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Fujifilm XQ1 First Impressions Review

October 2013 | By Andy Westlake
Buy on Amazon.com From $398.95


Based on a pre-production Fujifilm XQ1

The 'enthusiast compact' sector has rather exploded in recent years, with every major manufacturer now offering models which offer photographer-friendly manual controls and Raw format recording. In general these cameras fall into two distinct types - relatively large, chunky cameras with fast lenses and flash hot shoes, and smaller, externally-simpler 'shirt pocket' cameras. This latter category was for a while dominated by Canon's S-series like the latest Powershot S120, but was last year completely shaken up by the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 with its much larger, high resolution 1"-type 20MP sensor.

Fujifilm also entered this market last year, with the XF1 - a beautifully-designed, but distinctly quirky camera with a manual zoom ring and lens retraction mechanism. We loved its combination of striking good looks and photographer-friendly controls, but it appears to have struggled to make much of a market impact in the face of all the buzz that surrounded the RX100. So this year Fujifilm is trying again, but with the much-more-conventional XQ1.

The XQ1 is, in terms of design, determinedly mainstream, and in many ways it's as unlike the XF1 as chalk and cheese. It's dressed in a sober single-color body shell, either black or silver, and uses a now-common round-lens control ring, which rotates freely without click-stops like the RX100's. The XF1's mechanical zoom ring is replaced by an utterly conventional lever around the shutter release. Overall, the XQ1 looks just like its main competitors.

Fujifilm XQ1 key features

  • 12MP 2/3" X-Trans CMOS II sensor
  • ISO 100-12800, customizable Auto ISO (max and min ISO, minimum shutter speed)
  • 25-100mm equivalent, F1.8-4.9 lens with optical image stabilization (3 stops benefit)
  • Lens control ring (click-less)
  • Full manual control, Raw format recording
  • 3" 920k dot LCD
  • Full HD movie recording with built-in stereo microphones
  • Film simulation modes for different color and monochrome 'looks'
  • In-camera Raw conversion, with all in-camera processing parameters adjustable
  • 'Advanced Filters' image-processing controls, previewed live on-screen
  • Built-in Wi-Fi for image sharing to smartphone, tablet or computer
  • 'Focus peaking' display for manual focus
  • In-camera battery charging via Micro USB port

The XQ1 is far from all-new though - dig into the specs and you'll find it has exactly the same 25-100mm equivalent lens as the XF1. This offers a headline-grabbing F1.8 maximum aperture at the wide end, but a less-impressive F4.9 at telephoto. It uses the same 2/3" type X-Trans CMOS II sensor as the Fujifilm X20, which employs a novel color filter array and no optical low-pass filter in an attempt to deliver more detail than its 12MP pixel count might at first suggest. The sensor also incorporates phase-detection pixels for fast autofocus - and this means that the XQ1 is startlingly quick.

On the back the XQ1 sports a large, high resolution 920k dot 3" LCD, and fills the remaining space with buttons to give direct access to commonly-used functions. Crucially, it retains one of our favorite features of the XF1, the 'E-Fn' button that accesses a further of range of functions (which the user can choose to suit their needs). We'll cover this later, but suffice to say it makes the XQ1 one of the most photographer-friendly small cameras around.

It comes in silver or black

The XQ1 will come in a choice of colors - a rather white-ish silver, or a purposeful-looking matte black. One point of note is that the black finish is distinctly textured, making this distinctly small camera less slippery in your hand than most of its peers. The silver version, in contrast, is noticeably smoother. The XQ1 will go on sale in November 2013, at a suggested retail price of $499 / £349.99.

Sensor sizes compared

The diagram below compares the size of the XQ1'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 (rather more expensive) Sony RX100 (II), but it's about half as large again as the Canon S120's.

The XQ1's 2/3" sensor is half the area of the Sony RX100 II's 1" sensor, but about 50% larger than the Canon S120's 1/1.7" sensor.

Variation of maximum aperture with focal length

The XQ1's headline maximum aperture of F1.8 only applies at wide-angle, and like the Canon S120 and Sony RX100, the lens is much slower at the telephoto end. The table below shows the maximum aperture at each of the focal lengths on the on-screen virtual 'zoom ring' (as 35mm equivalents):

Equiv Focal Length
25mm
35mm
50mm
60mm
80mm
100mm
Max aperture
F1.8
F3.6
F4.2
F4.7
F4.9
F4.9

One point worthy of note here is how rapidly the maximum aperture diminishes as you zoom in; it's dropped by fully two stops at 35mm (equivalent). Other similar cameras tend to keep their maximum apertures faster in this intermediate range.

