Fuji X70: First impression hands-on with the new Baby X
Shortly before Christmas I sold my Fuji X100T. Simply put, it covered exactly the same ground as the new Leica Q that had just come my way. Since then the Q has filled the role formerly taken by the X100—and then some. I have already covered this in several articles.
Yet the X100 left a certain emptiness in my photographic life. It was somewhat smaller, somewhat flatter than the Q which cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be classed as a pocket camera. The X100 bulged a little but, nevertheless, fitted reasonably comfortably in a coat pocket.
There are occasions when you don’t want to appear with a camera around the neck yet still wish to be in the position to grab a quick photo that:
- is of high quality
- doesn’t come from a smartphone
It’s clear that there are a number of toddler cameras that produce good results and disappear into the pocket, various Sonys, Panasonics and so forth. Yet I wasn’t keen to have a smaller sensor than APS-C, however irrational that may sound.
Note: All photographs in this article by Claus Sassenberg. Click on any image to enlarge
The logical choice for a camera to meet my exacting requirements would be the excellent Ricoh GR II. Yet, during the time I owned the X100, it was, let’s say, small enough for me.
Now I was missing the pocket factor. Enter the new Fuji X70. Alongside the Ricoh GR and the Nikon Coolpix A (which is no longer available) it is the only camera in this size with an APS-C sensor. It landed on the market in January 2016.
A couple of weeks ago by chance I met a friend who pressed an X70 into my hand. For someone such as me, who has been familiar with various Fuji cameras since the original X100 and the X-Pro1, this camera was a familiar object. The Fuji X70, in common with the Ricoh GR, has the 28mm full-frame equivalent angle of view that I find quite comfortable.
All controls are visible at a glance and the camera is definitely small. It is significantly smaller than the X100 yet possesses most of the attractive attributes with one exception: The viewfinder. More on that later.
Below: Three different renderings according to taste: Classic chrome film simulation from the camera, Silver Efex Pro with TMax100 film simulation, in-camera monochrome with red filter.
That is precisely the reason why I didn’t choose the previously mentioned Ricoh GR—the Fujiphile in me. Whoever owns the GR doesn’t need the X70. Period. What the Fuji does offer above the Ricoh: The hinged display (very practical if you are resigned to managing without the viewfinder) and the manual controls, which can be checked at a single glance. Other things, for instance the X-Trans sensor (of which more later) or the internal film simulation processing, are all a nice bonus for Fuji owners.
I have had the X70 for only a few days, therefore this is a “hands on” rather than a full review—of which there is a whole bunch available. Two recommended reviews are by Sean Reid (subscription necessary) and MirrorLessons.
Last Saturday was the occasion of the unboxing experience, not overwhelming but above all not cheap and cheerful as you so often find with Sony (I am already too spoiled). You can prepare yourself to hear that I have lots of good things to say about this camera. But one not-so-good aspect stands out: Dear Fuji, what are you thinking of in selling this thing without a charger? Why should have have to hang the camera for hours from the mains plug? (Rant!)
In recognition of this sad fact I immediately bought myself a charger and two third-party batteries for 27 Euro. That should suffice.
As you can imagine, as an experienced X100T user I didn’t need to take even one glance at the instructions manual, especially not to set up my favourite menu settings. The main points are:
- Single focus point with Touch-AF (but not shutter release)
- Only RAW, no JPG (the Fuji JPGs are well known to be very good, but I am a RAW shooter. The various film simulations can be handled later in Lightroom and are superb.
- Auto ISO up to 6400
- Normal and electronic shutter
- All irritating noises switched off
- Dynamic Range Auto (I can change according to the lighting conditions if necessary)
To understand the DR function it must be said that this is a result of the special characteristics of the X70 sensor. As also with other X-System cameras, the ISO value is fixed, non adjustable. This means that despite rising ISO the same value is selected and higher sensitivity is pushed upwards by the software. It’s an oddball arrangement but it works. If you want to read more on this, here are two well-written explanation for reading in bed: Fuji Love and Improve Photography.
The supplied battery already had a surprisingly high charge so within half an hour I was out on the racing bike, the camera tucked safely in the back pocket of the jersey. In contrast, when riding the mountain bike I am happy to be loaded with a backpack that holds the M or the Q without problem. Without a backpack and with the camera in the pocket, the toleration threshold for the small bulk of the X70 is definitely lower than it was with the X100.
Along the way I collected my first impressions of the camera handling. I have comparatively small hands and find the dimensions ideal for gripping the camera in the right hand, with the forefinger on the shutter button, the thumb snuggled comfortably again the thumb rest on the rear of the camera while, perhaps, the left hand seeks the focus point or adjusts the tilting display.
This display facility is a blessing when composing the picture. It permits excellent control of waist-level or over-the-head shots. That was not so important on the bike ride but I took the opportunity to grab a couple of landscape shots. Several times, however, I found myself bringing the camera up to my eye to look through a non-existent viewfinder. But you get used to it.
