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Fujifilm XF1 hands-on preview

September 2012 | By Andy Westlake

Preview based on a pre-production Fujifilm XF1

The enthusiast compact sector has undergone a distinct revival in recent years, with every major manufacturer now producing a model or two that offers full manual control and RAW format recording, aimed as a second camera for enthusiasts who usually carry an SLR. These cameras have generally fallen into two distinct camps - those featuring either fast lenses or long zooms with lots of external controls, and smaller-bodied 'shirt pocket' cameras. The latter category was more-or-less owned by Canon for several years with its S-series compacts such as the Powershot S100, but has recently been shaken-up by the arrival of the Sony Cyber-Shot RX-100 with its relatively large 1"-type sensor. Now it welcomes a new contender - the Fujifilm XF1.

The XF1 is the latest model in Fujifilm's premium X-series, that originated with the FinePix X100 and has since expanded upwards to the interchangeable lens XF system (including the recently-announced X-E1), and downwards to the X-S1 superzoom and fast-lensed X10 compact. The XF1 shares much of its innards with these last two models, including the larger-than-average 2/3" EXR-CMOS sensor and EXR processor. To these it adds an optically-stabilized 25-100mm equivalent lens with an impressively fast F1.8 maximum aperture at wideangle, but a somewhat more pedestrian F4.9 at telephoto.

Where the XF1 stands out from its main competitors is in its looks. The Canon S100 and Sony RX100 are both functionally-styled black-bodied cameras for photographers who wish to stay discreet; the XF1, in contrast, is positively designed to be noticed. With its two-tone body - silver-coloured top and base plates and lens barrel, and contrasting leatherette coating - it's a very attractive camera; indeed Fujifilm's advertising catch-phrase is 'Looks good enough to wear'. There's a choice of three colours - the deep red shown in this preview, alongside light tan and a relatively-sober black - each of which gets a matching slide-in leather case as an optional accessory for fashionistas.

The second stand-out feature of the XF1 is its lens mechanism - the zoom ring is mechanical, and like on the X10 doubles as the power switch. But there's a a further twist - it also collapses into the body in a fashion somewhat reminiscent of the iconic Rollei 35 film compact. This gives the XF1 the distinction of being the smallest camera to offer a mechanical zoom ring around the lens. The result is a camera that slips into a shirt pocket but offers a directness of compositional control that will appeal to stills photographers (although less so to video shooters).

Aside from this the XF1 offers a solid specification. It has plenty of external controls, including two dials on the back of the camera, a customisable Fn button on the top, and a clever new E-Fn button that effectively turns six of the rear buttons into additional user-configurable Fn buttons. It offers Fujifilm's 'Film Simulation' colour modes - JPEG colour rendition being one of the company's biggest strengths - and adds a selection of the now de rigueur processing filters such as 'Toy Camera' and 'Selective Colour'. Naturally you also get Full HD movie recording with stereo sound.

Fujifilm XF1 key features

  • 12MP 2/3" EXR-CMOS sensor
  • ISO 100-3200, ISO 4000-6400 at 6MP resolution, ISO 12800 at 3MP
  • 25-100mm equivalent, F1.8-4.9 lens with optical image stabilization (4 stops benefit claimed)
  • Manual zoom ring and lens retraction mechanism
  • Full manual control, RAW format recording
  • 3" 460k dot LCD
  • Full HD movie recording with built-in stereo microphones
  • Film simulation modes for different colour and monochrome 'looks'
  • In-camera RAW conversion with all in-camera processing parameters adjustable
  • 'Advanced Filters' image-processing controls, previewed live on-screen

Fujifilm EXR-CMOS sensor

The XF1 shares the EXR-CMOS sensor that's used in the X10 and X-S1. This unconventional 12MP sensor can be used by the camera in three different ways - either to give a full-resolution 12MP image, or by pairing pixels, to give 6MP images with either lower noise or extended dynamic range. You can read more about this in our review of the X10 - we'd expect the image quality to be very similar.

Sensor sizes compared

The diagram below compares the size of the XF1's 2/3" sensor to those in its nearest competitors - in general larger sensors potentially offer better image quality. The XF1's sensor is half the size of that found in the (more expensive) Sony RX100, but it's about half as large again as the Canon S100's.

The XF1's 2/3" sensor is half the area of the Sony RX100's 1" sensor, but about 50% larger than the Canon S100's 1/1.7" sensor.

Enthusiast compacts: lenses, sensors and background blur

The table below compares the XF1's lens specifications and sensor size against its main competitors and the X10. Along with the familiar 35mm-equivalent focal length, we've also included a 35mm-equivalent aperture range, which gives some idea of the control over depth of field offered by each camera's lens.

