Fujifilm XF1 Review

 
Camera Reviews > Fujifilm Cameras > Fuji X i Express Review
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Fujifilm XF1
Resolution: 12.00 Megapixels
Sensor size: 2/3"
Lens: 4.00x zoom
(25-100mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD
ISO: 100-12800
Shutter: 30-1/2000
Max Aperture: 1.8
Dimensions: 4.2 x 2.4 x 1.2 in.
(108 x 62 x 30 mm)
Weight: 8.0 oz (226 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $500
Availability: 10/2012
Manufacturer: Fujifilm
12.00
Megapixels
4.00x zoom
2/3"
size sensor
image of Fujifilm XF1
Front side of Fujifilm XF1 digital camera Back side of Fujifilm XF1 digital camera Top side of Fujifilm XF1 digital camera Left side of Fujifilm XF1 digital camera Right side of Fujifilm XF1 digital camera

XF1 Review Summary: The Fuji XF1 would look right at home in a James Bond film, a sleek and compact but powerful photographic gadget that Q himself might have devised. With its retro styling and appealing twist-out manual zoom lens, this pocketable digital camera will turn heads your way -- which, of course, makes it easier for you to take great pictures of them. Add in advanced features such as PASM controls, RAW still capture and Full HD video, plus some special Fuji touches like its EXR mode and Film Simulation effects, and the XF1 may just be the enthusiast-level compact everyone will envy you for owning.

Pros: Cool retro styling bolstered by a quality build and design; Fast f/1.8 lens at wide angle; Fast autofocus and low shutter lag; Tons of customizability and creative options, including Fuji's special EXR and Film Simulation modes; Full 1080p HD video; PASM controls; RAW still capture.

Cons: Special modes have somewhat steep learning curve; Maximum aperture drops quickly as you zoom; Lens cover doesn't lock when storing; Larger sensor doesn't necessarily translate to better photo quality than competitors; Demosaicing errors and moderately high chromatic aberration.

Price and availability: The Fujifilm XF1 started shipping in October 2012 for US$500 in black, tan or red faux-leather trim. They're currently available for around US$400 at camera stores and online retailers.

Imaging Resource rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

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Fuji XF1 Review

Overview by Roger Slavens
Posted 09/17/2012

Shooter's Report by
Posted

Fuji XF1 - 3/4 left view

Renowned for its classic camera designs, Fuji brought even more retro into its acclaimed X-series of digital cameras with the compact XF1. And we're not just talking about the attractive throwback look, complete with your choice of three classic (albeit synthetic) leather colors wrapped around its aluminum body (pebbled black, smooth tan or red). The Fujifilm XF1 puts a strong emphasis on old-school manual control, including a PASM dial and other manual modes, as well as a 4x manual zoom lens (25-100mm equivalent) designed to be almost fully retractable into the camera body. That's right, the XF1 is fully pocketable and portable -- measuring just 4.2 x 2.4 x 1.2 inches -- and it's clear Fujifilm intended to fill the gap in its X-series lineup with a flexible, all-purpose, everyday shooter for advanced consumers and professional photographers. Or for those who just want arguably the best looking pocket camera on the market.

Fuji XF1 - right side view

Lens. The new Fujinon 25mm-equivalent wide-angle manual zoom lens incorporated into the Fujifilm XF1 boasts a maximum aperture of f/1.8, a rare find in a truly pocketable digicam (the widest aperture changes to f/4.9 at 100mm equivalent). The lens features seven glass elements in six groups, including four aspherical and three extra-low dispersion elements, as well as a new High-Transmittance EBC coating on all lens surfaces, which Fujifilm says reduces flare and provides greater clarity. The Fujifilm XF1's lens also features Optical Image Stabilization to minimize the effects of camera shake, and is capable of Macro shots as close as 3cm.

Although the XF1's lens is very bright at full wide angle, maximum aperture drops off rather quickly as you zoom to full telephoto, reaching f/4.9 somewhere between about 61 and 66mm equivalent. The following table reflects maximum aperture versus approximate equivalent focal length as reported by the camera:

Focal length (eq.)
25mm
28mm
36mm
50mm
56mm
61mm
66mm
100mm
Max. aperture
f/1.8
f/2.5
f/3.6
f/4.2
f/4.5
f/4.7
f/4.9
f/4.9
Min. aperture
f/11 at all focal lengths

Sensor. The XF1 employs the same 12-megapixel, 2/3-inch-type EXR-CMOS sensor as its predecessor, the Fuji X10. Now we liked a lot of what we saw with the X10 when we tested it last year. However, it had one fatal flaw -- the dreaded "white orbs" (blooming from specular highlights) that were pretty much impossible to miss in bright highlights of shots taken with low ISOs. Fujifilm sent out a firmware update last summer designed to fix this problem, and then began physical sensor replacements for users who sent in their cameras. Rest assured, the sensor problem looks like it's been fixed in the Fujifilm XF1.

The Fujifilm EXR-CMOS sensor and high-speed EXR processor were developed to provide fast, smooth autofocus, even in low-light situations. Fujifilm claims the sensor and processor speed up all operations, with start-up in 0.55 seconds, focus acquisition as fast as 0.16 seconds, and minimum shot-to-shot time of 0.8 seconds (note: see our lab test results below to see if the camera stacks up to these claims). The Fujifilm XF1 sensor also allows for high sensitivity, with an ISO range of 100 to 12,800.

Fuji XF1 - rear view

Operation. There are three ways to carry, turn on and use the Fuji XF1. Travel Mode means the lens is retracted and the camera fully powered down. Standby Mode has the lens extended for quick startup, but the camera is still in a power-saving mode. And then there's Shooting Mode for active photography at a moment's notice. To move from Travel Mode into Standby Mode, you need to twist the manual zoom ring to its first stop. Or you can skip Standby and fully extend the lens to move right into Shooting Mode.

Fuji XF1 - menus

Menus and display. The Fujifilm XF1 features a 3-inch, 460,000-dot LCD monitor, and the on-screen menu system has been completely redesigned so you no longer need to dig deep to find just that right setting. The dial that controls the on-screen menus is fully customizable, allowing for quick setting of adjustments and selections. Additionally, the E-Fn button located below right of the dial, can be programmed with up to six functions. One useful feature is that you can pull up a cheat sheet on the on-screen menu that reminds you how you programmed all your customizable buttons, just in case you forget.

