Fuji X-M1 £599

26th Sep 2013 | 15:35

Fuji X-M1

Fujifilm's smaller, more affordable X-series CSC

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

If you're willing to part with a large chunk of change in return for something that looks beautiful, but still delivers in the image quality department, then you'll no doubt be pleased with the Fuji X-M1.

Like:

Tilting screen; Small size; Large APS-C sensor;

Dislike:

Not a touchscreen; Limited digital filters; No viewfinder;

Introduction

Fuji's X-M1 is the third model in the company's X range of interchangeable lens cameras, and it is the smallest and lightest compact system camera the manufacturer has produced to date. In fact, it's a little smaller than the Fuji X20, which is a compact camera with a 2/3-inch sensor. The Fuji X-M1, however, has the same APS-C format sensor as the Fuji X-Pro1 and Fuji X-E1.

Consequently, the Fuji X-M1 has an X-trans CMOS sensor with 16.3 million effective pixels and Fuji's unique colour filter array that minimises moiré patterning and avoids the need for an optical low-pass filter - thus capturing more detail.

As with the X-Pro1 and X-E1, Fuji claims that the new camera is capable of matching a full-frame DSLR for image quality.

Fuji X-M1 review

In a bid to save on cost and size, the Fujifilm X-M1 doesn't have a viewfinder built in, but it has a high resolution LCD screen mounted on a tilting bracket for easier viewing when shooting at high or low angles.

The new camera is the entry-level model for Fuji's X-series of interchangeable lens cameras, or compact system cameras, and it sits below the Fuji X-E1 and the flagship Fuji X-Pro1, priced at £679 / US$799 / AU$999 with a kit lens.

Features

Fuji has coupled the X-M1's sensor with its EXR Processor II (the Fuji X-Pro1 and Fuji X-E1 use the EXR Pro Processor) and this enables a start-up time of 0.5 seconds, shutter lag of 0.05 seconds and a maximum continuous burst speed of 5.6fps (frames per second) for a maximum of 30 images.

This processor also enables you to set sensitivity in the native range ISO 200-6400, with expansion options of ISO 100, ISO 12,800 and ISO 25,600 giving plenty of scope for shooting in low light as well as normal lighting conditions.

Fuji X-M1 review

In a first for Fuji's X-series of compact system cameras, the Fuji X-M1 has a tilting LCD screen, which is designed to provide a clearer view when shooting from high or low angles. This is a high-resolution device with 920,000 dots.

Fuji has also included Wi-Fi technology for the first time in an X-series camera. This enables you to transfer images wirelessly to your smartphone or tablet using the free Fujifilm camera app, and from here images can be shared on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Images can also be backed up to your home PC using the free Fujifilm PC autosave software, which enables you to select a folder to save photos to. Once the camera has been linked to your Wi-Fi router, we are told images can be backed up quickly and easily.

Fuji X-M1 review

Images may be saved to the SD/SDHC/SDXC card as raw or JPEG files, or both simultaneously, and there are five film simulation modes to tailor the look of the JPEG images.

These modes may be used when shooting raw files as well, but the eight advanced filter options can only be used when shooting JPEGs. The film simulation modes include Provia (standard), Velvia (vivid), Astia (muted), Sepia and Black-and-White.

Meanwhile the advanced filters include Toy Camera, Miniature, Dynamic Tone, Pop Colour, Soft Focus, High Key, Low Key and Partial Colour. In addition, there is a multiple exposure mode that enables you to superimpose an overlay image of the previous shot.

Fuji X-M1 review

Being a mirrorless camera, the Fuji X-M1 uses a contrast detection autofocusing system. As with the Fuji X-Pro1 and Fuji X-E1 the Fuji X-M1 has 49 individually selectable AF points. There's also a Multi AF option in which the camera selects the appropriate focus point, Tracking AF, Continuous AF and manual focus mode.

No camera would be complete today without the ability to record Full HD video, and the Fuji X-M1 can record 1920 x 1080 video at 30fps. For extra creativity, the film simulation modes are available for use when shooting video as well as stills.

