28
Jun
2013

First Look: X-M1 with New Kit Zoom and Pancake Lens

by Rico Pfirstinger

Talk to Rico (open forum for questions & feedback)Rico’s Flickr sets – X-M1 sample images – Mastering the Fujifilm X-Pro1 reading samples (65 free pages)

Click here to read Andy Westlake’s excellent preview of the X-M1 on DPR – Click here to jump directly to my set of sample images taken with my pre-production camera and lenses

Edit [16/9/13]: Added additional findings to the “pro” section of this article.

Edit [1/8/13]: Added plenty of new samples, both JPEG and RAW (Lightroom & Silkypix) to the Flickr set. Updated Pro/Con comparison with X-E1.

Edit [30/6/13]: Added several SOOC JPEG portrait samples taken with the X-M1 and the two new lenses to the Flickr set.

Edit [29/6/13]: Added my experiences using an USB adapter to get RR-80 remote controls to work with the X-M1

Fujifilm’s new X-M1 mid-range system camera is targeting users and fans of premium compact cameras (like the Sony RX100 or Fujifilm X10, X20 and XF1) as well as users of entry-level DSLR cameras who do not want to compromise on image quality, but prefer a small, lightweight and still affordable package. It’s important to recognize that the X-M1 was at least as much inspired by the Fujifilm X20 and XF1 as was by its older and more expensive system camera sibling, the X-E1.

In other words: This is as much a smaller X-E1 as it is an APS-C sensor sized system camera version of the XF1 or X20. Believe it or not, but the X10/X20 is actually a little bit larger than the body of the X-M1.

A Little Bit of Everything

This turns the X-M1 into kind of a hybrid system: It features the mode dial, scene modes, additional AF modes (including face recognition and pattern tracking), an additional OIS mode and the “art filters” of Fuji’s premium compact and bridge cameras. At the same time, it records images with the same 16 MP APS-C X-Trans sensor found in the larger and more expensive X-Pro1 or X-E1.

In terms of image processing, the tiny X-M1 even surpasses its bigger siblings with the faster EXR Processor II engine already known from the X100S and X20, with conventional 12 Bit RAW image recording. This turns the X-M1 into a pretty responsive camera (at least in Fuji terms). A 95 MB/s SD card (such as a SanDisk Extreme Pro) certainly pays-off when used in concert with this camera. It takes the X-M1 just about 2 seconds to copy 3 FINE+RAW images from its internal buffer to the card. With its modest burst rate of 5.6 frames per second, this means that the camera can shoot 13 frames in a row at full speed, even though the buffer is just large enough to hold 10 FINE+RAW images at any given time.

Welcome to Plasticland!

Along with the new camera, Fujifilm introduced two new lenses: a small and affordable 16-50mm image stabilized kit zoom (XC16-50mmF3.5-5.6 OIS) and a really tiny 27mm pancake lens (XF27mmF2.8). While both new lenses are fully compatible with all current and future X-Mount cameras, it’s quite obvious that Fujifilm has specifically geared them towards the X-M1.

On the outside, the camera and the new kit zoom are made of plastic in order to preserve weight and to reduce manufacturing costs. Unlike previous X camera offerings, the X-M1 is “Made in Thailand”, while the two new lenses are “Made in China”. The new kit zoom and the 27mm pancake lens also feature plastic barrels, but the pancake lens offers a metal mount and metal focus ring. On the kit zoom, the mount as well as the zoom and focus rings are made from plastic, too.

This “material difference” is also mirrored by the XC vs. XF naming of the lenses: According to Fuji, the C stands for “Compact” or “Casual”, while the F is now supposed to stand for “Fine” or “Faith”, Nope, I’m not making this up. By the way, the M in X-M1 stands for “Mini” and “Mobility”.

DSCF0498Click on the image for a larger view and EXIF data

Don’t be fooled by the lightweight outer material: Inside both lenses, all elements are made of glass. The new kit zoom contains 12 elements in 10 groups with 3 aspherical elements and 1 ED element, and the pancake contains 7 elements in 5 groups with 1 aspherical element. While the new kit zoom comes with a hood that’s very similar to the one included with the more expensive and older XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS kit zoom lens, the pancake doesn’t even have a lens hood mount.

Fuji claims a hood isn’t really necessary due to the new HT-EBC (High-Transmittance EBC) Wide Band Coating technology that had its X series debut in the tiny (and also hoodless) XF1 compact camera. While Fuji’s traditional Super EBC Coating works with wavelengths between 400 and 700nm, the new Wide Band Coating works with a broader range of 380 to 780nm, and that (according to Fuji) helps further reduce lens flare. Without a lens hood, it may be advisable to protect the pancake lens with a neural 39mm protective screw-in filter (available from Fujifilm and third-party vendors).

Despite the use of lightweight materials and not offering an electronic viewfinder, the X-M1 (which is available in three different color schemes) feels sturdy and weighs only 20 grams less than the X-E1: Including battery (the same NP-W126 type as in the X-Pro1 and X-E1) and SD card, it clocks in at 330 vs. 350 grams.

To compensate for the missing EVF, the X-M1 offers a larger 3″ LCD with a native 3:2 aspect ratio and 920k dots—twice as many as the rear display of the X-E1. The display is tiltable, which is useful for overhead shots or pictures taken from the hip or close to ground-level.

Lord of No Rings

In order to minimize their size (and also to reduce manufacturing costs), the two new lenses do not offer integrated aperture rings. Instead, the aperture is set inside the camera using one of the X-M1′s two command dials, both of which can be conveniently operated with the thumb. This (plus the tiny size and little weight of the pancake lens) makes the combo suitable for one-handed operation.

