Is the X-A1 the right camera for me?

Started Nov 17, 2013 | Discussions
bimbert84 Regular Member • Posts: 111
Is the X-A1 the right camera for me?
1

After weeks of research I think I've finally narrowed my choices to the Fujifilm X-A1. I'd like to know whether or not you think I've made the right decision.

I'm not a photographer, rather I want to take pictures for the sake of preserving memories, so it'll be mostly (grown-up) family members, the lazy cat, vacations, and the occasional nature walk. But I want them to look good, and in particular, I want them to look good when they're taken inside the house. I'd like to learn more about photography as I go, but no doubt this camera will see its share of full auto use, and I'd prefer something that produces good jpegs straight OOC.

My priorities, in order, are:

1) Non-DSLR.

2) Good low-light performance, meaning low-noise indoor stills without a flash. I hate noise. I hear people talking about smudging and loss-of-detail when it comes to NR, but to be honest, I can't see that. All I see is the noise.

3) Ability to produce shallow DOF.

4) Tilting or articulating screen.

5) $500-600 range.

Originally I was looking at high-end compacts, but quickly realized that #2, #3, and #4 exist together only at extremely high prices. So I started looking at bigger sensors in CSCs, but the ones in my price range seem seem to suffer on #2. My favorite amongst the m43s is the Panny G6, but most of the sample pics I've seen were taken outdoors, and those that weren't are quite noisy. This tells me a fast lens would be needed as well (or would it?), catapulting the price into the $1000 range.

So I started looking at even bigger sensors. A couple days ago I found the X-A1, which to me looks like I might've struck gold. All the sample pics I've seen are clean up through ISO 12800, which means that even with the kit lens, it'll meet my needs. My only concerns are reports of "slow" autofocus. I'm wondering if somebody can put "slow" into context for me. Does the X-A1 fail to focus, or does it just take a while? How long is a while? 5 seconds? 2 seconds? 1/2 second? I'm coming from a Panny TZ3, which is a 2007 vintage small-sensor point-and-shoot that was quite snappy for its time. How does "slow" on the X-A1 compare to something like that?

Is there anything else I'm missing?

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Rob

Fujifilm X-A1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G6 Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3
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Red5TX
Red5TX Senior Member • Posts: 1,586
Re: Is the X-A1 the right camera for me?

bimbert84 wrote:

My priorities, in order, are:

2) Good low-light performance, meaning low-noise indoor stills without a flash. I hate noise. I hear people talking about smudging and loss-of-detail when it comes to NR, but to be honest, I can't see that. All I see is the noise.

3) Ability to produce shallow DOF.

5) $500-600 range.

Is there anything else I'm missing?

Fuji's a good choice for you, but the kit zoom -- while a nice lens -- is not compatible with goals 2 and 3.  You might consider buying a used X-E1 with the 35mm f/1.4.  Or wait for Fuji to offer a lens bumdle.

OP bimbert84 Regular Member • Posts: 111
Re: Is the X-A1 the right camera for me?

Hi Red5TX,

Thanks for the response.

The X-E1 starts at $1000. And the sample pics I'm seeing online for the X-A1 are in direct contradiction to what you just said. Am I missing something? Or maybe our definitions of "good" are different?

http://www.photographyblog.com/previews/fujifilm_x_a1_photos/

http://www.steves-digicams.com/camera-reviews/fujifilm/x-a1/sample-photos-283.html

http://www.dpreview.com/galleries/reviewsamples/albums/fujifilm-x-m1-samples#page=1

http://www.cameralabs.com/reviews/Fujifilm_X-M1/sample_images.shtml

The latter two are for the X-M1, but everything I've read says the results would be similar for the X-A1.

-- hide signature --

Rob

Randy Benter
Randy Benter Veteran Member • Posts: 3,196
Re: Is the X-A1 the right camera for me?
1

The X-A1 is an excellent choice and meets the priorities you listed.

