A User Review of Fujifilm X30 – Part 3: On the Inside

The View Finder

A camera review will not be complete without a cat shot…

Aside from good handling, a camera needs to perform and completing the task as per user’s requirement. So how well does the X30 fairs in this regard? First, let’s talk about the EVF performance. As I mentioned earlier, the EVF is similar to the one on the X-E2 (judging based on the usage experience). In normal daylight, you’ll enjoy virtually lag-less or real time viewing of the shots. If you have enabled exposure preview, you will be able to see the changes in real time.

In low light however, EVF suffers with a lot of grains, though the quick refresh rate of the EVF still managed to keep the EVF up and running in a quite responsive manner, but there will be a slight “stutter” when you half press the shutter. I didn’t really notice such phenomena (or maybe too rare for me to recall) when shooting in good light. It’s not particularly annoying, just that please don’t expect it to perform equally under different lighting condition. I tend to notice the colours are a bit more vibrant in the EVF. If you are particular about this, there’s always an option to fine tune the colour and brightness of the EVF in the menu. Besides that, in some occasion when I’m shooting something in bright red colour, I find the EVF will exhibit some lines over the red colour area, which is a little strange and annoying.

The back LCD is bright enough for all kinds of condition. There’s “power save” (as the name implied) and “high performance” (brighter LCD, faster AF) mode which you can change to suit your shooting requirement. I tend to find the colour of the LCD a little too vibrant as well, perhaps all “compact cameras” were born this way? Nevertheless, you can always tone it down in the menu. There’s an eye sensor besides the EVF which toggles between EVF and LCD. Somehow, I find it to be a little unreliable at times. There are a few occasions where I’m framing the shots with LCD, and all of a sudden LCD just black off (I suspect it switched to EVF) and then back again on LCD. Nothing is blocking the sensor by the way, I suspect it’s due to sunlight shining through or something. So do take note when you are shooting with the LCD.

The tilt screen gets the job done nicely, though you can’t do selfie with it. The flipping and tilting mechanism feels solid and not flimsy. The manual says that you should not touch on the connection cable of the screen or it will malfunction… sounds a bit serious to me, so better take note and be careful on that. All in all, it’s a good addition, though I still prefer fully articulated screen (similar to those on Canon G12, Panasonic GH4) which gives you better viewing experience when shooting vertically.

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 10.10.52 pmPicture from Fujifilm’s website

Though the menu system of X30 doesn’t change much compared to other X cameras, the graphical user interface on the EVF and LCD has received a major overhaul. Gone are those setting options that blocks your frame and making your life difficult in framing your shots. The new User Interface is minimalist and blends well with the modern world. And X30 has borrowed some of the design cue from X-T1 by offering EVF information that rotates as you flip the camera from landscape to portrait orientation. The changes may not be that significant, but the impact on user experience is huge. If you are iOS user, it feels just like upgrading from iOS 6 to iOS 7.

Shooting Experience

Shooting with Manual Focus has vastly improved in the X30 thanks to the introduction of focus peaking (with different peaking colours selection), digital split screen and focus assist magnification. These are the features introduced not long ago by Fujifilm, and has now incorporated into the successor of X20. All you need to do is just flipping the switch in front to “M” and use the control ring to adjust the focusing. I find no issue to do manual focusing with both the EVF and the LCD.

One of the advantage of using small sensor camera is the ability to shoot macro in up closed manner. For X30, there are two macro modes: Macro and Super Macro. Macro gives you closer focusing to approx. 10cm (wide angle), while Super Macro gives you down to 1cm (wide angle) of close focus distance. The auto focusing during macro mode is quite ok. In fact, the overall AF performance of the camera is quite good (as for Fujifilm’s standard of course), thanks to the contrast and phase detection focusing on the X-Trans II CMOS Sensor used.

Operation wise, shot by shot performance and operating speed is fluent and quick enough to cater your requirement. I’m yet to shoot RAW / RAW+JPEG on this camera, but so far the read write speed has been up to standard with my 30MBs card. Besides that, Spot Metering has been improved as well, now the metering will follow your AF point instead of just meter on the centre spot. Make sure you enable this in the menu system.

