Several months ago I bought a secondhand Fujifilm X70. This little brother to the X100 had been on my radar when it was announced in January 2016, but back than I decided it was not something I could genuinly use. If you would categorise stuff into things I need for my photography job and things for fun, this would mostly fall in the fun category. Fast forward a bit: September last year we were hiking in the hills around lake Lugano, Italy, when we encountered a German hiker using the X70. Curiosity piqued, I asked to try it and got a chance to play with it a bit. Back on the radar it was. It took a few months to wait for a great deal on Marktplaats, but in January 2019, 3 years after it was announced, and 2 years after it was discontinued by Fujifilm, it entered my photography bag. As a ‘fun’ camera, but also as a great backup professional option for events (it shares the same 16 megapixel sensor of my old Fujifilm X-T1).
Some specs of the camera
The X70 features the same 16 megapixels APS-C sized sensor of the X-T1 and X-E2s. The lens is a wide-angle 18.5 mm lens that is newly designed for this camera. There is no viewfinder, but the screen is a flip-up screen that can tilt 180 degrees and is therefore selfie-friendly. While the 18.5 mm lens can be argued to be somewhat restrictive, digital teleconvertors to 35 and 50 mm are available in camera.
Fast forward a month, and we’re in Löf, Germany. My girlfriend and I decided to take a long weekend away from work in a hotel in this small town on the bank of the river Mosel. As I didn’t want to be bothered by a big camera bag and the need to change lenses all the time, it was a great opportunity of testing this newest acquisition. I had with me the X70 with hood, a few spare batteries and a gorillapod tripod, carried in an old Billingham f4.5 bag.
My experience using the camera
Keep in mind that when I use a camera I tend to remember things that I find annoying, and take the great things for granted. This is also not a technical review, just a sum-up of the things I noticed on this camera that I consider to be good, or in need of improvement.
So, what was it like to use it? Well, it has its foibles, but in general, this little camera is quite nice to use. Its small size is definitely a plus on this kind of outings. It fits in a small pocket of the Billingham, it’s quick to take out and quick to use. During hikes I generally left it in my jacket pocket to keep it protected from the rain and keep my hands free. Taking it out and turning it on is a matter of seconds. As it is a fixed lens camera, an advantage is that you don’t need to think about focal length. It’s 18.5 mm, and that’s it! Autofocus is quick, but not superquick. Mostly it was accurate in finding focus, with maybe 10% miss (unscientific guess).
The Fuji X70 is the first camera that I use that has a touch screen (not counting a week with the OM-D E-M5 a few years back). I set it to ‘touch-to-focus’, and this works great. I was surprised how quick I got used to this, and how often I would try it on my X-T2 before realizing it didn’t work on that camera! This ‘touch-to-focus’ is unfortunately one of the few things that does not work in single-hand operation, as the left side of the screen cannot be reached by your fingers. Using one of the buttons for AF point selection as backup solves this, however.
One of the things I found I missed was a built-in ND filter. While of all the camera’s that I have owned, only the X100 has it, it’s really great for creating longer exposures of things like waterfalls. I didn’t have an ND-filter with me, and there were times I really would have liked a built-in one. No deal-breaker, but it would have been great!
Another thing that I really found annoying, is that when using the built-in electronic telecovertors (aside from image quility using this feature, which is not great), is that you first have to switch to Jpeg, than dive into menu’s to switch to the teleconvertor. All this takes a lot of time, and is an annoying process. I would rather see that you can select this function using a function button, and that the camera switches to Jpeg automatically. Now, the function is not available if you shoot RAW.
My first impression of the lens hood was that is was ugly. However, it is extremele functional and protected the lens from water droplets perfectly. I’ve grown used to it, and now I find it quite ok!
No separate charger for the batteries came with the camera, but you can charge the batteries in camera. I decided to try this, and left my own charger at home. A decision I regretted after the first day. I had to juggle charging all the USB powered electronic devices (phone, watch, camera) with just one USB charger, and an external charger for the camera would have been very useful. Mind you, had I thought about this a bit more I could also have taken with me more USB chargers. I still think, though, that it is more useful to charge batteries outside of the camera (which also allows you to keep the camera safe on a tabletop, instead of dangling from a USB cable near a power outlet).
Macro capabilities are ok. With 18.5 mm is not a focal length usually associated with macro, and with reason. I’ve used the camera for several close-up photos of mushrooms and leaves, and while the images are decent, it is difficult to get great separation between the subject and the background. Focusing can be acchieved as close as 10 cm away from the lens, but unfortunately Fuji haven’t given the camera a macro button/focus limiter. You just have to find the closest distance that works.
While it was a joy to use during the weekend, the results on my computer were a bit disappointing. Maybe I’m just pixel peeping and overly critical, but I would have expected more from this image sensor. The images were somewhat flat, and when zoomed in sometimes not very sharp. It goes to show that image quality is definitely not related to the sensor alone, but to the sensor and the lens combined. Maybe this lens is just not on par with what I’ve come to expect of Fujifilm. Sure, it is almost certain, beforehand, that the XF 18 mm f/2.0 lens, which I love, would give me better image quality, but that the difference would be this large I didn’t expect. As Fujifilm tried to jam as much quality in a very small camera and lens, it should perhaps not have been surprising that they had to compromise some.
I had hoped that maybe I could take the Fujifilm X70, together with it’s wide-angle adapter, with me on our planned hike of the West Highland Way (8 days of hiking through the Scottish Highlands). It would have been ideal, considering its low weight and size. So the real question would be: do I still consider this camera good enough in image quality to take it on this trip? The answer, I’m afraid, is no. While this camera is very suitable for a weekend off with little hassle, seeing the images from the X70 before me on my computer screen convinces me that the image quality is not good enough to take with me on a journey from which I would like to take home stunning landscapes en great astrophotos. To do that, I will have to take with me more weight and choose for the X-T2, 12 mm samyang and 18-135 mm lens.
So, it is a bit of a mixed bag. A joy to use but a slight disappointment in image quality. Will I keep it? For the moment I’ll let it earn its place in my photographybag. It’s size, weight, and portablity make it an ideal camera to bring when you just want to do some casual photography or when you don’t want to bring a bag along. Image quality may be just a bit disappointing, but is good enough for these kind of occasions.
Some images below: