Fuji XQ1 £399

23rd Dec 2013 | 16:41

Fuji XQ1

Fuji's X20 sensor in a tiny body

TechRadar rating:

3.5 stars

A fun camera, but we can't help feel it fails to live up to its promises, and with the falling cost of models such as the Canon Powershot G16/G15 and GX1 and the Panasonic Lumx DMC-LX-7, it might find standing against the competition rather difficult.

Like:

Lovely solid build; Super-fast power up and shot-to-shot times; Good colours and colour controls; Good resolution mid aperture range

Dislike:

F/1.8 is rarely available; Quite noisy images; Limited dynamic range; Lens ring moves too easily

Introduction and features

Ratings in depth
Fuji XQ1 review
Fuji XQ1 review
Fuji XQ1 review
Fuji XQ1 review
Fuji XQ1 review

With the guts of the X20 and a new f/1.8 zoom lens, Fuji's XQ1 promises high image quality and great low-light functionality

There seems of be an insatiable appetite for premium quality compact cameras, with camera buyers happy to part with healthy amounts of cash to secure a well-built body that gives the impression of detailed control, a high-performance lens and some additional features that make it stand out from the crowd.

A super-wide aperture is an excellent example of the kind of 'additional feature' that users are looking for, and maximum openings of f/1.8, as presented here by the Fuji XQ1, have been a fashionable attention-grabber since Samsung's EX1 was launched in 2010.

But the XQ1 can offer more than that. It also includes that second most-desired additional feature – a larger-than-usual imaging sensor, plus the processor of a camera much further up the range than itself.

It's a heady mix, but one that experience tells us does not have to produce the fine results one would hope from the sum of so many advanced parts.

Features

The Fuji XQ1 is a pocket-sized compact camera that features a 25-100mm (35mm equiv) lens with an aperture range of f/1.8-4.9. The camera uses the same 2/3in X-Trans CMOS sensor and processor as the company's advanced and stylish X20 compact camera – a camera that cost almost one and a half times as much when launched as the XQ1 does now.

The benefits of this connection, beyond the prestige, is that the sensor is twice the size of that used in many compact cameras, and 1.3x the size of those used in more premium models such as Canon's Powershot G16. Possession of a larger sensor, of course, means that the camera's 12 million pixels can be larger and can, in theory at least, collect more light. This in turn should lead to less image noise at higher ISO settings and in long exposures. Indeed, the camera has been allowed a maximum ISO rating of 12800.

Fuji

Fuji claims that the size of the sensor isn't the only aspect of the camera that is working towards reducing imaging noise, as the high-powered processor has a hand in matters too.

Proving its premium credentials, the XQ1 offers the simultaneous saving of images as raw and JPEG files, and the exposure mode dial on the top plate houses positions for aperture and shutter priority modes, as well as full manual and fully automatic point-and-shoot functions.

Those who remember the film days will be glad to know that Fuji has included image settings to simulate the colour and contrast characteristics of Provia, Astia and Velvia transparency emulsions, as well as the black and white tones of Neopan. If you choose to record your images in raw format you have the chance to apply these 'looks' post-capture, as the camera is capable of a degree of raw processing independently of a computer.

Fuji black

Of course, physically plugging a camera into a computer is considered very third-world these days, and Fuji has rightly included wireless connection so that you can transfer files either to a hard drive, a smartphone or a tablet.

If we were to look for what's missing, perhaps some form of touch-screen capability for selecting at least a focus point might have been useful.

Build and handling

It's the quality of the build of this model that struck us first. It's a solid little block, with a reassuring metal feel to the top plate, the dial and the lens mount. Although designed to be lightweight, the XQ1 has a certain authoritative presence in the hand, and a thumb catch on its rear is just enough to lend secure purchase.

Buttons silver

The buttons, though few, are well laid out, and conform very much to the industry standard. The layout comprises a rotating rear wheel that doubles as a four-way rocker-switch surrounded by additional access points.

The on/off button is nicely recessed, so it's unlikely to be pressed by accident, and the camera starts up very quickly. Not only ready to shoot in no time at all, the XQ1 spends very little time on itself between shots, which means we can enjoy a second bite of the cherry if we miss the decisive moment the first time. This is a rare skill in a compact camera and one to be cherished.

Top view

We're big fans of control rings around lenses, and were pleased to see one here, completing the retro look with something functional. While the lens ring on the X20 is used to turn the camera on, in the XQ1 it can be used to deal with apertures, white balance, exposure compensation, ISO, drive modes, colour modes and even to control the zoom.

