I like the way the burst modes are implemented on this camera. For starters, you get four speeds: slow, medium, fast and super-fast (who doesn't like something labeled "super"?). In my testing, at JPEG fine, these speeds clocked in at 3.1fps (low), 6.5fps (medium), 8.7fps (high), and 11.3fps (super high). And, you can shoot bursts in RAW at up to high speed, and capture up to eight frames.
When shooting JPEGs, the camera does not stop after capturing its quickest, initial burst at the higher settings. At low speed the camera simply chugs along. I shot more than 50 images at 3.1fps before stopping the burst myself. Best of all, at the three faster speeds, the camera slows down to approximately 3fps after the initial burst rather than simply stopping. At mid speed the camera slows down after roughly 14 shots, in high speed after approximately 13 shots, and at super high after eight or nine shots.
In RAW or JPEG+RAW, the camera stops altogether at eight frames. At high speed, the XQ1 shoots eight frames in one second (8fps) in both RAW and JPEG+RAW modes (no super-high speed is available in RAW mode). Should you want to share one of these RAW frames right away, you'll be ready - the camera has built-in RAW conversion.
The only thing on my wish list for the continuous shooting would be the ability to use the flash. As is, the shot-to-shot delay with flash cited in the timing test results is a best-case scenario when pressing the shutter-release button for each shot in single-shot mode. The lag time between shots varied between 1.3 second and 2 seconds in my testing. If you change your settings often, this can get a little annoying because with continuous shooting turned on, the flash menu will not pull up - you press the four-way control button and nothing happens. A simple notification would be nice.
The small flash performs well, and has a specified range of 24 feet at wide angle. In my testing I noticed a drop-off in illumination closer to 15 feet. Still, this is adequate for illuminating a small room attractively, while larger areas are likely to have a dark background. The camera does not have a hot shoe for attaching an external flash.
The controls on the XQ1 are, for the most part, well implemented. The buttons on the back panel are on the small side, but the thumb dial integrated in the four-way control is very handy. The customizability of the E-Fn button at the lower right corner of the back panel really sweetens the deal. Pressing it brings up a graphic of the secondary assignments for the four-way control positions, playback button and movie record button. This adds six functions to the initial eight assignments for these controls, and they're user-selectable.
The other customizable control is the control ring around the lens barrel. After pressing the E-Fn button, you turn either the control ring or the four-way thumb dial to bring up the menu of options. In its default setting, the function of the control ring depends on the shooting mode. Usually it's inarguably the most important setting: For example, in aperture-priority mode, the control ring changes the aperture. In default, oddly, it has no assignment in Program mode.
The control ring works well for fine-tuning the manual focus. If the focus check feature is turned on (which it is by default), turning the control ring will magnify the on-screen preview. Also, there are two levels of highlighting to help you lock focus. To help quicken the process, you also can press leftward on the four-way control to briefly activate auto focus, a handy feature.
However, I was not thrilled with how the control ring performed as a zoom ring. The zoom motor responds slowly and you can't change the response time; if you're expecting the type of quick response and tactile feedback of a true zoom ring moving optical elements in an SLR lens, you'll be disappointed. When shooting stills, it takes a few turns to get from wide angle to telephoto on the 4X lens. When recording video, this results in jerky movements as you repeatedly reposition your hand on the control ring. On one occasion, I counted over 30 turns to zoom out from telephoto to wide angle while recording video. I could find no way to speed up the motor's response.
The XQ1 is outfitted with phase detection auto focus. Most point-and-shoot cameras use contrast detection AF, which may be better for stationary subjects, while phase detection AF is generally considered better for moving subjects. DSLRs and prosumer cameras usually employ phase detection AF (some models use both). The XQ1's auto focus is generally quick. I found it to be faster than most point-and-shoot cameras I've tested. It does a good job of adjusting quickly to a change in focal distance and tracking moving subjects. The one situation where I found the performance a little lacking on still images was indoors with many fast-moving subjects: In this challenging environment the auto focus sometimes failed to get a sharp shot of a moving subject. In some instances this seemed partly due to the automatic settings choosing too slow a shutter speed to freeze the action. The AF performed will on videos, but did not track perfectly while zooming. As you'll see on the Samples Page in the video shot while zooming in using the zoom ring, the focus falls out briefly as the zoom nears 4X. Still, overall the AF is quick and performs very well in most cases.
