Hands On Review
With a large, APS-C sensor and a fast processor, the Fujifilm X-M1 looks great on paper, but can it stand up to the hands-on tests?
By Hillary Grigonis
- X-M1 Big Picture
This product is ranked:
1st of 25 in Fujifilm Digital Cameras 2nd of 17 in $600 - $1000 4th of 39 in Mirrorless Digital Cameras 4th of 125 in 14-16 Megapixels Digital Cameras
Last updated on 09/06/2013
Classic. Compact. Simple. There's a lot of great words to describe Fujifilm's X-M1—and very few bad ones. Fujifilm has really hit the mark with their 2013 classically styled mirrorless in two big ways—one, with the filterless APS-C sized sensor that records beautifully detailed images and, two, with a fast processor that records even RAW files quickly.
But, there's a lot more than two things to love about the X-M1—enough, in fact to warrant an A from the DCHQ staff. Here's what makes the Fujifilm X-M1 one of the top 2013 mirrorless models.
Fujifilm X-M1: Body & Design
|The Fujifilm X-M1 has a classic yet functional design.|
The X-M1 is one in a handful of 2013 releases that were inspired by classic film cameras, but Fujifilm blends the classic and current rather nicely. The metallic body is wrapped with a textured grip for that old school look and feel. The body sits at around 2.5 inches tall and less than 1.5 inches wide, making it larger than mirrorless models like the Nikon 1 J3 (note: the 1 J3 has a smaller sensor) but much more compact than a DSLR. The lens adds quite a bit to the size, but the 16-50mm range is worth it, plus the kit includes a lens hood.
The knobs and dials at or near the top blend with the retro style, yet are great for adjusting exposure, shutter speed and aperture quickly. Plus, they are easy to reach with your thumb. The mode dial and function button also sit at the top.
|The Fujifilm X-M1 features a tilting LCD screen and easy adjustments with two control wheels.|
The back of the X-M1 is dominated by a large, tilting LCD screen. The screen uses hinges, which means you can't turn it around fully to do a selfie, but it is sturdy and useful for odd shooting angles. The clarity of the screen helps make up some for the lack of of an optical viewfinder. To the right of the screen, there's the usual menu buttons, shortcuts for macro, autofocus modes, white balance and burst modes, as well as a quick menu option.
Navigating through the options on the X-M1 is straightforward. The menu is divided into shooting, setup and playback submenus, but the quick menu contains most of the frequently adjusted options. Overall, there's not much to complain about in the design of the X-M1.
User Experience & Performance: Fujifilm X-M1
|The X-M1's automatic settings produced some pretty good shots.|
The X-M1 includes full manual modes, but a majority of our review photos were taken with the Advanced Auto, which produced pretty spectacular results for automated settings. The Advanced Auto chooses a specific scene mode based on the conditions and seemed to choose pretty accurately, picking up the sunset mode when appropriate, for example. Manual modes generally are a better option on any camera for the control they offer, but the automated settings are great for quick shots and beginners.
The X-M1 also has a variety of scene modes including portrait, sports and fireworks, to name a few. A variety of different digital filters are available too, including selective color and soft focus, and all of them produced solid images.
One of the most notable aspect of the X-M1's performance is the processing speed. There is virtually no lag time after using the continuous mode at 5.6 fps to snap a dozen photos in a row. Even shooting in Fine + RAW, the processing time was minimal. The camera is ready to shoot again almost immediately after taking the first set of burst shots. The digital filters take a little longer to process, but generally aren't used in scenarios requiring a fast response time. The start-up and autofocus also performed quickly.
The only disappointing experience in our review of the MX-1 was working with the wi-fi. The camera's wi-fi automatically shuts off when not in use, which is great on the battery life but not so good for uploads. For each upload to an iPhone, we had to go back into the phone settings and select the camera's network, then go back to the app, and sometimes the camera quit attempting to connect before we went through all the necessary steps. Once it's set up, however, the image transfer does work and performs fairly quickly. Unlike most cameras with wi-fi, however, the Fujifilm app doesn't allow the user to use a smartphone to take pictures remotely.
Image Quality: Fujifilm X-M1
The X-M1's image sensor is the large, APS-C size used in many DSLRs, but Fujifilm's X-Trans design means there's no filter required. Leaving all the technical jargon behind, the X-M1's design means there's less between the lens and the sensor, which enhances the level of detail and low light performance when compared to other cameras with a filter and similarly sized sensor. But, all of that could be assumed just from reading the spec sheet. How did the X-M1 perform when put to the test?
Images from the X-M1 are vibrant, sharp and very detailed. The colors seemed to sit at just the right level and could be easily enhanced to, for example, emphasize a sunset or a bright blue sky. The camera captured some textures that other cameras may have missed, which gave the images a big boost.
In low light, the X-M1 continued to perform well, capturing the ambient lighting and never succumbing to an overwhelming amount of noise. The level of detail and sharpness remained even in challenging scenarios, like shooting at dusk or inside a dark barn. There was some blur from movement in the automatic settings, but nothing that wasn't fixed by switching to manual or shutter priority mode.
Images taken with the f3.5-5.6 kit lens had a nice depth of field. In fact, the X-M1 has one of the nicest kit lenses from the mirrorless models that we've reviewed this year because the 16-50mm range makes it a good lens for a variety of different scenarios.
Video from the X-M1 had the same highly detailed quality as the still shots. The zoom is still available while recording, but the autofocus isn't always available in the middle of a recording. The sound did seem a bit muffled on the playback, but the overall video quality for a dedicated camera wasn't bad.
Conclusion: Fujifilm X-M1
With the Fujifilm X-M1, it's easy to snap stunning, detailed images. The design, both on the exterior and on the sensor and processor inside, translates into an excellent camera. The X-M1 is really a great all-around shooter—beginners will love the simple automated modes while enthusiasts will have plenty to love about the large sensor and wide range of manual capabilities.
But, the mirrorless category is quite competitive. How does the X-M1 compare? The Olympus E-P5 is similarly designed, but uses a micro four thirds sized sensor. It has the added benefits of a viewfinder and has the fastest shutter speeds—but sits at twice the price of the X-M1. The Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 is closer in price, but the micro four thirds sensor is smaller than the X-M1's APS-C, though the E-PL5 has a faster burst mode and a touchscreen. The Nikon 1 J3 is the fastest mirrorless model out currently with a 15 fps burst speed that's quite fun, but it uses a significantly smaller sensor.
With the sharp, detailed images and excellent design, the Fujifilm X-M1 is likely the best mirrorless option for under $800 this year.
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