Fuji XF1 - flash

Video and other features. Full HD 1080p video recording at 30 frames per second is supported by the Fujifilm XF1, as well as the ability to zoom and take photographs while filming. Video also comes with Automatic Scene Recognition. Other key features of the XF1 include continuous shooting of up to 10 fps, a pop-up flash, Motion Panorama 360, and several artistic effects and filters.

Fuji XF1 - ports

Connectivity. The Fujifilm XF1 does not have built-in wireless connectivity, but does support Eye-Fi cards. It can be physically connected to a computer or printer using a USB (2.0 High Speed) cable (included) with a Micro-B plug on the camera side. The jack is a combined USB/AV port used for both data transfer and standard-def composite video/monaural audio output. There's also a Mini HDMI (Type C) port for high-def output. Note that no A/V cable is included in the bundle.

Battery and storage. The Fuji XF1 is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack (NP-50A) and comes with a dedicated charger (BC-50B). The battery is CIPA-rated for approximately 300 shots between charges. An optional AC power adapter (AC-5VX) which requires a DC coupler (CP-50) are sold separately.

Fuji XF1 - battery and memory card slot

The camera uses SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards and is UHS-I compliant. The XF1 also has about 25MB of internal memory available for storage. Still images can be recorded as JPEG, RAW (RAF-format) and RAW+JPEG. Videos are recorded as H.264 (MOV) files with stereo sound.

Pricing and availability. The Fujifilm XF1 became available in October 2012 for US$500 in black, tan or red, a price that was set to open up the X-series to a broader audience. The XF1 currently retails for near US$400. Coordinating binocular-style cases, in full retro styling, are also available for about US$40.

 

Shooting with the Fuji XF1

By Dave Pardue

Fuji XF1 - dog image

Our publisher Dave Etchells wisely advises us to limit the use of the word "cool" in our reviews. Thanks to the Fuji XF1, I'll likely be blowing my quota for the entire year, because this compact digital camera just oozes cool. The XF1 looks like it walked straight out of an early James Bond film (it could be one of Q's pocketable gadgets), sleek, slim and dangerous. It also comes in 3 cool colors of faux leather that certainly look like the real thing -- 1950s-esque “glamour” red, 1960s-style “mod” tan and, of course, classic black.

But it's not just the XF1's design that is cool. The camera's bright, fast lens (f/1.8!) is cool. Its immense customizability is cool, and it's loaded with effects and special shooting modes. In fact, the XF1 is so cool it doesn't even have an on/off button (more on this in just a bit).

OK, now that my yearly quota is all used up (at least for now), let's get down to business.

Fuji XF1 - colors

Look and feel. I have to admit I spent 15 minutes trying to figure out how to power up the XF1. You can say I was too prideful to consult the manual. Then I turned the lens and... whoa! The camera gives a little "let's go" beep while out pops this gorgeous Fujinon lens. Like I said earlier, there is no on/off button. Meanwhile, the 4x zoom (25-100mm equivalent) is completely manual, with six clearly marked guide settings, and the simple operation has a nice precision feel ...cool! (Sorry.)

Overall, the XF1 begs to be on-the-go. It comes dressed for the party and is ready for the streets of Manhattan or a sailing regatta out on the Hamptons. Some people love the resurgence of the retro look on cameras and some certainly don't -- to each his or her own. What's so great about this camera's design is that while it's certainly retro-looking, in no way does it feel old or antiquated. The Fuji XF1 is sleek and sexy, with a downright gorgeous lens, melding the best of retro and modern.

As stated earlier, there are three basic modes that the XF1 lives in: Travel, Standby and Shooting. In travel mode, the lens is fully retracted and the camera powered down. In Standby mode, the lens is pulled out slightly, with the lens covered but just a quick twist away from shooting. And in Shooting mode the lens is out and ready to rock. Again, the zoom is all manual, which I think is awesome. I am a big fan of autofocus combined with manual zoom (don't much enjoy zooming with a little lever), and the XF1 certainly delivers there.

At 8 ounces (226 grams), the XF1 is just the right weight for a pocket camera. Any more and it pulls on the pocket, but any less and it wouldn't feel substantial enough -- at least for me -- to hold while composing shots. With the body primarily built out of lightweight but solid-feeling aluminum (rather than plastic), this camera feels "just right." The ports cover also gets the faux leather treatment, which is a nice touch, although it can be a tad fickle when trying to close it. Finally, the rounded corners of the body and the slight indentation along the rear top edge complete the XF1's beautiful and thoughtful design.

Fuji XF1 - lens cover

A few unfortunate design flaws. Allow me to now point out one of my few gripes on the body design -- the lens cover. It's comprised of two very thin pieces of aluminum that angle down over the lens when it is closed to protect it. Unfortunately, it doesn't work very well. Anything that brushes up against these aluminum slits will move or displace them, potentially allowing debris to get inside. They're not locked in place (as I wish they were) and feel quite flimsy compared to the rest of the body.

Since compact cameras are meant for pockets, purses and backpacks, I highly recommend keeping your Fuji XF1 in a protective case at all times when you're not shooting. Our test unit got damaged after being stored loosely in a briefcase, but fortunately our lens specialist was able to return it to proper working order (thanks, Rob!).

One additional flaw I found: About midway through my shooting experience, the XF1's manual zoom lens started locking up when attempting to put it into Travel mode (with the lens fully retracted into the body). The lens will still easily move from full zoom Shooting mode into Standby mode, but trying to close it all the way up now takes a bit more effort -- in fact, at first I thought it was broken. I had to twist the lens past where it felt like it stopped, and then push the lens in. So while it still works, it's nowhere near as fluid and slick as it was when I first started using the camera. I did a quick Web query and found a few similar complaints about the manual zoom lens on a number of sites, so be aware that it may or may not be a common issue with the XF1.

