The Fujinon lens built into the X-S1 is a strong and bright performer, featuring F2.8 at its wide angle and F5.6 at its extreme telephoto setting. Fujifilm has included 17 elements in this lens, giving it plenty of precision. Fujifilm also included a lens cap with this model, and it snaps securely onto the front of the lens, which is pretty unusual for a fixed-lens camera.
When you pair the X-S1's lens with the camera's 2/3-inch EXR CMOS image sensor, you have a really nice combination for creating sharp, bright photos. (Of course, this combination also helps to explain the high price tag of the X-S1.) This is one of the larger image sensors you're going to find on a fixed-lens camera. It can shoot up to 12-megapixels of resolution, which is a very high number with such a large image sensor. Your image quality with a 2/3-inch image sensor at 12MP is going to be much better than a much smaller image sensor that can offer 14MP or 16MP of resolution.
The EXR technology in the image sensor has been one of Fujifilm's hallmarks in the past few years. The EXR system makes use of two processor chips, which allows it to work extremely accurately and quickly. The EXR technology aims at being especially strong in low-light photography thanks to its high sensitivity, and the X-S1 can shoot at an ISO up to 12800, although you'll have to shoot at a limited resolution at higher ISO settings.
For a modern fixed-lens digital camera, the X-S1 has an unusual design for its zoom mechanism. Whereas most fixed-lens camera have a motor driven zoom mechanism, the X-S1 has an "old school" design, with a manual zoom. You twist the zoom ring back and forth to extend and retract the lens barrel.
The advantage of having a manual zoom mechanism is that you can move the lens through its range as quickly or slowly as you want. The entire zoom range can be navigated in less than a second. With some motor driven zoom lenses, the movement through the range can be a little slow and choppy, meaning that you may not be able to reach the zoom setting you want as quickly as you need to when you're shooting a spontaneous photo
As you twist the zoom ring, the optical zoom measurement appears on the LCD screen, making it easy to determine the exact magnification level. You have an almost unlimited number of precise zoom settings available, thanks to the manual zoom ring. With a motorized zoom mechanism, you'll have a limited number of zoom options, meaning you may be unable to achieve the exact magnification that you want.
To help you achieve the exact focal length that you want, Fujifilm printed the settings on the lens barrel and on the zoom ring. The focal length measurement is listed on the right side of the zoom barrel (upper portion of the barrel in this photo) and the 35 mm equivalent measurement in on the left side of the barrel (lower portion of this photo). The numbers printed on the zoom ring are shown on the right side of this photo. As you're holding the camera, all of these numbers will be on top side of the lens barrel, making it easy for you to see them while you're shooting photos.
The X-S1 has a big optical zoom measurement of 26x (24 - 624 mm), which is great. You will be very pleased with the ability of this lens to shoot sharp photos over a distance. There's also a good wide-angle capability with this camera, Having so much versatility with this model's lens is really impressive.
Having such a large zoom lens means that the X-S1 is an extremely bulky and heavy camera, but there aren't a lot of fixed-lens cameras that can match this camera's lens.
While looking at the camera from the front, you'll see a focus switch just to the right of the lens barrel. You won't see a lot of consumer-level, fixed-lens cameras that give you an option of using manual focus, as you'll find with the X-S1. You have the option of manual focus (MF), autofocus continuous (AF-C), and autofocus single (AF-S). The manual focus ring is located between the zoom ring and the camera body, and it works pretty well for achieving a sharp focus. While in manual focus mode, you can use the Fn2 button on the back of the camera to magnify the current scene on the LCD screen, allowing you to more precisely set the focus before you shoot the image.
If you choose to go with autofocus instead, the X-S1 has a 49-point matrix for its autofocus system, which provides strong accuracy and plenty of flexibility in selecting the exact positioning of the focus in the frame.
The measurements for the TTL autofocus range are:
- Normal: Wide, 0.9 ft. (30 cm) to infinity; Tele, 6.5 ft. (200 cm) to infinity
- Macro: Wide, 2.8 in. (7 cm) to 9.8 ft. (300 cm); Tele, 6.5 ft (200 cm) to 11.5 ft. (350 cm)
- Super Macro: 0.4 in. (1 cm) to 39.4 in. (100 cm)
To open the pop-up flash unit on the XS-1, you press a button near the flash compartment (the button is visible in the bottom right corner of this image). Unlike some other fixed-lens cameras with pop-up flash units, you won't have to worry about awkwardly holding the camera because the open flash housing is nowhere near where you'd want to place your fingers.
