- Great image quality in a small package
- Full manual control
- Easy to use
- Lens not as fast as the X20 at full zoom
- No hotshoe
Fujifilm XQ1 Review from the Real-World!
I really enjoyed using the Fujifilm XF1 last year, and thought it looked fabulous, but that unconventional styling and high initial price seem to put a lot of people off buying it. The answer this year from Fujifilm is the XQ1. A much more conventional looking camera with an upgraded sensor, but a very familiar f/1.8 25-100mm lens setup. This is a real-world fujifilm XQ1 review of how I’ve used the camera in the past few months I’ve had it for anything from family holidays, to days out, parties to just general everyday stuff!
I’ve shot quite a variety of things on it, many of which you can see in the review to give you an idea of what it is capable of. At the bottom you can see a gallery of images taken in Cologne at Christmas which covers quite a wide variety of images.
The XQ1 takes components from both the X20 and the XF1. The latest X-Trans II sensor is straight out of the X20, giving you the best 2/3rd inch sensor that Fujifilm do, and it seems like it has the lens from the XF1. This time though the lens is fully automated and the fold-away-twist manual zoom that some people didn’t like is gone from the XF1.
In terms of size, the XQ1 is really quite small. It has become my take everywhere camera as it just drops into my pocket without me noticing it, and the iPhone WiFi connectivity means I can share images straight away, but at a much higher quality than if I’d taken them with my iPhone alone.
A side-by-side comparison here shows the XQ1 against its closest rivals, the Sony RX100II and the Canon S120. I’m pretty sure that Fujifilm measured an RX100 and then just copied the dimensions exactly!! They are that hard to tell apart in terms of size.
The XQ1 is the camera that has most surprised me in the past 12 months. As soon as I downloaded the images from it I was amazed that this sort of quality could come from such a small package. The XF1 was good, but with the X-Trans sensor this camera is a definite leap ahead, becoming a serious rival for the Sony RX100 but at a much lower price as it is approximately £200 cheaper. That is in stark contrast to the XF1 and X20, which both were very much priced at a premium at launch. Fujifilm seem to have learned from this and have given the XQ1 a very modest launch price of £349, although most retailers seem to be now selling it at £299, nearly half the price of the RX100mkII, and still less than you can get the older RX100 for.
Let me just be clear about any review scores here from the start. I don’t compare camera against camera. If I compare this to an X-Pro1 or X100S the image quality will obviously be quite a bit lower. What I do score it on is based on what the camera is designed for, how it performs compared to my expectations, the price, and how it against to similar competition. So if the final review score is higher than a much more expensive camera, that doesn’t mean it is better than the much more expensive camera with a lower score, it is simply judged here in its own class.
What’s this PhotoMadd Factor? That is a guide to how I ‘feel’ about the camera, how I feel about the performance, but much more than that, it is how much I enjoy using it! It is entirely subjective to me!
The XQ1 is not one of the small Fujifilm X-Series cameras where all the manual dials are on display like the X20. It follows the more point-and-shoot style design of minimal buttons. However, the XQ1 does have full manual functionality if you need it, so can be used by more advanced users wanting to do something specific. It is easy to use in all modes.
A single large dial on the top rotates to select the mode. In addition to the PASM modes, it give access to a custom settings mode, scene mode, Advanced, Filter and the two auto modes.
SR+ is the more advanced Auto mode on the camera. Fujifilm’s description of this mode is “Selects optimum camera settings for certain modes” – well I’m not really sure about you, but I think I’d rather like the regular Auto mode to do that! The idea behind it seems to be a set-and-forget style of shooting, where you have pretty much no control over what the camera does. Whereas the ‘regular’ auto mode tries to choose the best setting it can, but does allow you some choice over what settings to use, for example in auto mode you can manually choose macro mode, but SR+ decides things like that for you. In reality, the SR+ mode works pretty damn well and if you want a point-and-shoot with better image quality than a regular point-and-shoot, but don’t want to worry about anything then you’ll not go far wrong using SR+!
Turn the dial to Adv and you get a a selection of modes from panorama (my favourite) to pro focus, pro low light and multiple exposure to allow you to get more from the camera. In panorama mode you can choose from 360, 180 or 120 degree panoramas. Personally I feel that 120 is more than enough as otherwise viewing them becomes a bit odd! You can also choose to shoot panoramas with the camera in landscape or portrait mode. Rotate the camera into portrait orientation and shooting the panorama that way gives a ‘taller’ panorama than you get shooting with the camera in landscape orientation and allows you to fit more into the scene. This is the way I shoot all panoramas. Even with moving water (very difficult to stitch without artefacts) with XQ1 does a good job.
The first shot is straight out of the camera, and aside from a little lens flare (understandable) it has done a very good job even under the very difficult circumstances with the bright sun and darker shade of sunset.
Below is a panorama I stitched in Photoshop and converted to B&W in Lightroom. I actually think that the camera did a better job on the water than Photoshop!
