Fujifilm X-M1 review: Great photos for the money

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The Good Thanks to the company's X-Trans sensor and good JPEG processing, the Fujifilm X-M1 delivers some of the best image quality we've seen for less than $1,000. The camera's also well designed and attractive.

The Bad Poor video quality and a subpar Wi-Fi implementation prove annoying drawbacks.

The Bottom Line While it may not be the best overall camera available for less than $1,000, the Fujifilm X-M1 does deliver the best photo quality in its price class.

7.8 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Image quality 9

Fujifilm brings its interchangeable-lens camera line down another price notch with the addition of the X-M1. It's essentially a cheaper version of the X-E1, which swaps the viewfinder for a host of other features. The X-M1 is based around the same sensor as the X-E1, probably the new model's most notable feature compared with competitors. While the X-E1 has an electronic viewfinder and mic input, plus sports a far more retro design, in trade-off the much cheaper X-M1 has a larger, higher-resolution LCD, built-in Wi-Fi for image transfer, and an updated EXR Processor II from the X100S.

I tested both the X-M1 and X-E1 more or less simultaneously, which turned out to be a mixed blessing. While I have no qualms about the photo quality, which is excellent and seems like a steal in the cheaper X-M1, I kept wishing for a camera that combined the best of both models: the body and kit lens of the X-E1 with the better, tilting LCD of the X-M1. The X-M1's Wi-Fi connectivity is also a nice option, but the current (albeit fixable) implementation leaves quite a bit to be desired.

Image quality
For what it's worth, the X-M1 displays the best photo quality I've seen thus far in a sub-$1,000 camera kit. Thanks to Fujifilm's X-Trans sensor and excellent image processing, even the JPEG photos are not just usable, but really good up through ISO 1600. Shots as high as ISO 6400 remain pretty usable at full size as well, depending upon image content.

But I really wish the company hadn't felt compelled to invoke expanded ISO sensitivity range marketing voodoo on the high end (I have no problem with it for ISO 100). Before I realized that the expanded range option simply wasn't appearing because I shoot raw+JPEG -- it's not available with raw -- I thought "Wow. A camera that actually produces usable shots across it's entire ISO sensitivity range." Then I realized my error and found the useless upper ranges.

Click to download ISO 200

ISO 1600
ISO 6400

The camera also displays a great dynamic range for its class, certainly better than similarly priced dSLRs I've tested recently. If you shoot raw, it retains quite a bit of highlight detail in blown-out areas and you can bring back seemingly clipped shadows without introducing color noise.

I like the camera's color accuracy and color handling as well; it seems a little better than the X20, thout that may be because the larger sensor gives the M1 more play for exposure and dynamic range.

The lack of an anti-aliasing filter on the sensor -- and lack of postprocessing in video to compensate -- results in bad aliasing in the videos. Lori Grunin/CNET

Like the X20, however, the video quality disappoints. Because the sensor lacks an anti-aliasing filter, edges look terribly jaggy in videos. Most manufacturers who offer an AA-free sensor add some postprocessing to correct the video -- it doesn't look like Fujifilm is even trying here.

Though the M1 is no speedster, it performs well enough for most general-purpose and street photography; however, the autofocus system it probably can't keep up with hyped-up kids and pets, and its continuous-shooting fixes focus and exposure on the first frame. The manual focus works well, thanks to the nice focus-peaking (edge display during focus) implementation, so if that's your thing you should be satisfied with the camera.

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.

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