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Review: Updated: Fujifilm X30
3:10 am | October 31, 2014

Author: admin | Category: Cameras | Comments: None

Review: Updated: Fujifilm X30

Introduction and features

The Fujifilm X20 is one of our favourite high-end compact cameras of recent times, so the news that it has been upgraded is pretty exciting. However, as the lens, sensor and processing engine of the new X30 are the same as the X20, the image quality is likely remain the same unless the processing has been tweaked. The main change is the swap from an optical viewfinder to an electronic one.

As it replaces the X20, the X30 takes up the same position in the Fuji range. It’s one step down from the X100S (recently upgraded to the X100T), in Fuji’s compact camera line-up, and a step up from Fuji’s smaller Fuji X-Q1 and X-F1 models. The X30 is an advanced camera aimed at enthusiast photographers who want to take control over the settings.

Like the X20, the X30 has a 12Mp 2/3-inch (8.6×6.6mm) X-Trans CMOS II sensor. This has been greeted with some disappointment as many photographers were hoping that Fuji might squeeze a larger sensor in to challenge the Sony RX100 III and Canon G7 X, which have one-inch type (13.2mm x 8.8mm) sensors, or even the Panasonic LX100 which has a Four Thirds type (17.3x13mm) sensor.

These sensors are all trumped by the APS-C format (23.6×15.8mm) sensor in Fuji’s larger X100S and X100T, but these are a very different kind of camera with deliberately retro styling and a fixed focal length lens. Some Fuji admirers were hoping that the company might introduce a small compact with a zoom lens and a larger sensor. Not just yet it would seem.

Fujifilm X30

As before, the X30’s sensor is coupled with Fuji’s EXR Processor II engine and an f/2.0-f/2.8 lens with an effective focal length of 28-114mm. This is a good range for a walk-around, general purpose camera and the large aperture affords some control over depth of field as well as the ability to use faster shutter speeds to freeze movement in low light.

The most significant change made with the X30 is the fact that the optical viewfinder has been replaced by an electronic unit, in fact it’s the same EVF as is found in the popular Fuji X-T1. This means that it has 2.36 million dots and magnification of 0.62x. Unlike the X-T1, however, the X30’s screen can’t show a magnified view next to the full scene to allow precise manual focusing at the same time as image composition. On the plus side, the shooting data displayed in the EVF rotates when the camera is turned for upright shooting to make it easier to read.

Fuji has also increased the size of the screen on the back of the camera, it’s now a three-inch, 920,000-dot device instead of the 2.8-inch 460,000-dot unit on the X20. The X30’s screen is also mounted on a tilting bracket to make it easier to compose images from above or below head height.

The screen still isn’t touch-sensitive, but Wi-Fi connectivity is built-in to the X30 (the X20 doesn’t have it) so it is possible to control the camera remotely by the touchscreen of a smartphone or tablet. When the camera is connected to a smart device via Fuji’s free Camera Remote app it’s possible to set the exposure settings and exposure compensation as well as the sensitivity, self-timer, Film Simulation mode, white balance, flash mode and macro focus mode. A tap on the phone screen can also set the focus point and trip the shutter.

Fujifilm X30

Changing to an electronic viewfinder (EVF) brings the ability to see images as they will actually be captured, as adjustments to features such as white balance and exposure are shown. It also avoids the parallax error that is associated with an optical viewfinder that doesn’t show exactly the same image as the lens.

As before, sensitivity may be set in the range ISO 100-3200, although this can be expanded to ISO 100-12800 for JPEGS. In a change from the X20, however, exposure compensation extends to +/-3Ev instead of +/-2Ev.

Other changes from the X20 include the introduction of a new Film Simulation mode called Classic Chrome, which is said to produce warm earthy tones, and an improved battery life. The X30 uses the same battery as the X100S and this enables around 470 shots to be taken in a single charge. That’s about 1.8x more than the X20. Full HD video can also be recorded at 24, 25, 30, 50 and 60fps.