Finally, in addition to a hotshoe for mounting a flashgun, there's also a small pop-up flash (Guide Number 7 at ISO 200), which is useful for providing extra illumination or fill-in light.

Build and handling

Although it looks and feels very much a part of Fuji's X-series of high-quality cameras, the Fuji X-M1 is noticeably smaller than both the Fuji X-Pro1 and Fuji X-E1.

Nevertheless, it still feels very comfortable in the hand, with a shallow but effective grip on the front providing purchase.

There's also enough room for your thumb on the back of the camera, while the controls are nicely spaced and sized.

Fuji X-M1 review

The Fuji X-M1's control arrangement is a little different from the Fuji X-Pro1's and Fuji X-E1's.

There is no shutter speed dial, for example, but there is an exposure mode dial that gives access to the enthusiast-centric options of program, shutter priority, aperture priority and manual, as well as automatic and scene modes for less experienced photographers. This dial also offers the option to use the advanced filters we mentioned earlier.

A second large dial on the top of the Fuji X-M1 can be used to adjust exposure compensation when shooting in semi-automatic and automatic exposure modes, but in manual mode it's used to set shutter speed, with the small dial above the thumb rest on the back of the camera being used to set aperture.

Fuji X-M1 review

There are no controls on the left-hand side of the LCD screen, Fuji has put them all on the right-hand side to make the camera easy to use one-handed. The buttons and dials have a high-quality feel and they are responsive.

The Q button, which gives access the quick menu, sits in the bottom right-hand corner on the back of the camera. On the Fuji X-Pro1 and Fuji X-E1 this control is in the ridge near the thumb rest, and we found it prone to being accidentally pressed, but this isn't an issue with the new camera.

Fuji's quick menu is one of the best around, and because there's no need to select the various options before they can be adjusted, you just navigate to the one you want and then make the adjustment. It would be nice if it were possible to customise the 16 options that are on offer to your own preferences, though.

Fuji X-M1 review

The 3-inch 920,000-dot LCD screen is very good. It provides a good, clear view with plenty of detail and doesn't suffer excessively from reflections or ghosting. This is especially important in the Fuji X-M1 because it doesn't have a viewfinder for composing images. When the sun is excessively bright, it can be difficult to see the screen, and so tilting it away from glare may be necessary.

The tilting bracket that holds the LCD screen seems sturdy and well made. It's a welcome addition to any camera without a viewfinder and is helpful when composing landscape-format images above and below eye-level. However, because it's not a fully articulating joint it doesn't provide any assistance with portrait-orientation shots.

It's also a little disappointing that the screen isn't touch-sensitive, but of course this would have cost implications, and Fuji has designed the Fuji X-M1 to be more affordable than its other interchangeable lens cameras.

Fuji X-M1 review

Since there's no touchscreen, to change the autofocus point you first need to push the up directional key, then use the keys to navigate your way around the screen until you get to the area you need. This is fine for the majority of situations, but it can be a little slow if you're trying to capture fast action, in which case it might be preferable to set the focus point to the middle, then focus and recompose your shot.

Fuji has introduced two new lenses with the Fuji X-M1. The first of these is the XC 16-50mm F/3.5-5.6 OIS, which will be sold with the camera as a kit. This is a compact zoom lens that produces an effective focal length equivalent to 24-76mm on a full-frame camera.

This XC lens is the first of a new breed of more compact and more affordable lenses. However, according to Fuji UK it's a better quality optic than your average kit lens. In reality, we've found this to be a pretty accurate claim, with it being a good all-round performer suited to use as a carry around lens.

Fuji X-M1 review

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The second lens is the XF 27mm f/2.8 compact prime lens, a pancake optic, which equates to 40.5mm lens in 35mm terms. This also makes for a good carry around lens, especially for street photography work.

Unlike Fuji's earlier XF lenses, neither of these optics has an aperture ring, but the Fuji X-M1 is still compatible with Fuji's existing lenses that feature an aperture ring. Fuji will also issue a firmware upgrade for its existing cameras to enable them to be used with the two new lenses.

