Released in early 2011, the Fujifilm X100 is as much of a classic as a modern-day camera can get. It changed the game in many ways - it was the first large-sensor, fixed-lens camera to hit the market, and thanks to its success, Sony and Nikon have joined the market with similar models of their own.
The X100 was the first camera to come with a hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder, which marked it as a new kind of digital rangefinder (of sorts). Its hybrid O/EVF has been so revolutionary that even today, no other manufacturer has managed to develop the same feature. It was also a thing of beauty, marrying the looks of yesterday’s film rangefinders with today’s digital technology. Its beauty wasn't only skin-deep, it was also well-made, with solid construction and materials.
But the most important thing about the X100 was its superb image quality. Fujifilm’s APS-C sized image sensor surprised with its low-noise performance and delighted with its rich colors. The fixed 35mm f/2 lens was fast and delivered pleasing bokeh, and showcased Fujinon’s expertise in making quality glass.
The X100 wasn’t perfect of course, it developed a reputation for its dawdling auto-focus speed and muddled accuracy. The read-write speed tended to choke, the menu confound, and don’t get us started on that dedicated ‘Raw’ button...
Mostly Similar on the Outside, Completely Different on the Inside
Coming nearly two years after the X100, the X100S is both an incremental improvement on the outside and a complete overhaul of its predecessor on the inside. The body has changed very little, if not for the ‘S’ logo (or is that a 'hope' logo?) you’d be hard pressed to differentiate the two. Inside though, the X100S’ guts have been swapped out; it has a brand new 16MP X-Trans II sensor, which is based on the X-Trans sensor found in the X-Pro and X-E series.
Fujifilm’s X-Trans sensors are unique, most digital camera sensors today come with an optical low-pass filter which removes moire artifacts but also reduce image clarity. The X-Trans sensor does away with the low-pass filter altogether, promising to solve the problem of moiré with its new color filter array. Inspired by the random arrangement of fine film grain, the new array's RGB pixels are arranged in 6 x 6 pixel sets with a high degree of randomness. According to Fujifilm, increasing randomness eliminates the cause of moiré, and results in higher resolution as well as better color reproduction. You can read more about the X-Trans sensor here.
Not only is the sensor brand new technology, the X100S comes with a hybrid AF system, combining the contrast-detection AF method of the X100 with the phase-detection AF found in DSLR cameras. Hybrid AF should help to boost the X100S' AF performance, as will the new EXR processor II which promises twice the processing speed of the previous generation.
Going into this review, we'll be focused on three questions: one, does the new model solve the problems of the previous model, second, are the handling changes for the better, and third, does the X100S’ new X-Trans sensor offer a substantial difference in image quality from the X100? Before we shell out our findings, here's specs comparison between both camera models:-