Review: Fujifilm X-A1

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The X-series is an exciting line of cameras, and with each new entry, Fujifilm is strengthening its place in the photography world. My previous X-perience was with the X20, a high-end point-and-shoot, so an interchangeable mirrorless X camera is a breath of fresh air. The Fujifilm X-A1 arrived at my door, and a day later, Chris Gampat lent me his X-Pro 1, Fujifilm 35mm f1.4 and SLR Magic 23mm f1.7. Armed with the X-A1 and glass far better than the kit lens, I set out to make the most of my few weeks with this entry-level offering from Fujifilm.

Pros and Cons

Pros

-Contemporary design with vintage appeal

-Tilting LCD

-Beautiful JPEGs and dynamic RAW files

-Focus peaking

-The LCD is crisp.

Cons

-I never thought I’d say this, but I was surprised at the lack of an EVF.

-The 16-50mm f3.5-5.6’s zoom ring moves too slowly, and the external focusing nearly doubles the length of the lens.

Gear Used

I used the Fujifilm X-A1 with the 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 and Fujifilm 35mm f1.4, reviewed previously.

Tech Specs

Courtesy of Adorama’s listing:

Number of effective pixels 16.3 million pixels
Image sensor 23.6mm x 15.6mm (APS-C) CMOS with primary color filter
Total number of pixels: 16.5 million pixels
Sensor Cleaning system: Ultra Sonic Vibration
Storage media SD memory card / SDHC memory card / SDXC (UHS-I) memory card
File format Still image: JPEG (Exif Ver 2.3) / RAW (RAF format) / RAW+JPEG (Design rule for Camera File system compliant / DPOF-compatible)
Movie:
Movie File Format: MOV
Movie Video Compression: H.264
Audio: Linear PCM Stereo
Number of recorded pixels L: (3:2) 4896 x 3264 / (16:9) 4896 x 2760 / (1:1) 3264 x 3264
M: (3:2) 3456 x 2304 / (16:9) 3456 x 1944 / (1:1) 2304 x 2304
S: (3:2) 2496 x 1664 / (16:9) 2496 x 1408 / (1:1) 1664 x 1664
Lens mount FUJIFILM X mount
Sensitivity AUTO / Equivalent to ISO200 – 6400 (Standard Output Sensitivity)
Extended output sensitivity: equivalent to ISO100 / 12800 / 25600
Exposure control TTL 256-zone metering, Multi / Spot / Average
Exposure mode Programmed AE / Shutter priority AE / Aperture priority AE / Manual exposure
Exposure compensation -2.0EV – +2.0EV, 1/3EV steps
Image Stabilizer Supported with OIS type lens
Face detection Yes
Shutter type Focal Plane Shutter
Shutter speed (with mechanical shutter) Advanced SR AUTO mode: 1/4 sec. to 1/4000 sec.
All other modes: 30 sec. to 1/4000 sec. Bulb: max. 60 min
Synchronized shutter speed for flash: 1/180 sec. or slower
Continuous shooting Approx. 5.6 fps (JPEG: max. 30 frames, RAW / RAW+JPEG: max. 10 frames)
Approx. 3.0 fps (JPEG: max. 50 frames, RAW / RAW+JPEG: max. 10 frames)
Auto bracketing AE Bracketing (±1/3EV / ±2/3EV / ±1EV)
Film Simulation Bracketing (3 types of film simulation selectable)
Dynamic Range Bracketing (100% 200% 400%)
ISO Sensitivity Bracketing (±1/3EV / ±2/3EV / ±1EV)
Focus Mode:
Manual Focus / Area AF / Multi AF / Continuous AF / Tracking AF
Type:
TTL contrast AF, AF assist illuminator available
AF frame selection:
Area AF (49 areas with 7 x 7), Changeable AF frame size
White balance Auto / Custom / Preset (Fine / Shade / Fluorescent light (Daylight) / Fluorescent light (Warm White) / Fluorescent light (Cool White) / Incandescent light)
Self-timer 10 sec. / 2 sec. Delay
Flash Manual pop-up flash (Super Intelligent Flash)
Guide number: Approx. 7 (ISO200 m)
Flash modes Red-eye removal OFF:
Auto / Forced Flash / Suppressed Flash / Slow Synchro / Rear-curtain Synchro / Commander
Red-eye removal ON:
Red-eye Reduction Auto / Red-eye Reduction & Forced Flash / Suppressed Flash / Red-eye Reduction & Slow Synchro / Red-eye Reduction & Rear-curtain Synchro / Commander
Hot shoe YES (dedicated TTL Flash compatible)
LCD monitor 3.0-inch, Aspect ratio 3:2, Approx. 920K-dot Tilt type TFT color LCD monitor (Approx. 100% coverage)
Movie recording 1920 x 1080 30p, Continuous recording: up to approx. 14 min.
1280 x 720 30p, Continuous recording: up to approx. 27 min
Mode dial Advanced SR AUTO / P / S / A / M / C / Portrait / Landscape / Sport / SP / Adv. / AUTO
Film Simulation mode PROVIA (STANDARD) / Velvia (VIVID) / ASTIA (SOFT) / MONOCHROME / SEPIA
Dynamic range setting AUTO (100-400%) / 100% / 200% / 400%
Advanced filter Toy camera / Miniature / Pop color / High-key / Low-key / Dynamic tone / Soft focus / Partial color (Red / Orange / Yellow / Green / Blue / Purple)
Other photography functions Auto Red-eye Removal, Setting (Color, Sharpness, D-range, Gradation), Multiple exposure, Depth of Field display, Histogram display, Framing guideline, Frame No. memory, Monitor Sunlight mode, Focus Peak Highlight, Date stamp, Fn button setting
Wireless transmitter Standard:
IEEE 802.11b / g / n (standard wireless protocol)
Access mode:
Infrastructure
Playback functions RAW conversion, Image rotate, Auto image rotate, Red-eye reduction, Photobook assist, Erase selected frames, Image search, Multi-frame playback (with micro thumbnail), Slide show, Mark for upload, Protect, Crop, Resize, Favorites
Wireless functions Geotagging setup, Image transfer (Individual image / Selected multiple images), View & Obtain Images, PC Autosave
Other functions PictBridge, Exif Print, Language selection, Time difference, Quick start mode, Silent mode
Terminal Digital interface:
USB 2.0 High-Speed
HDMI output:
HDMI mini connector (Type C)
Others:
Remote release terminal for RR-90 (sold separately)
Power supply NP-W126 Li-ion battery (included)
Operating Temperature 0 – 40deg.C / 32 – 104deg.F
Operating Humidity 10 – 80% (no condensation)
Battery life for still images Approx. 350 frames (with XF35mmF1.4 R lens)
Starting up period Approx. 0.5 sec., when QUICK START mode set to ON
Approx. 1.0 sec., when QUICK START mode set to OFF
Lens: Focal Length 16 – 50 mm
Comparable 35mm Focal Length: 24 – 76 mm
Lens: Aperture Maximum: f/3.5 – 5.6
Minimum: f/22
Lens: Angle of View 83.2deg. – 31.7deg.
Lens: Minimum Focus Distance 11.81″ (30 cm)
Lens: Magnification 0.15x
Lens: Groups/Elements 10/12
Lens: Diaphragm Blades 7
Lens: Autofocus Yes
Lens: Image Stabilization Yes
Lens: Filter Thread Front: 58 mm
Dimensions Camera: 116.9 x 66.5 x 39mm / 4.60 x 2.61 x 1.53″ (Minimum depth: 32.1mm / 1.26″)
Lens: Approx. 2.46 x 2.57″ (62.6 x 65.2 mm)
Weight Camera: 330g / 11.6 oz. (including battery and memory card)
Lens: 6.88 oz (195 g)