One disappointment is that Fuji has not taken the opportunity to allow raw files to be recorded when using the digital filter effects (Advanced Filters). As with the X20, however, raw files can be recorded whatever Film Simulation mode is selected, so it’s possible to have the full colour information as well as a monochrome JPEG, for example.

Build and handling

While the X30 will seem very familiar to X20 users, there are some significant changes – it is noticeably taller and deeper for a start. It’s still a manageable size and it can just about fit into a large jacket pocket. However, at 118.7×71.6×60.3mm it’s not a great deal smaller than the Panasonic LX100 (114.8 x66.2×55.0 mm), which has a considerably larger sensor. And the Sony RX100 III (101.6×58.1×38.3mm) which has a one-inch type Exmor R CMOS sensor is actually smaller.

Fuji has improved the level of finish on the camera, giving it a higher quality coating that gives more grip. The finger grip is on the front slightly more pronounced and angular, while the thumb grip on the back is longer and higher, this makes both more effective. Consequently the X30 is very comfortable to carry in the hand without a strap, it also feels secure and unlikely to slip from your grasp.

The control layout of the new camera is also a little different from the X20’s, as the dial around the navigation pad has gone and there’s a customisable control ring around the lens. In addition, the navigation buttons are larger than on the X20 and there’s more opportunity to customise the controls.

Fujifilm X30

Many photographers are likely to use the new ring around the lens to adjust aperture, but it can also be used to control sensitivity, white balance, Film Simulation mode or drive mode.

Unlike the Canon G7 X, however, changing the function of the control ring requires a visit to the menu. It would be nice if there was a quicker route, perhaps via a dedicated button so that the ring could be used to control more options on a shot to shot basis like one the one on the G7 X can.

There’s a nice level of friction to this lens ring, but it doesn’t have click stops or an end point so you have to keep an eye on the screen or the EVF to know how far the settings have been adjusted.

There’s a second ring on the lens for adjusting focal length. As with the X20, this ring is also used to power-up the camera. This ring is slightly stiffer to use than the customisable ring, and although there are no click stops, there are clear focal length markings and an end point. A quarter turn is enough to power-up the X30 and rotate to the longest focal length.

Fuji X30

I found the start-up time of the X30 a little variable. It sometimes takes in the region of two seconds for the scene to appear on the main screen or in the EVF, but on other occasions it’s ready for action in less than a second – that’s with the same SD card installed. There were also a few occasions when the camera didn’t seem to start-up after turning the lens ring. Sometimes it would start when the shutter release was depressed and on other occasions I had to turn the lens ring back and rotate it again.

In another change from the X20, the Q button which accesses the Quick Menu has been moved from the bottom right on the back to above the navigation controls and below the AEL/AFL button on the X30.

As we would expect, given that the viewfinder is the same as the one in the X-T1, the EVF provides a good clear view with plenty of detail. It’s also nice and bright and displays the impact of changes made to the camera settings. However, the colours are rather vivid and I found it necessary to turn down the saturation via the screen options in the menu. Even the greens still look too vibrant.

The rear screen is good, but the Sunny Weather setting is required when shooting in bright light outside. It’s useful to have the tilting screen (not as useful as a vari-angle screen would be), but I found that I used the electronic viewfinder for the vast majority of shots that I took with the camera, it just seems more natural and there’s no issue with reflections.

Performance

Although it ‘only’ has a 12Mp 2/3-inch sensor, the fact that it’s an X-Trans CMOS II device really seems to give the X30 an advantage and helps it punch above its weight. It is able to resolve an impressive level of detail and noise is generally controlled well.

As we have found in the past, Fuji’s automatic white balance system does a good job, drawing on the company’s experience of film manufacture to produce images with attractive colours (though see our note above about over-vibrancy). It takes most natural lighting conditions in its stride, delivering natural looking results. The difference between the results produced using the Automatic setting and the Fine Weather setting is pretty minimal, and both are perfectly acceptable. Of course if you shoot raw files it’s not really an issue as this can be adjusted very easily post-capture.

