Fujifilm X70 review for city and travel phtography
 

Fujifilm X70 review for city and travel photography

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I like to start this review with a question. Why the Fujifilm X70 is a unique camera for city and travel photography?

Just one word: portability

But there is much more than that

Last month I flew to Sydney for few days. I had just my carry-on luggage (7Kg). It was a trip to see few friends. I thought to take my DSLR with me but than I decided not to because it would take most of my luggage allowance and it would also look a bit intimidating when taking photos. I used my mobile instead.

Portability should be one of the most important feature when buying travel related gear. Weight and size are two important specs to consider. An amazing looking bag at 10Kg or a beautiful luggage at 5Kg? If you travel and change accommodation frequently, probably 5Kg is the solution, be practical.

Back to the camera world.

Do you know why your mobile phone is a great camera?

It does not make photos with that nice bokeh, you can’t control the aperture, it sucks in poor light condition BUT it’s always with you. You can put it in your pocket and you are ready to shoot whenever you want.

When I opened the box for the Fujifilm X70 review, I could not believe how small is this camera. I could put it in my pocket and forget about it.

I was walking to my local pier and this sunset was just in front of me. The Fujifilm X70 was in my pocket. f2.8 ISO 800 1/40sec Handheld (no tripod in the pocket ;) )

I was walking at my local pier and this sunset was just in front of me. The Fujifilm X70 was in my pocket (f2.8 ISO 800 1/40sec Handheld, no tripod in the pocket 😉 )

You may say that most the compact cameras do fit in a pocket and have the zoom lens too. But hold on, the X70 has an APS-C sensor, which is incredible, considering the size of this camera.

Why do I bother about the sensor type? Does it help in my daily travel photography?

16MP APS-C sensor in the Fujifilm X70

What is an image sensor?

It’s a solid-state piece of hardware that converts the light captured through the lens into the image you see on your LCD or viewfinder. Think of the sensor as the film in the old days.

The more light the sensor can capture the more information it can process.

With the same lens aperture (the opening in your lens that you measure in F-stops) a bigger sensor can obviously capture more light.

As an example, consider the size of these sensors:

  • typical mobile: 9mm x 6.5mm or 58.5 mm²
  • Micro Four Third: 17mm x 13mm or 221 mm² (most of the mirrorless cameras)
  • APS-C: 23mm x 15mm or 345 mm² (most of the amateur DSLR and few mirrorless cameras)
  • Full Sensor: 36mm x 24mm or 864 mm² (most of the professional DSLR)

The sensor on the Fujifilm X70 is almost 6 times bigger than a mobile and just less than 50% smaller than a professional DSLR like the Canon 5D.

The bigger sensor is a huge advantage in poor light conditions. It’s not just about night photography, it’s also about all the photos you make with friends in bars or restaurants. It’s about that photos you make inside buildings. It’s about that photos you make on a misty or rainy dark day.

Photographying food with a X70 just using the artifical restaurant light (1/60sec at f2.8, ISO500)

Photographying food with a X70 just using the artifical restaurant light (1/60sec at f2.8, ISO500)

Crop 1:1 of the rice

Crop 1:1 of the rice – Incredible details

And when you travel, for either a weekend or a long trip, you have many of these occasions.

The sensor is one of the most important piece of hardware in your camera, however it is not the only one. You need also good lenses otherwise your photo quality may be compromised.

With a bigger sensor you can also push up the ISO without compromising the photo quality. I pushed the ISO to some really high values during my review and the Fujifilm X70 was still producing some remarkable photos.

You never know what you can find when you walk in the streets, the X70 will help to document your trip

You never know what you can find when you walk in the streets, the X70 will help to document your trip. This photo was made at ISO 6400 and the result is just spectacular

The Fujifilm X70 is so light that you can always carry it with you

The Fujifilm X70 is so light that you can always carry it with you – The gallery above was so dark. I was a bit sceptic in using an ISO value of 5000 and I was so well surprised of the final image!

My rule of thumb when you buy a new camera, is to spend as much for your first lens as for your body, in case you buy an interchangeable lens camera of course.

What about the Fujifilm X70?

Wide-angle fixed lens and crop mode

The Fujifilm X70 has a fantastic wide-angle fixed lens with an equivalent focal length of 28m and an aperture of f/2.8. How is the resulting image? Super-sharp!

The photo above was made on a rainy day with ISO 1000

This lens, with such a big aperture (f/2.8), will help you to have that lovely blurry background, when needed; think of portraits or photos of details and food.

At the same time it works great with interior photography because of the wide-angle at 28mm

This focal length is one of my favourite also for wide landscape photography.

