HandlingIn its design, its size and its shape, the X-S1 looks a lot like a mini-SLR. In fact, with its imposing viewfinder (although it's electronic rather than optical), chunky grip handle and optical zoom lens, you'd be forgiven for thinking this camera was an SLR at first glance. The X-S1 is pretty heavy, weighing in at just under 1 Kg, but it's a nice camera to handle—especially if you hold it with your left hand under the lens. We do, however, think that the handle could have been a bit deeper to improve general grip. The camera's textured covering is pleasant to the touch and the product generally has a high-quality finish. Fuji has done a particularly good job with the EVF, which displays 1,440,000 dots like the VF-2 viewfinder accessory sold by Olympus. Images in the EVF are very smooth in good light, and although there are some glitches when you use it indoors, it still offers greater precision than competitors' alternatives. The vertical-tilt LCD is good too—it's been well calibrated and reproduces colour accurately. The EVF does an even better job on that front, though, with accurate colour reproduction and good gamma readings (accurate grey scale).
The X-S1 has a practical design and control layout. There's a customisable button and you can save up to three control configurations (C1, C2 and C3) for specific situations (high ISO black and white, Velvia film etc.).
ResponsivenessBridges can often be slow cameras, but the X-S1 isn't too bad. The autofocus is responsive at wide-angle and telephoto settings, although it does struggle a bit at telephoto settings in low light. The camera handles its various file formats well too (Raw, JPeg and Raw+ JPeg). The X-S1 takes around 2.5 seconds to start up, which is fine, even if it's not lighting fast.
Note that there's an automatic standby function, but this isn't active by default. Out of the box, you therefore can't just press the shutter-release button to wake up the bridge after a certain amount of time—you have to use the control ring to switch the camera on again. However, if you activate Quick Start in the internal menu, the camera will go onto standby rather than switch off completely. This is certainly very handy, but has obvious consequences for the battery life ...
Picture QualityThis 2/3" sensor has already been seen in Fujifilm's expert compact, the X10. Here, however, the results don't quite seem as good. Note that they're by no means awful, as pictures taken at 800 ISO and 1600 ISO are perfectly acceptable. In fact, the X-S1 does as well as, or even slightly better than its main competitors that use smaller BSI CMOS sensors (1/2.3"). However, we have to admit that we were expecting more from this model.
As with some other Fujifilm cameras (F550/F600), the pictures of our test scene ended up looking a bit over-exposed at wide-angle settings. This overexposure in turn increases noise levels in denser parts of the image (such as solid block colours). However, noise becomes less of a problem if you adjust the settings manually. What's more, we found that the X-S1 takes Jpeg pictures that are quite soft, and which could do with sharpening up a bit using post-editing software before you print them.
Unfortunately, the 26x Fujinon lens doesn't behave particularly consistently. Like many lenses, it gives sharp results in the centre of the frame but a softer image around the edges at wide-angle settings. At mid-range telephoto settings, the edges of the image look more blurred still, but quality is excellent at the maximum telephoto setting. This inconsistency is a bit disappointing, as chromatic aberration is well handled and there's no sign of colour fringing.
VideoThe video mode is pretty standard stuff, filming 1080p at 30 fps with stereo sound and a reasonably responsive continuous autofocus. The optical zoom can be used in video mode, but manual zooming won't change the focal distance as smoothly as an electronic zoom. Exposure levels are decent, but bright parts of the image tend to be overexposed. Sound is good, with a clearly audible stereo effect.
- Precise, pleasant-to-use EVF
- Good general responsiveness
- RAW mode
- Excellent finish
- Good manual zoom
- Picture quality up to 1600 ISO
- Interesting EXR modes
- Autofocus is a touch slow at telephoto settings in low light
- Image freezes slightly when focusing
- Picture quality could be better at mid-range zoom settings
With its manual zoom, good-quality EVF, sturdy build, good responsiveness and top-end picture quality, the Fujifilm X-S1 is one of the most attractive bridge cameras out there at the moment. Image quality at mid-zoom settings is the only slightly embarrassing blip in this otherwise five-star camera