The Fujifilm X70 Review

Back in November 2015 I was given the distinct pleasure of shooting samples and some product images for the promotional material for a new Fujifilm camera which had yet to be released. The sparse description notes read:

New camera type
New 28mm eq. lens
New touch screen interface

What was delivered to me was the new beautiful little Fujifilm X70. Immediately after unboxing I was struck by how damn gorgeous this little camera is. So small, yet feeling so solid. It really has some heft to it. The design lines closely resembling its “bigger brother”, the x100, it sure does look its part. But it is quite different. It really is.

For me to best describe the new X70, I would have you imagine “the child of the X100 and the X-A2 being raised by the XT10 firmware.”

The X70 is meant for people who needs a high quality compact snapshot camera, and (much more importantly for me) for street photographers who needs something small and inconspicuous for capturing candid moments of streetlife.

Below I will try to give you my impressions after having handled this camera extensively and intensively over the course of the last 2 months.

DISCLAIMER: The camera I used during the test period is a pre-production unit. Image quality and camerafeatures might not be final at time of the release. (but it probably is)

Build and Design

The X70 is true to Fujifilms X-series retro styling. You can see they went to great lengths in order for it to fit into the X100 scheme. The built-in flash is in the same place as the OVF window of the X100, keeping the pseudo-rangefinder look. Whether or not you like this is entirely subjective. I know I like this styling a lot!

Before I get deeper into the fantastic build and layout of the X70, let me start by addressing the elephant in the room.

The viewfinder. Where is it?

Well, it’s not there.

As an avid hybrid viewfinder user I didn’t know what to think at first. Would I now have to use the camera in “tourist-mode” at arms length, while getting shots that was ridden by motion-blur?
But then I started using the camera, and I found that what Fujifilm has done is implement the LCD panel in a very clever way. The touch and tilt display really gives me a TOTALLY different way of shooting street photography. Did I in the heat of the moment place the X70 to my eye only to go “argh!”? you bet! Did I break that habit within the first 48h? Indeed I did!
Fujifilm offers an accessory optical viewfinder for the hotshoe. I had an old Voigtländer one lying around that I put on there. It’s not electronic, it doesn’t give you focus feedback, but it gets the framing done if you simply cannot live without the viewfinder. But I’m telling you, if you decide to buy this camera, use it as intended. Try the “Tilt and Touch” and you will be amazed at how different and fun your shooting experience AND your images will be.
One thing I’m fairly sure about is that building in an EVF/OVF would have made the camera bigger. And as is, it is an impressively small APS-C sensor camera.

The body is made of aluminum. and you can really feel the quality. Much more so than on the X100 since the X70 is much more compact. It comes in black and silver variants. It has aperture dial on the lens, the shutter speed- and the exposure compensation dials on the top plate as well as the “autoswitch” as seen on the XT10. The autoswitch really emphasizes that this camera is also meant as a compact point and shoot. Just like on the XT10 I like this feature, since it’s there if someone with less photographic experience needs it, and if you’re an experienced user you can just leave it as is.
The movie button can be assigned as an Fn button to your liking, and fujifilm also placed the drive button up there. On the left hand side of the camera you have another function button. It sits flush and is quite well hidden. Useful none the less. I have assigned it to shutter type selection.
On the back you have the play and delete buttons located on the tilt display itself. It has a 4 way directional pad and the usual Q menu button, the AF-L/AE-L button and an Fn/wifi button.
All in all pretty familiar layout and functions.
I will get into the Touch Screen LCD panel a little further on 🙂

With the X70 you also get the leaf shutter, so you will have the same amazing advantages in regards to flash and silent shutter operation as you would in the X100 series. It’s one of the best features of the X100 and I LOVE that it’s being used in the X70 as well.

