The Fujifilm X70 - APS-C sensor, compact, connected

After my experience with the Fujifilm X70 at the Louwman Museum, I couldn't wait to work with it on a more or less daily basis. I recently had the privilege of using the X70 for about a two week period, which gave me a pretty decent idea whether I'd want one for myself or not. In this post you'll read how I feel about it now.

My first own Fujifilm camera is the X30 - I decided to buy a Fujifilm compact even before I got the X70 review sample, to get used to the menu etc., since I was really impressed after my first experience with the brand in The Hague.

The X30 is a remarkable compact camera with EVF, OIS, built-in flash, zoom lens (28mm-112mm), tiltable screen and WiFi. It produces very fine quality pictures, although the resolution is "only" 12MP. The sensor size is quite small though: 2/3" CMOS. It's in fact the "weakest" part of the X30 which I do love in just about every other respect: simply great value for money.

In comes the Fujifilm X70 - a lot smaller than the X30, a lot lighter as well, and definitely more pocketable. Below you'll see two shots I captured from both, which will give you an impression of the difference in size.

The new Fujifilm X70 has the same 28mm wide angle - but no zoom, which most photographers see as an advantage (like most would have prefered a fixed 35mm lens over the 28mm). The menu offers a "crop mode" though, enabling you to quickly "zoom in" to 35mm or even 50mm. Widest aperture of the X70 is f/2.8, a bit slower than the X30 (f/2.0 at 28mm).

The X70 has a tiltable screen (all the way up to please the selfie rage), a 3 inch touchscreen and offers WiFi as well, so it's connected. But most importantly it has a large 16MP APS-C CMOS sensor, using Fujifilm's X-Trans technology (I wrote about that earlier in this post).

That APS-C sensor is 6.3 times larger than the one on the X30, it's in fact the same sensor you'll find on the Fujifilm X100s and X100t, which is a lot bigger (bigger than the X30 in all dimensions). The X100t being the absolute top Fujifilm pocket camera of the moment, it's much more expensive than the X70 as well, so getting this sensor in a compact this size is very welcome. You won't find many small compacts with this a sensor this size anyway (in fact I can only think of the Ricoh GR and GR II).

To show you what the difference in physical sensor size is all about, I borrowed this illustration from, a site I like to use for fast camera spec comparisons. 

Fujifilm X70 in daily use
Pocketability is probably the second most important feature of the X70. I can put it in my jacket even including the shoulder strap, and that's saying something - I have a hard time getting the X30 in without it. Sure, it's a lot bigger and heavier than your smartphone, but this is one great compact you can actually always carry with you. There are others, of course (Sony's famous RX100 series for instance), but not with an APS-C sensor. Like I said, the Ricoh GR and GR II are the only two I can think of.

Although it's small, it's far from fragile, the X70 really feels sturdy and built to last. It also has this retro look so many people love about Fujifilm's devices. You might need some time getting used to the menu, but that's something I guess one could say from just about all camera brands.

There are many ways to change the settings when shooting, like the buttons on top, but especially the aperture ring around the lens, enabling you to change aperture setting (or set it to auto) in no-time. ISO settings are still in the menu, easily accessible via the Q button on the back. This is where you can also switch to many different settings, like film simulations, something Fujifilm is well-known for.

Of course, there are many more settings to choose from the menu. One thing you might love is you can actually program just about any hardware button the way you want it. For instance, if like me you don't use the video option a lot, you can choose to change the function of the red button on top of the X70 (to film simulation for instance).

One option I really like is how you can easily instruct the sensor on which spot to focus in the scene in front of you - great when you want to make sure it focusses on something in the foreground for instance (or the background for that matter). It's this exact spot that will pop-up in your display as soon as you push the small wheel on the back, which will directly show you a 100% zoom of your shot - super easy to see if it turned out as you hoped.

Due to its size, there is no room for any kind of built-in EVF however. I never cared about an electronic view finder when I worked with smartphones (no wonder), but working with connected cameras I've really learned to appreciate it. Fujifilm does offer an extra view finder as an accessory - to be attached to the hot shoe - but it will cost you another €199. 

I didn't get a review sample so I can't tell you how it works. I don't doubt it works fine, I do doubt how practical this solution really is however. It takes away part of the pocketability if you keep it attached to the X70 and chances are you'll loose the EVF if you don't.

Two awkward experiences
The inevitable "auto" button on top enables you to immediately change from whatever manual setting you use to what the camera thinks is best for the scene in front of you. It's the typical "give it to the one that doesn't care about photography all that much" option. The button works perfectly in tself, but the auto settings invariably give me a too bright result. It also comes in handy when there suddenly is no time to think about the best settings for the shot yourself - just switch to auto in an instant and fire. But I think the result could have been better.

Another somewhat annoying thing is you can't "lock" the exposure button on the far right top side. For some reason I often managed to inadvertedly scroll the wheel, changing the exposure to a lot higher or lower than I actually needed it to be. You don't really count on it, so you'll change exposure or aperture without really needing to. A simple button to lock this exposure correction wheel would be very welcome indeed.

As good as it gets
What I love about Fujifilm's approach to photography is how they aim to bring the "analogue" feel back into digital photography - hence the X-Trans technology. Its .JPG output is admired by many professional photographers. A disadvantage appears to be it's not as easy to work on your RAW results using Photoshop etc, since as far as I've understood software like that is based on the most common Bayern pattern.

In my case that's good, since - as you probably know by now if you're a frequent visitor - I don't like to spend much extra time and money on other software: I like my shots to be good as good as it gets directly from the camera. I know some professionals claiming Fujifilm is the only brand they're even willing to publish the .JPG result from.

