Fujifilm X-M1 Review - X-M1 is the manufacturer's smallest and lightest CSC yet and is aimed at a wider audience then previous models. Does it succeed?
While the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and Fujifilm X-E1 CSCs are aimed professionals and enthusiasts, the X-M1 is smaller and with controls more in-tune with first-time users, as well as doing away with any form of viewfinder. But how does it get on?
Fujifilm X-M1 Review – Features
Rather than being tempted to use an off-the-shelf APS-C sensor, the Fujifilm X-M1 is equipped with the manufacturer’s own, lower volume (read premium) 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor. Featured in both the X-Pro1 and X-E1, as well as Fujifilm’s X100S high-end compact, the X-Trans CMOS sensor features a unique sensor array.
If you haven’t come across it before, as opposed to most cameras that use a standard Bayer filter array to decipher colour information, the Fujifilm X-M1’s chip features an array of red, green and blue pixels that aren’t arranged in such a repetitive order. With a structure more akin to film, the sensor can effectively minimize moiré and false colour, eliminating the need for an anti-aliasing filter, which should in turn deliver far sharper results than more conventional sensors.
The X-M1 also features Fujifilm’s latest EXR Processor II and supports an ISO range from 200-6400, which can expanded further to an ISO equivalent of 100-25,600, though you’ll find this is JPEG only.
After the clever Hybrid viewfinder of the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and the electronic viewfinder (EVF) of the X-E1, the X-M1 does away with a viewfinder all together, instead relying on the 3in, 3:2 aspect ratio 920k dot vari-angle screen at the rear. While it’s becoming the norm on a host of competitors, there’s no touchscreen functionality on the X-M1, while you’ll have to rely solely on the rear screen as there isn’t an option to plug in an external EVF that some rivals support.
The X-M1 sports a 49-point AF system, just as we’ve seen on other X-series cameras, while manual focusing offers Focus Peaking and works by highlighting the area in focus with a high contrast outline for precise fine tuning during focusing.
With connectivity becoming an ever more important consideration, the X-M1 is the first X-series camera to sport Wi-fi functionality and combined with the free downloadable Fujifilm Camera App allows you to connect to your smartphone or tablet.
Unlike some other Wi-fi enabled CSCs we’ve seen recently, it’s not possible to remotely control the X-M1 from your device, but you can receive images (and naturally share them how you wish), Geo-tag them, browse your shots on the camera, automatically save images to your computer and with the aid of the Photo Receiver App, it’s also possible to transmit images directly to friends, too.
Whereas both the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and X-E1 have kept shooting controls to the bare minimum, offering just manual, program, shutter and aperture priority, the new X-M1 includes a host of auto shooting modes, though its disappointing to see that the panoramic mode hasn’t made the transition across from the X-E1 as it’s these kind of modes that new users will no doubt enjoy using.
There are a slightly reduced amount of Film Simulations modes from what we’ve seen on other X-series cameras, but you still get Provia, Astia, Velvia, Sepia and Black & White, while there are a host of filter effects as well, including Dynamic Tone, Low Key and Soft Focus.
To accompany the Fujifilm X-M1 is a new lens. The XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS produces a 35mm focal length equivalent to 24-75mm, which compared to other kit lenses offers a slightly wider field-of-view than similar bundled optics and also features Fujifilm’s anti-shake system.
It’s also the first Fujinon CSC lens to be designated XC rather than XF. This sees the absence of an aperture/control ring that features on the majority of XF lenses, while the build is predominantly plastic (this includes the lens mount) which is no doubt to make it a more affordable bundle proposition when brought with the X-M1.
While we’re on the subject of lenses, the X-series is a relatively new system and there are currently just 8 lenses available (including the 16-50mm mentioned), with another 4 optics on the way. Quality not quantity is definitely the case here, with some lovely primes in the line-up, but for novice users they may feel a little restricted.
Fujifilm X-M1 Review – Design
The Fujifilm X-M1 continues the trademark retro styling of Fujifilm’s X-series cameras. It’s a nice looking CSC that’s available in a choice of three colour schemes – solid black, silver and black, as well as silver and tan (I have to say that out of the three, the tan finish is the most pleasing to the eye).
Proportionally, the XM-1 noticeably smaller than both the X-Pro1 and X-E1 (and the X100S come to that). With the new XF 27mm f/2.8 pancake lens attached, the X-M1 is actually more compact than the company’s X20 compact camera that utilizes a smaller 2/3in sensor, thus making it one of the smallest CSCs out there with an APS-C sized sensor.
At first glance it may appear to be constructed from metal, but the top and base plates are actually plastic. Don’t be put off though as once you’ve factored in the machined buttons on the top, the deeply textured synthetic leather grip running round the front of the body and the relatively shallow but comfortable handgrip, and the overall effect doesn’t disappoint.
