Fujifilm X-S1 at a glance:

  • 12-million-pixel, EXR CMOS sensor
  • 24-624mm equivalent zoom lens
  • New 15-point
  • AF system
  • 256-zone evaluative metering system
  • Street price around £590 body only

My first ‘proper’ digital camera was a Fujifilm FinePix S7000. At the time I bought it, I had used film SLRs for years but was not quite ready to take the leap and buy an expensive DSLR. The S7000 offered all the exposure control and handling I was used to from a SLR, but with the convenience of a digital camera. What’s more, I didn’t have the added expense of additional lenses.

For a year or so I was delighted with the camera but in the end I outgrew it and so bought my first DSLR. My story is quite a common one, because many photographers buy a bridge camera before getting a DSLR. However, bridge cameras often receive something of a bad, and a rather unfair, press from a lot of enthusiast photographers.

Although they have large zoom lenses and offer a smaller, lighter alternative to using a DSLR, they still use a fairly standard-sized compact camera sensor. For this reason, the image quality from many bridge cameras has not been good enough to satisfy the demands of enthusiast photographers. Consequently bridge cameras are often seen as an entry point into digital photography rather than an alternative to a DSLR.

The key to improving the bridge camera’s reputation, and to make enthusiasts sit up and take notice, is to use a larger sensor to improve image quality. This is exactly what Fujifilm has done with its latest bridge camera. The X-S1 features the same 12-million-pixel, 2/3in sensor as that found in the Fujifilm X10, and combines it with a 24-624mm zoom lens and all the features expected of an advanced compact camera, and then packs them into an entry-level DSLR-sized body.

Taking these improvements into consideration, can the Fujifilm X-S1 do enough to challenge many people’s perception of bridge cameras – and, more importantly, could it prove a suitable alternative to an entry-level DSLR?


As already mentioned, the key feature of the Fujifilm X-S1 is the 12-million-pixel, 2/3in (8.8×6.6mm) EXR CMOS sensor. Although the sensor is larger than those typically used in compact cameras, it still isn’t anywhere near the size of an APS-C chip.

To put it into perspective, the company’s own FinePix HS20EXR bridge camera has a 1/2in sensor measuring 6.4×4.8mm, which is a couple of millimetres smaller on each side than the sensor of the X-S1. However, an APS-C-sized sensor typically measures 23.6×15.6mm, so the X-S1 unit, while bigger than that of a typical bridge camera, still has some way to go to match the larger sensor of a DSLR.

Computing the data created by the sensor are two central processing units (CPUs), a reconfigurable processor that adapts depending on the task being undertaken and a graphics accelerator. It is these powerful processing units that allow the X-S1 to shoot at a rate of 5fps for 6-7 frames when shooting raw and JPEG images simultaneously.

Switching to large JPEG images enables the high continuous shooting mode to be used, which allows a shooting rate of 7fps for seven images. Reducing the image size to medium (6 million pixels) allows a super high shooting rate of 10fps. When using all these high-speed modes the focus and exposure settings are locked to the first frame.

Another important feature is the 6.1-158.6mm f/2.8-5.6 26x optical zoom lens. This offers the equivalent view of a 24-624mm optic on a 35mm full-frame camera. As one would expect of a lens with such a large focal length, it is optically stabilised to help reduce the effects of camera shake. At the other end of the scale those wishing to shoot macro images are also catered for, with the lens having a minimum focus distance of just 1cm. All in all, there should be few situations where the lens cannot accommodate the requirements of a novice photographer.

Although the highlights blow out quite easily in JPEGs, more detail can be recovered from raw images

Build and handling

While many bridge cameras take their inspiration from DSLRs, few do so to the extent that the Fujifilm X-S1 has done, which at times feels like using an entry-level model. The camera’s buttons are large and positioned as they are on a DSLR, although they are a little more ‘plasticky’ in their finish. However, the dials on the X-S1’s top plate have a reassuring knurled metal finish. The lens hood and filter ring are also constructed from metal.

The rest of the camera is made of plastic, but is sturdy and extremely well built. Many bridge cameras are very light, which some photographers dislike almost as much as a heavy camera. The X-S1 is a nice weight, being comfortable enough to hold for long periods but not so light that you wonder what your money has been spent on.

