Fujifilm X-M1 first impressions

The Fuji X-series just got a new member, the X-M1, which is targeted for the first system camera buyers. I have a X-M1 pre-production camera at the moment for evaluation purposes along with the two new lenses: XC 16 – 50 mm f/3.5 – 5.6 OIS and the XF 27 mm f/2.8. Because they all are pre-production units I have no permission to publish pictures taken with them. That is sad, but what comes to the camera you can pretty much guess the technical output. Since the sensor is from the X-E1 and the processor is from the X100S you don’t have to be a genius to know what to expect.

Samsung NX300 and Fuji X-M1.

Samsung NX300 and Fuji X-M1.

The Fuji X-M1 is very small and probably one of the smallest APS-C size system cameras. Compared to the Samsung NX300 the Fuji is about the same size, but the Olympus E-PL5 is a bit smaller than the Fuji. The body of the X-M1 is mostly plastic, but you can’t really tell it just by looking, or feeling just the same. Overall the quality seems very nice and certainly on par with the competition.

Olympus E-PL5 and Fuji X-M1.

Olympus E-PL5 and Fuji X-M1.

There is no viewfinder and no such thing will be, because there are no contacts. The rear display tilts up and down, which is pretty much mandatory, if there is no viewfinder. I really like using viewfinder, but to be honest, for example street photography with normal to wide angle lens is actually fun using rear display. In bright light rear displays are typically too dark to see much of anything and long tele lenses can be challenging to compose with, because it is hard to support camera properly.

Panasonic G6 and Fuji X-M1.

Panasonic G6 and Fuji X-M1.

There is a sunlight mode meant to be used outside in sunshine, and it really helps composing, but you have to be careful when evaluating your exposures, because the screen is so luminous. You think your shot will be too bright, apply some minus exposure compensation and end up with too dark picture.

Fuji X-E1 and X-M1.

Fuji X-E1 and X-M1.

Fuji X-E1 and X-M1.

Fuji X-E1 and X-M1.

Fuji X-E1 and X-M1.

Fuji X-E1 and X-M1.

The user interface is different from the X-E1 and resembles more the X20. On the top there are still two dials, but the other one selects the exposure mode and the other, depending on selected exposure mode, either shutter speed or exposure compensation. On back side there is one more control dial for aperture, when either of the new lenses is used. Since the new lenses don’t have aperture ring there must be a way control the aperture. When any of the other Fujinons is used you have a choice to control the aperture either with the dedicated ring around the lens or with the control dial. If the aperture ring is in the A-position the dial sets the aperture, otherwise the ring can be used.

The controls are on the right side.

The controls are on the right side.

I saw the first pictures of the X-M1 some weeks ago and I was not impressed by the rear control dial. But, as they say, never judge a book by its cover. Now that I have used the X-M1 a bit, I’m rather happy with the control lay out. The new Pen E-P5 has really good traditional two control dial set up, but the X-M1 comes close and is certainly better than any one dial set up or any two dial set up, where the ring of the multi selector is used as one dial.

When you hold the X-M1 in eye level position both the rear dial and the top dial are easy to operate and if you shoot from waist level the dials work equally well. At least I find, that if I’m using a rear screen I tend hold my camera in multiple positions, but when I’m using a viewfinder I only have one way to hold my camera. So, it is important and good that the user interface works in more than one position, if the camera has no viewfinder.

I’m not a fan of all the scene specific exposure modes, because they only support jpg-shooting. There is one that I use every now and then though: the sweep panorama. It just happens that Fuji left my favorite SP-mode out. There is no sweep panorama. It is no deal breaker for me, but I would like to have it.

One other unfortunate omission for me is the level gauge, which I like very much in my X-E1.

There are direct buttons at the back to access the mostly used functions during shooting and you really don’t have go into the menus. The Fn button next to the shutter release is the only programmable button and I really hope Fuji decides to make the dedicated video button also programmable via a firmware update.

The X-E1 and X-M1 Q-menu.

The X-E1 and X-M1 Q-menu.

The Q-menu is almost the same as in the X-E1. The upper left corner shows the current exposure mode, which seems a little unnecessary, and could be used for something more useful. There is also a setting for the image stabilization, because the new kit zoom does not have a switch for the OIS. The same goes for the focus mode, since there is no switch for it. White balance instead has a dedicated button and does not exist in the Q-menu.

There are less film simulations than in the other X-system cameras, but I like to shoot RAW, so I don’t care so much about the jpg settings. I know that there are many fans of Fuji jpgs and for them it is a drawback of course. Then again, if you are buying your first X-camera, you don’t know what you will miss and maybe a couple of film simulations don’t mean much when you are contemplating at the store counter.

