Fujifilm XF1

12MP | 25-100mm (4x) Zoom | $450 (US) £320 (UK) €460 (EU)

The Fujifilm XF1 is the latest in its reputation-building 'X' series - with the company showing off what it's capable of doing. It's impressive in terms of specifications but it also tries to offer something distinctive in terms of design and technology. Conceptually the XF1 sits towards the Canon S-series end of the spectrum - prioritizing small camera dimensions over direct control or a bright lens (it's the X10's job to fulfil those needs).

Key Features

  • 12.0MP 2/3" CMOS EXR sensor (offering 6MP output with higher dynamic range or lower noise)
  • ISO 100-3200 (up to 12800, at reduced resolution, JPEG only)
  • 25-100mm (equivalent), F1.8-4.9 optically stabilized zoom lens
  • Rear clickable thumb dial and four-way dial
  • 1080p30 video with stereo microphones
  • 3.0" LCD screen with 460k dots
  • 300 shot battery life (CIPA)
  • Built-in ND filter
  • In-camera Raw conversion option
The XF1 is built around the same 2/3" sensor as the X10 - which means it's able to offer the clever pixel-combining EXR modes as its bigger brother. But, away from the technical specifications, the XF1's two great strengths are its user interface and its design. Fujifilm has worked hard to ensure the XF1 is both attractive and usable. It's one of the smallest cameras in this group, making it a clear contender for photographers for whom pocketability is important.The XF1 also has a very useful 25mm equivalent wide-angle end to the lens, making it impressively flexible, despite its relatively compact dimensions.
The XF1 is a beautifully understated camera. It's much more than simply a compact camera with classic styling - it's a well thought-out photographic tool Like the X10, the XF1 has a manual zoom. This means less battery drain and more precise control over framing, since it gives continuous, rather than stepped, control over the focal length.
Although the rear panel has very few direct controls, the E-Fn button at the bottom right helps the XF1 offer a pleasant shooting experience for shooters wanting to take control over the camera. Pressing the E-Fn button switches the function of each button on the camera to an alternate, user-defined setting - allowing quick access to all the settings you change most often.

Performance and Image Quality

The XF1 has three modes - a full resolution mode or two 6MP modes that combine pixels to improve either dynamic range or noise performance. Confusingly, the camera also has a second mode to capture more highlight information, but doesn't ever make it clear which you're using. And, while the EXR capability means the XF1 can capture 6MP images with unsurpassed highlight detail, for a compact, it imposes some limitations on the full resolution output. Shoot at 12MP or in Raw and you can't quite match the resolution performance of its more conventional peers. More problematically, fine detail - particularly fine green detail - is often rendered in a rather blurred, smudgy way.

However, the Fujifilm's images are pretty good unless you dig around at the pixel level - the camera behaves very well in terms of exposure and its color rendition is on the pleasant side of realistic. The imperfect corners of the lens at its widest setting, plus the camera's rather disappointing demosaicing mean the image quality doesn't live up to the standards set by many of its rivals.

Wide Angle (25mm Equiv.) Telephoto (100mm Equiv.)
The XF1's lens seems to feature a lot of correction at the wide-angle end of the zoom - the corners aren't a patch on the performance at the long end of the lens, where it's rather good.
The portrait test is perhaps a fraction too bright but doesn't clip any detail and still represents the subject's skin tone nicely. Sadly the fussy bokeh means that, while the slow maximum aperture at the long end of the zoom allows some subject/background separation, the effect isn't as attractive as some of its rivals. The flash result is one of the best of the bunch though. Nothing else in this group has done such a good job of balancing the ambient light with the flash output. Color rendition is good and the skin tone is attractively warm - a really good result.
The XF1's lens starts at a usefully wide 25mm equivalent focal length. This doesn't quite match the Panasonic LX7, Samsung EX2F or Canon S110 but is still pretty handy. The 6MP EXR modes can be useful - this DR800% image, shot straight into the sun, shows the kind of dynamic range that  is usually impossible in a single shot for more conventional cameras.

Summary

The XF1 is undoubtedly a pretty camera but it's also one that does a good job of balancing the needs of the different potential user - it works well as a stylish point-and-shoot but is still quick and enjoyable to take control over. The XF1's output lives up to the standard of its exterior design - the metering is reliable and the color rendition is attractive. The manual zoom lens, once you've figured it out, gives precise control over your framing in a way that powered zooms don't.

Ironically the one thing the XF1's interface doesn't do well is to give easy access to its EXR capabilities - one of the features that should help the camera stand out. Getting to the EXR features in anything but the EXR Auto mode is unnecessarily difficult, but the XF1 is still a pretty good camera, even if you choose not to use them. Overall, though, the XF1's slightly glitchy image quality takes the sheen off a camera that looks great and is a pleasure to use.

Studio and Real-World Samples (links open in new tab)

Studio Comparison Tool Fujifilm XF1 Samples (25 images)

What we like: Classy styling and good build quality. Useful lens range. Well-designed user interface. Flash performance.

What we don't like: Disappointing lens corner performance at wide-angle. Poor detail rendition in full-size images.

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