Sean Reid, whose review I have read carefully, refers to an external viewfinder for the Fuji, the VF-X21, that is undoubtedly a bit of a brick to mount on your X70. He recommends the Ricoh GV-2, that at least matches the dimensions of the camera. But something else occurred to me: Since the days of the M9 I’ve owned the Leica 21mm viewfinder. Absolutely by chance the framelines perfectly match the 28mm of the X70. It looks absolutely cool perched on the X70. Better than the Fuji finder, no comparison with the plastic pill from Ricoh. But, somewhat expensive. If I hadn’t already owned it I would never have considered buying it to go with the Fuji. After all, it costs as much as the camera.
Working with an external finder naturally brings some disadvantages, principally in the lack of focus confirmation. I take the view that with critical focus, if it’s going to be done quickly and effectively, it’s best to use the display. When I have more time and the subject is static, I first focus via the screen, half press the shutter to hold focus, then recompose through the viewfinder.
The above shots of the graduation works (filtering the spa water) in Bad Salzuflen provide another comparison. The colour shot is from the camera’s Provia simulation followed by Silver Efex with yellow filter, camera monochrome with red filter. It seems to me that the camera’s internal filters are very weak. Actually, the cloud contrast with a red filter should be stronger. Of the film simulations, Velvia is the only one I find irritating. It is terribly over saturated and the black point is lost beyond rescue in the left-hand edge of the histogram, the same as with shadow.
While we are on the subject of accessories, the lens hood (LH-X100 from JCC) that I bought for the Fuji X100, fits the X70 perfectly and looks good, despite slightly ruining the pocketability of the camera. Furthermore, it also features a filter thread.
I brought the first test photos back home and experienced no nasty surprises. As usual, excellent picture quality, as from the the X100S or the T. That sounds a little lacking in enthusiasm but the picture files from the X cameras are always outstanding and I had expected no less. A bonus of these cameras is always the outstanding film simulations (excluding Velvia) that are embedded in the RAW data and which can be employed later in Lightroom according to taste (you can naturally set the JPGs in the camera).
Below: The first photos made during a tour with the racing bike, all Provia, developed from RAW in Lightroom.
The X70 lens is an integral unit that is very similar to the 23mm Fujinon found in the X100 models. That said, instead of the f/2 aperture the X70 has a maximum speed of f/2.8. Minimal focal distance is 10cm and the lens exhibits its best performance between f/4 and f/8. At f/2.8 and f/16 the corners can be somewhat soft, at f/2.8 there is a very pleasing bokeh and at f/16, it must be said, the diffraction influences the resolution negatively. All this is expected, and you can work with it.
By chance, the following day was a family celebration, a confirmation. Actually, I wanted to take along the Q (and it was also there), but I took this as the ideal opportunity to test the X70 in ernest. Above all, in the bustle following the church service, the hinged display showed its worth. If you hold the camera above the head you have perfect sight of the subject. But also the perspective from hip height has advantage. It certainly widens the possibilities of capturing unobtrusive photos by being able to hold the camera in front while looking at the display.
On occasion I found it good to select the focus point by tapping on the display; this mode can be set easily from the right edge of the touch screen. This is also not bad for snapshots although I prefer the shutter release.
After church it is obligatory to invite all the relations and guests to a meal. The weather was warm and sunny, the lighting conditions in the restaurant very extreme. I had the X70 with me and, I must say, it handled the light contrasts very well. At DR200 nothing was burnt out, in the shadows you can delve deep (but you must take care not to create the HDR look, which I find quite ugly). All pictures in this article are without exception developed in Lightroom from RAW data. Only the tone values have been adjusted as required, also brightness, highlights, shadow and white/black points. There are no changes to clarity or dynamics, no noise adjustments. The film simulations were selected in the appropriate drop-down menu before exporting as JPGs.
I have not yet tested the low-light capabilities in any depth but I am convinced that they are similar to those of the Fuji X100T if you disregard the somewhat slower aperture (f/2.8). I will reiterate, this is not a review, I am simply mentioning the things that for me are important in the camera.
For example, I pay relatively little attention to the manual focus aids because the autofocus is quick and exact. After all, the camera offers a number of options when they are needed. The video function is also of little interest to me. And may the blessed Barnack protect me from scene modes. Equally, I have no interest in confusing myself constantly by changing button function.
The suggested exposure alternatives are, as usual with the X Cameras, somewhat feebleminded. It is always possible to change the exposure compensation to achieve the same objective. If you want HDR, you need two EV. Nonsenses such as double exposure or “Advanced Filer” (pinhole camera and suchlike) are certainly not for me. Panorama function? Ho-hum. In-camera RAW processing?
Nice, but I prefer to do it myself. Similarly, the 50mm or 35mm digital cropping function for JPGs that only work without RAW. And whether one uses something like face detection is entirely a matter of taste. Selfie mode… oh dear, let’s stop here.
These, then, are my very first impressions of the Fuji X70. I like it; it offers much of the functionality of the X100T in a smaller, much more pocketable package. Only the wider 28mm angle of view is significantly different but, as with the Q, I can live with it and, indeed, I am growing to like it. Later, I hope to provde a fuller review of this new baby X.
- This review by Claus Sassenberg appeared in Messsucherwelt earlier this month. Translated by Mike Evans, so don't blame Claus for any errors
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