Fujifilm XF1 review

The Fujifilm XF1 is a neat retro-look compact camera with sharp optics, but its light-gathering capability diminishes as you zoom.
Photo of Fujifilm XF1

The Fujifilm XF1 ($499.95 direct) is slim compact camera with a sexy retro design. Its chrome body is available with a tan, black, or red leatherette covering, and has a retractable lens with a manual zoom design. The 12-megapixel shooter’s 2/3-inch CMOS image sensor is larger than those on competing cameras, and its photos show it. Even though its image quality is very good, it’s not quite a match for our Editors’ Choice high-end compact, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100, which features a huge 1-inch sensor. But if you’re a fan of the XF1′s looks, you’ll be happy to know that it’s a solid performer in its own right.

Design and Features
The pocket-friendly 7.9-ounce XF1 measures about 2.4 by 4.2 by 1.2 inches when its lens is collapsed. It’s pretty similar in size to the enthusiast-focused Ricoh GR. The 2.4-by-4.6-by-1.4-inch, 8.6-ounce GR packs a bigger image sensor, but its wide-angle 28mm lens doesn’t offer any zoom.

The XF1′s lens is a 4x zoom design, covering a 25-100mm (35mm equivalent) field of view with a variable aperture that starts at f/1.8 when zoomed out, but dwindles to f/4.9 when zoomed all the way in. It’s just a bit wider than the 28-112mm zoom of the Sony RX100, another lens that ranges from f/1.8-4.9. The small aperture when zoomed in is a bit disappointing, but is likely a compromise that is necessitated by the XF1′s small design and big image sensor. The Olympus XZ-2 features a slightly smaller 1/1.7-inch image sensor and is a thicker camera, but its 4x (28-112mm) zoom lens manages an f/1.8-2.5 aperture; that means that it captures about four times the light as the XF1 when both are zoomed all the way in.

One concern to discreet shooters: The XF1′s lens makes a good deal of noise when you turn the camera on or off. It’s not loud enough to hear over background noise when shooting out on the street, but if you’re trying to snap a quiet photo in a theater or gallery, it could be distracting.

It doesn’t have as many physical control buttons and dials as you get on other enthusiast compacts, but the XF1 is no slouch. Up top you’ll find a standard mode dial, the shutter release, and the programmable Function button. Around back, you’ll find two control wheels, a Movie button, and dedicated controls to adjust exposure compensation, enable macro shooting, set the self-timer, and control the flash output. There’s also the E-Fn button, which brings up an overlay menu on the rear display that assigns a new function to six of the rear control buttons. Each of these functions can be customized via the menu.

The rear LCD, which you’ll need to use for image framing and review, is 3 inches and features a 460k-dot resolution. It’s quite bright, but not as sharp as the 614k-dot OLED display found on the Samsung EX2F. It’s still adequate, and will let you confirm focus, it’s just not quite as impressive as a sharper screen would be.

You can’t add an EVF like you can with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7. There’s no hot shoe, so you can’t add an external flash. If you’re looking for a similar camera with more expansion options, consider the Canon PowerShot G15 or another X-series camera, like the Fujifilm X20; each features hot shoe expansion and a built-in optical viewfinder.

Performance and Conclusions
To power on the XF1 you’ll need to twist its lens in order to extend it. On average it takes about 1.7 seconds to power on the camera and grab an in-focus shot. Shutter lag is a reasonable 0.3-second, and continuous shooting at 5.6 frames per second is possible—but only for about 7 JPG shots before the pace slows. If you shoot Raw or Raw+JPG the rate is limited to 5 frames per second for up to a 6-shot burst before the pace slows. The Olympus XZ-2 is slightly faster to start up at 1.6 seconds, records a similar 0.2-second shutter lag, but is limited to shooting continuously at 3 frames per second; unlike the XF1, it can keep that pace up for as long as you care to press the shutter.

