Fujifilm X-M1 review: Great photos for the money

It takes about 1.8 seconds to power on, focus, and shoot; pretty typical for its class. Focusing, exposing, and shooting in good light runs about 0.3-second, also average; in dim light it gets relatively slow, though, at 0.7-second. Two sequential JPEG shots average about 1 second, with 0.9-second for raw, though the latter varied significantly during testing -- from about 0.9 to 1.5 seconds. (We average the three fastest times in cases like this.) Adding flash bumps the time up to 1.7 seconds. As long as you're shooting a still subject, the camera's 5.6fps can burst for an effectively unlimited number of JPEGs (at least 31 shots in our testing with a 95MB/sec SD card) and as much as 6fps for raw as long as it's for less than 12 shots.

The autofocus is reasonably quick and accurate, though like all contrast AF systems it hunts a bit before locking. The biggest issue I've encountered with some of the Fujifilm X-mount lenses -- including the X-M1's 16-50mm kit lens and the new 27mm f2.8 -- is their inability to focus closer than a foot, even in macro mode.

Since the LCD can tilt it remains reasonably usable in direct sunlight and, in conjunction with peaking, works very well for manual focus. Unlike most tilting LCD implementations it can tilt perpendicular to the body facing down as well as the more usual faceup orientation.

Shooting speed
(In seconds; shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot
Raw shot-to-shot time
Typical shot-to-shot time
Shutter lag (dim)
Shutter lag (typical)
Olympus PEN E-P5
0.8
0.2
0.2
0.3
0.2
Sony Alpha NEX-6
2
0.2
0.2
0.5
0.2
Olympus OM-D E-M5
1.1
0.6
0.5
0.5
0.3
Fujifilm X-M1
1.8
0.9
1
0.7
0.3
Fujifilm X-E1
1.4
1
1
0.8
0.5
Typical continuous-shooting speed
(In frames per second; longer bars indicate better performance)
Note: *The Fujifilm X series cameras support continuous shooting only with fixed exposure and focus.

Design and features
Attractive and intelligently designed, the X-M1 features a fairly typical consumer architecture. I liked shooting with it, though there are a few drawbacks for manual freaks. The grip feels a little too shallow for comfortable single-handed shooting, though Fujifilm offers an optional grip add-on. (It doesn't seem to be available yet in the U.S. so I can't tell how much it costs.)

On top is a mode dial with the usual manual, semimanual and automatic modes , though as usual Fujifilm gets a little confusing with its auto selections. There's dumb auto-everything mode; Advanced SR auto, a smarter, scene recognition auto mode; and SP (scene position) mode, the more typical scene mode. Advanced filter mode offers up the typical set of special effects, but you can't really change any of the parameters, and it doesn't save an untouched original or raw file. The three oldest scene modes -- portrait, sports, and landscape -- are also called out on the mode dial. And there's a single custom setting slot.

A programmable function button sits to the right of the shutter, in front of an adjustment dial. In addition to a hot shoe, the camera has a pretty decent pop up flash that can be tilted back to bounce or as a quick-and-dirty way to reduce intensity.

On the back there's a vertical thumb-operated adjustment dial that I thought I'd have issues with, but turned out to operate as comfortably as a horizontal dial. Four directional buttons handle autofocus area, white balance, drive mode and macro. There's also a dedicated movie record button and quick control panel button.

My only quibble with the interface is the lack of a direct-access option for metering (or "photometry" as Fujifilm traditionally dubs it) and a physical auto-exposure lock button. You can program the function button for either one, but there's no way to program both operations. So you're stuck going into the menu system to change the metering -- it doesn't even appear on the control panel -- or going without the AE lock entirely.