Did I mentioned the lens on this camera was fast at f2-2.8? Yup, you will get those nice blurry bokeh out of this camera, but there’s a catch. The shutter speed of the camera is too slow to keep up with the fast lens under bright sunny day. It’s pretty easy to hit the ceiling and you will be forced to close down the aperture to sacrifice some depth of field in order to get proper exposure, or you can just shoot anyway and adjust later in post process (though if the exposure is off too much, it will be hard to recover those details). I would appreciate if Fujifilm can improve this by either adding ND filter or bump up the shutter speed. It’s rather annoying when you are shooting under bright day light for most of the time and yet can’t use the larger aperture (alternatively, try the old school way by slapping a ND filter / Circular polarizer in front of your lens).

Another notable enhancement is the face detection and normal AF interchange (Sorry, I don’t know how to put this in proper words). In older X cameras, when you select face detection as your AF preference, camera will search for faces to lock focus. But when there’s no face in the frame, the camera will virtually stay put and do not know what to focus on. Now, when faces are not detected, the AF will automatically switch back to the Area AF so you can just continue to shoot like normal. In other words, you can finally leave the face detection ON all the time. However, I do find that the face detection of Fujifilm’s camera is rather unreliable. Sometime when there’s no face in the frame, the camera will lock focus and giving signal stating it found a “face” in the frame (perhaps is the face of those “things” which I can’t see), and sometimes when there are faces in the frame, it somehow just unable to detect it, especially when the face is moving in the frame quickly, or around the edge of the frame, or when the face is slightly tilted and not looking into the frame directly.

With built-in wifi, now the X30 can transfer picture directly to your phone for uploading. You can also use your mobile phone as a remote shutter for the camera. A neat feature for sneak shot. The remote camera app from Fujifilm, though useful, but still got a lot of room for improvement. First, the app only allows operation in portrait orientation, and the live view is so small and tiny. If only Fujifilm will allow options to flip the app into landscape mode. The best feature packed into this camera is undoubtedly the ability to print directly to the Instax Printer!! So next time when you are shooting in a party, you can print some instax out directly and give it to your friends and families, how sweet!!

There are some “advance” features such as Pro Focus, Pro Low Light and Multiple Exposure embedded under the “Advance” mode. Pro Focus basically takes multiple shots with different depth of field, and then merging them to create a picture with super shallow depth of field (like those feature you saw recently on the smartphones). Pro Low Light basically takes multiple shots and merge them into one cleaner image. Multiple Exposure is basically… multiple exposure! But I would appreciate this feature can be improved further by allowing the option to blend two images that I have already taken in my camera in a later stage. Or better still, I can simply call up any image from my SD card and make it as a base, and then I take another shot to merge them. Often, I don’t get to shoot the two exposures at the same time, so the current execution by Fujifilm is rather… limiting in terms of creativity.

Some other features in the X30 include interval shooting mode, 360 degrees panorama, advance filters (miniature, toy camera, selective colour and etc) and full manual control in video mode rounds up the feature list of the camera. There are quite a number of features which I’m yet to test out. I’ll update those in the future under different post.

One more thing that I wish to point out (and I left out mentioning under Part 2 of the review) is regarding the control ring. The control ring allows you to do a lot of quick setting changes, but it is actually a “click-less” wheel. You don’t get feedback when you turn the ring (unless you enable the clicking noise in the menu). This is a double edge sword. Click-less wheel is actually very useful, especially so when you are shooting video and changing the settings at the same time. The clicking sound will not get recorded into your video. But, when I’m shooting pictures, at times my hand would have accidentally nudge the ring and setting was changed. Since there’s no feedback (and I have turned off the clicking noise all together for silent operation) whenever such incident happened, I may end up shooting with the wrong setting, which I thought I have already dialled in properly. The workaround of course, is try to learn to avoid touching the control ring when holding the camera, or check the settings every single time before you take the shot.

I’ll talk more about the image output by the camera in the next post. Stay tuned.

A User Review of Fujifilm X30 – Part 1: Introduction
A User Review of Fujifilm X30 – Part 2: On the Outside
A User Review of Fujifilm X30 – Part 3: On the Inside
A User Review of Fujifilm X30 – Part 4: Sample Shots
A User Review of Fujifilm X30 – Part 5: Final Words

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