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Fujifilm X-A1 Digital Camera Review
fujifilm20140728aa.jpgDigital Camera Review by: Paul Burgess 

Being a bit of a technophile its always exciting when you are opening the box on a new piece of hardware. This time around it is the Fujifilm X-A1 and it was a pleasant surprise indeed. The X-A1 appears to be the new entry point for the X series range of cameras that have a 16 Megapixel image sensor.  Unlike the other new cameras in the range it has the more conventional Bayer colour filter array based sensor rather than the Fujifilms newer variation of a CMOS sensor, the X-Trans. It appears Fujifilm have decided to stick with a tried and true sensor technology in order to keep the price of the camera down.

Appearance / Functionality


Released around the same time as the X-M1 the similarity in appearance to its higher end sibling is remarkable.   The X-A1 cameras are available in black, blue and red colour schemes. The kit comes standard with a 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 lens.   The camera I received for review was the red X-A1. Its not just the red colour scheme that strikes you as you unpack the camera from its box. It has a faux red leather finish across the front section.  Having your fingers gripping the X-A1's faux leather textured surface leaves you with a kind of warm and fuzzy feeling and it somehow makes your hold on the camera feel more secure.  Personally I preferred the surface and feel of this camera in your hand over that of the surface of the silver X-M1 I also received at the time of this review.  It was a nicer texture to touch.  When compared to a full sized Digital SLR the X-A1 feels light yet it is substantial enough to remind you that you are holding a camera of quality.

fujifilm20140728ab.jpgThe same philosophy of design found in the higher end Fujifilm X range has been employed here in the X-A1.  The twin dial configuration and has been used again making the camera a breeze to control with only your right hand.  From these you can control aperture, exposure compensation and shutter speed. The dials on top of the camera used to control the shooting mode, auto, manual etc are of a high quality build and the mechanisms within them feel solid.  You get a smooth transition and nice firm click whenever they are moved into position.  The only button that is not on right hand side of the camera is the flash eject button.  Be prepared for a surprise when this is pressed. Lets just say it gave me a fright the first time I went to use the flash.  There is a single record button to capture video making it simple to invoke video mode.

The helpful hints displayed when changing the mode the camera operates in are easy to read and understand. The menu system is neatly laid out with the operation of the camera broken down into a number of sections each having its own entry point in to the menu placed the extreme left of the display.  The settings for the camera also have a similar break down.  I really liked how scrolling down through the bottom of one section transparently moved into the next rather than you having to exit back out of one menu section to get to the next.  Moving throughout the menus can be performed using one button and shows Fujifilm has thought about how the software in this camera is to operate from the perspective of the end user.

Images can be transferred wirelessly to smartphones and tablets with the camera providing its own wifi hotspot for you to connect your devices to through the Fujifilm supplied Apps. The easiest way to transfer a set of images was to press the play button followed by the fn button. From the wireless menu that then appears in the camera's display you select "Send selected multiple images". This will present your camera shot roll and you simply place ticks using the arrow keys and the ok button on those images you want to transfer.  When you are ready hit the "Back" button and OK to send the images wirelessly to the connected device.  It must be noted that manual doesn't really mention that the you need the Fujifilm Photo Receiver or Fujifilm Camera App to be running and that the device must already be connected wirelessly to the camera prior to attempting to start a transfer.  The manual does provide link to the app and the app itself has a nice neat interface and some pretty cool animation showing each image as it arrives from the camera.  After the files have arrived they can be viewed in all the beautiful colour and clarity produced by these great little cameras or transferred to your favorite photography or social media site.  Once you have gotten your head around the process it is easy to do and a fantastic feature of the camera.  For reference, we used SanDisk memory cards during testing for reliability and speed.

Strangely Fujifilm has chosen not to supply a usb cable to facilitate transfer from the Camera directly to a desktop or laptop computer.    Transferring the images to your PC or Mac is performed either wirelessly or via usb.   During the evaluation of this camera I used a Sandisk Extreme Pro 280MB/s SDHCII memory card. When these cards are combined with a USB 3 card reader it results in some of the fastest image transfers I have experienced.  

