greatness of the EVFs on Sony's Alpha SLT models. It's bright, responsive, and sharp enough to actually use for manual focus. At 0.47 inches, it's reasonably large, and although the plastic eyepiece is shallow and pretty hard, overall the EVF is comfortably to shoot with. It's also equipped with an eye-level sensor and a diopter adjustment dial (-5 to +3), tucked awkwardly behind the eyepiece.

Display(s)

The 3-inch, 460,000-pixel, tilting LCD on the X-S1 is pretty typical of the superzoom class. The size is ample, the resolution is decent, and the hinge helps with high- and low-angle photos and videos. Direct sunlight mostly washes out the screen, but with the Monitor Sunlight Mode activated and brightness boosted all the way, it's somewhat visible—even so, it's probably better to use the EVF when possible. We'd love to see a fully articulating screen like the Panasonic FZ150 offers, but we don't have much to complain about here.

Flash

The X-S1's flash pops up and out from its cavity on the crest of the camera, released manually. It’s reasonably powerful for a pop-up unit—26.2 feet, according to Fuji. Recycle times could almost keep up with the camera's shot-to-shot speed. There's also a hot shoe for external (more powerful) flash support.

Flash Photo

The flash pops up and out from the crest of the camera.

Connectivity

Per usual these days, the X-S1 rolls with USB and mini-HDMI ports, but also includes a microphone jack and an A/V out jack. They're all covered up with a rubberized flap on the left side of the body.

Durability

The build quality of the X-S1 is fantastic. It's built around a sturdy chassis with a solid heft to it, no noticeable give or flimsiness. It's not rated for any amount of shockproofing, and obviously we wouldn't drop it off of a table, but it seems like it's built to last and should be able to withstand some standard bumps and bruises.

There's no mention of the X-S1 being waterproof, weather-sealed or coldproof, so we take that to mean that it's none of those things. We have read some conflicting info about dustproofing and humidity resistance. Fujifilm's Canadian website mentions that the openings on the body are designed to prevent the entry of moisture and dust, but there's a warning in the user's manual (on page V) advising against use in dusty or humid environments. It's probably best to err on the side of caution.

Image Quality

The X-S1 can take some great photos. Shots are clean and pretty clear in most situations, even in low-light, where middle-upper ISO settings kick in. It handles wide dynamic ranges better than any superzoom we've tested, and colors are lifelike, with a pleasant coolness. But the lens doesn't live up to the sensor's potential, softening up details throughout the focal range, and dragging down the overall performance score. The infamous White Orbs appear from time to time as well, though not as frequently as they do on the X10 compact. On the whole, IQ is great for a fixed-lens camera, but at $800, it should be the best performer in the superzoom class, and it isn't.

Sharpness

Image sharpness is a weak point with the X-S1. The results aren't poor, just mediocre. The overall average is a middling 1120 MTF50s across all focal lengths, apertures, and areas of the photo frame.

At the widest aperture at the wide-angle setting at the center of the frame, images are nice and crisp—we measured about 1800 horizontal and 1900 vertical MTF50s, which are very good results. But then the aperture shrinks or the focal range increases (particularly near the telephoto setting), sharpness falls off quickly. Performance is universally muddy midway between the edge and the center of the frame, too.

In its defense, the X-S1 doesn't apply quite as heavy a dose of border enhancement as most superzooms tend to do. The Canon SX40 HS, for example, earned an outstanding sharpness score thanks to artificial pixel sharpening, but whether the SX40's shots really look much sharper is debatable. We tested the X-S1 with pixel sharpening set to standard; had we bumped it up to a higher level, it probably would've earned a better score.

The point to take away here is that the X-S1 offers plain ol' superzoom sharpness out of a camera that costs nearly twice as much as its nearest competitors. The lens just doesn't live up to the sensor's potential. More on how we test sharpness.

Science Section 3 Images

Image Stabilization

Any camera with a 26x zoom lens had better have a strong stabilizer, and the X-S1 does. The X-S1 already has two design elements working in its favor: a huge grip, and an eye-level finder, both of which make it easier to hold a camera steady. Beyond that, the optical stabilization is very effective. We measured a 64.3 percent improvement in stabilization at the telephoto setting with stabilization activated. The difference is visible even in the viewfinder—little shakes don't appear on-screen when IS is turned on.