The ring feels nice and in all activities other than in controlling focal length it works well (it's slow and un-reactive as a zoom ring). However, it has no click-stops or lock, or anyway of keeping it from moving. As such, we found on numerous occasions that even the way we held the camera was altering the exposure compensation value, or giving us f/8 when we thought we were enjoying f/1.8. It needs some way for the user to restrain its enthusiasm for its task.

Angle view

With few external buttons, presumably to make it look easy to use, the rear of the body falls somewhat short of supplying access to all the features an enthusiast photographer might want to use. Fuji has partly made up for this by creating an extra layer of functions for the rear wheel.

Pressing the E-Fn button brings up a virtual menu screen that adds an additional function for six of the rear buttons, thus giving access to features such as white balance, AF point positioning and film simulation modes. This provides a speedier route than having to go via the main menu, and is a reasonable price to pay for having a small body, but it can feel a little long-winded at times.

OMLED

Wirelessly connecting the camera to a tablet (in our case a Sony Xperia Z) proved very easy once the Fuji Camera app was downloaded. The devices took a little while to find each other, but transfer is quick and, importantly, we were able to browse the camera's files as good-sized thumbnails and choose which to import. The app doesn't appear to offer remote controlled shooting, as is commonly a feature of these things.

Performance

It is easy to write f/1.8 on the barrel of a lens, but quite another thing to make that lens work well at such a wide aperture.

closed lens

Performance at this maximum setting is okay, with decent-enough resolution and no evidence of chromatic separations even in the corners. As one might expect, f/1.8 isn't the XQ1's best aperture, but fortunately for detail (but equally unfortunate of lovers of wide apertures) we get the chance to use this setting only rarely.

Shifting the zoom even fractionally brings about a dramatic closure of the blades and we quickly progress to the f/4.9 end of the quoted range. By the 35mm zoom position the widest available aperture is f/3.6 and by 50mm - only halfway through the zoom range - we can only manage f4.2. From this point of view, the f/1.8 advertised marking feels a bit of a con.

In hand

We found in use the better apertures sit firmly in the middle of the range - f/5.6-8 - with those before and after producing less sharp work. In practice too, there is not a great deal of benefit to be had from using the wider apertures if shallow depth of field is your aim, as at normal distances there is little differential focusing.

Wider apertures though can be used to avoid straying into higher ISO settings, as these produce quite a lot of noise. Luminance noise is a feature of images shot at settings of ISO 400 and above, with noise really having a significant impact at ISO 3200. Less vigorous noise reduction is the culprit, but at the same time this helps the camera to maintain good levels of detail resolution at almost all sensitivity settings.

top

Exposure metering is typically bright for a compact camera of this type, aiming at print-from-camera results rather than the atmospheric. We employed the help of the exposure compensation function on a great number of occasions to reduce overall brightness – something especially important given the surprisingly limited dynamic range of JPEG files. Images saved in the raw format hang on to detail a good deal longer, but still DSLR users will not be used to the speed at which highlight detail can be lost.

When exposures suit the scene, the XQ1 produces good colour. In the standard Provia setting Fuji avoids over-saturation and produces nice natural-looking shades. We found the auto white balancing mode quite effective. The 'daylight' setting, being actually labelled 'fine' can be too cool, and 'shade' delivers the warmth we don't need on just a cloudy day – there is nothing in between.

extended lens

We've been pleased with the focusing speed and accuracy of the camera, as well as the camera's ability to support an AF point in 49 locations across the screen. In both bright and low-contrast situations, we found the system could find what we were aiming at with little delay, and even moving subjects were tracked rather well. Though on paper the macro mode's 3cm limit looks promising, in practice the close focus ability diminishes as soon as we leave the 25mm focal length setting.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Fuji XQ1, we've shot our resolution chart.

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:

JPEG

ISO 100

Full ISO image. See the cropped (100%) versions below.

ISO 100

ISO 100, score: 24 (click here to view full resolution image).

ISO 200

ISO 200, score: 22 (click here to view full resolution image).

ISO 400

ISO 400, score: 22 (click here to view full resolution image).

ISO 800

ISO 800, score: 20 (click here to view full resolution image).

ISO 1600

ISO 1600, score: 18 (click here to view full resolution image).

ISO 3200

ISO 3200, score: 18 (click here to view full resolution image).

ISO 6400

ISO 6400, score: 16 (click here to view full resolution image).