Fuji XF1 - lens deploying

Controls. The physical controls are simply and clearly placed on the Fuji XF1. Starting to the left on the beveled top edge there is a rocker-style switch which brings up the flash as needed, and this also has a precision feel while both raising and lowering (pushing down) the flash. At the top right is a welcome uncluttered layout of Shutter button, Function button and Mode dial -- the latter of which detentes firmly enough to feel solid and is recessed enough that it's almost impossible to accidentally rotate it. For a feature that's somewhat rare on a compact camera, the XF1 offers not only a Manual exposure shooting mode but also two custom settings on the Mode dial that just hints at the camera's overall quick-and-convenient customization options. Note that the top Function button is slightly difficult to depress, at least for my fingers.

Fuji XF1 - mode dial

Now to expound on the Mode dial just a bit. Unless you're familiar with some previous Fujis, you may have already noticed a few rather non-standard settings: EXR, SP and Adv. As I'm sure you've guessed, "Adv" stands for Advanced and allows the user access to special effects and filters, such as Motion Panorama 360 mode, Pro Focus mode, Multiple Exposure mode and more. "EXR" is Fuji's unique mode that chooses from three different image quality priorities: High Resolution, High Sensitivity/Low Noise and Wide Dynamic Range. You can also set the XF1 to EXR Auto, and let the camera choose the EXR mode for you. (I'll talk more about EXR in a minute.) Meanwhile, "SP" stands for Scene Position mode, which allows for a variety of classic modes such as Sports, Portrait, Night, Flower and others. And still somewhat rare on pocket camera is the addition of two user customizable (C1 and C2) dial settings, which lets you access your most used or favorite settings and features quickly. The XF1 is certainly a camera that yearns to be customized.

Fuji XF1 - controls

Moving to the rear panel, at the upper right sits the Command wheel, beside which resides a little protruding thumb rest. The thumb rest is helpful for stabilizing the camera when shooting, as well as just being a tactile guidepost for the controls when you're not looking at them. Below this sits a Playback button, a dedicated Movie record button, a classic Menu dial, a Display Information button and an E-Function button.

And speaking of the E-Fn button, it's an interesting and fun little oddity. E-Fn stands for "Extended Function," and it was confusing at first. But after some research, it turns out it's quite a handy tool. By pressing the E-Fn button, the LCD screen shows you all the settings and modes currently assigned to the rear physical buttons and Menu dial positions. (Note that it's dependent on the mode you're in, only displaying the settings that are actually available.) Further, you can customize most of these buttons and dial settings in the Shooting menu by choosing E-Fn Custom Setting.

Fuji XF1 - screen shot 1 Fuji XF1 - screen shot 2

E-Fn button demystified: Press the E-Fn button and it will display all settings assigned to the rear buttons and Menu dial positions on the LCD, allowing a quick view of what's available to you. The XF1 allows you to reassign different settings to the buttons and wheel positions as you like.

Fuji XF1 - rear view brown model

LCD screen. In keeping with the depth of its customizability, the XF1 provides many options for viewing on its 3-inch, 460K-dot screen. As with many cameras, you can of course adjust the brightness to suit your surroundings, as well as change the background color to suit your personal taste. I found the standard settings more than adequate for most shooting situations, but there is one setting that stands out in particular, and that is Monitor Sunlight Mode.

Here in the Deep South, in summers we suffer from an over-abundance of sunlight, so this setting was indeed a welcome addition, and it works quite well. Switch it to "On" and your screen not only gets brighter, but the contrast is lowered, which allows you to see the screen better in direct sunlight. You'll find it under the menus screen down by the Tool Menu "1," under the Screen Set-up sub-menu.

Sensor and resolution. Fuji wisely ignored the temptation to cram too many megapixels (just 12!) onto a relatively modest sensor, a temptation that other manufacturers are too often succumbing to -- especially on broad consumer models -- in order to remain competitive. We have seen this approach hurt the image quality of a few premium compact cameras lately, even to the point where the newer model with higher resolution actually yields inferior image quality to its predecessor.

As with the X10, Fuji designed the XF1 around its own 2/3"-type sensor, which the company boasts as being large. This is both true and not-so-true. It is large compared to most premium compact cameras (though not as big as the 1-inch-type sensor of the Sony RX100 and RX100 II), but it is quite small compared to what you'll find in DSLRs and most compact system cameras. Of course, the processor, lens and other factors also weigh heavily on overall image quality. The sensor size and 12-megapixel resolution seem a good fit for a premium compact camera like the XF1, and this combination can result in very good, if not great, images.

Fuji XF1 - EXR menu

More on EXR modes. Fuji annotates the sensor and processor on the XF1 with EXR designation. Some have described that EXR is like having three sensors in one, with three different approaches to maximize the image quality of a given shot. When in EXR Auto mode, the camera will attempt to choose which of the three is best for a given scene. (In practical use, I consider EXR Auto mode to be something more like other cameras' Intelligent Auto mode, except that it adds one of the three IQ layers to the typical scene detection you'd get in standard Auto.)

Alternatively, instead of using EXR Auto and leaving the decision to the camera, you can outright select which one you want to have as the priority -- High Resolution, High Sensitivity/Low Noise or Dynamic Range. Here's a closer look at how each of the three sub-modes operates:

  • High Resolution Priority (HR): Maximizes the resolution of the XF1's images, which Fuji says is accomplished by rotating the sensor pixel array to a 45-degree angle and when compared to traditional sensors, results in higher vertical and horizontal resolution. Pixels are also not combined in this mode, generating a 12-megapixel image.
  • High Sensitivity/Low Noise Priority (SN): Effectively doubles the available light reception by combining pixels of the same color, according to Fuji, thereby enabling the sensor to capture better detail in low light scenes.
  • Dynamic Range Priority (DR): Simultaneously captures the scene at high and low sensitivities and combines the two photos into a single image with DR settings up to 1600%. (Auto EXR selects from 100 to 400%.)

It certainly feels like we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

Be aware that in two of these modes -- High Sensitivity/Low Noise and higher Dynamic Range Priority settings -- the camera is only able to produce 6-megapixel images due to the nature of capturing and processing these special modes. So if it's important to preserve larger 12-megapixel resolutions, it's best to select HR while in EXR mode. If you use EXR Auto, you won't know what priority mode the XF1 used until you look at the images. (We'll look at how the different EXR priority modes affect image quality below.)

