Body & Design

The XF1 has a minimalist design that, with its silver top and base plates and lens barrel, pays homage to 1970s film compacts. Fujifilm hasn't sullied its lines with anything so crude as a handgrip, but the leatherette material that covers most of the body provides a better grip than you'll get on its smooth metal-bodied competitors. There's also a small 'hook' on the back for your thumb, and a single eyelet on the side for a wriststrap, which we'd consider an essential addition. The aluminium body shell is lightweight but feels completely solid - the XF1 feels like a quality product.

The back of the camera is dominated by the 3" 460k dot screen, with the rear controls clustered to its right. There are two dials; the one at the top of the body is clickable to change its mode, while the lower surrounds the 4-way controller. The XF1 has a dedicated movie recording button, allowing video capture from all exposure modes. The E-Fn button acts as a 'shift key' to access further functions from the 6 buttons above it (Play, Record and 4-way controller), all of which are user-assignable - see later in this preview for more details.

Top of camera

The XF1's top plate is distinctly austere - it's home to just the shutter button, customizable Fn button and exposure mode dial on the right, with the pop-up flash on the left (released by a sliding mechanical switch). In this view the lens is in the fully-collapsed position, leaving the camera reasonably slender and pocketable.

In your hand

The XF1's manual zoom ring essentially demands two handed operation, unless you want to treat it as a fixed focal-length camera. This is in no way a bad thing, though; it encourages use of a more-stable shooting position than the infamous compact camera 'one-handed at arm's length' pose.

The XF1 has no handgrip as such, but the leatherette covering means it feels less-slippy in your hand than its competitors can. There's a clear area on the back for your thumb to go; the upper dial and video record button are both well-placed for quick operation.

Mechanically zooming and collapsing lens

The XF1's distinguishing feature is its lens mechanism, which manually collapses into the body, and zooms mechanically with a ring around the lens. The rollover below shows how it works.

Retracted Standby Power on, wideangle

From the retracted position, you twist the lens barrel slightly to the right, pull it out, and twist again to engage the 'Standby' position; at this point the camera is still powered off. Rotating the zoom ring to the 25mm position powers the camera on, and beyond that it zooms the lens conventionally. As the zoom is mechanical, it's entirely stepless and easy to set to exactly the composition you want.

Fujifilm is very proud of the XF1's lens - it uses 7 elements in 6 groups, including four aspherical and three extra low dispersion glass elements. All of them use the company's 'Wide-band High Transmittance Electron Beam Coating' to minimise flare and ghosting, and the exotically-profiled front element is just 0.5mm thick at its centre. The image stabilization group is also unusually complex, consisting of four elements, which Fujifilm claims should improve image quality towards the corners of the frame.

When the lens is set to the retracted or standby positions, you can power the camera up into playback mode by holding down the Play button for a couple of seconds, which is useful for browsing though your images without having the lens extended.

The zoom ring is metal with a finely-knurled grip. It's marked with 35mm-equivalent focal lengths - 25, 35, 50, 60, 80 and 100mm. These can also be shown as an animated display on the rear screen as you zoom. Like other 'shirt pocket' compacts, the lens is protected by an integrated two-piece metal cover when retracted or in the Standby position.

Lens operation video

The video below shows how the XF1's lens mechanism works. Starting from the retracted position, the camera is first set to standby, then turned-on (which set the lens to the wideangle position). It's then zoomed to telephoto, after which the entire procedure is reversed.

Variation of maximum aperture with focal length

The XF1's headline maximum aperture of F1.8 only applies at wideangle, and like the Canon S100 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 marked on the zoom ring (as 35mm equivalents):

Equiv Focal Length
25mm
35mm
50mm
60mm
80mm
100mm
Max aperture
F1.8
F3.4
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 almost two stops at 35mm (equivalent). In comparison, both the S100 and the RX100 offer F2.8 at the same angle of view; about 1/2 stop faster than the XF1.

Optional accessory - matched leather case

Each of the XF1's three colours variants gets its own matched slip-in case, made of the exactly the same material as the body coating. These are shown below, pictures courtesy of Fujifilm UK. Of course there's no law against putting a red camera in a black case if you feel so inclined (or vice versa), although the fashion police might be appalled.