Fujifilm made something of a splash when it launched into the expert compact camera market with the imposing X10. But with a new set of more style-conscious and pocket-friendly expert compacts like the Canon S110 and Sony RX100 now on the scene, Fuji has followed up with the XF1, a much more compact expert snapper that inherits a retro look and a mechanical zoom from the beefier X10.
The Fujifilm XF1 has a decidedly retro design, finished in aluminium and a colourful leather-effect material. There's no denying that this is a stylish camera. On first contact, however, we were surprised to find that it's much lighter than it looks and that it doesn't feel hugely sturdy or reassuring to handle. The entirely flat front face doesn't help—the small handle on the X10 really improves grip. It's the same story with the mechanical zoom ring too. While the retractable design makes the XF1 easy to slip into your pocket (see inset), some may question the reliability of this mechanism.
The XF1 screen has already been used in some other Fuji cameras. Display quality feels very similar to what we've seen in the likes of the HS30 EXR, with a screen that's generally pleasant to use, has wide viewing angles, but with contrast that's a little excessive and colour fidelity that's generally off the mark. This LCD is perfectly nice to take photos with, but we wouldn't recommend using the onscreen image to try and set colours with any kind of accuracy.
At first glance, the XF1 interface looks like it's part-way between a general consumer camera and a more advanced model. There's a fairly limited number of direct-access controls, but you do get a clickable thumb-wheel as well as a settings wheel around the four-way arrows (as already seen in the likes of the F770, for example). However, once you take a closer look at Fuji's typically dense menus, it soon transpires that the XF1 has a pretty generous selection of advanced customisable options. The Fn button can be used for the setting of your choice, and the E-Fn button works like a "shift" key, letting you add an extra function to pretty much any button on the back of the camera (hold down E-Fn to get your alternative setting). This effectively gives direct access to six extra functions and all within a nicely designed custom interface. The XF1 can therefore be set up for fast access to your favourite settings—including RAW mode or manual focusing—but the camera isn't clogged up with all kinds of controls that you'll never use.
The XF1 takes just under two seconds to start up. And that's probably as close as we can get to criticism in this part of the review, as the XF1 is a responsive camera with an effective continuous autofocus, fast photo-to-photo turnaround and a 7 fps burst mode.
Plus, the XF1 is still speedy in RAW mode, with photo-to-photo turnaround that's kept down to about a second and a burst mode at 6 fps. Pickier users should note that you can't change any settings or display an image until the photos have finished saving. However, you can shoot a second shot very quickly, which isn't the way with all compacts in RAW mode.
The XF1 has the same CMOS EXR sensor as seen in Fuji's X10 and X-S1, which is larger than the sensors used in most compacts (with the exception of Sony's RX100). Fuji's sensor measures 6.6 x 8.8 mm, compared with 5.7 x 7.6 mm for Canon, Nikon and Olympus models. The lens, however, is all new, and with its complex mechanism it has everything to prove! Let's take a closer look.
Like some of Fujifilm's other cameras, the XF1 does tend to slightly overexpose our test scene. Noise is therefore more visible in the ISO test shots above than with many other competitor cameras, although photos taken in real-life situations will look cleaner and more neutral. Quality is perfectly fine up to 1600 ISO. Smoothing masks noise a little more than in the X10 but it does make for shots that are ready to use with no post-editing required. At 3200 ISO, things get considerably more hazy, so you won't want to make prints any larger than 4" x 6" (11 x 15 cm). Don't even bother using the extended ISO settings. On the whole, the Canon S110 offers a bit more precision, but you also get a bit more noise. Some users may prefer that, but each to their own. And in any case, the RAW mode is always on hand if you need it.
The XF1 lens is a nice surprise. At wide-angle, it does a respectable job. Sharpness levels are no match for the Panasonic LX7 or Canon's S110 but they're still good and remain so right up to the edges of the frame, especially at f/2.8. The lens is still on the better side of average at telephoto too. Again, it's not on par with the LX7 but it's up there with the very good Olympus XZ-2.
One thing that's particular to Fujifilm cameras is the EXR sensor. EXR CMOS sensors are structured so that the photosites are positioned in staggered rows to improve their ability to capture light. This requires an extra image processing trick to transform the image back into a series of rows and columns in the final shot. This processing can cause some interference with very fine straight lines, as seen on our test scene. As a result, the XF1—like the X10 and most of the firm's other high-end compacts—is rather prone to moiré effects. This wasn't something we had a problem with when shooting in real-life situations, where patterns like those on our test cards are quite rare. However, this is very visible in some of our Face-Off test shots, as you can see above.
The XF1 films Full HD video at 30 frames per second. The image is precise, fuzzy noise is kept under control and the continuous autofocus is fast, although it does sometimes pump a bit if you zoom quickly. All in all, it's pretty good.
Audio is covered by two mics which are nicely spaced out, with one on either side of the lens. Sound quality is good too. Metallic noises sound a little sharp but the stereo effect is clearly audible and voices are distinct and perfectly recognisable. It's just a shame that you can hear the hiss of the zoom ring when changing focal length in quieter scenes.
The only downside is that aliasing is quite visible on diagonal lines or curves, even in real-life situations. This is no doubt caused by some rather harsh upscaling and high levels of compression.