FUJI DOES IT AGAIN

Adam Scorey sneaks out of the office with a black box under his arm, inside is Fuji’s latest CSC X-Trans-sensored offering, the diminutive, 16MP Fujifilm X-M1

When I heard that the X-M1 was in the office I jumped at the chance to get my hands on it. I’d tested the X-Pro1 and adored it, and this has the ‘same’ sensor and general gubbins inside but in a smaller, lighter package. So I was highly confident that image quality was going to be good, and what I was going to concentrate on more was general usability and functionality. Fuji is definitely king of retro at the minute, even getting a nose ahead of Olympus; the X-M1, for example, can be ordered in black, like the one sent to me, brushed metal and tan leather or brushed metal and black. My preference would have been for the full 50s retro tan leather job.

It comes boxed with Fuji’s XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS lens, but I personally prefer to use their primes only — not just for the faster apertures but because I like to use my feet to compose. Not that there is going to be too much wrong with this lens, I am sure, and for my short time with the X-M1 it’s probably a better representation of how most people will eventually buy it.

Smaller

I must admit to expecting the X-M1 to be only just slightly smaller than the X-Pro1, but it truly is compact-sized. The lens almost swamps it, it seems. Oh, and there is no viewfinder, and I do love a viewfinder, even a EVF. No matter I suppose. The 3in LCD articulates in the horizontal plane allowing hip- and head-height shooting, which is loads of fun. Typically nice use of dials and buttons — including a solid on/ off switch — and generally using well thought out placing for the buttons and switches, though I did keep knocking the secondary

(vertical) control wheel. Overall, though, it feels just a tad light for my liking, but this isn’t a criticism, in fact most will like it’s low weight.

The Me-and-You

You have two options; the more long-winded navigation through every option possible on the main menu, or the very neat Q button for the most frequently used options — my preference as it’s simple, easy and fast. Used in conjunction with the main control dial, and the rear selection buttons, most will be happy with this. Talking of the main dial, not only do you get the traditional P, A, S, M and Custom options, you also get multiple shooting modes, from the 13 Scene Position modes, (things like Night, Sport and Fireworks auto optimisations), to the 13 Advanced Filter options (Toy Camera through to Soft Focus), standard Auto, Advanced SR Auto where the camera chooses the best option for you, and the three most commonly used options represented by icons — Landscape, Portrait and Sport. Other neat functions are the Dynamic Range bracketing options, giving you up to 400 per cent over three consecutive images and Film Simulation Bracketing for Provia, Velvia and Astia style colour palettes.

Hocus Focus

The X-M1 offers a selectable 49-point AF with multiple options for how it focuses, including Manual of course. But I must give the Tracking AF a particular mention. While out shooting I wanted to get a shot of a white gull against a cobalt blue sky. I had to do this by guessing as the screen wasn’t great in very bright light (it has a Sunlight Mode that does improve things), especially with loads of fingermarks over it. So, basically, I just pointed the 50mm end and hoped for the best. To my total surprise, even with a relatively small subject, it was pretty darn accurate and hit many more than it missed. Result. MF is good too; it has a Focus Peak view (much like video cameras have), which is dead easy to use and dead accurate too.

Over all, from the selectable 49-point, Area or Tracking, it was always lightning fast and hit the subject, in camera mode. In the (Full HD) video mode, it was somewhat slower. But I must admit to not being too worried about that as I prefer to go all Manual focus anyway, if filming.

Wi-Fi

This is used via a free app on your smartphone, Fujifilm Camera App, but it was fiddly in the sense that it is a tether rather than a permanent connection and automatically disconnects when finished. I guess it would be nice to have a direct Wi-Fi access and be able to upload to Instagram, Facebook and the like, which may come in time. When connected it worked really well, including being able to view all the images and upload to your phone in singles or as multiples, plus then go to FB and Twitter -and it was very fast to transfer images actually.

Verdict

This is a totally charming camera from Fuji, in every way. It has beautiful image quality, it’s so very simple to use, has lightning fast AF, superb lenses and offers loads of creative options from the Scenes and Filters modes. You can fine-tune your focus, or Manual is a breeze, Wi-Fi your images, shoot at 5.6fps for 30 JPEGs or 3fps for 50 images, and shoot Raw files. It has a built-in flash, Full HD video and so much more. It has bags of retro appeal, a good price and is built to last. Okay, I miss the viewfinder (EVF) but the form factor would suffer. Noise levels… dunno, I don’t really worry about that anymore. Does anyone? I know the X-Pro1 was perfectly acceptable so this is unlikely to be worse. So, pros, get the 35mm prime. For the rest of us, this 16-50mm OIS is ideal, if you can live with a little pincushion at the wide end. A longer lens will be your next purchase, but Fujifilm make a 55¬200mm so have that covered.

For me, this is a solid 9.5/10 and therefore I have awarded it my Editor’s Choice award — it’s such a great little camera.

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