The AF will not catch moving subjects like a DSLR, but it is fine for most use. It is similar to other mirrorless cameras and compacts that use CDAF.

Wolfe's currently has the X-A1 on sale for $499: http://www.wolfes.com/fujifilm-xa1-digital-camera-zoom-lens-black.html

I think the X-A1 is the best camera in that price range. I recommend you start with the kit and see how it works for you. If you find that you are using hi-ISO too frequently or you want a shallower DoF, then you can add a fast prime (like the 35 f/1.4).

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Daniel Lauring
Daniel Lauring Veteran Member • Posts: 9,342
Re: Is the X-A1 the right camera for me?

bimbert84 wrote:

Hi Red5TX,

And the sample pics I'm seeing online for the X-A1 are in direct contradiction to what you just said. Am I missing something? Or maybe our definitions of "good" are different?

I'm not Red5TX but I'm guessing what he means is the kit lens for the X-A1 is slower (smaller aperture) than the kit lens for the X-E1.  That means it will get less light so it won't be as good in low light as the X-E1.  The smaller aperture will also yield more DOF.

OP bimbert84 Regular Member • Posts: 111
Re: Is the X-A1 the right camera for me?

Hi Randy,

That's exactly my thinking. I don't plan on doing action bursts. Bear in mind I'm coming from a P&S with a crummy little 1/2.3" sensor and a f/3.3 max lens, so that should give you some idea of what I'm used to.

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Rob

OP bimbert84 Regular Member • Posts: 111
Re: Is the X-A1 the right camera for me?

Hi Daniel,

Understood. I assume a more serious photographer would have a much more discerning eye, but I have a limited budget, and if the sample photos I've seen are indicative of what I can expect, then the X-A1 MORE than meets my expectations.

-- hide signature --

Rob

PeterFXCassidy Contributing Member • Posts: 702
Re: Is the X-A1 the right camera for me?

bimbert84 wrote:

My priorities, in order, are:

1) Non-DSLR.

2) Good low-light performance, meaning low-noise indoor stills without a flash. I hate noise. I hear people talking about smudging and loss-of-detail when it comes to NR, but to be honest, I can't see that. All I see is the noise.

3) Ability to produce shallow DOF.

4) Tilting or articulating screen.

5) $500-600 range.

Is there anything else I'm missing?

Consider X-M1 with the 35mm lens. I got one kind of by accident and was impressed at how easily I could adapt it to use in manual mode and the flexibility and stealthfulness it afforded me in less than  optimal scenarios, especially when I am out and about with my 27mm.

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AlbertTheLazy
AlbertTheLazy Veteran Member • Posts: 7,435
Re: Is the X-A1 the right camera for me?

If you don't want/need an eye level viewfinder or the latest fast autofocus then the X-A1 is a good choice. I agree with the others that the kit lens is slow compared to other options, but you can try it out and see how you get on before deciding what to buy next.

I have the X-E1 which has a similar sensor and I'd say that it's fairly clean up toISO 6400 with default noise reduction. For comparison my old Canon Powershot A720 starts looking really noisy above ISO 400. At 1600 (its top ISO) we're talking what we used to call 'grain like mothballs'.

All that means that, even with the slow kit zoom, you have a lot more low light capability in the X-A1 than in a typical P&S.

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Albert
Every photograph is an abstraction from reality.
Most people are more interested in the picture than the image.

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viking79
viking79 Forum Pro • Posts: 14,148
Re: Is the X-A1 the right camera for me?

I would say the two best cameras in that price range that meet your specs are the Fuji X-A1 or Samsung NX300.  I imagine JPEGs from X-A1 might be a bit better from camera, I will try a couple shots tonight with kit lenses and compare.

If you shoot indoors I really like the built in flash on the X-A1, you can tilt it back and use it as a bounce flash (lose the ugly direct flash look).  Only powerful enough to do this in a small room or house or something.