  Sensor area, mm2
Focal length range Focal length range (equiv.) Aperture range Aperture range (equiv)* Dimensions (mm)
Fujifilm XF1 58
6.4-25.6mm 25-100mm F1.8-4.9 F7.0-19.1 108x62x33
10-37mm 28-100mm F1.8-4.9 F4.9-13.4 101x58x36
Canon S100 41
5.2-26mm 24-120mm F2.0-5.9 F9.3-27.4 99x60x27
Fujifilm X10 58
7.1-28mm 28-112mm F2.0-2.8 F7.9-11 117x70x57
Panasonic DMC-LX7 34**
4.7-17.7mm 24-90mm F1.4-2.3 F7.1-11.7 111x68x46
Samsung EX2F 41
5.2-17.2mm 24-80mm F1.4-2.7 F6.5-12.5 112x62x45

* Equivalent aperture, in 135 film terms - this gives an idea of the depth of field control offered by the lenses when the sensor size is taken into account.
** Panasonic DMC-LX7 sensor area figures based on 4:3 aspect ratio mode

Photographers tend to be interested in how well a lens can blur backgrounds when shooting portraits at full telephoto, and in this respect the XF1 lags somewhat behind the RX100, but does better than the S100. But none can quite match the X10 and other small sensor compacts sporting lenses which maintain a decently-fast maximum aperture at telephoto.

The equivalent apertures also give a rough idea of how the cameras might compare in low light; to a degree they indicate how far a larger sensor should be offset by a faster lens. Obviously this isn't the whole story; the characteristics of the individual sensors matters too, as does the quality of in-camera processing for JPEG shooters. But the story is essentially the same - the XF1 should do a bit better than the S100, but not as well as the RX100.

Size compared

The XF1's mechanical, rather than motorized lens mechanism means it's slightly larger than its direct competitors. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - it's still small enough to slip into a short or jacket pocket, and there's enough space on the back for a decent range of controls, including two dials.

The XF1 is just fractionally taller than the Canon Powershot S100, and its body is wider too. The S100 offers a slightly longer zoom range, but a has smaller sensor.
The S100 is, however, notably slim, which makes it that bit more pocketable than the XF1. This of course is substantially down to the XF1's manual zoom ring - the S100 uses a motorized zoom controlled from a collar around the shutter release.
The XF1 is also slightly larger from the front than the Sony Cyber-Shot RX100, despite the latter having a sensor twice the area. As with the S100, the XF1's two-tone design contrasts strongly with the Sony's utilitarian lines.
From the top, the positions are reversed, and the XF1 is a fraction slimmer than the RX100 when their lenses are retracted.

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X, Y, and Z and ideally A, B, and C.

This article is Copyright 1998 - 2015 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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Total comments: 131
MJ Jones

@RichardAB. What do you know about ladies' tastes in camera buying selection process? Apart from the fact that they're less tempted to carry a heavy load than 6feet+ 40years- males and may not as much as them mind about small buttons, can't one assume that their criteria differ from one another?
As for this trend to revive passé bodies, I find it pathetic. A sure sign of lack of creativity in the design and R&D departments or of their subservience to marketing and finance top teams only willing to validate me too products and tiny evolutions.
Just looking at this Fuji's flash reminds me of a disposable camera. Same impression I had looking at the ever so expensive Leica-Hermes coprod. Surely after 20 years+ of digital camera making and all the CAD tools at their disposal, companies should have been able to produce a miniature articulated flash... (more follows)


Veeeery beautiful!!! Buf f/4.2 at 50mm eq. is a bit too much... :(

1 upvote

When will fuji arrive in the 21st century aesthetically? In 100 years' time?

1 upvote
Gully Foyle

You mean Canon Sxxx like? No, thanks.

Comment edited 24 seconds after posting

Fuji without a doubt designs the most aesthetically beautiful cameras these days except for perhaps Leica. If they are not to your taste, you have a lot to choose from from other vendors.


When will you start to develop a taste? At around 50, maybe?


what are you talking about? Fuji are making some of the most beautiful cameras out there, and people are loving them, look at the sales figures!

Dmitriy Balashov

Just look at Hasselbad.


Interesting and pretty, but not for me. Hope they sell a boat load to the ladies and the men who like bling.

1 upvote

Seems perverse to leave the XZ-2 off the comparison chart. The XZ-1 was the best of the last generation after all

Andrew Butterfield

Apart from the raw flesh finish it looks interesting. Would be nice to have a regular finish to the body for those of us born after 1930.

1 upvote

The black finish in the preview looks fine :)


That lens mechanism...
is slow operation a signature of Fuji?


maybe it's just part of the retro design ;)
slow photography :)

Jos van Dijk

Who needs a electronic motor to start a camera and to zoom? It consumes a lot of power. Even 110 years old people like me don't need to be assisted to take pictures of their 25 years youg girl friend.... ;-)

1 upvote

It's not slow. It's nice to use as it is mechanical. Turning on is as quick as any camera - just different.


