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Customer Review

28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic camera at this price point, with one caveat, November 30, 2013
This review is from: Fujifilm X-A1 Kit with 16-50mm Lens (Black) (Electronics)
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Fuji has built itself a good reputation in the higher end of the currently very active Mirrorless Compact market, by coming up with new sensor designs and producing quality lenses. This camera is a little different though; it's more of a "value" product. For example, it doesn't have their famed X-trans sensor, the body feels a bit cheap with no rubbery grip, and the non- touch screen doesn't do all that well in sunlight. I'd say say that most (but not all!) aspects of this camera are good, but not great. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it's properly reflected in the price - which it is.

The kit lens disappointed me initially, because it looks even cheaper than the body and the slippery zoom ring is a bit hard to move, especially with slightly moist fingers. I came around though when I saw the pictures that it was capable of producing: tack- sharp and beautiful, putting my Panasonic GX7+Kit to shame - a system that costs twice as much! Also this lens starts at an equivalent of 24mm, which is considerably more wide- angle than most standard zooms. I think that many people will probably simply leave the kit lens on and they won't miss a thing.

Fuji also offers a 50-230mm telezoom lens lens of similar characteristics as the kit lens (i.e. "value" and still fairly compact, they call it the "XC" line), and there is an upgrade path with the "XF" line lenses. The latter lenses are larger and more expensive, but also more solidly built and with more options such as on- lens button for the stabilizer or an aperture ring. Painfully missing (to me) in the entire line-up is a wideangle pancake prime lens though, something that I really like for hiking. I do know that it's particularly hard to make such a lens for APS-C sensors, but Samsung has done it (for their incompatible system, that is).

Fuji uses an APS-C sized sensor in this camera (same size as most DSLRs), which has some implications:
- First, the format is 3:2, which is more widescreen than the 4:3 used in Point & Shoots and the Micro Four Thirds System. I actually find this an advantage especially for landscape pictures, but YMMV. If you're willing to lose some resolution, you can also pick a 1:1 or 16:9 format (but still no 4:3, oddly).
- Another implication of the sensor size is that you get a narrower depth of field. This should be expected and is desirable in my book, but it's also easier to get an out-of-focus picture if one is not careful.
- Last but not least, the large sensor size means lower picture noise. Sometimes the camera goes up to ISO 3200 and I don't see noise in the picture! No doubt there's some in- camera processing, but still, I can now take hand- held night shots and they look smooth! Again, this "kills" the images that the expensive Panasonic GX7 produces at high ISO.

There aren't many bells and whistles, and I may be a little old school for liking it that way. The M, A, P and S modes are solid, in fact I was delighted to find that Manual works with auto-ISO! Apparently that's not standard even in DSLRs, but to me it just makes sense that somebody wants to pick shutter and aperture, with the camera then picking ISO up to your set limit. Also, the mode switching and parameter- changing is easy and quick. I find that a little ridiculous to have to mention even, but I own other cameras that take a second switching modes (one even shows a full- screen notice "You have chosen S mode. This is good for ..blah blah..") or clutter up the display with annoying colorful bars when you adjust a parameter.

After about a month of use, I did find a few things that I found a little bothersome:
1) The autofocus is slow and "hunty" (for lack of a better word; what I mean is it's overshooting the focus zone to realize it needs to go back, even if you're just taking a second picture with the lens already in perfect focus). It's particularly unsuited for movies, which Fuji seems to know, as you can set a dedicated movie focus mode such as manual. Also, there is an explicit macro mode like on Point & Shoot cameras. By contrast, the autofocus on the Panasonic is so dead-on-instant that you can easily use it for movies and it doesn't hunt at all. That's an unfair comparison I know, but still I think the autofocus is by far the biggest downside of this camera. Firmware update 1.0.1 addresses this, but I have not seen a marked improvement. Yet? All this is less important if you shoot landscapes, of course.
2) The flash system is quite finicky. The built-in flash is a bit underpowered to start with, and I get inconsistent results (dark face on one shot, overexposed the next).
3) Unfortunate button assignment. There aren't too many buttons on this camera (and none on the lens), so it bothers me a bit that two buttons are used for Macro (should not exist, just give me good autofocus) and White Balance (people who really care shoot RAW).

My "question marks" list seems a little long, but it's mostly workable and the only remaining weakness is the mediocre autofocus, which may not even be an issue for many types of photography. On the plus side, we have the stunning picture quality and the very competitive price. Speaking of competition, I don't think there is much else in this category as of December 2013 as it even underprices cheap DSLRs and Sony's NEX3 line.
I've come to think of the X-A1 as a "I love it" product with half a star dinged for the so-so autofocus, which technically still rounds back up to 5 stars. If you know what you're getting, i.e. a "value" camera with jaw- dropping picture quality, everything should fall into place and I predict you'll be very happy with this product.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 12, 2013 1:56:24 AM PST
cnagappa says:
Nice, review. I think the X-A1 is the best bargain of all cameras going today. At $499 it is a steal! (I would have bought one had I not bought an X-M1 before the X-A1 was released).

Just did the firmware 1.01 update on my X-M1 yesterday. I do see a difference in the number of "hits" versus misses. Also, it does seem to focus sharper and more accurately.

Posted on Jan 5, 2014 12:42:05 AM PST
Paul Watson says:
"Painfully missing (to me) in the entire line-up is a pancake prime lens"

There is the Fujifilm XF 27mm F2.8 Compact Prime Lens Fujinon XF 27mm F2.8

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 5, 2014 11:40:52 AM PST
Strohmian says:
Hi Paul, thank you for pointing that out! I should have been more specific of wanting a wide- angle pancake lens, to make the camera particularly fit for hiking. The MFT system has 28mm (equiv.) pancakes, but the model you pointed out is 40mm (equiv.) - too wide for landscapes.

I'll clarify. Thanks again!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 5, 2014 2:33:28 PM PST
Paul Watson says:
Fair enough.
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