Fujifilm X-A5 Conclusion

by | Posted 07/03/2018

Fuji XC 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS PZ lens at 15mm (23mm equiv.), f/6.4, 1/110s, ISO 200.

Although Fujifilm makes some expensive X Series cameras, it hasn't forgotten about the entry-level or budget-conscious out there. Coming in right at $600 with a kit lens, the Fujifilm X-A5 is one of Fuji's most affordable X Series mirrorless cameras. However, despite the low price, the little camera packs quite a punch when it comes to image quality. The camera also has some new tricks up its proverbial sleeve compared to the predecessor, including a new sensor with on-sensor phase-detect AF as well as a new image processor. We were already impressed by the sheer image quality from earlier X-A series models, particularly given their price points, but does the new X-A5 continue that tradition and do the new hardware upgrades improve the camera's speed and performance? Read on below for our full review conclusion...

Image Quality

As we've seen from previous X-A models, image quality from this entry-level camera is certainly impressive for this class of camera. For $600, this 24MP APS-C camera is one of the best ones out there now in terms of image quality performance, even at higher ISOs.

Like its predecessor, the X-A5 doesn't use Fuji's unique "X-Trans" CMOS sensor but rather sticks to a traditional Bayer-filtered CMOS sensor -- a 24MP APS-C chip, much like the X-A3. Nevertheless, image quality from the X-A5 is excellent, both at low and higher ISOs. In fact, compared to many other similarly-priced competitors, the X-A5 displays better image quality, with more fine detail and cleaner, more pleasing higher ISO images.

Overall, for an APS-C camera, the Fuji X-A5 displays excellent high ISOs, and its RAW files deliver very good dynamic range as well. In addition, color and hue accuracy are both quite good, and of course, the X-A5 features most of Fuji's popular Film Simulation presets that let you customize the look and tone of your photos instantly, in-camera.

Fuji XC 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS PZ lens at 44.5mm (66mm equiv.), f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 1000.

Performance

The Fuji X-A series isn't known for top-notch performance, but for an entry-level camera, it's not all that surprising. The previous X-A3 used contrast-detect AF, which proved to be only decent overall and struggled with fast subjects, low-contrast subjects and in low-light situations. The new X-A5, however, sports a new hybrid autofocus system with on-sensor phase detect AF pixels, much like many of their higher-end X Series cameras. We'd hoped this would result in more nimble AF performance, but sadly the X-A5 still shows slower than average AF speed. Lab testing showed sluggish shutter lag numbers, and in the field, the AF system proved inconsistent. When the camera *could* lock focus, it was reasonably quick, but other times, our reviewer reported the camera indicating the subject was in focus when it clearly wasn't.

There's a new image processor inside the X-A5, too, which again, should deliver improved performance over the earlier model. However, in many cases, the X-A5's performance is again underwhelming -- it's not terrible, by any means, but we don't see many improvements over the X-A3. For starters, the camera is really slow to startup, in part due to the new Power Zoom kit lens, for which you have to wait until the lens automatically extends to begin shooting (your mileage, therefore, might vary if you're using a different lens).

On other metrics, such as continuous burst rate, the X-A5 clocks-in at more or less similar rates to the X-A3, ~6fps for JPEG and slightly slower for RAW or RAW+JPEG. The buffer depth for JPEGs has been improved, however, going from a meager nine frames to 22 shots in our tests. RAW buffer depth, however, remains very shallow, at just six frames.

When it comes to video, the X-A5 offers 1080p video up to 60fps, just like the X-A3. However, the X-A5 also offers 4K, but it's severely limited, with a framerate of only 15fps. This makes the X-A5 rather awkward to use for general videography if you want 4K, as typical video frames rates are higher at 24p or 30p, for example.

Design

Design-wise, the X-A5 looks extremely similar to the X-A3. There are a few minor tweaks, but overall, it's a familiar look and feel to its predecessor. This isn't a bad thing; the design is stylish, comfortable and easy to operate, making it a great choice for first-time users of an interchangeable lens camera. There are a number of physical buttons and controls, too, for those wanting to dabble with more advanced, manual operation. The main downside to the camera body's design is the lack of an electronic viewfinder, which can be a big deal for many photographers. If an EVF is important to you, take a look at the recent Fuji X-T100, which offers a built-in EVF along with similar internals to the X-A5 and at a similar price point.

The X-A5 features a new kit lens, the XC 15-45mm F3.5-5.6 OIS PZ, which uses, for the first time in a Fuji lens, a power zoom design. The lens is compact and fits well on this small camera body. Image quality is pretty good (though we've yet to lab-test it thoroughly), and the focal length range is slightly wider than the previous 16-50mm kit. However, we found the power zooming mechanism a bit frustrating to use; zooming action wasn't smooth nor very fast.

Fuji XF 50mm f/2 R WR lens at 50mm (75mm equiv.), f/2, 1/4000s, ISO 200.

Summary

For beginner photographers and those looking to step up from a smartphone without a significant investment in gear, the Fujifilm X-A5 is a good option. For sheer image quality performance, this camera is a terrific value. Low ISO photos are excellent with lots of detail and resolution, and high ISO shots, similarly, are very good with well-controlled noise.

Performance-wise, the X-A5 struggles a bit in a number of areas. As an entry-level camera, we aren't expecting tip-top performance, but it's a little disappointing that the X-A5 doesn't at least show a noticeable improvement over the previous iteration. AF performance is decent, but not great nor consistent, and continuous shooting is unchanged from the X-A3. Buffer depth is limited with RAW, though it's better with JPEGs than on the predecessor. And while 4K video is a nice addition, in theory, limiting the framerate to just 15fps makes it all but unusable for real videographers.

All in all, if you want or need a faster or more nimble camera or something with sturdier build quality, it might be best to look elsewhere. But, if you primarily care about image quality first and foremost and don't want to break the bank on your first ILC, the Fuji X-A5 is a fantastic choice and a pretty nice bang for your buck.

Pros & Cons

  • Impressive overall image quality
  • Excellent high ISO performance for APS-C sensor
  • Very good dynamic range from RAW files
  • Bright colors with good hue accuracy
  • Separate highlight and shadow tone adjustments
  • D-Range and HDR modes help with high contrast scenes
  • Fuji's famous Film Simulation modes
  • Compact kit lens is wider than most and offers decent optical performance
  • Full HD video at 60 fps
  • Good battery life
  • Built-in flash
  • Flash hot shoe
  • External mic/remote jack
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • 3-inch selfie-friendly touchscreen
  • Stylish, lightweight design with comfortable ergonomics
  • Decent number of physical controls
  • Default sharpening and contrast too high
  • Slower-than-average AF speed despite new hybrid AF system
  • Inconsistent AF performance (missed focus, unnecessary focus shifts during continuous shooting)
  • RAW buffer depth only 6 frames
  • Very slow startup to first shot time with new power-zoom kit lens (needs to extend first when powered on)
  • Sluggish single-shot cycle times
  • Shutter pre-press penalty
  • 4K videos are only 15 fps
  • No EVF (new X-T100 addresses that)
  • No headphone jack
  • Some buttons and controls don't feel solidy built
  • Display can be difficult to see in bright light




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