Using the camera in AF-S offers a choice of Multi-area, Single-area or Tracking focus modes. Using the camera in Single-area AF mode there are a total of 49 AF-points to choose from, and it’s also possible to resize the focus box and to move it around the screen as you wish. AF speed is suitably quick at wideangle/standard focal lengths, but we did notice a tendency for it to become slower at more extreme telephoto settings.
Other physical controls and buttons are plentiful, allowing you to quickly access all sorts of regularly used settings without having to trawl through the in-camera menu. On the whole these controls are well spaced and quite easy to reach. In addition to all the pre-assigned buttons that access things like ISO, White Balance and Flash settings there are also two Function buttons that can be assigned as you see fit.
The inclusion of a Focus/Exposure-lock button is a welcome addition for tricky lighting conditions, as is the one-touch Raw recording button for those situations when you think an image may benefit from some additional post-processing in a digital darkroom. In addition, the XS-1 also offers a handy level gauge that can be switched on via the Display button and used to keep horizons straight.
Start-up time is around two seconds, which although far from instant should be adequate for most situations. There are also four Continuous shooting speeds on offer: Low (3fps), Medium (5fps), High (7fps) and Super High (10fps). This last setting, however, does force resolution down to 6MP. Processing speed, even when the camera is set to Single-shot drive mode, is one of the X-S1’s few weak spots however, with images shot in Single-shot drive taking around 2.5seconds to process, during which time the camera remains inoperable. Shooting in Continuous (High) or Best Frame Capture until the buffer is full extends processing downtime even further.
On the upside, overall image quality is perhaps the best we’ve yet seen from a superzoom bridge camera, and very much comparable to the X10 we tested not so long ago. The larger-than-average 2/3inch sensor and proprietary EXR processor that’s common to both cameras is able to consistently produce images that display vibrant colour, rich tonality and good levels of contrast. We didn’t encounter any significant problems with the 256-zone metering system either, with the X-S1 able to accurately gauge light levels and expose accordingly.
Like the X10 the X-S1 offers plenty of image processing customisation options that variously allows you to boost shadow/highlight detail and to expand the perceived dynamic range of the camera. In addition it also gets the same Film Simulation settings that are based on old 35mm Fuji film stock and which can give your images that extra bit of punch or tone things down as you see fit.
While the 24-624mm focal range of the Super EBC Fujinon lens is undoubtedly hugely flexible there is a price to be paid for the expansive focal range on offer in terms of sharpness and fine detail. That said you really need to be pixel peeping or printing images at 100% or more to notice these limitations and for most general day-to-day photography we suspect that most users will find the performance of the Fujinon lens perfectly adequate. Critical lens sharpness aside, we were impressed with the performance of the X-S1’s lens based Image Stabilisation technology though, which works well even at extended telephoto settings.
One area where the X-S1, in keeping with other Fuji cameras, performs really well is in its Macro capabilities. With two settings available – Macro and Super-Macro – it’s possible to get as close as 1cm from your subject with the focal length set to 24mm. Fans of shooting exceptionally small things up close – as well as larger things located very far away – will find the X-S1 an exceptionally flexible camera in this respect.
The Fuji X-S1 is intended as a premium grade superzoom bridge camera. Using the same 2/3inch sensor as the Fujifilm X10, the X-S1 is capable of producing class-leading image quality within the superzoom segment. Other highlights include the manually operated 26x optical zoom, a surprisingly usable EVF, and solid overall build quality. Overall, superzoom fans will find little to complain about here, aside from the rather high price tag. Ultimately you will get better image quality from a DSLR or compact system camera, however if your heart is set on a superzoom and you have the money to spend then this is undoubtedly the model to aspire to at present.