Friday, November 7, 2014

REVIEW: Fujifilm x30 – Great, but not a Sony RX 100 III Killer (Part II of II)

Fujifilm X30 Digital Camera (Silver) Flash Raised
Fujifilm X30 Digital Camera (Silver) Flash Raised

In the first installment of my review entitled Fujifilm X30–The best one yet! (Part I), I discussed how much I enjoyed the opportunity to test the new x30. I was a HUGE fan of the x10 and declared it my point and shoot of the year. The x20 was faster, but was actually a little disappointing since it lost the magical EXR mode (and its functionality – the DR Auto & SR+ just aren’t the same). However, I purchased both of these cameras and still own them both to this day. The question now becomes, will I replace my x20 (and potentially my x10 as well) with the new x30? Read on to find out.

Bookshelf Test

The following shots are done on a tripod with all camera default settings except I also enable RAW.

My bookshelf tests are sample shots that must be clicked and viewed at 100% for accurate analysis that compare relative performance at different ISO and apertures The full set of bookshelf shots are at http://photos.ronmartblog.com/fujifilm/x30.


FUJIFILM X30, f/2 @ 7.1 mm, 1.2s, ISO 100, No Flash

What I see when looking at all of the bookshelf shots is that the 7.1mm focal length completely wide open gives the best results. When compared to my f/4 image I think the the f/2 is the sharper image.


f/2.8 @ 28.4 mm, 1/13, ISO 3200, No Flash

At 3200 the noise level is pretty disappointing, but I still find that the NR –2 setting here preserves more detail than the standard NR 0 setting. As a result you could get less noise using the default noise setting but it will smear the details of the image much more. Personally I prefer to do it this way then use Noiseware to clean it up myself while preserving the maximum details.

Sadly by today’s standards I’m disappointed with the ISO 3200 performance when pixel peeping (but it does pretty good in the real world). Realistically this is a camera where I’m going to try to stay under ISO 800 whenever possible and I’d treat 1600 & 3200 as ISO’s of last resort.

CLICK HERE to see how these compare against the x20, or CLICK HERE to compare against the RX100 III.

Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) & Control Ring

I can’t emphasize enough how much these two features have made me enjoy the new X30. While I’m not a big EVF fan, it does come in terribly handy to view the LCD when you are out in the bright sun (vs using a Hoodman Loupe). The EVF is done very well on this model so that helps even more.

The control ring with an easy access button to reprogram its function has been a godsend because it allows me to get easily change between the things that I care most about at a given moment (most often film simulation modes, ISO or White Balance).

If you love the x10 or x20 then this camera will delight you and these features alone make it worth the upgrade.

Video

MUCH better than the x20 – it’s definitely a lot smoother and the auto focus works the best I’ve seen out of this series. This is not to say that it won’t go out of focus from time to time, but it’s no worse than a high end cell phone which is a huge leap from where it came from.

In my extended testing in Asia (here), I captured video from a bullet train moving at least 300 kmh and the AF system performed very well.

How does the X30 stack up against the competition?

With great cameras out there like the RX100 III, the Canon G7 X, and Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX100 the question becomes which one is really the best? The reality is that they are all good so I don’t think anyone is going to be super depressed with any of these, but the RX100 III is definitely the form factor and image quality champion in my opinion (see my RX100 III review). Despite some of its limitations compared to the Sony, the x30 is still a very fun camera to use with much easier access to its features (especially with the new control ring).

Yes, the x30 is heavier and bulkier than I’d like. Yes the twist to start and detachable caps is annoying. However, like most Fujifilm cameras this thing is just so fun when I get it in my hands. It makes me remember why I love photography so much and it empowers me to get results that make me happy with its wealth of all-important PHYSICAL button controls!!! This means I’m not fighting menus and touch screens when I use this camera and its focus system, film simulation modes and quick mode make it a joy to use.

Yes, cell phones are getting very good these days but there’s still something magical about holding something that feels like a camera dialing in your settings (or not using auto modes) and getting an image that is often high on the wow factor compared to DSLR’s.

Conclusion

Overall I still love this camera and it’s improved features, solid build quality, great new EVF, wonderful control ring and usable video all make this x10 & x20 owner think its time to upgrade. I was very happy with this camera and plan to take it to Asia for some more exhaustive real-world testing. With that said, I wish the high ISO performance was better and the real world testing in Asia reminded me that this camera is much better at getting keeper than the superior image quality RX100 III did during my trip with it down South.

I still recommend the x30 and feel pretty confident that most people really enjoy it to even if you are a beginner all the way up to a high end pro wanting very good results from a pocket camera. If you don’t mind fighting menus and prefer manual mode over aperture priority, then I have to say that the RX100 III is the way to go based on image quality and compact size. The RX100 III is quite a bit more expensive though, so it’s tough to beat its bang for the buck.

For more photos see my On Vacation with the Fujifilm X30 (Includes a Mom’s 2 Cents) article and visit http://photos.ronmartblog.com/fujifilm/x30

Where to order

Click here to learn more or order on the B&H web site. See my RX100 III review here where you can learn more and order using my links – thanks!

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    4 comments:

    Stephen Williams said...

    Thanks for the review, always liked your series of reviews on the Fuji X10 and 20.
    I have just bought a 2nd hand X30 to replace my X10 I just hope I dont miss the EXR mode too much as it nailed pretty much everything I could throw at it.
    It's a shame the wife won't let me keep both.....

    Thanks again for the reviews, some of the best out there.

    Cheers,

    Stephen (UK)

    DoctorFast said...

    I would really value your opinion on the Rx100 II and the Fujifilm x30. Which one is my wife more likely to get better shots from chasing kids in the loungeroom on some form of auto mode?

    Ron Martinsen said...

    She will like the form factor of the RX but if she is just a point and shoot photographer then the x30 is more foolproof. My wife has loved the x series as it's the only camera that I have been able to get her to use regularly besides her iPhone because she trusts that she can get better shots with it.

    She hates the bulky size, lens cap and twist to turn on.

    DoctorFast said...

    Thank you for your reply, I appreciate it.
    I really liked reading your review, and after some extensive research, and going into a shop and playing with some cameras, I am going to get the RX100M2 on the merits of it's size, and how much I will get out of it when I want to use it. I also know she won't use a bulky camera. A shame, because for the price point I was looking at some mirrorless cameras as well, which I could expand on with better lenses in the future. Ah well.
    I am fairly confident I can get two modes down onto the camera, one for pretty much indoor kid shots, and one for auto outdoor stuff, which my wife should be able to handle. I've ordered it, looking very forward to seeing how it goes. At the very least, it has to be an improvement on our TG-2.