Fujifilm X-A5 Field Test

A solid starter camera with impressive image quality

by | Posted 06/12/2018

Fuji XF 50mm f/2 R WR lens at 50mm (75mm equiv.), f/2.0, 1/2700s, ISO 200.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

The Fujifilm X-A5 follows 2016's X-A3 and is one of Fujifilm's most affordable X series interchangeable lens cameras. In the year and a half between the X-A3 and X-A5, not a lot has changed in its appearance, but the X-A5 does have a few new features that help make it a solid entry-level camera. Let's see how the X-A5 fares in the field.

Key features and specs

  • Same compact, sleek design as the X-A3
  • 3-inch selfie-friendly touchscreen
  • New touch-based user interface
  • New 24-megapixel APS-C sensor with on-chip phase detect autofocus pixels
  • Non-X-Trans-style sensor (traditional Bayer-filtered CMOS sensor)
  • Hybrid autofocus system
  • Up to 6 frames per second continuous shooting
  • 4K video at 15 fps
  • Full HD video at 60 fps
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • $600 USD for the camera and new 15-45mm Power Zoom kit lens

Camera body and design

The Fujifilm X-A5 looks nearly identical to the X-A3. Why remake a good design, right? The X-A5 is a stylish camera with a nice faux-leather cover on the grip areas. It's reasonably compact and lightweight. Although it's a nice-looking camera, I found a few downsides to its design.

The ergonomics are good and the camera is comfortable to hold, but some of the controls do not feel solidly-built. The shutter release, for example, wobbles a bit and can feel a little off for lack of a better term. The buttons on the camera are also loud when pressed.

The Fujifilm X-A5, like the X-A3, is a nice-looking camera.

The control layout is quite good, the buttons and dials are all easy to reach and in good locations. Another nice aspect of the camera's design is the rear display. The display tilts all the way forward to easy-to-shoot selfies. To ensure that the display isn't obstructed by the camera when tilted up, it also slides out a bit, which is a nice touch. You cannot tilt it all the way down though, meaning that the camera is not as easy to use when holding it over your head; it doesn't have a full 180-degree range. The display can be somewhat difficult to see in bright light, too, which is an issue exacerbated by the camera's lack of viewfinder.

The control layout is quite good, although the buttons have a somewhat cheap feel to them when pressed. They are also fairly loud when pressed.

Overall, the Fujifilm X-A5 is a sleek, generally well-designed camera that performs quite well in most situations. The lack of a viewfinder will be an issue for some, and the display could certainly stand to be easier to see in bright light.

Image quality

Considering its price point, the X-A5 produces very impressive images. The megapixel count is unchanged from the X-A3 at 24.2 megapixels, but the image sensor is new and now has on-chip phase detection autofocus pixels -- more on that in a bit. It has an improved ISO range as well, going from 200 to 12,800 natively (up from 200-6400) and is expandable to ISO 51,200 now (up from ISO 25,600).

Fuji XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS lens at 10mm (15mm equiv.), f/6.4, 1/850s, ISO 800.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Sharpness and color

Regarding sharpness and color reproduction, the sensor does a great job. You're unlikely to get the most from the sensor using the new kit lens (although it is a solid kit lens), but if you pair the X-A5 with very sharp glass, you can get images with excellent detail. I do find that the camera applies a bit too much sharpening in-camera, which can lead to some unnatural-looking out of focus areas and artifacts. Generally speaking, though, the camera's sensor delivers a good amount of detail for an APS-C sensor.

Regarding color, I don't find the images quite as pleasing as those from an X-Trans sensor, but the Provia Film Simulation does a good job reproducing colors without going too far overboard with the saturation, which is a common problem for many cameras, particularly entry-level ones. People often want the very rich greens and blues, and you can certainly get those with the Velvia Film Simulation if that's the look you're going for.

