Review: Fuji X70

Introduction and features

Fuji’s compact cameras have proved very popular, but some find the APS-C format X100T too big and the 2/3-inch sensor in the X30 too small. Well the X70 could be just right. This new camera has the same 16.3Mp APS-C format X-Trans CMOS II sensor and EXR Processor II as the X100T. However, these are joined by a new Fujinon 18.5mm f/2.8 lens which gives an effective focal length of 28mm, significantly wider than the 35mm (equivalent) lens on the X100T. There are also digital ‘teleconverter’ options that crop images to replicate 35mm and 50mm framing with interpolation to maintain image size.

Fuji X70

The new camera is aimed at enthusiast and professional photographers who want a compact camera with the better than average image quality that a larger sensor provides. To suit this market there’s the traditional styling and control of earlier X-series compacts with a lens ring for aperture adjustment. This has markings running in whole stops from f/2.8 to f/16 – and adjustment in 1/3 stops.

The aperture is created using an iris that has nine blades which should ensure a smoother, circular shape that helps give out of focus highlights a pleasantly rounded shape for attractive bokeh. The lens comprises seven elements in five groups with two high performance aspherical elements and Fujinon’s HT-EBC coating to reduce flare and ghosting. Fuji has opted for a non-collapsible lens to speed the camera’s start-up time.

Like the Fuji X100T, the X70 has a shutter speed dial on the top-plate. This has settings running from 1sec to 1/4000 sec as well as Bulb, Time and Auto settings. As well as contributing to the camera’s retro look, this dial makes it possible to set and check shutter speed without turning it on or looking at the rear screen.

Fuji X70

In addition to the mechanical shutter, the X70 has an electronic shutter which allows silent shooting and shutter speeds up to 1/32000sec (down to 1sec maximum exposure). Shutter speeds beyond the dial’s marked settings are selected using the rear jog-wheel above the thumbrest.

If both the aperture ring and shutter speed dial are on ‘A’ for automatic, the camera is in program mode and will set exposure automatically. If either one is set to a specific value the camera is in aperture or shutter priority respectively. Alternatively you can set both to a specific value and take manual control over exposure. For less experienced photographers and those days when you want to let the camera do the thinking, there’s a fully automatic option which is activated with a flick of the switch under the shutter speed dial.

Significantly, the X70 doesn’t have a viewfinder like the X100T, but there is an optional optical viewfinder with 21mm and 28mm bright lines. Without the viewfinder, images must be composed on the 3-inch 1,040,000-dot screen, which is touch-sensitive and capable of being tipped up through 180 degrees for shooting selfies, as well as downwards for easier viewing from below.

Fuji X70

The X70 has the same hybrid (phase and contrast detection) autofocus (AF) system as the X100T, which means that there are single point, Zone and Wide/Tracking modes, along with 3D Tracking and Eye-detection. The claimed AF response time is 0.08sec and there’s a maximum continuous shooting speed of 8fps (frames per second). It’s also possible to focus manually and Focus Peaking and a Digital Split Image are available to help if required.

Fuji’s popular Film Simulations modes are available, including the relatively recent Classic Chrome, but the new black and white Acros mode introduced with the Fuji X-Pro2 doesn’t make an appearance.

Full HD (1920 x 1080) video recording is possible at 60, 50, 30, 25 or 24p for up to 14 minutes while HD (1280 x 720) is possible for up to 27 minutes. There’s a socket to connect an external microphone, but there isn’t one for headphones.

Sensitivity may be set in the native range of ISO 20–6400, with JPEG-only expansion options of ISO 200, 12,800, 25,600 and 51,200 and images (raw and JPEG) are saved to an SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-1) card in the single port.

Build and handling

At 112.5 x 64.4 x 44.4mm (4.4 x 2.5 x 1.7 inches), the X70 is significantly smaller than the X100T (126.5 x 74.4 x 52.4mm or 5.0 x 2.9 x2.1 inches and a little smaller than the X30 (118.7 x 71.6 x 60.3mm or 4.7 x 2.8 x 2.4 inches) which has a smaller 2/3-inch sensor.

