Monday, December 1, 2014

On Vacation with the Fujifilm X30 (Includes a Mom’s 2 Cents)

f/5 @ 7.1 mm, 1/320, ISO 200, Aperture Priority, Velvia Film Simulation, Shade White Balance

This is one of my favorite shots my wife took using the x30 on our vacation to Japan and Korea

Years ago when the x10 came out I quickly fell in love with it, but my wife thought it looked a little bulky and intimidating. At the time she had been shooting with our Canon G11 which she loved, but during Thanksgiving 2011 she quickly fell in love with the x10. It ended up being a huge hit on our vacation to Hawaii later that December, and since then she’s been my go to reviewer for point and shoot opinions from a mom/wife perspective.

I’ve already written my reviews entitled Fujifilm X30–The best one yet! (Part I), and Fujifilm x30 – Great, but not a Sony RX 100 III Killer (Part II of II). However, there was enough to love with the improvements of the x30 for me to give it the nod to take on an extended vacation to Asia. Read on to see my thoughts as well as a sample of my 197 favorite snapshots taken with the x30 during the trip (mostly by my wife).

Long-Term Usage Thoughts

LCD Screen Durability

One of the things I was very disappointed about the x20 was how easily the rear LCD scratched while it lived in my wife’s purse. Granted there are all sorts of sharp objects that live in there, but her phone remains rather unscathed so wouldn’t it be great if the camera survived as well? I’m very happy to report that the x30 LCD screen was scratch free after three weeks of intense travel in an overstuffed purse full of sharp metal objects. In fact, I can easily say that no camera has survived that gauntlet better than the x30 so I was very pleased to see this improvement.

Electronic Viewfinder

There was a time where I despised electronic viewfinders (EVF), but Sony really started making them better and Fujifilm has managed to keep up with Sony’s advancements. On this trip in particular where we were blessed with many sunny days, it was great having the EVF to look through to see the scene better than the rear LCD could offer. While we did have a Hoodman Loupe, the EVF was just more convenient.  The optical viewfinders of the x10 and x20 were so bad that we never bothered to use them, but the x30’s is basically a mini version of the rear LCD so it came in handy at reviewing pictures as well. Fortunately it also features an adjustable diopter so that both my wife and I could dial in the perfect focus to see the image well without having to resort to glasses.

By the end of our trip we were such fans of the EVF that we were starting to use it more than the rear LCD, and honestly I’d have a hard time owning a camera in this class without a EVF that is this good or better.

Control Ring

For my wife and I, travel is about having fun seeing the sights – NOT photography. Now that might be hard to imagine considering the fact that we took 7000 pictures on this trip, but the reality is that we take mostly visual snapshots to remind us of things that made us say wow on our trip – not well composed works of fine art. The primary reason for this is that most shots rarely get more than 15 seconds from the time the camera is lifted until it is put away, so being able to quickly adjust the controls is critical. In fact, this is even more important to my wife than myself as I’ll dink around with the settings whereas she likes to do as little as possible – otherwise she’d just use her iPhone.

To increase my odds of my wife coming home with more interesting shots, I rely on hard buttons where I can give here a simple explanation that she understands so that she can be more effective at shooting. She understands the mode dial and exposure compensation very well, but the other settings are ones that I often try to set up for her in advance of a shot knowing what she’ll be up against. The addition of the mode ring gave me another control that I could teach her to use. What’s more its programmability made it easy for me to say “now this thing is controlling your ISO or White Balance)” so she could dial in her desired results.

Video Performance

I thought the x20 video performance was abysmal, but the x30 seems to have sorted things out. While none of our videos will be making Stephen Spielberg quaking in his boots, we were pleased that we got nice smooth video (some of which is lost when uploading to the web).

In short, even with the 1.0 firmware, video didn’t suck.


While SR+ is no where near as good as EXR mode on the x10 in my opinion, it is a handy mode that “just works” when in doubt. I’m still frustrated that it doesn’t offer RAW files or the Velvia film simulation from this mode, but my wife enjoyed just having a “set it and forget it” mode when her manual fiddling around wasn’t giving her the results she desired. She liked it, but I’m still wishing for more.

Battery Life

Not once did our battery ever let us down. We took one and a charger and generally charged it about once every few days. The x10 and x20 were famous for dying at the end of a long day so we always carried an extra battery, but with the x30 I never found it necessary.


I despise the in-camera noise reduction on Fujifilm cameras as I think they totally destroy the detail in the image. As a result, I opted to take 100% of my shots with noise reduction (NR) set to –2 (the default is 0) to leave noise reduction as a post-processing step using Noiseware. As a result you’ll notice my sample images can be very noisy at times, but the images cleaned up nicely in post-processing (none of which you’ll see here).

My wife’s take

f/5.6 @ 7.1 mm, 1/320, ISO 100, Pano Mode

My favorite pano taken by my wife during the trip

While advanced modes are great, my wife still finds the features behind the ADV and SP modes to be too tedious to use. As a result, she still prefers the x30 over the Sony RX100 III for its point and shoot ease of use in SR+ mode. She loves that she can just use it like her iPhone, yet get better results that make her feel like she’s an advanced user (due to the zoom, exposure compensation and ISO adjustments via the control ring).

