The Fujifilm XF1 is the sixth model to grace the company’s premium ‘X’ range of digital cameras, and much like the X100, X10, X-Pro1 and also new XE-1 models that have preceded it, the XF1 borrows heavily from retro 35mm rangefinder design to produce a camera that packs a deliberately old-school aesthetic punch, while at the same time incorporating all the very latest digital camera technology within.
Launched alongside the interchangeable lens XE-1, the XF1 is a fixed zoom compact that has its sights firmly trained on the advanced compact market. As with other models in the Fuji ‘X’ series, the retro design elements combine to lend the XF1 a look and feel of something from yesteryear. However, look beyond the matte aluminium chassis and distinctive leather band and you’ll quickly find that the XF1 is, in fact, packed with all the latest cutting edge technology.
Given the XF1’s positioning as an advanced compact this is, of course, a necessity. Potential buyers aren’t going to buy it just because it looks nice and are likely to be more demanding than most when it comes to the core questions of performance and image quality. Fuji has gone to some lengths to address this with the inclusion of several high-specification imaging features that enable the XF1 to compete at the same level as its advanced compact rivals.
At the heart of the XF1 is a 2/3in 12MP CMOS sensor, which is quite a bit bigger than the 1/2.3in chips found in the vast majority of regular compacts. As with other high-end Fujifilm compacts the XF1’s sensor is of the proprietary EXR variety – which means it uses a unique pixel array that allows the sensor to function in three distinct ways. Entering the EXR menu will allow you to choose between these three unique capture modes, or indeed to set the camera to ‘Auto EXR’ mode, which allows the camera to decide on your behalf which of the three is most suited to the scene you’re shooting.
The first of the three EXR specific modes – Resolution Priority mode – uses all of the pixels individually to ensure maximum resolution. The second – High ISO and Low Noise Priority mode – combines individual pixels in order to boost performance in low light. The third EXR specific mode – Dynamic Range Priority mode – effectively ‘splits’ the pixel array into two camps with one group recording highlight detail and the other recording shadow detail, enabling for better results when shooting high-contrast scenes. When using the sensor in either of the last two modes, maximum resolution does drop to 6MP though. On top of its EXR flexibility the XF1 is also able to offer both JPEG and Raw capture, as well as 1080p Full HD video capture at 30fps – with recorded movies stored in the .MOV file format.
Partnering the XF1’s EXR-CMOS sensor is Fujifilm’s own dual-CPU EXR processor. This is primarily concerned with boosting speed and response times in all areas of the camera’s performance, and to this effect Fuji claims a start-up time of just 0.55 seconds, AF lock-on times of just 0.16 seconds and shot-to-shot speeds of just 0.8 seconds in Single shot mode. In addition, the EXR processor also enables the XF1 to offer an impressive continuous shooting speed of up to 10fps, although in use we found that the XF1 can only actually record eight successive ‘medium’ JPEG frames at this speed, or 16 frames in ‘small’ size before the buffer fills and the camera begins to seize up.
Further enhancing the XF1’s appeal to enthusiast compact users is the 4x zoom lens on the front of the camera. It’s a Fujinon branded optic that offers the 35mm a focal range equivalent of 25-100mm, complete with a fast maximum aperture of f/1.8. Unfortunately though, this maximum aperture is only available at the wideangle end of the focal range, quickly dropping to a not-so-fast f/4.9 at the telephoto end. As with the X10 that came out last year, the XF1’s zoom is manually operated via a zoom ring at the base of the lens barrel and the lens further benefits from built-in optical image stabilisation for sharper shots in low light. Fuji has built a good reputation for building solid Macro capabilities into their cameras and the XF1’s lens continues this trend with the ability to get as close as 3cm away from subjects.
In terms of exposure modes, the Fujifilm XF1 offers a more than generous range of options. In addition to the EXR-specific modes mentioned above, the XF1 also offers the full range of ‘PASM’ shooting modes, namely Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and full Manual. For point and shoot duties there’s a standard Automatic shooting mode, along with a range of Scene positions to choose from and a couple of Custom slots that you can set up to your own preferences.
In addition, the XF1 also offers three ‘Advanced’ exposure modes – Motion Panorama, Pro Focus, and Pro Low-Light – all of which essentially rely on taking multiple exposures to attain their end effect. Motion Panorama is a mode that allows you to create panoramic images simply by sweeping the camera in a predetermined direction with the shutter button held down – the camera automatically stitching together all the frames into a single ultra-wide shot. Pro Focus mode, meanwhile, is a portrait-specific mode that creates a shallow depth of field effect by taking multiple frames and then processing added blur into the background behind the main subject. Last but not least, Pro-Light Mode aims to produce cleaner images in low light by taking multiple exposures and then blending them together to reduce the visible effects of noise.
It’s also possible to alter the look of your processed JPEGs thanks to the range of built-in Fujifilm film simulation modes and should you want to avoid using a digital darkroom altogether then the XF1 also offers a range of built-in digital filter effects, including ‘Pop Colour’, ‘Toy Camera’ and ‘High-key’. For composing and evaluative purposes the rear of the XF1 is fitted with a fixed a 3in LCD screen that offers a resolution of 460k-dots. While it’s not quite as sharp as a 921k-dot screen, it’s still very much in keeping with what’s found on many other enthusiast compacts.