In fact, the 27mm pancake is so small that there isn’t really any room to integrate a focus and an aperture ring in an ergonomically useful manner:

Depending on your location, the pancake is available independently and as a kit lens, and it certainly looks pretty on my “old” X-E1, too. Remember, this X-E1 combo is just 20 grams heavier than an X-M1 with the same pancake lens, but it offers a high-resolution electronic viewfinder. Decisions, decisions…

Using the new kit zoom and pancake lenses with an X-Pro1 or X-E1 (with current firmware) is quite easy: Just like in the X-M1, the aperture is set with the camera’s command dial. The optical hybrid viewfinder of the X-Pro1 supports both lenses, too. However, you won’t be able to see a bright-frame between 16 and 18mm focal lengths. Instead, the X-Pro1 will display yellow arrows in the corners of its optical viewfinder.

Using conventional XF lenses with an aperture ring on the X-M1 is not a problem, either: In aperture priority and manual shooting modes, you can use either the ring on the lens or the camera’s command dial to set the aperture, with the setting on the lens always taking priority. Once the ring is set to “A”, the lens yields aperture control to the camera and its command dial.

Same, Same, But Different

There seems to be a lot of controversy regarding Fuji’s choice to add a mode dial, remove the shutter speed dial, and to replace the exposure compensation dial with a second multifunctional command dial. You won’t really miss the exposure compensation dial, though, as the similarly shaped upper command dial will perform this very function in shooting modes P, A and S.

Regarding the addition of a mode dial, there’s simply no alternative considering the fact that this a camera (albeit one with exceptional image quality) for a target audience who demands scene modes (SP = Scene Position) and automatic scene recognition (SR+). Make no mistake: These are the modes that the majority of buyers of this camera will mostly use, so it makes perfect sense to make them readily available on a mode dial instead of burying them in the shooting menu. Users who upgrade from a current Fujifilm premium compact camera will feel right at home, anyway. Look here:

XF1
X-M1
X20
X-M1

Less is More

It’s not uncommon for “consumer grade” cameras to offer more assistance tools and functions than their higher-priced “enthusiast grade” or “professional grade” counterparts, and Fujifilm is no exception to this rule. However, Fuji took the unusual route of starting out with the top-end model X-Pro1, followed by the enthusiast-orientated X-E1, and now the X-M1 as a miniaturized mid-range model.With this course of history, it’s not too difficult to imagine a very competitively priced entry-level APS-C system camera below the X-M1 as Fujifilm’s next step.

DSCF0502Click on the image for a larger view and EXIF data

In addition to several automatic and scene modes, the X-M1 also offers two additional autofocus modes that aren’t included in the X-E1 and X-Pro1: AF tracking and Face Recognition. For users of the XF1, X10, X20 or X-S1, these modes will be familiar: While Face Recognition is self-explanatory, AF tracking relies on pattern recognition to keep the focus frame trained on a certain subject (while it moves through the frame or while you move the camera to reframe a shot).

This AF tracking mode is not to be confused with predictive 3D object tracking, which requires a phase-detection autofocus (PDAF) system. While predictive PDAF is continuously adjusting the actual focus to a moving subject, Fuji’s AF tracking is simply following a subject with its AF frame—without actually focussing on it until you press the shutter button halfway through. Once you half-press the shutter button, focus is acquired once and tracking stops. AF tracking is just another variant of the good old AF-S single-shot mode, with the added convenience that you do not have to manually select and move an AF frame over your subject. The camera will take care of that for you.

Auto-ISO, OIS Modes & Focus Peaking

The X-M1 features the same convenient Auto-ISO implementation as in the X20 and X100S, meaning you can set upper and lower ISO limits and a minimum shutter speed. Yay! Like the X100S, the camera also offers a WYSIWYG preview in manual mode: Once you half-press the shutter, the LCD screen shows a preview image whose brightness reflects the actual aperture and shutter speed settings. Although these features have been high on the wish lists of users of the X-Pro1 and X-E1, it doesn’t look like Fuji will include them in July’s upcoming version 3.00/2.00 firmware upgrade for these cameras.

DSCF0506Click on the image for a larger view and EXIF data

The X-M1 also offers an additional shutter speed adjustment option in conjunction with lenses that have built-in optical image stabilizers: With the OIS Motion option enabled (either CONTINUOUS+MOTION or SHOOTING+MOTION), the X-M1 will automatically detect moving subjects and increase the shutter speed accordingly by 1 or 2 stops, as long as Auto-ISO is active and the camera is operating in shooting mode A or in one of the fully automatic modes. Once again, none of this is news for users of established Fujifilm compact cameras.

One of the X-M1′s most pleasing qualities is its speed and responsiveness to user input. For example, users of the X-E1 and X-Pro1 can’t turn on the manual focus magnifier tool as long as the camera is writing image data to the SD card. The X-M1 not only writes files faster, it also allows to engage the magnifier tool while it’s still writing data to the card. That said, the X-M1 offers only one magnification level (in the 5x range), not the choice of either a 3x or 10x magnification found in the X-Pro1 and X-E1. On the bright side, the X-M1 already features the focus peaking options of the X20 and X100S that Fuji will also bring to the X-Pro1 and X-E1 in July’s major firmware update.

I Miss You!

