Is the X-Trans sensor holding back the Fuji X100s?

The results are in from the online photographic community’s universal pixel peeping site, DPReview. The Studio Test for the Fujifilm X100s is not looking good.

Here is the link to the test results

I realize these are static test results, done in a controlled setting, which do not always represent real world results. But these results look devastating. This will not dissuade the Fuji fans, I’m sure, but others many not be so forgiving. For the record, I had some high hopes for this new camera, even putting it on my list of cameras to watch. From the way I interpret the results, It’s no better than the Olympus OM-D. For RAW, the X100s is worse on detail and sharpness but has less noise than the OM-D.

I first got alerted to the results from Kirk Tuck’s blog. His little post touched off some online controversy. What’s clear from the test is the 3rd party RAW converters are not doing the new X-Trans sensor justice. You can tell something is amiss when the JPEG is clearer and sharper than the RAW image.

For people with big DSLRs that want a stylish small camera, the X100s might still scratch an itch. Its faux-ranger finder, retro look is certainly beautiful. Some even call it the Leica killer. I don’t think so. For me, since I already transitioned to a smaller camera system, this Fuji X100s gives me no size advantage. In fact, the camera is larger than my current Olympus, the E-PM2, which by the way, has the same image quality as the more expensive Olympus OM-D.

I have time to wait. I’m perfectly happy with my cameras. Perhaps the 3rd party RAW converters will eventually get it right. I need to wait until a RAW converter is available for Aperture 3 anyway (if it ever comes). I’m not going to change my workflow for this camera. And what if a new snazzy RAW converter gives me a 1 stop image quality improvement over my Olympus? Would that be worth paying $1299 for? Perhaps not. We will see.

12 thoughts on “Is the X-Trans sensor holding back the Fuji X100s?

  1. Fuji definitely dropped the ball IMO in working with the major software vendors to ensure they could accurately demosaic the new raw format of the X-Trans. This is why I have been content to stay with my X100 while the raw thing gets sorted out for the X-Trans cameras. I wouldn’t be too alarmed over DPreview’s results – yet. Camera Raw 7.4 is not released yet and will hopefully be improved prior to release in April. I think it is good to call attention to the current state and keep the pressure on Fuji to make sure that they are giving Adobe the support they need to do the best conversion possible. Then again, I have to wonder how much effort Adobe is willing to put into what is arguably a niche camera line. I love, love, love my Fuji X100 images. I favor the look I get over the Olympus m4/3 images and would like to stay with Fuji for my compact camera tools. I do have to question whether X-Trans is a solution in search of a problem that has created even greater problems of its own. Good to think outside the box, but…

    1. Thanks Mike for your perspective as a Fuji user.

      I realized a camera is much more than just the sensor and image quality. If it feels great in hand and makes you happy using it, that counts for a lot. And perhaps that maybe part of your love for the X100 and others as well.

      There is no question that last year’s micro 4/3 sensor lagged the Fuji X100. With this year’s sensor used in the OM-D, I think that advantage is no longer there.

  2. Capture One does a nice job, and I’ll be fully migrating that way anyway when the computers get upgraded for reasons other than Fuji.

    Lot’s of validity in Michael’s comment:

    “I do have to question whether X-Trans is a solution in search of a problem that has created even greater problems of its own.”

    1. I heard reports the Capture One is doing a little bit better job than Adobe Camera Raw. Hopefully they have broken through the mystery of the X-Trans sensor.

  3. While I’m really disappointed with how Fuji has handled the rollout of the X-Trans in regard to raw processing, I also can play devil’s advocate for what seems to be more of a push toward a JPEG workflow by Fuji. The X100 includes a few Fuji film simulations and the X100S expands on this. Several photographers I respect, such as Zack Arias and Damien Lovegrove primarily use JPEGs when they shoot with their X cameras. Did Fuji intend for this to be a “pro point and shoot” and all but disregard the fact the “pros” are entrenched in a raw workflow? I don’t know what the thinking was. From my perspective, I’ve had a raw workflow out of necessity. I’ve never been happy with Canon’s JPEGs, not even with my 5D Mark III. I wasn’t particularly keen on Olympus’ either, although my experience there was with earlier Pens. When I got my X100 I didn’t give JPEGs a thought and launched right into a raw workflow. Fairly recently I started shooting JPEGs (plus raw) for B&W images. Primarily, it was to give me a reference point for an intended raw workflow. After playing around with in-camera settings I discovered that the B&W JPEGs were quite good and require little, if any post work. Hmm. So lately I’ve been doing some color JPEGs. Wow, again I came up with files that I felt like I really couldn’t improve much, if any, in a raw workflow. The dynamic range and colors / white balance are wonderful, at least to my eyes. Most of my recent images I’ve shared from my X100 are camera JPEGs that I’ve only lightly tweaked and for the most part I’ve been liking them better than what I have done with the raw files. It begs the question in my mind, did Fuji miss the boat on raw file handling or did we miss the point of the X camera line – perhaps no fault of our own without clear intent communicated by Fuji’s marketing? Fuji seems to have put quite a lot of effort into a platform that allows for exceptional straight-out-of-camera images. Are we making it harder than it has to be? Part of choosing and using a tool is to learn how it is most effectively utilized for all its strengths and weaknesses. I went through that learning curve myself with the X100. I still hear people complain that the autofocus sucks or that the lens isn’t sharp, yet once I took the time to learn how to use the camera I don’t seem to have those problems. To be clear, I’m not making any excuses for Fuji and I do really want X-Trans and Camera Raw to play better together. Just some food for thought.