The pop-up flash extends upward and forward, placing it almost an inch above the flash compartment. Because it's located directly above the large lens barrel, the flash needs to extend upward to provide an angle that will keep shadows out of your images.
The primary downside to the pop-up flash unit is that it must be opened manually. It won't pop up automatically anytime it's needed.
The X-S1's flash range is 0.9 to 26.2 feet (0.3 to 8.0 meters) in a wide-angle shot and 6.5 to 13.1 feet (2 to 4 meters) in a telephoto shot. During my tests, I found that the powerful flash was able to come very close to reaching the far end of this range.
The flash modes available with the X-S1 include: Auto, Auto Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced On with Red-eye Reduction, Slow Synchro, Slow Synchro with Red-eye Reduction, and Suppressed Flash. The types of flash modes that are available will differ depending on what shooting mode you're using.
The right side of the top panel of the X-S1 includes most of the buttons related to shooting photos. In the upper portion of this image, you'll see the shutter button, which is surrounded by the power ring, through which you can turn the camera on and off. It's easy to curl your fingers around the right-hand grip to support the camera while keeping your right index finger just above the shutter button.
Just below that are the exposure compensation button (marked with a +/- icon) and the continuous shooting button. The exposure compensation can be set between +2 and -2 in 1/3 step intervals. Several burst modes are available with the X-S1, including Super High, which offers 10 frames per second (fps) at a reduced resolution. There are also modes for 3, 5, and 7 fps burst modes for shooting at full resolution. You'll need at least a Class 4 memory card speed to take advantage of the burst modes.
The Fn1 button gives you the option of assigning a particular feature to it, allowing for quick access. The command dial, which has no markings and is in the lower right corner of this image, gives you a second option for moving through on screen menus. Rather than pressing the four-way buttons on the back of the camera, you can twist the command dial. You also can quickly change the aperture setting or shutter speed with the command dial.
Like everything else on this camera, the X-S1's mode dial is large, offering 11 options. The white dot to the left of the mode dial indicates which mode you're using. Your options are:
- Camera icon - Automatic shooting mode
- EXR - Automatic mode with some enhanced processing in camera
- P - Program AE, exposure set automatically, other settings are manual
- S - Shutter Priority AE, set shutter speed manually, other settings automatic based off shutter speed
- A - Aperture Priority AE, set aperture manually, other settings automatic based off aperture
- M - Manual, all settings can be performed manually
- C1, C2, C3 - Customized settings are saved
- SP - Scene Position, opens scene mode menu (Natural & Flash, Natural Light, Portrait, Portrait Enhancer, Dog, Cat, Landscape, Sport, Night, Night Tripod, Fireworks, Sunset, Snow, Beach, Party, Flower, Text)
- Adv. - Advanced Shooting Modes (Motion Panorama 360, Pro Focus, Pro Low Light)
The control buttons on the right side of the back panel are pretty big, making them very comfortable to use. Like most of the other buttons on this camera, they're labeled in white, which makes it easy to read the label against the dark color of the button.
- AE/AF Lock - Lock the exposure or focus
- Fn2 - Customizable button for a particular feature, similar to Fn1
- Macro - (marked by flower icon) Opens macro menu (Macro, Super Macro, Off)
- Menu OK - Open the shooting and set-up menus or make on-screen command selections
- Flash - (marked by arrow icon) Opens the flash menu, but is deactivated unless the flash housing is open
- Self-Timer - (marked by clock icon) Opens the self-timer menu (10 Seconds, 2 Seconds, Off)
- Disp Back - Allows you to control what's displayed on the screen, or move backward through the on-screen menus
- RAW - Toggles between RAW mode being active or inactive
You can use the four buttons surrounding the Menu OK button to navigate through the on-screen menus, as well as the command dial discussed earlier.
To the left of the LCD screen, you'll find five additional command buttons, which provide access to advanced shooting features. These buttons are also of a good, comfortable size. Having individual buttons available to make advanced control selections like this makes the X-S1 look more like an advanced DSLR camera.