Fuji XF1 - left side

Lens. We've already mentioned how appealing the f/1.8 Fujinon lens is to the eye, but it should be stated yet again that f/1.8 is quite a fast aperture to be sported on a fixed lens camera that is truly pocketable. This added ability to bring in precious extra light in low-light situations, combined with some well designed special low-light modes (which we'll take a detailed look at in just a bit), is an intriguing feature in this camera category to say the least. When you add in the precision feel of the manual 25-100mm equivalent zoom, then we're indeed in interesting territory for the sub-$500 premium compact crowd.

Suffice it to say that for my tastes the Fuji XF1 gets high marks for its look, design and controls. So let's go shoot some pictures with it and see if they got the insides right too! (After all, a camera's beauty really is more than skin (or faux leather) deep.)

Shooting experience. Overall, I found this camera to be a lot of fun to shoot with, and for many reasons. I've talked a lot about the look and feel already, but one thing I've yet to mention is my preference for real, physical controls, as opposed to touchscreen interfaces, and the XF1 shines here. Once I got used to the special setting/naming conventions, and a few other random quirks about the menu system (such as why are film simulation modes placed in such a different area than other special effect modes?), I was able to get on with the business of enjoying the overall shooting experience.

Autofocusing performance is certainly getting faster on compacts, and the XF1 holds its own just fine there, locking onto target quickly in most situations. The only time I really noticed it getting confused was when it was searching for focus near the horizon at times, but not enough to be a bother. In terms of processing time, there is a noticeable time lag after shooting in some modes where heavy processing is occurring -- but again for the most part not enough to stop shooting momentum.

As I stated earlier, the f/1.8 max aperture lens is nice to have on such a compact body. There are precious few cameras listed for less than $500 that are really pocketable and sport this fast an aperture. Below are a few examples of the nice background blur that can be achieved at f/1.8 with the XF1.

Fuji XF1 - f/1.8 lens, shallow depth of field and defocused background blur
Fuji XF1 review - DOF shot
12 megapixels, f/1.8, 1/1000s, ISO 100, Aperture Priority mode
Background blur comes in many different flavors and qualities which is dependent on multiple factors. The amount of blurring depends mostly on aperture, focal length, subject distance, sensor size and resolution, while the quality ("bokeh") is primarily the result of lens design and iris blade configuration (when not wide open). The above image was shot wide open at f/1.8 to showcase a real-world example of the XF1's background (and foreground) blur capabilities.
Fuji XF1 review - cat shot
The above image is another example of the sharpness and depth achievable at f/1.8 when coupled with EXR mode. Shooting in EXR Auto, the camera selected SN (High Sensitivity/Low Noise) priority generating a 6-megapixel image. (Note that this image has been cropped to showcase the detail, click the image to view in full.)

Low light. Good handheld low-light shooting without flash has traditionally been the hallmark of larger cameras with big sensors and major-league lenses. This landscape has been changing a lot in the past few years, and more premium compacts are stepping up and delivering excellent images in low light, and all without the need for flash. The XF1 holds its own in this arena using a combination of good lens quality, a fairly large sensor for its class, optical image stabilization and reasonable performance at mid-level ISO settings, all on display below.

Fuji XF1 - Low light performance
Fuji XF1 review - barber shot 1 Fuji XF1 review - barber shot 2
6MP, f/4.0, 1/60s, ISO 1250, Pro Low-light mode 12MP, f/3.6, 1/38s, ISO 800, Program auto
As advertised, the XF1 does a good job in low-light. These were shot handheld and are straight from the camera (as are all shots in this report unless specifically noted) and the results are accurate to the scene. The camera chose ISO 1250 for the first shot, which allowed for a fast enough shutter speed (1/60s) to avoid any motion blur (at least at a barber's speed, although likely not for indoor sports photography).

 

Fuji XF1 - The power of f/1.8 with Pro Low-light mode
Fuji XF1 review - pro low-light shot 1
6MP, f/1.8, 1/27s, ISO 3200, Pro Low-light mode
On its website Fuji used an angled shot of a nice guitar to tout the XF1's low-light capabilities along with its fast f/1.8 aperture and the resulting rich background blur, so I thought I'd try and duplicate the shot. The result was a pleasant surprise. Using Pro Low-light mode at f/1.8, I was able to achieve something similar to their professional marketing shot, even handheld and with very little ambient light.
Fuji XF1 review - pro low-light shot 2
6MP, f/4.9, 1/13s, ISO 3200, 64mm (eq), Pro Low-light mode
Above is an example of a shot taken at ISO 3200 again using Pro Low-light mode and combined with utilizing a good portion of the manual zoom capabilities. In this mode the camera takes multiple shots in rapid succession and then the high-speed EXR processor bakes them into one final image, including micro-aligning the images. This is, of course, best used on a relatively still subject. (..Shhh!)

EXR modes. As we discussed briefly earlier, EXR is a special technology developed by Fuji to maximize image quality or dynamic range across a variety of shooting situations. And if you're not all that interested in experimenting with EXR modes, you can simply set the camera to EXR Auto and the XF1 will do the thinking for you. In fact, after my shooting experience with the XF1 I highly recommend EXR Auto over EXR Priority modes, as some of my results with them seemed random and quite varied. See the tables below for detailed examples of the various types of shots EXR mode can produce.

Fuji XF1 - EXR modes compared
Fuji XF1 review - EXR mode shot 1 Fuji XF1 review - EXR mode shot 2
EXR Auto
(camera chose Dynamic Range at 200%, 6MP)
EXR HR priority
(my manual choice, 12MP)
Fuji XF1 review - EXR mode shot 3 Fuji XF1 review - EXR mode shot 4
EXR DR priority
(my manual choice, camera chose 400%, 6MP)
Program Auto
(non-EXR, 12MP)
EXR mode is an interesting beast and can deliver interesting results. In EXR Auto, it will select between the three modes available depending on what it believes to be the best setting, or you can manually dial in the setting you want. Above are examples of 2 of those settings, with the setting appropriate for lower light on display below.
Fuji XF1 review - EXR SN priority Fuji XF1 review - Program Auto (non-EXR)
EXR SN priority
(High Sensitivity/Low Noise, 6MP)
Program Auto
(non-EXR, 12MP)
As stated earlier, EXR SN priority mode effectively doubles the available light hitting the sensor, but at the expense of cutting the resolution in half to 6 megapixels. Both modes selected ISO 1600. The EXR SN image looks slightly brighter and crisper, but Program Auto does a decent job as well. Below are crops at 100% to show the differences that each mode impart to the shot.
Fuji XF1 review - EXR SN priority (High Sensitivity/Low Noise) Fuji XF1 review - Auto (non-EXR)
EXR SN priority
(High Sensitivity/Low Noise, 6MP)
Program Auto
(non-EXR, 12MP, crop resized to match 6MP version)