When around in the city, I love to have a 24-28mm for my street photography as well. It works great with the 20 degrees rule.

In saying that, most professional street photographers, and I am not, see the 35-50 range as the ultimate focal length. That is why, I guess, the Fujifilm X70 implements also a 35-50mm crop mode, called digital tele-converter. This is basically a digitally in-camera cropped photo.

The crop mode works only with JPG and in single shot. The Fujifilm X70 has an in-camera image interpolation to upscale the JPG file to the same 16MP resolution as the ordinary photos.

You could do the same cropping the photo in post production and upscaling it to 16MP with an external software, but why bothering if Fujifilm can do the same in-camera. Check few comparison examples in this analysis, I personally can’t see any difference between the in-camera and the software made.

I love the 28mm as it is, however I would consider using the digital tele-converter at 50mm with portraits. That’s because sometime the 28mm focal length may distort few of the face features. Just a personal opinion of course

Very sharp details and a lovely bokeh

Very sharp details and a lovely bokeh

Fast autofocus

One of the things that may get me quite frustrated is missing a photo opportunity because of the slow autofocus.

It was not the case with the Fujifilm X70. The autofocus was quick and responsive. Just slightly slower than a professional camera/lens however quicker than other models in the same class.

You can work with the autofocus two ways

  • Point and focus, as most of the cameras do. Recompose if needed
  • Focus on your subject through a simple touch on the LCD. You can change this in the settings menu, TOUCH SCREEN MODE and select FOCUS AREA

Coming from the “old” SLR and DSLR world I usually focus on the subject and recompose using the AF-L button, just on the right side of the LCD in the Fujifilm X70.

Through the setting menu (AE/AF-LOCK BUTTON) you can also select if you want to have the exposure locked (AE-L) at the same time.

What does it mean?

  • If AE/AF LOCK is selected, the camera will use the light metering from the area you focus on.
  • If AF LOCK ONLY, the camera will use the light metering from the new re-composition.

I usually use AF-L ONLY, let’s say 95% of the cases, however there are situations where you may need AE-L as well. Again, practice practice practice.

Walking in the streets of Melbourne and capturing the local life

Walking in the streets of Melbourne and capturing the local life

Portability

If the saying “The best camera is the one that’s with you” is true, and I believe so, then the Fujifilm X70 is a real winner.

It’s small in size (12.5 x 64.4 x 44.4mm) and very low in weight (just 340gr), which is nothing if you think that most mobile phones are around 170gr.

My Fujifilm X70 review was mostly done in Melbourne. I was out and about with my bicycle and I was carrying the camera in my pocket.

This is where the Fujifilm is a real winner.

It’s a great camera for everyone using a mobile but wanted to add more creativity to the own photos.

With the Fujinon wide lens you can get very close to your subjects

With the Fujinon wide lens you can get very close to your subjects

But not only that.

It’s a great device for everyone like me, with a DSLR, that wants a light camera without compromising in creativity. Something to take always along when a DSLR is too much.

There is however a trade-off.

The Fujifilm X70 uses a fixed prime lens with an equivalent optical focal length of 28mm (equivalent to full frame, or 18.5mm on APS-C). No zooming.

This may be an issue for travel photography. But something has to be said.

You get used to it.

What I mean is that when we have a zoom we tend to use it a lot and we get a bit lazy. I assure you that if you are photographing with a prime you start moving and framing using your legs. There is no alternative.

Of course there are situations where you have to use a zoom and you can’t just get closer. If you see this as an issue for you, probably you need to buy an interchangeable lens camera.

Usability

I have never used a Fujifilm before. Maybe for just few hours in the past, but almost in auto mode.

I have used Nikon and Canon for few years each. I have used Panasonic and Sony in many occasions.

Well, Fujifilm is a league on its own.

I spent almost 3 hours going through the settings, before feeling I was in control of the Fujifilm X70. That’s quite a bit, for my like.

In saying that, when I knew what I was doing, my productivity was way higher than any other camera. I was just amazed.

I loved the Control Ring on the front. I could go super quickly through tons of setting and make a change in no time.

The exposure compensation dial is right on the top right, easy to access and change.

The Aperture works on the front ring and the Shutter Speed works on a dial, on the center top.

View of the X70 from the top

View of the X70 from the top

There are few buttons that you can customize. The AF-L is right where you want it (I use it a lot), next to the LCD.

Basically, you do not really need to enter in the settings menu, if not for few quick things.

And this is great, because the menu is not that intuitive.

I spent almost an hour figuring out why I could not get rid of the Advanced Filter.