With a wide choice of shooting controls compared to the X-Pro1 and X-E1 on offer, the control layout of the X-M1 is a little different than its siblings. Instead of having a dedicated shutter speed dial on the top plate, the X-M1 sports a more familiar mode dial instead, offering a host of automated shooting modes as well as the core M, A, S, P shooting modes for more creative shooting.
Next to that is the on/off switch with the shutter button sitting in the middle. This time it’s not threaded, so it’s not possible to attach a mechanical cable release and users will have to invest in the RR-90 remote release terminal.
The Fujifilm X-M1 features two control dials, the first of which located on the top plate where the exposure compensation dial resides on other X-series models – while there’s a programmable Function button (Fn) just in front of it that can be set-up to offer quick-access to a range of settings.
At the rear of the camera you’ll find the second control dial, positioned vertically and popping out from behind the thumb rest. It may look a little awkward to use, it’s actually quite easy to use with your thumb and while it’s a little plasticky for our taste, does the job.
The remainder of the Fujifilm X-M1’s controls, bar the button for the pop-up flash are all nestled underneath the second control dial. There’s direct access to White Balance, Drive, Video, Macro and AF, as well as the X-M1’s Quick menu. To the left is the 3in screen and there’s a decent breadth of movement from it, which can be angled at 90 degrees for waist-level shooting or 85 degrees if you’re looking to shoot from a raised position.
Fujifilm X-M1 review – Performance
Since the arrival of the X-Pro1 and X100, Fujifilm has worked hard to improve the AF performance of its X-series cameras. The Fujifilm X-M1 delivers a solid performance, though not quite as snappy as some rivals, just taking that little bit longer to focus. It’s marginal though and it doesn’t detract from the shooting experience.
While the Fujifilm X-M1’s lack of touchscreen functionality means you’ll have to forego the luxury of being able to quickly tap the area of the screen where you want to focus, AF selection is still pretty quick and easy when in AF Area mode. Simply hit the X-M1’s AF button at the rear, and you can then use the 4-way D-pad to toggle through a choose one of the 49 AF points on offer laid out in a 7×7 grid formation.
The actual AF area can be adjusted (the are 5 sizes to select from) via the control dial on the top of the camera depending on the precision desired, and while AF coverage is good, it doesn’t reach quite to the edge of the frame.
If you have the X-M1 in manual focusing mode, then you’ll appreciate the Focus Peaking option. With the in-focus area displaying a white halo, it’s possible to zoom in on the area you’re focusing on by de-pressing the rear control dial. The amount of travel through the manual focus ring is just about right, delivering a decent balance between precision and speed.
It seems odd using an X-series camera without a viewfinder, but the X-M1’s 3in screen delivers a well-balanced and contrasty display that’s a match for rivals, while unlike some rivals the display fills the screen thanks to the display being the same aspect-ratio as the sensor.
The X-M1’s screen tilt-angle functionality delivers genuine shooting benefits, especially when shooting at low angles as I found and for general shooting, the screen’s more then adequate. That said, in bright sunlight viewing becomes problematic (as with all displays) and without the option to attach a viewfinder as desired you’ll have to shield the screen from the sun as you shoot.
You could argue that the X-M1’s absence of touchscreen functionality will put off new users – especially when compared to rivals that include this technology – but less experienced users shouldn’t be deterred too much by it’s omission. The body mounted controls offer quick access to core shooting modes, while the Function button can be tailored to your needs.
Then there’s the X-M1’s Quick menu and, I have to say it’s one of the best around at the moment providing fuss-free access to a number of popular settings that can be adjusted with a quick flick of the control dial. If there is one slight annoyance it’s this – when turning the control dial clockwise when changing ISO the sensitivity decreases, which seems a little counter intuitive.
The presence of a selection of Auto shooting modes means the X-M1 can be left to shoot with minimal to no intervention, while more experienced users will also appreciate the dual control dials on offer.
Fujifilm X-M1 review – Image Quality
Colour and White Balance
The Fujifilm X-M1’s Auto White Balance copes well under a range of light sources, delivering neutral results in most situations. Standard (Provia mode) produces results that are perhaps a little cool, but if you want more punch the Velvia film mode produces richer and deeper colours with a slightly sharper contrast curve. Just as in the days of film, the X-M1’s Astia film mode is more suited to portraits.
Users have the choice of Multi, Spot or Average (Centre-weighted) metering modes and as we’ve seen with other X-series models, the 256-zone metering system used by the X-M1 is a consistent performer, delivering pleasing results under a range of lighting conditions. If anything, it can underexpose a touch (though this does avoid clipping the highlights), but only requires 0.3-0.7 exposure compensation if desired.
There also two expanded dynamic range settings, referred to as DR200 and DR400. These modes both work when shooting either JPEG or Raw and are designed to retain more detail information in both highlights and shadows when shooting in high-contrast scenes.