Fuji XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS lens at 10mm (15mm equiv.), f/5.6, 1/420s, ISO 200, Velvia Film Simulation. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

RAW file versatility

The RAW files from the X-A5 are not only quite detailed, they also offer great versatility and flexibility. I've included a few examples below -- see the captions to see the edits I've made in Adobe Camera Raw. You can see that the X-A5 offers impressive highlight recovery and shadow recovery while continuing to maintain a good overall appearance. For a camera in this class, I was very pleasantly surprised with how much you can do with the RAW files from the X-A5. In my opinion, the camera's greatest strength is its image quality.

Fuji XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS lens at 10mm (15mm equiv.), f/7.1, 1/120s, ISO 400, DR200 Dynamic Range.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.
Fuji XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS lens at 10mm (15mm equiv.), f/7.1, 1/120s, ISO 400.
This image has been modified with -100 Highlights adjustment in Adobe Camera Raw, all other settings left set to default. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

 

Fuji XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS lens at 10mm (15mm equiv.), f/6.4, 1/1250s, ISO 800, DR400 Dynamic Range.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.
Fuji XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS lens at 10mm (15mm equiv.), f/6.4, 1/1250s, ISO 800.
This image has been modified with +100 Shadows adjustment in Adobe Camera Raw, all other settings left set to default. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

 

Fujifilm Fujinon XC 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS PZ lens at 15mm (23mm equiv.), f/6.4, 1/110s, ISO 200.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.
Fuji XC 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS PZ lens at 15mm (23mm equiv.), f/6.4, 1/110s, ISO 200.
This image has been modified with numerous adjustments, including -100 Highlights and +100 Shadows. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Shooting Experience

Generally, the Fujifilm X-A5 offers a good user experience. The camera's performance is decent, autofocus is reasonably fast and it's an easy camera to use. The touchscreen functionality is well-integrated, making it a nice choice for someone who is purchasing their first non-smartphone camera. If this is the case, it will provide greater versatility while being somewhat familiar.

New kit lens: XC 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS PZ

The X-A5's new kit lens has some nice things going for it. It's compact and matches well with the camera. It also delivers pretty good image quality in many situations and offers a decent f/3.5 maximum aperture. It also has a useful 23-69mm-equivalent focal length range. On the downside, the power zoom feature is iffy, at best, due to its fairly sluggish, jumpy feel when trying to zoom. Image quality from the kit lens is pretty good. Throughout the focal length range, the lens performs well in the center, and the corner performance isn't bad when stopped down. Given its compact size and wallet-friendly inclusion in the X-A5 kit option, it's a decent lens.

Fuji XC 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS PZ lens at 17mm (26mm equiv.), f/7.1, 1/400s, ISO 200.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.
Fuji XC 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS PZ lens at 17mm (26mm equiv.), f/7.1, 1/400s, ISO 200.
100 percent crop from the above unedited JPEG image. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Autofocus

The biggest upgrade to the X-A5 is arguably its new image sensor with on-chip phase detection. Along with new processing power, the X-A5 promises to deliver autofocus that is up to twice as fast as its predecessor. That sounds great on paper, but how is it in practice?

It's a mixed bag. When the autofocus performs well, it feels pretty quick. The touchscreen autofocus works well, the modes are versatile and the camera routinely delivers sharp images. However, when autofocus struggles, it fails in puzzling and frustrating ways. Even in good light, there were numerous occasions when the camera thought it was focused when it wasn't; in fact, it missed focus badly at times. During continuous shooting, the focus sometimes shifted inexplicably as the camera falsely thought it needed to make unnecessary adjustments.

Fortunately, these oddities were not a frequent occurrence when shooting with the X-A5. Nonetheless, despite feeling faster than the X-A3, the X-A5 also frustrated in ways that the X-A3 didn't and sometimes didn't deliver in what were fairly normal shooting situations.

