|Fujifilm X-30 @ 35mm equiv. 1/140th sec f/4 @ ISO 400. Classic Chrome JPEG
I have always had a love-hate relationship with the Fujifilm X-10 and X-20. I loved the concept, build quality and principle behind the design and features of the compact camera series. Manual on/off and zoom ring, optical viewfinder, larger than normal 2/3" sensor (the competition all had 1/1.7" sensors), retro styling. It all made sense. However, when I looked at the image quality, it was only slightly better than my Ricoh GR-D IV at low ISO. The X-20 added the X-Trans technology, but I still wasn't blown away. I classified the X-10/20 as an EDC (every day carry) camera, and I wasn't convinced of its place in the market place (although the camera did reasonably well and beloved by many fans). I believe that Fujifilm was targeting the Canon G series cameras, but it's a shrinking market, even for Canon. The Sony RX-100 was the game changer, and Canon had more success with their smaller S100 series cameras, which had the same sensor as the G series, but in a much smaller form factor. The industry is moving towards a 'bigger sensor in a smaller body is better' philosophy, which isn't horribly wrong. But it also needs to shoot well and have the right functions and ergonomics to make it a success. The Panasonic LX and Canon S series proves this philosophy correct, as they both have smallish 1/1.7" sensors.
However, when I heard there was a new X-30 coming out, I was convinced Fuji was going to upgrade the sensor to at least a 1" (although this means they would have to design an all new X-Trans sensor, and not just buy it from Sony). It makes business sense to keep the 2/3" sensor, I understand. Why gamble producing an all new sensor if they weren't positive that it was a growth market for them? My guess was that they were either going to shoe-horn an APS-C X-trans sensor into a compact body (similar to the Ricoh GR), or shrink the size of the camera. Fuji did neither. Instead, they added tons of new features, updated the software, and improved the ergonomics and functions while making the camera slightly bigger. Is this enough to keep up with the current and upcoming competition? Let's see...
Let's check out the features that make the new X-30 an improvement over the X-20:
-awesome EVF with vertical information feature like the X-T1. Best in class
-920k articulating LCD
-wifi controller (same as T-X1) allows easy smartphone interaction.
-improved video features, including external mic (none standard plug though)
-extra control ring, extra front control button, extra Fn custom button features
Although new features and functions are great, the small improvements on the X-30 also make it a great camera for those upgrading from the X-10/20, or someone who's looking for a good all-in-one point and shoot. Here's a shortlist of these 'small' improvements:
-customizable Q-button quick access functions (this should be firmware for all cameras)
-Classic Chrome (aka Kodachrome) has been added to an already impressive list of jpeg filters
-upgraded battery (same as X-100 series camera) for much longer battery life
-button layout improvement (due to articulating screen, all control buttons move to right side for single hand operation)
-extra Fn button shortcuts added, including flash exposure compensation! Great for flash users!
-exposure compensation dial is now +/- 3 stops (although still 1/3 stop increments)
There are more small improvements with the X-30 that makes access to control features smoother and more intuitive, and much of it can be applied to the X-20 and other X-series cameras. This is the 3rd generation of the X-00 series cameras, and you can see and feel the refinement in its operation and functionality. Is it enough to keep up to the competition? The Sony RX-100 series has a much larger 1" sensor, although the latest mrk III doesn't have a hotshoe and the EVF is just ok. The newly announced Panasonic LX100 is a powerhouse camera with a unusually large M43 sensor, but it's going to be priced at $899, which is pretty expensive. At it's current price point, the Fujifilm X-30 is in a class of its own, with a larger sensor than the Canon G16 and Panasonic LX-7, but smaller than where most of the industry is going.
Who is the Fujifilm X-30 for? Who is Fuji targeting? It's definitely for the enthusiast market, a consumer who is tech-savvy and is informed about the benefits of the X-trans sensor, manual zoom, and Fuji's famous film simulated jpegs. It's for someone who wants decent image quality, but won't need to print large or sell images (which is 95% of us enthusiast photographers). After using it for just a few days, I enjoyed having a feature-rich camera in a compact-ish size. The EVF is brilliant, as I used it way more than the rear articulating LCD screen. I felt like I was shooting with a mini X-T1. The functions and controls are greatly improved, and the wi-fi (ad hoc) makes connectivity quick and smooth while on the go. This is great for those who need to take a picture and then post immediately, such as bloggers, IGers and other social media image gurus.
Any criticisms? Always. I hate the lens cap. Buy the adaptor and get a normal one. I don't like how long it takes Fuji cameras to wake from sleep while left on (turning X-30 off and on to reset the sleep is a hassle since the on/off switch is the zoom ring). I wish the new control dial had physical click stops, instead of a smooth turning ring (although there is enough dampening). The camera is now made in China and no longer in Japan (although my digital GR's are also made in China but no quality issues). OK, these are the major complaints, so overall I like this camera. I wasn't a fan of the X-20 (notice I never did do a full review on it? I don't review cameras I don't like) but the X-30 has improved enough to make me want to shoot with it. Wait for my full review soon. Until then enjoy my quick-talking video review, and happy shooting!