Sadly, there are several more omissions: For example, the X-M1 lacks Fujifilm’s trademark Motion Panorama mode, and—quite inexcusably—doesn’t offer an electronic level gauge. Wait, there’s more: The camera has no input for external microphones (and hence also no input for a Canon-compatible remote shutter release) and no mechanical cable release thread. The only way to remotely control the camera is through the USB port with a so-called RR-90 unit. Unfortunately, RR-90 is not immediately compatible with Fujifilm’s long-established RR-80 standard, as it uses a Micro-USB B connector instead of the Mini-USB connector of previous camera models with RR-80 sockets.

I ordered a Mini-to-Micro-USB adapter on order to find out whether RR-80 compatibility can be regained this way. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it to work with my original Fujifilm RR-80 remote release, even though the USB adapter enabled me to establish a normal connection between the camera and my Mac. This means that until Fuji or a third party offers a specific RR-80 to RR-90 adapter, remote shutter control of the X-M1 is limited to Fujifilm’s original (and as of now not yet available) RR-90 electronic shutter release cable.

DSCF0509Click on the image for a larger view and EXIF data

There’s no USB cable included with the camera, so you’ll have to get (buy) one yourself or use either a SD card reader or the built-in Wifi function to transfer images from the camera to your computer, tablet (iPad) or smartphone.

The X-M1 also lacks an AE-L/AF-L button. Instead, this function can be assigned to the camera’s single (and hence besieged) Fn button. With the omission of the AE-L/AF-L button, there’s also no Instant Focus (One-Touch AF) button available in manual focus (MF) mode. Again, One-Touch AF can also be assigned to the single Fn button, but all this is not very convenient, because One-Touch AF and AE-L/AF-L (even though they are mutually exclusive in MF and AF modes) are actually treated as two different Fn button assignments. The XF1 is handling the issue in a smarter way: While it also lacks an AE-L/AF-L button, it simply uses the Macro button for Instant Focus in MF mode. This is smart because the Macro button has no use in MF mode, anyway. But not the X-M1: For whatever reason, that camera still allows you to switch to Macro mode in manual focus instead of simply recruiting the Macro button for One-Touch AF.

DSCF0510Click on the image for a larger view and EXIF data

To add insult to injury, the X-M1 offers a dedicated video recording button that can not be reassigned as a second Fn button. Sure, video aficionados will appreciate this dedicated button and the improved choice of focussing options that is now available in video mode: manual focus (during recording), automatic central field focussing (right before the recording starts) and continuous AF during recording. On the other hand, the maximum continuous recording time is only half of what the X-Pro1 and X-E1 can offer: a meager 14 minutes in full HD.

No Customs

Unlike the X10, X20, XF1 and X-S1, the X-M1 only features one (1) user defined custom mode. There’s also a deliberate waste of valuable real estate on the mode dial with 3 dedicated, hard-wired scene modes that could just as well be included in the SP menu (along with all the other scene modes). So instead of offering 4 invaluable custom modes that could have found a useful home on the camera’s new mode dial, the X-M1 offers only a single one.

It’s important to note that this custom mode is once again a replica of the X10, X20, XF1 and X-S1 and hence different from the custom settings offered by the X-E1, X-Pro1, X100 and X100S. The X-M1′s custom mode stores not just ISO, dynamic range, white balance and JPEG settings, but the entire camera settings, including AF mode, exposure compensation settings, aperture and shutter speed settings, shooting mode, image size/quality/format, drive mode, exposure measurement (photometry) mode, display settings, flash mode/compensation and more.

Speaking of flash, the X-M1 includes Fuji’s trademark Super Intelligent Flash which promises exceptional automatic balance between artificial flash and natural background light. The built-in flash is very similar to the one found in the X-E1, with a guide number of 7 (meters) at base ISO 200. The camera’s hot shoe accepts the usual external flash units from Fujifilm (TTL flash) and third-party vendors (manual flash only). Sadly, it doesn’t accept an optional external electronic viewfinder.

Bizarrely, it is not possible to manually select the official maximum flash synchronization shutter speed of 1/180s in shutter priority or manual mode. One has to settle with either 1/160s or 1/200s.

Film’s Out!

Another unfortunate omission is the lack of “Pro Neg.” film simulations and filtered black&white film modes. The X-M1 only offers Provia, Astia, Velvia, Monochrome and Sepia.

Like the X100S (and unlike the X-Pro1 and X-E1), the X-M1′s double exposure feature doesn’t store RAW files of the final results, and in playback mode, information pages showing additional shooting parameters, EXIF data and the focus point position are no longer available.

There’s also no mechanical focus mode switch. Instead, the focus mode selection is now part of a slightly redesigned Quick Menu that strongly resembles that of the X20 and also offers OIS mode selection. The latter is important as the new 16-50mm kit zoom lens doesn’t feature a dedicated OIS on/off switch.

DSCF0537Click on the image for a larger view and EXIF data

Fuji removed the Kelvin option from the white balance menu (in shooting mode and in the internal RAW converter). Custom white balance is still available, though, and contrary to what is stated in the owner’s manual, is also appears to be working in flash mode. Similar to the X20, there’s no more AdobeRGB color space available, so the JPEG engine always operates in the sRGB color space.

That said, as long as you can live without an electronic viewfinder, shooting with the X-M1 is a joy. It’s fast, it’s small, and the results look just as good as pictures taken with the X-Pro1 or X-E1.

Sample Me!

I have already uploaded 30 sample images to this Flickr set. These images are JPEGs straight out of the camera with no further processing. Please note that I was using the same pre-production camera with pre-production lenses that this article is based on, meaning it’s too early for pixel peeping. We’ll have to wait for production units with the final firmware. I will add more sample images in the coming days and weeks, so come back and check-in between now and then.

