17
Sep
2013

Using the Fujifilm X-A1 [& X-M1]

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PRE-ORDERS

X-A1 with XC 16-50 ($599): AmazonUS blackblue /BHphoto blackblue / Adorama blackblue / Pictureline blackblue

XC 50-230 ($399): AmazonUS blacksilver / BHphoto blacksilver / Adorama blacksilver

Fuji X-M1: Amazon, Adorama, DigitalRev, J&R, B&H, eBay

by Rico Pfirstinger

Talk to Rico (open forum for questions & feedback)Rico’s Flickr sets – X-A1 sample images set – Mastering the Fujifilm X-Pro1 reading samples (65 free pages) – Pre-order the new book: Mastering the Fujifilm X-E1 and X-Pro1

Update [17/9/13]: Added several Lightroom 5.2 RAW samples to the image set.

It took a while, but Fujifilm finally decided to officially announce the X-A1, the long-planned sister model of the X-M1. Let’s cut right to the chase: There’s little difference between these cameras. They look very much the same, they offer the same buttons and controls, the same processor, the same operating speed/performance, the same features, the same menus, the same build, material and size, even the same 16 MP Sony sensor. Of course, there’s one minor but important difference to mention in the sensor department: The X-M1 features an X-Trans color filter array (CFA) without an anti-aliasing (AA) filter, while the X-A1 uses a conventional Bayer CFA with an AA filter (to reduce/eliminate unwanted moiré). You can have a look at the full specs by clicking here.

So what’s the deal? Well, the X-A1 is by quite a margin more affordable than the X-M1, and it comes with a different set of color options: red/silver, black, blue, black/silver and brown/silver. However, not all color options will be available in all markets. For example, customers here in Germany can only expect to be offered the X-A1 in black, blue and red/silver.

It has also been mentioned that the X-A1 will be distributed mostly online and through large outlets like Walmart or MediaMarkt instead of specialized camera stores. With the X-A1, Fuji is targeting price-sensitive value customers who are interested in upgrading to a compact camera with a larger DSLR-quality sensor. But that’s just the marketing. For many real-world uses, the differences in image quality between the X-A1 and X-M1 will be perfectly acceptable. If they weren’t, Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus and the rest wouldn’t be able to sell any Bayer cameras to anybody. Let’s be smart: X-Trans is great, and it certainly has its advantages, but it’s not a requirement for taking great-looking images.

So if you aren’t married to X-Trans, the X-A1 is a viable and quite attractive option with an interesting value proposition. It’s also an affordable way to expand your existing X-series investment with a compact second generation option. It’s small and lightweight, it features a tiltable high-resolution LCD, it’s faster and more advanced (regarding both hardware and firmware) than the X-E1 or X-Pro1, and its Bayer sensor is comparable to current offerings from Nikon (Nikon A) and Ricoh (Ricoh GR). Please note that the pros and cons I mentioned in my X-M1 First Look article also apply to the X-A1, so instead of repeating myself all over again, I’d rather move along with new material.

I have been using an X-A1 pre-production sample with early pre-production firmware in the past six weeks along with an X-M1, and I have since silently updated the aforementioned X-M1 First Look article with additional findings regarding the pros and cons against the X-E1. So if you haven’t done so very recently, please consider checking out this article again.

Since both cameras share a common feature set and the same capabilities, I want to fill this column sharing my experiences with the X-A1 and X-M1. I have also prepared an X-A1 sample set with 75 images, and I have expanded my X-M1 sample set to more than 160 pictures, including several external RAW conversions. Unfortunately, there was no external RAW support for the X-A1 available at the time of this writing, but I’m confident this will change soon.

Once external RAW support and production samples of both the X-M1 and X-A1 become equally available, I will revisit the topic with a “shootout” between these sibling cameras, so there will eventually be a third part to this story.

Ready, Set, Go!

Most of my sample images were taken with pre-production copies of the XC16-50mm kit zoom and the XF27mm pancake lens, as these compact offerings are the most likely lenses to be used in concert with the X-A1 (or X-M1 for that matter). With the cameras set to multi-metering, the X-A1 and X-M1 can master many light situations without turning the exposure compensation dial.