Enthusiast compacts: lenses, sensors and background blur

One real complication when comparing cameras with different sensor sizes is due to the interplay between sensor size and maximum aperture. A camera with a large sensor, but relatively small aperture lens may not necessarily outperform a camera with a smaller sensor but larger aperture lens, particularly with regard to low light performance and the ability to blur backgrounds - something often claimed in manufacturers' marketing materials.

One way of addressing this is to compare 'equivalent' apertures. In much the same way as equivalent focal lengths can be used to directly compare angle of view, equivalent apertures can be used to compare the lens's ability to blur backgrounds in any given shooting situation (a larger aperture will blur backgrounds more, at any given focal length). They can also be used as an indicator of how cameras are likely to compare in terms of low-light image quality, although plenty of other factors complicate this too (including lens quality, image stabilization effectiveness, and image processing, etc). In the graph below, the lower the line, the better the camera is likely to be for low-light image quality and blurring backgrounds, at any given equivalent focal length.

The XQ1 is shown by the darker of the two green lines on this graph. In this comparison it's ahead of the Canon S120 (orange), although not by all that much, but it's distinctly behind the Sony RX100 (dark blue). But its relatively small maximum aperture means that overall it also lags behind compact cameras with lenses which are consistently fast through the range, such the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7. In essence this is a consequence of its truly pocketable design.


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.

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.

To navigate the review simply use the next / previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.

DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. 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 2012 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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Comments

Total comments: 162
12
xlynx9

DPR: Would be nice to include the 2/3" and 1" sensor sizes in the camera feature search (: (:

10 upvotes
mjl699

Nothing wrong with being well positioned in the "shirt pocket" segment. Remember this is likely to deliver decent image quality as well. One problem for me would be that the maximum aperture gets small very fast as the zoom increases. Another is that the manual zoom of the XF1 was a real buying feature for me. If a more sophisticated brother to this XQ1 with really good lens (better apertures at higher zoom), manual zoom, lens-mounted control ring (which I would use for aperture) and mode dial + shutter speed dial was available (maybe and exposure comp thumb dial on the back too?), I would snap it up for use by my daughter and I. I would use it as an easy carry to anything and make the best of the manual controls and my daughter would be able to use the mode dial and manual zoom to make a move away from PAS photography. To achieve all this might mean limiting the lens to 24-70, no bad thing in itself. Still, I am not Fuji's marketing team - just one person with my own requirements.

2 upvotes
ax5

Aren't you describing the X20?

2 upvotes
matty_boy

i agree with others, Fuji are just too late with this. A quick glance at the aperture comparison chart shows that even with the larger sensor this has the second slowest premium compact lens after the canon s120 which is pretty much an entry level premium anyway. the year old LX-7 blows it away, even the nikon does.. now they have shown their hand the RX100 looks as good a proposition as ever

6 upvotes
locke42

With the RX100 at practically the same price point, what's the point of this thing?

18 upvotes
Optical1

I think it might be a nice jeans pocket camera. The RX100 is too large and heavy for my own use as a pocket cam. I know that this may seem odd to some people, but I come from using a Canon S95, and I've found myself using the RX100 less and less due to the size. It just isn't comfortable to carry in my pocket. I would like the best IQ possible with a camera that l don't mind carrying. It looks like this camera might just be small and light enough to fit the bill.

One other point that is intriguing is the PDAF on sensor. That also has the potential to be helpful in the field.

One last thing, starting at 28mm is a bit maddening for me. 24 would be even better, but starting at 25mm is a plus.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
locke42

But the XQ1 is only 3mm thinner than the RX100. To put that into perspective, the RX100 is 2mm thinner than the RX100M2. Beyond that, the linear dimensions are almost exactly the same:
RX100: 102mm x 58mm x 36mm
vs
XQ1: 100mm x 59mm x 33mm

The S110, on the other hand, is almost a full centimeter thinner than the RX100 (27mm vs 36mm), so it's easy to see the compactness advantage of Canon's cameras.

11 upvotes
Plastek

"I think it might be a nice jeans pocket camera. The RX100 is too large and heavy for my own use as a pocket cam" - You're joking, right? Tell me that you're joking.