Baby Lenses vs. Lens Babies

Fujifilm promises a gain of 3 stops when using the OIS of the new kit zoom lens. In my experience, this is pretty realistic: On my X-M1, I could shoot crisp images with 1/6s at 50mm (that’s a 75mm full-frame equivalent) and with 0.65s (yep, 2/3 of a second) at 16mm (24mm full-frame equivalent). Remember, that’s without properly holding the camera to my eye due to the lack of a viewfinder.

In order to assess the amount of digital distortion correction that is applied with both lenses, I shot some samples with a X-E1 and processed the RAW files in Capture One Pro 7.1.3, as this RAW converter offers full control over the application of in-file lens correction metadata.

DSCF0521Click on the image for a larger view and EXIF data

The 16-50mm kit zoom starts with significant barrel distortion at the short 16mm end that will gradually improve until no digital distortion correction at all is applied at the long 50mm end. In contrast, the more expensive 18-55mm kit zoom starts with less pronounced barrel distortion at the short end, which changes into pincushion distortion at the long end of the zoom range.

For a pancake of its size, the XF27mmF2.8 needs surprisingly little digital barrel distortion correction. It pretty much only affects the edges and is less pronounced than with the XF18mmF2 R.

Both lenses aready include the improved autofocus algorithm that Fujifilm plans to extend to its legacy XF lenses on July 23rd. To me, AF feels snappy, enough so that I don’t have to think about it, which I guess is a good thing. It just works for me. Let’s see how snappy Fuji’s legacy lenses become after the already announced July firmware upgrade.

DSCF0531Click on the image for a larger view and EXIF data

The AF step motor in the 16-50mm kit zoom has to move only a single focus element, and it operates almost as quietly as the linear motor of the more expensive 18-55mm zoom. The 17mm pancake features a stronger and a little bit louder DC motor, as it has to move 5 elements.

Connect!

The X-M1 is the first X series camera to offer Wifi. However, the functionality is rather rudimentary, bringing the wireless options of Fuji’s lower-end FinePix cameras to the X series. With Wifi, the camera basically does two things:

  • In playback mode, it allows the transfer of JPEGs from the camera to an Android or iOS device (smartphone, tablet), or of JPEGs and RAWs to a Mac or PC.
  • In shooting mode, it’s possible to copy current GPS location data from a smartphone or tablet to the camera. The camera will then write this location information into the EXIF metadata of  newly taken shots for a maximum of 3 hours (or until you update the location data by reconnecting with your portable device).

Pretty basic stuff, indeed. Click here for a convenient rundown of these functions on dpreview that illustrate what they do and how they work. Personally, I am perplexed by what they do not offer:

  • no real-time transfer of the live-view display to a portable device (smartphone or tablet)
  • no remote-control capability of the camera, not even a basic wireless remote shutter release
  • no automatic transfer of newly taken images to a remote wireless device

In my opinion, this is a great opportunity lost. Fujifilm should up their game in this regard and update the wireless firmware and software to provide the features many actual photographers are looking for.

X-M1 vs. X-E1

While I understand that the X-M1 is geared towards less sophisticated users who are looking for an attractive and capable upgrade/sidegrade from a compact camera or DSLR, it’s clear from reading forums and comments that many advanced users are thinking about purchasing either an X-E1 or X-M1. After all, the difference in weight is only 20 grams. Other users are thinking about getting an X-M1 as an addition to their already existing X-Pro1 or X-E1.

Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons of the X-M1 vs. the X-E1:

X-M1 pros (compared to X-E1)

  • less expensive
  • smaller size and 20 grams lighter than the X-E1, one-handed operation with small and lightweight pancake lens
  • high-resolution (920k) 3″ display with native 3:2 aspect ratio and outdoor mode (X-E1: 420k 2.8″ 4:3 display)
  • LCD display is tiltable for overhead shots or shots taken from the hip
  • faster operation and data transfer, new EXR Processor II JPEG engine
  • MF magnifier tool is available while the camera is writing data to the card
  • WYSIWYG exposure live-preview in manual mode (and PAS modes) when half-pressing the shutter button
  • state-of-the-art Auto-ISO function: user can set upper and lower limits and a minimum shutter speed
  • camera remembers odd shutter speeds (like 1/80s) settings in S and M modes after switching to playback mode
  • additional OIS Motion mode recognizes movement (of the subject or the camera) and increases the shutter speed accordingly within the set Auto-ISO limits
  • additional AF modes for Face Recognition and AF frame tracking (pattern recognition)
  • automatic scene recognition mode (SR+) and a choice of several scene modes (SP) make the camera useful to users with no or little shooting experience
  • JPEG-only art filters (Low Key, High Key, Dynamic Tone, Soft Focus, Pop Color, Toy Camera, Miniature, Partial Color), as known from several FinePix cameras and the XF1, X20 and X100S
  • dedicated movie recording button and more useful AF options in movie mode
  • internal flash output compensation of ± 2 EV in 1/3 EV steps (vs. ± 2/3 EV in the X-E1)
  • DR Auto mode is now also available in manual exposure mode (M)
  • user-defined custom mode stores pretty much all camera settings (not just ISO, DR, white balance and JPEG settings)
  • built-in Wifi capability with file transfer and geotagging (X-E1 offers basic Wifi through third-party Eye-fi cards)

X-M1 cons (compared to X-E1)