Film simulation filters. One of the most promising trends in recent years for premium compact cameras has been technologies geared towards making professional shots and great special effects easier and better. In the camera world, Fujifilm was known for its film long before its cameras -- thus the name Fujifilm -- so it's not surprising they offer digital modes to emulate some of their most popular film effects. I was most interested in seeing what the highest contrast effect would impart, and Fuji's description on several simulations discussed how they could give greater contrast to clouds. So I tested the Monochrome+Ye filter setting alongside their standard Provia setting on the same storm cloud pattern to see the differences they would yield. I was very pleased with both results. I also compared Velvia (vivid) with Provia on a relatively overcast day to see just how vivid those results would be on shots taken of a flower patch, and again Velvia produced nice results that weren't overdone.

Fuji XF1 - Film Simulation Modes
Fuji XF1 review - Provia (standard) Fuji XF1 review - Monochrome + Ye
Provia (standard), 12MP Monochrome + G, 12MP
Each of the above two film simulation modes adds an amount of intrigue to the images of this approaching summer storm system, but the Monochrome + G setting yielded the more mysterious and ominous of the two -- adding a nice dose of drama to the shot. The in-camera information mentions the Monochrome Ye and R settings when recommending adding contrast to skies, but this setting yielded the best result on this particular shot. And when you consider that these have had no processing after leaving the camera, the simulation settings can indeed be useful aids to getting better images without all the fuss of post-processing. And if you shoot in RAW+JPEG the raw file will be unaltered by the filter.
Fuji XF1 review - Provia (standard) film simulation
Provia (standard) film simulation, 12MP
Fuji XF1 review - Velvia (vivid) film simulation
Velvia (vivid) film simulation, 12MP
Again, the Provia setting yields a nice image, allowing the flowers to pop just a bit more than the overcast day allowed for, but the Velvia setting makes the variegated patterns of the flowers leap off the screen in comparison. I found both of these simulation modes to be tastefully done and not at all overprocessed.

Creative effects. Creative effects and Instagram-like filters are nothing new to digital cameras, but some companies seem to get the gist of these better than others. For my taste Fuji has done a nice job here, offering some generally useful and pleasant effects that don't seem overdone for the sake of hype or trends.

Fuji XF1 - Advanced modes and filters
Fuji XF1 review - Pro Low-light Fuji XF1 review - Partial color (yellow)
Pro Low-light, 6MP Partial color (yellow), 12MP
Fuji XF1 review - Pop Color Fuji XF1 review - Dramatic Tone
Pop Color, 12MP Dramatic Tone, 12MP
We've already covered Pro Low-light mode, but I've included it here to use for comparison (above) against several filter selections from the Advanced mode on the dial. All are fairly common settings for consumer cameras these days, but the Fuji XF1 does a particularly nice job with them. Click to see full resolution!
Fuji XF1 - Partial Color filter
Fuji XF1 - Partial Color filter
Partial Color is one of my personal favorite modes on consumer cameras, allowing for a selective color to come through while leaving the remaining scene black and white. For me it adds a nice dramatic effect without being too hokey, and the XF1 does a very good job with it. Most premium compacts still only offer the traditional four colors as selective filters, but the XF1 offers six color filters including purple and orange. (12MP)
Fuji XF1 - Macro mode for the micro world
Fuji XF1 - Macro shot 1 Fuji XF1 - Macro shot 2
The XF1 comes equipped with a Macro setting, which allows the user to focus on a subject as close as 3cm from the lens. Shown above are some Macro samples, one in daylight (12MP) and the other using 6MP Pro Low-light mode (yes, I love it!) which, in combination with Macro mode, provides a nice low light one-two punch.
Fuji XF1 - More fun with scene modes and filters
Fuji XF1 - Monochrome + G shot
Using the film simulation mode Monochrome + G to enhance an early evening outdoor scene.
Fuji XF1 - Night shot
Using the scene position Night to capture an outdoor scene after dark. Notice how the slow 1/4-second shutter speed does allow for some motion blur, but in some instances can be appealing.
Fuji XF1 - Motion Panorama 360
Fuji XF1 - Motion Panorama 360 shot
Above is an example of full Motion Panorama 360 mode. I wasn't able to get the full 360 effect after repeated attempts because the camera wasn't able to stitch the scenery shots together with the buildings behind the shot, but it still did a good job of getting a decent panorama of the lake portion.

Demosaicing issues. We found in our test shots minor issues with demosaicing (problems reconstructing the image after capturing the initial data from the sensor). This is a result of the EXR sensor's unique color filter pattern and a known issue we have reported on with earlier models.

Fuji XF1 - Demosaicing Issues
Fuji XF1 review - XF1 crop Fuji XF1 review - Canon G15 crop
Fuji XF1 Canon G15
Fuji XF1 review - Nikon P7700 crop Fuji XF1 review - Panasonic LX7 crop
Nikon P7700 Panasonic LX7

As stated previously, the Fuji's 2/3-inch-type sensor is larger than the 1/1.7-inch-type sensor in each of the other premium compacts compared above, but its unique color filter array suffers from demosaicing issues, which are most apparent in the red text of the bottle. Notice the rendering of the text "small, independent" in the XF1 and then compare it to crops from the other three cameras. Rendered at the most common sizes, this won't be an issue. However, if you're a pixel peeper or want to create large-size prints, we thought you should be aware of this fine-detail flaw.

Video. Below are a few examples of the XF1's video capabilities. First is a daytime video shot in traditional HD resolution, and a night video shot in Full HD. The camera shoots in H.264 MOV format with stereo sound and is capable of each of the above resolutions at both 24 and 30 fps, as well as 640 x 480 at 30 fps. Manual optical zoom may be used while shooting video. Fuji's website lists a dedicated Movie mode on the Mode dial, but there is not one present on the production unit we were supplied with -- likely just a typo in their specs.