Image Quality


fujifilm20140728ad.jpgThe X-A1's 16.3 million pixel APS-C sensor (23.6mm X 15.6 mm) is a much larger size than those found in your traditional point'n shoots and some of Fujifilms competitors in the same camera style and rivals those found in Digital SLR's.  Fujifilm have been in the still image business for 80 or so years and when it comes to image production they have had time to recognise what makes a photograph tick. The jpeg images produced by this camera-lens combination have a lovely feel to "bokeh" in the defocused areas of the backgrounds, great skin tone and vibrant colour reproduction.  You also have the ability to shoot in raw mode and various raw and jpeg combinations. There is plenty of contrast and vivid colour in the jpeg images allowing for printing great images directly from the camera.  I found the raw files have a lot more detail available in the darker areas of the images than the jpegs show and processing images of darker scenes via a raw processor may result in an even better image. Furthermore, these can be easily retouched and viewed at their best if you’re lucky enough to own an EIZO monitor.

The standard ISO ranges from 200 through to 6400 allowing you to shoot in a wide range of lighting conditions with ease.  Noticeable noise only begins to creep into the images at around the 1600 mark in raw files. Amazingly the noise in jpeg images captured at 1600 ISO was to all intents and purposes not present. Whatever the Fujifilm EXR Processor II is doing during the jpeg conversion is clearly working and very impressive.  The extended ISO ranges are 100, 12800 and 25600.  The cameras sensor in combination with the EXR Processor II produces images with resolution and clarity that rivals those of the sensors in much larger and more expensive Digital SLR's.   The ability for this this camera to produce sharp images in dim lighting conditions, hand held without camera shake appearing was very impressive and a testament to the camera body, Fujifilm OIS image stabilisation and lens quality.
 

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Lens Quality


fujifilm20140728ac.jpgFujifilm has bundled the X-A1 with its F3.5-5.6 16-50 mm OIS lens. This lens produces consistently sharp images throughout its F5-F13 Aperture ranges.  It is only at the extremes of the lenses settings will you notice a bit of softening in the images.  For example when you shoot at 16mm in combination with smaller apertures like F16-F22 images.  This is not unusual occurring in Digital SLR lenses as well, lenses I might add that are far more expensive than this little beauty.  The lens is well constructed and feels solid. The movement of the zoom is tight.  It would have been nice if Fujifilm had supplied a proper lens mount cover for this lens like they have with the XF55-200.

During the review of the X-A1 I had access to the Fujinon XF55-200mm F3.5-4.8 lens.  Wow, what an amazing lens for this type of camera.  I was blown away by the ability of this lens to produce very high quality images.  I pushed it as hard as I could in conditions including twilight and exposures in excess of 20 seconds.  It was able to focus well in really dark conditions and  produced nice sharp images, just make sure you turn off the in lens image stabilisation when shooting on a tripod.   The performance of this lens is incredible and if you buy a Fujifilm X series camera I recommend this lens should you wish to extend your lens selection.

LCD Screen / Viewfinder


fujifilm20140728af.jpgThe display for this camera is a 3 inch 920,000 dot TFT color LCD supplying the same 3:2 aspect ratio as the sensor. What you see is pretty much what you get with this display and I could see no discernible difference between the image on the display and the image produced by the camera.   This means no guessing required when it comes to framing your shots via the LCD. The flexibility of the moveable display and being able to view it from above and below the camera will save your knees when you are shooting macro shots of flowers and insects and allow you to hold it high above your head and still easily compose an image.   The mechanism holding the panel in place feels really solid and was possibly a little stiff in the unit I had.  This bodes well however for the longevity of the cameras LCD and it may loosen up a little over time anyway.    The display itself is bright and clear producing slightly warm skin tone and nice colour.  Reviewing or composing images in strong light is a breeze and any reflection can be eliminated simply by tilting the display.
 

Video

 

The X-A1 records video in 2 possible formats, Full HD 1920 by 1080 at 30 frames per second and 1280 by 720 at 30 frames per second.  Audio is recorded in stereo.  Maximum recording time of 14 minutes for Full HD videos extends to 27 minutes at the 1280 by 720 resolution.  The X-A1 will adjust its focus during video recording however it has no in built subject tracking.  You will need to get used to panning and tracking subjects manually to ensure focus remains on your desired subject.  Fujifilm recommends at a minimum an SD Class 10 card and a SD card like the Sandisk Extreme Pro 280MB/s SDHCII memory card is the perfect solution to your video recording requirements. The camera provides a HDMI interface to allow you to connect the camera directly to your television or receiver and display your movies in all their HD glory.


