Steve's Conclusion

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Steve's SnapShot
    Steves Conclusion 275 wide - XF1.jpg
  • Compact and stylish aluminum body that's available in three synthetic leather colors (Black, Tan, Red)
  • 12-megapixel, 2/3" EXR-CMOS sensor
  • Fast EXR processing unit 
  • High-quality FUJINON Manual 4x optical zoom lens (equivalent to 25-100mm) with Optical Image Stabilization
  • Fast aperture range of F1.8 (wide) to F4.9 (telephoto)
  • EXR Auto plus PSAM manual exposure options
  • Bright 3.0-inch LCD monitor with 460K dots
  • Built-in, popup flash unit
  • ISO settings from 100 - 12,800 
  • Macro shooting down to 3cm
  • Motion Panorama 360 for seamless panoramic shots in a snap
  • Various Artistic effects 
  • Shoot RAW and JPEG image formats
  • In-camera RAW converter
  • Full HD movie recording 
  • Li-ion battery pack (Good for 300 shots)
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card slot (UHS-1 compliant) 
Pros
  • High-quality lens produces sharp images
  • Large image sensor allows XF1 to excel in low-light photos
  • Popup flash works well for portrait photos
  • Flash intensity can be adjusted with on-screen menus
  • Mode dial saves time when picking shooting modes
  • Little-to-no shutter lag
  • Very fast autofocus mechanism
  • LCD is very sharp and has 11 brightness setting options
  • Fujifilm included many options for controlling the LCD
  • Several interesting special effect features
  • Several burst modes available
  • Separate battery charger included
  • HDMI slot included
  • Supports shooting in RAW
  • Very sturdy camera build
  • XF1 has an interesting, retro look
  • Small and lightweight feel for a high-quality camera
  • Camera has sturdy build and feel; no part of this camera feels cheap
Cons
  • Camera is pricey for a fixed-lens model
  • Odd sequence for turning on the camera may frustrate some users
  • Start up takes a bit too long
  • Too easy to power down the camera while simply adjusting the manual zoom lens
  • Although ISO up to 12,800 is available, highest ISO settings only can be used at limited resolutions
  • Quite a bit of noise in higher ISO settings
  • Some glare on the LCD screen is noticeable in sunny shooting situations
  • Flash isn't quite as strong as it should be
  • Flash doesn't work in silent mode
  • 4x zoom lens will disappoint some users
  • Manual zoom can be tricky to use because the lens and camera are small
  • Battery life is well below manufacturer estimates at times
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 2.7 seconds (with Quick Start Mode turned on); 3.6 seconds (with Quick Start Mode turned off)
  • Shutter lag when prefocused = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = about 0.1 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay without flash = 2.8 seconds between frames with minimum review time On, 1.5 seconds with review Off
  • Shot to shot delay with flash = 2.8 seconds between frames with minimum review time On, 2.4 seconds with review Off
  • Super High (HS) Speed Burst Mode = 10 frames in 1.2 seconds @ 6M
  • Middle (M) Speed Burst Mode = 8 frames in 1.6 seconds @ 12M
  • Low (L) Speed Burst Mode = 10 frames in 3.1 seconds @ 12M
  • All tests were taken using a PNY Class 10, 4 GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, Flash off, Review on, ISO Auto and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
Bottom Line
Some photographers like to have a camera that turns heads because of its interesting look or because of a unique operational feature. The Fujifilm XF1 fixed-lens camera offers both. Some people will enjoy the stylish, retro look of the XF1, with its synthetic leather finish and aluminum trim. Some people will enjoy showing off the unique way in which the XF1 starts up. While the XF1 creates beautiful photos and has quick response times, there are some odd features with this camera that you wouldn't expect to see in a $500 model. For those who love the retro look and don't mind some of the XF1's oddities, it's a model that has enough strengths that it will be well worth the cost.
Pick This Up If...
You want a camera that will turn heads, while also creating really nice looking photos, and you aren't worried much about the price tag.
We've all seen them, those cameras that you can't help but notice. They may have an interesting color or a unique feature. Perhaps you're intrigued by really thin cameras that can use interchangeable lenses. Other photographers may be amazed by dual-screen models.