  • no electronic viewfinder (EVF), not even as an optional accessory
  • no mechanical cable release
  • new RR-90 electronic shutter release is not compatible with existing RR-80 gear (a third-party adapter may help, though).
  • no external microphone input (and hence no Canon-compatible remote shutter control via this port, no Triggertrap etc.)
  • no AE-L/AF-L button and subpar Instant AF implementation (though each function can be assigned to the single Fn button)
  • only one Fn button (X-E1 and X-Pro1 have two)
  • only one custom user mode (X-E1: 7 user settings, but only for ISO, dynamic range, white balance and JPEG parameters)
  • maximum movie recording time is reduced by 50%
  • no aperture (pre-)selection in movie mode
  • no electronic level indicator
  • no motion panorama mode
  • reduced number of film simulations (no Pro Neg. films, no filtered monochrome options)
  • only one MF magnification level (X-E1 and X-Pro1 offer two levels)
  • no white-balance Kelvin option in shooting mode and in the built-in RAW converter
  • no AdobeRGB JPEG output
  • double exposure function does not save RAW files of the results
  • no additional photo information detail display in playback mode
  • unexpected behavior during the manual AF frame selection process when crossing vertical and horizontal image borders using the selector keys
  • USB cable is not included

Key differences (neither a clear pro or con) between X-M1 and X-E1

  • “plastic” vs. “metal” build
  • mode dial replacing the shutter speed dial
  • additional command dial replacing the exposure compensation dial (however, the dial retains the same functionality, hence making no practical difference)
  • no focus mode switch (but all focus modes can be accessed via the Quick Menu)
  • file names of images taken in burst mode use the same naming scheme as single shot images

It’s important to note that any omission of a dedicated mechanical switch/button for a specific setting (which may be perceived as a con) also means that this setting can now be stored in the X-M1′s user defined custom mode (which is certainly a pro).

As you can see, the pro and con lists are of roughly equal size and rather balanced. As usual, the devil’s in the details, so it pays off to have a closer look.

Conclusion

Many people seem to think of the X-M1 as an X-E1 without an EVF. It’s not. Looking at the list of features and omissions, it quickly turns out that the X-M1 is a different camera geared at a different core audience. “Different” doesn’t mean “better” or “worse”. It simply means that while both cameras offer the same outstanding image quality, there are several operational and feature differences that should be considered before deciding for one or the other.

In the right hands, both cameras are equally capable, usable and photographer-friendly. They are just targeting different kinds of photographers. The X-M1 is Fujifilm’s attempt to bring the X system to a broader audience, with a modern interface and standard mode dial, twin electronic control dials and no eye level viewfinder. For its tiny size (and affordable kit pricing), it offers a plethora of features and options that other manufactures wouldn’t dream of including in such a small camera.

That said, there is room for improvement. Luckily, many omissions can (and probably will) be fixed with firmware updates. For example, it shouldn’t be a problem to include a shutter speed of 1/180s when using the flash, to turn the recording button into a second Fn button, or to use the Macro button for One-Touch AF in manual focus mode.

Most importantly, the X-M1 is fun to use, and with it’s spectacular JPEG engine, even less sophisticated users will immediately get great results straight out of the camera—no post-processing necessary.

X-M1 BODY ONLY – USA: AmazonUS (silver-black) / BHphoto (silver-black) / Adorama (silver-black) / DigitalRev / Pictureline (silver-black-brown) EUROPE: DigitalRev / WexUK (silver-black) / PCHstore (silver-black)

X-M1 + XC 16-50mm – USA: AmazonUS (silver-black) / BHphoto (silver-black) / Adorama (silver-black) / DigitalRev / Pictureline (silver-black-brown) EUROPE: AmazonUK (silver-black) / DigitalRev / WexUK (silver-black) / PCHstore (silver-black)

XF 27mm – USA: AmazonUS / BHphoto (silver-black) / Adorama (silver-black) / DigitalRev / Pictureline EUROPE: DigitalRev / WexUK / PCHstoreXC 16-50: WexUK / PCHstore

For your convenience, here’s a TOC with links to my previous X-PERT CORNER articles:

Rico Pfirstinger studied communications and has been working as journalist, publicist, and photographer since the mid-80s. He has written a number of books on topics as diverse as Adobe PageMaker and sled dogs, and produced a beautiful book of photographs titled Huskies in Action (German version). He has spent time working as the head of a department with the German Burda-Publishing Company and served as chief editor for a winter sports website. After eight years as a freelance film critic and entertainment writer in Los Angeles, Rico now lives in Germany and devotes his time to digital photography and compact camera systems. His book “Mastering the FUJIFILM X-Pro1” (Kindle Edition) (Apple iBook Store) (German version) is available on Amazon and offers a plethora of tips, secrets and background information on successfully using Fuji’s X-Pro1 and X-E1 system cameras, lenses and key accessories.

  • jg

    I realize this camera is targeted at a different market than the X-E1/X-Pro1 crowd. But the X-M1is part of the same system and uses the same lenses. Obviously, Fujifilm would love to retain X-M1 buyers and have them move up the food chain to the pricier models as time goes by. Perhaps, Fuji even hopes that X-E1/X-Pro1 buyers will pick up a X-M1 as a second or backup body. This makes Fuji’s design decisions perplexing.

    The control interface for the X-M1 is completely different from the X-E1/X-Pro1. And all system users are faced with three types of aperture controls on the XF lenses: Marked Ap ring with A setting on ring, unmarked Ap ring with separate A switch, and now, no Ap ring at all with the aperture controlled by the command dial.

