Operation and controls

The XQ1 isn't over-burdened with dials and switches - the body isn't big enough, for a start - but it still offers a good degree of manual control with direct external access. The 'E-Fn' button effectively adds six extra user-configurable Function buttons to the one on the top plate, allowing you to set the camera up for direct access of all of your most-used functions.

Top of camera controls

The top-plate hosts the shutter button, which is surrounded by a small zoom lever. The power button is to one side, well-placed for operation by your shooting finger, with the exposure mode dial the other side. In addition to the enthusiast-friendly PASM modes and C user memory, there are a range of automated modes. Between them these provide plenty of options for less-experienced users who would prefer the camera to make exposure decisions for them.

The 'Filter' position is where you'll find the camera's creative image processing filters (Toy Camera, Miniature etc), while 'Adv.' mode gives access to 'advanced' shooting modes such as motion panorama and multiple exposure. 'SP' accesses automated 'Scene Position' modes that are tuned to different subject types, and 'SR+' denotes Scene Recognition Auto, which automatically selects a scene mode based on the camera's interpretation of the subject you're shooting.

Rear of camera controls

The XQ1's rear layout is pretty conventional - there's a small dial that doubles-up as a four-way controller, with four more buttons arranged around it. The controller provides direct access to exposure compensation, macro mode, self timer (2 or 10 seconds) and flash mode (Auto, Forced, or Slow-Sync, depending on mode) - the latter is only available when the flash is popped-up. The Menu/OK button in its center accesses the camera's menu and confirms selections.

The buttons above the controller are used to enter playback mode and initiate video recording, while the DISP/BACK button changes how much information is displayed on the rear screen and navigates menus. On the lower right is the E-Fn button which gives access to a range of additional functions (see below for more details) - this also activates the camera's Wi-Fi in playback.

Lens control ring

Canon first introduced a round-lens control dial on its Powershot S90 in 2009, and it's since become an almost standard design feature on this kind of camera. On the XQ1, paying due homage to the RX100, it's click-less, which makes it great for operating the zoom or manual focus, but somewhat less engaging when used for stepped variables such as exposure compensation.

In its default 'Standard' mode the control ring's function depends on the exposure mode, as listed in the table below. In the PAS modes it simply replicates the function of the rear dial; to change exposure compensation, you have to press the 'Up' key. However if you re-configure the lens dial to control exposure compensation in PAS modes, it then does nothing in M.

Exp. Mode
Function
Options / Notes
SP Scene Mode Sport, Landscape, Portrait enhancer, Portrait, Text, Flower, Party, Underwater, Beach, Snow, Sunset, Fireworks, Night (Tripod), Night
Adv. Advanced mode Panorama, Pro Focus (blurs background), Pro Low Light (multi-shot noise reduction mode), Multiple Exposure
Filter Advanced Filter Toy Camera, Miniature, Pop Color, High-Key, Low-Key, Dynamic Tone, Soft Focus, Partial Color (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue or Purple)
Auto Zoom Replicates function of top-plate zoom controller
SR+ Auto Zoom Replicates function of top-plate zoom controller
P No function  
A Aperture Replicates function of rear dial
S Shutter speed Replicates function of rear dial
M Aperture Rear dial controls Shutter speed; 'Up' swaps dial functions

In addition, it can be customized to operate various other functions, and can be quickly and easily re-assigned just by pressing the E-Fn button, then rotating either it or the rear dial. But the various options do come with certain limitations:

Function
Options / Notes
Zoom Works in all modes
Drive Still, Continuous (Low, Middle, High, Super-High), Best frame, AE BKT, ISO BKT, Film Sim BKT, DR BKT
Doesn't work in 'Adv' or 'Filter' modes
Film Simulation Standard, Vivid, Soft, Sepia, Mono, Mono Ye, Mono R, Mono G, Sepia
Doesn't work in 'SP' or 'Filter' models
White balance Only works in PASM. Can select, but not set, Custom and K
ISO Only works in PASM. Can select, but not configure, Auto ISO
Exposure comp Doesn't do anything in Auto, Advanced SR Auto, or M modes

This probably looks more complicated than it works out to be in practice, and overall the lens dial is (as on other cameras) a very useful control to have. It's a pity that you can never quite set it up in exactly the way you'd probably want a twin-dial camera to work, but to be fair that's no uncommon with this class of compact camera.

E-Fn button

The E-Fn button is unique to Fujifilm, and was probably the best single thing about the XF1. When pressed, it temporarily changes the functions of the six buttons above it (4-way controller, playback and movie); their new functions are displayed as an overlay on the live view display. Best of all, the E-Fn options are highly customizable, and you can set each button's function individually from a wide range of options. This at a stroke makes the XQ1 one of the most configurable enthusiast compacts around.

Pressing the E-Fn button brings up this screen, with the alternate functions of the rear buttons overlaid on the live view display.

Pressing one of the buttons then brings up an overlaid menu showing the options associated with that function. Simply select the one you want and press OK.
Rotate the lens control ring and you can quickly re-assign its function. See the table above for the options and their limitations.

Any of the alternate button functions can be re-assigned in the menu, so you can pick the ones you use most for quick access. The 14 options you can choose from are as follows:

Fujifilm XQ1 E-Fn Button Customization Options
• ISO
• Image Size
• Image Quality
• Dynamic Range
• Film Simulation
• White balance
• Continuous shooting
• Photometry (i.e. metering)
• AF mode (Area, Multi, Tracking)
• Focus Mode (MF, AF-S, AF-C)
• Focus area
• Wireless Communication
• Face Detection
• Intelligent Digital Zoom

Pressing the E-Fn button down for 2 seconds also temporarily brightens the screen for clearer viewing in bright conditions - a useful trick. In playback mode it activates the camera's Wi-Fi, which can be used to transfer images to a smartphone or a tablet.

Fujifilm XQ1 - Overall First Impressions

It's difficult to talk about the XQ1 without referencing the 'shirt pocket' enthusiast compacts it so closely resembles, most notably the Canon S-series PowerShots and the Sony RX100. There are plenty of other interesting cameras in this sector too, but it's pretty clear that Fujifilm has taken a look the market and decided exactly where it's targeting its new baby. The XQ1 looks like an interesting in-between option for users who want a larger sensor than the one in the S120 (and most of its peers), but can't stretch to buying the RX100.

The XQ1, therefore, takes the larger-than-usual 2/3" sensor that we found offered very good image quality in the Fujifilm X20, and places it in a genuinely pocketable body. That X-Trans CMOS II sensor also enables exceptionally fast autofocus - even the pre-production XQ1 we used for this article has to count as one of the quickest compacts we've seen. For fans of manual focus, the XQ1 also offers a 'Peaking' display to help get the sharpest results.

The XQ1's design may not be as adventurous (or as pretty) as the XF1 before it, but instead it adopts a control paradigm that's proven to be extremely popular for this type of enthusiast compact. Central to this are the lens control dial, and the E-Fn button which places a wide range of functions at your fingertips. It adds a screen that's essentially as good as anything else in its class (although it's not touch-sensitive), and built-in Wi-Fi for image sharing. In short, it ticks all the right boxes.

What this all means is that the XQ1 looks like it should be a really strong contender in this section of the market. Not everyone needs a 20MP sensor in a small compact camera, and not everyone can justify its price. But the XQ1 looks like it could well offer the next best thing - and that's in no way a bad place to be.