Fuji X30 Review
Usability - How easy is it to use?
NOTE Given the extreme external similarity to the Fuji Finepix X20, this page is mostly taken from the X20 review. The viewfinder and control-ring described below are the most notable changes.
The Fuji X30 has a rectangular design similar in appearance to traditional rangefinders. It feels very solid in hand with magnesium top and bottom plates. There are rounded corners but the X30 is largely made of right angles except for a slight grip at the front. The grip provides little purchase, so the included necks trap is very welcome.
The camera is powered on by turning the mechanical lens from the Off position to the 28mm mark, which is the beginning of the zoom. From there, the lens rotates very smoothly across its zoom range. It is truly a pleasure to use a mechanical lens and it is a shame that only Fuji keeps building cameras with them. This is a substantial usability advantage compared to other fixed-lens cameras, since framing is arguably the most important aspect of photography.
The top plate is split in two levels by a curve. The high side, towards the left, has the hot-shoe and built-in popup flash. The lower side, has a traditional mode-dial, threaded shutter-release, programmable Video-Record button and exposure compensation dial. The shutter-release has a moderate amount of travel to the half-way point and triggers immediately below. Its position is not very comfortable because the neck strap eyelet digs into your finder while taking a shot.
The exposure-compensation dial is marked ±3 in 1/3 EV increments. This makes EC easily accessible from the back of the camera. The dial has good detents to prevent accidental changes. This interface makes it obvious when EC is in effect. A small customizable button, which defaults to Video Record, is just in front of the EC dial. There are now a whopping 21 options to choose from for that button! Since there is no actual Video mode on the X30, those who want to film must leave it at its default assignment.
The mode-dial has 11 positions with good detents. The traditional PASM modes are all there. There is an SR+ mode which stands for Scene Recognition Plus. Next to it is the completely Automatic mode, identified by a camera icon, which disables most settings and ignores the EC dial. Still, Film Simulation can be selected but image parameters cannot be set. ISO is always automatic but its behavior can be customized with a default sensitivity between 100 and 3200 in 1/3 EV steps and a maximum sensitivity between 400 and 3200 in 1 EV steps. The minimum shutter-speed can be specified between 1/4 and 1/125s.
The Adv position groups together the advanced modes discussed on the previous page of this review. The SP1 and SP2 positions groups all Scene modes for those intimidated by manual controls. There are also dedicated positions of Motion Panorama and Filter modes. Sadly, there is no longer a video mode.
The front of this camera hosts two controls. One is a rotating lever to toggle between AF-S, AF-C and MF focus modes. In Manual Focus mode, the rear control-dial sets the focus distance. The camera not only shows which distance is in perfect focus but also the depth-of-field around it. The other control is the Ring Function button. Its behavior is to toggle which parameter is set by which control-dial. When MF is engaged, the control-ring always sets focus, so only the rear control-dial changes.
The back of the camera includes a tilting 3" LCD with 920K pixels. The view is very sharp and motion is quite fluid. In Power Save mode, the display is slightly dimmer but more like the final output. Visibility is good but the screen aggressively dims down to save power. Just tap lightly the shutter-release to brighten the LCD again.
The biggest complaint about this camera is the poor accuracy of the display. The LCD is not Exposure-Priority except in Manual mode and the optional Live-Histogram is based on the display brightness, making it useless most of the time. In High Performance mode, the preview is usually worse than in Power Save mode. At least coverage of the LCD is accurate.
There is large and extremely detailed EVF with Eye-Start sensor. It offers 0.65X magnification, 2.8 megapixels and 100% coverage, making it the best EVF among fixed-lens cameras. This is an immense usability issue and makes the X30 completely usable in bright light. It makes it easier to frame precisely and keep the camera stable.
There is a clickable control-dial on the back of the camera, plus a 4-way controller and no less than 7 buttons. The control-dial normally sets an exposure parameter, such as the aperture in Aperture-Priority mode. It has very soft detents. Clicking the control-dial toggles MF-Assist which defaults to Magnification. It can instead offer Focus-Peaking which sharpens edges in focus.
Each direction of the 4-way controller is assigned a default function:
- UP: Sets the macro mode to Off, Macro or Super-Macro. This last one can focus down to 1cm but only with the lens at its widest.
- RIGHT: Selects the flash mode between Auto, On and Slow-Sync. These only apply with the flash raised.
- DOWN: Sets lets the user select the AF-point, when applicable. Once pressed, the AF point can be moved to any of 49 areas using the 4-way controller. The size of the area is controlled by the lower rear-dial.
- LEFT: Sets the self-timer between Off, 2s and 10s.
Above the 4-way controller is the customizable AE-L/AF-L button. It can be set to hold or toggle exposure, focus or both. A button labelled Q is found right below it. That one invokes the Quick Menu which is more like an interactive status screen. When pressed, the LCD shows 16 settings, always highlighting the last one used. The 4-way controller selects a setting and the rear control-dial changes it.
Below the 4-way controller, there are two more buttons. DISP button cycles through various display modes, one of which can be customized to include the single-axis digital level. Fn can be customized to the same 21 functions as the customizable button on the top-plate.
On either side of the EVF, one can find the last 3 buttons of the X30. As usual, Play enters and exists Playback mode. One can also exist Playback mode with a tap of the shutter-release. The VIEW button cycles over different uses of the EVF and LCD, including using the Eye-Start sensor to toggle between them. Drive brings up a menu of 8 drive modes, several of them configurable. When a mode is selected which is incompatible with current camera settings, the camera highlights in yellow settings which get automatically changed. Returning to the previous drive mode reverts the change.
The bottom of the X30 has a metal tripod mount which is neither inline with the optical axis nor the center of the camera, meaning it is not ideal for anything. With some tripod heads, it is possible to change memory or battery without removing the camera. Just like the top, the bottom is sturdy. Even the plastic compartment door is more durable then usual.
Overall, the Fuji X30 handles quite well. Most important parameters can be made accessible. ISO particularly is not assigned by default to any button, and neither is WB. The standard assignment of the control-ring makes it redundant in all modes except for Manual. One can instead assign it to control ISO which is much better, except that is loses control in MF mode. So, one should have another control take care of ISO too.
The mechanical zoom ring and superb electronic viewfinder make this one of the most enjoyable cameras to use. It gives a feel of direct control and closely to the scene which no other fixed lens camera currently offers. The Eye-Start sensor instantly switches between displays and does it just right. Dials have good detents and can rarely be changed accidentally, allowing for simple and deliberate photography.
Fuji X30 Facts
|12 Megapixels Fixed Lens||ISO 100-12800|
|4X Mechanically Linked Wide Optical Zoom||Shutter 1/4000-30s|
|Built-in Stabilization||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|0.39" Built-in EVF 2.4 Megapixels (0.65X)||Custom white-balance|
|Automatic Eye-Start sensor||Spot-Metering|
|12 FPS Drive, 18 Images||Hot-Shoe|
|1920x1080 @ 60 FPS Video Recording||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|3" LCD 920K Pixels||Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
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