Color

Color performance in the X-S1 is pretty accurate, though there's a definite coolness to the profile. The most true-to-life color mode is the Standard/Provia setting. We measured a minimum color error of 3.36 (under 3 is considered great, under 3.5 is still quite good) and 105% saturation, which falls within an acceptable range. More on how we test color.

Most shades are close to the ideal hues, but blues are exaggerated (particularly light blue) and yellows are subdued. Color is a very subjective thing, so some users might really like these tones compared to the super-vibrant colors that cameras from major manufacturers produce.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

The X-S1 reproduces the least-accurate colors of our comparison group, but each one earns a decent overall score. Like we said, color is highly subjective.

Color Modes

As usual with Fujifilm cameras, the color modes on the X-S1 are known as Film Simulation modes, harkening back to some of Fuji's most popular film brands.

We tested the three available full-color color modes: Provia (standard), Velvia (vivid), and Astia (soft). Standard is the most accurate, followed closely by Astia, which cooled off the colors even more. Velvia isn't accurate at all; nearly all of the shades are wildly exaggerated, but it's a cool look.

The other color modes are B&W (black and white), three Monochrome modes (each with a different filter), and Sepia.

White Balance

We don't weigh white balance (WB) performance for fixed-lens cameras in our overall scores (yet), but we did put the X-S1 through the same tests that we use on DSLRs and system cameras.

Inidividual results were hit or miss, but on the whole, the WB performance is respectable. As poorly as auto white balance handles warm, indoor lighting (check out some of our sample photos), it's excellent in daylight and under cooler lights. With a custom white balance, colors are more accurate under artificial lighting, though there's not much of an improvement in daylight (pure white is actually worse, while light shades of gray are better).

Aside from auto and custom modes, six WB presets are available: Fine (sunlight), Shade, three Fluorescent settings, and Incandescent. The X-S1 also supports direct color temperature entry, as well as fine adjustments to any preset or custom WB.

Noise Reduction

The X-S1 has respectable noise performance for a small-sensor camera. We ran our noise tests at each noise reduction setting, like we do with DSLRs and system cameras (which often cost less than the X-S1). But since we're ranking it as a point-and-shoot, we're counting results from just one NR level, in this case the Standard setting.

Numbers-wise, the results are decent. Noise starts at 0.65% at base ISO and rises consistently through the range, tipping the scales beyond 1% at ISO 800 and finishing at 1.5% at ISO 3200. Chroma noise is consistent across all channels, and less present than luma noise.

In real-world terms, shots are a little bit messy starting even at ISO 400, though there isn't a tremendous falloff in detail and clarity until the top setting (ISO 3200). ISO 1600 is still usable. More on how we test noise.

Science Section 2 Images

ISO Options

The native (full-res) ISO range stretches from ISO 100 to 3200, and the extended (reduced-res) range stretches up to a whopping ISO 12800. In most shooting modes, settings are user-selectable in full stops, and between ISO 200 and 6400, in one-third stops. In most automatic modes, options are limited to Auto ISO or Auto ISO limits—400, 800, 1600, and 3200.

Dynamic Range

The bigger the sensor, the better the dynamic range performance. Though the X-S1 has a big chip by point-and-shoot standards, it's still a fraction of the size of a DSLR sensor, so it's unreasonably to expect comparable performance.

That said, Fuji's EXR sensors are known for handling the d-range well. With noise reduction turned down, the X-S1 can cover about 5.5 stops—short of what DSLRs and system cameras can do, but quite good compared to most superzooms. It's even more adept with the d-range compensation cranked up, especially in the D-Range Priority EXR processing mode.

In real world terms, this basically means that it won't totally wash out the sky if you're shooting a shady area on a sunny day. Check out our sample photos for some examples. More on how we test dynamic range.

Low Light Performance

Thanks to its 2/3-inch sensor (about 50% larger than most superzoom chips), relatively bright f/2.8 maximum aperture, and smart EXR processing modes, the X-S1 can be a solid low-light performer. Shots above ISO 800 are a bit cleaner and crisper than what other superzooms can offer, especially in EXR mode. Low-light ability diminishes as the focal length increases—it's tough to get a sharp shot with dim lighting, a shrinking aperture and an unsteady hand—but that's nothing special to this camera.

No X-s1 review would be complete without a mention the infamous White Orbs. Last year’s Fuji X10 caught flack for reproducing highlights as perfectly round, hard-edged white orbs in certain conditions. Fuji said it was a firmware problem, but their "fix" did nothing. Some folks speculated it might be the X10's lens. But the X-S1 has the same white-orb problem, so we can narrow it down to the 2/3-inch sensor.

In dark scenes with bright highlights, shot at low ISOs, the X-S1 turns those highlights into ugly white discs. Check out our sample photo page for an example.

Keep in mind that we went out of our way to take a shot where there might be orbs. We wouldn't actually use a dumb photo like that in a review under normal circumstances. At a medium viewing size, the orbs aren't so obvious. For what it's worth, we had a harder time producing the orbs with the X-S1 than we did with the X10. The orbs don't always appear, and don't necessarily ruin every shot. But it is disappointing that an $800 camera runs into such an ugly problem.

Noise Reduction

The X-S1 has respectable noise performance for a small-sensor camera. We ran our noise tests at each noise reduction setting, like we do with DSLRs and system cameras (which often cost less than the X-S1). But since we're ranking it as a point-and-shoot, we're counting results from just one NR level, in this case the Standard setting.

Numbers-wise, the results are decent. Noise starts at 0.65% at base ISO and rises consistently through the range, tipping the scales beyond 1% at ISO 800 and finishing at 1.5% at ISO 3200. Chroma noise is consistent across all channels, and less present than luma noise.

In real-world terms, shots are a little bit messy starting even at ISO 400, though there isn't a tremendous falloff in detail and clarity until the top setting (ISO 3200). ISO 1600 is still usable. More on how we test noise.

ISO Options

The native (full-res) ISO range stretches from ISO 100 to 3200, and the extended (reduced-res) range stretches up to a whopping ISO 12800. In most shooting modes, settings are user-selectable in full stops, and between ISO 200 and 6400, in one-third stops. In most automatic modes, options are limited to Auto ISO or Auto ISO limits—400, 800, 1600, and 3200.

Focus Performance

In good lighting, the X-S1 has strong focus performance for a fixed-lens camera. It's quick and usually accurate (not always, but that'll happen) throughout the focal range. Performance drops off quite a bit in poor lighting, which is to be expected, but it's still effective.

Video: Low Light Sensitivity

It's safe to say that the X-S1 is not a good low-light performer. It's basically blind below 42 lux, so nighttime shooting will be incredibly hit or miss.

Chromatic Aberration

We measured notable chromatic aberration throughout the X-S1's focal range. Most of the the time, it's visible only in areas of very high contrast, like the edges of buildings against a gray sky. For such a versatile lens, that's okay.

At the telephoto setting, chromatic aberrations skyrocket—up to five times the camera's average. It's plainly visible in our resolution crops—fringing is obvious and ugly in every case, and really drags down the full-zoom image quality to the point where we'd consider avoiding the maximum focal length at all. Backing off a bit helps, though.

Basically, the X-S1 suffers from more chromatic aberration than the typical camera even without the poor telephoto performance, probably due to its ambitious lens. In most cases, it shouldn't be enough to bother most photographers with reasonable expectations for a camera like this, but everyone will notice that it's problematic at the longest focal length.

Distortion

A zoom lens with a relatively wide starting point always suffers from distortion, but the X-S1 adjusts for the effect. We measured just 0.78 percent barrel distortion at the wide angle and a virtually unnoticeable 0.14 percent and 0.22 percent pincushion effect at the middle and telephoto settings, respectively. The results are so good that we didn't penalize the X-S1 at all; it earns full points in this category (as do at least half of all cameras that we test). RAW images are more distorted, but that's expected.