DSCF0325
SOOC JPEG (Astia) ISO 200

Even without engaging the camera’s DR expansion mode, dynamic range in JPEGs is pretty impressive and can be further enhanced by setting Shadow Tone and/or Highlight tone to -1 or even -2. I also like the improved color grading of the cameras’ second generation JPEG engine, especially since it adds more punch to the standard Provia film simulation mode. With the X-M1 and X-A1, I’m shooting most of my JPEGs in Provia, so the Astia sample shown above constitutes an exception. Here’s another DR100% SOOC JPEG, this time shot in Provia:

DSCF0338
SOOC JPEG (Provia) ISO 640

At ISO 640, the Bayer CFA exhibits a minimal amount of noise, but that’s perfectly acceptable for me, since it looks very much like analog film grain in my eyes. I generally set the Noise Reduction of both cameras to -1 as a default, because I like the enhanced detail of this JPEG setting.

Even at ISO 6400, noise isn’t a deal breaker, although both luminance and especially chroma noise are more pronounced in the X-A1 than in the X-M1. Have a look at this X-A1 SOOC Velvia sample, shot handheld at 1/9s using the optical image stabilizer (OIS) of the 16-50mm kit zoom lens:

DSCF1158
SOOC JPEG (Velvia) ISO 6400

The X-A1 and X-M1 are lacking the additional “Pro Neg.” color film simulations of the X-E1 and X-Pro1, and they also lack the color-filtered black-and-white modes. Instead, there’s only a generic monochrome mode. That said, it’s still possible to get attractive black-and-whites out of the X-A1 and X-M1:

DSCF1119
SOOC JPEG (b&w)

To enhance the look of my black-and-white JPEGs, I often increase the shadow and the highlight tone contrast in the camera to +1 or even +2 and take the noise reduction back to -2. I feel that grainy higher-ISO noise is mostly an improvement for these kind if images, giving them a more organic look.

DSCF1120
SOOC JPEG (b&w)

Don’t worry when your initial JPEG results from the camera don’t look perfectly exposed, or when the contrast settings seem too strong or flat. You can always use the built-in RAW converter of the X-A1 and X-M1 to push or pull a JPEG to your liking, change the contrast settings, the film simulation and many other parameters.

DSCF1140
SOOC JPEG (b&w)

Working in color, things can become a little trickier, especially indoors with mixed light. White balance can be an issue, as the X-A1 and X-M1 (unlike their older siblings X-E1 and X-Pro1) lack subtle Kelvin settings in their built-in RAW converters.

Of course, those of you using an external RAW converter like Lightroom will just laugh at this, but JPEG shooters should be aware of this potential limitation. As a JPEG shooter, you are limited to white balance presets such as Fine, Shade, Fluorescent or Incandescent. However, you can manually set the proper white balance (WB) in advance by pointing the camera at a white or neutral gray wall/object before you start shooting a scene.

DSCF1167
SOOC JPEG with a slight WB post correction in Apple Aperture

On the other hand, most users of the X-A1 will probably just stick to Auto-WB, so that is what I used shooting my samples. Even under tricky mixed light, the camera often got it right, but when it failed, I either redeveloped the JPEG in-camera with a different WB preset or I adjusted the resulting JPEG in Apple Aperture. Or both. Even though correcting the white balance of compressed 8-bit JPEGs isn’t really recommended, the method worked much better than expected.

DSCF0975
SOOC JPEG with WB correction (slightly coolish look) in Apple Aperture

DSCF1173
SOOC JPEG with WB correction in Apple Aperture

You can find more indoor color samples in my X-A1 Samples set, and before you ask: They were shot at the Neue Museum for contemporary art in Nuremberg, a place with stunning architecture and inspiring exhibits that welcomes photography in all of its rooms and exhibitions.

