Thursday, April 4, 2013

COMPARISON: Fujifilm X-E1, X100s, X20 & X10 (Updated Apr 12, 2013)

Mouse over to see flash up, mouse out to see flash down
Fujifilm X10, X20, X100s, and X-E1

I recently reviewed the Fujifilm X-E1 and really enjoyed it. As a X10 owner, I’ve been very interest in the X series cameras by Fujifilm so I had great hopes that they would continue to improve. They have, so I was thrilled last week when my review copy of the X20 arrived, but I was shocked when the X100s arrived this week. I thought – how perfect, I can finally get to compare some of the most exciting Fujifilm cameras all at the same time!  (UPDATE: My x20 and X100s reviews are now live on the blog)

I was in the final stages of my X20 review and quite happy with what I was seeing, so to have the new X100s in the mix is going to delay my original plans a bit. However, I think many readers will enjoy a first hand account of how they compare. I hope you stick with me for this and the subsequent articles where I do just that.

Now before anyone blows a gasket, I realize that the X10/20 are very different from the XPro-1, X-E1, and X100s cameras. I’m including this comparison simply because I have all of the cameras together. I also often get asked about all of the X series cameras, so here’s a one stop shop to find out what I think.

Camera Body Comparison

Fujifilm X10, X20, X100s, and X-E1 Rear View
Fujifilm X10, X20, X100s, and X-E1 Rear View

The first thing you notice when you have all of these cameras together is that they are similar but different. Each has its own little twist that separates it from the others. The biggest differences on the back of the X10 vs X20 is the swap of the AF drive location. Formerly on the dial of the X10, it now moves to a button and the AF button gets moved to the dial. At first this was annoying as my brain is trailed to the old location, but you quickly see the wisdom in this change as AF is an often used feature on this camera to get your AF point exactly where you want it. There’s also the replacement of the word RAW with Q, but if you have the latest firmware both act exactly the same – as a Q(uick access) button to change all of your settings quickly and easily. I really, really like this feature as it makes these cameras SOOOO much easier to use. The good news is that ALL of the cameras feature here have Q menus – woohoo!

The X20 adds an eye sensor which detects when your head us up to the optical view finder (OVF). This is a very annoying feature because its very sensitive so it is very easy to make your LCD go black (and switch to OVF) when you don’t want to. Fortunately you can disable this sensor if you don’t want to use the OVF with a new digital overlay for settings and AF point. Of course, the discussion of view finders immediately requires a mention of the differences between the X100s and XE-1. The XE-1 foregoes the optical view finder in favor of a electronic view finder (EVF) whereas the X100s (like the X-Pro1) offers the best of both worlds by allowing you to switch between a OVF with overlay and the EVF. Personally I despite OVF’s on these cameras because it’s inaccurate to the point of being near useless and on all but the X100s you’ll often see your lens through the view finder. As a result I call the hybrid design of the X100s/XPro1 a waste of money and prefer to use the rear LCD (for its higher resolution) or the EVF. Given the choice I’d rather save the money and have the X10’s token OVF and just use the rear LCD.

Externally everywhere else the X10 & X20 are the same with one minor caveat – the X10’s EXR mode (my favorite feature) was replaced with a SR+ mode. From what I’ve seen this isn’t a case of a feature that’s been renamed, but I’ll dig more into that in my X20 review.

The X100s follows the change made by the X20 where the AF selector moves to the dial and Drive moves to the buttons. Beyond that it’s virtually identical to its predecessor with just an improved LCD. Just like before, there is a different layout pattern between the X-Pro1/X-E1 & X100s, but you get used to either very quickly.

Fujifilm X10, X20, X100s, and X-E1 Top View
Fujifilm X10, X20, X100s, and X-E1 Top View

X-Trans & EXR II Rock – FINALLY Fujifilm focus doesn’t suck!!!

The all new X-Trans CMOS II Sensor with the EXR II processor found in the X20 and X100s are the real deal. Now that they combine both contrast and phase-detection methods to acquire focus quickly and accurately which eliminates the frustration I had with the contrast only AF in the X-Pro1 and XE-1. The X10 wasn’t perfect, but for some reason it always outperformed its bigger siblings but the new X20 & X100s blow it away. THIS is the kind of performance you should get for cameras in this price range! After using this new system I say stay away from the older XE-1, XPro-1, and X10 and either wait for their replacements which will feature the new sensor and processor or get a X20 or X100s.

I don’t say things like this very often, but X100 users should dump their cameras now. While there were things to love about that camera, it has that camera had the worst low-light AF of anything I’ve ever used. The x100s is a HUMONGOUS upgrade that will allow you to actually enjoy the AF performance of on whole new level! Don’t believe me? Go to a store and try one out – it rocks (but come back here to order to save sales taxes ;-)!

Lens Modulation Optimiser & Removal of the Low Pass Filter

The new sensor and processor also opened up the door for Lens Modulation Optimiser which allows the X20 and X100s to not require a low pass filter. In theory this means that diffraction goes away and you can enjoy using your smallest apertures (largest f-stop number) without any loss in image quality. This was a feature enjoyed by Nikon D800E owners, but to have it in these cameras is a big deal. In practical everyday shooting I didn’t run into any mosaic issues, so I appreciated the higher quality images. Once again, this is an awesome feature that warrants waiting for an upgrade to the X-Pro1 and X-E1 to take advantage of these features.

