Summary

Highly Recommended awardThose who came to appreciate the unique qualities of the X100, will like the X100S even more and it's a fair bet that it will continue to appeal to enthusiasts looking for a high quality advanced fixed lens compact as well as those casual photographers with an eye for beautiful design as well as cash to spare. The joy of using the X100S was only slightly marred by the occassional reluctance of the controls to respond, particularly when waking from sleep mode. And, though it goes against the retro grain, it would be nice to see built-in support for Wi-Fi and GPS. Those fairly minor criticisms aside, the X100S is a great success that will undoubtedly prove to be even more popular than its predecessor and comes Highly Recommended.

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Fujifilm X100S review

Quality

Fujifilm X100S vs Nikon COOLPIX A Quality JPEG

 

To compare real-life performance I shot this scene with the Fujifilm X100S and the Nikon COOLPIX A, within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings; you can see my RAW comparison on the next page.

Because the cameras have different fixed focal length lenses, I changed positions between shots, moving closer to the subject with the COOLPIX A to achieve the same framing and similar sized detail .

For this test the X100S was set to Aperture priority mode; all camera settings were left on the defaults.

  Fujifilm X100S results
1 Fujifilm X100S Quality JPEG
2 Fujifilm X100S Quality RAW
3 Fujifilm X100S Noise JPEG
4 Fujifilm X100S Noise RAW
5 Fujifilm X100S Sample images

The image above was taken with the Fujifilm X100S. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode and f5.6 was selected as this produced the best result from the lens. With the sensitivity set to 200 ISO the X100S metered an exposure of 1/640. As usual for this test, the camera was otherwise left on the default settings. The Nikon COOLPIX A also produced its best results at f5.6, where it metered 1/640 with the sensitivity set to 100 ISO. To produce the same exposure as on the X100S I set +1EV exposure compensation on the COOLPIX A, producing an exposure of 1/320.

Conditions on the day were weak Spring sunshine and this scene presents a little bit of a metering challenge with a large expanse of white wall as well as plenty of shadows. The X100S’s Multi metering has responded pretty well, with an exposure that records good detail in the shadows without blowing the highlights.

The 16 Megapixel sensor in the X100S is an updated version of the same X-Trans CMOS sensor found in the other X-series models, the X-Pro1 and X-E1 with the addition of phase-detect AF points. As such, the quality should be similar and a first look at these crops confirms it. The overall quality is very good with plenty of detail and clean sharp edges.

In previous tests I’ve found the X-Pro 1 and X-E1 outperform APS-C sensors in the Canon EOS 7D, EOS M and Sony NEX-7 and these results certainly look to be on a par with those. The results from the lens also look very good, with consistent quality across the frame and no evidence of distortion or aberrations. One thing that takes the edge off an otherwise impressive performance is that fine image detail and edges can sometimes look a little jagged. The best example of this is in the final crop where the text on the bottom part of the sign looks quite bitty. You can see the same thing to a lesser degree on some of the text on the menu board in the third crop. This could be a result of the X-trans sensor’s unique architecture, whatever the reason, it’s about the only flaw in an otherwise excellent result.

Compared with the crops from the Nikon COOLPIX A, there’s not actually a great deal in it. Like the X100S, the COOLPIX A’s APS-C sensor produces results on a par with those from mid-range DSLRs. The detail looks a little bit softer than in the X100S crops, but not hugely so and, like the X100, quality is consistent from the middle to the frame edges.

My Fujifilm X100S RAW quality results on the next page will provide evidence of how much, if any, of the difference is due to processing. Alternatively, see how these models compare at higher sensitivities in my Fujifilm X100S Noise results.

 

Fujifilm X100S
 
Nikon COOLPIX A
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO


Fujifilm X100S
results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

Fujifilm X100S vs Nikon COOLPIX A Quality RAW

 

To compare real-life RAW performance I shot this scene with the Fujifilm X100S and the Nikon COOLPIX A, within a few moments of each other using their RAW modes.

Because the cameras have different fixed focal length lenses, I changed positions between shots, moving closer to the subject with the COOLPIX A to achieve the same framing and similar sized detail .

For this test the X100S was set to Aperture priority mode; all camera settings were left on the defaults.

  Fujifilm X100S results
1 Fujifilm X100S Quality JPEG
2 Fujifilm X100S Quality RAW
3 Fujifilm X100S Noise JPEG
4 Fujifilm X100S Noise RAW
5 Fujifilm X100S Sample images

The image above was taken with the Fujifilm X100S. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode and f5.6 was selected as this produced the best result from the lens. With the sensitivity set to 200 ISO the X100S metered an exposure of 1/640. As usual for this test, the camera was otherwise left on the default settings. The Nikon COOLPIX A also produced its best results at f5.6, where it metered 1/640 with the sensitivity set to 100 ISO. To produce the same exposure as on the X100S I set +1EV exposure compensation on the COOLPIX A, producing an exposure of 1/320.