My wife still hates the twist to on and lose lens cover, but in all the years she’s carried a x series camera we have yet to actually lose a lens cap for more than a day. With that said, she does love the compact size of the RX100 III and the ease at which she can turn it on and off plus shoot all with one hand.

She was very glad to see how easy it was to use the video with a dedicated button now, and even more pleased with the results after a disappointing x20 experience. This was the first time I had ever seen her prefer to use the camera instead of her phone to shoot video.

My wife also finally got to the hang of doing panos with this camera which had been a struggle in the past. She always finds the directions confusing so she was happy to finally get it sorted out and get some decent panos this time.

Her final thoughts were that this camera did a great job of keeping up with our hyper toddler outdoors at night compared to what she was seeing on other parents camera. While the images might not win any awards, the results were better than the cell phone and she got the memento shots she wanted.

Real World Sample Images

f/2.8 @ 7.9 mm, 1/1100, ISO 100

Great color is why I love Fujifilm cameras

From image 39 to 235, all of the images features are snapshots from my vacation with noise reduction turned off (NR –2). Most shots were taken by my wife or were simple snapshots I did before or after better shots I often took with my DSLR or cell phone shots where I wanted better results. I admit these aren’t works of art, but if you want to see what the x30 can do on your vacation under similar circumstances, this is definitely a real world gallery to pay attention to.

Generally speaking most settings were camera default. A good number shots that aren’t super vibrant were taken in SR+ mode. The more vibrant shots were usually taken in Aperture Priority with the Velvia Film Simulation mode (and sometimes White Balance set to Shade).

Click the image for the full-size original JPEG that came out of the camera. These images have not been cropped or edited in any way.

X30, f/2 @ 7.1 mm, 1/110, ISO 200, No Flash

f/2.2 @ 7.6 mm, 1/85, ISO 800, No Flash

Keeping up with this guy is tough, but the x30 did a reasonable job on this trip

f/4 @ 7.6 mm, 1/28, ISO 3200, No Flash

We took a lot of handheld shots outdoors at slow shutter speeds that turned out much better than expected

f/2 @ 7.1 mm, 1/25, ISO 400, No Flash

Thanks to the tiny sensor, even f/2 gave reasonable detail to scenes in SR+ mode

f/2 @ 7.1 mm, 1/30, ISO 3200, No Flash
This is probably the most difficult pano of all time. While not great by any stretch, I was impressed that I got anything at all from this handheld shot.

f/2 @ 7.1 mm, 1/210, ISO 100, No Flash

The aggressive in-camera skin softening in the x20 seems to be less of a problem on the x30 but it could also be due to my setting NR to –2.

f/7.1 @ 12.2 mm, 1/500, ISO 100, No Flash

I shot at f/7.1 and higher a lot on this trip thanks to great weather and I was very pleased with the results. This is definitely a decent lens and sensor, so if the weather is great then don’t be afraid to stop things down!

f/5.6 @ 8.3 mm, 1/450, ISO 100, No Flash

My wife was very happy with this shot that she took, so I had to include it. :-p

f/2.5 @ 7.1 mm, 1/320, ISO 100, No Flash

f/3.2 @ 7.1 mm, 1/15, ISO 3200, No Flash

Another tough handheld shot that turned out way better than I expected

f/2.2 @ 8.6 mm, 1/30, ISO 320, No Flash

This is one of my biggest disappointments as the x30 overexposed by about 1+ stops and the great rear LCD made the image look so good that we thought it was bang on so we didn’t take a 2nd shot

f/5.6 @ 7.6 mm, 1/340, ISO 100, No Flash

This was one of my favorite panos as no lens on my DSLR could capture this much of the view we had (and I excluded the ugly part)

f/2.2 @ 8.6 mm, 1/50, ISO 1600, No Flash

My 5 year old son took this shot in SR+ mode in a moving vehicle on a twisty road – impressive!

f/2.8 @ 7.1 mm, 1/125, ISO 100, Velvia and Shade White Balance

I was very happy with this one, but there’s a bunch more versions in the gallery.
A near identical f/7.1 version is also in full-resolution here.

f/8 @ 9.6 mm, 1/320, ISO 100, No Flash

The great color of the Velvia Film Simulation takes a boring shot like this
and makes it much more visually appealing.
A better composed f/11 version is here.

f/4.5 @ 7.1 mm, 1/850, ISO 100, Beach Mode

I’ve always been very satisfied with the results from the “Beach Mode”

f/2.2 @ 8.6 mm, 1/160, ISO 200, SR+ Super Macro

SR+ will automatically go to Super Macro mode if you get close enough
and if you avoid the urge to zoom in then you can get very close to your subject

f/2.2 @ 7.6 mm, 1/110, ISO 100, No Flash

The macro mode on this camera gets addicting at times

f/2.8 @ 7.1 mm, 1/30, ISO 400, No Flash

Low light forced me to shoot at f/2.8 to still hand hold, but I was pleased with the results

f/2 @ 7.1 mm, 1/60, ISO 500, No Flash

SR+ did a good job indoors under very cold lighting

f/4.5 @ 7.1 mm, 1/280, ISO 100

While not flawless, I know my DSLR panos would never be this good for something moving as fast as the steam in the shot above and below!

