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Fujifilm XF1 review: Enthusiast compact for auto snapshooters

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There are camera designs people tolerate in order to get the features and performance they want. Likewise, there are good-looking cameras that aren't necessarily the best performers. The Fujifilm XF1 falls somewhere in the middle, mixing an overall very nice design with solid photo quality and performance for its class.

04_Fujifilm_XF1_35451250.jpg
7.7

Fujifilm XF1

The Good

The <b>Fujifilm XF1</b> looks great and can be a lot of fun to shoot. It has a fast f1.8 maximum aperture and captures in raw and raw plus JPEG. It also has a healthy selection of shooting options and a good control layout.

The Bad

Some of its best photos come at the cost of control and resolution. The lens gets much slower when zoomed in. There's no option to add an external flash or viewfinder.

The Bottom Line

The Fujifilm XF1 is one of the nicest-looking point-and-shoots available and it performs well, too. But its photos and features might not please some enthusiasts.

The smallest of Fujifilm's X-series compacts, the XF1 is certainly styled to appeal to enthusiasts, with things like a fast f1.8 maximum aperture, raw capture, and semimanual and manual shooting modes. However, it's really a better fit for those who appreciate having those things, but will regularly shoot in auto modes and want to do so with a cool-looking, attention-grabbing point-and-shoot.

There's nothing wrong with that and the XF1 can be quite a lot of fun to shoot, especially if you like the idea of turning a camera on by twisting a lens barrel.

Picture quality
The XF1 has the same Fujifilm EXR processor and 12-megapixel 2/3-inch EXR CMOS image sensor as the higher-end (and older) X10 and the 26x megazoom X-S1. The sensor is larger than you would find in a typical point-and-shoot and fractionally larger than the 1/1.7-inch sensors in models like the Canon PowerShot S110.

The slightly bigger sensor buys you some extra flexibility when it comes to using ISO sensitivities above ISO 200. Subjects do lose detail and there are more artifacts visible when photos are viewed at full size, but it isn't until ISO 1600 that things look significantly softer at larger sizes.

Fujifilm XF1 sample pictures

See all photos

On the upside, if you can take advantage of the f1.8 aperture, you can shoot with less light without immediately needing to use higher ISO settings. You can also get better low-light results using modes that take advantage of the EXR sensor technologies, but they are, for the most part, automatic modes.

Colors are bright, vivid, and pleasing, but even in the camera's Standard color mode subjects look oversaturated. It may take a lot of adjusting of settings, shooting in raw (Silkypix software is included for working with the RAF file format, but Adobe Camera Raw supports the XF1), or experimenting with its EXR modes to get the best results. If that's not something you're willing to do, this probably isn't a good choice. Its EXR Auto mode is very good as auto shooting modes go, but even tweaking that mode's settings can get you better shots.

Video quality is good for Web clips or nondiscriminating TV viewing. There are some noticeable aliasing artifacts and colors, as they are with photos, are more pleasing than accurate. Detail is good, though, and the camera is quick to refocus if you use the zoom lens, and audio is clear and loud. If your video needs are just to capture the occasional 30-second clip, the XF1 is more than sufficient.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Shooting performance
Fujifilm lists some impressive performance numbers on the XF1 product page. While my lab tests didn't exactly match the listed speeds, they were close enough, which means that, yes, it's a pretty fast camera.

From off to first shot was just less than a second in my tests with the shot-to-shot lag clocking in at 1.2 seconds. Shooting in raw only bumped that up to 1.5 seconds. When using the flash, that time was a reasonable 2.5 seconds. The time from pressing the shutter release to capture -- without prefocusing -- was 0.3 second in both bright and low-light conditions.

Burst shooting at full resolution was 8 frames per second, which is faster than the 7fps Fujifilm claims. However, it noticeably drops off after six shots. Also, Fujifilm lists a burst speed of 10fps, but that's at a reduced 6-megapixel resolution. Shooting in raw slows the burst rate down to 6.3 seconds. Note: as with the burst modes on many compact cameras, focus and exposure are set with the first shot, so if you're tracking a moving subject there's a good chance not all of your photos will be in focus.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Design and features
The XF1's classic retro design is the highlight of the camera and what sets it apart from the more modern-looking cameras in its class. Though the synthetic leather may look cheap to some, it's much better than plastic and feels good to boot. The aluminum body adds some weight and strength and all in all it feels well-constructed.

Though I like the XF1's lens design, it's definitely not for everyone. There is no power button or switch. Instead you unlock the lens with a twist, pull the lens out from the body into what Fujifilm calls Standby mode, and twist the lens again until it powers on. Twist the lens back and the camera shuts off again, at which point you can leave it extended ready to quickly power up and shoot, or collapse it back down into Portable mode.

The manual zoom lens goes from 25mm to 100mm and gives you more precise control over focal lengths than a power zoom. The camera's bright f1.8 aperture is only available at the 25mm position, however, shrinking to f4.9 when zoomed in. It slows down relatively fast, too, with f3.6 being the maximum aperture at the lens' 35mm position, and f4.2 at 50mm. Basically, while it's great to have the f1.8 aperture available for low-light shooting, you're stuck with the 25mm focal length in order to use it.

