With a rich heritage, the X70 from Fujifilm has a lot going for it. Phil Hall sees if it can live up to expectations
Fujifilm X70 review – Introduction
At a glance:
- 3-million-pixel, APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor
- 28mm (equivalent) f/2.8 lens
- ISO 200-6,400 (raw), 100-51,200 (JPEG)
- 3in, 1.04-million-dot tilt LCD touchscreen
- Digital tele-converter with 35mm and 50mm options
- 1/32,000sec max shutter speed
The X100 from Fujifilm caught the imagination of photographers both professional and amateur, as well as kick-starting the Fujifilm renaissance after years of forgettable compacts. The latest incarnation, the X100T, will often find its way onto a photographer’s camera wish list, but at almost £800, it’s a more serious investment.
Which brings us to the X70 – smaller, cheaper, more compact and featuring many of the features that made us fall in love with the X100 in the first place, the X70 appears to tick a lot of boxes. How good is it?
Fujifilm X70 review – Features
Let’s start by taking a look at the sensor, and Fujifilm have stuck with the now tried and tested 16.3-million-pixel APS-C size X-Trans CMOS II sensor that we’ve seen in the likes of the X-T1, X-T10 and X100T. With its unique filter array, this semi-randomised arrangement sees the sensor’s propensity to give false colour reduced. This, in turn, does away with the need for an optical low-pass filter that’s traditionally used to counter moiré effects.
Sticking with this sensor sees the standard output sensitivity range remain at a moderate 200-6,400, but if you’re prepared to rely on a JPEG file only, it can be expanded to 100-51,200 for further shooting options.
As we’ve seen with other Fujifilm cameras over recent years, the X70 features a dynamic range setting, designed to avoid clipped highlights, with DR 200% adding an extra stop and DR 400% adding two stops. Nothing’s for free, though, and the payoff is the increase in minimum sensitivity to ISO 400 for DR 200% and ISO 800 for DR 400%. I personally prefer to stick with DR 100%, but that’s not to say that in some situations DR 200% isn’t a handy feature to have, though I tend to shy away from the DR 400% setting.
The X70’s Auto ISO set-up works very well also, letting you set a minimum and maximum aperture, as well as a minimum shutter speed you’re prepared to use when handholding, so you can get stuck in with the serious business of taking photos, while there’s the option to save up to three Auto ISO set-ups.
Though it may look like the X70 shares the same 23mm f/2 (35mm equivalent) lens as its bigger brother from a distance, the optic on the front is actually a 18.5mm f/2.8, providing a focal length equivalent to roughly 28mm. Whether this is too wide for your shooting style will depend on what you like to shoot, but personally I’ve always loved this field of view. As we saw with the X100 series, the X70 has a dedicated aperture ring running round the lens barrel, with 1/3-stop aperture adjustments ranging from f/2.8 to f/16.
The X70 also sports a digital tele-converter, with 35mm and 50mm options to choose from. It does mean you’ll lose resolution as you’re essentially cropping in on the middle of the frame and it’s an option that can only be used when shooting JPEGs.
The manual focus ring, as well as doing the obvious, can also be set up in the menu to control a selection of other features – White Balance, ISO, Film Simulation, Digital Tele-converter and a default setting.
The manual focus ring (or control ring as it’s known) isn’t the only configurable option on the X70, with a further eight function buttons available that can be tailored to suit you.
Fujifilm X70 review – LCD Display
In an effort to make the X70 as pocketable as possible, it lacks the clever hybrid viewfinder that graced the X100 series of cameras. Instead, the X70 is the first Fujifilm X-series camera to feature a tilting touchscreen LCD. The 3in display has a resolution of 1,040K-dots and can tilt round 180°. Perfect for the selfie-addicted out there, but this does seem to jar a little too much with the ethos of this as a photographer’s camera. It still has its uses, though, such as shooting from the hip at waist level – especially when used in conjunction to with the touchscreen to trigger the shutter for stealth street photography.
If you can’t live without a viewfinder, though, then the optional VF-X21 optical viewfinder (£149) slots into the hotshoe on the top of the camera.
Fujifilm X70 review – Build and handling
Perhaps a worry is that the lovely finish and feel of the X100T wouldn’t carry over to the smaller and more affordable alternative, but as soon as you pick up the X70 you’re left in no doubt that this isn’t going to be the case.