Will Adobe improve its support for the EXR-sensor? As far as I remember, Lightroom produced notably soft output of X10 RAW files. If so, was it fixed?


I guess this is mainly Fuji's responsibility, because no serious 3rd-party raw converter seems to fully support EXR, and the enclosed one isn't serious. Effectively, I can't consider this a raw-capable camera.
And, the user interface is so intuitive that one has to carry a table of modes ;) I't take the X10, once the orbs thing was fixed, if it had a competitive normal sensor.


This does look to me like an X10 replacement in everything but name. Which would mean Fuji has gone the same way as other manufacturers in reserving the viewfinder for more expensive compact cameras.


At least from the lens speed point of view it's a bad replacement (F1.8-4.9 vs. F2.0-2.8).


It's more like a little sister to X10 in my opinion.

Comment edited 11 seconds after posting

It is not a decisive factor for me, but I have to say that it is a very nice retro design. The design of the lettering and knurled zoom dial around the lens base is the most perfect 1950's design I have seen yet. Only when seen from the rear, the LCD and the plastic buttons and dials gives it away. The "leather" body covering will make for a reasonably good grip.

It seems that there is a new product category - "pocketable enthusiast compact" - where there are many good offerings, with a range of quality and prices to chose from. Good times indeed if you want such a camera - I certainly do, I have an S95.

Despite that X10 looks very nice and retro too, I think that this really pocketable camera makes more sense and will sell better.


The ladies will love this camera as a fashion accessory.

Gully Foyle

Is that a bad thing?


@RichardAB, So you're saying you like it?

1 upvote
Roland Karlsson

Nice! More and more small quality cameras. Big sensor - small camera. Good.


interesting to have so much choices for a quality compact. Seems to me that Sony stretched the limits of optics a bit too much with their RX100 (frequent decentering issues, soft corners, low closeup image quality). The XF1 retro design isn't my taste, but 25mm WA is a nice extra compared to the 28mm of RX100 (and XZ-1/XZ-2). Will be interesting to see how the lens performs, compared to RX100, XZ1 (with its great lens but smaller sensor) and S100 (even smaller but also a bit compromised lens).


If the lens performs well wide open, I'm almost forgiving that it is so freaking slow. F4.2 at 50mm-equiv. Seriously?

unknown member
By (unknown member) (Sep 17, 2012)

Fujifilm telescoping lenses are famous for being decentered so dont think only Sony has this problem. The Fuji F550's lens was horrible.


yes, the lens needs to perform well wide open to compare favourably to RX100 (which needs 2-3 stops down for good corners). Better close up images could also be an advantage compared to RX100. Will have to wait for the reviews and real life experience regarding decentering issues ...


Any word on the pricing yet ?


DCRP says $499.


Nice concept, but lacking usability, I'm afraid.
The lens' aperture decreases too rapidly, the zoom mechanism does look very fragile to me, and it it not suited for videos. I really don't think this was required for such a small camera.


You thing of beauty !!!! I can buy this camera for its look alone if nothing else.

Comment edited 6 minutes after posting

Perhaps a slight edit here:
From: When a camera a self-consciously stylish
To: When a camera is as self-consciously stylish

1 upvote

Looks like a great compact! 12MP is just right (RX100's 20MP is too much) for me. Wish it was f3.5 or wider on the tele end though...

Ace Disgrace

So pretty!


So far, I'm still leaning towards the Sony RX100 - will have to wait for in an-depth review to see how IQ and AF performance compare.


Its no brainer as far IQ is concerned the RX100 should have a comfortable edge,Fuji also has bad AF reputation.


The preview says it has fast autofocus...

Tahir Hashmi

The preview mentions that the IQ is expected to be similar to that of Fuji X10, which looks quite a bit worse than RX100 as per DPreview's tests.


The RX100 will (obviously) capture more detail but the Fuji will hold the highlights in contrasty situations whereas the Sony, like all small cameras will blow the highlights through the roof. (I had an RX-100). Neither approach is ideal but for now, that's as good as it gets.


Assuming it performs like the X10, it won't have the blown highlights that the other compacts have, but given the sensor size, I don't see the comparison with the RX100.

1 upvote

I wouldn't bring up the Samsung EX2 in comparison, because now that the Samsung is available in the US, all the specs state that the Samsung is jpeg only.


I have EX2f in my hand and there is a raw option.


I like the sensor size and the styling. We already have several modern style choice of this type of camera (re:S100) and this adds the retro look. The larger sensor compact cameras coming down the pipe are good news in deed!

1 upvote
Total comments: 131