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Review: Fujifilm XF1

by Christian Rudman on 02/12/2013

Fujifilm XF1 Compact Camera

The Fujifilm X-F1 Compact Camera is the latest model to come out of the X-Series, and it breaks into a new class of camera for the series. While the X10 grazed the compact camera field, the X-F1 bravely enters and takes the center stage as their flagship pocketable compact camera. Bowing up to larger competitors like the Canon S100 and Sony RX100, this camera takes a stand as a new way of addressing a common consumer market. With its exclusive lens extension system and the trend-setting retro return to leatherette and metal bodies, this camera boldly stakes its claim in the top shelf as a premium compact camera.

Not one to breeze by on looks alone, the Fuji X-F1 boasts some impressive performance capabilities and the image quality that has become a trademark feature of the X-Series next to their undeniably sexy exteriors. The functionality and interface that Fuji has crafted for this particular model in their lineup also makes for an enjoyable and rewarding shooting experience that makes one wonder how necessary some of the larger and more unwieldy cameras on the market really are for the average daily carry.

So, obviously the Fujifilm X-F1 can boast considerably in various qualities and accolades, but how does this camera really measure up in daily use? I held this question fully in mind as I touted this little wonder around for a couple weeks and hope to impart a little of the experiences I had with this camera as faithfully as I possibly can. Let’s dive in to see just what makes this small image maker really shine and where it flounders.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Compact X-Series image quality in a rugged metal body
  • RAW capability, although the JPEGs are simply amazing
  • Simple clean design with intuitive control layout
  • Wonderfully wide f/1.8 aperture at the widest focal length setting

Cons:

  • The lens extension system can be awkward and seemingly fragile
  • Same sensor size as the X10, but not as big as it’s direct competitor the Sony RX100
  • Larger than most compact cameras in its class
  • Manual focus system is useless

Gear Used

  • Fujifilm X-F1 Compact Camera
  • Fujifilm 4GB SD Card
  • Think Tank Retrospective 40 Bag

Tech Specs

Specifications pulled from Dpreview.com

Body type
Body type Compact
Sensor
Max resolution 4000 x 3000
Other resolutions 4000 x 2664, 4000 x 2248, 2992 x 2992, 2816 x 2112, 2816 x 1864, 2816 x 1584, , 2112 x 2112, 2048 x x 1536, 2048 x 1360, 1920 x 1080, 1536 x 1536
Image ratio w:h 1:1, 4:3, 3:2, 16:9
Effective pixels 12.0 megapixels
Sensor size 2/3″ (8.8 x 6.6 mm)
Sensor type EXRCMOS
Color filter array Primary colour filter
Image
ISO Auto, 100, 200, 250, 320, 400, 500, 640, 800, 1000, 1250, 1600, 2000, 2500, 3200, (4000, 5000, 6400, 12800 with boost)
White balance presets 7
Custom white balance Yes (1)
Image stabilization Optical
Uncompressed format RAW
JPEG quality levels Fine, Normal
File format
  • JPEG (Exif 2.3),
  • RAW (RAF format)
  • RAW+JPEG
Optics & Focus
Focal length (equiv.) 25 – 100 mm
Optical zoom
Autofocus
  • Contrast Detect (sensor)
  • Multi-area
  • Center
  • Single
  • Continuous
  • Live View
Autofocus assist lamp Yes
Digital zoom No
Manual focus Yes
Normal focus range 50 cm (19.69″)
Macro focus range 3 cm (1.18″)
Lens mount None
Screen / viewfinder
Articulated LCD Fixed
Screen size 3″
Screen dots 460,000
Touch screen No
Screen type TFT color LCD monitor
Live view Yes
Viewfinder type None
Photography features
Maximum aperture F1.8 – F4.9
Minimum shutter speed 30 sec
Maximum shutter speed 1/4000 sec
Exposure modes
  • Program
  • Shutter priority
  • Aperture priority
  • Manual exposure
Scene modes
  • Auto
  • Macro
  • Landscape
  • Night
  • Portrait
  • Portrait+Night
  • Backlight Portrait
Built-in flash Yes (Pop-up)
External flash No
Flash modes Auto, On, Off, Red-Eye, Slow Sync, Rear-curtain
Flash X sync speed 1/180 sec
Drive modes
  • Single
  • Continuous
  • Self-timer
Continuous drive Yes (10, 7, 5, 3 fps)
Self-timer Yes (2 or 10 sec)
Metering modes
  • Multi
  • Average
  • Spot
Exposure compensation ±2 EV (at 1/3 EV steps)
AE Bracketing (3 frames at 1/3 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV steps)
WB Bracketing No
Videography features
Format
  • H.264
Microphone Stereo
Speaker Mono
Resolutions 1920 x 1080 (30 fps), 1280 x 720 (30 fps), 640 x 480 (30 fps)
Storage
Storage types SD/SDHC/SDXC
Storage included 25 MB
Connectivity
USB USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
HDMI Yes (Mini connector)
Remote control No
Physical
Environmentally sealed No
Battery Battery Pack
Battery description Lithium-Ion NP-50 rechargeable battery & charger
Weight (inc. batteries) 255 g (0.56 lb / 8.99 oz)
Dimensions 108 x 62 x 33 mm (4.25 x 2.44 x 1.3″)
Other features
Orientation sensor Yes
GPS None