Fuji XC 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS PZ lens at 44.5mm (66mm equiv.), f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 1000.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Performance

The Fuji X-A5 includes a new image processor alongside its newly-designed image sensor. Fujifilm claims that it offers 1.5 times the performance of the X-A3. Without getting too bogged down in specifics, suffice it to say that in many cases, the camera feels plenty quick. Startup time is said to be improved, from 1.3 to 0.8 seconds which sounds impressive, except the new power zoom kit lens needs to extend before you can use it. However, the X-A5's Continuous High burst mode is still rated at 6.0 frames per second which is no faster than the X-A3, and the RAW buffer remains shallow at only 6 frames. JPEG buffer depth has however increased in our lab testing, from 9 to 22 frames.

I also found that at times, scrolling through images during playback and trying to navigate menus can feel a little sluggish. However, when shooting, the camera is generally snappy and many of its processing tasks are handled well. Further, battery life has been improved by 10 percent, bringing the rated total shots per charge to 450, which is quite good for a small mirrorless camera.

Overall, the X-A5 is a decent performer for the price and is quick enough for many different types of shooting situations.

Shooting modes

Per usual, the Fujifilm X-A5 includes a number of Film Simulations. In total, there are 11 presets, three of which are different color filters for the Monochrome Film Simulation. They are varied in appearance and each have strengths. I personally tend to use the Provia/Standard, Velvia/Vivid and Monochrome + Red filters the most. I do wish that the X-A5 had Fujifilm's more recent Acros black and white Film Simulation, as it's my favorite monochrome filter, but nonetheless, the X-A5 offers plenty of options to get different and appealing images.

In addition to Film Simulations, the camera also offers 17 Advanced Filter functions, which are accessible via a dedicated setting on the mode dial. These include a couple of new additions, such as Fog Remove and HDR Art. I find many of the filters to be tacky, but one person's "tacky" is another person's "cool," so it's good that the options are there for those who want them.

Fujifilm X-A5 Timelapse Test Video #1
3840 x 2160, 30fps. Fuji 10-24mm: 13.2mm (20mm eq.), f/8, ISO 800
2.5s exposure per frame, 360 total frames
Download Original (149.9 MB .MOV File)

The X-A5 includes a built-in timelapse shooting mode, which works quite well. You can shoot timelapse videos at 4K resolution up to 30 frames per second, and it's easy to select your settings. After choosing the timelapse resolution in a dedicated setting menu, you then go to the camera's self-timer interval shooting setting in the same sub-menu and select the frames and interval. When you are ready to start the shooting, the camera will tell you how long the final timelapse will be, which is useful. I used the feature to shoot a couple of different timelapse videos and compiled them in-camera while also saving the original stills so I could work with them later if I wanted to. The processing was quite quick and the final results were good, it's certainly a neat feature.

Fujifilm X-A5 Timelapse Test Video #2
3840 x 2160, 30fps. Fuji 10-24mm: 13.2mm (20mm eq.), f/11, ISO 200
1/35s exposure per frame, 360 total frames
Download Original (149.8 MB .MOV File)

In addition to the built-in timelapse mode, the X-A5 also has a built-in panorama feature. I don't find this feature quite as impressive as the maximum resolution is not nearly as good as it would be if you stitched together shots using software, but it is certainly simple to use and produces fine results, which has value. There are 120 and 180-degree options and you can shoot vertical or horizontal. With vertical panoramas, the maximum size is 2160 x 9600 pixels and horizontal offers a maximum resolution of 6400 x 1440.

Wireless

The Fujifilm X-A5 offers built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The connection process is quite simple with an iPhone. It requires you to go into the camera's shooting menu and enable wireless communication, then select the camera in your phone's Wi-Fi connections list and then open up the Fujifilm Camera Remote application. Once you have approved the connection, you're all set. One somewhat odd aspect is that you have to re-establish the connection if you want to switch from image transfer to remote control functions; it's not a persistent connection between the app and the camera.

The X-A5 has competent wireless functionality that should work well for most users' needs.