As mentioned earlier, the X30 tends towards producing slightly too vibrant greens when set to its Standard (Provia) Film Simulation mode. The new Classic Chrome mode, however, produces more muted tones. Fortunately, the Film Simulation modes can be used when shooting raw and JPEG files so if the colours are not to your liking, you can adjust the raw file.

I found the X30’s 256-zone multiple metering system to perform very well in a wide range of situations. There were only a few occasions during my testing when I used the exposure compensation dial. In most cases this was to reduce the exposure a little to protect highlights. However, in several cases I found that the raw files have all the tonal detail that’s required. Even bright overcast skies that look to be rendered uniformly white can be edited quickly and easily to reveal the tonal variations in the clouds and no highlights were actually burned out. The same could not be achieved with simultaneously captured JPEGs, once again proving the benefit of recording raw files.

Fuji X30

It’s never going to compete with a high-end SLR for speed, but the X30’s autofocus system is pretty quick in normal outdoor daytime conditions. Step inside or drop the light a little and a brief back and forwards adjustment is noticeable, but it’s not serious or problematic. As with many compact cameras, the AF system slows considerably in very low light conditions and it’s hard (but not impossible) to get shots of moving subjects.

There were also a couple of occasions when I focused the lens, kept my finger on the shutter release to keep the focus locked while I recomposed the shot, and the camera appeared to make a quick back and forwards adjustment, but actually didn’t adjust focus. It’s a little disconcerting, but it’s not a major issue and it doesn’t happen too frequently.

As mentioned earlier, noise is controlled well throughout the native sensitivity range (ISO 100-3200). Careful scrutiny at 100% of JPEG images taken at ISO 3200 reveals a few slightly smudgy patches and some watercolour-like stippling in darker areas, but it’s nothing to get worked up about. Simultaneously captured raw files look sharper and even if all noise reduction is turned off in post-capture processing, noise is not excessive.

The top expansion setting, ISO 12,800, is best avoided unless you are content to use images at small sizes as there’s noticeable softening. Fuji doesn’t allow raw files to be captured at these expansion settings.

Although the X30 controls noise well, as sensitivity rises the benefit of a larger sensor becomes apparent when its shots are compared with those from the Sony RX100 III and Panasonic LX100. Even though the RX100 III has a higher pixel count it manages to control noise very well. Plus, producing a print (or viewing an image) with the same physical size as one from the X30 requires less magnification with the Sony camera, so noise and the impact of any noise reduction can be concealed more easily.

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Fuji X30 lab results

At the lower sensitivity settings the X30 has a similar signal to noise ratio to the Canon G16, which has a smaller sensor. From about ISO 400 the X30 beats the G16, indicating that it produces cleaner images and draws close to the performance of the Panasonic LX100 which has a Four Thirds type sensor.

Raw (after conversion to TIFF) signal to noise ratio

Fuji X30 lab results

Again the X30 beats the Canon G16 from about ISO 400 and above, but it lags behind the Sony RX100 III at all but the highest sensitivity setting. The LX100’s larger sensor shows its benefit. The raw conversions were all made using the software that’s supplied with the cameras. We have found in the past that using Adobe Camera Raw to convert Fuji raw files results in higher scores in comparison with cameras from other manufacturers.

JPEG dynamic range

Fuji X30 lab results

The X30’s dynamic range measured in the lab doesn’t compare especially well with the competition here, but images generally have a good level of contrast, especially in the midtones, so they look good straight from the camera.

Raw (after conversion to TIFF) dynamic range

Fuji X30 lab results

The X30’s raw files (after conversion to TIFF) come close to those from the Canon G16 and Sony RX 100 III for most of the sensitivity range. Our real-world tests reveal that the raw files are capable of recording a good range of tones and may benefit from post-capture adjustment.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Fuji X30, we’ve shot our resolution chart.