While the presence of an aperture ring may be appealing to experienced photographers, it may put off younger or less experienced photographers. The introduction of the two new lenses means that Fuji's compact system cameras may now have broader appeal.

Performance

Since the Fuji X-M1 has the same sensor as the Fuji X-Pro1 and the Fuji X-E1, albeit with a different processing engine, we were reasonably confident that it would be capable of performing in a similar way. Both of these previous cameras impressed us, even giving full-frame cameras a run for their money.

We're pleased to say that the Fuji X-M1 doesn't disappoint. Images are bright and punchy without being overly vibrant, while the amount of detail resolved is fantastic. To really appreciate the amount of detail resolved, be sure to have a look at the full resolution sample images on the following pages.

Shooting in the 'standard' film mode is a replication of the Provia film stock, and gives images a pleasing filmic quality. If you want to boost colours, switching to Velvia increases contrast and saturation and works well in a variety of conditions - though it may make some colours, such as the greens in grass, look unnatural.

Fuji X-M1 review

Other options available to use as a film simulation include black and white, which is rendered pretty nicely. The good thing about using simulations is that you can shoot in raw format, should you decide to make your own edits further down the line, for which you'll want to work with a 'clean' image.

Digital filters are also available, including Toy Camera and Dynamic Tone. The range available on the Fuji X-M1 isn't as wide as on rival cameras, such as the Olympus E-PL5 or Sony NEX-3N, which is a little disappointing. You also lose both the capability to keep creative control over aperture and shutter speed, as well as the ability to shoot in raw format - so whatever you shoot, you'll be stuck with.

Generally, automatic white balance does a good job of reproducing accurate colours without presenting a colour cast. It does struggle slightly when shooting under warm artificial lights, erring slightly towards warm tones. It seems to have improved since the Fuji X-Pro1 though, but if you find the camera is struggling, switching to a more appropriate white balance setting is pretty easy.

Fuji X-M1 review

All purpose metering (known as 'photometry' in Fuji language) also does a reasonable job in the majority of conditions, providing balanced exposures even when shooting in high contrast situations. Again, if the camera is struggling, switching to spot metering is beneficial.

Low light performance is good, with the large sensor helping to capture the maximum amount of light possible. Noise is well controlled throughout the lower sensitivity ranges, while detail is still retained impressively well. There's very little evidence of image smoothing, especially at lower ISO values.

Once you start to hit the higher values of around ISO 1600, noise does start to become evident, but only if examining images closely at 100%. Images up at the very high sensitivities, such as ISO 3200, are still useable at standard printing and web sizes (such as A4/US letter size).

Fuji X-M1 review

Autofocusing speeds are not one of the advertised selling points of the Fuji X-M1, and it's true to say that it can't compete with the lightning-quick speeds of cameras such as the Panasonic GF6 or Olympus PEN Mini E-PM2. But for most everyday situations it copes reasonably well, only hunting slightly in low contrast situations or lower light.

What is quick is start-up times and shot to shot times. There's barely any time between shots, making it a useful camera to use for street photography and the like when you want to capture the moment.

When using the Fuji X-M1 with the kit lens, it's ready to go as soon as you switch on the camera, unlike the kit lens that comes packaged with the Olympus PEN series, which needs to be extended to work.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Fuji X-M1, 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-M1 is capable of resolving up to around 26 (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:

JPEG

Fuji XM1 review

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

Fuji XM1 review

ISO 100, score: 26 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji XM1 review

ISO 200, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji XM1 review

ISO 400, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji XM1 review

ISO 800, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji XM1 review

ISO 1600, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji XM1 review

ISO 3200, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji XM1 review

ISO 6400, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji XM1 review

ISO 12800, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji XM1 review

ISO 25600, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Raw

Fuji XM1 review

ISO 200, score: 26 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji XM1 review

ISO 400, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji XM1 review

ISO 800, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji XM1 review

ISO 1600, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji XM1 review

ISO 3200, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji XM1 review

ISO 6400, score: 24 (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.