I processed both files in Adobe Camera RAW 7.4 using identical settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. To reduce white balance differences I also set the white balance to for both files to 5100k. These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what’s really going on behind the scenes.

The interesting thing about these X100S crops is that the granular quality that was evident in the JPEGs is a lot more obvious. This isn’t noise, it’s the image pixel data itself, as with the JPEGs it’s most obvious in areas with text but in these highly sharpened raw files you can see it almost everywhere. You wouldn’t ordinarily apply such a high degree of sharpening to RAW files, but the purpose of this approach, as I’ve said, is to reveal and compare aspects of sensor quality in isolation from in-camera processing.

This bittiness isn’t evident in my earlier test results from the X-Pro 1 and X-E1, so the question is what’s changed? Well, it isn’t the X100S sensor, or at least that’s not the main reason. In early 2013, Adobe released the Camera RAW 7.4 update with ‘improved handling’ of RAW files from X-Series models and this granularity is largely a result of that change. I’ve gone back to the X-E1 files I processed with ACR 7.3 and re-processed them with the same settings in 7.4 and the newer processing is sharper and results in this speckled, dither-like result. So, you’ll get similar results with these settings for other X-series models including the X-Pro 1 and X-E1. What this means in practice is that with settings in the ‘normal’ range, you’ll get sharper results from ACR 7.4 with better definition, but you’ll have to be more careful not to overdo it, than if you’re still using ACR 7.3.

Compared with the crops from the Nikon COOLPIX A, even at these enhanced sharpening and no noise reduction settings, the COOLPIX A detail is a lot smoother and more natural looking. But it would be a mistake to interpret this as a better result for the COOLPIX A, it’s simply that the X-Trans sensors require a different approach. Having said that, it would be fair to say that, at the base sensitivity settings at least, you can clearly get away with a lot more sharpening on the COOLPIX A and still produce natural looking results with a high level of detail and crisp edges.

Now see how these models compare at higher sensitivities in my Fujifilm X100S Noise results.

 

Fujifilm X100S
 
Nikon COOLPIX A
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO


Fujifilm X100S
results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

Fujifilm X100S vs Nikon COOLPIX A Noise RAW

 
 
  Fujifilm X100S results
1 Fujifilm X100S Quality JPEG
2 Fujifilm X100S Quality RAW
3 Fujifilm X100S Noise JPEG
4 Fujifilm X100S Noise RAW
5 Fujifilm X100S Sample images

To compare RAW noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Fujifilm X100S and the Nikon COOLPIX A, within a few moments of each other using their RAW modes and at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

Because the cameras have different fixed focal length lenses, I changed positions between shots, moving closer to the subject with the 28mm equivalent COOLPIX A to achieve the same framing and similar sized detail to the 35mm equivalent X100S.

For this test the X100S was set to Aperture priority mode; all camera settings were left on the defaults.

The image above was taken with the Fujifilm X100S. From earlier outdoor testing I’d discovered that the lenses on both cameras produced optimal results at f5.6 so both were set to f5.6 in Aperture priority mode. The X100S has a sensitivity range of 200-6400 ISO which is expandable for JPEG shooting down to 100 ISO at the bottom of the range and up to 25600 ISO at the top. So the Base ISO setting and the important crop for comparison purposes in the table below is the 200 ISO one. At this setting the X100S metered an exposure of 0.6 seconds. The COOLPIX A at its base 100 ISO setting metered 1 second.

I processed both sets of files in Adobe Camera RAW 7.4 using identical settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile.These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what’s really going on behind the scenes – as such the visible noise levels at higher ISOs will be much greater than you’re used to seeing in many of my comparisons, but again it’s an approach that’s designed to show the actual detail that’s being recorded before you start work on processing and cleaning it up if desired.

These RAW noise results backup what we saw with the JPEGs on the previous page. At the lower ISO sensitivities there’s not much between the Fujifilm X100S and the Nikon COOLPIX A. Both sensors produce crisp, clean images with very little if any visible evidence of noise. If you look closely, you can see a marginal difference at 400 ISO with a slight degree of texture appearing in the the COOLPIX A crop, a margin which has grown significantly by 1600 ISO and continues to do so right the way up to the X100S maximum unextended 6400 ISO limit.

The low noise signature of the X100S’s X-Trans sensor really is remarkable, particularly the very low levels of colour noise. I had to go back and double-check my Camera RAW settings to make sure I’d set colour noise reduction to zero when I first saw these results.

While the COOLPIX A is able to shoot RAW up to it’s maximum 25600 ISO setting, you’d need to put in a lot of work to get useable results from them. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the f2.0 lens on the X100 is a stop brighter than the f2.8 lens on the COOLPIX A, so in the same lighting conditions and at the same shutter speed you could shoot at 6400 ISO on the X100S where you’d need 12800 on the COOLPIX A. I should however note that like on the outdoor comparisons, the X100S RAW files don’t handle the very high sharpening I use for tests, especially with ACR 7.4. So for the best-looking results, you’d tone down the sharpening.

Now head over to my Fujifilm X100S sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions, or head straight for my Verdict.