Despite the small size, the body has a nice, solid build. A shallow rubberised grip on the front of the camera along with a small pad on the back with a pronounced ridge make it feel comfortable and safe in your hand. While you can hold and use it one-handed, the most natural way to shoot with the X70 is to support it with the addition of your left hand on the lens aperture ring. With that in mind the two lugs on the ring aren’t ideally placed. When the ring is at the mid-way point they are at 3 and 9 o’clock around the lens, but it would feel more natural if there was one at the bottom (6 o’clock) or perhaps there were two towards the bottom of the ring.

Helpfully, the X70’s screen is touch sensitive, but this can’t be used for making setting selections or adjustments – even when using the Quick Menu. In shooting mode its use is restricted to setting autofocus point or tripping the shutter with a tap of the screen. In Play mode, pinch zoom is useful for checking image sharpness, while swipes can be used to scroll through images. Those who don’t like touch controls can turn the screen’s touch-sensitivity off and use the physical controls instead.

Fuji X70

On the back of the camera there are four buttons around the usual navigation control, with a central Menu/OK button. One of these four is used for locking the metering and focus, while another controls the display and a third is available for customisation but activates the Wi-Fi system by default. The fourth button is used to activate the customisable Quick Menu which provides a quick route to 16 of the most commonly used features. These small buttons, especially the Quick menu and Wi-Fi buttons, can be a little hard to distinguish with your thumb when you’re not looking at the camera, especially if your hands are cold. But in the absence of a viewfinder it’s not often that you’ll be trying to press the buttons without looking at the back of the camera, so it’s not a major issue.

Fuji X70

The jog-dial above the thumbrest on the back of the camera is useful for making quick adjustments and navigating around the menu. In addition to the aperture ring, there’s a control ring around the lens which is customisable but in manual focus mode is used to focus the lens. I used it to change the sensitivity (ISO) setting but it’s also possible to set it to change the Film Simulation mode, white balance, sensitivity or digital teleconverter setting (35mm or 50mm equivalent). The ring has nice smooth action but there’s a slight lag in the setting adjustment being made which makes using it a bit frustrating and I sometimes overshot the value I wanted to use.

In bright light I found it necessary to set the LCD screen to its brightest value, but it generally provides a clear view with a nice level of detail. I didn’t encounter any situations when I needed to focus manually, but should it happen the magnified view on the screen and Focus Peaking make it easy to get the subject sharp. I had less success with the Digital Split Image which seems to need very high contrast edges to work well.

While the X70’s controls are responsive, there were several occasions when I wanted to turn the camera on almost immediately after turning it off and it failed to come to life. This is something we’ve noted before with some Fuji cameras, including the X-E2S. It likes a little pause after being turned off before being reactivated.

And while the exposure compensation dial doesn’t rotate too readily when you don’t want it to, I found the power switch had turned to the on position on a few occasions when I pulled the camera from my bag.

Performance

As it’s so small and neat it’s easy to forget that the X70 has the same sized sensor as most SLRs and compact system cameras inside it. Nevertheless it does, and the combination of the APS-C format X-Trans CMOS II device, a prime (fixed focal length) lens and the EXR Processor II processing engine enable it to produce superb images with excellent sharpness that to match some interchangeable lens cameras. Raw and JPEG files both have a natural sharpness that largely avoids halos or excessive micro contrast.

Detail is maintained well across the image frame, even when shooting at maximum aperture and there’s little if no sign of vignetting. Diffraction is also controlled well and images shot at the smallest aperture (f/16) have a good level of detail.

Fuji X70 sample image

  • The camera was able to focus on and reproduce the fine detail of this small flower. I set the exposure compensation to +3 to bring out the delicate nature of the petals and burn out the background. Click here for a full size version.

Fuji X70 sample image

  • The Multi metering system has coped well with this bright, highly reflective scene. Click here for a full size version.

Fuji X70 sample image

  • Classic Chrome Film Simulation mode produces pleasingly warm tones. Click here for a full size version.

Fuji X70 sample image

  • Using Average metering mode produced a nice contrasty image with a dark blue sky here. Click here for a full size version.

When all noise reduction is turned off, a hint of luminance noise is visible at 100% in some shadow areas of raw files shot at ISO 200, but chroma noise doesn’t rear its head until ISO1600 – and it’s minimal. By ISO 6400 this coloured speckling is obvious at 100%, but at A3 size (297 x 420mm or 11.69 x 16.54 inches) it’s pretty subtle and only visible as a fine granular texture in even-toned areas of mid to dark brightness. These areas in simultaneously captured JPEGs look rather painterly at 100% but it’s not excessive and images look good at A3 size.