The included kit lens with either camera is not ideal for indoor shooting, but should do fine at ISO 6400.  On the Samsung I would recommend 30mm f/2 or 45mm f/1.8 for indoor shots or on Fuji the 35mm f/1.4 or 23mm f/1.4, but both are more than your camera budget

If you want large aperture lens (lets in more light and gives shallower depth of field) for not much money, you can always buy a manual focus lens and adapter to use with your X-A1 or NX300.  These take more practice since they don't autofocus, but can get both adapter and lens for less than $100 for a 50mm f/1.8 lens.

Eric

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Daniel Lauring
Daniel Lauring Veteran Member • Posts: 9,342
Re: Is the X-A1 the right camera for me?

viking79 wrote:

I would say the two best cameras in that price range that meet your specs are the Fuji X-A1 or Samsung NX300.

Samsung is behind the curve in image quality...especially high iso capability.  To compare, look at the pics here and at Imaging Resource.

OP bimbert84 Regular Member • Posts: 111
Re: Is the X-A1 the right camera for me?

I don't know if this changes anything, but bear in mind it’s doubtful any of these pictures would ever be printed above 8x10, and even that would be extremely rare. 4x6 or 5x7 or computer viewing would be the norm.

For those who have suggested additional lenses, I guess I should've been more clear: I just don't have the funds to spend $1000 or more on camera equipment. If the kit lens won't do what I want, I'll have to go another route entirely (and if it turns out I'm asking too much of my budget, that may mean buying nothing at all).

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Rob

cheddargav Veteran Member • Posts: 4,493
Re: Is the X-A1 the right camera for me?

Hi Rob,
The advice so far has been pretty good. I guess the key thing is that if you just get a kit lens with variable apertures of 3.5/5.6 you are less likely to see the benefits of moving to a bigger sensor, which is why lots of people (me included) advise getting a prime such as the 35mm 1.4.
A budget is a budget tho, often unavoidable!
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viking79
viking79 Forum Pro • Posts: 14,148
Re: Is the X-A1 the right camera for me?
2

Daniel Lauring wrote:

viking79 wrote:

I would say the two best cameras in that price range that meet your specs are the Fuji X-A1 or Samsung NX300.

Samsung is behind the curve in image quality...especially high iso capability. To compare, look at the pics here and at Imaging Resource.

No it is not at all, here is my side by side in RAW with NX300 and X-A1.  I stopped at ISO 3200 for RAW as I think Samsung does NR in RAW at 6400+.

http://erphotoreview.com/wordpress/?p=3813

The problem is Fuji exaggerates their ISO slightly so the camera often picks a longer shutter speed which if a test is not done properly can make the Samsung look worse. Plus, the Samsung goes to ISO 100 and has a full stop better performance at base ISO. For whatever reason Fuji doesn't implement ISO 100 in the Sony sensors.

And here is JPEG at 6400 (not quite as nice at JPEG as Fuji if Fuji is set to -2 NR), this is all JPEG processing though.

http://erphotoreview.com/wordpress/?p=3813&page=2

If you don't believe my testing you can go check DXO Mark and see that the Samsung NX300 or later cameras are right up there with the Sony 16 MP at high ISO.

Eric

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OP bimbert84 Regular Member • Posts: 111
Re: Is the X-A1 the right camera for me?

Hi cheddargav,

I'm definitely not disputing the advice -- quite the opposite actually. I'm trying to figure out if I'm about to make a mistake I can't really afford to make. If the larger sensor won't really help without a faster lens, I'd rather know that now.

If I understand what I've read, a f/1.8 at ISO 1600 should give me about the same amount of light as the X-A1's f/3.5 kit lens at ISO 6400. If that's true, I'll probably be better off buying a less-expensive compact with a smaller sensor and fast lens.

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Rob

viking79
viking79 Forum Pro • Posts: 14,148
Re: Is the X-A1 the right camera for me?

bimbert84 wrote:

Hi cheddargav,

I'm definitely not disputing the advice -- quite the opposite actually. I'm trying to figure out if I'm about to make a mistake I can't really afford to make. If the larger sensor won't really help without a faster lens, I'd rather know that now.