Ultimately, no matter how interesting or head-turning a particular camera is, it had better work well and create great photographs. Otherwise, all you have is a cool piece of technology that shoots lousy photos -- you might as well be shooting photos with a cell phone.

Fujifilm has created an impressive looking fixed-lens camera in the XF1. It has a very interesting retro design that includes synthetic leather and aluminum trim. It has a manual zoom lens and a popup flash unit. And if that isn't quirky enough for you, the XF1 doesn't include a power button. Instead, you have to twist the lens in a series of steps to power on the camera.

Although those features likely will turn the heads of your friends and family members, it's the high quality of the XF1's images that probably guarantees  they'll continue looking. There aren't many thin fixed-lens cameras that can match the photographic quality of the XF1. 

That's not to say that the Fujifilm XF1 is a great camera for every photographer. Even though the camera is available in black, tan, and dark red body colors, that synthetic leather design won't appeal to everyone. The small camera construction makes it a little difficult to use the manual zoom. The odd steps required to turn on the camera make it cumbersome and time-consuming to start using the XF1.

These are potential drawbacks that you simply don't expect to find in a camera that has a price tag of around $500. At this price, it's going to be tempting to look for more flexibility with an introductory level interchangeable lens camera, such as something from the Olympus PEN family, which has a similar retro look.

One of the oddities around the XF1 -- honestly, one of the oddest things for almost any camera I've reviewed in recent times -- is the power-up procedure required for this Fujifilm model. You'll have to manually twist and extend the lens on the XF1 in a three-step process to turn on this camera. While this interesting technique will be fun to show to your friends for a few times, it does add 1-2 seconds to the required start-up time for the XF1, versus a simple power button.

Even worse, though, is the fact that to power down the camera, you twist the lens in the opposite direction. When you're using the XF1's 4x manual zoom lens, it's very easy to twist the lens too far past the minimum zoom, causing the camera to power down. Fujifilm did build a slight "catch" that you can feel as you twist the lens, designed to make sure that you don't twist it too far. However, when you're in a hurry, it's very easy to go past the catch and turn off the camera. This is extremely frustrating.

The XF1's power up process will cause you to miss a few spontaneous photos because of the start-up delay and the inadvertent power off occurrences. If you find yourself turning the camera on and off repeatedly because you keep going past the catch, you're going to drain the battery pretty quickly, too.

In addition, because the camera and lens are small, it can be tough to find the manual zoom ring when you're in a hurry. Most cameras with manual zoom rings are large models, so the small XF1 takes some getting used to with its equally small manual zoom ring.

If you aren't worried about some of the performance issues surrounding this camera's power on process, it can be fun to use and show off, so you'll have to weigh why you're purchasing the XF1 to decide whether you'd like this feature. 

The small magnification level in the XF1's 4x manual zoom lens is going to disappoint some people. It's going to be pretty tough to use this fixed-lens camera to shoot photos from the bleachers of your kid on a baseball field, for example. Portrait photos and wide-angle landscape images are probably going to be your best option with the XF1, because of its small zoom lens.

Beyond those items, the Fujifilm lens is pretty impressive, creating vibrant, sharp, and colorful images. It offers a fast maximum aperture setting of F1.8, so it's a good low-light performer. The XF1 can shoot at an ISO up to 12,800, but the higher ISO settings are limited in resolution and have quite a bit of noise, so it's not advantageous to use them, unless you have no other options.

Coupling the impressive lens with a large, 2/3-inch CMOS image sensor gives the XF1 a great image-capturing combination. Don't let the fact that the XF1 has 12-megapixels of resolution in its image sensor discourage you. In terms of overall image quality, this camera's 12-megapixels -- because of the large image sensor -- are going to outperform the 16-megapixels of resolution in a camera with a much smaller image sensor. 