Available in black or silver finishes, both look very stylish and have some classic rangefinder design cues, with the black model looking a little more understated. Dials are pleasing to the touch and are milled from aluminium for a quality feel, while there’s a large rubberised handgrip and thumb rest at the rear that allows for comfortable one-handed shooting should you wish. All in all, just as we’ve experienced with the X100T (and numerous other X-Series cameras for that matter), the X70 looks and feels the part.
Along the top are shutter and exposure compensation dials that are complemented by a button to access the X70’s drive modes and an Auto mode selector lever. Switch over to this and the X70 goes into Advanced SR Auto, where pretty much all the decision-making is given over to the camera if you just want to point and shoot.
If you thought the arrival of touchscreen functionality would see the reduction of body-mounted controls, think again. As we’ve mentioned already, there are eight customisable function buttons, including the four-way D-pad control – I like to set one of these for focus area selection so you can quickly toggle round the frame to select the desired AF area – whether you do that with the D-pad or simply by tapping the screen is up to you.
The menu is pretty comprehensive with plenty of options to tailor the camera to your needs, while the Q-menu, accessed via the Q button at the rear of the camera, offers quick access to a host of popular shooting settings.
Fujifilm X70 review – Performance
The X70 is a very nice camera to use once you’ve got the various function buttons dialled in to suit your way of shooting. If you’ve shot with the X100T, you do miss the viewfinder, but the tilt-angle screen is a nice pay-off, perfect for those low-angle and waist-level shots. Screen clarity is good and the touchscreen functionality has integrated nicely with the camera’s other controls, making it quick to flick through images and pinch-and-zoom to look a little closer. It does make you wonder how long it’ll be before we see this touchscreen functionality creep into Fujifilm’s range of X-mount Compact System Cameras. During shooting I found it a little annoying that you couldn’t simply tap the screen to focus – all you’re doing is selecting the focus area, and while the Touch Shooting mode both focuses and fires the shutter, it feels like there’s a mode missing in between.
The X70’s multi-zone metering system seems to judge most scenes pretty accurately and, combined with the live preview on screen, it’s easy to dial in the necessary exposure compensation thanks to the logically positioned exposure compensation dial. While there’s no lock to avoid it being knocked out of place, I didn’t find this to be an issue – there’s just enough resistance there to make it hard to do so.
The new 28mm f/2.8 equivalent also performs well, with our lab results showing that distortion is very well controlled with only very minor pincushion distortion present. Shading at the corners hovers around -0.7EV wide open at f/2.8, before settling at around -0.6EV through the rest of the aperture range, with a gentle fall-off from the centre of the frame – something that can be easily rectified in post-processing, and didn’t really detract from the real-world samples we shot.
I found the lens to deliver a decent level of sharpness as well, with our test charts revealing that the sweet spot for the lens was around f/4, with diffraction seeing results soften from f/11 onwards.
Fujifilm X70 review – Autofocus
With the lens focusing back and forth during focusing like the X100 series, it shuns a more sophisticated internal focusing system most of its rivals tend to favour. That said though, it’s a welcome upgrade to the system found in the X100T, with the new Intelligent Hybrid AF system featuring both Phase Detection AF and Contrast AF to offer a number of AF modes – just like we’ve seen on the X-T10 and X-T1 (via the Firmware 4.0 upgrade).
This means that not only is there a Single Point mode, allowing you to select one of the 49 focus points that covers the majority of the frame (as well as setting the size of the area from a choice of five different levels for greater accuracy), but there’s also Zone and Wide/Tracking modes.
Both the latter two modes employ a 77-point grid of focus areas that covers almost the entire frame. Zone mode allows you to specify a group of focus points – 5×5, 5×3, or 3×3, that can then be positioned freely around the frame and is suitable for predictable moving subjects. If your point of interest is moving more erratically, the Tracking mode allows you to set a specific point for the initial focus acquisition and, once the camera has locked focus, track it around the frame.
The thing you need to remember here is that because the X70’s 15 faster phase-detect points are grouped in the centre of the frame, when you opt to move outside that towards the edges of the frame, it reverts to the slower contrast AF system, so where possible I’d stick to the central area in Zone mode to ensure brisker focusing.
When it comes to the broader Tracking mode, don’t expect too much – it copes with relatively sedentary subjects, but it can struggle when put up against faster-moving subjects. You can also expect a little stutter as it finds focus, with a mechanical whirr as the lens moves back and forth – not the whisper-quiet AF we’ve become accustomed to with some rivals. Those niggles aside, focusing on the whole is good and accurate.
