Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fujifilm X-M1 First Impressions

Some companies start off with a basic concept and then start adding to it. Fujifilm has ostensibly taken the other route, starting off with the X-Pro1, then removing the optical viewfinder for the X-E1, and then removing the viewfinder altogether for the X-M1. Basically, in exchange for the deletion of the X-E1's electronic view finder, you get a smaller body and a flip-out rear LCD. That's a fair trade for this price range, and even though the internet seems to be constantly crying for viewfinders on this type of camera, the ability to swivel the display screen is something that you would probably get more utility out of.

What's more important is that despite the odds, Fuji has fleshed out what was once a niche camera system into a broad-based line-up that appeals to casual shooters as well as enthusiasts. The X-series is the new NEX system, and in many ways, has made quicker strides in the past year that its Sony counterpart.





The size of the camera is just about perfect; small, but functional, and as per Fujifilm's recent offerings, very good looking in a modern take on retro. Because of the space taken up by the flip-out LCD, the controls are bunched on the right-hand side of the camera. Surprisingly, the X-M1 is still able to offer two control dials, with the rear one upwards facing, just under the thumb rest. This is a nice enthusiast-oriented touch for a more broadly-based class of camera. Because of the lack of real estate, though, the functions are grouped into Fuji's "Q Menu". This is similar to the ones in the other X-series cameras, and though well laid out, it's not the same as having dedicated buttons. In that sense, the X-M1 is still an over-grown compact camera, albeit a very capable one. Comparing the Fuji X-M1 vs. the X-E1, the way you would use the camera is a bit different. The controls on the X-E1 are bit closer to what you would find on a mid-level DSLR, where as the size and button layout of the X-M1 suggust that it would be a pretty good grab-and-go camera. Another welcome feature for the X-M1 is that the flash is manually deployable, not electronic. You can even tilt the flash to bounce it off the ceiling, but in such a circumstance, the getting the exposure right is a bit of guess work.

Of course, to keep the new kit lens down in price, the aperture range is now a more pedestrian f.3-5-5.6, but in keeping with the times, wide goes to 16mm (24mm full frame). My preference would still be fore the XF18-55 2.8-4 R LM OIS lens, but with that, you go up in price.

The X-Trans sensor is now familiar, and even though it will be bested by the modern generation of 24mp sensors, 16mp is still very much relevant considering how many cameras on the market use a variant of the basic Sony 16mp chip. Third-party support has improved over the past year, but it's still somewhat problematic using a X-series as a second camera if your primary camera is from another manufacturer, as the post-processing workflow to extract the best quality from the X-Trans sensor will be different.

The body only price is $699, USD, add the new XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS kit lens and the price is $799. By comparison, a Nikon D5200 kit is $799 and a Canon T4i kit is $899, as is the Sony NEX-6 kit; so in other words the new Fuji is very competitively priced. Even though a DSLR would have faster operation and more lens options, I think this is the sort of camera that most people would want when they are looking at the low end DSLR's.

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