Hands On Review
Fujifilm's popular X-Trans sensor has arrived in a compact form--but can this little shooter compete?
By Hillary Grigonis
- XQ1 Big Picture
This product is ranked:
6th of 32 in Advanced Compact Digital Cameras 5th of 62 in 11 & 12 MP 3rd of 48 in $300 - $400 5th of 78 in 10-12 Megapixels Digital Cameras 3rd of 32 in Fujifilm Digital Cameras
Last updated on 02/11/2014
The popular Fujifilm X line now has a compact camera, putting the company's popular X-Trans sensors in a pocket-sized shooter. The Fujifilm XQ1 is certainly an advanced compact with manual modes, RAW shooting, a 2/3” CMOS sensor with no optical low pass filter, a snappy autofocus and fast 12 fps burst mode. In fact, on paper, the XQ1 is faster than the camera line that has been setting the standard in the category since its introduction, the Sony RX100.
Fujifilm's X-series is known for their excellent X-Trans sensors, which removes the optical low pass filter. Typically, removing the filter results in moire, or a distortion in fine patterns, but the arrangement of pixel units in the X-Trans help prevent that. Optical low pass filters reduce the resolution, so cameras without tend to have sharper images with more detail.
While the XQ1 certainly piqued our interest on paper, we put it to the test to see what this little guy is really made of and were pretty happy with the results.
Fujifilm XQ1: Body & Design
|The top of the Fujifilm XQ1.|
On the outside, the XQ1 is sleek and nicely minimalist. The camera comes in black or silver, but the different colors have slightly different exteriors. The black model also has a textured middle for a bit more secure grip while the silver is metallic throughout.
The body of the camera is about 3/4” wide but slightly over an inch when you factor in the control wheel around the lens. Small cameras are typically uncomfortable to use, but even without a grip on the silver model I tested, I didn't think it was uncomfortable to use.
|The back of the Fujifilm XQ1.|
Like most compacts, there's not a whole lot of space for manual controls, but the XQ1 seems to have a nice balance. There's a front control ring and then the menu wheel also rotates so both shutter speed and aperture can be adjusted quickly. Other than those two control wheels, the buttons and dials are pretty much what we've come to expect with the mode dial and zoom toggle on the top and menu with shortcut options on the back, but hey, it works and it works well. The function button doubles the number of shortcuts, meaning that macro mode, exposure, flash, timer, burst modem ISO, white balance, focus mode, focus area and color (Fujifilm calls it “film simulation”) are all accessible without actually going into the menu.
And speaking of menu, that's pretty straightforward too. There's a shooting menu, set-up menu and playback menu, and you can pretty much find everything just by a quick scroll through.
Fujfilm XQ1: User Experience & Performance
The most impressive thing about the XQ1 is the speed. The burst mode bests even the RX100, plus there's little shutter lag. As of September, Fujifilm says the XQ1 has the fastest phase detection autofocus compared to cameras with similar sensors (or larger) and the performance seems on par with that statement.
Digging a little deeper into the XQ1's focus, the camera tends to focus on whatever is in the center of the image about 95 percent of the time, the multi AF area doesn't seem to automatically adjust to subjects placed off center unless there is a lot of contrast in the image. You can focus with the subject in the center then recompose with the shutter still half pressed or switch to area AF, and select the focal point, but the autofocus isn't as intelligent in selecting the right subject as other cameras we've seen.
|The autofocus features and fast lens on the Fujifilm XQ1 can create dramatic depth of field images.|
While the perk of the XQ1 is the fast autofocus, the manual focus is easy to use. The control ring allows for precise adjustments, which is nice since it's typical of point-and-shoots to only be able to use “manual focus” by selecting a portion of the screen. The screen zooms in when you press the shutter halfway, so it's easy to get the manual focus sharp.
The manual focus came in handy on several macro shots. The specs for the XQ1 say that macro shots are possible as close as 1.1” away from the lens, but the autofocus doesn't always select a focal point that close. It will certainly focus that close in some scenarios, but I found myself readjusting macro shots more often than not.
However, the XQ1 really has an impressive variety of shooting options. As an advanced compact, the camera includes full manual modes and RAW shooting. There's also a custom slot on the mode dial to save a setting and easily bring it up again. And while most consumers don't buy a $600 compact to use the automated modes, Fujifilm's superior auto does a really nice job of handling most situations. There's also a handful of scene modes and different filters, including toy camera and selective color. The pro focus setting adds a soft background to images and seemed to work quite well, along with the pro low light option, which did a pretty good job of reducing noise in low light.
The QX1 includes wi-fi and connecting to the camera didn't even require typing in any funky codes. Select the camera in the wireless settings on the phone or tablet and then open the Fujifilm app and connect from there. The app doesn't include the ability to use your phone as a remote shutter for the camera, like many models do, but the wi-fi allows for uploads and geotagging remotely.
|Some snowy scenes didn't expose properly on the LCD screen, but others looked accurate.|
I really loved the QX1's performance speed-wise, but there were a few areas that were disappointing. After a few times out shooting winter scenery that wasn't correctly exposed, I finally pinpointed the issue: the LCD screen, as the shot was being taken, didn't display the exposure that the camera was actually recording. The playback of the image (which seemed to be comparable to what my computer screen showed) was about a third or two third EV stops off of what I actually saw before I hit the shutter. This didn't happen on every snowy image I took, and seemed limited to the aperture priority and shutter priority modes, not in full manual. I was able to adjust the EV value to get the final image right (not what I was actually seeing), and shooting in the snow is tricky for any camera, but I was disappointed regardless.
Fujifilm QX1: Image Quality
I reviewed the Fujifilm X-M1 earlier this year, and the image quality on the QX1 lived up to my expectations when I heard the X-line would be gaining a compact camera—crisp, detailed images that don't really require much post-processing.
The color from the QX1's images is generally true to life. I was really happy with a shot I took of my son indoors with no flash (which most cameras tend to leave a little dark and under colored) and an outdoor shot of one last fall leaf still hanging on against a bright blue sky. The camera did very well capturing the mood presented from the available lighting, while still leaving excellent color.
With the wide f1.8 aperture, low light performance from the QX1 is quite good. The widest possible aperture does shrink quite quickly when zoomed in to f4.9, and some of my indoor images blurred when I needed to zoom, but the f1.8 capability is quite nice.
Noise isn't too overwhelming on images from the QX1. At ISO 800, noise becomes obvious when zoomed in, but isn't very noticeable when looking at the whole picture.
Fujifilm QX1: Conclusion
The Fujifilm QX1 puts the power of the X-trans sensor in a small package. With a fast autofocus, speedy burst mode and excellent image quality, the QX1 is certainly a contender for the advanced compacts.
The Sony RX100 II is the model to beat in this category—and the XQ1 is actually faster and costs around $100 less. The RX100 still has the larger sensor and scores a bit better in user experience, however. But for those that put speed as a priority, the XQ1 is an excellent choice. After reviewing both the mirrorless X-M1 and QX1, I prefer the X-M1 for the larger sensor and the usability, but it's also not as compact and sits at a higher price point.
For consumers looking for a fast yet compact camera with manual modes and excellent image quality, the Fujifilm XQ1 would be a great fit.
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