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Retains everything photographers loved in the X100 and irons out performance kinks—as far as we can tell.
Design & Usability
Put the X100 and X100S side-by-side and you can see that virtually nothing has changed... on the outside.
The chic film-era looks and delightfully old-school control scheme are the same. The 23mm f/2 lens carries over, too, as does the unique hybrid viewfinder. A couple very nuanced updates might slide under the radar, but are likely to get noticed by X100 enthusiasts. Most noticeably, Fuji has subtly reshaped the switch itself, making it easier to reach and operate when your hand is in a normal shooting position. Check out our old X100 review if you need to get up to speed on the basics.
Inside, it's a different story. The X100S is built around Fuji's X-Trans II APS-C format sensor—an updated version of the proprietary silicon used in the X-Pro1 and X-E1 interchangeable-lens models. (The original X100 used a more standard APS-C sensor.) If the sensor in the X-Pro1 is any indication, the image quality from this model should be excellent. The image processor has also been upgraded to the EXR II spec, hopefully producing quicker operation and JPEG development.
Focus speed was the Achilles' heel of the original X100. Owners and journalists alike vocal in their displeasure, and Fuji has taken the criticism to heart. In a move we've seen from other manufacturers of late, Fuji's engineers equipped the X100S with two autofocus systems—contrast and phase-detection. The new hybrid system is designed to ensure quicker and more accurate focusing in a variety of lighting conditions. There are also two new manual focus–assist features, both of which greatly improve the user experience.
Based on some decidedly non-scientific testing on the CES show floor, the X100S seems to focus faster and more accurately than the original model.
It was hard to believe that it would be any worse than the X100, which was unreliable in even moderately challenging situations, but we need to do some proper field- and lab-testing before we know how much of an improvement the X100S really offers.
Manual focus, though, has definitely improved. It was a hassle on the X100 because the optical portion of the finder doesn't provide a through-the-lens view, and the electronic finder wasn't sharp enough to judge fine detail. Worse still, there were no effective focus-assist features. You needed an eagle eye and a magic touch to get it right.
This time around, Fuji added two great focus-assist features. One is focus peaking, which highlights high-contrast edges of objects that are in focus. Similar features have been employed on cameras like the Sony NEX-7 and Pentax K-01. The other helping hand is a split-prism simulator digital version of the optical focusing aid used in the film cameras of yore. It uses the phase detection pixels on the sensor to let you pinpoint focus by aligning parts of an image. One way or the other, everyone should be able to nail focus with the X100S.
The other wild card is the firmware. As previously noted, the X100 was riddled with bugs and glitches at launch. But Fuji has had a few extra years of practice developing software for high-end cameras at this point, so we don't anticipate as many problems with the X100S.
If you liked the X100, you'll like the X100S more.
The X100's charming design and intuitive control scheme are essentially unchanged in the X100S, and Fuji seems to have addressed the original's glaring performance weaknesses. It's even taking steps to improve the already-strong image quality.
Since autofocus and image quality are among the biggest improvements, there's still a lot we can't quantify about the X100S. We used a pre-production model, tethered to a counter, in a controlled environment at a trade show. We'll need to put it through the paces in our testing labs to draw serious conclusions. Regardless, we're almost certain that it's a better camera than its predecessor.
Correction: An earlier version of this review suggested that the orientation of the hybrid viewfinder switch had been flipped. This is false.
Fujifilm had some lost years in the late aughts, but when the original X100 was released in 2011, it set the company on a bright and promising new path. It also endeared the company to legions of enthusiast photographers across the globe.
At launch, the X100 was a deeply flawed camera. But Fujifilm steadily improved on its "quirky" behavior over the following year, and as a result, the lovable little oddball still has a fanatic following. For good reason, too: It has undeniably cool retro looks, and more importantly it's a great performer thanks to a large APS-C sensor and bright 23mm (35mm-equivalent) f/2.0 lens. It's a whole lot easier to carry than a DSLR, and it won't intimidate anybody if you're shooting on candids on the street—no big grip, no big lens.
After Fuji's various firmware fixes, all the company really needed to fix was focus performance—so it's little surprise that the updated X100S does just that. We got our hands on the new model at CES 2013, and are happy to report that it sure looks like Fuji accomplished what it set out to do.