The X-S1 is built around the same 2/3inch EXR CMOS sensor as the Fuji X10. This delivers 12MP of effective resolution and is backside-wired to boost performance in low-light conditions. Maximum output at full resolution in the default 4:3 aspect is 4000 x 3000 pixels, although resolution can be lowered to Medium (6MP) and Small (3MP) if you’re shooting for web use only or simply looking to keep file sizes down. Furthermore, you can also elect to shoot in 1:1, 3:2 or 16:9 aspects.
Backing the sensor up is Fuji’s dual-core EXR image processor that gives the X-S1 plenty of data-crunching oomph. This also enables the X-S1 to shoot 1080p Full HD or 720p HD movies at 30fps. You can also record 70/120/200fps high-speed movies (albeit at vastly reduced resolutions) that play back in slow motion. Sound is recorded in stereo via two microphones on the front of the camera and there’s also an external microphone port under the connectivity flap on the side of the camera. It’s also possible to shoot still images while recording movies.
Sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to ISO 12,800 although there are some limitations, by which we mean it’s only possible to shoot maximum resolution/Fine quality JPEGs (and Raw images) up to ISO 1600. At ISO 3200 it’s still possible to shoot at 12MP, but JPEG quality must be stepped down to Normal. Moving further up the sensitivity scale It’s only possible to shoot ISO 6400 by knocking overall resolution back to 6MP, while ISO 12,800 is only possible at a maximum 3MP.
On the front of the camera the 26x optical zoom is manually operated and offers a focal range of between 24mm and 624mm in 35mm terms. We have to say that we much prefer the hands-on manual operation of the X-S1 to the fiddly rocker-switch controls found on electronically-powered zooms. Not only does it give you a more intuitive and precise control over framing, but it also allows you to switch between shooting at telephoto and wideangle extremes much, much faster. Credit to Fujifilm for sticking with manual zoom controls on all their superzoom offerings.
In addition to the manual zoom control, the X-S1 also sports a manual focus ring located directly behind it. While the camera is being used in AF-C or AF-S mode this ring is redundant, however flick the three-way AF mode switch on the front of the camera into the MF position and the focus ring springs to life. Should you want to fine-tune focus in the MF position then the Focus Check feature is assigned to the Fn1 button by default, and this will magnify the part of the image inside the focus box. Rather helpfully, it’s also possible to move the focus box around the screen should you wish to set focus at the edge or corner of the frame rather than the centre.
As with all recent mid- to high-end Fuji cameras, the X-S1 offers a generous range of exposure modes, including the regular creative quartet of Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and fully Manual. These are neatly backed up by Fuji’s proprietary EXR and Advanced shooting modes that variously enable you to get the best out of the X-S1 in low light, create a shallow depth of field for portraits, or even create 180-degree panoramas with a single button press. Rounding things off is an Automatic mode, 17 individual Scene modes and a number of user-defined Custom presets.
The back of the XS-1 gets a 3inch, 460k-dot monitor that can be tilted up or down to facilitate easier overhead and ground-level shooting. If you’d prefer to hold the camera to your eye the1.14million-dot electronic viewfinder offers a relatively large, bright and impressively sharp image, especially when set to 50fps (the 30fps setting increases battery life but is much too stuttery for anything other than still-life work). As we’ve said in other recent reviews, EVF technology has come a long way in the past couple of years and is now at the stage where it’s as much of a help as a hindrance – this is certainly the case with the XS-1’s electronic viewfinder.
Picking it up for the first time the first thing you notice about the X-S1 is the weight. It’s a sizeable camera with similar dimensions to a mid-level DSLR such as the Canon 550D. And at just under a kilogram, it’s not particularly light either. In common with other Fuji X-series models overall build quality is of a high standard, with the metal lens rings, silver detailing and milled aluminium control dials giving the camera a classy feel overall. The camera body is treated to a texturised plastic finish that won’t necessarily be to everyone’s tastes, but does feel like it could repel the kind of everyday knocks and bumps that cameras are often subjected to.
The deep, ergonomically designed finger-grip is large enough to accommodate three fingers with ease, and is neatly complemented by a sculpted thumb-rest on the back. Together, these make the X-S1 very comfortable to hold, and while it’s just about possible to shoot single-handed the not inconsiderable weight means you’re much better off using both hands – just as you would with a medium-weight DSLR.
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