Outwardly, very little appears to have changed from the X100 to the X100S. But what has changed makes all the difference.
Fujifilm hasn’t changed the way the X100S looks, except for a few notes, like a new ‘S’ on the front of the camera and the shifting of the ‘Made in Japan’ inscription. But otherwise, the original X100 was a handsome camera and the X100S remains so. We’re loving how Fujifilm is keeping its X cameras inconspicuous (except for that loud ‘X-E1’ on the X-E1), which is what photographers want, and we hope Fujifilm never feels the need to slap a big logo on the front, which is what marketers want.
Also, thank goodness that silly Raw button is gone. In its place is a much better Q button, which brings you to a Quick menu where you can access most of the camera’s essential settings. It’s an option first seen on the X-Pro1, and a good change for the X100S.
Shifting AF points used to be a two-handed affair on the X100; you had to press and hold the AF button while changing the points using the d-pad. Now the process has been simplified, you simply tap up on the d-pad to activate AF point selection. You need to be in Area AF mode in order for this to work, tapping up on the AF button does nothing in Multi AF mode. While reducing the number of steps needed to switch AF points is a bonus, it’s still not as efficient as the way the Olympus OM-D E-M5 can switch between AF modes by simply moving the d-pad out of the AF frame.
But with the X100S, you might not even need to engage its focus points. Manual focus on the X100S is now very usable, thanks to one improvement and two new features. The focus ring has been refined; it’s more responsive now compared to the X100’s, which was positively glacial.
The two new features are Focus Peak Highlight, which outlines the areas of a frame in focus, and Digital Split Image, which displays a split, black and white image in the center of the frame, when the split images align the subject is in focus. Of the two, we found Focus Peak Highlight to be more useful, as Digital Split Image forces you to put your subject in the middle of the frame.
Because they’re digital aids, they’re only available when you’re using the EVF (electronic viewfinder) or back LCD to frame your shot. If you’re using manual focus with the optical viewfinder, pressing the command control on the back of the camera switches to an electronic magnified view where you can fine-tune focus. In case you can’t nail it, pressing the AE/AF Lock button engages auto-focus once.
Speaking of focus, anything at 80cm away used to be a macro shot with the X100. The X100S shaves 30cm off that, now you can photograph your subjects from 50cm away without having to engage Macro mode.
Now, what we really wanted to know is if the X100S’ auto-focus abilities have improved over the X100 - in short; the AF is noticeably faster, but not very much more accurate. While the X100S can get a lock quicker than the X100 did, it doesn’t manage to get the subject right about half the time, and has a tendency to simply center focus. AF performance is somewhere above the Canon EOS M, but not as good as the Olympus E-M5 or Panasonic Lumix GH3 in terms of speed and accuracy.
The X100, X100S and X-Pro1 come with a unique hybrid viewfinder, with which you can switch between an optical and electronic viewfinder. Even when you’re using the OVF (optical viewfinder) you can still see shooting information, like shutter speed and aperture setting, overlaid on the frame.
We’ve gone into great detail into how the hybrid viewfinder works in our X100 review so we won’t repeat ourselves here. Suffice to say, it’s a joy to shoot using the bright and large optical viewfinder, which lets you see directly onto the scene and outside of the frame, and the OVF doesn’t black out for a split-second the way the EVF does when you take a shot (all digital cameras do this, even DSLR cameras).
There are disadvantages of course, like how you can’t get precise framing because of parallax and how you can’t see the effects of manual focusing, as well as get an exposure preview. But the OVF is something special of its own, like staring through a full-frame OVF in a small camera body.
Which isn’t to knock the EVF (electronic viewfinder). Thanks to the two manual focusing aids mentioned previously, there’s a compelling reason to use the EVF, but the real knockout draw of the EVF is how it will render a real-time exposure preview of your actual shot when you half-press the shutter.
The X100 had slow write speeds which locked up the camera when you took too many shots at a time. The X100S has a new EXR processor II, which is noticeably faster than the X100’s. Fujifilm says it has twice the processing speed the X100 had, and even when the X100S is writing you can still shoot with the camera.
Using a Sandisk Extreme Class 10 SDHC UHS-I SD card with a write-speed of up to 25MB/s, the Fujifilm X100S beat the X100 in every way. The X100S can shoot up to a maximum of 6 frames per second compared to the X100's maximum speed of 5 frames per second. We found that the X100S can shoot up to an average of 8-9 raw shots in one burst before the frame-rate slows down, while the X100 can do an average of 8 raw frames. The vital difference is that while the X100S slows down, it can keep shooting, even when the camera is writing to memory. Once the X100 hits 8 frames, the entire camera will lock up to write to memory.
When shooting JPEGs, the X100S can just keep going. We shot about 120 frames before we noticed the camera beginning to stutter. The X100 could handle 10. It's a big difference.
While the shooting speeds have been vastly improved, Fujifilm still insists on giving images shot in burst mode a difference naming suffix to the ones shot in non-burst modes. And while we understand the need for a read-write indicator, we'd really love an option to turn off the flashing light when the camera writes to memory.
Like its name suggests, the X100S is a refinement of the X100, and it handles better than its predecessor on most counts, improving certain aspects while preserving the best of the X100. It’s comfortable in the hands and easy to use - well, if you already know your way about a camera’s manual settings.
Besides what’s already been mentioned, like the distinctive hybrid viewfinder, other highlights include the leaf shutter, which closes with a barely there whisper, making the X100S a nearly silent camera. The Function button has remained, it’s a customizable button which you can set up to bring you quickly to change something like ISO or bring down the built-in ND (neutral density) filter. The shutter release feels good and nuanced, the shutter speed and aperture dials let you see and change settings quickly, like the old days when cameras’ controls used to be on their bodies instead of inside an electronic menu.
At 300 images per charge, the X100S doesn’t hold up to the Olympus E-M5’s 360 shots per charge, but it’s a respectable number. And it’s better than the Sony RX1’s 220 to 270 images per charge. But you’d better set the camera to power down automatically after a certain amount of time, as we’ve accidentally tripped the Power switch a few times while carrying the X100S in our bag and drained the battery (this happened with the X100 as well).