Motion

As with most Fujifilm cameras over the past few years, the X-S1 struggles with moving objects in video mode. Motion is fairly smooth—not much stuttering—but most objects leave a visible trail for a few seconds. Artifacts pop up all over the frame, particularly in high-contrast areas (two solid colors meeting each other, for example). The results are fine, but lack a certain refinement that better cameras offer.

When the camera itself pans with any action, it loses focus very easily, then spends a few seconds hunting to find it again—the resulting footage is completely worthless. More on how CamcorderInfo tests motion.

Video has never been one of Fuji's strong suits, and the situation isn't any better with any of their recent cameras, including the HS20EXR superzoom or the X10 premium compact. Canon and Panasonic's top superzooms fare much better, probably because they're made by companies that also have highly rated camcorder divisions.

Video Sharpness

With the X-S1 fixed in position, it can resolve over 500 vertical and 600 horizontal lw/ph. But as soon as it starts panning, the sharpness drops off fast. We measured just 300 vertical and 200 horizontal lw/ph—and that's when it actually maintained focus. More on how CamcorderInfo tests video sharpness.

Dropping the lights down, the results are even worse, with just 175 horizontal and vertical lw/ph, and it had an even harder time holding focus than in good lighting.

Low Light Sensitivity

It's safe to say that the X-S1 is not a good low-light performer. It's basically blind below 42 lux, so nighttime shooting will be incredibly hit or miss.

Usability

Thanks to the big, comfortable chassis and smart control scheme, the X-S1 handles almost as well as a mid-range DSLR. Anyone who has used previous Fuji HS-series superzooms should feel right at home. Hands-on shooters will appreciate the myriad manual shooting modes and direct-access controls, including two assignable Fn buttons, while both auto modes (standard and EXR) are easy and reliable. The manual zoom control is smooth as a hot knife through cheddar, and thanks to the clear, responsive electronic viewfinder, the focus ring on the lens is actually worth using. It's a decently quick shooter, too with speedy burst shooting and respectable autofocus and shot-to-shot times. The downside to a big body is, of course, added weight and bulk—you'll want to use the neck strap and grip the camera with both hands. Overall, the X-S1 handles better than any superzoom out there.

Automatic Features

Like many higher-end Fujifilm models, the X-S1 has both a standard auto mode as well as EXR auto mode, which switches to one of the system's alternative capture and processing techniques.

EXR mode is the best way to approach automatic shooting with the X10; the shots generally turn out cleaner, sharper, and with a more balanced dynamic range than they do out of the standard auto mode, and they never look worse. The High ISO & Low Noise and D-Range Priority modes do chop the resolution down to 6 megapixels, which is low by current standards but still dense enough for decently large prints.

Buttons & Dials

The X-S1 has an excellent control scheme. The layout feels as natural as a DSLR, with plenty of dedicated and direct-access controls, as well as two assignable function (Fn) keys.

Just about all of the most commonly adjusted shooting options have a dedicated key: ISO, white balance, metering, autofocus, EV compensation, burst mode, self-time, flash, movie mode, RAW, EVF/LCD toggle, AF/AE lock, playback, and macro mode. There's a focus-mode switch on the front panel as well, which makes it very convenient to switch modes. It's great for hands-on shooters. Auto-shooters can just flip the mode dial to Auto or EXR and ignore everything else, but that's wasting the potential.

Effects, Filters, and Scene Modes

The X-S1 is a no-fun, all business camera. Just kidding—but seriously, it has no picture effects or digital filters, which is uncommon these days. It does offer a healthy selection of scene modes, as well as a handful of "advanced" modes.

The menu system is typical Fujifilm fare, pretty much identical to the system in the HS20EXR/HS30EXR and X10. The key difference is that playback-related menus have green tabs now, while shooting modes have red and blue tabs.

Per usual, the menu system is tiered by category (shooting, playback, and setup), with multiple pages in each category. The setup menu, for example, is six pages, and includes options for everything from image stabilization to screen brightness to RAW shooting to card formatting.

No "quick" or "function" menus here. That's fine by us, because instead we get a boatload of direct-access keys, covering white balance, ISO, autofocus, auto exposure, drive mode, exposure compensation, video recording, and playback mode, plus two assignable function (Fn) keys. Almost all of the most commonly adjusted are accounted for, so a quick menu would be redundant. The access-heavy controls scheme should keep most users out of main menu, which is great, since it's relatively clunky.