Adding to the quality feel of the camera is the textured finish, which covers the entire body. The well-contoured handgrip sits comfortably in the hand and is covered in a particularly ‘grippy’ rubber. The lens also has two rubber grips – one for the focusing ring and another for the zoom lens. The fan-like design of the grip for the zoom control is particularly good, and I would like to see other manufacturers adopt a similar design on their zoom lenses.

The manual control of the zoom lens is one of the X-S1’s simplest yet best features. Many bridge cameras use an electronic zoom, which often makes it slow to zoom through the entire focal range of the lens.

The 24-624mm optic of the X-S1 operates manually, requiring just a quarter of a turn to zoom through the entire range. It is certainly faster than any electronic motorised system, and it really improves the camera’s handling compared to the majority of bridge models.

However, I do have a few issues with the camera’s handling. The first of these is the overwhelming number of options on the menu system, particularly regarding image colour and contrast adjustments.

As well as the film simulation settings, which replicate various classic Fujifilm films, there are dynamic range, colour, sharpness, highlight tone and shadow tone options. While these offer a good range of customisation, sometimes it is nice just to be able to switch between generic colour modes with default settings.

Thankfully, there are three custom shooting settings to which all these different shooting options can be assigned, and none of the settings is applied to raw files.

However, turning on raw file capture must be done via the set-up menu rather than the shooting menu. The raw shooting option would sit far better in the JPEG quality settings. That said, there is a raw button on the rear of the camera that allows a quick switch between raw and JPEG capture.

A second issue I had was with the X-S1’s speed. Despite the claims about powerful processing, the camera freezes after a burst of images is taken. Although the screen remains on, pressing the shutter button does nothing as data is still being written.

While this is understandable, it doesn’t even allow the menu button to be pressed to change a setting, and this is frustrating when a quick change of the image colour settings is required in preparation for the next shot.

Overall, the Fujifilm X-S1 has a very high build quality, and it handles better than most other bridge cameras on the market, but it is not perfect. The menu system could do with a few tweaks to make navigation easier, although the number of direct button controls and the manual zoom lens far outweigh these minor niggles.


When faced with a variety of different lighting environments, the Fujifilm X-S1’s 256-zone evaluative metering performed extremely well. In fact, it is difficult to find fault with it.

There were a few occasions when the X-S1 didn’t produce a perfect exposure, but I could understand why this was the case. In bright snow, images were slightly underexposed, while high-contrast backlit scenes overexpose the sky or underexpose the subject, depending on exactly how the image was framed.

However, most importantly, the metering system behaved in exactly the same way every time, making it easy to predict how the camera will react so you can compensate accordingly.

One of the camera’s two other metering systems makes it even easier to predict the camera’s reaction. Average metering takes a meter reading from each of the 256 zones and then averages them to produce the exposure reading. Spot metering is also available for precise measurements, and all the settings are easily accessible via a dedicated button on the rear of the camera.

Noise, resolution and sensitivity

Although the sensor in the Fujifilm X-S1 is bigger than a typical compact camera sensor, it is only around 0.7mm wider and 0.6mm taller than the 1/1.6in sensor used in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5. We would therefore expect the X-S1’s performance to be closer to a compact camera than a DSLR, or perhaps even to the Nikon 1 series or a micro four thirds model.

In reality, the X-S1 performs exactly as expected. Luminance noise is well controlled, particularly at low ISO sensitivities, but it begins to creep in by ISO 400. At the maximum ISO 3200 setting, noise reduction has created a slight smudging and loss of detail in JPEG images, although detail is still present in raw images if you are prepared to tolerate the luminance noise.

Chroma noise is far better controlled, and although there is a hint of it at ISO 3200 it isn’t too much of a concern and can be reduced in raw images.

The X-S1 can shoot at ISO 6400 and ISO 12,800, but at a reduced resolution of 6 and 3 million pixels respectively. While shooting at these resolutions reduces the amount of noise, it also reduces the detail present. For the most part I would avoid using either of these ISO sensitivities or resolutions, unless there is no other option or you are only planning to make small images or display them on screen.

In terms of resolution, the X-S1 seems to be let down by its lens. The camera only reaches around 20 on our test chart. As we would usually expect a 12-million -pixel camera to reach 22 or even 24 on the chart, this figure is a little disappointing. This is confirmed by the test charts from the Fujifilm X10, which managed to reach 24.

