Fuji X-F1 £379
21st Nov 2012 | 16:30
Small, sleek and stylish - Fujifilm has sexed up the X range
Fuji's X range of cameras has proven incredibly popular over the past couple of years. Now the company seems keen on expanding that popularity into the mass market of consumers, with a new range of cameras designed to appeal to a wider audience.
Once again, high-end design makes an appearance for the Fuji X-F1. A light and durable aluminum body is covered with synthetic leather that imitates the feel of genuine leather.
The lens is also a newly developed optic. The 4x optical zoom lens is capable of reaching a maximum aperture of f/1.8 at the widest angle of the lens.
It features seven lens elements in six groups, to include four aspherical and three extra low dispersion. All elements have been coated with Fuji's special coatings which are designed to help reduce ghosting and flare.
An EXR processor is also included. According to Fuji this promises fast autofocusing, even in dark conditions. Also facilitated by the processor is Full HD video recording and a high burst mode for stills.
At the back of the camera you'll find a 3-inch, 460k dot LCD display made of tempered glass. There's no electronic (or optical) viewfinder included as standard with the camera, so all image composition must be carried out via the screen.
The good news for anyone wanting to explore photography further is that the Fuji X-F1 also features full manual control and the ability to shoot in raw format.
Keen to appeal to the Instagram and Hipstamatic crowd, Fuji has elected to include a number of creative digital filters on the X-F1. These include Pop Colour, Toy Camera and Dynamic tone.
Currently, the Fuji X-F1 has an RRP of around £380/AU$499/US$499, which is a little less than the recommended retail price of the Fuji Finepix X10.
However, since the latter camera has been around for some time now, you can pick it up for less than its full price online.
Build quality and handling
Probably the biggest selling point of the Fuji X-F1 will be its sleek design and small size. Because Fuji has opted to use a small (2/3-inch) sensor, the size of the camera can be kept compact.
That said, Sony's one-inch RX100 is shorter and thinner, and only a couple of millimetres thicker than the Fuji X-F1.
It's perhaps a little surprising that a 4x optical zoom lens can fit inside the tiny body of the camera. To keep it sleek, the lens retracts into the body of the Fuji X-F1 when not in use.
The camera is turned on via the lens - like the X10. This is intended to speed up the process of capturing a moment, but may seem a little strange at first.
It's also easy to over-enthusiastically turn the barrel of the lens around and end up having to zoom back out again. That said, it's something you get used to relatively quickly.
You can also set the camera to standby by partially retracting the lens and not pushing it back inside the body. This speeds up the process of grabbing a shot in comparison with powering up the fully switched off camera.
Unlike most traditional compact cameras, the Fuji X-F1's zoom is operated manually via the lens ring, rather than via a button or switch on the back of the camera or around the shutter release.
This gives it an old-fashioned charm and a more serious feel, which is likely to appeal to serious photographers. On the downside, it's pretty much impossible to use this camera with one hand if you want to zoom in.
It's unlikely to appeal to everyone, but the synthetic leather grip adds a stylish finishing touch, and helps when gripping the camera, since there's no dedicated grip. You can elect to choose between red, brown or black, depending on your preference.
At the top of the camera, a traditional mode dial enables quick access to the different functions of the camera, including P/A/S/M modes. Because the camera is so small, there's not the same range of dials and buttons that can be found on the Fuji X10, which is worth bearing in mind if you prefer direct access controls.
Despite the lack of such controls, the ability to shoot in full manual control is available, including aperture and shutter priority.
On the back of the Fuji X-F1 is a sensible selection of buttons, including a dedicated video record button and a customisable E-Fn button for quickly accessing the most commonly used settings.
Two dials can be used for changing parameters such as shutter speed or aperture (depending on the shooting mode). One at the top of the back, and the other that doubles up as a four-way directional pad.
If you're used to using any of the other Fujifilm X range cameras, the menu will be familiar. It's sensibly arranged in the most part, with functions being easy to access and change. Although there's no EVF, the screen itself has been designed to make composing and shooting images easy.
Any changes made to parameters, such as aperture, or adding a digital filter, are displayed on the screen, which is handy for judging whether you need to make further changes.
It's not a touchscreen, which is a shame, since that would have made changing the autofocus point a lot quicker. As it is, you need to press the E-Fn button, and then the record button (which doubles up as the change AF button), then use the arrow keys to choose the autofocus point.