Instruction Manual

The X-S1 ships with a full, printed user's manual. That shouldn't be a surprise with an $800 camera, but we've reviewed a few that only include a quick-start guide and a CD with a PDF version of the manual. Good work, Fuji.

Handling

The X-S1 is the size of a mid-range DSLR, like the Nikon D5100 or Canon T3i. It's notably bigger than any other superzoom, including Fujifilm’s own HS-series models, which are already big by bridge-cam standards. No surprise, the X-S1 is also in the same weight class as those mid-level DSLRs. Bridge cameras are usually light enough for single-mitt gripping, but not the X-S1. We could grip it with one hand for short periods of time, but the weight always put strain on our wrists after more than a minute or so.

Handling Photo 1

The X-S1's large grip makes it easy to handle, but we recommend a two-handed grip because of the weight.

A better bet is to attach the neck strap (it's way too big for any pocket or purse anyway) and grip it with two hands: It handles as naturally as a DSLR. The contours are cozy, and the buttons are well-placed. The extra size really makes it much more comfortable to handle than a typical superzoom, too.

The body is covered in a rubber coating that’s deceptively soft and easy to grip. The manual twist-barrel zoom mechanism is exceptionally smooth and nicely weighted, with consistent resistance throughout the focal range. Fuji apparently used some of the same construction techniques as they do on their broadcast-quality lenses. The mode dial and command dial are both metal, with a nice weight and resistance. Some of the buttons are a bit clacky, and others a bit soft, but those are the only weak spots on an otherwise well-built camera with fantastic handling.

Handling Photo 2

Buttons & Dials

The X-S1 has an excellent control scheme. The layout feels as natural as a DSLR, with plenty of dedicated and direct-access controls, as well as two assignable function (Fn) keys.

Just about all of the most commonly adjusted shooting options have a dedicated key: ISO, white balance, metering, autofocus, EV compensation, burst mode, self-time, flash, movie mode, RAW, EVF/LCD toggle, AF/AE lock, playback, and macro mode. There's a focus-mode switch on the front panel as well, which makes it very convenient to switch modes. It's great for hands-on shooters. Auto-shooters can just flip the mode dial to Auto or EXR and ignore everything else, but that's wasting the potential.

Buttons Photo 1

An array of buttons and dials on the top panel.

The quality of the buttons could be better. The metal dials are great, but some buttons are soft and others too plasticky. They're small, too, which makes them a harder to find by touch than they should be.

Buttons Photo 2

A handful of direct-access keys to the right of the LCD.

Display(s)

The 3-inch, 460,000-pixel, tilting LCD on the X-S1 is pretty typical of the superzoom class. The size is ample, the resolution is decent, and the hinge helps with high- and low-angle photos and videos. Direct sunlight mostly washes out the screen, but with the Monitor Sunlight Mode activated and brightness boosted all the way, it's somewhat visible—even so, it's probably better to use the EVF when possible. We'd love to see a fully articulating screen like the Panasonic FZ150 offers, but we don't have much to complain about here.

Viewfinder

The X-S1 comes equipped with a great electronic eye-level viewfinder. At 1.44 million pixels, the resolution is much higher than we see from the cut-rate EVFs on most superzooms, and approaching the greatness of the EVFs on Sony's Alpha SLT models. It's bright, responsive, and sharp enough to actually use for manual focus. At 0.47 inches, it's reasonably large, and although the plastic eyepiece is shallow and pretty hard, overall the EVF is comfortably to shoot with. It's also equipped with an eye-level sensor and a diopter adjustment dial (-5 to +3), tucked awkwardly behind the eyepiece.

Image Stabilization

Any camera with a 26x zoom lens had better have a strong stabilizer, and the X-S1 does. The X-S1 already has two design elements working in its favor: a huge grip, and an eye-level finder, both of which make it easier to hold a camera steady. Beyond that, the optical stabilization is very effective. We measured a 64.3 percent improvement in stabilization at the telephoto setting with stabilization activated. The difference is visible even in the viewfinder—little shakes don't appear on-screen when IS is turned on.