Fujifilm X100S
 
Nikon COOLPIX A
100 ISO Not available
f5.6 100 ISO
f5.6 200 ISO
f5.6 200 ISO
f5.6 400 ISO
f5.6 400 ISO
f5.6 800 ISO
f5.6 800 ISO
     
f5.6 1600 ISO
f5.6 1600 ISO
     
f5.6 3200 ISO
f5.6 3200 ISO
     
f5.6 6400 ISO
f5.6 6400 ISO
     
12800 ISO Not available
f5.6 12800 ISO
     
25600 ISO Not available
f5.6 25600 ISO
   

Fujifilm X100S results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

Fujifilm X100S vs Nikon COOLPIX A Noise JPEG

 
  Fujifilm X100S results
1 Fujifilm X100S Quality JPEG
2 Fujifilm X100S Quality RAW
3 Fujifilm X100S Noise JPEG
4 Fujifilm X100S Noise RAW
5 Fujifilm X100S Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Fujifilm X100S and the Nikon COOLPIX A, within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings; you can see my RAW results on the next page.

Because the cameras have different fixed focal length lenses, I changed positions between shots, moving closer to the subject with the 28mm equivalent COOLPIX A to achieve the same framing and similar sized detail to the 35mm equivalent X100S.

For this test the X100S was set to Aperture priority mode; all camera settings were left on the defaults.

The image above was taken with the Fujifilm X100S. From earlier outdoor testing I’d discovered that the lenses on both cameras produced optimal results at f5.6 so both were set to f5.6 in Aperture priority mode. The X100S has a sensitivity range of 200-6400 ISO which is expandable for JPEG shooting down to 100 ISO at the bottom of the range and up to 25600 ISO at the top. So the Base ISO setting and the important crop for comparison purposes in the table below is the 200 ISO one. At this setting the X100S metered an exposure of 0.6 seconds. The COOLPIX A at its base 100 ISO setting metered 1 second.

The 100 ISO crop from the Fujifilm X-E1 looks ever so slightly less textured than the 200 ISO crop, so, for subjects where the absolute minimum of noise is required, or you want to use the slowest possible shutter speed it’s worth using. Just remember you can’t shoot RAW at this extended ISO sensitivity setting and you’ll experience slightly lower contrast and reduced dynamic range.

Having said that the 200 ISO crop is pristine, there’s not a noisy pixel to be seen. Detail is clear and crisp and areas of flat colour have no noticeable texture. The same is true of the 400 ISO crop and, while there’s the beginnings of texture starting to appear on the background wall and in the text panel, the incremental change is much smaller than you’d expect.

1600 ISO is usually the upper limit for quality, at least at full-size viewing, that most discerning shooters would accept, the X100S 1600 ISO crop looks a little more textured and softer than the earlier ones, but there’s clearly plenty more headroom before noise becomes a concern and, even at 3200 ISO the image quality and detail retention is remarkably good. At 6400 ISO the noise is finally becoming intrusive, but even at 12800 ISO, where the noise is gaining the upper hand, the text is stil clearly readable. On most cameras 25600 ISO is merely there for the numbers, but the X100S actually produces a useable image at this upper limit. You won’t get a RAW file at this extended setting (or the lower 12800 ISO) and it isn’t pretty, but you’ll see more of your subject than the noise, which isn’t often the case at 25600 ISO.

Compared with the COOLPIX A, at the lower ISO settings, the X100S looks a little sharper, but in noise terms there’s little to choose between them with the COOLPIX A’s 100 ISO crop a close match for the X100S’s 200 ISO. At 400 ISO it’s still a pretty close call, but at 800 ISO it looks to me like there’s noticeably more noise in the COOLPIX A crop. At 1600 ISO there’s clearly more texture in the wall, the text panel looks softer and the edge detail is beginning to crumble on the COOLPIX A crop where the X100S is still holding strong.

By the 3200 ISO mark, I’d say the X100S has a clear one stop advantage over the COOPIX A, and from there on up the margin gets bigger. So in noise terms it’s a clear win for the X100S with significantly better performance than the Nikon COOLPIX A in the mid to high ISO sensitivity range.

To find out how much of a role processing plays in keeping noise at bay in these crops take a look at my Fujifilm X100S RAW results page to see just how much noise is present behind the scenes. Or head over to my Fujifilm X100S sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

Fujifilm X100S
 
Nikon COOLPIX A
f5.6 100 ISO
f5.6 100 ISO
f5.6 200 ISO
f5.6 200 ISO
f5.6 400 ISO
f5.6 400 ISO
f5.6 800 ISO
f5.6 800 ISO
     
f5.6 1600 ISO
f5.6 1600 ISO
     
f5.6 3200 ISO
f5.6 3200 ISO
     
f5.6 6400 ISO
f5.6 6400 ISO
     
f5.6 12800 ISO
f5.6 12800 ISO
     
f5.6 25600 ISO
f5.6 25600 ISO
 

Fujifilm X100S results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

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