The connection speeds and quality are quite good. There are some frame drops during the live video feed on your phone, even if you're close to the camera, but the level of detail is good. Changing the shooting mode on the camera is not recognized within the app until you disconnect and reconnect, which is frustrating. The app does offer control over some shooting parameters, including ISO, Film Simulation, white balance and more, which is nice. It's good for shooting a group photo or operating the camera from a difficult angle, but it's not going to offer the same level of control as you'd get if you were physically using the camera itself. Overall, it's serviceable, and it should work well for many scenarios, including shooting images and sharing them with your phone.

Video

As an entry-level mirrorless camera, it may come as a pleasant surprise that the X-A5 offers 4K video recording. However, it becomes quickly apparent that it's really only a 4K camera in spirit rather than in any practical sense because the frame rate is limited to just 15 frames per second. Who shoots video at 15 fps? Even 24 fps would've been a massive step up in terms of quality and usability. There's hardly any point in even having 4K video if it isn't going to be better than 15 fps.

Fujifilm X-A5 4K Test Video
3840 x 2160 video at 15 frames per second. Recorded with Fujifilm 15-45mm lens, ISO 400
Download Original (171.4 MB .MOV File)

An area of weakness, besides the aforementioned 4K video limitations, is with respect to the camera's autofocus during video recording; it is simply not very good. It does feel improved when compared to the X-A3, but it still is not going to prove very fast or reliable in numerous situations. As mentioned earlier, the power-zoom feature of the kit lens also leaves a lot to be desired, with sluggish performance and a jumpy/jerky zooming motion.

Fujifilm X-A5 Autofocus Test Video
1920 x 1080 video at 60 frames per second. Recorded with Fujifilm 15-45mm lens, ISO 1000
Download Original (80.9 MB .MOV File)

The Full HD video quality is decent for what it is, but not fantastic. Quality at higher ISOs is okay as well. However, the video from the X-A5 exhibits odd compression-like artifacts, similar to what we've seen from other Fujifilm cameras (both X-Trans and non-X-Trans models). That said, Full HD video is certainly more versatile and more useful than the 4K option, given the latter's limited framerate. If you intend to shoot much video with the X-A5, I suspect you'd do most of it at the 1920 x 1080 resolution.

Overall, while technically a 4K video camera, the X-A5 is severely hampered at its highest resolution, and it's not particularly well-equipped for video in general with its mediocre autofocus performance. It's worth noting as well that the base ISO when recording video is 400 rather than 200. More positively, capturing video is easy and the tilting screen proved useful as well, so there's certainly some video features to like with the X-A5, even if it is unspectacular overall.

Fujifilm X-A5 Slow-Motion Test Video
1280 x 720 video at 24 frames per second, 5x slow motion. Recorded with Fujifilm 15-45mm lens
Download Original (37.2 MB .MOV File)

Fujifilm X-A5 Field Test Summary

A nice step up from a smartphone for beginner photographers

What I like:

  • Very good image quality
  • Improved autofocus performance
  • Camera looks nice
  • Built-in timelapse mode works well

What I dislike:

  • No electronic viewfinder
  • Inconsistent autofocus performance
  • 4K video is capped at 15 frames per second

The Fujifilm X-A5 does a lot of things well. It's a stylish, entry-level camera with a lot of features and very good image quality. At times, the performance is very good as well, including decent autofocus speeds. However, there are also some downsides to the camera. The lack of a built-in electronic viewfinder is disappointing as the screen is hard to use in bright light, and the new hybrid autofocus system with on-chip phase-detect AF is not without its quirks. Further, the 4K video is capped at 15 frames per second, which is a very odd choice.

Fuji XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS lens at 19.1mm (29mm equiv.), f/11, 18s, ISO 200
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

All in all, the X-A5 is a good compact camera if you care most about still image performance. You can get a lot of quality out of the files, which is more than you can say about other similarly-priced cameras. It is also a pretty easy camera to pick up and use and won't overwhelm users new to interchangeable lens cameras.

 



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