Shooting Modes

The X-S1 offers manual (PASM), automatic, and preset scene modes, as well as specialty (or “advanced”) modes like a 360-degree sweep panorama and multi-shot composite modes. It also accommodates three user-definable custom settings—always useful.

Focus

In good lighting, the X-S1 has strong focus performance for a fixed-lens camera. It's quick and usually accurate (not always, but that'll happen) throughout the focal range. Performance drops off quite a bit in poor lighting, which is to be expected, but it's still effective.

The X-S1 uses 49-area, contrast-detection autofocus. Single and continuous AF are supported, and multi-area, spot, and tracking frame areas are available. Super macro mode can focus from as close as 1cm.

Manual focus is also an option. MF is usually tricky on fixed-lens cameras with modest sensors, but the X-S1 is pretty well-suited for the job. The electronic viewfinder is actually high-res enough to see the details in the subject, which is more than we can say for most EVFs. The lens ring is smooth too. If all else fails, there’s a snap-to-AF option available as well.

Recording Options

The X-S1 maxes out at 12 megapixels of resolution (4000x3000 pixels). It can shoot in four aspect ratios (4:3, 3:2, 16:9, and 1:1) at three photo sizes each (Large, Medium, and Small). It captures JPEG, RAW, and RAW+JPEG formats. JPEGs are usually about 5MB each, and RAW files are usually a shade under 20MB.

Other Controls

The X-S1 offers a few extra fine-tuning controls that haven't been discussed elsewhere in the review.

Highlight Tone

Adjusts the appearance and intensity of highlights.

Shadow Tone

Adjusts the appearance and detail in shadows.

Advanced Anti-blur

Uses some software trickery to remove the blur from photos taken in EXR Auto mode.

Speed and Timing

Like any high-end, fixed-lens camera these days, the X-S1 offers a quick burst mode with several settings, as well as a handful of bracketing options, and a self-timer.

Four burst modes are available: Low, Middle, and High, which all function at full-resolution, as well as Super-High, which cuts the resolution down to 6 megapixels. There's also a Best Frame Capture mode (the camera selects what it thinks is the best shot out of a short burst), as well as auto-exposure, ISO, color mode, and dynamic range bracketing modes.

Fuji advertises a full-res top speed of 7 frames per second for the X-S1. We maxed it out at 6.3fps over 5 shots—close, but not quite there. Of the other cameras in the comparison group, the X-S1 is the slowest burst shooter, but by a slim margin.

There's no limit on the number of shots per burst, though it slows down considerably after about a dozen frames. RAW burst mode is available, too—it's wicked slow, but it works.

Options for the self-timer are limited to 2-second and 10-second timers—no intervals, no programmable settings.

Focus Speed

In good lighting, the X-S1 has strong focus performance for a fixed-lens camera. It's quick and usually accurate (not always, but that'll happen) throughout the focal range. Performance drops off quite a bit in poor lighting, which is to be expected, but it's still effective.

The X-S1 uses 49-area, contrast-detection autofocus. Single and continuous AF are supported, and multi-area, spot, and tracking frame areas are available. Super macro mode can focus from as close as 1cm.

Manual focus is also an option. MF is usually tricky on fixed-lens cameras with modest sensors, but the X-S1 is pretty well-suited for the job. The electronic viewfinder is actually high-res enough to see the details in the subject, which is more than we can say for most EVFs. The lens ring is smooth too. If all else fails, there’s a snap-to-AF option available as well.

Features

The X-S1 doesn't have many surprise features that we haven't covered elsewhere. It does have a hot shoe, no surprise, as well as support for an external microphone and a remote release, but those are nothing out of the ordinary for a serious camera like this.

Effects, Filters, and Scene Modes

The X-S1 is a no-fun, all business camera. Just kidding—but seriously, it has no picture effects or digital filters, which is uncommon these days. It does offer a healthy selection of scene modes, as well as a handful of "advanced" modes.

Other Features

Hot Shoe

No surprise for a serious camera, the X-S1 has a hot shoe sitting on the crest of the camera. Most folks will probably end up using it for an external (more powerful) flash, though it could be used as a cold shoe to mount a microphone. (Just because it has a mic jack doesn't mean that it's a good video shooter, though...)