Fujifilm X70 review – Image quality
The 16.3-million-pixel X-Trans CMOS sensor and EXR processor have become a familiar sight in X-Series cameras over the past couple of years, so there’s no nasty surprises when it comes to results from the X70.
While 16.3-million-pixels might appear a little behind the times compared to some rivals, don’t forget that it does away with an optical low-pass filter. This means the sensor can resolve an impressive amount of detail – more than you’d expect, perhaps, from a traditional Bayer arrangement, and without suffering from any unwanted artefacts either.
As we’ve seen from other X-Series cameras, the sensor in the X70 is capable of resolving excellent levels of detail, with results from our Applied Imaging test chart at around 3200l/ph at ISO 100. As you’d expect, this drops slightly as sensitivity is increased, achieving 2900l/ph at ISO 1600 and 2700l/ph at ISO 6400. At JPEG-only sensitivities, though, noise starts to have a major impact, with ISO 51,200 seeing the resolution reduced to just over 2200l/ph.
In our Applied Imaging tests, the X70 measured 11.32EV at ISO 200 – almost identical to results from other X-Trans CMOS sensor-based X-series cameras and giving plenty of latitude in exposure and flexibility in post-processing should you need to recover lost detail. This drops to 8.47EV at ISO 800, which is still respectable, while dropping to 6.07EV at ISO 6400 – noise in the shadows becomes more pronounced, but it’s still a solid performance at this sensitivity.
Despite only being able to shoot JPEG files at ISO 100, the X70 delivers very clean files at this sensitivity, with excellent detail and pleasing colours. Shooting at ISO 200 and looking at RAW files, there’s little to fault here – detail is very good with images displaying no visible signs of noise. It’s only at ISO 1,600 that noise begins to impose itself on the image, with detail in the shadows starting to suffer. That said, even at ISO 6,400, results are still more than acceptable, but beyond that, and shooting in JPEG only, results aren’t that great – top ISO is certainly best avoided.
Fujifilm X70 review – Our verdict
It would be harsh to label the X70 as a cut-down X100T, as this cracking compact carves out a niche all of its own in the Fujifilm line-up.
There are a couple of caveats to think about, though, before you go rushing out to get one. The absence of a built-in viewfinder means you have to rely on the touchscreen for shooting, and while it performs very well, I invariably found myself wishing I could raise the camera to my eye a lot of the time – I’d probably end up buying the optional optical viewfinder. Secondly, I can understand not wanting to use the same lens as the X100T, but I can’t help feeling that 28mm might just be too wide for a lot of photographers. Perhaps something like a 50mm would have wider appeal, but this will come down to personal taste and the type of subjects you regularly shoot.
That aside, the lens is very good and paired with the well-proven 16.3MP X-Trans CMOS II sensor, will deliver images with excellent levels of detail and well-controlled image noise. That’s not forgetting the excellent colour output from the X70’s JPEG files and a host of decent film simulation modes.
Cloak this in a stylish, compact and well-made body that offers a host of body-mounted controls and customisation, along with a decent AF performance, and you end up with an excellent enthusiast’s compact camera that you’ll always want by your side – whether that’s as a partner to your DSLR or CSC, or simply if you want to travel light and want a camera that can deliver high-end results but fit in your pocket at the same time.
Fujifilm X70 review – First look
In recent years we’ve seen an increasing number of manufacturers squeeze large sensors into pocket size compact cameras. Fujifilm is the latest manufacturer to release such a product and the all-new X70 is a stylish premium compact complete with a fixed FUJINON 18.5mm f/2.8 lens.
The Fujifilm X70’s lens is completely new, yet it shares a similar optical design to the Fujifilm X100T. The construction of the lens is made up to seven elements in five groups, including two high-performance aspherical elements. The 9-blade aperture diaphragm combines with an f/2.8 aperture and the lens allows users to focus as closely as 10cm.