Video recording is straightforward enough, just press the little red button and away you go. Video settings are a bit deep in the menu, but once you get used to scrolling down to Menu 4, it's all easy enough. And there are certainly plenty of resolutions to choose from. In EXR Auto mode, the camera selects the scene type and adjusts the movie settings accordingly. In addition, super high-speed movies are possible (without sound) at 640 x 480 (70fps), 320 x 240 (120fps) and 320 x 112 (200fps).

1,280 x 720
Progressive, 30 frames per second, H.264
Download Original (24.3MB MOV)
1,920 x 1,080
Progressive, 30 frames per second, H.264
Download Original (71MB MOV)

Summary. The Fuji XF1 is a sexy little camera that is fun to tote along. It is sleek and cool and fun to shoot with. It yields good image quality for a compact camera - not the best that is out there, but still quite good. And when you factor in all the cool modes, this little camera becomes an intriguing proposition. It certainly has some odd quirks, which may be a boon or a bane, depending on the photographer. And the quirks were odd enough that they may have been sheer user error on my part.

Which brings me to this point: If you are willing to dive in and learn about the XF1's unique qualities, and if you yearn for supreme customizability in a premium compact, the XF1 should definitely make your short list. This goes doubly for the shooter who enjoys playing around with special effects, modes and filters. I'd also recommend it for those seeking a sleek, retro-styled camera that looks as good as the images it takes. All you have to do is set it to Auto or EXR Auto and let the XF1 work its magic.

 

Fuji XF1 Lens Quality


25mm eq.
56mm eq.
100mm eq.
2x Digital Zoom

Zoom Series: The Fuji XF1 covers a 4x optical zoom range equivalent to a 25-100mm zoom on a 35mm camera. At full wide angle, details are sharp with good definition across most of the frame. Coma distortion is present in the corners (coma is visible around the tree limbs against the sky), as is mild blurring. Some flare is visible around bright objects as well, however chromatic aberration is well-controlled. Performance at medium focal length is quite good, but again some corner softening and flare can be seen. At full telephoto, details are just a hint soft around the edges of the frame, but sharpness is good toward the center, though overall contrast is lower. Chromatic aberration is more noticeable here on the architectural details. 2x digital zoom does a pretty good job, though with the expected loss in fine detail.


Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Soft at upper right
Tele: Sharp at center
Tele: Mild blurring, upper left corner

Sharpness: Both the wide angle and telephoto ends of the Fuji XF1's zoom show mild to moderate blurring in the corners of the frame compared to what we see at center. At maximum aperture and wide angle, the top corners are softer than the bottom, with the top right corner showing the most softening. The softness doesn't extend very far into the frame, though, and the center is quite sharp. Interestingly, stopping down to f/4 (not shown here) improved sharpness in the top right, but made the left corners soft. Note that some of the corner softening can be attributed to strong geometric distortion correction (see below), as can be the "jaggies" seen in horizontal and vertical elements in the extreme corners. 

At full telephoto and maximum aperture, corners on the left-hand side are a little soft, while the corners on the right are sharp. Though blurring is quite mild, it does extend fairly far in toward the center from the left.

Still, decent results overall considering how wide and fast (bright) the lens is at wide angle.


In-Camera JPEG
Wide: Very mild barrel distortion; slightly noticeable
Tele: Also some barrel distortion here, though quite low
Uncorrected RAW
Wide: Quite strong barrel distortion
Tele: Very low barrel distortion

Geometric Distortion: In JPEGs, there is only a small amount of barrel distortion at wide angle (~0.3%), and an even smaller amount of barrel distortion at telephoto (~0.2%). The Fuji XF1's processor does a great job of squashing visible distortion here.

As expected, uncorrected RAW files show much stronger distortion at full wide angle, where we measured about 3.3% barrel distortion. However, results at telephoto were about the same as the JPEG above, with about 0.2% barrel distortion. Note that most raw converters will automatically correct for distortion to roughly match JPEGs, but we like to determine how much native distortion there is to see how much correction is taking place during the camera's processing.


In-Camera JPEG
Wide: Moderate and somewhat bright
Tele: Moderately high and bright
Uncorrected RAW
Wide: Moderately high but bright
Tele: High and fairly bright

Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide angle is moderate in terms of pixel count, with a somewhat bright blue tint. At telephoto, distortion is a little stronger and brighter, with more noticeable blue and red pixels lining the target patterns.

As expected, chromatic aberration is a bit strong in the uncorrected RAW files, especially at wide angle where pixels take on an almost neon appearance. At telephoto, actual pixel count is probably close between the JPEG and RAW files, but the brighter pixels make it much more visible, especially the blue pixels that extend far into the black target areas.


Macro
Macro with Flash

Macro: The Fuji XF1's Macro mode does a good job capturing sharp, strong details, with only a small amount of blurring in the corners of the frame. (Soft corners are a common limitation among consumer digital cameras in macro mode). Minimum coverage area is about average at 2.07 x 1.55 inches (53 x 39mm). The camera's flash isn't suited for shooting this close, as it produced a very strong hot spot (with virtually no detail) in the top left portion of the frame. Thus, external lighting will be best for shooting at such close range.


 

Fuji XF1 Viewfinder Accuracy


Wide: LCD Monitor
Tele: LCD Monitor

Viewfinder Accuracy: The Fuji XF1's LCD monitor showed just under 100% coverage at wide angle, and just under 99% at telephoto. These results are good.


 

Fuji XF1 Image Quality


Color: The Fuji XF1 produced very good overall color. Mean saturation at base ISO is quite typical at 110.2% (10.2% oversaturated), with red and orange pumped quite a bit, but most other colors are just slightly pushed. Overall hue accuracy is very good with a "delta-C" color error of only 4.55 at base ISO. Shifts in cyan toward blue and orange toward yellow are moderate, but other shifts are quite minor. Skin tones also show some color shifts, the strongest is in the darker tones, which are pushed toward orange-yellow. Lighter skin tones show a small nudge toward pink, but are still realistic. Overall, very good treatment of color at base ISO.


Auto WB:
Slight red cast
Incandescent WB:
Too warm
 
Manual WB:
Most accurate,

Incandescent: Manual white balance handled our incandescent lighting best overall, though it produced a very slight cool tint. Auto resulted in a slight red cast, while the Incandescent setting produced very warm results.


