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Customer Review

79 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Extremely Impressive Performer, October 12, 2013
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This review is from: Fujifilm X-A1 Kit 16-50mm (Indigo Blue) (Electronics)
If you haven't looked into these Fuji "X" cameras, they deserve a look before you make your next major camera purchase. This latest release from Fuji, which comes at an extremely reasonable price, is easily an "outperformer" when it comes to picture quality and device quality. The images you can take with it will rival those taken by the much more expensive (and physically larger) Nikons and Canons. If that is a claim that is very hard to believe, you should do some online searching for reviews on these Fuji cameras and their lens offerings. The reviews are almost uniformly positive, and my own experience with this X-A1 agrees.

This particular version comes with either a dark blue or black textured finish which is very comfortable to hold while at the same time providing a good "grippy" surface. (It feels not wholly unlike the back of the earlier version of the Nexus 7 tablet, with a surface that almost does not feel like metal or plastic; you just have to feel it to understand.) The camera is very light, and even with the lens and battery attached, you are only at a fraction of what your typical DSLR will weigh. There is no viewfinder, either optical or electronic, but there is a gorgeous, tilting 3-inch high resolution screen. This is a full APS-C sensor, the same size as most all DSLRs that are not full frame, and, of course, hugely larger than nearly all point and shoots, including the 1-inch models that have recently been released by the various manufacturers. This model is based on the well received Sony 16mp sensor that is found in a number of other cameras (some of the Sony NEX models, at least one Olympus model, and at least one or more Nikon models), and does not make use of Fuji's "X trans" sensor that is found on its X-Pro 1. So, although this model is using a far more traditional sensor, the sensor itself has been very well received in the photographic community, and its use in this model is one reason for the very reasonable price. Fuji is also undoubtedly utilizing some very sophisticated processing "down the pipeline" from the image sensor to arrive at such excellent photographic quality.

The camera is reasonably comfortable to hold, due primarily to its light weight, but because the hand grip is not very deep, it can be a challenge to keep a good grip until you get the knack of it. The camera's fantastic screen that allows you to compose either above, under, or even with eye level (the screen tilts both up and down to facilitate this) is wonderful. Operational performance of the camera is good. Turn on is nearly instantaneous, and there is very little focusing lag (maybe not quite 100% as fast as some of the Sony's, but very, very fast, and I doubt you'd notice much of a difference), and shut down is also fast. Picture playback on the screen is also very fast, with little hesitation or stutter. The exception to this rule is that when the camera goes into power saving "sleep" mode, it is quite sluggish to get it woken back up, sometimes in the neighborhood of 2-3 seconds.

There is much more I can say about these types of features, but where this camera excels is in photo quality. Even with the kit lens that comes with this Fuji model the photos are sharp, sharp, sharp, with very nice color and saturation. And I mean, REALLY good. My own experience even with this kit lens is that the camera is knocking off images that rival my Nikon D7000. That might be difficult to believe, and I was skeptical myself until I started examining my own images. There is amazing clarity in these shots, and this is even using just the standard jpg format (not even using RAW mode), so it seems that the jpg rendering engine is doing a superb job of processing the shots.

But it is the Fuji lenses that are also being identified as some of the best lenses currently on the market (this camera, along with the other Fuji interchangeable lens cameras, uses the Fuji X-Mount system). Even this kit lens is sharp, with virtually no edge distortion or softness, with images that are sharp and straight across the frame. This particular lens is a Fuji "XC" model, and starts at a wide 16mm (24mm equivalent) at F/3.5 and goes to 50mm (75mm equivalent). Are you worried that F/3.5 is not wide enough for low light settings? This is one of the places where these Fuji's excel. There is so little noise in shots that you can run up and down the ISO levels and get perfectly acceptable shots all the way up to 3,200 ISO. (I know that is hard to believe, but I've experienced it myself, and you can check other reviews of the camera along these lines).

You can purchase the very highly reviewed "XF" lenses, but you might find that the kit lens is all you need for now. It is simply an amazing combination of lens quality, camera performance, and jpg rendering engine. And at its price point, which is lower than some of the new "super" point and and shoots, it seems like an unbeatable combination.

There are a few non-Fuji X-Mount lenses now available, but they tend to be either highly expensive (the Zeiss "Touit" lenses) or quite inexpensive (Samyang, Rokinon). For now, unless you have the money to spring for Zeiss, Fuji's own lenses seem by far the better choice, with high image performance and build quality.

I will expand this review over time, but for now, what I want to say is that if you are considering a new camera purchase, you really owe it to yourself to look over these Fuji's before you make a decision. They are superlative devices.