If I understand what I've read, a f/1.8 at ISO 1600 should give me about the same amount of light as the X-A1's f/3.5 kit lens at ISO 6400. If that's true, I'll probably be better off buying a less-expensive compact with a smaller sensor and fast lens.

Remember the larger sensor does better at higher ISO.

As a rough estimate if you multiply the aperture by the crop factor you will get the equivalent aperture you would have to shoot at to get the same amount of image noise (adjusting the ISO to compensate for less light).

For example, if we have an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 on APS-C, that is like a 27-83mm f/5.6-9 on full frame.

A 1/1.7 sensor with a 1.4 to 2.7, that is like 24-80mm f/6.3-12, the APS-C camera has a slight advantage still, but the EX2f in this case is usually available for around $250-350.  Also LX7, Olympus XZ1, etc are the same.

It isn't that simple of a comparison though because the larger sensor needs less enlargement to reach print/view size so it will tend to be sharper looking at larger sizes, and the smaller sensor with the larger aperture lens should be able to focus better since it is lighting in higher intensity light than the small aperture APS-C lens.

So generally a large sensor with a mediocre lens will be better than a compact, but a good compact can probably come close and be better in some regards like for macro.

Eric

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OP bimbert84 Regular Member • Posts: 111
Re: Is the X-A1 the right camera for me?

Hi Eric,

Wow. I looked at your comparisons, and I can see (slight) differences, but I wouldn't have the first clue how to achieve them or take advantage of them. In all honesty, most of the jargon there is over my head, not because I'm unable to learn it, but because it goes beyond what my involvement with photography will likely ever be.

That said, I'm starting to think a capable compact with a fast lens would be a better fit for me. What do you think?

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Rob

pcb_dpr Contributing Member • Posts: 838
Re: Is the X-A1 the right camera for me?

You've listed 5 important criteria for you. Three of these (non-DSLR, articulating screen, price) have nothing to do with image quality, and the XA1 fits those three fine. The other two (shallow dof, clean indoor shots without flash) do concretely concern image quality. The kit lens that is packaged with the XA1 doesn't do these two image-related items very well. It is not the lens any experienced photographer would recommend for someone whose only stated concerns about image quality were shallow dof and great indoor shots in lower light w/o flash.

This is a common problem with every mfrs' kit zoom lens, and it's why people are suggesting faster lenses. Not because they want you to overspend your budget, because that's the better tool for the job you say you want to do.

But we don't really know what you would consider shallow dof, and we don't know how bright/dim your interiors are. You're saying you're coming from a small p&s and you won't be making big prints. So maybe the kit lens will fit your needs. You won't know for sure unless you try the camera/lens yourself. Maybe the dof will be shallow enough for you, maybe the aperture will be fast enough for your indoor lighting.

If not, and you're not willing to make any compromises on your listed needs, buying nothing at all might be your only option. Getting a fast lens with a mirrorless camera with an articulated screen and great high ISO performance at $500-$600 is a tall order.

bimbert84 wrote:

...it’s doubtful any of these pictures would ever be printed above 8x10, and even that would be extremely rare. 4x6 or 5x7 or computer viewing would be the norm.

For those who have suggested additional lenses, I guess I should've been more clear: I just don't have the funds to spend $1000 or more on camera equipment. If the kit lens won't do what I want, I'll have to go another route entirely (and if it turns out I'm asking too much of my budget, that may mean buying nothing at all).

OP bimbert84 Regular Member • Posts: 111
Re: Is the X-A1 the right camera for me?

bimbert84 wrote:

Hi cheddargav,

I'm definitely not disputing the advice -- quite the opposite actually. I'm trying to figure out if I'm about to make a mistake I can't really afford to make. If the larger sensor won't really help without a faster lens, I'd rather know that now.

