Hands-on previews: Fuji X100S and X20 tout blazing autofocus speed, higher resolution and innovations galore


posted Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 12:49 PM EDT


Fujifilm's X-Trans sensor technology was arguably one of the most significant technical developments of 2012 for the photo business. Offering superior resolution without moiré patterns or other aliasing, the Fujifilm X-Pro1 was a true breakthrough product.

Now, an updated version of the unique X-Trans sensor technology is appearing in the Fuji X100S, an update to the highly popular Fujifilm X100, as well as moving downmarket into the new Fuji X20, which sports a 2/3" style sensor. The result is two cameras with significantly enhanced image quality and eye-popping focusing speed. (Based on Fujifilm's statements, at least; we're eagerly awaiting samples we can put through the full suite of tests in our lab to verify the claims.)

We had a brief hands-on with both at the Fujifilm press event prior to CES. Read below for an overview of both, and click through to our hands-on previews of them for full details.

Fujifilm X100S

The Fujifilm X100 launched the highly successful X-series of cameras, offering great image quality in a relatively compact body, with loads of enthusiast-pleasing features and a unique "hybrid" optical viewfinder. It was apparently very successful for its maker, with Fujifilm claiming sales of 130,000 units worldwide, not bad for a $1,200 rangefinder-style camera. The Fuji X100S is the successor to the X100, and while it looks very similar to its predecessor on the outside, the inside has seen some dramatic improvements.

First and foremost, the Fuji X100S' sensor uses Fujifilm's unique X-Trans technology, first introduced in the X-Pro1 in early 2012. We were very impressed with the X-Pro1's image quality, but the Fuji X100S promises to go it a few steps better. Dubbed X-Trans II, the new sensor offers 25% higher resolution than in the X100, a better signal to noise ratio (30% lower noise, or about a one-stop ISO advantage) and on-chip phase detection elements for faster focusing. The updated sensor also boasts 16.3 megapixels, compared to the 12.3 megapixels of the original. The result is image quality that should not only be better than that of the higher-end removable-lens X-Pro1 and XE-1 models, but a quantum leap over that of the original X100.

The new Fujifilm X100s will be available beginning in March 2013. Retail pricing is set at around US$1,300.

Read more about the Fujifilm X100S in our hands-on preview.


Fujifilm X20

With its two new X-series cameras, Fujifilm evidently feels the need -- the need for speed. The company claims the X20 -- a gorgeous marriage of retro rugged good looks, advanced technology and affordability -- delivers "the world's fastest autofocus speed in its class," clocking in as fast as 0.06 seconds, thanks to a new advanced X-Trans CMOS II sensor and EXR Processor II. It also features a premium Fujinon f/2.0-f/2.8 4x manual zoom lens with an effective range of 28mm wide to 112mm telephoto.  

Fuji's original X-Trans CMOS sensor was one of the greatest imaging innovations of 2012, but apparently it's already old hat thanks to Fuji's continuing improvements on the technology. The X-Trans uses an original color filter array with a highly randomized pattern that eliminates the need for an optical low-pass filter and allows for a more direct capture through the lens. The X-Trans CMOS II is a 12-megapixel, 2/3-inch sensor inside the X20 that -- combined with the upgraded EXR Processor II -- provides 30% better noise reduction and 20% higher resolution than the X10, according to the company.

Another novel innovation of the Fuji X20 is its brand new Advanced Optical Viewfinder that displays important information such as shutter speed, aperture, ISO, focusing area and more while you're composing your shots. It accomplishes this via a Digital Trans Panel, a less-than-1mm thin LCD panel designed to maintain the brightness of the viewfinder but give you plenty of feedback so you don't have to take your eye away from the shot. 

The Fujifilm X20 will ship in March 2013 at the price of US$599.95, and comes in black or two-tone silver and black.

Read more about the Fujifilm X20 in our hands-on preview.