Here's how its specs match up against some of the competition:

  Canon PowerShot S110 Fujifilm X10 Fujifilm XF1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Samsung EX2F
Sensor (effective resolution) 12.1MP CMOS 12MP EXR CMOS 12MP EXR CMOS 10.1MP MOS 12.4MP BSI CMOS
1/1.7-inch 2/3-inch 2/3-inch 1/1.7-inch
1/1.7-inch
Sensitivity range ISO 80 - 6400 ISO 100 - ISO 3200 ISO 100 - ISO 12800 ISO 80 - ISO 6400 ISO 80 - ISO 3200/ 12800 (expanded)
Lens 24-120mm
f2-5.9
5x
28-112mm
f2-2.8
4x
25-100mm
f1.8 - 4.9
4x
24-90mm
f1.4-2.3
3.8x
24-80mm
f1.4-2.7
3.3x
Closest focus (inches) 1.2 0.4 1.2 0.4 0.4
Continuous shooting 0.9 fps
(with AF)
2.1fps
(without AF)
7fps
8 JPEG/n/a raw
10fps
n/a
5 fps
12 JPEG/ n/a raw
(11fps without tracking AF)
n/a
Viewfinder None Optical None Optional EVF None
Autofocus n/a
Contrast AF
n/a
Contrast AF
n/a
Contrast AF
23-area
Contrast AF
n/a
Contrast AF
Metering n/a 256 zones n/a n/a
n/a
Shutter 15 - 1/2,000 sec 30 - 1/4,000 sec n/a 60-1/4,000 sec 30-1/2,000 sec
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hot shoe No Yes No Yes Yes
LCD 3-inch fixed touch screen
461,000 dots
2.8-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed
920,000 dots
3-inch articulated AMOLED
614,000 dots
Image stabilization Optical Optical Optical Optical Optical
Video
(best quality)
1080/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
Stereo
1080/30p H.264 QuickTime MOV Stereo 1080/30p H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/60p AVCHD @ 28Mbps; 1080/60p QuickTime MOV @ 28Mbps
Stereo
1080/30p
H.264 MP4
Stereo
Manual iris and shutter in video Yes No n/a n/a n/a
Optical zoom while recording Yes Yes Yes n/a Yes
External mic support No No No No Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 200 shots 270 shots 300 shots 330 shots n/a
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.1 4.6 x 2.7 x 2.2 4.2 x 2.4 x 1.2 4.4 x 2.6 x 1.8 4.4 x 2.4 x 1.1
Weight (ounces) 7 12.4 7.9 10.6 (est) 11.4 (est)

Overall, I like the control layout for the XF1, though the small, flat buttons on back as well as the function button on top can be difficult to press. There are two dials on the camera that can be used to change settings such as aperture and shutter speed. Along with the single function button, there's an E-fn button that basically lets you map the buttons on back to other settings. It's a great setup for quickly accessing settings that are important to you, though the button on my camera wasn't the most responsive.

Battery life isn't particularly great, so you'll probably want to invest in a backup battery or two if you plan to regularly travel with this camera. The battery isn't charged in the camera, either, which means instead of just carrying a USB cable, you'll need to pack the XF1's wall charger.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The screen is big and bright but it can still be difficult to see in the sun, and without an option to add an optical or electronic viewfinder, you'll have to make do. The same goes for the flash; the tiny manual pop-up one is OK, but if you regularly need to use a flash, there's no hot shoe to add an external one. If a hot shoe and viewfinder are must-haves for you, check out Fujifilm's X20, which has both those features and more but costs an additional $200.

There is no shortage of shooting modes on the XF1, including two Auto modes (with or without scene recognition) right up to semimanual and manual controls (as well as two Custom spots where you can save your own setups). In manual mode, available shutter speeds start at 30 seconds and go down to 1/4,000 second (though at f1.8 it stops at 1/1,000 second); selectable apertures go from f1.8 to f11 at wide end, and f4.9 to f11 at the telephoto end. If you don't mind the small buttons, using this camera outside of Auto is a pleasure; if you want good access to settings, this is your point-and-shoot.

Sarah Tew/CNET

There are Fujifilm's EXR options as well, made possible by the camera's sensor. These consist of High Resolution Priority, D-Range Priority, and High Sensitivity & Low Noise Priority. The High Resolution Priority setting uses the full 12-megapixel resolution for photos, while the other two shoot at 6 megapixels to improve dynamic range in high-contrast scenes or reduce noise in low-light photos. If you're not sure which to use, there's an Auto EXR mode that includes scene recognition and that can also recognize which EXR Priority option to use. It's effective and reliable as long as you're OK with the possibility that you'll end up with 6-megapixel photos if the D-Range and High ISO & Low Noise Priority modes are used for your shot.

The Advanced mode gives you a few more tools to work with that take advantage of the camera's speedy sensor: Pro Low-light and Pro Focus. The Low-light mode snaps off several photos and then combines them into one lower-noise photo, while the Pro Focus creates a shallow depth of field by digitally blurring the background. (The former works better than the latter.) In this mode you'll also find a cool multiple-exposure option that lets you layer one shot on top of another as well as eight advanced filters (Toy, Miniature, Pop Color, Dynamic Tone, Partial Color, High Key, Low Key, and Soft Focus. You can see examples of some of these in the slideshow in the picture quality section of the review.)

Conclusion: The Fujifilm XF1 is a nice camera for those who want the look and many of the features of an enthusiast compact, but will use it primarily as an automatic point-and-shoot. It's an attractive camera that takes above-average photos indoors and out. It's just that it has limitations that some enthusiasts might object to, especially those for whom the look of the camera isn't much compensation.

04_Fujifilm_XF1_35451250.jpg
7.7

Fujifilm XF1

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 7Performance 8Image quality 7