ISO 12800

ISO 12800, score: 12 (click here to view full resolution image).

Raw

ISO 100

ISO 100, score: 26 (click here to view full resolution image).

ISO 200

ISO 200, score: 26 (click here to view full resolution image).

ISO 400

ISO 400, score: 24 (click here to view full resolution image).

ISO 800

ISO 800, score: 22 (click here to view full resolution image).

ISO 1600

ISO 1600, score: 20 (click here to view full resolution image).

ISO 3200

ISO 3200, score: 18 (click here to view 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

JPEG signal to noise ratio

This suggests that images from the XQ1 are a little noisier than those from the other cameras, but the resolution scores are good indicating that detail has been preserved at the expense of a little noise.

Raw (after conversion to TIFF) signal to noise ratio

Raw signal to noise ratio

Apart from at the lowest sensitivity settings the XQ1 produces cleaner images with a stronger signal than the Canon S120. It's performance is close to the Fuji X20's up to around ISO 400, from here images become a bit noisier.

JPEG dynamic range

JPEG dynamic range

The XQ1 shows the same strange dynamic range pattern as the X20, getting wider at the mid sensitivity values - where it beats the competition.

Raw (after conversion to TIFF) dynamic range

Raw dynamic range

This shows that the XQ1's dynamic range is more restricted than the other cameras' apart from at ISO 100 where it beats the Sony RX100 II and at the higher sensitivities where it out performs the Canon S120.

Sensitivity and noise images

Raw

ISO 100

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100% versions below).

ISO 100

ISO 100 (click here to view full resolution image).

ISO 200

ISO 200 (click here to view full resolution image).

ISO 400

ISO 400 (click here to view full resolution image).

ISO 800

ISO 800 (click here to view full resolution image).

ISO 1600

ISO 1600 (click here to view full resolution image).

ISO 3200

ISO 3200 (click here to view full resolution image).

JPEG

ISO 100

ISO 100 (click here to view full resolution image).

ISO 200

ISO 200 (click here to view the full resolution image).

ISO 400

ISO 400 (click here to view the full resolution image).

ISO 800

ISO 800 (click here to view the full resolution image).

ISO 1600

ISO 1600 (click here to view the full resolution image).

ISO 3200

ISO 3200 (click here to view full resolution image).

ISO 6400

ISO 6400 (click here to view full resolution image).

ISO 12800

ISO 12800 (click here to view full resolution image).

Sample images

Image 1

Barrelling is something of an issue at the widest 25mm focal length setting of the zoom – making straight lines near close of the edges of the frame bend outwards in the middle. Some pincushion is evident at the longer setting too. See the full resolution image here.

High ISO

Noise becomes clearly evident in images shot at ISO 400 and above, but only reaches a dangerous level at ISO 3200. The upside of Fuji's low-impact noise reduction is that resolution is preserved at higher ISO settings. See the full resolution image here.

White balance

The XQ1's auto white balancing system is surprisingly good, and is often a better bet than the limited pre-set options. The auto mode took nothing away from this sunset. See the full resolution image here.

Wide focal

There is no evidence, even at the extremes of the frame, of chromatic fringing in images shot at the wider focal lengths. See the full resolution image here.

Neopan

The XQ1 provides pretty good in-camera raw processing, allowing us to add film 'looks' to image post-capture, and to alter contrast and colour settings. See the full resolution image here.

-1EV

Exposures tend to be on the bright side, as with most compact cameras. Here using -1EV has produced much richer colours and a better representation of how we saw the scene. See the full image resolution here.

Verdict

The Fuji XQ1 is a very nice-looking camera that is well styled and will catch the eye of those searching for something with a convincing appearance. It's built very well too, and in general terms its photographic performance is mostly up to what should be expected.

Picture quality is decent without being exceptional, and while detail is well resolved as sensitivity increases, noise joins that detail and adds texture that doesn't exist in real life.

in hands

We've enjoyed using the camera in brighter conditions, but those attracted by the wide maximum aperture may feel cheated that the iris closes very quickly as the zoom is employed, and higher and higher ISO settings are required to freeze elements in a scene moving only at a walking pace.

It is a fun camera, but we can't help feel it fails to live up to its promises, and with the falling cost of models such as the Canon Powershot G16/G15 and GX1 and the Panasonic LX7, it might find standing against the competition rather difficult.

Fuji XQ1 compact cameras camerascarousel-en-gb camerascarousel-en-us camerascarousel-en-au
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