Fujifilm X70 field review - "an X-100 for the rest of us"
In a past blog post, a long time ago, speaking of a then possible X-M1 successor, I urged Fujifilm to produce “an X-100 for the rest of us”. The X-M1 line was sadly discontinued, but, a bit more than a year later, Fuji gave us a camera very close to what I had in mind. Surprisingly, even making it possibly better than what I envisioned back then.
Technical characteristics for the camera are already well known, so I will not expand in this department. The X70 follows the X-100 paradigm, but in a more modern, generalized form, adding some characteristics which are unique to this model.
If you have a look at the original post linked above, you’ll see that I suggested using a moderately fast, short range zoom. This was not implemented in the X70, but, first, allow me a comment. If the global camera market was in a better (read: healthy) state, I have no doubt Fuji would release more than one versions of this camera; and one of them would probably feature such a lens. After all, Fuji has a tradition in implementing such a multi-version policy, as can be seen in older (film) camera lines they had.
But there is a feature in the X70 which acts like an electronic zoom: the digital teleconverter. Although the camera features a 28mm “equivalent” lens, it can shoot at 35mm and 50mm (equiv.) through the DTC technology. This is not a crop; the camera uses all 16Mp on the sensor, with JPEG results. It is more like Photoshop’s upsize algorithms, using interpolation implemented in-camera. Believe me when I say it works like a charm. In fact, Heather from Mirrorlessons did a comparison which proves just that.
Of course, this being a Fuji, it has to have its idiosyncrasies: for example, when using the DTC, one cannot shoot RAW at the same time, but also other options are disabled, such as film simulation bracketing. I really think Fuji should give the X70 a generous firmware update, making such selections more flexible. It would be fantastic if one could also get a RAW file (in standard, 28mm equiv. FoV of course) together with the “zoomed” JPEG. Come to think about it, RAW could be stored in any case: film simulation bracketing, creative filters, etc.
Coming back to what was my initial “request list”, I have to say one more was covered: Touch screen. It was about time, really. Of course the screen is tilting, and in fact in a quite flexible design.
One thing missing from my list is the EVF. Well, you can’t have them all I guess. A small pop-up EVF like the one in the Sony RX100 would be a nice addition, but the X70 makes up somewhat, by offering an optional optical add-on viewfinder. This can be very useful in some lighting conditions, which make the LCD difficult to see.
All of the above is quite theoretical, so let’s get to the important stuff: how well does the camera handle, and how good results are.
In short: the X70 is an absolute joy to shoot with. On my recent roadtrip, it was always with me, which is very natural with such a small and unobtrusive format. The construction is of high quality, which inspires confidence. It is totally silent while shooting, another boon for Street photographers in particular. And it retains the Fuji philosophy in design and handling.
I used the camera mainly for travel and street photography, and many of the photos I published in the last several blog posts are with the X70. It was always so intuitive to shoot with it, that I sometimes didn’t bother getting the X-Pro2 out. AF was on par with the previous generation Fujis, which means, good enough for the intended use. Even battery life was satisfactory. And I even tested the leaf shutter with flash, another exclusive for the X70/X100 cameras, which allows syncing (without HSS) at very high speeds.
There is no doubt Fuji designed the X70 as a high-end compact camera. I was trying to remember which camera it reminded me of, and then it hit me: it looks suspiciously similar to the Fujifilm Klasse film camera (which, by the way, at least until recently, was still in production). In particular the W version, which also had a 28mm lens. I won’t lie: I would prefer it to have a ~40mm lens like the Klasse S, “regular version”, because I love that focal length, but at least the DTC makes up for it somewhat.
I should also add that the 21mm equiv. WCL conversion lens, available as an option, is a genius move from Fuji. It gives the camera serious ultra-wide angle capabilities, with minimal fuss.
Although at first even Fuji fans looked upon the camera with suspicion, from what I can tell, it has come to earn general respect from anyone that got their hands on it, and already has its own audience. In fact I think there are a great many people that may find the X70 very valuable.
The competition consists of high end compacts from Ricoh, Panasonic and Sony, especially the last two. Both the LX100 and RX100 feature smaller sensors, which, honestly, can’t much the X70 in overall image quality. The X70 has exactly the same sensor performance shared with all Fuji cameras besides the X-Pro2 and X-T2. This means, top of the class in the APS-C segment. The X70 lacks a zoom lens, which is alleviated a lot by use of the WCL conversion lens and digital TC.
First and foremost, the X70 is an exemplary travel camera. Even with the conversion lens, extra viewfinder, a couple of extra batteries and a smartphone (for extra photo editing possibilities, remote control and uploads), the whole deal fits in a small belt pouch, with room to spare. Street photographers will have a field day, with the tilt screen, touch focus and ninja silent operation.
It is also a great option as a second (or third) camera for any Fuji pro or serious enthusiast photographer. It works exactly as a Fuji should, so there is zero adaptation period. If one needs a wide-angle capability, let me suggest that the X70 + WCL cost the same or less than the 14mm f/2.8 + 18mm f/2 combo. And the 18.5mm lens on the X70 is certainly better than the old 18mm, while adding the WCL gives results not very far from the great Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8, for most photographic cases. You practically get the camera for free in such a scenario.
The only gripes with the X70 are, first, the sometimes clumsy implementation of features, as discussed previously. This can be fixed, once and for all, with a serious firmware update; seasoned Fuji users are already accustomed to such quirks, but it would be great to polish the whole thing for non-regular would-be Fuji customers. Because, I see no reason such a well made camera wouldn’t appeal to demanding enthusiasts in need of a “point and shoot” type of camera (it even has an “idiot proof” auto mode); regardless of their brand loyalties. The second disadvantage is the price, which is not cheap, although it is certainly competitive. A nice idea would be to offer discount packages with the conversion lens and/or optical viewfinder, which has been already done by some vendors.
In closing, I highly enjoyed my time with the X70 and regretted having to return it to Fujifilm Hellas; I thank them for the opportunity and, as for the little Fuji, I hope we have the chance to meet again in the near future.
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