Fujifilm X-M1 Fujifilm X-E1 Olympus PEN E-P5 Samsung NX300 Sony Alpha NEX-6
Sensor (effective resolution) 16.3MP X-Trans CMOS
n/a
16.3MP X-Trans CMOS
n/a
16.1MP Live MOS
12 bits
20.3MP hybrid CMOS 16.1MP Exmor HD CMOS
n/a
23.6mm x 15.6mm 23.6mm x 15.6mm 17.3mm x 13mm 23.5mm x 15.7mm 23.5 x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.5x 1.5x 2.0x 1.5x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 (exp)/ 200 - ISO 6400/25600 (exp) ISO 100 (exp)/ 200 - ISO 6400/25600 (exp) ISO 100 (exp)/200 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 25600
Continuous shooting 5.6fps
30 JPEG
6fps
n/a
4.5-5fps (lens dependent, IS off)
70 JPEG/20 raw
(9fps with fixed AE/AF, no IS)
8.6fps
n/a
3fps
11 raw/15 JPEG
(10fps with fixed exposure)
Viewfinder None EVF
0.5-inch
2.36 million dots
100% coverage
n/a
Optional EVF
n/a
2.36 million dots
100% coverage
1.48x/ 0.74x
None OLED EVF
0.5-inch
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
1.09x/0.73x
Hot shoe Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Autofocus 49-area
Contrast AF
49-area
Contrast AF
35-area contrast AF 105-point phase-detection, 247-point contrast AF 99-point phase detection, 25-area contrast AF
AF sensitivity range n/a n/a n/a n/a 0 - 20 EV
Shutter speed 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 60 min; 1/180 x-sync 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 60 min; 1/180 x-sync 60 - 1/8,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync
(FP to 1/4,000 sec)
30-1/6,000 sec.; bulb to 4 minutes; 1/180 x-sync 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync
Metering 256 zones 256 zones 324 area n/a 1,200 zones
Metering range n/a n/a 0 - 20 EV n/a 0 - 20 EV
Flash Yes Yes Yes Included optional Yes
Wireless flash Yes No Yes No No
Image stabilization Optical Optical Sensor shift Optical Optical
Best video 1080/30p H.264 1080/24p H.264 1080/30p @ 20Mbps H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/60p/30p; 1080 x 810/24p AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24Mbps
Audio Stereo Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input
LCD size 3-inch tilting
920,000 dots
2.8-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch tilting touch-screen LCD
1.04 million dots
3.3-inch tilting AMOLED touch screen
768,000 dots
3-inch tilting touch screen
921,600 dots
Wireless connection Wi-Fi None Wi-Fi Wi-Fi Wi-Fi
Battery life (CIPA rating) n/a 350 shots 330 shots n/a 270 shots
(with viewfinder)
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 4.6 x 2.6 x 1.5 5.1 x 2.9 x 1.5 4.8 x 2.7 x 1.5 4.8 x 2.5 x 1.6 4.8 x 2.8 x 1.1
Body operating weight (ounces) 12.8 12.6 15.1 10.9 (est.) 12.3
Mfr. price $699 (body only) $999.95 (body only) $999.99 (body only) n/a $749.99 (body only)
$799 (with 16-50mm lens) $1,399.95 (with 18-55mm lens) n/a $649.99 (with 20-50mm i-Function lens) $899.99 (with 15-60mm PZ lens)
n/a n/a $1,449.99 (with 17mm f1.8 lens and VF-4 EVF) n/a n/a
Ship date July 2013 November 2012 July 2013 March 2013 October 2012

The only exception to the relatively basic feature set is support for Wi-Fi uploads and geotagging via a mobile device connection. But Fujifilm's app is so...lame. Basically, you can connect and browse or transfer images, or pass geotag coordinates back to the photos. No remote control. And if you, for example, jump out to the gallery to check the download, it disconnects. Of course, app functionality changes hourly, so it's possible that the company can beef it up a little.

For a complete accounting of the X-M1's features and operation, download the PDF manual.

Conclusion
I really do hate proclaiming a camera has the "best" of anything, as that's such a moving target. (Hence, the dearth of Editors' Choices I award.) Even now, looking at comparable cameras I have yet to review -- the Samsung NX300 springs to mind -- I wonder if the next one will surpass it. But I'm fairly confident that, at least until we see a new sensor from another manufacturer, the X-M1 will retain the "best quality" title in its price class.

That said, overall the camera is a little weaker purchase proposition than I'd like -- the disappointing video and its sufficient but generally lackluster performance hold it back. I also wish Fujifilm offered a discounted kit with the better 18-55mm f2.8-4 lens; if you buy the X-M1 body and the lens separately, it'll cost as much as the X-E1 kit, since the lens currently sells for about $799. Neither of the lenses focuses as close as a typical 18-55mm kit lens, though.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Digital camera type Mirrorless Digital Camera
  • Optical Zoom 3 x
  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 16.3 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer Optical
  • Optical Sensor Size 15.6 x 23.6mm