Fuji Shooting a Birthday Party with the X-S1


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Nobody seems to like the X-S1. It's widely ignored, it was initially plagued by issues ("orbs", "blue dot", "zoom creep"), it certainly doesn't look retro or stylish. And yet, the X-S1 is a very good superzoom bridge camera (arguably still the best superzoom bridge camera that currently exists). However, sales pretty much suck, so those rumors about an X-S2 are probably just wishful thinking. That's too bad, because all this reminds me of the now legendary S100fs, another Fujifilm bridge camera with a 2/3" sensor. When it hit the market, people bashed it due to its chromatic aberrations instead of applauding it for its amazing image quality, clarity and sharpness. I still have a working copy of this camera sitting on my shelf, and I have no intention of parting from it.

Here's the thing: Once the S100fs was discontinued and replaced by the smaller sensor S200EXR and eventually the HS series, people started to appreciate the S100fs for what it really was. I have a sour feeling that history will repeat itself with the X-S1.

Now, I admit that I underappreciate the X-S1 (as in underusing it) myself. I am using the full line of X series cameras (yeah, lucky me), and there's always new stuff being announced or released for the X-Mount system, not to mention frequent firmware updates. So basically, there's always something else to try out or shoot with.

When I was "commissioned" to shoot yesterday's birthday party of two kids at our stable, I happily chose the X-S1. The results would only be shown on the web, on Facebook and in flyers, so there was no need for maximum resolution. On the other hand, the flexibility of the superzoom lens would allow me to keep a safe distance and interfere as little as possible. You don't want to spoil the fun for kids, it's their party after all.

I put the camera on 6 MP mode, Auto-ISO 1600 and Auto-DR and set the OIS to mode 1 with movement detection on. That way, the camera would rather up the ISOs instead of producing shots with motion blur (a common issue with snapshots of celebrating kids, they tend to move). Of course, the motion detection isn't perfect, so sometimes the camera would unnecessarily up the ISO, in other cases it wouldn't even though there was some motion. If you want to avoid this and want more consistent results, I recommend setting the Auto-ISO to 400 (or 800).

With the EXR sensor, dynamic range isn't much of an issue:


You can shoot in the shadow of a tent and still see what's outside in the bright sun. By the way, I processed everything with Lightroom 4.4. Adobe has improved EXR sensor support in the past year. For EXR cameras, Lightroom would always be my converter of choice. Forget everything else, including Silkypix 5 or Raw File Converter EX, which is included with the camera.

2/3" is a small sensor, but you can still set object separation and bokeh if you carefully choose and place your subjects:


Here's are a few examples showing the camera's decent dynamic range:




When it comes to shooting people (especially women and kids), I like to go the high-key route with glowing skin tones. This one was shot shot with ISO 1600:


Here's another one at ISO 1600. At open aperture (f/4.5), the camera could still just use 1/160s, so there's still some motion blur.


A rich high-key exposure automatically leads to high-ISOs and/or motion blur. You can't have it all.




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How to expose those faces? In cases like this, I simply use the good old "zone system". That is, setting the metering to SPOT METERING, measuring the faces and applying exposure correction, typically +2/3 or +1 EV. Thus puts the faces in the correct zone for bright, high-key skin tones.







It works just as well outside:




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Of course, this method only works as long as the face is prominent enough to cover the entire spot metering area. Unfortunately, we can only guess how large this area is.

For "normal" shots, I use matrix (multi) metering and try to apply an appropriate exposure correction in the live view. This doesn't always work, but this not much of a problem if you a re working in Lightroom, where you can adjust and normalize different images quite easily.

For this "action" shot, I put the X-S1 into burst mode and pre-focused:


For the various "kids on horses" shots, I went back to spot metering and normal AF, both focusing and measuring exposure on the face, then reframing the shot.







Here we go back to standard multi-metering:




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In hindsight, choosing the X-S1 was a quite relaxing experience. The camera is very versatile, it can be used for pretty much everything. This also means that other cameras will always do a better job in each particular field of application. Maybe that's why nobody seems to like the X-S1. It can do macro work, but not as good as a DSLR camera with a dedicated macro lens. It can shoot 600mm-equivalent stuff, but of course not as good as a Nikon D4 with a F4/600mm lens on a Monostat monopod (which alone will cost about as much as an X-S1). You can do portrait work, but results won't look as smooth as with an X-E1 with a legacy Voigtländer F1.8/75mm lens.

So in the end, you will always get just second-best results. And who wants to show second-best results in photo forums? Not too many folks, I guess.

Since I was using the "relaxing" X-S1, I even had the time to take snaps of adult customers, like this one...

View attachment 12666

...and when we finally drove home, I took this shot from inside the car...


...and then the partial lunar eclipse an hour later, all hand-held, of course:


Obligatory parting shot:



Rico, excellent write-up of the strengths of this camera and approaches to some of the many scenarios it covers.

I have been seriously considering getting this camera. Would you rather take a do-it-all-pretty-darned-well-without-too-much-fuss camera just in case? Or not have that but not take the more elaborate, more futzy, or more constrictive solution because it seemed like too much of a pain?

This series has may have pushed me over the edge. :)



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In the past decade, I have always been a digital bridge camera user, so the X-S1 would probably be my only camera (maybe along with an X10) if I had to settle with one model. I certainly like decent all-in-one solutions. Those cameras are far from perfect, but neither am I, so it's a great fit. If anything, their limits push you to work more precisely within these limits.
I agree. While a bridge camera is not the equivalent of a DSLR, it can get close enough for me since the convenience of its' 'all in one' is the deal-maker.

The magic of going form macros inside the lens hood to full moon pics with the twsit of the zoom ring and afew keystrokes is just dumbfounding. The reach on the long end is amazing. Fuji's flash integration is faultless, the EF42 is just the ticket for this thing. Build-quality is very stout. And it's the perfect companion for X10 users, as the menus are essentially identical.

I've never had one camera that I've enjoyed more. For me, the $$$ involved to get an interchageable-lens system that would match its' capabilities is way more than I can commit at this time. And the hell of it is, I know I'd see some improvement, but man would I be lugging around more gear !


Bring Jack back!
Houston, Texas
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Very nice Rico!! Love all the photos.

Are you using face detection on the photos? Is it pretty effective on the XS1, as far as lock-on and accuracy? Does face detection also give metering priority to the face, and if so, is it a spot metering on the face itself, or more of a center-weighted metering?



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I used spot metering for the face shots and matrix metering for the rest. FD forces matrix metering, probably emphasizing the area below recognized faces.


betwixt and between
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Thanks so much for this thread. I really did not know about this camera and can see how it could well be a very worthwhile camera to consider. The photos look great and certainly convey the great time everyone had at that birthday. Wish I could have celebrated mine there!:drinks:


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Yep, it's always fun to have kids around, we will get a bunch of them staying here for 2 weeks (riding vacations). So more pics to come, not yet sure which camera I'm going to use, though.

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