Here we compare the Fuji X-M1 with the Sony NEX-3N, Fuji X-E1, Olympus E-PM2 and Panasonic GF6. The Fuji X-M1 has the greatest sensitivity range of all the cameras here.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Fuji XM1 review

As we can see from this graph, JPEGs from the Fuji X-M1 contain greater signal to noise ratios than JPEGs from the Olympus E-PM2 at every sensitivity setting, though they have weaker ratios than those from the Fuji X-E1 at every sensitivity. The Fuji X-M1's JPEG images have greater signal to noise ratios than those from the Panasonic GF6 at every setting except ISO 200 and 400, and are stronger than the Sony NEX-3N's at ISO 3200 and 6400, score similar results at ISO 800 and 1600 and are weaker at ISO 200, 400 and 12800.

Raw signal to noise ratio

Fuji XM1 review

The Fuji X-M1's TIFF images (after conversion from raw) are comparatively weaker than its JPEGs in terms of signal to noise ratios, producing weaker ratios than TIFFs from the Sony NEX-3N, Olympus E-PM2 and Fuji X-E1 at every sensitivity setting. However, the X-M1's TIFFs do contain greater signal to noise ratios than those from the Panasonic GF6 throughout the sensitivity range.

JPEG dynamic range

JPEG Dynamic Range

Although the X-M1's JPEG dynamic range appears to be quite poor when compared with other cameras in our labs test this is mostly likely to be due to the level of contrast that Fuji wants in its JPEG images. In our real world testing, we have found that the camera is more than capable of producing images with pleasant contrast and vibrant colours throughout the sensitivity range. Switching to raw shooting produces a dynamic range performance which is much closer to the other cameras on test. The raw files have a significantly wider tonal range that gives greater scope for post capture adjustment, while the JPEGs are intended to look good straight from the camera.

To eliminate any variations, we have tested more than one X-M1 model on several occasions.

Raw dynamic range

Fuji XM1 review

This chart indicates that TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Fuji X-M1 contain greater dynamic range than those from the Panasonic GF6 at every sensitivity setting, and greater range than TIFFs from the Sony NEX-3N at every sensitivity except ISO 3200 and 6400. But the Fuji X-M1's TIFFs show weaker dynamic range than the Olympus E-PM2's TIFFs at every sensitivity setting. The Fuji X-M1's TIFFs have a weaker range than the Fuji X-E1's at ISO 400, 800 and 6400, similar range at ISO 200 and 1600, and slightly stronger range at ISO 3200.

Sample images

Fuji X-M1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Colours straight from the Fuji X-M1 are bright and punchy without being overly saturated. To increase the vibrancy, you can choose to shoot in the classic Velvia simulation mode.

Fuji X-M1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The new 16-50mm kit lens is a flexible option for your first lens, and offers an equivalent of 24-76mm in 35mm terms. Fuji claims that this lens is a better performer than standard kit lenses, and we've certainly found it very capable during our test.

Fuji X-M1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Even when shooting at high sensitivities (this image is ISO 1600), the Fuji X-M1 is capable of resolving a large amount of detail. Examining this image at 100% does reveal some image smoothing in the fine knits, but considering it was shot at ISO 1600, the sensor has coped well.

Fuji X-M1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

General purpose metering does a good job of helping to produce balanced exposures even when the contrast in a scene is a high. To get even better results, switch to spot metering.

Fuji X-M1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

There's plenty of detail in this shot, while image stabilisation has done a good job of keeping the image blur-free, despite it being a hand-held shot.

Fuji X-M1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The number of lenses available for the Fuji X system is fairly limited, though it is growing. This image was shot with the 60mm f/2.8 optic.

Fuji X-M1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

When shooting under artificial lighting, the Fuji X-M1 has a tendency to err towards warmer tones, so it might be preferable to switch to a more specific white balance setting if the camera is struggling.

