Fujifilm is a leader when it comes to retro-inspired cameras—the Fujifilm X30 is a retro-inspired beast of a camera, with a sturdy build and solid specs to boot. A fast lens, a high resolution electronic viewfinder and a tilting LCD screen along with wi-fi and a price that isn't quite as daunting as many other advanced compacts is making some consumers take notice.
The tech specs point out a sensor that's smaller than many of the advanced compacts, but the price is slightly smaller as well. Is that smaller sensor a dealbreaker? We conducted a Fujifilm X30 review to find out. (Spoiler alert: For most shooters, we don't think there's any major dealbreakers here).
Fujifilm X-30: Body & Design
The Fujifilm X30 is certainly no lightweight coming it at 14.9 ounces, but that's because it's constructed with metal, and, well, I think that's a fair trade-off. The X30 feels like a beast that will withstand quite a bit—I of course didn't drop test it, it just feels rather sturdy over many of the other cameras I've reviewed.
The X30 is a bit on the large side too, feeling closer to a mirrorless model with a pancake lens in some respects. The body is about an inch and a quarter wide, but the lens sticks out almost another inch. It's closer in size to the likes of the Canon G16 than the smallest compact cameras.
While the X30 is a bit large for the category, it also handles a lot more like a mirrorless camera than those tiny advanced compacts. The lens twists to turn the camera on—then you continue to twist the lens barrel to zoom in or out. A second control ring around the lens, closer to the body of the camera, controls shutter speed, aperture ISO or a number of other settings, depending on what mode you use and if you customize the control. A button nearby changes the function quickly, though it's location makes it a prime target for accidental bumps. A switch to change the focus mode is also at the front.
The top of the camera is adorned with another nice set of physical controls. Along with the expected mode dial and shutter release, there's an exposure value dial, a dedicated record button and a hot shoe slot for flashes and other accessories. The pop-up flash conceals nicely and looks just as sturdy as the rest of the camera.
1: Zoom ring. 2: Control Ring. 3: Pop-up flash. 4: Hot shoe slot. 5: Shutter release. 6: Record button. 7: Exposure Value dial. 8: Mode dial.
At the back, the Fujifilm X30 sports a tilting LCD screen. It's a hinge style that won't allow for a 180 degree flip but comes in handy for shooting at awkward angles or adjusting for glare. The shortcuts at the back include macro, timer, autofocus, flash, autofocus or auto exposure lock, driver (for adjusting burst speed) and a function option as well as display options and wi-fi access.
The X30 uses an electronic viewfinder, while its older sibling the X20 relied on an optical version. The electronic type has a number of benefits, including the ability to preview the X30's different film simulations, though it has a sort of over-processed look compared to an optical version. The difference really is mostly a matter of personal preference. Unlike some cameras we've tested however, the viewfinder has an automatic sensor, there's no button to switch between the two, which makes using it feel a bit more like the traditional type. Fujifilm claims the X30 has the fastest speed and highest resolution for electronic viewfinder in it's class, and I certainly didn't see anything to contradict that.
The physical controls offer easy access to the most-used settings, with more options than most other compacts. The quick menu is available through the touch of a button at the back for those settings that don't have an actual dial or button. Really, I very infrequently needed to access the full menu, but it's adequately organized for the few occasion it's needed. The physical navigation is the real plus here, with two control rings around the lens, plus a control wheel at the back and an EV dial. Adjusting settings is simple and retains that DSLR-feel despite being a compact camera.
The design of a battery charger may be a bit odd to mention—but it's worth a note. The charger has an adapter piece to make the battery fit securely. Only it doesn't always fit so securely. After leaving the battery on the charger overnight, I had to plug the camera into the computer to get a full charge. You can still charge the camera via computer with the included cord, but hey, it's worth mentioning.
Considering the sturdy build, DSLR-like operation and extras like a tilting LCD screen and a viewfinder, the design on the X30 is quite excellent. A bit bulky, perhaps, but the features seem well worth the slightly larger size.
Fujifilm X30: User Experience and Performance
The inner workings of the Fujifilm X30 appear just as sturdy as the exterior, with an excellent set of features and solid speed to go with it.
The X30 includes every mode I expected, and then some. All four manual modes are available, plus auto and an intelligent auto. There are two dial slots for scene modes, a panorama option and a wide range of filters. The advanced option includes tools for creating multiple exposures, as well as a superior low light mode and pro focus option.
One of the highlights on the X30 (or at least one of the marketed highlights) is the inclusion of film simulation options, available from any mode. Instead of just choosing black and white or color, Fujifilm has included a whole range of options designed to mimic specific films. The options include standard, monochrome, sepia and three separate black and white options that enhance either yellows, reds and greens. While the extra options are certainly nice, I didn't find myself using them very often. I'd rather shoot in color and adjust later so I still have the original color image, but that's personal preference (and perhaps it takes away from the “film” feel). Playback on the X30, however, doesn't offer the film simulation options as an edit—you have to use them as you shoot or not at all. Being able to choose the effect after the fact would have been a nice addition.