    1. Mike, I can appreciate you trying to take the Devil’s advocate position on this.

      I can see it can be very liberating for certain photographers to have a simple and old-school, fixed lens camera. No need to worry about which lens to bring. A light weight, do it all, creative device. These people may also find it liberating to get clean, high quality JPEGs right how of the camera, without all the RAW fussiness.

      This simple approach maybe a wonderful counter point to the professional and meticulous approach they need to take for their commercial photography.

      But how about people who like to use the X100s as their primary camera? Not as a counter point to any other. Sure having great JPEGs are nice and some may appreciate this. But to not have a viable RAW process for a $1300 camera is kind of inexcusable.

  4. Andy, I believe we’re in agreement. While I do tend to make use of JPEGs out of my X100, the lack of acceptable raw support for the X-Trans in Adobe Camera Raw is precisely why I don’t have the X100S in my hands right now. I want the raw support for those times when I need it – even though that is more and more rare now that I’ve gotten in-camera and Lightroom settings tweaked to my liking. I was merely offering up my idea of what could be a different approach by Fuji’s marketing. It is only conjecture on my part and I can’t say that they do in fact intend the X cameras to be primarily JPEG shooters. I was only pointing out that have invested a lot of research into producing fantastic JPEGs that are good enough for some of the top pro photographers out there to deliver to clients. I did not really realize how good the JPEGs are until recently, almost a year after my initial purchase! For some people, this appears to be enough. For you and I, it is not – at least not yet for me. It’s all about using the right tool for the job. The Fuji JPEGs work fine for a great number of things. Sometimes you just need the extra leeway in a raw file though. Maybe that will change as things progress. I for one certainly hope so.

    One thing I will say about Fuji is that they listen to their customers and I have faith that they will do everything they can to get good raw support in third party software. They really got the X100 up to par IMO after a shaky release and they obviously took customer feedback into account with the X100S. I believe Fuji screwed up by not working with the software vendors before they let the first X-Trans out of the gate. I think their marketing dept failed to take into account that pro photographers have established workflows. They were called on it and have been responding. The problem is that Adobe, Apple, etc. play a huge part in this. How much attention do you suppose a niche, dare I say boutique camera with a renegade raw format gets as compared to other more popular platforms with traditional Bayer sensor arrays? Fuji has to be very forthcoming with the information needed to do it right and the software vendors have to be willing to devote their limited resources to the implementation.

    Thanks for tolerating my diatribes on your blog. My opinions on the good, bad, and the ugly of the X cams tend to get me all but banned from Fuji forums. 😉

    1. Yes, I think we do agree. And I understand that you were merely offering a devil’s advocate position for Fuji. There is a lot to like about the original X100 and the X100s. Fuji is listening to their customers evidenced by them addressing much of the criticism of the original X100.

      You are also welcome to express your opinions, especially since they are well thought out and give an alternative perspective from an actual Fujifilm owner.

  5. Just thought I’d offer my perspective as a professional shooter. I own both the X100s and the X-E1 and I use them for portraits and weddings. I think the RAW issue is a little overblown but I do agree that Fuji and Adobe (I am a LR user) have a lot of work to do. I think they will figure it out considering Fuji’s recent success and the x100s most likely getting a bunch of camera of the year awards. However, it did make me re-evaluate using jpegs (haven’t used jpegs since the 90s) and although they are not quite as flexible in post, the quality is spectacular. I haven’t missed RAWs one bit to be honest…and my hard drive is thankful (the fuji RAWs are huge).It has also made me a more deliberate shooter which has pushed me (positively) a bit technically. And like Michael, I find the BW in particular to be very pleasing, needing little post work. So IMO, yes, the X sensor SHOULD deliver better RAWs but like with any tool, you use it for what it excels at and once you identify what that is, I think most shooters will be very happy with it.

    1. jakopz, thanks for visiting and thanks for your comment.

      Yes, I do admit there is a bit of pixel peeping here. I tend to do it when evaluating cameras but not once I get the camera, I tend not to worry about it as much.

      I do appreciate your feedback as a pro. Beautiful work, BTW.

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