    The X-E1/X-Pro1 with the original prime lenses was near ergonomic perfection. Since then, every successive product roll out in the system seems to be taking the system downward to ergonomic hell.

    • mgw

      Obviously it’s a good thing for Fuji to broaden the appeal of the X system, so a camera like this makes perfect sense. When you consider that the vast majority of other digital cameras have similar interfaces to the X-M1, it makes me wonder if Fuji is planning on producing a higher-end camera in this style. There are tons of enthusiasts and professionals that are happy using the PASM approach rather than the “old style” of the X-E1/X-Pro1. Perhaps the update to the X-E1 will actually be a bigger/better/faster version of the X-M1 with EVF. Thus leaving the X-Pro line for the old school enthusiasts/pros.

    • http://www.fujixspot.com/f34/ Rico Pfirstinger

      It can’t be ergonomic hell for the core audience, because all entry-level and mid-range cameras targeted at this group are pretty much designed this way—because the users expect it that way. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it, there’s the X-E1 and X-Pro1 for you (and their successors).

      Since they are quite similar, you’ll also not like the X10, the X20, the XF1 and the X-S1. I happen to like and use all of those cameras for different applications, and can’t say that I live in ergonomic hell. You are either flexible or you are not, you either can live with a concept or you can’t. It’s really that simple. In the end, the market will decide, and IMHO, it’s smart to manufacture different products for different parts of the market instead of making more of the same for the very same tiny niche (and to compete with my own products instead of those from the competition).

      I know plenty of people who’d love to have a retro-styled camera with the IQ of the X-Pro1, but they don’t want to pay $$$ and they don’t know much about photography. They don’t go to photo forums or blogs, they simply expect the camera(!) to take very nice pictures. They will be able to pick the sports mode at a game, the portrait mode when shooting their wife or the beach mode when, well, they are at the beach. Those folks don’t do external RAW conversion or much post-processing.

      Until now, those folks bought entry-level DSLRs or mid-range MFT/NEX system cameras. They certainly didn’t buy an X-Pro1 or X-E1. The X-M1 is perfect for those people. I am already considering getting one for my dad who’s currently using an X10. Funny thing is, my dad knows about (analog) photography, aperture, shutter speed, ISO and the likes, but at 75, he also wants convenience. I told him not to upgrade to the X20 (because I consider it a camera for RAW shooters), but with the X-M1, it is a different story. And no, he certainly doesn’t think that he’s living in an ergonomic hell.

      • jg

        I have an X-E1 with the 14mm and 18-55mm zoom. I was looking forward to getting the 27mm. To switch out of aperture priority (or full auto) on the 14mm, I turn the aperture ring to A. To perform the same action on the 18-55mm, I have to fumble for a switch. Now with the new 27mm neither of those two actions work and I have to learn a third method. So now I have to learn three methods to perform one function depending upon which lens is on my X-E1. That, to me, is poor ergonomics and well on the way to ergonomic hell.

        • http://www.fujixspot.com/f34/ Rico Pfirstinger

          My personal (little) disappointment is that when set to A, I can’t control the aperture of XF R lenses with the command dial on my X-Pro1 and X-E1. Maybe Fuji will add this feature in the future, but I somehow doubt it.

          • jg

            My two most important reasons for buying into the X system were the light weight and the old-school Luddite control interface, with a shutter speed dial on top and an aperture ring on the lens like God and Oskar Barnack intended. I never liked the command dials system on my Nikon DSLRs, and I was very happy to be rid of them with the X-E1. Different strokes, I guess.

            Love your X-Pro1 book by the way and I look forward to the X-E1 version after the big firmware update.

        • ph

          I fully agree with jg on this matter. Consistency (in operation) is about the first thing I have in mind when I think of a camera system. Sadly the Fujifilm XF-mount system loses consistency more and more.

    • Jiri Folta, Czech Republic

      I agree. And I must say one thing – I was taken by the quality of Fuji’s cameras and lenses. It was major reason why I sold my Nikon D7000 and all plastic Nikon lenses made in China, Thailand and so on…I was happy with quality feeling of Fuji!
      And now? Two new Fuji lenses are MADE IN CHINA. Terrible, terrible…dissapointing.
      An idea of photographic company that is going to bring quality materials and some quality ethos back is gone. And not only XC lenses but also XF lens made in China. That is really dissapointing me and it makes me thinking if it was really good idea to change whole photographic system.

      Reading that X-Pro2 or X-E2 are made in China would make me sell it all. I don’t want to buy in China made plastic “lenses” and cameras one day. I want “MADE IN JAPAN” metal quality.
      If someone from Fuji reads this, please, do something with that cheat on customers! Buying Fuji was not only buying of photographic tool, it was also investment in the future! It was some kind of promise many photographers had accepted.

  • Richard Pain

    Thanks Rico for an excellent review. I was interested in your explanation of the lens categories C and F.

    Do you think that Fuji will follow through with more C lens? Also, have you any further information to offer to those who are anxious that future F lenses will have a physical aperture ring?

    Richard Pain

    • http://www.fujixspot.com/f34/ Rico Pfirstinger

      I expect at least more XC zoom to complement the offerings of other manufacturers. According to Fuji, there are no plans of changing the XF lens roadmap that was updated as recently as April 2013.

  • david blanchard

    How’s the focus speed on the pancake lense compared to the 35 and 18. I’m really interested in the pancake lense to go with my 35 and zoom

    • http://www.fujixspot.com/f34/ Rico Pfirstinger

      It’s faster, but as I already wrote, that is at least partly due to the new AF firmware. We need to wait till end of July to make useful comparisons.