f/5.6 @ 7.1 mm, 1/240, ISO 100

This one was much better, so I became less fearful of giving panos a try under tough conditions

f/4 @ 8.9 mm, 1/1300, ISO 100

Shots like this make me wish that we would have taken more time as the in-camera color from Velvia Film Simulation was excellent

f/5 @ 8.6 mm, 1/240, ISO 200

While this is an admirable shot (when cropped), you definitely miss the higher dynamic range of DSLR’s like the D750 for shots like this

f/2.8 @ 15.4 mm, 1/280, ISO 100
, Shutter Priority
Some of the shots featured in the gallery like this were taken from a moving car, but the AF system did a good job of quickly focusing on its target

f/3.2 @ 8.6 mm, 1/250, ISO 100

Over and over again, the x30 just got the shot my wife envisioned in her head so she was very happy with it on the trip

f/8 @ 7.6 mm, 1/600, ISO 200
, Sunset Mode
While I would have framed this shot differently, I thought my wife’s shot in sunset mode here turned out pretty good for a point and shoot composition

f/6.4 @ 7.1 mm, 1/600, ISO 100, Sunset Mode

Sunset mode never failed to get a cool sunset shot

f/2 @ 7.1 mm, 1/110, ISO 100

SR+ nailed this tough shot that resulted in completely overexposed windows in the DSLR shots I took. Granted EXR mode on the x10 usually got the interior better than this, I was happy that the x30 beat the DSLR and iPhones tested for this same shot.

f/2.8 @ 7.1 mm, 1/60, ISO 500, No Flash

This was a tough shot that I took from an adjacent pool that I was surprised wasn’t totally blurry.

f/2.8 @ 7.6 mm, 1/30, ISO 400, No Flash

I was drunk on sake when I took this shot, but I was pleased to see that even at “drunk” handheld 1/30 the fine detail captured in this shot. The built-in stabilization is very good.

f/2.2 @ 8.3 mm, 1/60, ISO 200

Photographers often struggle to dial in the right settings for a shot like this, but my wife just clicked and moved on. While the shot isn’t exactly art, I was pleased with how great the signs turned out in this shot – it’s definitely a vacation snapshot keeper

f/3.2 @ 7.6 mm, 1/38, ISO 200, No Flash

Under incredibly difficult conditions, I was very pleased with how this shot was better than my DSLR equivalent

f/2 @ 7.1 mm, 1/30, ISO 1250, No Flash

The obligatory “look what we ate” shots all turned out reasonably despite higher ISO’s

f/2.8 @ 24.6 mm, 1/1000, ISO 100

f/2.5 @ 15.4 mm, 1/1000, ISO 100

While my wife was kind enough not to interrupt this photo shoot, I was pleased to see that she got a shot of this beautiful woman in her wonderful kimono

f/2 @ 7.1 mm, 1/26, ISO 3200, No Flash

From the beauty above to the beast here (yours truly) singing karaoke in a darkened room with flashing lights, I was surprised (and saddened) that any of these shots came out at all!

f/2.8 @ 16 mm, 1/900, ISO 100, Miniature Advanced Mode

While I’m not sure I like the results, I did think this did look a bit like a toy city

f/4 @ 20.2 mm, 1/320, ISO 800, No Flash

With one hand holding an umbrella, this point and shoot while walking reminded me why it’s worth investing in a camera like an x30 over a camera phone that would rarely get a shot like this and a bulky DSLR that you wouldn’t want to carry in certain situations like this


f/4 @ 10 mm, 1/30, ISO 2000, No Flash

It was fun being a tourist in Asia having a camera that you could hand to someone else to get fun memory shots like the ones above and below with the x30. They aren’t shots for my portfolio, they are for my fond memories of a great trip. Cameras like the x30 can do great shots too, but more times than not we use them for real life memento capturing. In this respect, the x30 did a great job and never let me down!

f/2 @ 7.1 mm, 1/250, ISO 200

See my x30 reviews entitled Fujifilm X30–The best one yet! (Part I), and Fujifilm x30 – Great, but not a Sony RX 100 III Killer (Part II of II). For the full gallery of images taken with the x30, visit

I’d like to give a special shout out to B&H for letting me take the x30 out for an extended test like this to bring you this article. I generally don’t get to do this type of thing with review cameras, so I appreciate their willingness to let me do this!

Where to order

Click here to learn more about the x30 or order on the B&H web site.

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PaulGuy said...

I just returned from a vacation in Italy with the X30. While I also had an X100s with me I found myself over and over going to this camera. It is just fun to shoot with. My dream would be the exact same camera with a bigger sensor better suited to capture detail in landscape shots. If anyone knows of a camera that handles as well as this one with the bigger sensor please let me know.

Ed said...

Awesome photos! Thanks for the very informative article. I'm thinking of buying an x30 or x-a2 for my first camera.