3 upvotes
rpm40

The s100 is clearly lighter and smaller than the rx100, definitely enough to matter if you want to slip it into a small jeans pocket and forget about it. If you don't think it's a noticeable difference, you haven't handled both side by side.

0 upvotes
DaveE1

Well, both this one and the RX100 II fit into jeans pockets (well, maybe not toddler's jeans). I have the RX100 II.

3 upvotes
Allen Yang

locke42, thank you for the comparison! I will go for Canon S120. Compactness is my primary concern though I'm aware Sony RX100 procudes better images. And what's more,the price of Canon S120 will drop more than RX100 since it has just been released. I will use my NEX if I need better IQ.
To sum up, Canon S120 is attractive to those who focus on even better portability and want to save some money.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
Optical1

@plastek
I'm not joking in any way. I have carried a pocket camera with me for as long as I can remember. The s95 was a revelation for me. The image quality was noticeably better than the competition. The RX100 is another step up in image quality to be sure. The problem is that it is large enough that I notice it's presence in my pocket. Whereas my s95 went unnoticed and was there when I needed it, the RX100 I consider if I want to take. The RX100 IQ is unquestionably better, but ultimate IQ isn't the most important aspect of a pocket cam for me. In my case, the better camera is the one I have with me, and lately that hasn't been the RX100.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
dpfan32

Same here :) I had the S95 and it was A LOT smaller in the jeans pocket than the my current RX100.
But when I look at the picture quality results the RX100 is 100% worth considering wearing larger jeans :)
When I'm looking at the other small sensor premium compacts they deliver not enough image quality for even reading the whole review.... It's like I'm shooting with the iPhone 5 the results aren't worlds apart from my old S95. My Nokia 808 can compete with the RX100 in some ways.

0 upvotes
ageha

Too little too late...

7 upvotes
Kodachrome200

sorry but until some one makes a compact enthusiast camera with a one inch sensor that is that small, every other compact is essentially an also ran compared to the rx100. Personally i have a GR because i dont need zoom so i like to have an even bigger sensor.

But there just will be no advantage to any other pocket size camera till they start doing one inch sensors too. the advantage in low light, dof, and image quality are just too much to ignore

Comment edited 13 minutes after posting
12 upvotes
vapentaxuser

You can still make nice pictures with it though. As I alluded to in the other comments section, it's not my first choice because I like the touch screen on the Canon S120 but outside of that it's kind of fun in a way to push a camera like this to the limits to see what it's really capable of.

1 upvote
Kodachrome200

well sure but that is true of everything

2 upvotes
Sean65

With that attitude I dare say you shoot as you see life, in 'black and white'.

0 upvotes
Craig Atkinson

I'd like to see this against the GR

0 upvotes
Kodachrome200

GR would destroy it

2 upvotes
Raist3d

Are you kidding? The GR would do way better.

0 upvotes
Craig Atkinson

yes I imagine it would, at 28mm, but would like to see how much better because the zoom and extra wide might be a decent trade off.

0 upvotes
Kodachrome200

no its all about the RX100 if you feel like you need zoom. sorry but since the sony is as small as anything until someone else does an 1 inch sensor compact they are all just also rans

5 upvotes
yonsarh

you gotta be kidding. GR has lot more bigger sensor better iq.

0 upvotes
Rob Sims

Would be interesting to see a side by side comparison with the RX100 (I and II) as this looks to be the target competition of this camera.

0 upvotes
technic

And also a comparison with some of the better smaller sensor models. In reality, all kinds of design compromises can influence the final quality. RX100 has a great sensor but the optical quality is a compromise. The previous compact 25-100 zoom from Fuji wasn't very good either ...

0 upvotes
iudex

@technic: what compromise? The Zeiss lens performs very well. And if you mean that the lens gets slower when zoomed out, well, you cannot cheat physics. Look how the same sensor combined with constant f2,8 lens looks like: http://j.mp/1i1ajtR
Kinda larger, right? ;-)

1 upvote
Freddy Frog

Judging by this size comparison http://j.mp/1fHBEo7 Fujifilm have some truly amazing optical engineering in the XQ1 !

0 upvotes
Francis Carver

The heck is this?

5 upvotes
Rob Sims

Looks like the first proper attempt to counter the RX100. Slightly smaller sensor (2/3" instead of 1"), but with a lens that starts at 25mm instead of 28mm.

1 upvote
TrojMacReady

The sensor is exactly two times smaller.

12 upvotes
DanielFjall

Isn't 2/3" equivalent of 66% of 1"?