Let’s now move on to…

The Great Outdoors

DSCF0624
SOOC JPEG (Velvia) ISO 400/DR200%

Capturing the dynamic range (DR) of strong outdoor contrasts poses a challenge to even the most advanced cameras. Larger sensors perform better in this department, not just due to their higher native dynamic range, but also thanks to reduced noise and artifacts when dynamic range is compressed and later re-expanded by the camera (or with an external RAW converter).

As you know, Fuji cameras offer a DR function that allows for an increase of actual JPEG dynamic range by either 1 or 2 aperture stops or EV values. These options are named DR200% (1 stop) and DR400% (2 stops), and you can learn more about them  in my books or in this older column. Practically, most JPEG shooters will set their camera to DR Auto and Auto-ISO. They let the camera decide about which DR mode to choose, which isn’t such a bad idea, because the camera will usually make the right decision.

DSCF0309
SOOC JPEG (Astia) ISO 400/DR200%

For this quick portrait of two boys against a background lit up by the setting sun, my X-A1 pre-production camera chose DR200%. This way, the camera preserved 1 EV of additional highlight headroom, pretty much the same amount I sacrificed by manually correcting the camera’s multi-metered exposure by +1 EV. Of course, shooting with ISO 200 and DR100% without applying any exposure compensation would have resulted in exactly the same RAW file, but the resulting JPEG would have looked quite different.

I shot the boys in Astia for smoother skin tones and a warmer background, and I also used the camera’s face detection feature. Face detection is a great improvement  even for advanced photographers, mainly because it can be a genuine timesaver. Face detection helps me (being much less advanced) capturing the decisive moment without sacrificing AF accuracy, because I don’t have to spend time positioning a small AF frame over an eye of my subject. In the X-A1 and X-M1, face detection usually does a quite accurate job, that’s why I use this feature frequently with people. In my experience, it often even recognizes subjects that only reveal their profile to the camera.

Applying the right amount of exposure compensation to correctly illuminate your main subject (aka what’s important in your image) is a necessary evil for every photographer who desires to escape from the dungeons of fully automated shooting. Doing so can lead to other parts of the image being over- or underexposed. Sometimes, this isn’t a problem or fully intentional (like with the high-key portraits in my recent 23mm sample set), but there are also situations where you want to avoid blocked shadows and/or burned highlights. This is particularly true for many landscape shots.

In order to mitigate blocked shadows, you can set the Shadow Tone in the shooting menu (or in the internal RAW converter) to -1 or -2. This will lift the shadows and reveal more details in the dark parts of your JPEG image. As for burned highlights, merely setting the Highlight Tone to -1 or -2 is frequently of little use, because the highlights simply aren’t there: What’s not in the RAW file cannot be recovered. That’s why it’s smarter to increase an image’s upper dynamic range by choosing DR200% or DR400%. Look at this:

For this DR100% JPEG sample, I corrected the exposure of the X-A1 by + 1 2/3 EV (1.67 EV) in order to make sure that the horses and riders in the shadow are correctly exposed. After all, they are what this shot is all about. However, doing so removed the sky and replaced it with a large, white area.

The very same shot with DR400% doesn’t change the exposure of the riders in the shadow part, but it brings back the sky with clouds and all. I am retrieving what was lost by lifting up the overall exposure. You can still combine the DR function with a flatter Highlight Tone setting to retrieve even more color and detail from the highlight sections:

DSCF0296
SOOC JPEG (Provia) ISO 800/DR400%, Highlight Tone -2

One of the most intriguing advantages of the X-A1 and X-M1 are their small size and little weight. In concert with the tiny 27mm pancake lens, the camera is almost pocketable, so I decided to hang it around my neck and take pictures while I was riding on my horse.

DSCF0465
JPEG (crop)

Since we didn’t stop for pictures, I took the shots while we were on the move. Since riding is a rather shaky affair, fast shutter speeds were paramount to avoid unwanted motion blur.