The new 18.5mm f/2.8 lens

Yet again, I’m tempted to ask….what kind of Kool-aid are the optical engineers at Fujifilm drinking? Seriously! They just seem to pump out one great lens after another.
The new 18.5mm f/2.8 lens in the X70 is a STELLAR performer. Nothing less. The quality of this pancake design lens is phenomenal.
It’s an entirely new design developed from the 23mm f/2 lens in the X100. It consists of 7 elements in 5 groups with 2 aspherical elements. It’s constructed in a very compact manner, so there is no collapsing necessary when turning on/off the camera. This means much faster startup times.

Maximum aperture is f/2.8 and the diaphragm consists of 9 rounded blades. I could actually achieve quite decent bokeh quality. Especially when focusing near. The close-focusing limit being just 10cm, you can really do some fun close up/macro work.

With a full frame equivalent of 28mm this lens is at the wider end of the spectrum. The 28mm angle of view is great for street photography if you’re willing to move in close. It gives you a subject intimacy as well as great contextual meaning in your pictures by including a lot of the environment.

Sharpness from this lens is ridiculous! – unlike the 23mm f/2 in the x100 series, this new 18.5mm doesn’t soften up when shot wide open at closest focusing distances. And it’s insanely sharp from edge to edge. It REALLY delivers.

DSCF1104
X70 – 18.5mm – ISO1250 – 1/60s
crop 1 to 1
1:1 crop

When comparing it to the XF18mm f/2 it easily beats it in resolving power and sharpness, and likewise I observed the same thing when comparing it to the WCL-x100 shot on the x100t. So of all the 18mm (28mm eq) prime options offered by Fujifilm, THIS is by far the best. The amazing thing is that it’s so small as well. I am so impressed with it!

DSCF0404.jpg
Closeup – 10 cm distance – f/2.8 – 1/60s – ISO500

A fun little feature in the X70 is the digital crop feature or “digital tele converter” as Fujifilm labels it. When shooting jpeg mode you can chose to use either a 28mm, 35mm or 50mm crop mode. (35mm eq.) The camera does some clever interpolation and wizardry so you actually get a full 16mp output file. Of course you can see the compression when you look closer, but for snapshots this feature is really cool.

Fujifilm is releasing the WCL-X70 as an add-on accessory. It will turn the lens into a 14mm (21mm ff eq.). Although Fujifilm doesn’t officially support it, I tried on the WCL-X100 and the TCL-X100. They fit fine, and I was able to shoot with them using their corresponding magnification factors.

The new touch screen

In addition to the extremely small size of the camera, the other major feature of the X70 is the new touchpanel. It marks a first for the Fujifilm X-series that we now get a touch LCD panel.
The panel is a 3.0 inch 1.04 million dot LCD that features a 180 degree rotation angle so you can flip it over for selfies if thats your thing. Much like the X-A2.

The touch panel functions in shooting mode and in preview mode.
In shooting mode you will have acces to:

  • Focus Area Selection: Move the focus point to the chosen position by tapping the touchscreen.
  • Touch Shot: Touch to focus and shoot on a specific point.

There is a small icon in the top right corner of the screen where you can switch between the two modes as well as turn the touch function off.

In playback mode you can use the following gestures, very much like on your regular smartphone:

  • Swipe: Swiping a finger across the screen scrolls through the images, one after another.
  • Double-Tap: Tapping the screen twice will enlarge the image, centering on the active focus point when the images was taken.
  • Dragging: Moving a finger across the screen when an image is enlarged will move it around the frame.
  • Pinch in/out zoom: Placing two fingers on the screen and widening or shortening the distance between them zooms in/out of the image.

So indeed a very cool and well implemented new feature. What I find is that it actually defines the way I use this camera.

There are a lot of different scenarios where this feature is very useful.
What I found myself doing on the streets after just a few days use was lowering the shooting angle to waist level, holding the camera with 2 hands, screen tilted slightly out, and then moving focus with my left thumb, and taking the picture using the shutter release. It makes for different angles as well as much more unobtrusive shooting. For candid street shots this camera is amazing. End of story.