For the record, I saw a huge improvement in f/16 performance in the X100s, but the X20 didn’t seem to be much improved at f/11. As a result, I’d say that diffraction issues have been drastically addressed in the X100s but not the X20.

X100s Digital Split Image Focusing


This macro was tough to shoot, but the new manual focus improvements helped to nail it
X100s f/2.8 @ 23 mm, 1/125, ISO 2500, No Flash

The X100s features a new manual focusing system called Digital Split Image (DSI) which seems a little freaky at first, but it works. Personally I still prefer the digital zoom of live view for focusing (which doesn’t support DSI or the new focus peaking feature), but there’s options for everybody here. Some people will be excited about focus peaking, but unlike Sony (see my NEX-7 review) you can’t change the color of the focus peaking points. Given the default white color it’s darn near useless in many cases, so Sony fans – this isn’t like what you are used to.

The reality now though is that the AF is so good and you have so many manual focus options that focusing shouldn’t be an issue anymore. That’s a big statement to make about a Fujifilm X-Series camera if you’ve suffered through this past generation (especially that awful X100 AF nightmare – UGH).

Sample Images

Here’s an image that you can click to get to the X20 sample image gallery (or here for the old X10 gallery):


X20 f/5.6 @ 8.6 mm,1/340, ISO 100

Click the image below to get to the X-E1 Sample Image Gallery:


X-E1, f/10 @ 18 mm,1/250, ISO 800, No Flash, AWB, Velvia Film Simulation Mode

If you wanted to see X-Pro1 images then click here:


XPro-1, f/1.4 @ 35 mm,1/1300, ISO 800, No Flash, AWB, Velvia Film Simulation Mode

Here’s the X100s sample image gallery and here’s a bookshelf shot at f/16 showing what to my eyes looks like NO diffraction whatsoever:


X100S, f/16 @ 23 mm, 30s,ISO 200, No Flash, Provia Film Simulation

Click here to see the old X100 sample image gallery.

Conclusion

I dive into more details in my X20 and X100s reviews, but let me just say – Fujifilm fans rejoice – the engineers have listened and taken these charming cameras and made them usable. I’ve bought the X20 and I’m going to have a hard time not getting the X-E1 replacement down the road (I still prefer interchangeable zoom lenses with stabilization). The X-E1 is nice, but so much good stuff is headed its way after seeing the X100s that it’s hard for me to recommend the X-E1 anymore.

Where to order

Click here to order the X20 or click here to order the X100s on the B&H web site.

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6 comments:

Philip Giordano said...

The X20 sounds great and may be my next camera for when I choose not to carry the DSLR. Can yo tell me how you carry the X20 on day trips as it does not appear to to simply fit in a pocket? Thanks for the great info and looking forward to the next reviews.

Ron Martinsen said...

Philip,

Honestly I usually just hand it to my wife and ask her to keep it in her purse - ha, ha!

When I can I'll store it in my jacket pocket or just hold it in my hand, but when I'm carrying it for an extended period of time by myself I use a SnapR 20

FWIW, B&H just informed me while I was typing this that the have the X20's back in stock (including Black)

F. Moehn said...

I'm loving my X20 (had it two weeks). Sure, the sensor's not huge like the Sony RX100, but it's an artistic camera that makes me want to take more and more photos. So far quite impressed with the X-Trans and with the film simulation JPEG output (black and white shots of people and street scenes are fantastic).

I was considering the X100s but it took too long to get to market in the US so I went with this. Size is great. Colors are vibrant but not over-saturated.

Only complaint is high ISO not good. However, with such a bright lens, indoor daytime photography can be quite nice (without flash). Haven't used the flash much, but if I can set it to just help out a bit in very low light, then it may be just fine.

Anonymous said...

I'm loving my X20 (had it two weeks). Sure, the sensor's not huge like the Sony RX100, but it's an artistic camera that makes me want to take more and more photos. So far quite impressed with the X-Trans and with the film simulation JPEG output (black and white shots of people and street scenes are fantastic).

I was considering the X100s but it took too long to get to market in the US so I went with this. Size is great. Colors are vibrant but not over-saturated.

Only complaint is high ISO not good. However, with such a bright lens, indoor daytime photography can be quite nice (without flash). Haven't used the flash much, but if I can set it to just help out a bit in very low light, then it may be just fine.

Ron Martinsen said...

F. Moehn,

I agree the high ISO performance isn't that great, and I think the video and in-camera noise reduction is just awful. However, I'm enjoying my x20 otherwise.

The flash is useless. It's really the option of last resort when you need to capture an image that you have no intention of anyone else in the world seeing (i.e., the serial number off the back of the TV where things are dark).

Fujinista said...

The X20 is not the right camera for me. Size wise it's not much smaller then the X100(s) or the X-E1, but the sensor is just too small to deliver good enough quality for me. Especially at ISO400 and higher it's a big disappointment and not really usable for anything other then small pictures for the internet.

The X100(s) has the fixed 23mm f/2 lens and at times I find that very, very limiting. Also, the close up performance is not that great, especially wide open. The 18-55mm zoom lens is more flexible, but at the moment you can only attach it to yesterdays X series (Fuji X Pro 1 and X-E1). Also' it's not a fixed aperture lens.

I expect a new generation Fuji X cameras soon, that will have all the improvements of the X100s and more. And then we'll see the birth a more mature and versatile Fuji camera with the genes of it's more limited ancestors.

Not a good time to buy a X-E1 or an X Pro 1 right now, just wait for the next generation. If you already have one, maybe try and sell it now, before the rumors of the new versions.