 

Ergonomics

Fujifilm XF1 Compact Camera

The Fujifilm XF1 is a wonderfully designed compact camera from a purely ergonomic standpoint. Simple clean lines without simply being a box with a lens, the leatherette is a great touch for looks as well as function. Instead of a slick metallic body that sweaty palms are sure to lose grip on, this camera will stay snug in any hands holding it for any amount of time. It is also just large enough to be comfortable for larger hands to hold and use, while small enough to be manageable for anyone like myself with mini-mitts for hands.

Fujifilm XF1 Compact Camera

One of the most noticeable differences in this camera from its competitors is its unique on/off switch and lens extension system that is adapted from its sibling, the Fuijfilm X10. Rotating the barrel to unlock it from its collapsed “Off” position will allow the whole lens assembly to begin its journey out and set the camera to its ready “Standby” mode.

Fujifilm XF1 Compact Camera

Once the assembly clicks into place you can see the barrel markings that indicate where you rotate towards to fully turn the camera on and finish extending the lens.

Fujifilm XF1 Compact Camera

Presto! Instant camera. The camera sports a simple top plate with the usual Fuji mode dial and immediately next to that is the two-stage shutter button. Right next to that is the always handy programmable Fn button, which I found myself using considerably less than the E-Fn button discussed below.

Fujifilm XF1 Compact Camera

As noted in the First Impressions review that I wrote not long ago, one of my favorite parts of this camera’s control and menu layout is the quick access E-Fn button on the back of the camera. This button turns the directional control pad’s options into programmable quick menu settings for things like ISO, Film Simulation Modes, Drive modes, or even White Balance among other options. Little touches like this make this compact camera completely at home in the X-Series of cameras and allow for an uninhibited shooting experience in a camera this small.

Fujifilm XF1 Compact Camera Fujifilm XF1 Compact Camera

The Fuji XF1 also sports a handy little pop-up flash that can do nicely in a pinch or with low light. A simple lever assembly releases the spring loaded flash and allows it to join the party. I found myself playing with this often as just a new way to twiddle my thumbs at times.

Build Quality

This camera is an interesting take on the compact form factor. The Fuji X-F1 uses a lens extension and on/off system that is a combination of mechanical and electronic to set itself apart from others, but provides a weak point in the camera itself. I did not personally experience any issues in the short time I had with the camera, but given how it operates, and with a bit of heavy use over time, it does seem like it could be the main failure point on the model in the future for users. That said, I liked the idea of it and the practical usage, but I just was not convinced of its integrity in the face of time and use.