It's especially nice to have such good photographic results in a model that is as thin at the XF1, which measures about 1.3 inches in thickness. You can easily fit the XF1 in a large pocket. This camera also doesn't feel like it weighs much (less than 8 ounces with the battery and memory card installed), yet it has an extremely sturdy build. There's no aspect of this camera that feels cheap or flimsy.

Most photographers have kind of resigned themselves to the idea that a thin camera is going to do an average job at best in terms of image quality. That's not the case with the XF1, thanks primarily to the really nice image sensor. 

The back panel is well organized, and the control buttons are of a pretty good size. I like the ring design of the four-way button, which makes it very easy to scroll through menus or stored images very quickly. The XF1 includes an E-Fn button, which changes the command associated with each control button, giving you quick access to some features that may be more useful to you. You even can customize what's associated with the E-Fn button, which is great.

This camera is a comfortable size, and it fit in my hands well. There isn't a handgrip or a raised area on the front of the camera for your right fingers to grip the model, but the synthetic leather finish has some texture to it, which makes it easier to grip the camera.

The XF1's 3.0-inch LCD is sharp and bright, offering more resolution than you're going to find in a typical camera. Fujifilm included 11 brightness settings and a sunlight mode to help combat some of the glare issues with the screen.

In addition, Fujifilm included a pop-up flash unit with this camera, which gives the flash a better angle to the scene than a built-in flash would have. However, my tests found that the built-in flash was a bit weak over a distance. 

The camera's overall operational speed -- outside of the start-up process -- is outstanding. The shutter lag is not noticeable, regardless of shooting conditions, and shot-to-shot delays are minimal. The XF1's numerous burst modes work very well and fast.

You'll find a fast autofocus mechanism with the XF1, too, and it's very accurate. Fujifilm does allow you to set the camera to a manual focus configuration, but you must use a command dial on the back of the camera to adjust the focus manually, rather than using a focus ring on the lens like most cameras use. Although this feature works well, it feels like more hassle than it's worth, especially when the autofocus is as accurate and fast as it is. You'll likely rarely use the manual focus feature with the XF1.

The movie function with the XF1 is pretty good, as you can shoot at full HD resolution at 30 frames per second or at smaller resolutions at much higher fps settings. One downside to having the small manual zoom lens with the XF1 is that you'll likely jostle the camera quite a bit when trying to zoom while shooting a movie. You'll probably want to use a tripod with this camera when shooting movies. You'll find an HDMI slot with this camera, which is great for transferring movies.

Fujifilm did include a separate battery charger with this camera, which is nice. Fujifilm estimates about 300 shots per full battery charge, but it's doubtful you'll reach that number, especially if you turn the camera on and off quite a few times. I also found myself having to increase the LCD brightness level to combat glare on the LCD screen from sunlight, so that will drain the battery more quickly. This number is a bit low for a camera in this price range, so we recommend you pick up a spare pack if the budget allows. 

Bottom Line - It's difficult to give a universal recommendation on the Fujifilm XF1. This camera has enough quirks that it's going to be a disappointment to some photographers, while others will appreciate the interesting synthetic leather finish, retro look, and quirky start-up procedure. With all of the eye-catching aspects of the XF1, it could be easy to overlook the most important aspect of the camera, the image quality. The XF1 creates some great photos, with good color and sharpness. It also has some very fast response times, with no significant shutter lag and with minimal shot-to-shot delays. The XF1 has a sharp LCD, and the on-screen menus can give you quite a few interesting control options. Those are all things you'd expect to find in a camera that costs around $500. However, the odd way this camera starts up, its small zoom lens, a relatively weak flash, and lots of noise at high ISO settings are drawbacks for this model. If you really appreciate the retro look of the XF1 with its synthetic leather finish and thin size, and if you think the odd power on mechanism sounds fun to use, this camera's image quality and performance levels are strong enough that this camera will be great for you. However, if those features don't really catch your eye, at this price point, you'd probably be better served with a starter-level interchangeable lens camera, giving you more flexibility.

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