Plusses
++ Superb image quality, with sharp, rich, and undistorted images even from the kit lens
++ Low noise high ISO performance that must surely rank as some of the best available today
++ Outstanding 3-inch, one million pixel LCD screen with full set of customizable display options
++ Lightweight and easy to handle (though grip is too shallow for most people's fullest comfort)
++ Excellent build quality (primarily the camera, but the lens is good for a kit model)
++ Very nice image color rendition (many of my images remind me of those taken with my favorite Zeiss lenses, and, yes, I understand that may be difficult to believe)
++ "Velvia" color mode available in "P" mode (simulates Fuji Velvia film)
++ Large feature set roughly analogous to most DSLRs (S, A, P, M modes, and many other specialized modes)
++ Shots per battery exceed specifications in my own daily use (but drops precipitously at the end; keep a backup handy)
++ Extremely reasonable price for what you get (it may be all you need, in some cases)
++ Great implementation of "focus peaking" for manual focusing
++ A variety of "XF" lenses are available, most reviewed as some of the best lenses on the market
++ A 55-200mm "XC" lens is available at a very reasonable price
++ Built-in WiFi (some will make use of this, others not)
++ Full printed manual comes in the box
++ Blue body color available, if that is of interest to you (all black is currently the other body color option) - the blue is dark, and not overly "showy"

Minuses
-- Hand grip would be slightly more comfortable if a bit thicker
-- Tendency to overexpose, and this is true inside, as well as outside (use the EV setting in "P" mode to control for this)
-- Focusing issues in low light (the camera won't autofocus at all when it is very, very dark)
-- Autofocusing options limited, compared to other cameras in class (center weighted only, selected point only; manual; no multi-point AF)
-- Manual focus peaking only available in one color, white
-- Fujifilm brand batteries are expensive (true of all "brand" batteries)
-- Wake up from power save sleep too slow (about 2 - 3 seconds, depending on level of sleep)
-- Mechanical power switch not as smooth to rotate as one would prefer
-- No viewfinder of any typr (if you want to use a viewfinder, this X-A1 model will not work for you; you'll need one of the other Fuji models)
-- No hand strap provided (only a neck strap; a hand strap is, for me, a much more useful device)
-- Manual has no index at the end, making it difficult to look up specific features/functions that you are trying to research
-- Kit lens has limited macro ability (minimum focusing distance about 30 cm)
-- Lens cover may come off a bit too easily
-- Charger unit comes with long, heavy a/c cord; this is unnecessarily heavy and not nearly as portable as a built-in flip-switch style of plug found on many charger units
-- "XF" lenses very expensive (but only in a relative sense; they are often compared in quality and performance to Leica lenses 10 times their price)

Two-Month Shooting Update
After returning from France and from three weeks of shooting in Paris with my wife, all I can say again is WOW. Some of the images this little guy knocks out can are nothing short of incredible. I used three lenses (the 16-50mm XC kit lens that comes with the camera, the 55-200mm XF, and the 35mm XF lenses), and I captured images that are simply among the best I've ever gotten over years of shooting with all kinds of cameras. And it's not just the expensive "XF" lenses that account for the quality, although both of these XF lenses here are simply superb (and it shows in the images). Many of the shots I took with the kit lens are simply spectacular. Deep, rich, sharp images that, at times, seem to "pop" out from the frame (try experimenting with -1.0 EV, and shooting in Velvia color when shooting in "P" mode), and I keep asking myself why I've spent so much money on equipment over the years when this $600 camera and lens often runs circles around them. I even dropped my 16-50mm lens on the Passy Viaduct in Paris, bounced it three times off the concrete, leaving two gouges in the plastic casing, and the guy just keep shooting (although there is no guarantee this will always be the result.) Yes, the grip is a bit uncomfortable at times, due to its shallow depth, and there are some peculiarities that take getting used to (Why can't I turn off the screen info data when rotating the control dial? And why isn't there a built-in help menu, such as used by Sony, to give me help with some arcane settings?), but this is all just quibbling. I keep returning back to the images themselves. Simply stunning. Its one of the most exciting and forward-thinking systems I've ever used. Shooting at 3200 ISO with almost no noise? It's true (although sharpness suffers somewhat). Handheld shots in dark interiors? The camera did it for weeks. Shots within museums? Amazing clarity and sharpness. And, if you're willing to switch to manual focusing, the focus peaking feature allows you to get some truly sharp images (and will reveal just how much error can sometimes be present with auto focusing). The XF line of lenses (at least the two I used) are simply incredible, with a superlative build quality that can be clearly discerned (and with prices to match), but don't rule out the 16-50mm XC kit lens. Some of the best shots I took were from the kit lens. I don't want to exaggerate here, but once I got home and started looking at the photos more carefully on a high resolution computer screen, I was amazed.