  • john

    if i hadnt buy xe1, i would certainly go for xm1. why? 1) higher resolution tiltable screen, 2) faster data tansfer, 3) WYSIWYG live-preview in manual mode, 4) Low Key, High Key, Dynamic Tone art filters. 5) Face Dectection. My prayer is all the benefits which are presently available in XM1 will eventually trickled down to XE1 and Xpro1 by firmware updates. Fuji, hope u guys are listening. Don’t forget the early adapters users. Personally, i think X series camera has improved so much from all those feedback, that eventually give the birth of XM1. Furthermore, it is priced competitively.

    • http://www.fujixspot.com/f34/ Rico Pfirstinger

      I certainly expect these features (and more) to be included in future cameras that will replace the X-E1 and X-Pro1. Fuji didn’t announce any of these features for their upcoming major 3.00/2.00 firmware update, so that would be a big (but welcome) surprise.

  • JerryR

    Very thorough review and analysis. Thanks!

  • Hanseberhardt

    Rica you are a great guru, I always look out for your articles. Of course I bought your excellent book, having bought the X E-1.

    However, I am very disappointed that this article doesn’t review the 27mm pancake lens fully.

    • http://www.fujixspot.com/f34/ Rico Pfirstinger

      That’s why it’s called First Look. ;) I don’t do technical reviews, anyway, but even if I did, there’s no way how anybody could do a full technical review with a pre-production lens.

      As for the pancake, there’s not much to say that hasn’t already been discussed: it’s small, it’s lightweight, it has no aperture ring, it works great on all current X series bodies, it’s fast (new AF firmware) and as for the IQ of the pre-production lens, well, that’s why I posted 15 samples with all kinds of subject distances and apertures. I even checked for digital distortion correction and compared that to the 18mm prime. The pancake is a simple lens, no OIS, no aperture ring and no switches.

  • Dima

    Wow! Great X-M1 presentation and analyse of comarison with X-E1!
    Thanks Rico :-)

    PS
    Sad that not 16-60 (or 16-70 f3.5-5.6) and not 27 F2 for that price (and could be a bit bigger size) :-(

  • http://www.admiringlight.com Jordan S.

    The MTFs for the 16-50 look as good or better than the 18-55. Given the wider end, the 16-50 interests me a fair bit, though I don’t have plans to get the X-M1. Does anyone know what the estimated US price will be for the 16-50 outside of the kit? There’s been speculation based on the rumored price in Yen, but I haven’t seen a US price.

    • peter

      Why not buy X-M1+16-50 kit and sell the body? It will be definitely cheaper than 16-50 on its own.

  • Ed

    I wonder what does it exactly mean its plastic concerning the body?
    Does the silver topp parts not feel as cold and solid as at the e1?
    And the leather (imitation?) on both? Isn’ t it different?
    how could the m have only 20g less when the whole body is so much cheaper built?

  • peter

    Rico, can you share some raw files made with 27mm pancake? I’m interested to see how much distortion is there.

    • http://www.fujixspot.com/f34/ Rico Pfirstinger

      I may shoot some X-E1 RAW files with it next week.

      • peter

        Thanks a lot! Will be waiting for it. May you’ll also feel like writing an extended overview of 27mm… :)

  • Jim

    Absolutely excellent review! Always love to read your articles, because your in-depth without going into too complicated technical talk. Do you have direct communications with fuji? It just seems to me fuji should invite/hire you to be spokesperson/advisor for the current and new generation x-series. Zack Arias is great too, but is too “american” at times praising the X series like its the solution to world hunger. I really appreciate your down to earth and real world views of the X-series. I’m considering buying your book, but are you writing a book for the x-e1/x100s? Is it worth it for x-e1 users?

    • http://www.fujixspot.com/f34/ Rico Pfirstinger

      LOL! Well, praising a camera as the solution to world hunger gets you attention, readers, links and hits, so I’m not sure quite sure which approach is better if your business model depends on routing traffic to your site. ;)

      As for the book, yes, it’s 95% “X-E1 compatible”, so get if you want this kind of content.

      And as for being a spokesperson: not way, a spokesperson is the opposite of giving independent advice. A spokesperson can’t write reviews with a “cons” section, there only can be “pros”. Boring.

      That said, I do have input, and there’s a fair chance that one or two ideas of mine have helped inspire feature upgrades. Who knows? It’s not important as long as the products we use are improved. So rest assured, Fuji will receive a comprehensive list of suggestions to improve the X-M1 and its successors.

    • Tv

      I have the xe-1 and Rico’s xpro1 book and I find the book very helpful. I would recommend it to xe-1 users.

  • Dude

    Very nice review Rico! It’s easy to read and is interesting.
    I have one question that I can’t get an answer anywhere yet: how is 16-50 zoom compared to 18-55 in terms of IQ – mainly sharpness? I know it’s slower and has no aperture ring and made of plastic, but what about glass inside – is it the same IQ as good old 18-55? For me that alone would be a decision to buy or not to buy X-M1.
    Thank you.

    • Ryan

      Im curious about this as well!

      • Dude

        Well, I guess silence from Rico means for me that new zoom can’t match good old 18-55. Sadly I will have to consider another lens and maybe another body.