So although the 24-624mm lens may be very versatile, the extreme zoom does compromise image quality.

Resolution, noise and dynamic range:  These images show 72ppi (100% on a computer screen) sections of images of a resolution chart, captured with the lens set to around 50mm. We show the section of the resolution chart where the camera starts to fail to reproduce the lines separately. The higher the number visible in these images, the better the camera’s detail resolution is at the specified sensitivity setting.

White balance and colour

One of the things I find most attractive about Fujifilm cameras is the film modes, which replicate the colour style of classic Fuji films such as Astia, Provia and Velvia. In reality, these are just a clever way of marketing the colour styles of Fuji cameras, with these film modes representing soft, standard and vivid image styles.

That said, they work very nicely and replicate the colour and contrast of these films as closely as possible. I generally found myself using the Provia and Velvia modes for most of my images, but if you can’t quite decide which to choose, there’s a film simulation bracketing mode, which saves a single image three times with a different colour style applied to each.

The X-S1’s black & white image styles are also very good. As well as a basic black & white mode there are also red, green and yellow filter effects, which simulate the use of these filters with black & white film.

When set to auto white balance, the camera performs well and there were few times when it was necessary to switch the camera out of this mode. When shooting indoors under tungsten lights, a hint of the amber colour was left in the scene. Depending on how you wish the images to look, switching to the tungsten white balance setting produces a cleaner, more neutral result, which may be an advantage when taking studio-style images.

Dynamic range

Images:  The huge zoom range of the X-S1’s lens makes it very versatile

With a sensor that is larger than that of a typical bridge camera, the X-S1 has a better dynamic range than its competitors.

However, the sensor is still relatively small when compared to a DSLR unit, so although it has a little more detail in shadow areas and the highlights don’t blow out quite as soon as they might on a compact, the X-S1 doesn’t have the dynamic range to match a DSLR, particularly as the ISO sensitivity increases.

In the main, the dynamic range of the X-S1 is very good, particularly if it is combined with careful exposure control.


I was very impressed with the 49-point autofocus of the Fujifilm X-S1. It snapped into focus very quickly, especially for a camera that is essentially built upon the technology used in compact cameras. In continuous AF mode, the camera slowly sweeps into focus using the contrast AF system, although it can be overridden with a half-press of the shutter button to quickly snap into focus if the continuous AF is too slow.

The camera’s manual focus feature also works well, with a separate focusing ring sitting at the base of the zoom lens. Using the electronic viewfinder, it is clear to see when an image is in focus when using the manual focus control.

There is a slightly curious aspect to using manual focus that occurs when the shutter button is half depressed, which causes the manual focus ring to no longer work. In effect, the focus is locked until the shutter is released. This isn’t a big problem, but it is worth noting if, like me, you tend to have the shutter button half depressed when manually focusing in preparation for firing the shutter.

Viewfinder, LCD, live view and video

With more and more compact system cameras using high-resolution electronic viewfinders (EVFs), the cost of manufacture is no doubt falling, which is how Fujifilm has managed to incorporate a very impressive 1.44-million-dot EVF into the X-S1.

This viewfinder offers 100% coverage and, while still having a ‘digital look’ to it, is not unpleasant to use. Again, it helps to make the camera feel much more like an entry-level DSLR. Using the EVF and holding the camera up to the eye also helps to support the camera when using the longest telephoto focal length, producing less camera shake than when these same shots are taken using the rear screen to frame the scene.

The screen is less impressive. Most photographers are used to 3in, 921,000-dot displays, but sadly, only a 460,000-dot screen is used in the X-S1. Although this doesn’t leave the screen looking terrible, it does lack a little detail and sharpness when it comes to reviewing images.

As seems to be standard these days, the X-S1 can record full HD (1920×1080-pixel) video with stereo. As the zoom lens is manually operated, it can also be zoomed in and out during video capture.

Image: There are three colour film simulation modes, with the Provia setting being the standard and Velvia offering more saturated colours. Of the three, Astia produces the softest images with lower contrast 

Compared to a DSLR

There are two major differences between an entry-level DSLR and a bridge camera. The first is the size of the image sensor and the second is the fact that DSLRs have interchangeable lenses, while bridge cameras have a fixed optic.