Image quality overall is high. Other than issues with auto focus in the most challenging circumstances, the XQ1 delivered sharp, well exposed images. The Program, Auto and SR+ modes generally made good decisions on which settings to use. On some indoor shots, given the high image quality at high ISO settings, I would have preferred that the camera choose a higher ISO than, say, 800 in order to freeze the action I was capturing.
Speaking of indoor environments, and the resulting low light, this camera performs well in low light. It boasts a maximum ISO of 12800, and as you will see on our Samples Page, performs very well at the higher settings. In general, at the very highest settings it outpaces more basic point-and-shoot cameras I've tested, and falls just a little short of higher-end prosumer models.
The 4X zoom lens offers a very wide maximum aperture of f/1.8 at wide angle. This makes for a fast lens that will help you capture sharp shots in a lot of situations where a slower lens will fail you. However, at telephoto the aperture can go no wider than f/4.9, which is a little limiting, and was a contributing factor to some of my blurry indoor shots.
The zoom magnification is basic, and on top of the optical zoom the camera offers what the company calls "intelligent" digital zoom. To its credit, this digital zoom does perform well, and you can find sample images on the Samples Page. But, it still is only worth using if you absolutely don't want to crop an image after the fact. Comparing a cropped image to the identical shot taken with 2X digital zoom (low ratio), the cropped photo was slightly sharper. Using the high ratio 4X digital zoom further degraded the image quality.
The built-in Wi-Fi was painless to set up, requiring no password for my existing home network, as some cameras do. First, you install Fujifilm Photo Receiver on an Android smartphone, or similar application on a PC. Then you press the Wi-Fi button while the camera is in playback mode and the photo on screen is transferred. You can also use your smartphone to browse through your photos and select which ones to download.
Speaking of playback, images look very sharp on the 920,000-dot LCD. The screen is adequately bright and has a monitor sunlight mode you can turn on via the E-Fn button for when bright light makes it difficult to see the LCD. I like that when you're zoomed in on an image, you can turn the four-way ring to get to other images in the same magnified view. This makes it easy to closely inspect the focus or details on a series of shots. If instead you press the four-way dial to use like a button, you move the magnified area within the on-screen image.
Editing images in playback is not a strong suit. You can't apply filters to still images, only basic edits such as cropping and rotating. The same goes for movies, though you can delete selected frames in movie playback. How this is done isn't covered in the printed manual. Pressing all positions on the four-way control didn't reveal a method either. I would have preferred a simple trim function where I could choose a start and end point for the video.
The XQ1 records full HD video, and three high-speed modes, which are fun to play with. I liked the quality of the video shot by the XQ1. For one, the film simulation setting works for videos, so you can give your movies a few to video as well as still images.
The XQ1 offers a standard assortment of scene modes and filters. Keeping with its legacy, the camera offers film simulations corresponding with their silver halide cousins. In addition to exposure, dynamic range, and ISO bracketing, the camera offers film simulation bracketing so you can get the same shot in a few different filter treatments without having to change the setting.
Its advanced filters are an interesting bunch. The pro focus mode uses face detection and focus bracketing in order to blur the background. The camera takes up to three shots for each shutter-release button press and combines them to create this effect. I wouldn't call the effect overly dramatic, but it's appealing. However, sometimes the camera was unable to create the effect, notifying me with an on-screen message.
Also in the advanced filters menu is a mode called motion panorama 360. In this mode, the camera can stitch together a sweeping area up to 360 degrees. This mode is a bit touchy and took some getting used to. At first, I had trouble getting it to work. Repeated failures resulted in a message saying that shooting was interrupted, but it offered no solution. On roughly my fifth attempt, the camera informed me that I needed to pan more quickly, which resulted in a successful 360-degree panorama.
The Li-ion battery must be charged in the camera, which comes with a USB cable and power adapter rather than a battery charger. You can, of course, purchase an extra battery, though the Fujifilm website didn't include a battery charger in its accessory list at press time. As is, you can't charge your first battery while shooting with a second one. The accessories do include the WP-XQ1 waterproof case and a remote release.
Battery life is nothing special. The battery is rated by CIPA to last 240 shots, which assumes half of the shots taken with flash. In my testing, using a fair amount of burst shooting and very little flash, I captured almost 460 photos and three short movies on one charge.
Bottom line - The pocketable XQ1 packs a lot of speed, customizable controls, and power into a small package. Fast phase detection AF, high-speed burst modes, and solid low light performance help you get great shots under most conditions. If the clumsy zooming of the control ring and modest 4X zoom don't deter you, the XQ1 will likely fulfill your high expectations.