Fuji X70: The little street shooter that punches above its weight class
The Fuji X70 is a premium fixed lens compact that packs a proven sensor capable of great image quality, and it is also the only X series camera that is truly pocketable.
On paper, the X70 has a lot going for it. The 16.3 MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor is identical to the one found in the high end X-mount cameras like the X-T1. The wide angle 18.5mm f/2.8 lens is equivalent to 28mm in full frame format, which is widely used for documentary photography and preferred by many street photographers.
Design wise, the X70 shares the same DNA with the X100 series, so it looks like X100's little brother and offers a similar user experience. The only major difference is the lack of viewfinder, it was probably not possible to put in a viewfinder without increasing the size. There is an external optical viewfinder that is available as an optional accessory for those who can't live without one. What it does have is the 180 degree tilting LCD screen, which can be very useful for street photographers that shoot from the hip and people that do...ahem...selfies. The LCD screen also has touchscreen capabilities, which is a first on a X series camera. The X70 has 49 auto focus points in single AF mode and 77 points in continuous AF mode. It has an electronic shutter that can go up to 1/32000 second.
In terms of specs, X70 only has one true rival in this market segment- the Ricoh GR/GRII (Sony RX1R, Fuji X100T, and the Leica Q are not even close to being pocketable). Unfortunately I have no hands-on experience with the GR, so I can't really compare the two. What I can say though is for a X shooter like myself, the X70 will offer a consistent workflow. From the physical control dials and the aperture ring on the lens to the beloved film simulation modes and the Wi-Fi connection through the APP, you don't miss a beat when you switch from another X series camera to the X70. When I picked up my review unit, I did not even need to flip through the manual, I simply strapped it on my neck and started shooting.
Enough of the technical aspect, my reviews are never about pixel peeping or cranking up the ISO to an astronomical number. I only care about real life shooting experiences.
I am usually a RAW shooter, but for this review I only shot in JPEGs. I feel very confident about Fuji's JPEG files, they always come out looking great, but I chose to shoot JPEG on the X70 for a different reason. I wanted to utilize the 35mm and 50mm digital tele-converter. I have to admit 28mm is not my favourite focal length, I much prefer 35mm for street shooting. The digital converter can only be applied to JPEG files. All the film simulation modes are available on the X70, except for Acros, which is exclusive to Xpro2 for now.
I took the X70 to the streets and that's where it proved its worth. The image quality is stellar, I do not see a drop-off compared to my X-T1 files, unless you pair the X-T1 with a top notch prime lens like the XF56mm, but that would be an unfair comparison in terms of size and weight and in terms of cost. The auto focus is responsive and fast, but it does not feel as snappy as X-T1 with a fast prime. The AF tends to hunt a little bit in certain situations, but overall it gets the job done and it did not cause any missed shots. The below images were shot in Classic Chrome and edited in Lightroom 6.
For street photographers, size does matter, and smaller is better. The importance of having a pocketable camera that you can carry everywhere cannot be overstated. X70 is discreet and somewhat unassuming when in action, thanks to the near silent leaf shutter. Also, not having a viewfinder to look through can be liberating sometimes. You tend to shoot and compose more freely with one hand, so you look more like an average tourist, which can be a good thing if you want to capture candid moments.
Here are a couple of size comparison shots with my friend George's X30. You can see the X30 is bigger and bulkier. George is an aspiring street shooter that roams the streets with his X30, check out his work on instagram.
After using the X70 for about a month, here are some features that are well thought out in my opinion:
- The face detection automatically turns on when the LCD screen tilts up 180 degrees for selfies. I don't take a lot of selfies personally, but those who do will appreciate this feature.
- The touchscreen mode is always enabled in playback mode. I always turn off touchscreen functions when shooting, but it's nice to be able to browse pictures in touchscreen mode like you would on your iphone.
- The digital tele-converter can be activated and operated with the control ring on the lens. This is the setting I choose, basically I can turn the control ring to change focal length to 35mm or 50mm, so it turns the fixed lens into a pseudo-zoom lens.
A few things I would change:
- The X70 does not come with an external battery charger. With a camera like this, it is necessary to have at least a spare battery in my opinion, so having an external charger will make life easier.
- The X70 is supplied with a neck strap, I would prefer a wrist strap. A compact camera like this is meant to be used with one hand so you can compose freely and creatively. Bringing the LCD screen to eye level when wearing the neck strap feels a bit awkward. Simply put, the X70 should be a wrist strap camera.
- Even though X70 has a very solid build, I prefer the surface material on the X30 and the X100, it just fits the overall retro look much better. This is just nitpicking now I know.
Final thoughts: The X70 excels in the streets, but it is not just made for street photographers, it is a great grab and go camera for anyone that wants to document life one frame at a time. For existing users of X series, the X70 complements the bigger siblings very well and is a welcome addition to the family. I'll leave you with a few more images. Follow me on instagram if you want to keep up to date with my work.
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