If I understand what I've read, a f/1.8 at ISO 1600 should give me about the same amount of light as the X-A1's f/3.5 kit lens at ISO 6400. If that's true, I'll probably be better off buying a less-expensive compact with a smaller sensor and fast lens.

Remember the larger sensor does better at higher ISO.

As a rough estimate if you multiply the aperture by the crop factor you will get the equivalent aperture you would have to shoot at to get the same amount of image noise (adjusting the ISO to compensate for less light).

For example, if we have an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 on APS-C, that is like a 27-83mm f/5.6-9 on full frame.

A 1/1.7 sensor with a 1.4 to 2.7, that is like 24-80mm f/6.3-12, the APS-C camera has a slight advantage still, but the EX2f in this case is usually available for around $250-350.  Also LX7, Olympus XZ1, etc are the same.

It isn't that simple of a comparison though because the larger sensor needs less enlargement to reach print/view size so it will tend to be sharper looking at larger sizes, and the smaller sensor with the larger aperture lens should be able to focus better since it is lighting in higher intensity light than the small aperture APS-C lens.

So generally a large sensor with a mediocre lens will be better than a compact, but a good compact can probably come close and be better in some regards like for macro.

Eric

That makes sense. But how do you determine the crop factor? (I think) I know APS-C is 1.5 and MFT is 2, but what is it for 1/1.7? Given your example, I could discern it's 6.3 / 1.4 = 4.5, but how did your arrive at that?

My primary compact consideration is the Olympus XZ-2, which is f/1.8 - f/2.5, almost exactly in line with your example.

And the obvious advantage of the compact is the size. I consider the tiny ones to be disadvantageous, but one that fits in my hands and can easily be carried in a belt pouch is pretty much ideal.

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Rob

OP bimbert84 Regular Member • Posts: 111
Re: Is the X-A1 the right camera for me?

You've listed 5 important criteria for you. Three of these (non-DSLR, articulating screen, price) have nothing to do with image quality, and the XA1 fits those three fine. The other two (shallow dof, clean indoor shots without flash) do concretely concern image quality. The kit lens that is packaged with the XA1 doesn't do these two image-related items very well. It is not the lens any experienced photographer would recommend for someone whose only stated concerns about image quality were shallow dof and great indoor shots in lower light w/o flash.

This is a common problem with every mfrs' kit zoom lens, and it's why people are suggesting faster lenses. Not because they want you to overspend your budget, because that's the better tool for the job you say you want to do.

But we don't really know what you would consider shallow dof, and we don't know how bright/dim your interiors are. You're saying you're coming from a small p&s and you won't be making big prints. So maybe the kit lens will fit your needs. You won't know for sure unless you try the camera/lens yourself. Maybe the dof will be shallow enough for you, maybe the aperture will be fast enough for your indoor lighting.

If not, and you're not willing to make any compromises on your listed needs, buying nothing at all might be your only option. Getting a fast lens with a mirrorless camera with an articulated screen and great high ISO performance at $500-$600 is a tall order.

bimbert84 wrote:

...it’s doubtful any of these pictures would ever be printed above 8x10, and even that would be extremely rare. 4x6 or 5x7 or computer viewing would be the norm.

For those who have suggested additional lenses, I guess I should've been more clear: I just don't have the funds to spend $1000 or more on camera equipment. If the kit lens won't do what I want, I'll have to go another route entirely (and if it turns out I'm asking too much of my budget, that may mean buying nothing at all).

Hi pcb_dcr,

Thanks for the response. Yes, the dilemma lies in the subjectivity, which is why I'm deferring to the experience of those of you who know better.

I want to avoid getting myself strapped into a large cash outlay. At this point I'm leaning toward backing down to a compact with a fast lens, and if my low-light is too low for that, I'll use a flash or turn up the lights. I don't consider that ideal, but it may be something I have to live with.

Thanks for the advice.

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Rob

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