Horizontal: 2,000 lines
Vertical: 2,000 lines

Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,000 lines per picture height horizontally and vertically. Extinction of the lines occurred between 2,600 and 2,800 lines.

Like previous Fuji EXR cameras, the XF1 sometimes produces more demosaicing errors than cameras with conventional sensors, though, as can easily be seen in the small red text in our Still Life Samuel Smith bottle labels, and in other areas of our test images containing fine detail.


D-Range Priority

Dynamic Range: As mentioned above, the Fuji XF1's EXR mode has an expanded dynamic range feature called D-Range Priority, which is designed to preserve hot highlights when enabled. At full resolution (12 megapixels), the XF1 has three settings: 100%, 200%, 400%, which can be set outside of EXR mode. At 6-megapixel resolution in EXR mode, 800% and 1600% settings are available. There is also an Auto mode.

Mouse over the links below the image at right to compare settings used with our high-contrast "Sunlit" Portrait scene.

As you can see, higher settings do a better job at preserving highlights as they are not as clipped as they are with the feature off, while roughly maintaining shadow and midtone exposure. As they say, though, there's no free lunch: If you click on the links and view the full resolution images, you'll see that highlight retention comes at a cost of some increased noise in the shadows and midtones, as well as reduced resolution at higher settings.

While the 200% and 400% settings produce full-resolution images, the camera underexposes to keep highlights and boosts shadows and midtones similar to dynamic range optimization systems in other cameras. This effectively raises ISO to 200 and 400 respectively, resulting in higher noise than ISO 100. (Note that Auto mode in this case selected 400%.) With the 800% and 1600% settings, dynamic range is further increased by exposing half the pixels for a shorter period of time and using them for highlight detail, but this technique generates half-size images in the process, as well as boosts ISO. Still, it's nice that Fuji gives you the option to trade resolution and noise performance for dynamic range.


Wide: Dim target
Tele: Good
Auto Flash

Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) shows dim results on the test target at the rated distance of 24.2 feet, even though we used Spot metering mode in an attempt to ignore the wide walls and ceilings for exposure. The telephoto test came out bright at 8.8 feet, though at both zoom settings, the camera boosted ISO to 800.

Auto flash produced fairly bright results in our indoor portrait scene, retaining a strong warm cast from the ambient light using a fairly slow 1/38 second shutter speed. ISO was automatically boosted to 1,000. Image stabilization should help with the slow shutter speed, but movement of the subject could be problematic at slow shutter speeds unless detected by the camera. Shot taken at ~5 feet (~1.5m) on a stable tripod.


100
200
400
800
1,600
3,200
6,400
12,800

ISO: Noise and Detail: The Fuji XF1 keeps a pretty good handle on noise and detail at the lower ISO settings, with the first really noticeable smudging at ISO 400. Fine detail is still pretty good at ISO 800, but by 1,600 starts to blur considerably. In an effort to control both detail loss from noise suppression and from actual image noise, the XF1 limits the max resolution at both the 6,400 and 12,000 ISO settings. Even though color shifts become evident at ISO 3,200 on up, results are still pretty good overall, as some hint of fine detail remains visible despite the blurring. See Printed results below for more on how this affects prints.


Printed: The Fuji XF1 makes very nice 16 x 20 inch prints at base ISO; makes a good 8 x 10 at ISO 800 and a usable 4 x 6 at ISO 3,200.

ISO 100 images are very nice at 16 x 20, with accurate, vibrant colors. 20 x 30 inch prints are suitable for wall display.

ISO 200 prints well up to 13 x 19 inches. 16 x 20s are fine for wall display prints, but begin to introduce minor noise in certain areas of our test target and some apparent softness in the red channel.

ISO 400 yields a good 11 x 14 inch print. At 13 x 19 we start to see a noticeable reduction in overall color vibrance, as well as more pronounced graininess in some flatter areas.

ISO 800 prints are good at 8 x 10, although almost all contrast is now lost in our target red swatch (a typical occurrence in many compact cameras at higher ISOs).

ISO 1,600 makes a fairly good 5 x 7, although the whole image appears slightly muted, taking on a somewhat greenish hue. At 8 x 10 these effects are much more pronounced, so best to avoid that size here.

ISO 3,200 prints a decent 4 x 6, although the greenish cast is noticeable as well as minor graininess in some areas.

ISO 6,400/12,800 do not produce good prints at 4 x 6 and are best avoided if possible.

It's always nice to know that at base ISO you can assume a really good print at a relatively large size, and the XF1 delivers nicely there for this camera class. Unfortunately, it falls off rather quickly in quality as ISO rises. Given that the XF1 has a slightly larger sensor than most premium compacts and sports a highly touted Fujinon lens, this is a bit of a disappointment, though its by far not the worst we've seen in its class. If you stay at ISO 400 and below you will be fine for good quality prints at larger sizes.
(Note: These print sizes were determined using full resolution 12-megapixel images.)


 

Fuji XF1 Performance


Startup and Shutdown Times: The Fuji XF1 takes about 1.7 seconds to power on and take a shot. That's about average for its class. Shutdown takes about 1.2 seconds.


Mode Switching: Switching from Play to Record and taking a shot takes about 1.2 seconds, while switching from Record to Play after a shot takes about 2.4 seconds. It takes the XF1 about 0.9 seconds to display a recorded image.


Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is quite fast for a compact at 0.325 second at wide angle, and 0.347 second at telephoto. Enabling the flash raises full autofocus shutter lag to 0.443 second, which is still pretty good. Continuous AF mode lag is 0.330 second while manual focus lag is a fast 0.136 second. Prefocused shutter lag is 0.026 second, which is very quick.


Single-shot Cycle Times: Cycle times are just OK, capturing a frame every 1.12 seconds in single-shot mode for Large Fine JPEGs. This increases slightly to 1.37 seconds for RAW frames and 1.31 seconds for RAW+L/F JPEG frames.