Shooting with the new Fuji X-M1 is a good experience. The autofocus is fast with the new 16 – 50 mm and the 55 – 200 mm zooms. Not E-P5 fast, but fast. The other lenses get a firmware update on the 23rd July, but with the current firmware the 14 mm f/2.8 focuses also pretty fast, but the 35 mm f/1.4 along with the 60 mm f/2.4 are a bit slower. All are still perfectly usable. I don’t have other lenses to try, and on the other hand this is meaningless, because the new lens firmware will be available by the time the X-M1 hits the stores.

Autofocus has a face recognition that is missing from all other X-system cameras. It is not very important for me, but it is nice to have for people shots. Focus peaking assists manual focus and is on by default. The peaking also works in magnified view, so precision work is possible. There is one nice feature that is actually in all Fuji X-system cameras. You can see the depth of field preview when you half press the shutter release.

In playback mode pressing the rear dial shows the max magnification at the focus point that was used. Very handy. It is too bad that in RAW only the magnification factor is limited compared to jpg. This is odd and Fuji should do something about it.

The X-M1 is the first WiFi enabled Fuji X-camera, but the function rather basic. You can only browse or transfer images from camera when in the play back mode. In the shooting mode you can utilize your phone’s GPS and tag camera’s images with coordinates. I would like a tethered wireless shooting to iPad. I could use that in my workshops, so that the students could see what I’m doing in real time. Anyhow, Fuji’s WiFi is easy to use, because it creates an open network and no password is required. It is still safe enough, because you have to confirm any connection by pressing ok in the camera.

The competition is tough in the middle class of compact system cameras, but I think the new Fuji X-M1 stands a fair chance. When the X100 came out, I think no one could say the images that came out of that were nothing short of stunning, but the camera had too many quirks to please many. The X-M1 instead, is free of quirks, quite the opposite, and offers a good alternative to Panasonic GF, Olympus Pen, Samsung NX or Sony Nex.

Full specs are here.

Fujinon XC 16 – 50 mm f/3.5 – 5.6 OIS

Even in its pre-production form this lens looks as good as the rest of the Fujinons. As a matter of fact, I was surprised to see the plastic bayonet, because the lens itself does not look plasticky or cheap. A lens shade is included.

The exterior is simple and there is no switch for the OIS. That is operated from camera. The zoom ring rotates smoothly and the lens extends to almost double length when zoomed from wide to tele. The aperture ring is missing and I think it has to do with the manufacturing costs, as well as making the lens look simpler for the beginners. The assembly seems tight enough and I suspect that the fit and finish of the final production version will be even better. That happened with the 55 – 200.

The focal length range deviates a bit from a standard kit zoom. The Fujinon’s angle of view equals to that of  24 – 75 mm full frame lens as opposed to most other kit zooms that equal to 27 – 83 mm FF lens. I’m sure one reason to that focal length range is just to be different, but I will happily accept the wider approach. It is easy to crop a little, but impossible to add to the image area later.

The optical performance looks promising, but I’ll wait until I have a real production lens, until I draw my final conclusion. The autofocus is fast and the OIS seems effective. I managed to get sharp pictures at 1/2 s. shutter speed at 50 mm setting, when I concentrated a bit.

I doubt that many will buy this lens separately, but in a kit it makes sense, and among kit zooms the mechanical quality is top notch.

Full specs are here.

_3MS4572

Fujinon XF 27 mm f/2.8

This pancake is the other kit lens offered with the X-M1. It is quite small and light, but seems well constructed. The bayonet is metal, but no lens shade is included. However, the lens has a 39 mm filter thread, so it is possible to use a third party shade. The exterior of the lens is very simple, and like the 16 – 50, there is no aperture ring. I guess it could be possible to fit one, but it wouldn’t be ergonomically very good, because of the lens’ diminutive size.

The angle of view is equivalent roughly to 40 mm FF lens, which, at least to me, is almost perfect snapshot and everyday lens. I could actually do most of my personal work with that angle of view.

The autofocus is fast, but makes more pronounced back and forth movement and little more noise compared to the 16 – 50. The 27 focuses with moving the whole optical assembly and the 16 – 50 with moving only one lens, and that must make a difference in how smoothly the focus action happens.

The optical performance of the pre production lens is very good, but I want to see a final production version before any further public opinions.

This is a very nice addition to the Fujinon line up and I think many will like the new 27 mm. I want one as soon as it is available.

Ful specs are here.

Cheers,

matti