Fuji X-M1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The new 27mm f/2.8 pancake lens is a good carry around option, because it gives an equivalent focal length of around 41mm. With its capability to shoot as wide as f/2.8, it's also useful when light levels drop.

Fuji X-M1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The 60mm f/2.8 lens makes an ideal lens for shooting portraits, because it helps to capture the maximum amount of detail and is roughly equivalent to 90mm.

Fuji X-M1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

You can also choose to shoot in black and white by using film simulation modes. These enable you to shoot in raw format, so if you change your mind about the simulation down the line, you can work with a 'clean' version.

Digital filters

A number of digital filters are available on the Fuji X-M1, which can be accessed via the Advanced section of the mode dial. Images shot with these filters can only be shot in JPEG format.

Fuji X-M1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Fuji X-M1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Fuji X-M1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Fuji X-M1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Fuji X-M1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Fuji X-M1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Fuji X-M1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Sensitivity and noise images

JPEG

Fuji X-M1 review

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

Fuji X-M1 review

ISO 100 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-M1 review

ISO 200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-M1 review

ISO 400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-M1 review

ISO 800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-M1 review

ISO 1600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-M1 review

ISO 3200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-M1 review

ISO 6400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-M1 review

ISO 12800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-M1 review

ISO 25600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Raw

Fuji X-M1 review

ISO 200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-M1 review

ISO 400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-M1 review

ISO 800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-M1 review

ISO 1600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-M1 review

ISO 3200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-M1 review

ISO 6400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Verdict

There's plenty to like about the Fuji X-M1, and it's good to see Fuji thinking about a more mass market audience by introducing a more affordable model. That said, this is only more affordable by Fuji's terms, so you're still looking at an entry-level model with not much change from £700 / US$800 / AU$1,000 - significantly more than the price of its competitors such as the excellent Sony NEX-3N, which you can now pick up for around £330 / US$500 / AU$500.

Fujifilm will also have a tough time competing with the likes of Olympus and Panasonic, which have been in this area of the market for longer and so have more, and cheaper, optics available. There's also other accessories, such as a viewfinder, which are conspicuous by their absence.

Although the tilting LCD screen has a nice high resolution and doesn't suffer too badly from glare or reflections, we can't help but be disappointed by the lack of a touchscreen on this camera - especially at this price point.

Putting those niggles aside, image quality from the Fuji X-M1 is undeniably fantastic. Detail is resolved incredibly well, while colours are bright and punchy without suffering from over saturation.

It's good to have different film simulation modes to experiment with, with Velvia being a particular favourite if you need to boost colour and contrast for any reason. It's useful to be able to shoot in raw format with these so that you can access a clean version of the image if you need it.

It's disappointing therefore that the digital filters available in the 'Advanced' mode are so few, and unavailable in raw format. We'd like to see more experimentation with this in future from Fuji, please.

The Fuji X-M1's low light performance is also good, as we've come to expect from the Fuji X-Pro1's sensor, so if you like to photograph a lot in these conditions, this camera is a worthy contender for your cash.

We liked

Fuji has once again pulled a design classic out of the bag, producing something that manages to combine classic retro looks with everything you need for excellent picture taking as well as an extremely useful tilting screen.

We disliked

The Fuji X-M1 has no viewfinder - and no optional extra - available, while the screen isn't touch sensitive. Other manufacturers offer these kind of things, without the high price tag.

Final verdict

When it comes to shopping for a camera like this, although image quality is good, appearance is still very important. If you're willing to part with a large chunk of change in return for something that looks beautiful but still delivers in the image quality department, then you'll no doubt be pleased with the Fuji X-M1.

If, however, you're looking for your first camera in the interchangeable lens category, and you're on a budget, this wouldn't be our first recommendation.

Although Fuji's lens and accessory range is limited for the moment, it is growing, and we're hopeful that it will continue to grow. It's nice to see Fuji thinking about mass market consumers, and we can hope that the price of the Fuji X-M1 will drop to enable it to compete more closely with rivals from Sony, Panasonic and Olympus.

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