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Review: Fujifilm XF1 retro look with modern features

- February 26th, 2013

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While the focus seems to be on how smart phone cameras will replace point and shoot models, it never ceases to amaze me how many more features and how much power and precision is being incorporated into portable point and shoot cameras. While some of the advanced models are not necessarily small, you can still fit them into your pocket.

I had an opportunity to test drive the Fujifilm XF1. It combines many of the features found in higher-end DSLR and professional cameras but in a compact and sleek package.

At first glance, it looks pretty cool, almost retro, quite reminiscent of the cameras of yesteryear, but that’s where it stops.  This is a totally modern camera.

The FUJI XF1 features a sturdy, yet lightweight aluminum body adorned with a simulated leather grained cover. It has a retractable high-definition FUJINON 25mm f1.8 wide-angle 4X manual zoom lens (equivalent to 25-100mm style traditional lens). It also ports a larger than average 2/3-inch 12 megapixel DX CMOS sensor that translates into high quality precision images, especially in less than ideal lighting conditions, without adjusting the sensitivity. However, should you need to, the Fuji XF1’s ISO range goes from 100-12,800 (ISO 4000, 5000, 6400 Manual mode or smaller, ISO 12,800 in Shutter priority mode).

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Professional photographers will enjoy virtually total manual control facilitated through an extensive menu set of options plus a manual focus zoom and the ability to optionally save in RAW, unaltered uncompressed file format.

Its built-in Optical Image Stabilization is another feature for perfecting shots in low light, when using faster shutter speeds or consuming a little too much caffeine. This can be particularly handy given the XF1’s incredible macro capabilities – the ability to shoot from as close as 3cm.

The artistic person can also benefit from the XF1. It includes a wide selection of patterns, five film modes and six advanced filters. I particularly like the toy filter as well as the partial colour filter. The latter allows you to only have portions of your photo in colour. I also like the ability to shoot in black and white, sepia and vivid modes. Some of these features are normally found in photo editing software, but it’s nice to be able to do it in real-time right on the camera.

The Pro Low Light Scene mode also helps perfect your task by taking four shots in succession then automatically selecting the best attributes from each and creating one good picture.

Panorama mode is also cool. Instead of having to take a series of pictures ensuring they line up. With the XF1 you simply hold the button down while moving in a sweeping motion. The camera automatically stitches all the pieces together reproducing a 360-degree experience.

There’s more. You can create 3D images from two 2D images. Instead of a fixed single flash, the Smart Flash optimizes the lighting throw. For example, when you’re shooting wide angle, the faces of your close-up subjects won’t totally be washed out as they often are on many point and shoot cameras.

Let’s not forget video.

The XF1 has two HD movie modes 1280×720 and Full HD 1920×1080 that rivals that of dedicated video cameras as well as VGA 640×480(VGA). Recording can be enabled in one touch and you can simultaneously shoot stills while doing so.

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What’s novel about this model, is that is has no conventional on/off button. The XF1 was uniquely designed to power up by turning the lens allowing you to quickly be ready to shoot; in fact you can be ready to shoot in ½ second then using that same motion also allows you to zoom in and out on your subject. The off position refers to travel mode; extending the lens puts you in standby mode and shooting mode is when you’re actively taking photos. In theory, this sounds dandy, but in practice, I found myself inadvertently switching off the camera. Bad habits are certainly hard to break. Furthermore, I also found myself reaching for the FN button, located on the top of the camera where a power button is expected to be.

The Li-ion battery is rated at 300 shots per charge – of course that will depend on whether you use continuous rapid shooting or use a flash. There is no viewfinder, but it does have a 3-inch 460k LCD monitor to enable you to see what you’re shooting.

Macro

Bottom Line

This is some serious technology packed into an oversized point and shoot camera. It has the ability to produce some incredible shots and is certainly ideal for pro photographers and serious enthusiasts who are looking for a cool compact weekend alternative (i.e., for those who want power and control). The XF1 gives users the ability to do some of the finer things a DSLR does without all the bulk.

For the basic hobbyist it’s a little bigger than the average point and shoot and the number of options might be a little overwhelming, unless you’re patient and willing to learn. I foolishly took out the camera for the first time venturing off to see Paul McCartney in concert. I found it took me a little too long to set up for my shots and I missed some. And although I had good seats, the 4X optical zoom (I prefer not to use digital zooms), I feel, fell short.

For me, I would have preferred a power button and a higher resolution display.

And while the XF1 autofocuses incredibly fast, having a touch screen display would be helpful during manual focus.

Regardless, the XF1 is great for the creative type; you won’t find all the various filters and modes on your run of the mill camera. It’s also obvious that a lot of effort went into offering tools like image stabilization, advance anti-blur and Smart Flash to help the user overcome obstacles especially when the lights are down.

The Fujifilm XF1 comes in red, black and tan and retails for $499.99. It’s available from major retailers like London Drugs and Best Buy as well as from Amazon.

 

Pros:

Fast, Large CMOS Sensor

Image Stabilization

Full Control

Simultaneous Video/ Stills

Smart Flash

Cons:

Non Standard On/Off mechanism

No touch screen

Only 4x Optical Zoom

Rating: 4/5

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Greg Gazin is the Real Canadian Gadget Guy.

Follow me on Twitter @gadgetgreg or Empire Avenue (e)GADGET1.

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