For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

JPEG

ISO 100

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

ISO 100

ISO 100, Score: 22 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 200

ISO 200, Score: 22 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 400

ISO 400, Score: 22 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 800

ISO 800, Score: 20 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 1600

ISO 1600, Score: 20 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 3200

ISO 3200, Score: 18 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 6400

ISO 6400, Score: 16 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 12800

ISO 12800, Score: 14 Click here for full resolution image

Raw

ISO 100

ISO 100, Score: 22 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 200

ISO 200, Score: 22 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 400

ISO 400, Score: 22 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 800

ISO 800, Score: 20 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 1600

ISO 1600, Score: 18 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 3200

ISO 3200, Score: 18 Click here for full resolution image

Sensitivity and noise images

Raw

ISO 100

Full ISO 160 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

ISO 100

ISO 100 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 200

ISO 200 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 400

ISO 400 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 800

ISO 800 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 1600

ISO 1600 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 3200

ISO 3200 Click here for full resolution image

JPEG

ISO 100

ISO 100 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 200

ISO 200 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 400

ISO 400 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 800

ISO 800 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 1600

ISO 1600 Click here for full resolution image

ISO 3200

ISO 3200 Click here for full resolution image

Sample images

Fujifilm X30

Click here for full resolution image

There’s an impressive level of detail in this ISO160 image and the greens look natural.

Fujifilm X30

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The X30’s AF system coped well with this low lights, low contrast scene and the automatic white balance system has delivered a natural looking image despite the artificial lighting.

Fujifilm X30

Click here for full resolution image

Using the daylight white balance and Standard (Provia) Film Simulation mode have resulted in natural tones.

Fujifilm X30

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An example of the X30 overcooking the greens a bit with the Standard Film Simulation mode in action. Fortunately the Film Simulation modes can be used when shooting raw and JPEG files simultaneously so you can have a raw file with the full colour information for post-capture processing.

Fujifilm X30

Click here for full resolution image

At its default settings the X30 overexposed this scene slightly, but dialing in 1/3EV of negative exposure compensation produced this accurate result.

Fujifilm X30

Click here for full resolution image

Shooting at f/2.0 and going close the front object has restricted depth of field nicely here.

Fujifilm X30

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The X30 produces some nice black and white images in-camera.

Film simulation

Fujifilm X30

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Using the Standard (Provia) Film Simulation mode has produced quite a vibrant result here.

Fujifilm X30

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The Classic Chrome Film Simulation mode tones things down a bit, especially the green of the grass.

Verdict

Fuji is aiming the X30 at enthusiast and professional photographers looking for a high quality compact camera for second-shooting at weddings, street photography and taking or days out. By the company’s own admission, it isn’t meant as a radical upgrade to the X20, but a refinement that makes the camera more versatile and using it a more pleasurable experience.

While some may be concerned about the loss of the optical viewfinder, I recommend trying the EVF as it’s an excellent device that brings several benefits. The larger, tilting screen also helps promote creative photography, although as usual it’s preferable to compose images in the viewfinder when possible.

Image quality from the X30 is on a par with that from the X20.

We liked

The X30 has a good solid build and most features are within easy reach. It’s especially nice to have a zoom ring on a compact camera, along with both exposure mode and exposure compensation dials.

Switching to an electronic viewfinder brings some distinct advantages including the loss of parallax error and the ability to see the impact of settings changes. However, colours, especially green, tend to look a bit too vibrant in the viewfinder.

The screen is excellent, but it would be nice of it were touch sensitive and mounted on a full articulating bracket for easier viewing when shooting upright images.

We disliked

Although the X30 feels very nicely built and comfortable in the hand, it’s larger than the X20 and our expectations have changed a little bit now that Sony and Canon has started putting one-inch type sensors in compact cameras like the Sony RX100 III and Canon G7 X that are smaller. It’s also not much smaller than the Panasonic LX100 which has a Four Thirds type sensor inside and more traditional controls.

Also, while the camera generally performs well it has the odd ‘moment’ when it doesn’t behave as expected, either refusing to turn on when it should or seeming to shift focus after locking onto a subject (although thankfully it doesn’t).

Final verdict

Unlike some compact cameras, the X30 looks and feels like a ‘proper camera’ that puts the photographer in control. It also produces superb quality images that compare very well with those from cameras with larger sensors. At the higher sensitivity settings, however, its smaller sensor size starts to restrict performance in comparison with models such as the Sony RX100 III and Canon G7 X.



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