Fujifilm’s latest X-series release debuts in the burgeoning enthusiast compact market. It looks to set itself apart not only with an impressive 2/3in EXR sensor and maximum aperture of f/1.8, but also through distinct retro styling and manual zoom lens. Does the XF1 do enough to excel in a market already full with impressive compacts? Read on to find out.
Fujifilm XF1 review – Features
While many have gone for the distinctly modern in designing digital cameras in previous years, of late many manufacturers have looked to the past for design inspiration with new technology. Fujifilm’s premium ‘X’ range of digital cameras – which launched in September 2010 with the X100 – has fully embraced this retro revolution, heavily leaning on models of yore in terms of styling while managing to keep a firm eye on technological innovation in the process.
The Fujifilm XF1 is the latest enthusiast compact in this premium X range and continues the series’ theme. On the face of it, it appears a camera from a different period, complete with a matte aluminium chassis and distinctive leather band. However, look a little closer and you’ll see that it’s in fact crammed full with cutting edge technology.
As is ever the case with enthusiast compacts, close attention must be paid by the manufacturer to the model’s imaging performance in order to keep up with the competition. The XF1 does so with the inclusion of several high-specification imaging features.
At the core of the model sits a 2/3in CMOS sensor, substantially larger than the 1/2.3in sensor found in more conventional compact cameras. The sensor is of Fujifilm’s unique EXR variety – this means that the sensor is versatile with a pixel array that can be adjusted while shooting to best suit the scene being captured. As well as offering both JPEG and Raw capture, the EXR CMOS sensor also supports full HD video capture at a resolution of 1920 x 1080p and in the MOV format.
The second key piece in the imaging jigsaw with regards to image quality on an enthusiast compact is the model’s lens, and Fujifilm has equipped the XF1 with an appealing optic. The model utilises a Fujinon lens covering a focal range of 25-100mm in 35mm equivalent terms, complete with a maximum aperture of f/1.8. Unfortunately, although not unexpectedly, the maximum aperture of f/1.8 is only available at the wide end of the focal range, swiftly dropping down to the maximum aperture of f/4.9 at the tele end of the zoom. The good news is that it features built-in optical image stabilisation for sharp shots in low light conditions, while the lens also capable of capturing macro images at a distance of just 3cm.
The inner workings of the camera also include a Fujifilm EXR processor to accompany to EXR technology found on the model’s sensor. The EXR processor is concerned with speed in all areas of the camera’s performance, with Fujifilm claiming a start-up speed of 0.55 seconds, AF times of as little as 0.16 seconds and shot-to-shot speeds of just 0.8 seconds. The processor also provides impressive continuous shooting speeds of up to 10fps, although this is with certain caveats, being available for just 8 frames in ‘medium’ JPEG size or 16 frames in ‘small’ size. The rear of the camera meanwhile houses a 3in LCD screen complete with a resolution of 460k-dots, in keeping with that found in many other enthusiast compact cameras.
Shooting wise, the Fujifilm XF1 offers full manual control over shutter and aperture in manual capture mode, as well as shutter priority, aperture priority and program shooting modes. The model also features a standard auto shooting mode, advanced scene select auto mode and EXR capture setting which assesses the scene and then selects the correct EXR mode to suit. A range of Fujifilm film simulation modes are available for those wanting to hark back to images of old, while new Advanced Filters offer quick access to six special post production effects including ‘Pop Color’, ‘Toy Camera’ and ‘High-key’.
Fujifilm XF1 review – Design
Fujifilm’s efforts to make the XF1 a camera that stands out from the crowd have not been in vain, as the XF1 is certainly an eye-catching compact. The body is firmly rectangular and features a synthetic leather band around its body, broken only on the camera’s front by the lens and the rear by the screen and various buttons. The areas of the camera which aren’t covered in leather have a matte aluminium finish, and the combination of leather and aluminium give the XF1 a quality feel in the hand.
Fujifilm displays an impressive attention to detail with regards to the XF1’s design, and in no area is this more acutely seen then in the model’s lens. The XF1 features an interesting manual zoom lens with markings to indicate the focal length at which you’re shooting. The real innovation is that the lens itself can be rotated around and folded back in to the camera’s body, creating a slim and easily pocketable chassis.
The more style conscious camera owner, which no doubt the XF1 is sure to attract, will welcome the model’s availability in either red, tan or black leather finishes. If that weren’t enough, Fujifilm also offers matching leather cases in any of those colours to complete the XF1’s look.
The model’s top plate also exhibits a keen eye for design, with the amount of buttons kept to a minimum and an adjustable Fn button the sole accompaniment to the model’s shutter release and mode dial. The theme continues on the rear, with a control wheel sitting towards the top of the rear plate and four function buttons surrounding the main d-pad which offer access to various camera functionality and the model’s menu system. One area that isn’t sparse is the model’s LCD screen that, measuring in at 3in, takes up ample room on the rear of the camera and with a resolution of 460k-dots is in line with competing advanced compacts.
