FUJIFILM FinePix X100 (23mm, f/2.8, 1/40 sec, ISO200)
I thought that this wasn’t going to be an easy review for me to write. I initially enjoyed the XF1 for it’s small size and great image quality (see First Look). I had been taking it out exclusively to give it a good try, but then I started using my X-Pro1 and X100 again and those cameras are just so damn good that I started to worry about the images from the XF1 and was realising the shortcomings of a smaller sensor than I’m used to. I persisted with the camera and it started to dawn on me that I had it the wrong way around. Despite being an X-Series camera, this wasn’t replacement/backup/whatever for my X-Pro1 and X100 cameras, it was a rival for the camera I carry around with me every minute of every day – my iPhone. I began to look at the camera in a different light and started to enjoy using it for what it was great at and not compare it to much more expensive cameras that are really in a different class. I have been carrying it with me literally everywhere, and its great for that. With the collapsing lens it fits in pretty much any pocket.
This review is going to be as much about the images as it is the words. I’m going to include plenty of sample images within the text in the hope that they speak as much, if not more, for the camera than what is really just my own personal opinion on the camera and how I feel about using it. Click on any of the images to bring up a larger version. As you may notice, I rather enjoyed shooting into the sun with this camera and it copes excellently with that challenge.
Compact point-and-shoot cameras are in decline, they are being replaced with the ever increasing quality of phone cameras as people realise they don’t want or need a separate device just to take every day photos. Camera manufacturers need to come out with something different to get people interested in this market and that is exactly what Fuji have done with the XF1. Not only does it look stunning, but it is a very capable compact camera with great image quality in such a small body. Everyone I showed it to was immediately intrigued and loved the retro looks, and were woo’d even more when I demonstrated the pull/twist out collapsing lens! Personally I like the tan colour, my wife immediately loved the red and I’m guessing the black is for traditionalists. I met up with Dave Kai-Piper at Focus on Imaging who said he loves this little camera, but he really wants one in white! With the large range of colours on display at Photokina I wonder if Fuji might produce some limited edition versions to tempt people into buying them.
The XF1 stands out in a few ways. The most obvious of which are those unique looks, but it goes much deeper than that. The camera is built to X-Series standards with metal top and bottom plates giving it a very solid feel, weighty without being too heavy in your pocket.
The XF1 uses a 2/3rds in sized sensor, the same sensor as in the much lauded X10 in fact, which is significantly larger than the 1/2.3in sensor in most good point-and-shoot cameras, and even larger than the ‘large’ 1/1.7in sensor in the higher end Nikon CoolPix P330, the Canon PowerShot S110, and the Panasonic Lumix LX7, which could all be considered rivals. Happily Fujifilm have not gone crazy with the megapixels, so at 12Mpx, those pixels have plenty of room to produce a great quality image with less noise and more dynamic range.
The lens is a bright f/1.8 at the wide end, which also happens to be a very wide 25mm, which is wider than the 28mm on the X10 although not as long as the X10 at 100mm v 112mm. It’s a good general range.
Another thing I love about the XF1 is the fact that the menus are all but identical to those on my X-Pro1 and X100 cameras making it immediately familiar. It’s a very intuitive and easy menu system to navigate.
This AF system is fast and accurate with very few missed shots. In fact, I often found the XF1 locked on when sometimes my X-Pro1 wouldn’t!
Image quality is excellent as you would expect from an X-Series cameras. For advanced point-and-shoot cameras it is amongst the very best with great resolution and the usual deep rich colours you expect from Fujifilm. There are the usual film simulation modes and several fun in-camera effects.
The Body – The camera itself is very well built, with metal top and bottom plates is feels solid in the hand. The lens, despite being collapsible is all metal and feels secure with little movement. I know there are some concerns about the longevity of the collapsing design from some people I’ve spoken to, but to me it felt very solid and unlikely to break.
The Lens – Coming from using only primes, and my fixed-lens iPhone I found the zoom very useful, it allowed me to frame things easily and that extra bit of reach can be useful – I was out at the park when a large flock of cranes flew over – with my iPhone they were barely a speck, but I happened to have the XF1 in my pocket and I could zoom in and get a set of images I wouldn’t normally have been able to do, even with my X100/X-Pro1 – partly because I don’t carry them everywhere, and partly due to the lack of reach with current lenses. You’re not going to be taking close up wildlife photos with 100mm, but it does at least give you some options.
Optical image stabilisation allows you to create some interesting effects by deliberately dragging the shutter whilst still keeping certain parts of the image sharp.
FUJIFILM XF1 (6.4mm, f/11, 1/8 sec, ISO100)
The lens is a nice bright f/1.8 at the wide although that drops off to f/4.9 at 100mm. This is one of the biggest differences you are going to notice between the XF1 and the X10 in day-to-day shooting, which in contrast manages to stay a bright f/2.8 at the long end of the zoom range. The lens incorporates an optical image stabilisation system which means you can shoot in low light, keep the ISO low and still get sharp images.
FUJIFILM XF1 (6.4mm, f/1.8, 1/40 sec, ISO200)
FUJIFILM XF1 (7.7mm, f/2.8, 1/90 sec, ISO1600)
EXR mode – A brilliant idiot proof mode that just seems to get it right pretty much all the time. Fantastic for the people who aren’t as technically knowledgable as others. Now if only Fuji could invent a mode that stopped heads being chopped off it would be perfect for my wife! The EXR mode is especially useful in difficult conditions such as low light.