Continuous Mode: A range of continuous modes are available with limited size and speed combinations. At full resolution, the XF1 captures Large/Fine JPEGs at up to 6.76 fps for 6 frames. In RAW mode, the fastest framerate drops to 5.0 fps for 6 RAW or RAW+L/F JPEG frames. The fastest burst mode is Continuous Super High at the Medium Fine JPEG setting, which captures 15 frames at 10 fps. Buffer clearing is pretty fast, at 4 seconds for all modes tested except RAW+JPEG, which was timed at 8 seconds.


Flash Recycle: The Fuji XF1's flash recycles in about 4.8 seconds after a full-power discharge, which is fairly good for its class.


Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was able to focus down to the 1/16 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled, and in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp enabled. Very good results here.


USB Transfer Speed: Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, the Fuji XF1's download speeds are pretty good. We measured 7,279 KBytes/sec.


Battery Life: The Fuji XF1's battery life has a CIPA rating of 300 shots per charge, which is good for its class.


 

In the Box

The Fujifilm XF1 retail box contains:

  • Fujifilm XF1 compact digital camera
  • Rechargeable Li-ion battery NP-50A
  • Battery charger BC-50B
  • Hand strap
  • Lens cap
  • USB cable
  • CD-ROM (with Viewer software, RAW File Converter)
  • Owner's Manual

 

Recommended Accessories

  • Extra battery pack (NP-50) for extended outings
  • Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory card. These days, 16GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity. Fujifilm recommends Speed Class 4 or faster to record HD video.
  • Binocular-Style Camera Case or Leather Fitted Case (both styles in coordinating colors)
  • DC coupler CP-50
  • AC power adapter AC-5VX

 

Fuji XF1 Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Sleek, retro styling makes it one of the best looking pocket cameras we've ever seen
  • Quality build and feel, with a slick lens-twist to turn on, silky manual zoom lens, that begs to be shot
  • Fujinon 4x (25-100mm equivalent) manual zoom lens boasts fast f/1.8 aperture at wide angle, with good optical performance
  • Decent 3-inch LCD screen, with Sunlight Monitor mode to maximize viewing in bright light
  • Good image quality at low to moderate ISOs
  • Fast autofocus and low shutter lag
  • Mode dial with full PASM shooting controls
  • Tons of customizability, especially with E-Fn button that lets you assign favorite settings and modes to up to 6 buttons
  • Fuji's unique EXR modes let you trade resolution for lower noise or better dynamic range, and EXR Auto works brilliantly for those who don't want to be forced to make a choice
  • Great selection of creative effects and filters; Fuji Film Simulation mode and Pro Low-light mode were particularly impressive
  • Shoots RAW and RAW+JPEG
  • Full 1080p HD video recording at up to 30 fps
  • Built-in stereo mic
  • Built-in pop-up flash
  • Very good low-light AF sensitivity
  • Low geometric distortion in JPEGs
  • Sharp detail in macro mode
  • Pretty good overall saturation and hue accuracy
  • Competitive Continuous Shooting mode speeds, up to almost 7 fps for Large JPEG images
  • Good battery life
  • Maximum aperture drops quickly as you zoom
  • Lens cover is somewhat flimsy and doesn't lock closed; can easily open when pressed up against something
  • Manual zoom lens on our test unit became stiff after a period of use, and didn't seem to want to fully retract into the body
  • Steep learning curve on unusual shooting modes
  • Some special modes require drop in resolution
  • Moderate to moderately high chromatic aberration (noticeable in some shots)
  • Produces more demosaicing errors than standard sensors
  • Flash doesn't throttle down well at macro distances
  • Maximum print size falls off fairly quickly as ISO rises
  • No A/V cable included

 

The Fuji XF1 is the James Bond of enthusiast pocket cameras -- sleek, retro-styled (but somehow still eminently modern) and even a little dangerous looking. Like the classic Walther PPK, it's not a bad little shooter either, providing a bright f/1.8 max aperture at wide angle, overall speedy performance, tons of customizability and some unique shooting modes that will no doubt please Fuji fanatics.

With its compact size, quality build and luxurious feel, the Fujifilm XF1 just begs to be used. The slick 4x optical zoom lens is of the manual variety, and when you twist it open, the camera turns on ready for action. That's right, this camera is so cool there is no power button. The XF1's other controls are equally sharp -- including a full PASM Mode dial -- and is eminently customizable.

Beyond its good looks, the Fuji XF1 borrows the same 12-megapixel, 2/3-inch-type EXR CMOS sensor from the X10, as well as the unique EXR shooting modes that go with it. The EXR modes let you trade resolution (in fact, cutting the max image to 6 megapixels) for lower noise or better dynamic range, depending on your needs. In practical use, we found the EXR Auto mode to be rather brilliant and consistently captured excellent images. Meanwhile, though the EXR manual priority modes -- namely, High Sensitivity / Low Noise and High Dynamic Range -- were promising, we discovered through trial and error (a lot of error!) that they present a steep learning curve to getting the results you want.

In addition to EXR mode, the XF1 offers some interesting creative features, including a Film Simulation mode that mimics Fuji's print film effects (such as Provia or Velvia) and Pro Low-light mode that works wonders when taking still shots of non-moving subjects in darker shooting conditions. The compact camera really rewards those willing to dig deep and explore its riches.

Overall, the image quality is good, but it's not what we'd necessarily expect for a camera that has a larger sensor than most of its competitors. At low ISOs the Fuji XF1 fares the best, but at higher ISOs the quality and resulting print size deteriorates noticeably. Also, the camera's sensor tends to produce more demosaicing errors than competing models (a known issue from the similarly sensored X10). And while the XF1's lens is a very fast f/1.8 at wide angle, maximum aperture drops rather quickly as you zoom, falling to f/4.9 somewhere between 61 and 66mm equivalent.

While the XF1 is not meant for everybody -- there are better, more straightforward "vanilla" compacts that are easier to use and take more consistently good shots -- it's an undoubtedly nifty and advanced tool for photo enthusiasts (and not just the Fuji fanboys!) who demand something special from their cameras. The XF1 should also score big with casual shooters who not only want to attract oohs and ahhs when they carry it around town, but also want a camera that, on auto pilot, will take well-exposed shots with high dynamic range.

Add up the Fuji XF1's sexy appearance, fast and fun operation, immense customizablity, dynamic image quality and special shooting modes, and you have a solid, if unorthodox, enthusiast-level compact camera. It's one that definitively earns a Dave's Pick.

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