Each button has a primary function (printed in white) that's available while you're shooting. There's also a secondary function (printed in blue) that's available while you're in Playback mode. The buttons are:
- Playback - Open Playback mode and access stored images
- AE - Autoexposure command (Multi, Spot, Average); secondary function, zoom in on stored images
- AF - Autofocus command; secondary function, zoom out from stored images
- ISO - Set ISO; secondary function, view information about stored images
- WB - Set white balance; secondary function, delete stored images
Some of these buttons will not be operational in certain shooting modes or with certain on-screen menu commands activated. For example, the AF button only will be operational when the AF Mode is set to Area and when you aren't in an automatic mode on the mode dial.
The X-S1 has another pretty unusual feature for a fixed-lens camera: An electronic viewfinder. The 0.47-inch EVF offers 1.44 million pixels with 100% coverage. When you're shooting in bright sunlight, having the option of framing the scene using a viewfinder, rather than having to battle any glare on an LCD screen, is very handy.
Fujifilm included a sensor (pictured directly to the right of the EVF) with this camera that allows it to anticipate when you've lifted the camera to your eye and want to use the viewfinder. It then automatically turns on the viewfinder and blanks the LCD. When you move the camera away from your face to look at the LCD, it automatically senses the movement and turns the LCD on again. You also have the option of manually switching between the EVF and the LCD using the button to the left of the viewfinder. You cannot have both the EVF and LCD active at the same time, as is the case with most cameras that feature an EVF.
To the lower right of the viewfinder is the movie button, through which you start and stop video recording.
At the top of this image, you also can see the edge of the brackets of the hot shoe, which is located on the top panel of the camera. You can add an external flash or a remote shutter release through the hot shoe, but these accessories must be purchased separately.
Fujifilm included an above-average LCD screen with the X-S1. It measures 3.0-inches and includes 460,000 pixels of resolution. It's sharp and bright, although it does have a few issues with glare when being used outdoors. (You can see the glare from the studio lights in the upper left corner of this image.)
You can combat the glare a couple of ways. Try using the viewfinder, which doesn't have problems with glare. Or you can tilt the LCD, as shown here, up to a 90-degree angle to the camera. This is a feature that's much handier than you might think, especially, say, if you're shooting photos of children. You don't have to crouch to their level. Instead, you can tilt the screen 90 degrees, hold the camera at your waist level, and shoot photos of the children that are at their eye level.
You'll find the HDMI and USB slots behind a large cover on the left hand side of the camera (as you're holding it to shoot photos). The cover snaps securely in place. In addition, this compartment includes an A/V connector for video output (at the top of the compartment) and an external microphone port (at the bottom of the compartment). There aren't a lot of fixed-lens cameras that offer these additional ports, which makes the X-S1 a strong camera for shooting HD video.
With the X-S1, the memory card has its own compartment, located on the right hand side of the camera, as you're holding it to use it. The cover clicks securely in place over the memory card compartment.
Most fixed-lens cameras combine the memory card slot with the battery compartment and/or the USB and HDMI ports. Having the memory card compartment on the side of the camera is handy for those who are shooting with a tripod, because the memory card slot is usually on the bottom of the camera, where the tripod can make it tough to access the memory card compartment.
This camera will work with SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards.
The battery compartment on the X-S1 is on the bottom of the camera behind a locked compartment. Not surprisingly for such a large camera, Fujifilm included a pretty thick battery. When you're adding only an ounce with a thick battery to a camera that weighs 2 pounds already, the trade-off in the extra battery power you'll receive is well worth it.
Fujifilm estimates that you can shoot 460 photos on a single battery charge, which is one of the best battery life numbers you'll find on the market today. Even better, my tests showed that the manufacturer's estimate is pretty accurate. It's truly impressive how long you can shoot on a single battery charge with the X-S1. However, it's not a huge surprise, as the X-S1's manual zoom mechanism conserves quite a bit of battery power versus using a motorized zoom mechanism with a large zoom camera. In addition, the EVF uses less battery power than the LCD, so if you use the EVF exclusively, you can expect to shoot closer to 500 photos on a full battery charge.
There's a separate battery charger included with this camera, which plugs into an included AC adapter cord. This makes having a spare battery easy, since you can charge one pack out of camera while using another. While the XS-1 has very good battery life, having a spare pack is still a good idea.