By Leonard Goh (freelance writer/Singapore)
If you want a capable camera that can fit into your pocket, the X70 is highly worth considering
Pros: Large sensor usually used in DSLR, compact footprint, manual control dials, flip-up LCD
Cons: Metal lens cap might be easily lost, fixed 28mm (35mm equivalent) lens may not be for everyone
Overall: The Fujifilm X70 belongs to a class of niche advanced compact cameras which enthusiasts and professionals will find it a joy to use.
The Fujifilm X series has come a long way. Ever since the company launched the X100 in 2011, one of its core focuses since then seemed to be making small cameras that house a large image sensor. While the X10, X20 and X30 used a ⅔-inch type sensor, the leap to the X70 saw the use of the APS-C-sized sensor commonly found in DSLRs.
At first glance, the X70 looks just like any compact cameras. Measuring just slightly larger than a deck of playing cards, the camera can easily slip into any coat pockets. However, the metal body lends a slight weight to it. But that may not be a bad thing. We noticed that this additional weight, along with the beefier handgrip, actually helped to stabilize the camera while we were shooting with it.
With a non-zooming lens, the glass on the X70 has a very slim profile, protruding less than 1cm out from the front of the camera. Around the lens is the aperture control ring, which turns with satisfying clicks.
The top of the X70 houses the shutter speed and exposure compensation dial, which are reminiscent of analog cameras. Instead of having to fiddle with control wheels to adjust exposure, we could easily change them by turning the respective dials. In this respect, the X70 trumps its closest competition, the Ricoh GR II which has much lesser direct controls for exposure.
To complement the retro look, the X70 has a metal lens cap which we find cumbersome to remove each time we want to take a shot. Here’s hoping that the successor of this model will feature an integrated lens cover.
Despite its petite size, the X70 packs an APS-C sized sensor. For the uninitiated, sensors of this size are typically used only in DSLRs. This means that users can get clean-looking pictures at high ISO and also natural looking background blur in close up mode.
The fixed 28mm lens would probably be a deal breaker for most users. It’s a wide angle lens, which means that it’s great for landscape works, and not so much for close-ups and portraits. Of course, the more experienced photographers would probably be able to get around such restrictions, but the average users may find it not suitable.
We really like the rear 3-inch LCD. It can be flipped up and tilted for over the head or super low angle shots. It is touch sensitive, too, and this means that you can tap on the screen to shoot or navigate its menu. One thing to note is that if you have the camera slung over your shoulders, you may want to deactivate the touchscreen. When we used it, we noticed that the screen was pretty sensitive and it shot several photos with the tap-to-shoot function.
The X70 comes with plenty of options for customizations, from the buttons to the layout of the screen. This is a great feature to have, especially for experienced photographers who want more control over the camera.
The X70 boasts a quick autofocus of 0.1 second, and utilizes both phase and contrast detection autofocus for speed and accuracy. In our tests, the X70 was zippy in locking focus on the subjects, and it is also accurate. However, as with most AF systems, the X70 tend to hunt for the subject in low-light environment. But you can also tap the screen to focus on the subject, so that resolves the issue.
White balance is also accurate in most lighting conditions. In our tests with warm and fluorescent light, the X70 tend to compensate for the green hue from fluorescent source, but that means the subject had a slight yellowish tone to them. If you are shooting RAW files, then this can be easily corrected on the computer.
With a sensor usually seen in a DSLR, expectations are high for the X70 to pull ahead of the compact crowd when it comes to image quality. Indeed, at base ISO of 200, the JPG files were clean and rendered plenty of details. However, we noticed that the photos we shot had a tad soft look to them. It could be the slim, fixed lens which is the limit.
At higher ISO of 1,600 onward, noise started creeping in but they are barely noticeable if you don’t zoom into the photo to inspect. In fact, if most of your photos end up being viewed on Facebook, shooting at high ISO on the X70 shouldn’t pose much of an issue.
Color rendition on the X70’s 16.3-megapixel X-Trans sensor was satisfactory. Greens and reds were faithfully reproduced, but skin tones lacked a bit of warmth. This is from the standard color setting. But one of the unique aspects of Fujifilm’s cameras would be its Film Simulation modes, which takes advantage of the company’s long experience in color management. One of its latest simulation, Classic Chrome, emulates the popular Kodachrome film from its old competitor, Kodak.
We found the X70 to be a thoroughly enjoyable camera to shoot with, despite its limited fixed lens. Focusing was quick and accurate, and the image quality is suffice to satisfy majority of photographers. If you want a capable camera that can fit into your pocket, the X70 is highly worth considering.
Leonard is an advocate of photography in Singapore and also an educator in this field. He has served as senior writer for the now-defunct CNET Asia, before moving on to working for various camera companies in the business development and marketing capacities. He is also a co-founder of Platform, a not-for-profit photography initiative in Singapore which also published Twentyfifteen, a collection of 20 books to commemorate Singapore’s Golden Jubilee (SG50).