It’s only possible to shoot JPEGs at sensitivities higher than ISO 6400, maxing out at ISO 25,600. At ISO 12,800 images develop a diffuse glow which increases with each step-up in sensitivity. I would be inclined to restricted the print size of ISO 12,800 and 25,600 images to A4 (210 x 297mm or 8.27 x 11.69 inches) or smaller while ISO 51,200 is best avoided.

It would be nice to be able to be able to shoot raw files at these expansion settings as it should be possible to apply less aggressive noise reduction. Even if the chroma noise was problematic it should be possible to make attractively grainy monochrome pictures.

Images shot at ISO 100 look very similar to those shot at ISO 200, but the highlights burn out more quickly. If you can you’re better off opting for ISO 200 and retaining the ability to record raw files.

Fuji X70 sample image

  • Despite the mixture of shade and fluorescent light the automatic white balance system has delivered a decent result. Click here for a full size version.

Fuji X70 sample image

  • In continuous focusing mode the X70 was able to keep this cyclist sharp, but I had to keep the active AF point over the subject. The image makes a nice monochrome conversion. Click here for a full size version.

Fuji X70 sample image

  • At ISO 51,200 details get lost, taking on a strong watercolour-like effect. Click here for a full size version.

As I mentioned earlier, during the course of my testing I didn’t encounter any situations in which I needed to focus manually. The autofocus system is good, getting subjects sharp quickly in normal daylight. It can even keep up with quite fast moving subjects provided the active AF point is held in the right place. Step inside to lower light conditions and the focusing slows and hunts a little, but it gets the job done. When light levels fall further the backwards and forwards autofocus adjustment becomes more noticeable, but it’s not excessive.

In continuous autofocus Wide/Tracking mode and with reasonable light the camera can keep even-paced subjects sharp, but it struggles with more erratic or very fast targets and as the light levels drop. It’s not the ideal camera for shooting action, not least because of the wideangle lens, but it can be done.

I found that the X70’s auto white balance setting does a very good job in most natural lighting situations, delivering pleasantly warm images in bright sunlight and natural looking results in overcast conditions. It also copes very well with mixed natural and artificial light, and better than average with artificial light – though you should expect a colour cast in some situations.

The X70’s 256-zone Multi metering system assesses the image colour, composition and brightness distribution to suggest exposure settings, and while it works well, I found the Average metering system very reliable in a range of situations. This mode suggests exposure settings on the basis of the brightness of the whole frame and doesn’t look at image colour or composition. I found it delivers nicely balanced exposures even in some high contrast conditions. There were a few occasions when I might have expected to use the exposure compensation control but the camera delivered a perfect result of its own accord. There were no occasions when I had to use it unexpectedly.

Lab tests: Resolution

We put cameras through a barrage of laboratory tests in order to check their performance. We also compare them to three leading rivals, and you can see the results in our table below.

The three rival cameras we’ve chosen are:

  • Ricoh GR II: This diminutive Ricoh is often overlooked but delivers the same tempting proposition as the X70 – a fast, prime lens, an APS-C sensor and powerful manual controls.
  • Fuji X100T: The X70’s bigger brother has the same sensor specs, a hybrid viewfinder and a slightly longer focal length lens (35mm equivalent). It is a larger camera, though.
  • Panasonic LX100: The LX100 has the same traditional external shutter speed and aperture controls, but uses a smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor. It does, however, have a zoom lens.

Our first set of charts is for resolution. This is measured using an industry-standard test chart shot in laboratory conditions across the camera’s ISO range. We test both JPEG and raw files. The results are quoted in line widths/picture height, a standard method in the digital camera industry which works independently of sensor size.

Fuji X70 lab test charts

JPEG resolution analysis: The X70 puts in a good performance here, beaten only by the bigger Fuji X100T and only at the lowest ISO settings. From ISO 200 onwards it’s top of the leaderboard.

Fuji X70 lab test results

Raw (converted to TIFF) resolution analysis: The raw results tell a slightly different story, and here the Ricoh GR II comes to the fore. The X70 is not far behind, however.