I used Imatest to check the sharpness of the 25-100mm zoom lens. At its widest setting it managed an impressive 1,898 lines per picture height, better than the 1,800 lines required to call a photo sharp. Zooming to 50mm reduces the maximum aperture to f/4.2, but the resolution is still strong at 1,984 lines. The aperture drops to f/4.9 at 100mm, but image quality is also strong here at 2,103 lines. Distortion is controlled at the wide and telephoto extremes, but it’s slightly noticeable at the midpoint. The XF1 shows less than 0.3 percent at the widest and most telephoto, but there is a modest 1.4 percent at 50mm. The similar Panasonic LX7 is quite sharp at its widest angle (24mm f/1.4), recording 2,021 lines there. But it struggles as you zoom in; at 60mm f/2 it manages 1,863 lines, and dips all the way down to 1,117 lines at 90mm f/2.8. Its distortion is a bit more noticeable, showing 1 percent at its widest, a negligible 0.5 percent at its midpoint, and 1.7 percent when zoomed all the way in.

Imatest also checks photos for noise, which can introduce grain and harm detail as you increase the camera’s ISO setting. The XF1 keeps noise below 1.5 percent through its top ISO of 12800, although that comes with a few caveats. Resolution is reduced to 6 megapixels at ISO 6400 and to 3 megapixels at ISO 12800; both of those settings limit you to JPG shooting. If you opt to capture Raw images, or don’t want to shoot at a reduced resolution setting, you’ll be limited to ISO 3200. If you’re shooting in JPG, details and textures start to take a beating at ISO 800, are quite waxy at ISO 1600, and are sheen at ISO 3200. Shooting in Raw mode does a better job of retaining them through ISO 1600, but you’ll have to contend with quite a bit of noise. The Sony RX100 does a better job balancing noise levels and image detail; it shoots full-resolution images with less than 1.5 percent noise through ISO 6400, and it edges out the XF1 in terms of detail and texture through ISO 3200, and at ISO 6400 it maintains its full 20-megapixel resolution and Raw shooting support; the XF1 is limited to 6-megapixel JPG images when shooting at that setting.

Video is recorded at 1080p30 or 720p30 quality in QuickTime format. The footage looks very good; it’s sharp and colors are saturated, and the XF1 is quick to refocus. The manual zoom design lets you take care when zooming in and out, so you can get slow changes in focal length without adding distracting audio to the soundtrack—assuming that you’re careful when you move the lens. There’s a mini HDMI port so you can connect directly to an HDTV to watch videos and view photos, as well as a proprietary USB port. An external battery charger is included, and standard SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards are supported.

The XF1 is a solid camera that is aimed squarely at discerning photographers. It’s not the best in class—that’s the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100—but it’s by no means a slouch. It combines a very cool design with a manual zoom lens that is sharp throughout its zoom range. The lens isn’t as fast as others when zoomed all the way in, which does make the price point hard to swallow.

And you can get compact cameras with lenses that capture more light for around the same price as the XF1; they sport 1/1.7-inch sensors, which are not that much smaller than the 2/3-inch CMOS sensor that is inside the XF1. The Samsung EX2F is a good alternative if you are turned off by the XF1′s narrow f/4.9 zoomed-in aperture; it has an f/1.4-2.7 lens and Wi-Fi. If you’d prefer a camera with an optical viewfinder, consider the Canon G15, or Fujifilm’s own X20—just be aware that both are on the larger side. Shooters who love the style and manual zoom lens found in the XF1 and don’t mind the narrow aperture when zoomed will be rewarded with a camera that delivers impressive images, but still manages to slide into your pocket.

Specifications
Dimensions 2.4 x 4.2 x 1.2 inches
Interface Ports Proprietary, mini HDMI
Sensor Type CMOS
Megapixels 12 MP
Battery Type Supported Lithium Ion
Recycle time 0.18 seconds
LCD dots 460000
LCD size 3 inches
Touch Screen No
Media Format Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Secure Digital Extended Capacity
Maximum ISO 12800
Type Compact
GPS No
Optical Zoom 4 x
Boot time 1.7 seconds
35-mm Equivalent (Wide) 25 mm
Weight 7.9 oz
Waterproof Depth (Mfr. Rated) 0 feet
Video Resolution 720p, 1080p
Lines Per Picture Height 1898
LCD Aspect Ratio 4
Image Stabilization Optical
35-mm Equivalent (Telephoto) 100 mm
Shutter Lag 0.3 seconds
Sensor Size 8.8 x 6.6 (2/3") mm
Viewfinder Type None

Verdict
The Fujifilm XF1 is a neat retro-look compact camera with sharp optics, but its light-gathering capability diminishes as you zoom.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
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