 
 

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Conclusion


For the budding photographer who is considering a digital SLR you will want to take a serious look at Fujifilm's X-M1 series of cameras.  The X-A1 has the image processing capabilities of a digital SLR, at its core is the 16 Megapixel APS-C sized image sensor and the EXR Processor II.  It has the flexibility of a digital SLR, you can shoot is RAW mode and use tools like Adobe Lightroom to tweak your images.  Fujifilm provides an array of quality X-Mount lenses and the addition of a lens like the 50-200mm will allow you really isolate your subject matter and shoot like a pro.  This camera is fantastic value, produces quality images and will open your photography up to all the possibilities of shooting in the realm of Fujifilms X series of camera's and accessories.
 

Recommendations 

 
Camera House Click Through
SanDisk Click Through
EIZO Click Through
   

Ratings

 
 
Appearance rating 4 stars
Functionality rating 4 stars
Image quality
4.5 stars
Video quality
4 stars
Lens quality
4.5 stars
LCD screen 3.5 stars
Value for money 4.5 stars
Street Price - Inc Lens $599 (AUD) (With XC 16-50mm Lens)
SPACER.GIF  
Effective Pixels 16.3 megapixels
Sensor Type
23.6mm x 15.6mm (APS-C) CMOS with primary color filter
Image Sizes 9 Sizes / 3 Aspect
Lens Interchangeable
Lens Mount
Fujifilm X-mount
Resolution Settings - Stills L: (3:2) 4896 x 3264 / (16:9) 4896 x 2760 / (1:1) 3264 x 3264
M: (3:2) 3456 x 2304 / (16:9) 3456 x 1944 / (1:1) 2304 x 2304
S: (3:2) 2496 x 1664 / (16:9) 2496 x 1408 / (1:1) 1664 x 1664
Resolution Settings - Video 1920 x 1080 30p, Continuous recording: up to approx. 14 min.
1280 x 720 30p, Continuous recording: up to approx. 27 min.
Face Detection Yes
Manual Focus Yes
Auto Focus Yes
Aperture Priority Yes
Shutter Speeds Advanced SR AUTO mode: 1/4 sec. to 1/4000 sec.
All other modes: 30 sec. to 1/4000 sec.
Bulb: max. 60 min.
Synchronized shutter speed for flash: 1/180 sec. or slower
Shutter Priority Yes
ISO AUTO / Equivalent to ISO200 - 6400 (Standard Output Sensitivity). Extended output sensitivity: equivalent to ISO100 / 12800 / 25600
LCD Monitor 3.0-inch, Aspect ratio 3:2, Approx. 920K-dot Tilt type TFT color LCD monitor (Approx. 100% coverage)
Viewfinder -
Flash Manual pop-up flash (Super Intelligent Flash) Guide number: Approx. 7 (ISO200·m)
Hot Shoe Yes
White Balance Auto / Custom / Preset (Fine / Shade / Fluorescent light (Daylight) / Fluorescent light (Warm White) / Fluorescent light (Cool White) / Incandescent light)
Self Timer 10 sec. / 2 sec. Delay
Stills Format/s
JPEG (Exif Ver 2.3)*2 / RAW (RAF format) / RAW+JPEG (Design rule for Camera File system compliant / DPOF-compatible)
Video Format/s Movie File Format: MOV
Movie Video Compression: H.264
Audio: Linear PCM Stereo
Video Recording Time/s -
Storage Type - External SD memory card / SDHC memory card / SDXC (UHS-I) memory card
Storage Type - Internal
-
Connectivity Digital interface: USB 2.0 High-Speed
HDMI output: HDMI mini connector (Type C)
Others: Remote release terminal for RR-90 (sold separately)
Power Source Battery Charger BC-W126
Battery Options NP-W126 Li-ion battery
Battery Life Approx. 350 frames (with XF35mmF1.4 R lens)
Dimensions 116.9mm (W) x 66.5mm (H) x 39.0mm (D)
Weight Approx. 330g (inc battery / memory card)
Approx. 280g (excl battery / memory card)
















 


 

 

 
 

 

 

About Fujifilm

 

FUJIFILM brings continuous innovation and leading-edge products to a broad spectrum of industries, including electronic imaging, photofinishing equipment, medical systems, life sciences, graphic arts, flat panel display materials, and office products, based on a vast portfolio of digital, optical, fine chemical and thin film coating technologies. The company was ranked number 15 for U.S. patents granted in 2006. Fujifilm is committed to environmental stewardship and good corporate citizenship.

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