Recording Options

The X-S1 records in MP4 h.264 format at 1080p, 30fps. Find out how the performed in our video image quality test./r:link_to_content

Video Controls

The only dedicated video control is the video button, next to the viewfinder eyepiece.

Auto Controls

Scene modes are available in video mode, but they have to be set prior to recording.

Zoom

Since it's a manual zoom mechanism, the full 26x zoom range is available during recording. You'll want to use a tripod to keep those telephoto shots steady; the in-camera stabilization won't cut it at the far reaches of the focal range.

Exposure Controls

Aperture, white balance, metering, and exposure compensation can be set prior to recording, but once it starts rolling, it's locked in.

Audio Features

A stereo microphone is built into the body, but there's also a mcriphone jack available.

Conclusion

Once upon a time, superzooms were built to bridge the gap between pocket shooters and DSLRs, as a happy medium in terms of price, performance, and target audience. That's still the point to a certain degree, but changes in the industry have blurred the lines. Entry-level DSLRs are as cheap as some premium superzooms. The advent of mirrorless compact system cameras altered notions about size, price, and image quality. And for casual shooting, smartphones have already begun to replace low-zoom pocket cameras.

The industry's old, rigid design conventions don't apply anymore, so it's time to reconsider the point of superzoom cameras. They don't just need to occupy the middle ground between small, low-quality cameras and big, high-quality cameras.

Fujifilm's X-S1 is the first camera we've seen that tries to break away from the stale formula. It's same size and price as a mid-level DSLR, but it packs a massive 26x, 24-624mm equivalent optical zoom lens. The sensor 2/3-inch is much smaller than a DSLR's, but still about 50% larger than the chips found in most point-and-shoots and superzooms (bigger sensors usually mean better noise and dynamic-range performance).

As an $800 fixed-lens camera, it's a niche product. The target audience has to be enthusiast photographers who will pay a premium for an all-in-one DSLR alternative that's somehow better than the superzooms that are already out there. The X-S1 could fill that gap (as narrow as it might be), but it needs to really stand out.

The X-S1's build quality, handling, and user experience are the best that we've seen in a superzoom, period. It's bulky compared to, say, the Panasonic FZ150, but the extra real estate makes the X-S1 easier to grip and more comfortable to operate. The twist-barrel zoom mechanism is a thing of beauty, and the electronic viewfinder is the best we've seen outside of the Sony SLT series. It's basically like using an honest-to-goodness DSLR that happens to have an enormous focal range.

It's too bad that the X-S1's image quality just isn't as strong as it should be for the price. The lens is the root of the problem; it's just not sharp enough for this sensor. It's soft at most settings, particularly at the telephoto end; ditto for chromatic aberration. It holds its own in terms of noise performance and color, and it handles the dynamic range better than any superzoom we've seen. Low-light performance is very solid, too. Sure, none of its results are downright bad, but for this money, it should take better photos than any other bridge model, and it doesn't. (And for those keeping track, yes, it creates white orbs like the X10 did.)

Don't lose sight of the fact that there are plenty of great qualities about the X-S1. We had a great time shooting with it, and its final score is very respectable. Most of our beefs with the image quality will only show up at bigger viewing sizes; if you're not a pixel peeper, you might not care. The wonderful handling and user experience might help you to forget those quirks.

So who should buy the X-S1? Well, it certainly isn't the first superzoom that we recommend. The Panasonic FZ150 and Canon SX40 HS can accomplish most of the same things as the X-S1, but they pack a bigger bang for the buck and better image quality. If you're stepping up to a serious camera and feel tempted by the X-S1's DSLR-esque features, we'd steer you toward an actual DSLR like the Nikon D5100 (or if you want the zoom, one of the aforementioned superzooms).

The X-S1 is really best-suited for Fujifilm enthusiasts (you guys will love it) and early adopters who want a superzoom with a DSLR feel. It's a very good camera, not a great one, but we definitely see value in Fujifilm trying to create a more serious bridge model than anyone else has over the past few years.

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