You can't deny that the XF1 is a beautiful piece of kit. It's compact and has a retro design aesthetic, with a sturdy aluminium chassis taking care of the top, bottom and lens. Add to that synthetic leather on the front and sides, and the XF1 is reminiscent of cameras from the 50s and 60s To slip this little snapper into your pocket, you'll have to shell out around £280 online.
Features and specs
The lens offers up a 4x zoom, equivalent to 25-100mm on a 35mm camera. It's manually controlled, with focal lengths scored on the barrel itself. A twist of the lens housing though does more than just shift the focal length; turn it far enough and you'll drop the camera into standby. Turn it further still and you'll switch it off, with the lens neatly retracting into the body. It's a beautiful implementation, but not entirely convenient.
Extending the lens from the off position can be tricky the first few times, and you may have trouble if you're wearing gloves, too.
You can't deny, though, that this is a camera you'd be proud to be seen with. Build quality is excellent, the layout of the rear-mounted hardware controls is logical and convenient, and the menu is standard Fujifilm fare: comprehensive and easy to navigate. It even shoots raw files as well as regular JPEGs, which makes it a tempting option for any serious photographer looking for a compact to supplement their primary shooter.
It's far from all bark and no bite either, with auto mode supplemented by full control over aperture and shutter speed, plus program and manual modes. Aperture control is a real highlight, as the widest position at 25mm is a generous f/1.8, which allows for some beautiful shallow depths of field. It's controlled using a thumbwheel on the back of the body, which gets you to your chosen setting extremely quickly. At full telephoto, maximum aperture is still a very respectable f/4.9, while at any point in the zoom range the minimum stands at f/11.
Minimum focusing distance is 3cm in wide angle macro mode and 50cm at full telephoto. In regular use, these distances lengthen to 50cm at wide angle and 80cm at full telephoto extension.
Behind the lens is a 12-megapixel, 2/3 inch sensor with a maximum sensitivity of ISO 3,200 when shooting full-size images (4,000x3,000 pixels). If you need to go any higher than that, you can push it to ISO 6,400 if you're happy to sacrifice some pixels and reduce the resolution to 2,816x2,112 (6 megapixels), and up to ISO 12,800 when shooting 2,048x1,536 (3.1 megapixels) images.
Resolution also has a bearing on the maximum frame rate when performing continuous shooting, with the XF1 maintaining a respectable 7fps at full resolution and upping it to 10fps when shooting 6- or 3.1-megapixel images.
When presented with extreme contrasts in these tests it would sometimes meter more effectively for the shadows than the highlights, leading to a slight bleaching of bright areas. The mile marker (below) is a case in point, but shooting in raw allows for all of the detail in the highlighted side of the stone to be recovered, so the data is accurately recorded and available for use.
Likewise, in the image below, the face of the clock above this gatehouse is lacking detail and it's difficult to make out the hands as they appear to be lost to overexposure. Damping the highlights in post-production, however, recovers not only the hands and face of the clock, but also considerable detail within the sky. If you routinely process your images using Lightroom, Aperture or an alternative raw image suite, then opting for the XF1's raw, or raw with JPEG options really pays off.
It copes admirably with subjects exhibiting a narrow gamut, capturing a high level of detail in areas of only slight tonal variation. In the barn below, for example, the wood grain is easy to make out right across the frame.
There is some fall-off in the level of focus as you move towards the edges and corners of this shot, and this is particularly evident in the extreme left and right of the roof tiles, and in the strip of grass running across the lower part of the frame. This is common to most cameras, and in this case is sufficiently mild not to be of any great concern.
There is, however, a little more noise than I would have liked at middling sensitivities considering this camera's fairly conservative resolution. At ISO 400, it's easy to make out grain in the shaded front of this barn, which has slightly impacted the crispness of the slats that make up the green doors.
Still life test
I performed all of my regular tests with the XF1 set to aperture priority mode so that I could control depth of field while it took care of all other shooting variables. However, when it came to the still life test, which involves shooting a collection of everyday objects under studio lighting, ambient light and using the on-board flash, I switched to auto.
In all circumstances, the XF1 set the aperture at f/3.5, which caused some of the most distant objects in the composition to be slightly soft. However, this enabled it to maintain a low sensitivity of ISO 100 and fast shutter speed of 1/220 of a second under studio lights. Naturally, these are the most favourable conditions, and the XF1 put in a good performance, with realistic colours, no visible grain, skilfully handled reflections and plenty of retained detail -- such as the writing on the bottle and the fur of the child's toy.
When using ambient light or the on-board flash it increased the exposure time to 1/15 of a second, at ISO 640 and ISO 800 respectively. Naturally, this introduced a higher degree of noise to the image, but it did little to damage the reproduction of fine detail. The writing on the bottle was no worse under ambient light, and if anything was easier to read when using the on-board flash. The flash itself cast light shadows behind the objects at these close quarters, but as they were gentle they didn't detrimentally impact the overall composition. Furthermore, using the flash didn't lead to burning out in lighter areas, such as the toy's fur.
The XF1 shoots full HD at 1,920x1,080 pixels, 30fps; HD at 1,280x720 and VGA (640x480) movies. Image quality is excellent, with razor sharp contrasts and good colour reproduction.
It compensated swiftly for changing light levels without stepping through the transition, and although the zoom is manually controlled it is still easy to go from wide angle to telephoto and back fairly smoothly. The only slight dampener in that respect is that the XF1 bounces the image slightly at either end of the zoom as it fixes the focus again.
Sadly, despite the fact that it recorded such a detailed and accurate soundtrack, there's no option to filter the sound of wind passing by the microphone, and so this was evident on much of my test footage.
The XF1 is a beautiful, compact, highly accomplished camera. Image quality is up there with some of the best, there are plenty of manual options to please the more ambitious photographer, while for those who would rather leave all the shooting decisions up to the camera there's a competent auto mode, too.
With practice, you can operate the power-cum-zoom combo that forms the back part of the lens barrel with one hand and the camera facing away from you, so you could do it from shooting position in one swift motion. While this piece of ingenious engineering is perhaps the most impressive and stylish switch I've seen on any camera to date though, it's still a little too fiddly for my tastes. Fujifilm got a similar mechanism spot-on with the X10, which also utilises a twist of the manual zoom to switch on. In that model however, the zoom mechanism doesn't retract into the body of the camera, and so is easier to use for those with clumsy fingers or wearing thick gloves.
It isn't perfect, then, but it's close, and if you shop around you'll find it on sale for around £280 at the time of writing, which considering the features is very fair indeed.