As with many other cameras from the Fujifilm ‘X’ range, the XF1 is an undoubtedly eye-catching model that manages to stand out from the crowd on account of its retro styling. The rectangular body is wrapped in a synthetic leather band, which is only broken up by the lens on the front and the screen and various control buttons on the back. Where there isn’t any faux leather, the camera is treated to a classy matte aluminium finish. The leather and aluminium combine to give the XF1 a classy appearance, an impression that’s confirmed when you actually pick it up for the first time. For those looking to colour co-ordinate the XF1 is available in a choice of red, tan or black leather finishes.
We’ve seen it before with Fujifilm ‘X’ series compacts – most notably the X10 – but the manually operated zoom lens of the XF1 is something that’s really worth shouting about. In addition to being easier and more intuitive to use than a traditional zoom-rocker control, the lens is treated to a series of markings that indicate the focal length at which you’re shooting. We also like how the lens can be rotated around and folded right back into the camera’s body, creating a slim and easily pocketable camera.
The XF1’s top plate also demonstrates a keen eye for design, with a customisable Fn button the sole accompaniment to the camera’s shutter release and mode dial selector. This minimalist approach continues on the back of the camera, with the control wheel by the thumb rest joined by just four buttons: a Playback mode button, a one-touch movie record button, a Display toggle button and another customisable Function button.
While the XF1’s claimed start-up speed is certainly impressive, actually getting your hands in the right place to rotate the lens and switch it on can sometimes prove a little fiddly, and as a result can prolong the start-up process well beyond the claimed 0.55 seconds. Thankfully though, it’s possible to leave the XF1 in standby mode with the lens slightly protruding; if you’re using the camera to capture quick-reaction candid shots then this is probably a better option.
Once switched on, the XF1 generally offers good performance. Fuji claims the XF1’s autofocus lock-on times as quick as 0.16 seconds and although we weren’t totally convinced that our test model was quite as fast as that autofocus performance is nonetheless speedy and responsive, and certainly doesn’t keep you waiting while the photographic moment passes. We also found the XF1’s speedy AF performance to be accurate too, with the AF module consistently selecting the correct focus point to lock on with.
One criticism we do have of the XF1 is its operational speed when used at high ISO settings. Up to ISO 800 there’s no problem, with speedy shot-to-shot performance. However, once you go beyond ISO 800 the camera begins to take a noticeable amount of time to process images – no doubt on account of the in-camera noise reduction processing. Although you should only have to use these kinds of settings when faced with really poor light, the delays encountered at higher ISO settings are nonetheless unwelcome.
Images quality is generally quite impressive for a compact camera of this type and price. Given that the XF1 employs the same 2/3in sensor found in the acclaimed Fujifilm X10, it’s no great surprise to discover that it produces much the same level of image quality – minus the ‘white orbs’ issue that plagued early X10 production models of course. The XF1 is able to record an impressive amount of detail with images standing up to scrutiny when enlarged to 100%, thereby enabling you to make larger prints with some degree of confidence.
The 4x Fujinon lens also performs well with good levels of sharpness throughout the frame, with very little in the way of distortion or softening in the edges and corners. Fringing is also well controlled, with only a slight purple halo appearing on extreme high-contrast borders between light and shadow. Dynamic range is impressive for a camera of this type, with plenty of detail retained in both shadow and highlight areas of an image. The XF1 features a range of dynamic range adjustment tools that allow you to take advantage of the EXR sensor’s unique pixel array and, on the whole, these all work quite well.
We did find that in regular matrix metering the XF1’s metering system has a slight tendency to underexpose, although it’s not a difficult issue to correct for with a quick alteration of the exposure compensation usually sorting the problem out. White balance is consistent and reliable, and in natural light the XF1 rarely gets things wrong. Even when faced with more challenging conditions, such as a mixture of natural and artificial light, results are more often than not pleasing.
The XF1 captures a pleasing colour palette, with a natural range of tones. If these are too muted for your tastes, then it’s possible to ramp things up with the built-in Film Simulation modes. Despite the aforementioned drop in operational performance, image quality higher ISO settings fairly well maintained with noise generally well controlled.
The XF1 enters a competitive field in the form of the enthusiast compact market, where it primarily distinguishes itself from its peers through its smart, retro design. The camera’s leather and matte aluminium finish, along with the manual zoom operation make the XF1 a pleasing camera to hold and use. Retract the lens fully and the camera can also be easily pocketed. Despite these obvious pluses, the XG1 is not without its faults. Even straight out of the box the XF1’s lens suffers from a worrying amount of travel when fully extended, which raises some questions about its long-term durability. Despite otherwise generally quite impressive performance speeds, the camera is also bit laggy at high ISO settings and when shooting Raw files. And although image quality is very good on the whole, noise reduction does affect sharpness at high ISO settings. Overall though, if you’re after a stylish enthusiast compact that will fit readily in to your pocket and produce good images in a range of conditions, then the XF1 is a great choice.