Fujifilm X-A1 - Is this the best low light camera for under $1500? (even though it only costs $499?)

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posted Monday, February 10, 2014 at 7:07 PM EDT

 
 

We've just started testing the Fujifilm X-A1 and quickly ran across something astonishing (and we don't use that word very often): It blows the doors off the close competition at higher ISOs for delivering good detail while keeping the noise levels low, and even challenges some cameras costing more than $1000!

Seeing is believing, so we're including some quick-reference crops for you to see below against a range of high caliber APS-C cameras (including Fujifilm's flagship model the X-Pro 1) as well as one of the best Micro Four Thirds cameras we've tested, our 2013 Pro Camera of the Year, the Olympus E-M1. But this is just the beginning. You can use our Comparometer to pit this welter-weight model against anything we've ever tested, so dive right in, and we dare you to find a camera that makes this one look bad at ISO 3200 or higher.

We rarely report on a finding like this so early in testing, but this seemed important enough to get the word out quickly. And given just how popular the X-A1's higher-priced, newly-introduced cousin the Fujifilm X-T1 has become, we thought that at least a few of you might be interested in knowing that there may be a very capable back-up available to you at a reasonable price (and equally important - the same lens mount!) to accompany the X-T1 in your bag.

We'll take a sneak-peak at some real world gallery images below, but first let's take a quick look at what led us to post this article in the first place... the comparisons!

 
Fujifilm X-A1 vs Fujifilm X-Pro 1 (their current flagship APS-C camera) • ISO 3200

 

 
Fujifilm X-A1 vs Canon SL1 • ISO 3200

 

 
Fujifilm X-A1 vs Pentax K3 (Snapsort's current "best low light APS-C camera") • ISO 3200

 

 
Fujifilm X-A1 vs Olympus E-M1 (our 2013 Pro Camera Of The Year) • ISO 3200

 

 
Fujifilm X-A1 vs Nikon D5300 (Adorama's current "Best low light APS-C camera") • ISO 3200

The difference in resolution makes some of the images appear larger, and therefore a bit easier to spot noise, but to us these comparisons are still quite the eye-opener given the X-A1's price, and given that it is not even an X-Trans sensor. Comparisons at even higher ISOs show similar results, so feel free to pit the X-A1 against your favorite camera at ISO 6400 and above - it may not beat it, but the results may still surprise you.

Of course, we have yet to fully test the camera in our usual thorough form, so consider this just an early peak at one feature the X-A1 seems to have in spades. And while our test shots are the best way to compare the camera to the competition and its close kin, there's still nothing like seeing what it can do out there in the real world, so you'll find plenty of mid and high ISO images to zoom in on and pixel-peep to your heart's content in our Fujifilm X-A1 gallery.

 
1/13s; f/5.6; 65mm eq.; ISO 1600 (16-50mm kit lens)

 

 
1/38s; f/4.0; 90mm eq.; ISO 3200 (60mm Fujinon lens)

 

 
1/250s; f/2.8; 90mm eq.; ISO 3200 (60mm Fujinon lens)

 

 
1/350s; f/5.6; 53mm eq.; ISO 400 (35mm Fujinon lens)

So there's an early peak at just how capable the Fujifilm X-A1 appears in the image quality and low light departments. Stay tuned, as we'll put it through its paces and give you a full report on the rest, and in the meantime you can check out our X-A1 Preview, our X-A1 gallery page and also our initial batch of sample lab images. Please feel free to leave comments or questions at the bottom of any of these pages and we look forward to your take on this initial post.