DSCF0467
JPEG (crop)

Of course, when the light starts to fade, fast shutter speeds quickly lead to higher ISO values. But that’s exactly where a large sensor (in a small camera) can be of utmost benefit:

DSCF0472
SOOC JPEG (Velvia) ISO 2000

Back on the ground, I took some portrait shots of a group of visiting kids sitting on our horses. Since the attention span of kids and horses is quite limited, you have to work fast, especially when you have to take pictures of ten different kids in sequence.

This was a great opportunity to pull out Fuji’s 55-200mm tele zoom. Since this lens is rather large, I attached the optional HG-XM1 handgrip to the X-A1. For me, this really improves things with larger lenses. In order to catch as much of the evening light as possible and to isolate my subjects from the background, I used the lens wide open (f/4.8) at 200mm in Aperture Priority mode. I also set the camera to Auto-ISO 6400 and DR Auto, and I set a minimum shutter speed of 1/125s, letting the  OIS in this lens perform its miracles:

DSCF0641
JPEG, 1/125s, ISO 320

Nice going, but look what happened right before this shot:

DSCF0838
JPEG, 1/500s, ISO 1600

Why did the X-A1 expose this shot at 1/500s and push the ISO to 1600? It’s because the X-A1 and X-M1 are smarter than the X-E1 and X-Pro1. They offer an OIS+MOTION mode. This mode detects subject motion after you half-press the shutter. Depending on how much motion is detected, ISO and shutter speed are then increased by 1 or 2 EV to avoid motion blur when you fully depress the shutter button. The truth is: The horse didn’t hold still when I took this shot, it was in the process of moving her head. The X-A1 detected this and made instant shutter speed and ISO corrections to rescue the shot and avoid motion blur. With the X-E1 or X-Pro1, I would have lost this shot, or I’d have to shoot everything at ISO 1600 just to be on the “safe” side, including all the shots where everyone was holding still. Personally, I prefer a camera that allows me to shoot on the “wild” side instead of forcing me to either play it safe (and sacrifice image quality) or lose attractive shots, because unlike the X-A1 and X-M1, I can’t change settings manually in a millisecond.

Here’s another example demonstrating this technology:

DSCF0812
JPEG, 1/250s, ISO 640

Here, the last-second movement wasn’t as pronounced, as the Iceland pony was just raising one of her legs. The camera recognized this and instantaneously increased the minimum shutter speed by 1 EV from 1/125s to 1/125s.

Here’s another example:

DSCF0684
JPEG, 1/250s, ISO 400/DR200%

What exactly happened here? The camera chose 1/250s and ISO 400, and yet the pony doesn’t look like there was any movement. Indeed, there wasn’t (atta boy!), but the sun was coming up behind a cloud, increasing the dynamic range of the entire scene. Since the X-A1 was set to DR Auto, it automatically switched from DR100% to DR200% for this shot, increasing the ISO value from 200 to 400 in the process. As a reader of my books you know that in reality, the RAW was still recorded at ISO 200 with an underexposure of 1 EV, and then tone-mapped in the camera during JPEG development. After all, that’s how in-camera highlight DR expansion works.

A word about AF during this session: I’d have loved to use the camera’s face detection feature, but the faces were too far away (aka too small) for this feature to work. So I chose the smallest available AF frame size and positioned the frame right over the face of each rider. With the fast linear motor of the tele zoom, everything went pretty snappy. Let’s remember that I was shooting ten different rider/horse combos in 15 minutes, and each combo had to be positioned. I effectively had between 5 and 15 usable seconds with each combo, that’s all the attention span you get with kids and horses. There’s simply no room for technical errors under such conditions, and the X-A1 delivered.

After Dark

DSCF1374
SOOC JPEG (Provia) ISO 1600

Shooting at low light is one particular strength of X-Trans sensors, so how did the X-A1 with its conventional Bayer CFA perform? Just like any other Bayer camera, methinks. Yes, there is more noise, but I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker. I think results are pretty much on par with noise-levels of similar APS-C sensor cameras like the Nikon A or Ricoh GR. However, for the price of a Ricoh GR (749 EUR her in Germany) you’ll get the full X-A1 combo with a 16-50mm zoom and a 50-230mm zoom. That’s what I call a value proposition, and that’s why the X-A1 is currently my favorite X-series camera. It’s all about the value: It gets the job done, and it’s affordable.