One-Year Shooting Update (Comments Fall, 2014)
The Fuji X-mount system has continued to gain positive press, and, specifically, the X-T1 (but also the X-Pro1 and the X-E2) have sucked up the attention like a high-powered vacuum cleaner. There are more than enough reasons for selecting any one of these models, and some people call them "the poor man's Leica's," but--and I may be in a minority in this--I would not overlook the absolutely CHEAP X-A1 model if you are new to the Fuji world. It's true that the X-A1 does not have the xTrans sensor used in the other Fuji models, using in its place a traditional, Sony-manufactured APC-class sensor, and, yes, the X-A1 lacks the viewfinder (which I completely understand is a deal breaker for many). But after shooting with the X-A1 for nearly a year now in both Europe and North America, I continue to be impressed with the shots this camera is capable of taking.

Even with the X-A1's inexpensive supplied "XC" 16-50mm kit lens, image quality can be enormously impressive. This XC kit lens' tactile feel is certainly not like that of any of the Fuji XF lenses (the XC 16-50mm is an all-plastic), but I nevertheless remain astounded its image quality. (The cheap-o plastic construction has the added benefit of low weight, too!) But then pair the X-A1 with, say the Fuji XF 14mm lens, and images take on a whole new level. The results can be so good that they seem to reach out of the screen with an almost three-dimensional feel. (Look at some of these images on a MacBook Pro with Retina, and you'll easily see what I mean: the detail in these shots is remarkable.) The same can be said for the Fuji XF 35mm lens and the (admittedly heavy) Fuji XF 55-200mm lens.

The word that comes to mind for me is "shockingly" good. I keep asking myself why this camera is so cheap, and I guess it does indeed come down to what I've mentioned before, the lack of a viewfinder and the use of a traditional sensor. And the X-A1 is indeed an entry camera, designed to bring new people into the Fuji fold, so its intent is to demonstrate the benefits of the X-mount system and then encourage you to move on to more expensive X-mount lenses, so its price has been kept down (and its price has seemed now to move onto a perpetual "sale" price of around $450). The ergonomics of the camera itself could have been better, particularly where it comes to the decision to use a too-thin handgrip on the right side of the camera, and you will notice this during shooting. The tilt screen's mechanical mechanism, too, does not feel as nice as the X-T1 (but its image quality is very good). But at $450, including the kit lens, if you can live with the limitations of a 16-50mm lens and the lack of a viewfinder, it's a truly remarkable bargain that can yield results that rival cameras many times its price.

And while we are at it, remember that the kit lens opens up all the way to a 16mm wide end, something you won't find on anything other than the much more expensive XF 10-24mm or the 14mm XF prime (an f/2.8 16-55mm XF lens is scheduled for release for 2015, but it will be many times the price, and will be many times heavier because of the wide, constant aperture). So, basically, at an insanely low entry point, you have a wide angle lens and camera with a 3x zoom whose images can just blow your socks off. Highly detailed, rich, rich color shots that often require little post processing and that can be hauntingly beautiful.

I had the X-A1 at an event a few weeks ago, and someone who had seen some of my photos online commented and asked me why I didn't bring my "good" camera, the one I had used to take the photos for my online albums. The person seemed not to believe me when I said, "You're looking at the very same camera that I used to take those 'good' shots!" I said something like, "I know it looks a bit like a toy," [I have the blue version of the camera] "but this little guy is the one I've been using all this past year. I'm not sure he ever believed me.

A lot has been said about the Zeiss "Touit" lenses that were released for the X format (and there was a super sale on these about four months ago), but, while taking nothing away from these lenses, both of which have tested out very well by professional reviewers, the Fuji lenses easily keep up with them, and so you can stay in a full-Fuji world with any of the X cameras. These Fuji lenses are not cheap, by any means, but they occasionally go on sale (I picked up the XF 35mm, the XF 14mm, and the XF 55-200mm lenses all on sale), which takes a little of the sting out their prices. And the 55-200mm really is a bit on the heavy side, so you have to be really dedicated to want to use it for specific purposes, but these lenses are basically all so well executed that its hardly an exaggeration to say Fuji is driving somewhat of a Renaissance in photography.

To get back on topic, if the "shortcomings" of the Fuji X-A1 (i.e., no viewfinder, no X-trans sensor, and only a 3x zoom lens) don't deter you, I have to say that it is the best bargain in photography I've seen in years, and its a bargain that will never give itself away in the stellar pictures you will be able to take with it. I'm in the minority here in the sense that everyone is really excited about the admittedly excellent X-T1 and X-E2 cameras, but I feel it is a mistake, particularly for the person entering photography or the X-mount world, to overlook the impressive, inexpensive X-A1 camera.