The Fujifilm X30 sports a fast burst speed of up to 12 fps—but it also has a pretty good processor that lets you continue taking images to avoid missed shots. The camera can take up to 18 shots at the top speed (slower speeds get you more shots before slowing down), but instead of freezing up to process those 18 photos, shooting is still available, just at a slower pace. After about five seconds shooting a high speed burst, the speed slowed to about 7 fps shooting JPEG and slowed after about three seconds using RAW. Compared to similar cameras, the X30 allows for longer burst shooting without a pause.
With the autofocus on, single shots were about .40 to .60 seconds apart when taken in quick succession. With the autofocus off, that shutter lag was about a quarter of a second, an excellent pace for any camera. Powering up the camera by twisting the lens control is fast as well, with the camera ready to shoot in under three seconds.
Fujifilm is clearly aiming to capture the feel of an interchangeable lens film camera in the body of a fixed lens compact—and they've done quite well achieving that while still maintaining the high performance standards for a digital at this price point. Thanks largely to the design, using the camera is much more reminiscent of a DSLR than a point-and-shoot. The camera has a wide range of different options, and most adjustments can be done with the physical controls, no menu surfing needed. And while the design and film simulation options pay tribute to old cameras, the speed on the X30 is anything but.
Fujifilm X30: Image Quality
The Fujifilm X30 sports a 2/3” sensor, which frankly, isn't all that big anymore, though the X30 is a bit less expensive than the popular 1” and 1.5” advanced compacts. It's still a decent size, however, and as most of the sample images will testify, still does a pretty good job.
It's safe to say I put the Fujifilm X30 through the wringer when I took it out for the real world test, toting it along on a Christmas candlelight walk. Low light scenarios are one of the best tests of a camera's ability, and there were plenty of shots in limited lighting. Though the sensor is more towards the small end of the spectrum for the advanced category, I was pleased with a large majority of the low light shots from the X30. In the true spirit of camera testing, I didn't even bring my tripod, yet I didn't notice any handshake from snapshots of the Christmas lights.
The f2.0-2.8 lens is a large part of the successful low light shots, with lens shift stabilization included there as well. The zoom is just 4x, but the advanced compact category as a whole doesn't offer much in the way of zoom, with one or two exceptions.
Noise reduction on the X30 looks pretty solid—while there's some noticeable noise when zoomed in at ISO 3200, it's an acceptable amount and not too distracting when looking at the image as a whole.
|ISO 100||ISO 320||ISO 500|
|ISO 800||ISO 2500||ISO 3200|
Both sharpness and detail were okay, average for the category, nothing too stunning and nothing disappointing. Color and white balance was about as expected as well.
Video quality was acceptable coming from a dedicated camera. The picture looks decent and the footage wasn't too choppy. The focus was a bit slow in adjusting in low light, however, and the image stabilization was just okay. The sound seemed a bit off, with some sounds, like the voices to a live band, feeling quieter than they did in real life.
While the X30 doesn't sport the largest sensor in its class, the image quality is nothing to be afraid of and hits the mark for a camera under $600. The X30 performed well in low light, with sharpness and detail about average. While there's a bit of room for improvement, images overall were certainly not disappointing.
Fujifilm X30 Sample Images
Fujifilm X30: Conclusion
The Fujifilm X30 has an excellent design full of physical controls, fast performance and solid image quality. It has a smaller sensor than the Sony RX100 III and Canon G1X II, but also sits at about $200 less. Despite having a sensor a bit on the small side for the category, image quality was still quite excellent. A few users won't like the switch to a electronic viewfinder, despite Fujifilm's best efforts to create a top-of-the-line viewfinder, but the overall design is excellent, particularly for users used to the physical controls of an interchangeable lens camera.
The Fujifilm X30's sensor is on the small end compared to other compact cameras, but the price is more towards the middle as well. The Sony RX100 III has a larger sensor and slightly better lens (though albeit with less zoom) and is much more compact—but the trade off is fewer physical controls. The G1X II has an even larger sensor, but sits at about $800 and you'll have to pay extra to add on a viewfinder.
Fujifilm's own QX1 has the same sensor as the X30, with a lens that's actually slightly brighter on the wide angle but slows down quite a bit more at the end of the 4x zoom. The QX1 is Fujifilm's more budget friendly advanced compact, available for about $300. The design is the biggest difference with few physical controls and a build that doesn't feel quite so sturdy, though there will also be some difference in the low light images when zoomed in.
The Fujifilm X30 is an excellent option for someone looking for a more pocketable companion that still has all the physical controls and capabilities of a DSLR. Despite using a sensor that's on the small side for this category, image quality is quite excellent. Add in the fast performance and the X30 is a well rounded camera with a price a bit more palatable than the top advanced compacts.