In DR200 the X-M1’s base ISO is increased to ISO 400 and in DR400 sees the lowest ISO available increase to ISO 800. Increasing the ISO may sound unappealing, but the excellent results rendered using either of these two modes and the strong image noise performance of the X-Trans CMOS sensor make it worth the sacrifice for some shooting situations.
The X-Trans CMOS sensor and the lack of Anti-Aliasing filter in place mean that the level of detail is impressive, with our test chart showing the it can resolve down to a very strong 26 lines per mm (lpmm) at its base ISO of 200, while only tailing off slightly at higher sensitivities, dropping down to 24lpmm at ISO 6400. An excellent performance that would trouble some full frame DSLRs.
Looking at JPEG files and you’ll be able to shoot up to ISO 3200 without experiencing any real image noise issues, while the X-M1 manages to retain an impressive amount of detail at this sensitivity. Even at ISO 6400 results are still strong, with minimal image noise disrupting results.
Moving on to Raw files that have been processed in the bundled Silkpix software and what’s striking is the minimal amount of chroma (colour) noise that’s present at higher sensitivities. Luminance (textured) noise is also well controlled and as we’ve seen with other Fujifilm X-Trans CMOS sensor based cameras, shooting at higher ISOs delivers a pleasing film-like quality.
Fujifilm X-M1 review – Verdict
With a street price of £679 with the 16-50mm lens, there’s no getting away from the fact that the Fujifilm X-M1 is facing some stiff competition from more affordable rivals such as the Panasonic GF6, Sony NEX-5R and Samsung NX300, all of which are available for between £150-200 less.
On paper at least it’s hard to see what, if anything, extra you get for your cash, especially as the X-M1 lacks a touch-sensitive display that its rivals all feature. In that respect then a lot of new users with one eye on the bottom line will undoubtedly be swayed by these more affordable alternatives.
The Fujifilm X-M1 though excels in three key areas over its rivals that are hard to see when spec sheets are analyzed – style, feel and results.
The stylish retro design is complimented by an excellent finish, but perhaps most importantly of all is the beautiful results that the X-M1’s X-Trans CMOS sensor delivers, and for some that’ll be a premium worth paying.
Fujifilm X-M1 Review – Sample Image Gallery
There are just a small selection of sample images taken with the Fujifilm X-M1. For a full range, visit out Fujifilm X-M1 sample image gallery.
As with the other two models, the Fujifilm X-M1 has a classical, retro design, but is noticeably smaller at 66.5mm high and 39mm deep, sporting similar proportions to Fujifilm’s X20 enthusiast compact. Where it does differ from its siblings is that it does away with a viewfinder completely, instead favouring a 3in, 920k-dot vari-angle display that can be pulled outwards away from the body.
Like its siblings the X-M1 is designed for easy manual operationT. wo Command Dials allow users to adjust the aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation quickly with their thumb. Individual buttons provide access to key parameters such as White Balance and Burst Mode.
Supporting Wi-fi connectivity, the X-M1 allows users to transfer their shots immediately to their smartphone or tablet with the dedicated Fujifilm Camera app that’s free to download.
There are eight advanced Art Filters that can be added pre-image capture: namely Toy Camera, Miniature, Dynamic Tone, Pop Colour, Soft Focus, High Key, Low Key and Partial Colour, while the X-M1 features a set of Film Simulation modes with five different effects.
The X-M1 ca also shoot full HD video at 30fps. Creative effects such as the Film Simulation options can be added when shooting videos.
The X-M1 will be available with a new XC 16-50mm f/3.5 – 5.6 OIS zoom lens with a range equivalent to 24-76mm. Also announced at the same time as the X-M1 is a new XF 27mm f/2.8 lens. With a 35mm focal length equivalent of 41mm, this lightweight and compact optic combined with the X-M1 produces a very neat package.
Pricing and availability are still to be confirmed.
// Key Specs
- 16.3 megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor (same sensor as X-Pro1/X-E1)
- Hi-speed EXR Processor II
- Start-up time of 0.5secs (*1), shutter lag of 0.05secs and a maximum burst speed of 5.6fps (max. 30 frames (*2))
- Compact and lightweight body (half the size of an SLR)
- Tiltable 3-inch LCD (920K dot high definition)
- Built in flash with FUJIFILM’s Super i-Flash technology
- ISO200-6400 in 1/3 step increments (and extended range of ISO 12800 to 24600 at reduced resolution)
- Full HD Video recording at 30fps
- 49 point AF system
- Art filters: 8 Advanced Filters plus 5 Film Simulation modes
- In-camera RAW processing
- Q button for list view of frequently-used menus and smooth configuration
- Hot shoe
- Wireless image transfer to smart phones and tablet PCs via FUJIFILM Camera app
- PC Autosave Wi-Fi® (*5) connectivity to PCs (for easy image backup)
- The X-M1 camera is available in three colours: Black, Silver and Brown
- Fujifilm X mount (compatible with all FUJINON XF / XC / Zeiss X mount lenses)