The rest of the camera seems solid. When the lens is fully locked in place, the whole unit feels like a cohesive piece of engineering. When it is in use, all the pieces come together. The mechanical zoom works like a charm and the quick menu system makes manual setting changes on the fly a breeze. I loved the camera’s responsiveness and capability while in use. I found myself reaching for this camera more often than the Fuji X-E1 that I had in the bag next to me because of its discreteness.

This camera is one of the most enjoyable to use compact cameras I have ever laid my hands on and feels more solid in comparison with its direct competitor, the Sony RX100. While a slightly bigger camera (3mm shallower however), I find the extra bit of body and the tactile leatherette covering makes for a more usable and easier to handle experience letting you focus on getting the shot instead of avoiding dropping it with every move.

Autofocus

The Fujifilm XF1 seems to have one of the most accurate focusing systems of the entire X-Series lineup. I used this camera in bright daylight, low-level indoor light, and even in dark and somewhat seedy bars with no real issues. I loved pocketing this camera and taking it everywhere with me because I was never concerned it would not lock and get me the shot. I found its usage at night to be more simple and straightforward than its way bigger brother the X-E1 because of its capabilities with low-light focusing. I really was impressed with its autofocus and while I did not do a side-by-side comparison with the Sony RX100, it seemed to be only slightly behind the RX100 in focusing speed in various lighting conditions.

Ease of Use

While some people have been complaining of various aspects of the control and menu systems in the X-Series, I found this to be one of the simplest cameras to use in the whole series. It should be, too, as this is meant to be the consumer compact of the bunch.

This camera is easy to adapt to and you will find that you quickly learn how to just pull the camera out, turn it on, have it set, and shoot with almost nary a passing glance at the settings. The Fuji XF1 is a brilliantly designed premium compact in this sense, it is uncomplicated and so easy to learn that you barely even need to pull out the manual to fully master the camera. As a fan of good industrial design and user interaction experiences, this camera tickles my fancy in more ways than one.

Metering

What’s really awesome about this compact camera is the fact that it metered perfectly in a Sunny 16 test. This is wonderful news for very experienced street photographers and others constantly trained to pay attention to the lighting around them.

Image Quality

For most image uses, the quality seems quite good. I love the tonality and color rendition that the Fuji JPEGs deliver, but unfortunately this sensor leaves me yearning for a bit more, especially with such a wonderfully sharp lens throughout the zoom range. These images have not been tweaked in any way apart from Lightroom 4′s default import adjustments. At its widest setting and completely open, this camera’s lens doesn’t appear to have any aberrations:

Fujifilm XF1 Compact Camera

I am sure some deeper lens testing might reveal some issues, but for practical purposes this lens performs remarkably well. Your facebook friends will be impressed. I was pretty disappointed to see how much smudging the details seems to occur even down at ISO 100 (especially with the 1-stop hop to ISO 200 as below in the image with the two girls) with this camera looking at it at 1:1 in LR4. But, as mentioned, for all practical purposes that most consumers will be using this camera and the images it will be wonderfully adequate.

Fujifilm XF1 Compact Camera

Fujifilm XF1 Compact Camera

High ISO Performance

The files are not too bad at ISO 1600:

iso1600

It gets a bit more milky when bumped up another stop to ISO 3200:

iso3200

And at ISO 6400 it is just downright granular and not in the cool way that film is all grainy. I suggest using the pop-up flash when it gets this dark.

iso6400

Conclusions

All in all, this is a compact camera. It allows for picture taking at any time while not always resorting to Instagram and does so beautifully and straight out of the camera. While it does have the ability to make RAW files, the way you would use this camera and the quality you get directly from the JPEGs make this feature almost worthless. Some photographers have even noted that ACR seems to show an odd file degradation in the RAW files that does not occur in the more polished JPEGs. So, if you are wanting a compact with RAW capability, move along to another compact like the Sony RX100 (just be prepared to pay the price for the upgrade). However, for direct file usage from JPEGs and a satisfying user experience with full manual capability that is easily controlled through physical controls (as well as great auto modes), the Fujifilm XF1 is the pocket camera for you and your loved ones this year.

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