Lab tests: Dynamic range

Dynamic range is a measure of the camera’s ability to record extremes of brightness and darkness without losing detail in either. It’s measured in EV (exposure values) and the higher the number the better. We test dynamic range using DxO Analyzer hardware and software in laboratory conditions.

Fuji X70 lab test results

JPEG dynamic range analysis: The X70 doesn’t score as well as the competition at many sensitivity settings, but the images it generates have pleasant contrast. We’ve seen this before with JPEG images from Fuji cameras.

Fuji X70 lab test results

Raw (converted to TIFF) dynamic range analysis: While highlights aren’t lost quickly, with the default raw file conversion the X70 scored much lower for dynamic range than the competing models, indicating that there’s a lower tonal range.

Lab tests: Signal to noise ratio

The signal to noise ratio is a measure of the amount of random background noise in the picture relative to the image data. The larger the number, the higher the ratio and the less noise you’ll see in the image. This is tested using DxO Analyzer in laboratory conditions.

Fuji X70 lab test results

JPEG signal to noise ratio analysis: The cameras being compared here have quite similar scores for their JPEGs, but the X70 is one of the better examples indicating that the noise captured in raw files is concealed well in JPEGs.

Fuji X70 lab test results

Raw (converted to TIFF) signal to noise ratio analysis: Although the X70’s signal to noise ratio is higher (better) than the X100T’s, it lags behind the competition. This indicates that it produces noisier images throughout its sensitivity range. However, our resolution tests confirm that it also captures more detail than the other cameras.

Verdict

Although Fuji’s X10 and X20 compact cameras were popular, many people were disappointed that the X30’s sensor was also 2/3-inch sized, especially as this camera’s body is bigger than the X20’s. And though it’s been a little overshadowed by the Fuji X-Pro2 announced at the same time, there has been widespread approval for the X70’s APS-C format sensor. This step up in sensor size ensures that the camera produces better images than Fuji’s smallest X-series camera, on a par with those from the popular X100T. It also enables greater control over depth of field.

The larger X100T still offers the advantage of a viewfinder, and the more popular 35mm (equivalent) focal length. However, the tilting touch-sensitive screen makes it quicker to set AF point on the X70 while the 28mm focal length equivalent lens enables more successful group selfies.

In addition to the touch-screen, the X70 has a healthy collection of physical controls, traditional exposure controls and a fixed focal length f/2.8 lens – all of which will appeal to experienced photographers.

Fuji X70

We liked

The X70’s traditional exposure controls and solid build make it a delight to use, especially if you use aperture priority mode a lot because lens ring allows aperture to be adjusted so quickly and easily. The exposure compensation dial is also conveniently to hand for making exposure adjustments.

It’s also good news that the Quick Menu, which is one of the best available because of its quick operation, is customisable. In addition there are 8 customisable function buttons that allow you to set-up the camera to your preferences.

We disliked

The two primary issues that could be of concern to enthusiast photographer are the lack of a viewfinder and the inability to record raw files when using the extended sensitivity options. As well as enabling a clearer view of a composition in bright light, I find using a viewfinder enables me to concentrate more easily on what I am shooting. The X70’s screen provides a nice, detailed view and its brightness can be boost sufficiently for it to be used in bright sunlight (at least during March in the UK), but I still miss a viewfinder. I might miss it a little less if the X70’s tilting screen was a vari-angle unit that is of use when shooting upright images at very low or high angles.

Adding a viewfinder would of course add cost as well as extra bulk to the X70, although Sony has managed to shoehorn a viewfinder into small cameras like the RX100 IV and RX1R II.

The inability to record raw files while using the extended sensitivity range is an issue with all Fuji X-series cameras and is clearly a case of company policy. Many photographers will probably avoid using the uppermost values where possible, but they could reasonably expect to have ISO 100 as a raw shooting option.

A final concern is the limited use of the touch-screen – it would be nice to be able to make settings changes with it.

Verdict

The X70 is the compact camera that Fuji X-series photographers have been longing for. It’s small, well made, has traditional exposure controls and it produces the quality of images that they have come to expect. Its 28mm equivalent focal length offers a wider alternative to the 35mm of the X100T and it makes it a good alternative option for street and travel photography, especially when you want to keep size down.

It will be interesting to see where Fuji takes the X100-series of compacts. Will it become smaller yet retain the viewfinder or will the company wish to have greater differentiation between the two lines?

See also:

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