The smaller compact camera sensors used in bridge cameras are the reason that such huge telephoto focal lengths are possible. With the X-S1 having a range of 24-624mm, it is unlikely that any other lens will ever be needed.

Remember, though, that the smaller sensor won’t be able to match the image quality produced by a DSLR, particularly as the ISO sensitivity increases. With such a large focal-length lens, the sensitivity will often need to be increased to be able to use this lens at its maximum zoom setting, even accounting for the camera’s built-in stabilisation.

An entry-level DSLR, here represented by the Nikon D3100, has better image quality, and in this case the camera is slightly smaller. It is also cheaper at around £400, although once a 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens has been factored in for around another £400 it still won’t match the focal length of the X-S1.

Both cameras have a full complement of exposure modes and settings, with an appropriate number of buttons and controls to match.

The decision as to which to buy largely comes down to image quality. The DSLR will always be the better option as far as this is concerned. However, if the camera is to be a one-off purchase and you have no desire to build a system, a bridge camera such as the X-S1 is a good choice. If you already own a DSLR, then a bridge camera may be suitable to get you started in taking wildlife imagery. However, expect a drop in image quality.

Image: The sensor of the X-S1 is significantly smaller than an APS-C-sized sensor


While a handful of people predicted that the emergence of compact system cameras would signal the death of bridge models, compact system cameras have also presented bridge camera manufacturers with a new opportunity. Manufacturers seem to be freeing themselves of the constraints of what have now become traditional sensor sizes, and can now to produce new products with sensor sizes that didn’t exist a few years ago.

The Fujifilm X-S1 has to be one of the best bridge cameras ever released. That is not to say it is perfect, but by managing to combine the convenience of its huge zoom lens with the image quality of a good compact camera, as well as the basic handling and control features of a DSLR, it succeeds in filling a gap in the market.

Those learning photography or who want a powerful zoom, but without the weight of a DSLR and a collection of lenses, will enjoy using the Fujifilm X-S1. Similarly, the X-S1 could be a valid option for aspiring wildlife photographers due to it being less expensive than buying a 300mm lens and a 1.4x converter.

Fujifilm X-S1 key highlights

Eye sensor

The sensor to the right of the viewfinder automatically switches on the viewfinder display when the camera is held to the eye

Articulated screen

The 3in rear  screen is articulated, making it easy to shoot at low or high angles


As well as a built-in pop-up flash, the X-S1 has a hotshoe that is TTL compatible with Fujifilm EF-20 and EF-42 flashguns.

Panoramic mode

Panoramic images of up to 360˚ can be captured in a single-motion sweep. The resulting pictures can measure up to 11,520×1624 pixels – more than 18.7 million pixels in total.

Digital zoom

On top of the already impressive 24-624mm equivalent zoom lens, the X-S1 has a digital zoom that increases the zoom range from 26x to 52x, or 1,028mm equivalent. Obviously, the image size is halved in this mode to 6 million pixels and you can achieve the same quality by just cropping the image post-capture.

Super Macro Mode

When shooting in Super Macro Mode, the minimum focus distance from the front of the lens is just 1cm. Again, this helps to make the X-S1 a good all-round camera for those learning the basics of photography.


Pressing this button switches  the camera to raw shooting mode for the next image that is taken.

Quick record

This button enables start and stop video capture


Images: Canon PowerShot G1 X, Nikon P510 to be tested

Although lacking the huge zoom of the Fujifilm X-S1, Canon’s PowerShot G1 X may offer the X-S1 some stiff competition. In terms of image quality, the G1 X is far superior, with a 14-million-pixel sensor that is based on Canon’s 18-million-pixel APS-C sensor.

However, one of the main attractions of the X-S1 is its powerful zoom lens, to which the 28-112mm equivalent offering of the G1 X does not come close.

However, Nikon’s latest Coolpix P510 bridge camera goes a step further by having a 24-1,000mm equivalent lens, 16-million-pixel resolution, 921,000-dot screen and built-in GPS. Its image sensor is a lot smaller, though, with only half the surface area, so image quality shouldn’t be able to match anything like the detail that the X-S1 can produce at all but the very lowest sensitivity.