When the Fujifilm X70 was announced earlier this year I was a bit confused by it. I was also very interested in getting my hands on one. Over the last month I had that chance and I now have a good feel for what the camera is capable and possibly more importantly who might enjoy using it.
Let’s start with a bit about what the Fujifilm X70 is. Well it’s a couple of things, first it’s the guts of an X100T compressed into a smaller body. You get the same 16 MP sensor we’ve seen in most of the current fuji cameras and the same autofocus system as the X100T. You lose the viewfinder but more on that in a bit. The other major thing it is, let's be honest is Fujifilm's’ competition to the Ricoh GR II. I have not personally used a Ricoh GR yet but spec wise they seem to be going after the same market.
Lens, Autofocus and Image Quality
The Lens on the X70 is a 18.5mm F2.8 which gives you an 28mm full frame equivalent field of view. This is going to be good or not so great depending on what you like you shoot and your general style of shooting as well. Personally I most often shoot with a 35mm equivalent lens so that is what I’m really used to. I took me a bit of time to get use to the wider lens. You might be much more comfortable shooting the 28mm depending on what you like, this is really going to come down to personal preference.
The lens is quite sharp which doesn’t really surprise me considering it’s a fixed lens. Sharpness wide open is quite good at the center and falls off a bit as you get to the corners. Above F4 or so I don’t think you’ll have any issues there either. At F11 and above refraction issues starts to show up. I never ran into chromatic aberration issues during my testing though I wasn’t trying to make them show up either.
Just like in my review of the X100T, starting out with the X70 I had a pretty reasonable idea of what to expect from the image quality. It is after all using the same 16 megapixel sensor and image processor as the X100T and the X-T1 that I shoot daily. The really nice thing here is that you get such a large sensor in such a compact camera. If you’re come to this camera from a smartphone or cheaper point and shoot you’re in for a nice treat and much better depth of field control.
The X70 has the same hybrid autofocus system we’ve seen on other Fujifilm cameras which uses both contrast-detection and on-chip phase detect AF sensors. I found the autofocus to be quick and more than adequate for my street shooting as well as taking family photos of the kids running around. Setting your autofocus to wide tracking worked well for moving subjects across the frame but focus felt a touch slower in that mode. You can set you focus points with the directional pad or via the touch screen but more on that in a bit too (the suspense). Manual focus worked okay, you have the same set of focus assist option you do on many other Fuji cameras standard, split image and focus peaking which is the one I prefer. I used manual focus a lot when I was shooting out in bright daylight and higher apertures and could just use zone focusing. However wide open I found that the focus ring was a bit too small to be adjusting all the time. To be fair the whole camera is pretty small and I have reasonably large hands.
Build Quality and Handling
The X70 had a very solid feeling all metal body. There are some plastic parts here and there but the majority of the camera is metal. The aperture ring has a nice click to it and I never had a problem with it getting knocked out of where I wanted it to be. The focus ring was nice and smooth as well but is a bit too easy to knock if you’re not being careful. All the other dials and switches on the camera feel good. Some of the buttons on the back are a bit small, most feel good but some are a little mushy though none of them were really an issue for me in daily use.
There is an odd custom function buttons on the left hand side of the camera. I honestly didn’t even notice it there at first. For me it’s in a bit of an odd place and kind of hard to find by feel alone. You can set it to any of the normal custom functions but maybe pick one you don’t use as often. The focus mode selector is on the is on the front. While I appreciate that it is still a switch and not in a menu I again find it to be in an odd spot and always have to look at it when making a selection as I couldn’t just do it by feel. There is no ISO dial but it’s in the quick menu and honestly just set it on auto ISO and move on.
The hand grip on the X70 is nice and solid feeling but a little small for my hands. I think it’s a reasonable size though considering the size of the camera. Aftermarket grips are around if want something addition of course. I’m hearing the addition of the half case helps too.
The X70 is not weather sealed. I’m sure Fuji had their reasons for this, size and cost likely being the major ones. For the price point and market this camera is geared to I understand. I still wish you could go out shooting in the rain or snow and not have to think about it.
The Fuji X70 features a fairly standard looking 3” high resolution LCD screen. The best things here are that it tilts, all the way around into selfie mode even, also it’s a touch screen. When you flip into selfie mode the UI flips so it’s right side up which is a nice touch. There are two different modes for the touch screen, or three if you count off. The first is focus area selection. This lets you touch any place on the screen and the camera will select the closest autofocus point. It will however not focus, for that you still have to half press the shutter button. This is weird to me I don’t know why that choice was made. I’m kind of hoping this could change later in firmware.
The second mode Touch Shot is a bit more useful. You can touch the screen and the camera will focus there and shoot right away once it locks focus. The feature works well but I didn’t find myself using it a lot. I think i’m just not used to using a touch screen on a camera so I didn’t really think about using it. If the X70 is your first step up camera from a smartphone then I could see this feature being more useful to you.
In playback mode you can pinch to zoom and move around the image. You can also swipe through your images. This aspect of the touch screen works quite well and feels more natural to me.
There are few other things about this camera that you might be wondering about still at this point. The battery is a small pack that slides in through the bottom under the same door the memory card slot is in. The battery is charged via the USB port on the side of the camera. Thankfully Fuji ships you a decent charger and usb cable in the box. It would have been silly of them not to but in the consumer electronics industry nothing would shock me.
The lack of the viewfind on the X70 bothered me a first. I’ve shooting for a long time and almost always with a camera that included a viewfinder, I’m just so used to it. After a few weeks and cranking up the LCD brightness so I could see it in the daylight I was okay. I still prefer a viewfinder but in the interest of making the camera more compact I again understand the choice. There is a viewfinder accessory you can add. I didn’t get to use it but just looking at it I have two issues. One if gives you frame lines but nothing else, it's a dumb viewfinder as it were, with no data coming to it from the camera. Also it’s currently $250 Canadian which is quite a lot. I know this is somewhat in line with what other companies are charging for viewfinders but it’s a large chunk of change and would make me think twice about picking one up.
After shooting with this camera for a month I first have to say that I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed having great image quality in such a compact camera, no doubt. I found it fun that the lack of a viewfinder kind of forced me to take shots in a different way that I normally would. The questions I had going into this is who is this camera really for. Is it more than just a street photographer's camera to compete with the Ricoh GR? Personally I think so. The Fuji X70 sells for about $700 USD or $900 CND at the moment which is quite a bit. That said I think it has potential as the camera someone buys when they finally want a camera that isn’t their smartphone. The iPhone 6s has an equivalent focal length 30mm which is very close to the X70. Smart phones also don’t have zoom lenses so the lack of one on the X70 shouldn’t be a problem to those buyers. On board wifi means photos can be transferred to your phone to post to social media as well. Also you can’t deny the retro styling of the silver model will have appeal to a segment of the market as well.
All in all the Fujifilm X70 is a fun, stylish and well built camera. If you have the budget for a premium compact camera with a great sensor it has to be on your short list.
- Wheels out