It's also a little confusing, since pressing the E-Fn button brings up an on-screen guide to the button changes - this looks like they should be touch activated, so it takes a little getting used to before you realise that these symbols correspond to physical buttons rather than on-screen options.
The Fuji X-F1's sensitivity can reach up to ISO 3200. One handy function is the ability to set an ISO Auto limit to either 400, 800, or right up to the top end of the 3200. This is useful if you don't want to set a particular sensitivity setting but want to avoid the risk of noisy shots from a very high sensitivity.
The Fuji X-F1 uses the same sensor and processor as the Fuji Finepix X10, which has already proven to be a very capable camera. The fact that Fuji has managed to squeeze its fantastic technology into a smaller body is pretty astonishing, and we can see it appealing to quite a variety of people for this reason.
We had high hopes for the Fuji X-F1 after viewing it for our hands-on. With its premium lens and larger than average sensor, we had hoped that images from it would be excellent.
Luckily, we have not been disappointed by the output from the Fuji X-F1. Images appear sharp, bright and crisp, with a good level of colour saturation that is not overly vibrant.
How to use your new digital camera
Since the lens has a maximum aperture of f/1.8, very pleasing shallow depth of field effects can be achieved, enabling you to really get creative with your images. The ability to manually control the camera and shoot in raw format are also added bonuses.
Autofocus acquisition is very quick, and generally pretty accurate. It's a shame that choosing an autofocus point can't be quicker, but you could always set it for the central point and use the half-press and recompose technique if you're trying to quickly capture moments in quick succession.
Macro focusing is available via a push of the left four-way control pad. Once this is activated you can focus from very closely indeed, making it great for shooting frame-filling close-up shots.
The screen is viewable from wide angles, which is handy if you need to shoot from slightly odd angles, such as above the head.
It seems to work well in a variety of lighting conditions, though we have so far been unable to test it in the brightest of sunlight.
Metering is generally pretty good, even in high contrast situations. You can choose a different metering mode via the main menu - where it is called "Photometry". Spotmetering can be useful there's a particularly confusing light pattern in the scene.
Images shot at high sensitivity settings, such as 1600 and above, display a decent level of noise control. Although there are some examples of image smoothing, these images look fine at normal printing or web sizes.
Image quality drops at the very high settings - such as ISO 3200 - but again, at normal web sizes they are acceptable, and it's certainly preferable to not being able to get the shot at all.
The automatic white balance system does a good job of displaying accurate colours, even in mixed or artificial lighting conditions. Again, you can of course change this setting should you find the camera struggles with a particular scene.
When examining images shot at a relatively narrow aperture, such as f/8, the sharpness of the lens is apparent. Edge to edge sharpness is pretty good, maintaining fine details across the majority of the image, with only a slight drop off at the very corners of the image.
Images taken at the furthest reach of the telephoto optic (100mm equivalent) are good, with image stabilisation doing a reasonable job of controlling blur from camera shake.
It's a shame that the maximum aperture at this end of the focal range is f/4.9, unlike the Panasonic LX7, which can boast f/2.3 at its furthest reach.
Digital zoom is also available - though you will have to switch raw format shooting off in order to use it. Image quality is reasonably good when using this, especially when printing at small sizes or viewing on the web.
There is some evidence of image quality dropping, but it's a handy extra to have when in a pickle. It's a shame you need to switch raw format shooting off to access it, since this makes for some frustrating menu diving.
For those who want to get creative with different picture effects, you can choose to shoot Film Simulation modes, which recreate the look of classic film stock such as Provia and Astia. Alternatively, you can find a number of digital art filters under the Advanced area of the mode dial.
Both modes enable you to shoot in raw format while these are activated, meaning you have a "clean" version of the image, should you want that later in the process.
There's a decent range of art filters, though some will be appreciated more than others, depending on personal preference. Dynamic Tone is particularly interesting, while Toy Camera is quite fun.
Experimenting with the Film Simulation modes gives you a greater degree of flexibility, since they can be activated while using full manual/semi-automatic shooting modes.
Image quality and resolution
As part of our image quality testing for the Fuji X-F1, we've shot our resolution chart.
If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the Fuji X-F1 is capable of resolving up to around 22 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.
For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.
Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:
ISO 100, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 200, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 400, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 800, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 1600, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 3200, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 6400, score: 12 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 12800, score: n/a (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 100, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 200, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 400, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 800, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 1600, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 3200, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
Noise and dynamic range
We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.