0 upvotes
Alan53

Yes, in the real world. But. no, not in the la-la world of sensor sizes.

0 upvotes
Optical1

@DanielFjall

1" Sensor: 16mm x 12.8mm = 204.8sqmm
2/3" Sensor: 11mm x 8.8mm = 96.8sqmm
1/1.7" Sensor: 9.5mm x 7.6mm = 72.2sqmm

The RX100 is a little over twice the size, while the 2/3" sensor is ~35% larger than the 1/1.7" sensor.

9 upvotes
Plastek

"first proper attempt to counter the RX100." - Proper? That doesn't even come CLOSE to RX100. It's like saying that Olympus EM1 is their attempt to counter Sony's A7.
What a joke.

0 upvotes
Ocolon

@DanielFjall

2/3'' is indeed 66.6...% of 1'' – but that’s a linear measure. A photograph is two-dimensional, so we’re more interested in the area. You can roughly compare the areas of the sensors by squaring the linear values, (2/3)^2 = 4/9 and 1^2 = 1. Doing this you see that the area of the Fujifilm sensor is 4/9th or a little less than half the Sony's.

This calculation is not 100% correct though, because the sensors also have different side ratios. Fujifilm uses a 4:3 shape, Sony 3:2. A 4:3-sensor with the same diagonal as a 3:2-sensor would have a 4% larger area. So the Fujifilm sensor's area is a little bigger than 4/9th of the Sony sensor's.

0 upvotes
Henrik Herranen

Optical1: you have accidentally multiplied sensor diagonals with their widths instead of multiplying their widths with their heights, so your area numbers are wrong.

Correct numbers for 4:3 aspect ratio sensors are (source: http://www.dpreview.com/glossary/camera-system/sensor-sizes ):
1" sensor: W=12.8mm, H=9.6mm, A=123mm²
2/3" sensor: W=8.8mm, H=6.6mm, A=58mm²
1/1.7" sensor: W=7.6mm, H=5.7mm, A=43mm²

Because your numbers, though absolutely incorrect, still were in correct proportions, your end results still apply: RX100's 1" sensor is little over twice the area of the XQ1's 2/3" sensor, which again is some 35% larger than the S120 1/1.7" sensor.

As a comparison, a Full Frame sensor is 36mm*24mm = 864mm².

5 upvotes
dpLarry

Optical1 your figures are all wrong.

1" sensor 3:2 wide :

13.2 X 8.8 mm= 116 mm2.

2/3" sensor 4:3 :

8.8 X 6.6 mm = 58 mm2

EXACTLY twice the surface area.

2 upvotes
Kevin Purcell

Pretty much all image sensor parameter scale with the linear dimension (not as the area of the sensor).

There is about a stop difference (3dB SNR) in shot noise between a type 2/3" and type 1" sensor. With pixel peeping or AB comparing prints you'd see it but most people most of the time won't see the difference.

A stop change in any parameter is big enough too see. Less than a stop and it's marginal.

0 upvotes
prime

The XQ1 bears the same relationship to the XF1 that -- back in the day, seven years ago -- the Fujifilm F20 bore to the Fujifilm F30. The F30 was a category leader, an excellent compact camera, when it was introduced. A few months later, Fujifilm introduced the F20, which was F30 Lite, with reduced functionality, at a lower price point.

At 2/3" sensor size, the X-Trans sensor is very inferior to the 2/3" Fujifilm EXR sensor, as may be seen in the DXO comparator. (The X-Trans technology advantage kicks in at larger sensor sizes.) The battery of the older XF1 has a greater capacity than the battery of the newer XQ1. The continuously variable zoom control of the XF1 is far superior to the twitchy stepped (limited) zoom control of the XQ1. The XQ1 is -- thus -- an XF1 Lite -- but this time at a higher price than the original model.

I predict a very dim future for the XQ1.

0 upvotes
Optical1

Whoops! Yes, I used sensor diagonal times width, not width times height. Damn ipad late at night. Next time I'll wait until the morning. Thanks for the correction!

0 upvotes
Gilles r

Six month ago, i test during one week a rx 100 and a xf1. I bought the xf1. Best colors, best results, made for make samples...
Excuse me for my bad english.

0 upvotes
Fabio Pirovano

I need something of faster and smaller than Ex1 tl 500 so my consideration goes to XQ1 RX100 or LX7 (at least used lx5)

0 upvotes
Total comments: 162
12