The pro-focus mode shoots a series of images and uses them to create a composite to give the effect of the shallow depth of field you get from a camera with a larger sensor. In general it works well, but not something I’m likely to use regularly.
There are also a variety of filters built-in to the camera. They are not something I use, but can be fun to play with!
The miniature effect is good fun if you can get the right vantage point. You need to be up high and pointing down onto a subject to get the best effect.
Image Quality of this camera truly surprised me when I downloaded them to the computer. The X-Trans II sensor really does get the best possible out of the 2/3rd inch sensor, and for a small camera really does perform well up to ISO 1600.
Personally I wouldn’t push it much beyond that, but I’m used to the large X-Series cameras so I’m a bit spoilt! It is certainly a great camera to carry with you every day, and for non-professional use you really can’t complain at all. Anyone wanting a day-to-day family camera with better image quality than even the better higher-end point-and-shoots such as the Canon S120 (which is the same price) will not go wrong with this little Fujifilm XQ1.
At ISO 800 the XQ1 is very capable and with the built-in optical image stabilisation system it means you can get steady shots indoors easily even under low light conditions.
It is discrete! A great camera for use on the streets and if you are into B&W you can choose the B&W film simulation mode. The XQ1 also shoots RAW which you can process later if you want more control.
The camera is really very easy to use, all the controls fall to hand, it is a camera you can go out with your family, stick it on auto and enjoy the day rather than worry about taking photos, but then when you want to do something creative or more serious, it has all the full manual controls and the image quality to produce some really stunning images.
The XQ1 is a very versatile compact camera, the zoom, whilst not the longest gives a good range and works particularly well close up.
The zoom means you can easily get in close to details reasonably far away and the lens retains a good quality image.
Colours out of the camera are typically Fuji with bold vibrant colours that pop without any need to fiddle afterwards.
The XQ1 makes a good family camera and is quite quick to start-up and get shooting with, with fast auto-focus even indoors and no discernible shutter lag meaning you can capture fleeting moments easily.
The pop-up flash works really well. It is programmed very carefully to try not to give the startled deer look, and in the evening it also does a really good job of balancing the low ambient light with the foreground subject so both are well-lit. Fujifilm have really nailed on-camera flash better than anyone else over the past year or so.
Most cameras this size will simply expose for the subject and the background will be completely black. This was shot straight out of the camera in auto mode with no fiddling or having to adjust any settings.
You can also have a bit of fun with the built-in flash, especially when you have bouncy children!
Built in WiFi means that sharing images to your phone/tablet and then quickly onto social media is very easy. I have been doing this regularly and now often choose to use the XQ1 rather than my iPhone because the image quality is that much better and sharing is so easy that it really doesn’t take much more effort, but leaves you with a great quality image for use later if you want to print it out.
For a small camera I’m surprised how well the XQ1 deals with images containing a high dynamic range – by that I mean bright light and dark shadows. Most cameras with smaller sensors really struggle and tend to blow out the highlights or have no detail in the shadows. I think this is where the advantage of the X-TRANS sensor shows though.
Long-exposure images at high ISO are restricted, as they are on the X20. I understand what Fujifilm are doing – at high ISO and long exposure you’re opening the camera up to the worst conditions you can for noise. At ISO 100 you can shoot up to a 30 second exposure but as you move up the range, that reduces until at ISO 1600 you can only shoot a maximum of a 1s exposure. For the vast majority of people this probably isn’t going to be an issue, but it is something you need to be aware of if you’re intending to do long-exposure night-time photography with it.
The be honest that’s about it! This really is a great little camera.
Despite the variety of cameras I have shot with, some of them amazing, the XQ1 is genuinely the camera that has impressed me most in the past 12 months because of the image quality and versatility from something so small. I use this as my day-to-day in-pocket camera, and sometimes in addition to my larger X-Series cameras. It is rarely away from my side. The size just means you don’t notice yourself carrying it, and the image quality is good enough for the vast majority of what you’re likely to be shooting day-to-day without having a pre-arranged shoot planned.
The XQ1 is ideal as a primary family and travel camera with its lightweight compact size, yet producing high quality images suitable for print as well as the ease of which you can share those images quickly on the web using the built-in WiFi.
Image quality is hard to argue with from such a compact camera and certainly a good jump up from the iPhone and other small compacts. The street price makes this a genuine bargain, especially compared to the likes of the Sony RX100II which comes in at nearly double, but with very few, if any, advantages that I can find over the XQ1.
Fujifilm UK are currently offering (as on May 2014) £30 cash back and if you buy from Wilkinson Cameras you will get a further £10 cash back immediately from them at the till, making this camera effectively £259, cheaper than even purchasing it from Amazon!
[easyazon_block add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”B00FPKDPXY” cloaking=”default” layout=”top” localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” tag=”m06d-20″]