A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.
For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.
JPEG signal to noise ratio
These results show that the Fuji X-F1's JPEG files have a similar signal to noise ratio to those from the Canon S100 at the low sensitivities, and the Panasonic LX7 in the mid range. It sits below the Sony RX100 after ISO 200, and above the Olympus XZ-2 and Fuji X10 throughout the whole range.
Raw signal to noise ratio
The signal to noise ratios of the TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Fuji X-F1 are better than the JPEG images, this time producing the most impressive results of the group at ISO 100-400, before the Canon S100 overtakes it in the mid-range. The Sony RX100 also performs better than the Fuji X-F1 at ISo 1600 and above, while the Panasonic LX7, Fuji X10 and Olympus XZ-2 are lower down in the performance league.
JPEG dynamic range
Again, the Fuji X-F1 sits roughly in the middle of the table for its JPEG results for dynamic range. The Olympus XZ-2 comes out top at the low-to-mid range, and the Sony RX100 takes the lead at the higher sensitivities. The Panasonic LX7 produces similar results to the X-F1, and the Fuji X10 and Canon S100 sit at the lower end of the table.
Raw dynamic range
This chart indicates that TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Fuji X-F1 have the strongest dynamic range of all the cameras at the lower sensitivities, but are beaten by the Sony RX100, Fuji X10 and Olympus XZ-2 from ISO 800 and up. The Panasonic LX7 and Canon S100 sit below them in the table.
In this shot, taken at f/8.0, we can see that edge to edge sharpness in images is generally good right up to the corners of the shot.
Macro focusing from very close proximities is quick and easy, helping to produce detailed macro shots with lots of impact.
The widest angle of the 4x optical zoom lens is 25mm in 35mm format, enabling you to take wide-angle shots, which should be appealing to landscape photographers.
Despite its relatively small sensor, the Fuji X-F1 is capable of producing attractive shallow depth of field shots, thanks to the lens' maximum aperture of f/1.8.
Colours are represented richly straight from the camera, with a number of different film simulation modes available. These build on Fuji's analogue heritage and include recreations of Provia (standard - which this was shot in), Velvia (vivid) and Astia (soft).
At its widest end, the XF-1's lens offers 25mm, which offers a great level of flexibility and allows for plenty of the scene to be captured.
This picture has been captured at the widest angle of the XF-1's lens.
Here we can see the 4x optical zoom in action, giving an equivalent of 1000mm.
The digital zoom can be utilised when not shooting in raw format, and actually does a reasonable job.
The XF-1 copes reasonably well at low light, high sensitivity settings, producing images which show a good level of detail.
The large sensor and wide f/1.8 maximum aperture enables creative shallow depth of field effects to be achieved.
The XF-1's small and discreet appearance makes it a good choice for street and everyday photography, easily slipping into the pocket for maximum convenience.
Autofocusing speeds are generally quick and accurate, especially when the lighting conditions are good, allowing you to capture the action as it happens.
Along with the ability to shoot different film simulation modes, a number of creative art filters are available, including the following:
Sensitivity and noise
Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.
Fuji has produced another good camera to sit in its highly praised X line-up in the Fuji X-F1. Featuring the same sensor as the well loved Fuji X10, this is a camera that is likely to appeal to a different group of people.
With its stylish looks, that granted won't appeal to everyone, and ultra sleek body, Fuji is clearly aiming this at those people who want a camera to fit neatly into a pocket or a bag.
That said, with full manual control, a good sensor and the ability to shoot in raw format, it also offers a lot for the creative photographer.
It's likely to come down to personal taste whether you go for this or the X10, if you're drawn in by the Fuji brand.
Images straight from the camera need little editing, with bright, but not overly vibrant, colours. There's lots of options to get creative, with film simulation modes and art filters. Unlike many other cameras, you can also shoot in raw format when shooting in these modes, leaving you with a clean image to work with should you choose to.
We would have liked to have seen a touchscreen on the Fuji X-F1, since selecting an autofocus point is a little fiddly without. The mechanism for opening and closing the lens is designed to make the camera sleek, but in practice we found it a little annoying to use, especially when the camera enters auto-off mode.
Even more style led than the other cameras in the range, the Fuji X-F1 is bound to appeal to those photographers who like something a little bit more unusual than the standard run of the mill point and shoots.
In terms of image quality, the camera can deliver some great shots, but it's marred a little by some of its handling quirks, which stop it being even better.