        • http://www.fujixspot.com/f34/ Rico Pfirstinger

          I have no idea if it matches or doesn’t match another lens. You be the judge of this, that’s why I provide sample images. Of course, in order to really find out, one would need a production copy of the new lens (which doesn’t exist till end of July) and would have to make a technical comparison or at least a practical shootout at several focal lengths, apertures and object distances. I have just spent 5 days of my life doing just that with the Touit vs. Fujinon article, where I was using production lenses.

  • Vladislav

    Is the X-M1 body really plastic? Just about half of various previews and first looks clearly say that it is magnesium alloy. This appears to be confirmed by only 20 grams difference between X-E1 and smaller X-M1. Strangely, no Fujifilm materials say anything about the X-M1 body materials, one way or the other.

    • http://www.fujixspot.com/f34/ Rico Pfirstinger

      The exterior is mainly plastic to reduce weight and, according to Fuji, improve Wifi signal transmission. The 2 main dials on top contain metal. Inside, on the back and under the hood, there’s aluminum die-cast.

  • jonsmith

    Those images look very good, for a 700$ approx camera i think it’s a winner.
    Fuji has provided options for those who require evf/ovf and or flip screen, i think the idea for current xe-1/pro-1 owners to purchase this as a backup camera to provide more versatility makes sense.

    As for the aperture dilemma, hardly a gigantic new learning curve is it, if one can’t adapt to that when needed, then perhaps it indicates unwillingness rather than inconvenience.

    It is very well styled and well appointed too with lcd and other features, seems like fuji listens.

  • Stan

    Thanks for the excellent thorough review as usual. One comment you made caught my eye…
    “…use the Macro button for One-Touch AF in manual focus mode.” As an XE-1 user I would like to do this because the Macro button is more conveniently placed than the AF-L button but there is no reference in the manual as to how to make this work. Is this really possible?

    • franx

      I think Rico’s suggestion to use macro button as one-touch Af is just because X-M1 has not the AF-L button, I think that on X-E1 you can only use AF-L

  • Max

    Great Review, Rico! Cant wait to see the M1 at Amazon.de and will definitively buy one once available. Do you know if it is possible to charge the M1 via USB – like the NEX5? This would make the camara extremely M(obile).

    • http://www.fujixspot.com/f34/ Rico Pfirstinger

      Sadly, no USB charging.
      Or maybe luckily, because with USB charging, Fuji would include an USB cable and stop including an external charger.

  • Jim

    Rico,

    Does the XM1 have built in distortion correction?

    • http://www.fujixspot.com/f34/ Rico Pfirstinger

      Of course, every camera I know from Fujifilm corrects distortion and vignetting (if necessary).

  • Jazz1

    Having recently purchased a Fuji X20 I could see myself purchasing this for the larger sensor. I swore to myself I’d never need to carry around lenses again, but as good as the X20 is this new one is calling me.

    Thank you for defining what this new camera is and isn’t, and who it should appeal to. Oh, I like the shadow in the picture!

    • http://www.fujixspot.com/f34/ Rico Pfirstinger

      You don’t have to carry around lenses. Most users of “target group” only buy a DSLR with one kit lens and never ever change it. I am pretty sure that many X-M1 users will buy the kit with the zoom and be done.

      It’s partly psychological: People buy into entry-level DSLRs and comparable mirrorless systems in order to have the option to later add more lenses to the initial kit. However, most of them never exercise this option. It makes them fell better about their investment that they could have added other lenses anytime. :)

  • http://www.fujixspot.com/f34/ Rico Pfirstinger

    I have added several portrait samples (SOOC JPEGs) to the Flickr set.

  • sac

    What’s the performance of the 16-50 like? If it lives up to the Fuji name intead of being just another kit zoom, I’ll order the X-M1 kit. It’s potentially a much superior kit than the Olympus E-PL5 or even the E-P5.

    • Dude

      It lacks OSPDAF and Viewfinder – 2 things you can’t fix with firmware update.
      My ideal camera that is yet to be made: X-E1 with tiltable LCD and OSPDAF – I will buy it ASAP.

  • Sulis

    I understand the frustration with only one Function butto for AF lock, and also needing a fast AF button in Manual Focus mode – but couldn’t you set the user-defined mode (on the mode dial) to Manual Focus, using the function button for fast AF, while in all the other modes it works as the AF lock?

    That way you wouldn’t have to muck around with the Q menu to go to MF – just twist the mode dial.

    • http://www.fujixspot.com/f34/ Rico Pfirstinger

      Indeed, but believe it or not: The Fn assignment is pretty much the one thing that isn’t remembered/changed in the Custom Mode. It’s global!

      • Sulis

        Oh, rats. Looks like a 6-month wait for a SW update to enable some of the other buttons as function ones (Movie button, I’m looking at you)…

  • Виктор

    Рико, Вы не сказали какой цветовой профиль можно задавать в камере sRGB или ADOBERGB
    режим съемки панорамы тоже отсутствует? Какой объектив показал себя самым резким?
    Спасибо.

  • http://www.fauland-photography.com fa-berlin

    Is there a way to switch off the display totally while keeping the camera on ? hat would save a lot of battery power while “hunting for cool images” and having the camera ready to shoot ?

    Thanks, for letting me know ….

  • changman lee

    X-m1 body is bad. bad. very bad. It is made in chinalike low grade plastic badoy. 750 dollar? No please give me metal body such as aluminum or magnesium body. Welcome to plastic land? Good quality? No just lower grade, bad quality plastic! Just remember! Bad quality plastic body!!!

  • John Rausch

    But there is an “Instant Focus” setting and it is less confusing to set than the E2. Just assign it to the function button and put the camera in manual focus.