Ergonomics

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The Fujifilm X-A1 comes in all black and indigo blue option. The former served as my review unit, and I think it’s the more attractive model. The X-A1 has a metal body, and its front side is characterized by a textured surface which gives it extra grip. The only other aspects of note are the AF-assist lamp and X-A1 engraving.

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From left to right, you have the flash, hot shoe, mode dial, on/off switch, shutter, Fn button, and shutter speed dial. Everything’s well spaced for hands of all sizes.

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Here’s your 3-inch 920-K dot tilting LCD which provides a beautiful amount of detail and all the necessary information for any mode you’re in. The flash release sits above the LCD and to the right, you’ll find: the aperture dial, playback, movie, AF-select/trash, white balance, burst mode, macro mode, menu/OK, display, and Q menu.

Build Quality

With a metal body and textured front, the Fujifilm X-A1 is a sturdy camera that will sit comfortably around your neck. It has just enough heft that suggests it’s a serious addition to the entry-level field. Its design has vintage notes, and it has the appeal of a Leica M. When I showed the camera to a family friend, he said, “It’s a beautiful camera, just to look at.”

Autofocus

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With all the right light, autofocusing is very smooth with the X-A1. It takes a bit longer in unfavorable light, and with subjects that move as fast as the Rockettes, it can be a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, the X-A1’s focusing peaking can step in where the AF has to take a backseat.

Ease of Use

The X-A1 has a very intuitive design: both in its button layout and menu system. To set the function for the Fn button, all you need to do is hold it down until the menu appears. I had it set to ISO. The Q shortcut menu provided quick access to everything you could possibly want. The directional buttons move between options and the shutter speed dial selects within each option. When set to Area AF, you hit the AF button to bring up a 7×7 grid and then navigate to the point you want via the directional buttons. Pressing the OK or shutter button sets the point. I never had to consult the manual. After unboxing, I mounted the lens and started shooting.

Metering

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The X-A1 meters perfectly. This was shot at f/16 at ISO 200 and 1/200 sec.

Image Quality

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For an entry level camera, the X-A1 provides some beautiful results, and it’s a solid choice for those moving up to an interchangeable lens camera who want to keep it light. Colors pop with the X-A1 and the RAW files need minimal editing. The JPEGs are ready to go straight out of the camera. All of this decreases the workflow at home.

High ISO Images

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f3.5 at 1/6 sec, ISO 800

The X-A1 performs very well at ISO 800, so should your lighting be terrible, take comfort in the fact that you can bump up the ISO and come away with something you can use. Hell, even ISO 1600 ain’t that bad.

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f3.5 at 1/10 sec, ISO 1600

RAW file versatility

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The X-A1’s RAW files provide a great amount of information that works very well in Lightroom. Should you happen to overexpose a bit, you’ll be able to recover it by dragging down the highlights. In most cases, the images were spot on, and the work in post was minimal.

Extra Image Samples

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Conclusion

The X-A1 was a great addition to my ever-changing kit, and I’m sad to see it go. With an 16.1 MP APS-C sensor, a sturdy body, and brilliant colors, the X-A1 will give you powerful results in a $600 package. With a wealth of glass available for it, the X-A1 is a smart choice for those in the market for their first interchangeable lens camera who find the bigger rigs a bit too daunting. The tilting LCD with all its clarity is a dream for street photographers.

Head over to Adorama or Amazon to pick one up for yourself.

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