Some of the Fuji Lenses:

The cost reduced Fujifilm XC 50-230mm F4.5-6.7 Camera Lens

Some of the more expensive, highly reviewed "XF" lenses:

Fujifilm XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 Zoom Lens

Fujifilm XF 14mm F2.8 Lens Wide Angle Lens

Fujifilm XF 27mm F2.8 Compact Prime Lens

Fujifilm XF 18-55mm F2.8-4.0 Lens Zoom Lens

Fujifilm XF 35mm F1.4 Lens

Fujifilm XF 60mm F2.4 Macro Lens

Highly Recommended for this Camera:
OP/TECH USA Cam Strap - QD (Black) - the perfect size for this camera
Wasabi Power Battery (2-Pack) and Charger for Fujifilm NP-W126 - almost as good as the Fuji brand battery, and a charger that's better
Expert Shield Screen Protector for: FujiFilm X-M1 - fits perfectly on the X-A1
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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 21, 2014 7:27:11 PM PST
alex says:
i'm a newbie to fujifilm cameras...how does this compare with Sony NEX series like the 3N? Also, how does it compare to the fuji X-M1?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 22, 2014 6:18:22 AM PST
Ray says:
I like the Sony NEX cameras, but I'd have to say that the Fuji X series blows them away in two areas: high ISO performance (which has very, very little noise on the Fuji's), and the quality of the lens offerings that Fuji makes for the X series. They are a bit pricey, but they are almost uniformly superb. Most people who try out the Fuji X series are really impressed with them (I myself have used Sony equipment for many years, as well as both Canon and Nikon). The X-A1 has a more traditional sensor, and the X-M1 has the "X trans" sensor, which does not have an anti-aliasing filter. Theoretically, this means the X-M1 can take even sharper photos than the X-A1, but in normal practice, you may be just as happy with the X-A1. They are both the exact same size, weight, and shape. The difference is only in the sensor type (the X-A1 uses the acclaimed Sony 16Mp CMOS sensor).

Posted on May 16, 2014 3:37:51 PM PDT
Me says:
Ray,
How does this camera (Fuji Xa-1) compare to the Ricoh GR in terms of sharpness? The Ricoh is crazy sharp.

What I like about this fuji is that is comes with interchangeable lenses. I just checked the user manual and it seems that a date/time stamp can be imprinted on the images which is what I want. I have a Nikon d7100 but it does not have a Date/Time stamp so for my personal needs it = useless.

In reply to an earlier post on May 21, 2014 7:39:01 AM PDT
Ray says:
Kimberly: Although I do not have experience with the Ricoh, all I can say is that the Fuji system produces images that are among the sharpest I have ever seen. This is true across their various camera models (the X-A1 all the way to the X-T1) and across the lenses (from the least expensive kit lens to the much more expensive "XF" lenses). I think the vast majority of reviewers would agree with that assessment. It's an incredible camera platform! -- Ray

In reply to an earlier post on May 21, 2014 1:22:23 PM PDT
Me says:
Ray,
I think the Ricoh is sharper than the XA1, but the XA1 is better in low light.

I have a 500 Sears gift card, I can get the xa1 and spend no more money. I can use the gift card for the ricoh but will have to pay an extra 250.

I have tried the Sony Nex 3nl and was not impressed with image quality.

Posted on May 23, 2014 8:18:53 PM PDT
Hi Ray,
I know you've commented about the Sony NEX cameras in comparison, but any thoughts about the Sony Alpha a5000? It is listed on Amazon as Sony Alpha a5000 20.1 MP Interchangeable Lens Camera with 16-50mm OSS Lens (Black). They are the same price, same lens size, but I believe the Fuji has less megapixels. In terms of image quality, is one better than the other? Any other thoughts are greatly appreciated!

Posted on Sep 18, 2014 4:17:04 AM PDT
I read the XM-1 camera you can play with controls so only blue, or green etc will be in the photo. Is that true with this model? Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 18, 2014 4:41:15 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 18, 2014 4:45:33 AM PDT
Ray says:
Hi Judi: Yes, indeed the X-A1 does this very nicely. You can choose either green, yellow, blue, red, etc. To find this,

1. Rotate the command knob on the top of the camera to the "Adv" position.
2. Then press the "menu" button on the back of the camera to bring up the menu.
3. On the menu, select the "Adv" option.
4. Then select "Adv Filter" option.
5. The color menu will come up. Use the up and down arrows to make your color selection. Click on the color you want.
6. Click the "menu" button, and begin shooting!

It works really well, and you can experiment with all the different colors to see what works best for each setting in which you are working. Good luck! -- Ray

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 18, 2014 11:14:21 AM PDT
Me says:
Yes

Posted on Nov 2, 2014 9:28:30 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 2, 2014 9:28:45 PM PST
Hi, Does this camera do auto bracketing for creating HDR photos?

Thanks,
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