Fujifilm X-S1 review
The video mode is generally excellent, with 1080p capture in AVC format and stereo sound, but again, there are a few niggles. The lack of anti-alias filtering made sharp diagonal lines look blocky, and it's frustrating that manual exposure settings and even the exposure lock button are ignored for video capture. Autofocus was smooth and silent, and although it wasn't as reliable at tracking moving subjects as the Panasonic, it wasn't bad. This is only possible when the front dial is switched from AF-S to AF-C, though – something we often forgot to do before commencing recording. Thankfully, it can still be switched after pressing record. The microphone input is a great asset but the lack of level metering or a headphone socket means there's no way of knowing if the microphone's battery has run out or if there's a loose connection.
The X-S1 sailed through most of our image quality tests. The lens performed well throughout its zoom range, with no sign of chromatic aberrations and only mild corner softness at medium-to-long focal lengths. While its 26x zoom range isn't as impressive as the Canon SX40 HS's 36x zoom, in practice the Canon only had a small advantage for resolving detail at the maximum zoom extension. Low-light shots exhibited remarkably little noise, especially in the EXR mode that reduces the resolution to 6 megapixels specifically to combat noise. Another mode extends the dynamic range to rescue blown-out highlights, and was extremely effective.
The issue of blown-out highlights is somewhat controversial, with widely reported problems of white discs appearing in photos. However, as with the X10, we found it to be rare, and not hugely intrusive when it did appear. Boosting the dynamic range to the maximum 1600% setting significantly reduced it. The example below was caused by sunlight reflecting off a window pane on the Gherkin – it took a heavily over-exposed highlight such as this to trigger the problem.
Paradoxically, the X-S1's photos were least impressive in the most favourable shooting conditions. Photos taken in bright light at medium focal lengths were reasonably sharp but not quite a match for the Panasonic and Canon. Processing the X-S1's raw output in Lightroom 4 or the bundled Silkypix editor didn't help, either, which makes us wonder whether the sensor's unusual pixel array (for lowering noise and extending the dynamic range) takes its toll on details. We'd happily choose lower noise and extended dynamic range over extra detail, but others may feel differently.
The X-S1 leaves room for improvement, but many of the problems described above are trivial, and from our point of view, none are critical. The bottom line is that this camera removes the need to choose between image quality, performance and ergonomics. It's up there with the best in all three areas, and its EVF is without equal among ultra-zoom cameras. You'd have to spend a fortune on an SLR and lots of lenses to get a more versatile camera.
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