Behind the lens lies a 16.3-million-pixel X-Trans CMOS II sensor that runs beside Fujifilm’s EXR processor II. Just like the Fujifilm X100T, the standard output sensitivity stretches from ISO 200-6400, with the extended ISO settings allowing users to shoot as low as ISO 100 and as high as ISO 51,200. On-sensor phase detection AF is said to focus in an ultra-fast 0.1sec and thanks to the speedy processor, the camera starts up in a brisk 0.5secs, has a shutter time tag of 0.01sec and a shooting interval of 0.5sec. The X70’s autofocus system provides 49 AF points in single point mode and there are the new Zone and Wide/tracking modes that use a larger 77-point area to capture moving subjects more effectively.
One of the key standout features on the X70 is its 3inch 1.04-million-dot touchscreen LCD at the rear. It becomes the first X-Series camera ever to boast touch panel functionality and this can be used to refine the focus point position and fire the shutter by enabling the touch shot function. During playback, smartphone-style operations can also be performed such as swipe, drag and pinch in/out.
Looking at its design, the X70 shares the same stylish look as other cameras in Fujifilm’s X-series. The body is constructed from solid aluminium and the milled shutter speed and exposure compensation dials contribute to its premium feel in the hand. In-between the shutter speed and exposure compensation dial you’ll find a drive mode button and the camera is also equipped with an Auto Mode switch lever for those who’d like the camera to automatically choose the optimum setting for any scene.
Looking at the X70 from the front you’ll notice the lens barrel features a control ring in addition to an aperture ring. Frequently used functions such as white balance, film simulation and ISO sensitivity can be assigned by using the control ring setting button that can be found on the left of the body.
Another attractive feature is the X70’s digital tele-converter. The X70’s 18.5mm f/2.8 lens is equivalent to 28mm in 35mm terms, however users can also select 35mm and 50mm options from within the menu. Other features of note include Full HD video at 60/50/30/25 and 24fps, there’s built-in Wi-fi connectivity and an interval timer function for shooting time lapses with intervals of one second to 24 hours for up to 999 frames.
Available in both black and silver, the Fujfilm X70 will be available in February with prices starting from around £549.
The Fujifilm X70 will be supported by good range of premium accessories. For landscape photographers and those who’d like to shoot wider than the FUJINON 18.5mm f/2.8 lens allows, a wide conversion lens (WCL-X70) is available. This conversion lens multiples the fixed focal length by 0.8x, turning it into a 21mm equivalent. Fujifilm will also produce an external optical viewfider (VF-X21) that clips onto the top-plate as well as a lens hood (LH-X70) with an adapter ring ready to attach filters via a 49mm thread. Users who’d like to keep their X70 in pristine condition may also be tempted by a leather case (BLC-X70). This has been designed in such a way that it allows you to charge batteries without having to remove the case.
Build & Handling
The Fujifilm X70 shares many similarities with Fujifilm’s more advanced X100T. For those who’d like to own an X-series fixed-lens compact but don’t want the bulk that comes with the X100T, the X70 could be the perfect solution. The X100T fits into generously-sized jacket pockets, but it’s not exactly trouser pocket friendly. The X70 slides into trouser pockets with ease and it’s not until you get hold of it that you truly appreciate how petite it really is. The advantage of equipping the X70 with a fixed lens as opposed to a retractable zoom such as that found on Fujifilm’s X30 has allowed the manufacturer to keep the camera thin.
The fit and finish of the body is to the excellent standard and it gives the impression that it has been very well constructed. The key feature the X70 lacks is a viewfinder. You can buy the optional VF-X21, but I didn’t have the opportunity to use the X70 with one during my hands-on session. A hard decisions those interested in the X70 will have to make is which colour to choose. If the X70 is being purchased as a second camera, the black version might match the camera you already own slightly better. The silver and black finish is smart and compliments other silver and black X-series models such as the X-E2 and X-T10.
The large sensor compact area of the market was rife with new models last year and if the start of 2016 is anything to go by this year could be much the same. It was only a matter of time before Fujifilm looked to fill the gap between the X30 and X100T with a smaller and lighter compact that features an APS-C size sensor. The X70 slots in-between the X30 and X100T nicely and stands out in the fixed-lens premium compact category with an impressive spec.
For those who’d like a pocket-friendly compact that’s small, slim and light it’s worth a closer look and it looks likely to be a great camera for city breaks, street photography and times when a smaller camera is preferable. The X70 feels great in the hand and offers more advanced photographers the precise control they need with an aperture ring around the lens and shutter speed dial on the top plate. Needless to say we’re eagerly awaiting our review sample in the coming weeks, which is expected to arrive with us at a similar time as the new Fujifilm X-Pro2.