You can go in drive mode and select the one that you like however you can’t select OFF. I tried and tried till I noticed that if I clicked on STILL IMAGE again then the ADVANCE FILTER was not applied anymore.

Unfortunately neither the manual nor the Fujifilm website is clear on how to turn off the advanced filter on the X70.

Another thing I noticed is that once ADVANCE FILTER is turned off the camera resets my IMAGE QUALITY setting.

I usually shoot both JPG+RAW. Once ADVANCE FILTER is selected you can shoot only JPG, either fine or normal. Once turne off, the camera does not remember my previous JPG+RAW selection and it resets to JPG only.

I loved all the physical controls in this camera. Few buttons, dials and rings that work in a fantastic orchestra to give the best user experience.

Overall very satisfied

Advance filters and film simulation

The first time I saw this feature on a camera few months ago I had a bit of a smile.

Two main reasons.

We used SLR and we migrated to the digital world in the last decade. Now the manufactures want to simulate the SLR world. A bit weird I thought.

And most important, why bothering selecting a film when I can do everything in post-production with Lightroom, or any other similar software.

I gave a try on a photo session, and another one, and another one and things became a bit clearer and it all make sense.

I usually like to spend more time photographing and less time on a computer.

If I can take a photo with the right in-camera filter, then I do not need to spend more time in post-processing. As easy as that.

I love all the film simulations offered by the Fujifilm X70 and, honestly, I would love to have more, especially in the black and white format.

What does a film simulation do?

The camera makes JPG files simulating the films used in the old SLR. In the “old” world different films were used to produce different kind of photos; this is basically what you do nowadays with Photoshop or Lightroom. Why not directly in-camera!

Technically speaking, you cannot turn off film simulation. The film simulation tells the camera how the JPG should be processed. The Provia (called also Standard) will give you the more natural result. The Velvia is used for a more vibrant reproduction, ideal for landscape. The list is quite extensive.

The advance filters are a different thing

They are more of an artistic effect.

Once selected you will be able to shoot JPG only. The miniature filter is my favourite. It creates top and bottom blur for diorama effect.

I started loving both the advance filters and the wide choice of film simulations. There is only one issue. You may become addicted LOL Do not overdo 😉

LCD and EVF

The good news is that the Fujifilm has a tilting LCD. It can be quite practical, also for some selfies 😉

Tilting LCD on the X70

There is no EVF in the camera and you would have to buy it separately.

I did not have it during my review and I did not miss it. Keep in mind that I shoot 99% of the time using a viewfinder.

Why?

Because it is quite bright and I never had any trouble with it.

True enough, the viewfinder helps to concentrate on the composition, however I believe that the LCD looks less intimidating when making portraits, probably because it does not look that professional.

Final thinking

City and travel photography has changed a lot in the last 20 years.

The social environments, Instagram in primis, have popularised these 2 types of photography. Through a simple hashtag search, you can check thousand of photos of a city and a few amazing ones between.

When I asked to review a Fujifilm X70 I was not really sure what to expect. I hoped to have the same creativity options I have in a DSLR. I was looking forward to carry a super light camera. I thought I could be invisible in the street, at least compared to me taking photos with a DSLR.

Were my expectations satisfied?

No.

They were exceeded.

I forgot my DSLR for two weeks, I exercised my “zoom” legs much more and I felt more confident with my street photography using a small camera.

Portability is a huge plus of this camera

Do I suggest this camera for city and travel photography?

This camera will not take the place of an interchangeable lens camera. And it’s not its market.

I definitely suggest Fujifilm X70 to anybody that wants to upgrade from a mobile camera or a small compact. Budget few hours on a manual because the learning curve may be not that easy at the beginning. But definitely worth the time

I also suggest this camera to any DSLR owner looking for a light alternative, for a weekend away or for an easy trip with the family.

For city and street photography the Fujifilm is just ideal because a 28mm focal length is what you really need, with the possibility to use a 35-50mm cropped version.

For travel photography you may miss few photos where a zoom lens is mandatory however you are going to make more photos in that occasions where you would leave you DSLR in the hotel room.

What about the cost?

The Fujifilm X70 is absolutely a great value camera (check the best price in USA and in Australia)

Enjoy your travel and have a blast with your photography.

You can read all the X70 specs on the Fujifilm website.


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Stefano Ferro
Stefano is a cycling, movie and life style photographer with a big love for landscape & travel photography. When in Melbourne, his hometown, you will see him cycling around at sunset or sunrise looking for the best spot for a photo of this beautiful city. It is quite amazing how much photography gear he can pack on his bike :o

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