DSCF1362.jpg
X70 – f/5.6 – 1/1000s – ISO400

 

Another way I use the camera a lot is to place it on the ground or on my micro tripod, tilt out the screen and use touch shooting with long exposures. This way I get minimal camera shake from depressing the regular mechanical shutter release.

A third way this camera is being used heavily is by my kids around the house. They are so used to smartphone functionality, so taking a picture by touching the screen feels much more natural to them (go figure! – Daddy-photog is NOT too pleased about that!).

Indeed the touchscreen really changes the way this camera is being used, and it’s all for the better. I realy hope the Fujifilm will implement this touchpanel in future models. It really gives the camera some great flexibillity.

Usage and Image Quality

The entire AF system from the XT1/XT10 has been ported to the X70. Complete with 77 AF points, the 3 focus modes and the predictive focusing engine. For a closer look at those features you can read my XT10 writeup here. It’s fast. It’s accurate. It’s a joy to use especially in street photography, just like on the XT1/XT10.

The sensor is the X-Trans 2 sensor present in most of Fujifilms current models – It’s the 16 MP sensor that you either love or hate. I will not go into details about the sensor, as theres nothing much new to report back on.
The shutter is mechanical up to 1/4000 and Electronic up to 1/32.000 – just like on the X100T, XT10 and XT1.

Let me address the whole Ricoh GR competitor thing. If you compare the two side by side the X70 is a little bigger. This is mainly because the Ricoh uses the collapsible lens. This  increases the startup time for the Ricoh. The X70 cicumvents this with its non collapsible pancake design.

Ricoh GR has a snap-focus mode. It’s basically a semi zone focus mode where you set your distance, full press the shutter to snap the picture at that focus distance, regardless of AF setting. This is because the Ricoh does not have a proper manual focus mode. On the X70 you simply put your camera in MF mode, rotate the focusring to the desired distance and snap. and YES the X70 remembers the set distance when turing it off/on. So for all the snap-focus afficionados, the X70 will do the same just a little differently.

So if you like the GR, I think you will definitely like the X70

Image quality is amazing. This is of course largely because of the lens, but also the X-Trans 2 sensor just deliver rich and crisp files as usual. The fact that the 2 elements has been meticulously paired just brings IQ up another nudge just like in the X100.

DSCF0889.jpg
X70 – f/2.8 – ISO200 – 1/4s

So who will end up using this camera? – I don’t know, but let me tell you this: If you’re into wideangle streetphotography you cannot ignore the X70. It’s a direct competitor to the Ricoh GR which is widely praised in the streetphotography world. The X70 is so compact that you can easily just carry it in your pocket. The size makes it very inconspicuous, so candid photography is much more obtainable. The AF speed from the firmware also makes it hard to miss those fast paced moments.

For the more casual user this will be a great point-and-shoot. It has the same FOV as most smartphone cameras today so framing should feel quite natural for these users.

Conclusion

The Fujifilm X70 camera is a bloody fantastic camera for the street photography crowd. It’s small, inconspicuous, fast and silent. The newly developed 18.5mm f/2.8 (28mm eq ff) lens is nothing less than fantastic. Incredible sharpness from edge to edge, even at close focus distances.
The new touchscreen gives you entirely new shooting possibilities, that I’ve come to appreciate so much that I now wish the entire X-series range would get the feature. For some people the lack of OVF/EVF will be the dealbreaker, others will seek comfort in the external accesory OVF.
Some people might just embrace the camera as it was probably meant to be used; Differently!

Whatever the case, this little camera is now ALWAYS with me in my pocket.

Samples

Samples are converted from RAW files using Lightroom 6. I tweaked them to my liking as usual. So no straight out of camera files here. If you want to see my SOOC jpegs you should go to the promo site on fujifilm.com where I’m guessing they used some of them.

The camera I used was a pre-production unit, so image quality might not represent what is in the retail version, but judging from the quality of these files everything seems to be very close to final IQ


70 samples shot with the X70 – exif data in the files