Are you a manual-focus-first street photographer who views the world in wide angle and doesn't care about a viewfinder? Then you'll love the Fujifilm X70. This enthusiast compact, which incorporates a large-for-its-class APS-C sensor, runs $700 (£550, AU$1,050) and delivers the best photo quality I've seen for the price.
But it's not all lollipops and rainbows. Slow performance and some annoyingly designed controls may mar the shooting experience for some folks.
The camera's native sensitivity range runs between ISO 200 and ISO 6400, with expanded to ISO 100 and ISO 51200; you can only shoot JPEG in the expanded ranges. JPEGs in the entire native range -- up through ISO 6400 -- look clean. While there are still a lot of reasons to shoot raw instead of JPEG, for the X70 cleaning up noise or improving on the noise-reduction in the JPEGs aren't two of them.
Its raw files generally don't have a ton of color noise, and even brightening up underexposed ISO 1600 shots by 3 stops yielded decent results. As with most cameras in this class, there's a reasonable amount of detail preserved in the shadows, but not much reclaimable in blown-out highlights or overexposed shots.
Colors in the default film simulation setting look bright and saturated but still render very neutral. In overexposed shots the sky pushes to a flat cyan, but reducing the exposure corrects it. I do think the setting crushes the shadows a little too much, at least for my taste.
The lens is sharp all the way through the aperture range, from f2.8 to f16, though with the softening around the edges that you typically get from wide-angle lens distortion. The X-Trans sensor, which doesn't use an antialiasing filter to blur fine edges, contributes to that sharpness. In fact, the photos are so sharp I only half-jokingly recommend that you avoid selfies, unless you have perfect skin.
However, the lack of an AA filter means there's a lot of moire and edge jitter on fine lines in the video, which can get quite distracting. Highlights tend to blow out as well with the defaults, so some experimentation with settings is necessary. Otherwise, it's typical HD video.
Despite the incorporation of the same autofocus system as the fast X-T1, the X70 has some of the slowest-performing focus I've encountered recently. In center-point focus it iterates back and forth, but in the slightly faster multipoint autofocus it uses a wider area that, like most multipoint systems, doesn't always choose to focus on what you want and the point selections change with every prefocus shutter half-press. In continuous AF, it forces a refocus even if the subject hasn't moved.
Time to power on and focus and shoot isn't bad; because the camera has a fixed focal-length lens, it doesn't have to extend the lens as part of the startup sequence. But 1.4 seconds still isn't great.
The camera has an optional High Performance mode which ostensibly boosts startup and focus speed at the expense of battery life. I didn't formally test with it on, but startup seemed a tiny bit faster and the lens seemed to drive a bit better, but still took a long time iterating back and forth for focus. It also has an eye-detection autofocus mode which lets you choose right eye or left eye priority. (It falls back to face detection if it can't find eyes, but I find the thought that it can find a face that has no eyes a bit scary).
Focusing and shooting in good light takes 0.7 second -- that's what it should be for bad light, at worst. Instead, in dim light it rises to 1.1 seconds. Two sequential shots for either JPEG or raw also runs 0.7 second, significantly slower than competitors, and slow enough that I tended to miss shots with moving subjects. And with flash enabled that rises to 2.2 seconds.
Shooting in a typical street-photography configuration -- f5.6 or smaller, fixed shutter speed and the lens set on manual focus for a fixed distance -- is much faster. So if that's your technique then you don't need to worry about the X70's performance. The small files don't require much processing, so there's little overhead there.
Fujifilm rates the continuous-shooting speed at 3 frames per second, but it tested out at 3.3fps for JPEGs when the shutter speed was above 1/500th second, for at least 30 frames. However, the camera does shrink the focus zone to the middle of the scene with continuous autofocus in burst mode. Raw burst is less impressive: it can only handle about 6 frames (albeit at 3.9fps) before slowing and stuttering considerably.
The battery life isn't bad, though, despite a low rating of about 330 shots. As long as you charge it at the end of the day it should last long enough for most users. I couldn't get the supplied charger to work with the battery, though, or a second charger and battery; thankfully, the camera also supports USB charging.