Performance, Image Quality and Verdict
Fujifilm XF1 review – Performance
Powering up the camera from it’s fully off, pocketable position does take a bit of a knack, and as a result delays the model’s start-up speed. The camera can, however, be left in standby setting with the lens protruding and if you’re planning on using the camera a lot this is probably the preferred setting. The XF1 switches from the standby setting to powered in a little under a second which, when considering the time it takes to turn the lens to the powered position, is respectable.
Once powered, the XF1 generally offers good operational speeds. The EXR processor housed within the inner working of the camera promises high-speed AF performance of as little as 0.16 seconds and, although such lightning fast speeds were not noted, there are very few times in which the camera keeps you waiting. The good news is that the fast auto-focus speed is backed up with accuracy as the model’s AF system very rarely struggles to lock on to the correct focus point.
A potential criticism of the camera is its operational speed at high ISO settings. Shot to shot speed up to ISO 800 is prompt, although when you get to ISO 1600 or 3200 the model takes a noticeable amount of time to process images. Although these settings are only really used in real low light conditions, the delays when using them are unwelcome.
Although the XF1 has dispensed with advanced manual control on the camera’s body for the sake of sleek design, Fujifilm has ensured that access to the model’s functionality remains simple. The small ‘Fn’ button on the top of the camera’s body is accompanied by an ‘E-Fn’ button on the model’s rear. This is customisable and offers quick access to any of the model’s main functionality – far more preferable than having to wade around in the model’s menu system and a process more in line with other enthusiast compacts.
Fujifilm XF1 review – Image Quality
Images produced by the XF1 are generally impressive for a compact camera. The model features the same 2/3in sensor as that found in the acclaimed Fujifilm X10, and as a result offers much the same in terms of the nuts and bolt of its images. The XF1 captures an impressive amount of detail, with images standing up to inspection at 100% and thus offering the ability to print to large sizes.
The model’s Fujinon optics also generally perform well – sharpness is apparent throughout the frame, with even the very edges offering little by way of distortion or softening. Fringing is also well controlled, with only a slight purple hue appearing on the edges of dark objects when presented against a light background.
Images display an impressive level of dynamic range, with detail evident in both areas of shadow and highlight. As is ever the case with Fujifilm’s EXR sensor compacts, the XF1 features a host of dynamic range adjustment tools which serve to boost the performance of the sensor and, on the whole, these all serve a decent purpose. These settings can, however, prove necessary at times as there is a slight tendency for highlights to blow out in scenes with extreme contrast.
The XF1’s white balance system is certainly reliable, and in natural lighting it rarely misses a beat. Even when presented with more challenging lighting conditions, such as when natural light is mixed with artificial lighting sources, results are more often than not pleasing.
One area of criticism is that the XF1 does have a slight tendency to underexpose. This could be due to the slight issue with highlights blowing, although whatever the choice may be it’s not a major issue as a quick alteration of the model’s exposure compensation setting usually does the trick and, if it’s left until the post-production stage, enough detail is maintained so that images can be readily corrected.
The XF1 captures an attractive colour palette, with a natural range of tones on display. If these are too muted for your tastes, the range of film simulation modes provides a selection of alternatives in-camera.
Performance at high ISO settings is respectable, with noise generally well controlled. There is a sacrifice made with regards to noise control – images captured above ISO 800 appear mottled and softer than is desirable. Of course, this is to due to in camera noise reduction and as a result can be avoided by capturing Raw files, although results are satisfactory enough to avoid having to shoot Raw as a necessity at high ISO settings.
Fujifilm XF1 review – Verdict
The XF1 enters a competitive field in the form of the enthusiast compact market. With many photographers choosing to use their smartphone as their ‘take everywhere’ camera of choice, manufacturers are now seeking to control the upgrade market and as such dedicating their attentions to creating enthusiasts models which grab consumer’s attentions.
The way in which the XF1 distinguishes itself from its peers is through design, and it’s difficult to argue against Fujifilm’s success in this area. The sleek leather band combined with matte aluminium top and bottom plate make the model pleasing in the hand, and the clever manual focus implementation allows for advanced optics and zoom control in a camera which can be easily pocketed.
It’s not a camera without its faults. There is a worrying amount of travel in the XF1’s lens when fully extended, and reservations remain as to how the optic would stand up to months of heavy usage. Despite general prompt use, the camera is a bit laggy at high ISO settings and when shooting Raw files, and although image quality is very good on the whole, noise reduction does effect sharpness at high ISO settings. Finally, at it’s current market price the XF1 does represent a substantial investment, although it is not unique in this regard in the enthusiast compact market.
Although it’s high price is not unique, the XF1’s design certainly is. If you’re after a stylish enthusiast compact that will fit readily in to your pocket and produce good images in a range of conditions, then the XF1 is a great choice.