The enthusiast compact camera segment has seen a lot of action. It started with pocketable cameras featuring a slightly larger sensor than the standard 1/2.3-inch type along with fully manual controls and support for RAW (for instance, the Canon PowerShot S100). Then came the even smaller and svelte Sony Cyber-shot RX100 featuring a 1-inch type sensor along with a bright f/1.8 lens. And now we have the Fujifilm XF1, which is the latest addition to Fujifilm’s premium X-series. Let’s find out how capable this pocket shooter is!
A pocketable enthusiast digital camera
Design and features
The Fujifilm XF1 cannot go unnoticed! Unlike the S100 or RX100 that may discreetly pass off as point-and-shoot cameras, this leatherette-clad shooter shouts for attention. The boxy design is reminiscent of a retro camera. The XF1 is available in three colours—red, light tan and black. The entire shell of the XF1 is crafted from aluminium, and the silver top panel, base and lens housing lend good contrast. The top panel houses the mode dial, shutter release, a tiny customisable Fn button and pop-up type flash that releases with a gentle slide of the lever below it. The right side is home to an eyelet for wrist strap and HDMI and USB ports that are covered by a rubber flap.
Now for the most exciting bit; the front of the camera. Fujifilm has devised the lens barrel in such a way that it sinks inside the shell. It’s this clever design that makes the XF1 convenient to be carried in the pocket. If you carefully notice the top panel, you’ll find the zoom lever and on/off button missing. You must have guessed that the zoom is completely manual. So, you get good flexibility to frame scenes/subjects as there’s no question of zoom steps.
A first-timer will take some time or probably not be able to figure out how to power on the camera. In the Off position, the lens is sunken in the body and locked in place, which can be noted by the coinciding red dots on the lens barrel and the fixed ring on the body. Twisting the barrel slightly to the right unlocks the lens, which allows you to pull it out of the body. You then twist it slightly further to the right to move over to the Standby mode. Twisting the barrel even further to the 25 mm mark (red dot), powers on the camera. An on/off button would have been more convenient, but here, you have no choice but to get used to the mechanism.
On position at 25 mm
The lens extends to 100 mm, which translates to a mediocre 4x optical zoom—the case with most cameras in the segment. However, the bright f/1.8 aperture at the wide end and optical image stabilisation are nice to have in low-light. The 12 megapixel sensor is of the 2/3-inch type, which is about 50 percent larger than the standard 1/2.3-inch type. The large sensor goes a long way in capturing less noisy images at higher ISO speeds. Also, the shallow depth of field or background blur is much pronounced. At the telephoto end, the aperture maxes out to an average f/4.9.
Rear of the camera and E-Fn button customisation
The rear of the camera is dominated by a fairly large 3-inch display that has a resolution of 460K dots—looks good, but for a premium camera it’s fair to expect at least a 920K dot screen. The control panel comprises two dials—a clickable horizontal one at the top and the other around the 5-way D-pad. The D-pad offers quick access to EV, flash, self-timer and Macro. Around the D-pad are buttons for video recording, E-Fn, Display/Back and Playback. Both the dials pretty much do the same thing while you’re shooting using semi or fully manual modes. For instance, either can be used to adjust the aperture and shutter in A and S modes respectively. In the manual mode, either of the dials can be used for aperture and shutter; just that you have to click the top dial to switch functions. Nonetheless, two dials come in handier than just one when it comes to adjusting the exposure.
Besides the Auto, Scene and PASM modes, the XF1 offers two customisable modes, Advanced Filter and EXR auto modes. The Auto mode is far advanced than what’s present in plain vanilla point-and-shoot cameras. Here, you can limit the ISO speed (up to 400, 800, 1600 and 3200), use burst capture and set Film Simulation that’s similar to colour effects (Vivid, Sepia, B&W and selective colour). The EXR auto mode is similar to smart auto. In addition to recognising the type of scene and subjects, you can prioritise on the dynamic range and keep the noise level low. Also, like program mode, you have complete control over white balance, metering, focus mode and flash intensity. The XF1 offers a good selection of scene presets to get optimal results without having to tinker with the exposure settings. These include Natural Light, Portrait Enhancer (smooth skin), Night Tripod, Fireworks, Sunset, Snow, Beach and Flower. The Advanced Filter mode lets you shoot Panoramas, multiple-exposure shots and apply effects such as Toy Camera, Miniature, Pop Color, High Key and Selective Color (red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple).
The user interface of the XF1 is snappy and very intuitive. What we liked the most is the provision of the E-Fn button that extends the function of the D-pad and the two buttons (playback and video recording) above it. When pressed, it brings up an overlay of alternative functions mapped to the D-pad and the buttons around it. So, with the press of a button, the D-pad virtually transforms into another one with separate functions. And the good thing is that the alternative controls can be customised as per your liking from the settings. You can choose from 14 functions including ISO, RAW, dynamic range, white balance, focus mode, face detection and burst mode (continuous shooting).
The XF1 can shoot videos at up to full HD at 30 fps. Other resolutions include 1280 x 720 and 640 x 480 (both at 30 fps). High speed shooting is also allowed, but at lower resolutions—320 x 112 at 200 fps, 320 x 240 at 120 fps and 640 x 480 at 70 fps. You obviously have the manual optical zoom at your disposal, plus you can use the Film Simulation effects if you wish to shoot videos in black and white, sepia or with vivid colours.
Updated 24 May, 2013, 7:53 pm IST
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