What about my own shots then? I captured a few hundred shots with it (quite a lot of them in Amsterdam which always is a joy to share). First you'll find a few resized versions below - in bright and dark circumstances - followed by the inevitable crops from the originals.

More scenes
As you can see in the samples above, you may expect great detail under great circumstances. Also skin tones are very good in my opinion. Of course this is just a selection (you'll find more shots on Flickr, link below) and I didn't just use the X70 in Amsterdam.

Here are a few other shots I captured with it - resized, followed by crops like above. Let's start with a few very old cameras during a camera fair I visited in Hilversum.

It's obvious I focused on the back of the scene, but slight movement is visible in the crop.

Here's a look at the office I work in...

Pretty amazing detail even in the darker part of the scene this time... 

With a sensor this big, it's possible to achieve great bokeh even in close-ups.

In fact only a very small part from the shot appears to be razor sharp (I used smallest aperture f/2.8)

An unusual comparison: X30 at max. zoom vs X70
Just because I wondered how important the zoom is on the X30 with its small sensor, compared to the much bigger sensor of the X70, I did a bit of a weird test. I captured a street scene in Hilversum with both the X70 and X30 from the same angle. Here's what I captured with the X70:

Next from the same angle, I captured the same with the X30 at maximum zoom (112mm). This is of course a resized result (original is 4000x2664 pixels)

Next I cropped the shot I got from the X70 to just about the exact same proportions, ending up with 2070 x 1372 pixels, which I had to blow up to almost double its size to be able to do a one on one comparison. This is again a resized version to fit this page.

Finally I made crops from both "original" results. You'll see the X30 first followed by the X70

I think it's impressive to see that after "torturing" the shot from the X70, I still get more detail than what I got from the X30 at maximum zoom, although it looks like the X30 has a disadvantage in this case (looks like I didn't really focus on that part or maybe I even moved capturing the scene). 

Let's try it again with a different part of the same shots.

In this case the result coming from the X30 seems better. I tried some more crops however, and it seems like I actually moved a bit capturing the scene with it. Not sure.

The results coming from the X70 aren't always "better", but considering the harsh treatment I think they are still very good! It looks like the much bigger sensor does make up for the fact the X70 doesn't offer any zoom, if you were wondering about this. The X70 appears to offer more than enough detail in that respect.

On a sidenote: it more or less works the other way around as well - if you're interested in a certain part of the scene you want to capture, you now know the zoom function of the X30 may get you as much detail as the large sensor of the X70. However, I'm fully aware of the fact that working with a fixed lens does change your perspective to photography itself.

The Fujifilm X70 is a lovely little camera but it does leave me with a few mixed feelings. I love the combination of its whopping APS-C sized X-trans sensor in a very pocketable and beautiful device - look and feel are just fantastic (but that's a matter of taste). I love the shots it enabled me to capture: great detail and colors (!), even under pretty difficult circumstances sometimes. 

For street photography, I do see some disadvantages in a fixed wide-angle (28mm) lens instead of the more "classic" 35mm (although Fujifilm thought of a crop mode for both 35mm and 50mm). With street photography, you'll have to get a lot closer using 28mm than you might be used to using 35mm of the X100 for instance. Of course, 28mm has it advantages for landscape photography etc.

You will notice the lack of OIS in handheld shots in darker situations. The solution to offer an attachable EVF is better than having none at all, but it will cost you another €199 so you'll be looking at almost €900 if you really feel you need one. Other than that, €699 doesn't strike me as overpriced for a very pocketable compact with a sensor this size - at this moment it's what you pay for the Ricoh GR II as well, at least in my country.

No OIS could be somewhat of a deal breaker for some, but even the X100t has a fantastic reputation without it. Generally speaking, the X70 offers just about the same specs as its famous bigger brother, although aperture is smaller at f/2.8 and it lacks the built-in EVF. To make up for the smaller aperture, maximum ISO value of the X70 is much higher (51.200 vs 6.400). Finally, maximum shutter speed of the X100t is eight times faster (1/32.000 vs 1/4000).
In all, I'm still not sure if I prefer my current X30 (great value for money, EVF, OIS, zoom, but lacks a large sensor), the X70 (much smaller, lighter, APS-C sensor, not too expensive but no EVF nor OIS) or the X100t (much more expensive, larger and heavier, no OIS, but EVF built-in and a bit faster lens).

First world problems, sure. One thing they all have in common: WiFi, so they're all connected cameras, enabling you to instantly share your results via email or on whatever social media you prefer.

What I suddenly realize - after Samsung has quietly left the building to many people's astonishment and anger (!) - Fujifilm all of a sudden seems to have become my favorite camera brand. You'll find the sample shots I selected from my time with the Fujifilm X70 here. I'm kinda new to this field, so if you just read something that didn't make sense, don't hesitate to let me know. I'm looking forward to your reactions below anyway!

I've been suffering the consequences of way too much time behind my computers at work and laptop at home with a pretty serious bursitis in my shoulder - not something I want to experience again. So I'll have to be very careful writing my next posts. I'm still planning a comparison of the 808 PureView vs Lumia 950 XL, but it will take more time (although I guess I have more shots than I can process by now).

In a next post however, you'll be reading about my experience with the Sony RX1RII I was able to use for a few weeks as well. So don't be a stranger. Meanwhile, if you appreciate what I'm doing here, there's a PayPal button to support the club on the right hand side of this page. I'll add you to the list of sponsors if you decide to support the club! Thank you very much in advance! :-)