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13.02.13

Fuji XF1

Fujifilm XF1

The retro chic XF1 is the latest introduction to Fuji's X-series of cameras. Slim and attractive, with bags of style but can the internals match to the externals? Only one way to find out, KARL SHAW reports!

Fuji seems to be churning out new models at an alarming rate. Unfortunately they seem to be giving the DSLR?market a wide berth and concentrating on everything else. And unfortunately for every other manufacturer they seem to hit the nail squarely on the head with whatever they bring to the market.

It’s no secret, I’m a huge fan of just about everything Fuji throws at me to test. The X-Pro1 is just about the finest camera that has passed through my hands. I’ve yet to try out their X-E1 but I know as soon as those very kind people at Fuji send one out to me, I know I’m going to love it. Is love too strong a word? Possibly. But the thing is, when you look at Fuji’s Pro/Enthusiast range and if you have an ounce of passion in your body you can’t help but be almost moved by the sheer retro charm of their cameras.

These are cameras that not only should be used with all the care and skill that their looks and personality deserve but are also cameras that you want to take pictures of and not just with. Now, if you’re the kind of photographer who doesn’t give a stuff what the camera looks like as long as it takes great pictures and gets the job done, then all Fuji’s marketing and design has been wasted, but everyone I know who has come into contact with any of the above cameras have waxed lyrical about how cool they look. The fact that they take pretty good photographs cements their almost iconic appeal.

Specifications
Enter the XF1. A 12 million pixel, CMOS?sensor high-end compact. If the old adage - 'if it looks right, it is right' is true, then this sleek looking Fuji must be absolutely spot on. For starters, the synthetic leather that coats the body is available in three colour options; red, black and tan. These colours combined with the aluminium body really do add a touch of class and hark back to the days of film. It’s also slim - very slim. With a lens that almost fully retracts into the body, the XF1 easily slips into a pocket without any unsightly bumps and bulges. The pop up flash disappears when not in use and apart from the lack of viewfinder, there’s only the 3 inch LCD screen that drags the camera kicking and screaming into the 21st century. So, as far as looks go, the XF1 is a bit of a honey.

Outside
Sticking with the externals, Fuji have developed a new lens for the XF1 - an f/1.8 manual 4x zoom, ranging from 25mm to 100mm which doubles up as the On/Off switch with a simple twist and pull. Nicely manually operated too, rather than the usual toggle switch affair. A nice touch is the focal length marked on the zoom ring. Sadly the maximum aperture of f/1.8 is only there at the shortest focal length - closing down to f/4.9 at 100mm. It does have the ability to focus as close as 3cm for macro duties. There’s no hotshoe, so you’re stuck with the built in flash, which, to be honest will be more than enough for most users - that’s not a derogatory statement but at the end of the day, this is not the camera to buy if you want to be firing external strobes or even attaching a larger flash unit.

Fuji has other ‘X’ series cameras that will take care of that sort of malarkey. There are just enough buttons to keep you from having to dive into the menu system with the main command dial providing different shooting options with a couple of custom modes for you to save your favourite settings - I particularly like the addition of a function button, which, depending on the camera, I usually select as a quick route to ISO changing.

What’s inside?
Internally things are pretty interesting too. The 2/3 inch 12 million pixel EXR-CMOS sensor takes advantage of the EXR shooting mode - basically, when selected, the camera takes over all control from the user and selects, according to the scene, the optimum setting for any given situation. This works extremely well and really does underline the term, point and shoot. Optical Image Stabilisation helps for one-handed shooting.

Now, some people love in-camera filters, some people hate them. I absolutely love them. Why not use them if they’re available? It gives photographers who are not very adept in Photoshop or have never dabbled, or can’t be bothered with the dark art of post processing, some creative options. I particularly like - actually, became obsessed with, the Toy Camera filter and had to keep reminding myself to turn it off. There are another ten ‘Advanced’ filters to choose from, including the obligatory black and white modes and a further 5 film simulation modes.

I’m generalising here, but if you’re like me, when you use a compact, because of the nature of a point and shoot camera you just want to turn on and not have to worry about whether the shutter speed is too low or whether the shot will be too noisy. You just accept that because you’re not using a DSLR things will be of a lesser quality. And, let’s be honest, you’re not going to get clean, noise and artifact free jpegs that a DSLR?produces.

You’re prepared for the trade off in quality for the convenience and relatively low outlay that you get with a compact camera. But things have moved on apace in terms of image quality and high ISO performance. It wasn’t that long ago that anything above ISO 400 was deemed unusable. Nowadays we can comfortably hit the thousands without too much concern. While I’m not a fan of digital noise I’m not overly keen on aggressive noise reduction either, especially when the reduction takes the shape of a glorified blur. The XF1 treads that fine line of reducing the noise nicely while retaining some level of detail. Again, I don’t want to worry, or have to start capping ISO levels - I want to turn on and not be too concerned about gallery levels of image quality. I don’t want to have to worry about metering either. I want what I see on the back of the camera to be faithfully reproduced in the form of a usable JPEG. Very rarely did I have to fiddle with exposure compensation or ‘lightening and darkening’ the image as it’s becoming (rather annoyingly) known as.

Verdict
It’s getting more difficult as the digital years roll by to actually find anything to dislike about the latest generation of cameras. Fuji’s ‘X’ Series offerings are some of the finest cameras on the market today, with an almost cult following. The XF1 is without doubt the best looking compact out there - just look at it! And, while it’s not a back up to a DSLR by any means, it certainly does have that wantability factor that is hard to resist. It does exactly what is asked of a camera of this type - it has a near instant start up, is very quick to focus and very quick to process an image.

Can I have a red one please?

Likes:
Looks, Size, handling

Dislikes:
Fiddly on/off to start with, not much else

 

DOWNLOAD: You can download high-res versions of Karl's image pictured in the article. All you have to do is click on their links in the resources section just underneath this article. Also, don't miss the video featured below on the Fuji XF1.

 

 

 



Resources

  1. Billboard

    Fuji XF1 Karl Shaw

  2. Fuji XF1

    Fuji XF1 Karl Shaw

  3. Mini

    Fuji XF1 Karl Shaw

  4. Beach

    Fuji XF1 Karl Shaw

  5. Harbour entrance

    Fuji XF1 Karl Shaw

  6. Sand colour

    Fuji XF1 Karl Shaw

  7. Rocks

    Fuji XF1 Karl Shaw

  8. Cobbled street

    Fuji XF1 Karl Shaw

  9. Boats

    Fuji XF1 Karl Shaw

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  1. Mini Image is great shot of Karls..I just might be looking for a lightweight little number to carry in my pocket...I do love Fuji cameras S5 is brilliant for portraits....

    Comment made by: Bluke
    28.03.13 13:05:31


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