The Rear Screen – Excellent! Very bright and crisp and is great for composing images, even in bright sunlight – with one exception .. see What’s Bad below!
Level – Carried over from the X-series cameras, the XF1 has a horizontal level indicator, which as someone who isn’t know for getting horizons straight all the time is fantastic in a compact camera, and the first time I’ve seen it in one. Basically you get a line across the screen which tilts as you tilt the camera and turns green when it’s level.
Face-Detect AF – I’ve been going on about this on the X-Pro1 and X100 cameras, I love face-detect AF systems. Some people think they are for dummies, but when you have a moving child, trust me, it is a godsend! For the most part when you’ve got someone in the frame, that’s what you’re taking a photograph of, especially on a camera like this. I did find it occasionally thinking other things were faces though, so it isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot better than none at all.
Macro – Small compacts are great for macro. The smaller sensors effectively give a much larger depth of field at a lower f-stop than cameras with larger sensors. The image quality at 25mm in macro mode is excellent from the XF1.
The Rear Screen (in “monitor sunlight” mode) – I couldn’t understand why I kept getting blown out highlights on the screen, I was dialling in -2EV and the image still looked too bright. It was driving me nuts. I then loaded up the images at home and was even more confused when they all turned out to be under exposed by about 2 stops! After a few days I figured it out – a little symbol on the screen indicated that the camera had switched the screen into a special mode designed for use in bright sunlight. It was over-exposing the images on the LCD and making them look blown out. Fortunately you can turn that off completely and as soon as I did my experience was transformed. I do see what Fuji was trying to achieve – rear screens are often criticised for being hard to compose on in bright sunlight, so they were obviously trying to do something to address that – but this screen isn’t one of those! It’s bright and clear, even on bright sunny days in southern France. All it ended up doing was confusing me! My recommendation is to turn it off and leave it off.
In this image the backs of the insects looked completely white on the LCD screen as though the sun was bouncing off them, but they were actually perfectly exposed as you can see in the image below.
Long Exposure Restrictions – I was trying to do some 30 second exposures at high ISO, but here I hit problems. The XF1 will only allow a 30s exposure at ISO 100. As you increase the ISO the longest exposure slowly decreases down to a maximum of 2s at ISO 1600. This probably isn’t a problem for many people, and again I can see what Fuji are doing – smaller sensors struggle in low-light and long exposures, so they are just trying to make the best of it, but it’s a restriction you should be aware of if you’re into taking long exposure images.
What would I like to see that isn’t there?
***** WiFi ***** (If I could jump up and down to make that stand out more I would!) This should be built in to all new higher-end cameras. Eye-Fi I hear you all cry! Well yes, there is that option, but there are a few things I don’t like about Eye-Fi. The cards are a lot more expensive than normal SD cards, so replacing your collection of SD cards is going to be expensive. Secondly, the success rate with WiFi on Eye-Fi cards in direct transfer mode is very much hit and miss. Thirdly, I don’t want to transfer every single image I take on my camera into my phone and fill up the storage space on it. I maybe want to go through and pick the odd one or two to upload to the web, e-mail to friends etc. when I’m away from home. Built-in WiFi could offer me a stable flexible option, Eye-Fi does not. If the camera manufacturers want to stem the tide of people switching to use their mobile phones they have to include features like this. Why do we use our phones to take so many photos? Not only because it’s with you all the time, but it’s easy to share those photos seconds after taking them and that’s what most people are doing with photos these days.
GPS – I’m probably reaching a bit too far here for a small compact camera, but I’m a big fan of GPS in cameras, especially on you’re likely to use on your travels. It might seem pointless to some, but once you’ve used it, it’s surprisingly useful for organising your image library and returning to the same spot if you want to shoot it again.
- Collapsing lens
- Beautiful styling
- EXR Mode
- Larger sensor than most point-and-shoot cameras
- Sun monitor mode
- Long exposure restrictions
- Sometimes you can knock the camera off when zooming out.
- No white version (that’s for you DKP!)
The Fujifilm XF1 is a great camera. Fantastic looks and great image quality. For a point-and-shoot I would rate it as one of the best. Many years ago I had a Panasonic Lumix LX2 which I loved, this camera is way ahead of that, especially in terms of image quality and even more so in terms of usability. If you’re looking for a camera that fits in any pocket and one that you want to carry everywhere with you it’s perfect. The XF1 is also perfect if you’re someone who the camera on your mobile phone just isn’t good enough. Other compact cameras are small enough to carry with you at all times, but the XF1 is also a significant magnitude better than even the best mobile phone cameras, especially in challenging conditions, which justifies having it with you where other less capable compacts might not be worth carrying over a recent mobile phone.
More Sample Images
FUJIFILM XF1 (7.7mm, f/10, 1/1500 sec, ISO200)
FUJIFILM XF1 (6.4mm, f/11, 1/1200 sec, ISO200)
FUJIFILM XF1 (20.3mm, f/8, 1/600 sec, ISO200)
See the Fujifilm website for more details on the XF1.