DSCF1335
SOOC JPEG (Provia) ISO 1250

DSCF1293
JPEG (Provia with Aperture curves) ISO 5000

DSCF1296
JPEG (Provia with Aperture curves) ISO 2500

What now?

Click here for a full set of (currently) 75 sample images. If you are interested in video performance, you may be pleased to hear that the X-A1 appears to deliver nicer results (smoother with less artifacts) than the X-M1, at least based on my experience with two pre-production units. So Bayer seems to have the edge at something, after all. Click here for a link to a Dropbox folder with two short sample videos, each in different versions I recorded with the X-A1 and X-M1.

With no X-A1 production camera or RAW support available at this time, we can’t go into pixel peeping. Yet. Update: Lightroom 5.2 (the final version released earlier today) already supports the X-A1. I know that comparing full-size samples at 400% magnification keeps you guys alive, so there will eventually be a third part of this X-M1/X-A1 epos, comparing the X-A1 and X-M1 under identical conditions, both RAW and JPEG.

As for the new XC50-230mm zoom lens that was officially announced today, there wasn’t a pre-production unit available (at least not for me here in Germany), but I’m confident I’ll get one for the third and final chapter of this great endeavor.

DSCF1354 – Lightroom 5.2

In case you live in or near Germany, Austria or the Netherlands, you may be interested to learn that Fuji’s “Film School” is about to kick-off an X-M1 roadshow with plenty of local workshops and a variety of pro photographers covering different genres. Click here for dates and information.

PRE-ORDERS

X-A1 with XC 16-50 ($599): AmazonUS blackblue /BHphoto blackblue / Adorama blackblue

XC 50-230 ($399): AmazonUS blacksilver / BHphoto blacksilver / Adorama blacksilver

Fuji X-M1: Amazon, Adorama, DigitalRev, J&R, B&H, eBay

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.

  • MdB

    I can’t see an official launch, do we have any links? Interested to find out prices and bundles on offer.

  • DonSantos

    “Yes, there is more noise, but I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker”f

    How much more noise? Did you do jpeg vs jpeg tests at all?

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

      The JPEG engines in the X-A1 and X-M1 reduce noise differently with the same settings, so I’d rather wait for external RAW support and final production samples. I can’t compare what doesn’t exist, yet.

    • MJr

      Probably something like this ?
      http://goo.gl/mlJsyT

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

        Yep, but DPR is now using a different test image, so we will certainly get the new one once production samples of the X-A1 are ready. They obviously already tested the X-M1, review was released earlier today.

  • Bemused

    The OIS+Motion sounds good, I’d love something like it on the X-E1.

    • MJr

      X-E1s :)

  • David B

    Rico, what you describe as the clever way of X-A1 increase ISO after the half-press of shutter speed, Panasonic has been doing FOR YEARS even on their cheapest point and shoot cameras. Panasonic calls that Intelligent ISO, or I-ISO which I always have activated on all the Panasonic cameras. FYI.

    Also re: 16MP Sensor. I assume it is the same Sony (most common) sensor that has been put in the last few years in many cameras, like all Sony NEX models, Nikon D7000, D5100, Nikon A, Pentaxes, etc etc etc, and we can expect the noise levels on par with those I enumerated?

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

      Fuji has also been doing this for years in many P&S cameras, including the XF1, X10, X20 and X-S1. Unfortunately, this great feature isn’t available in the X100, X100S, X-Pro1 and X-E1. It’s the same with face recognition.

      Yep, everybody seems to use the same popular Sony 16 MP sensor.

  • Renato S.

    But I’ve seen more than one interview in which Fuji people involved in the X-Trans sensor development say that it was fully developed in house – that it was not a Sony sensor. Will the X-cameras development depend on Sony sensors? Fuji should consider Toshiba then and I really want to see what’s gonna come from the Fuji+Panasonic organic sensor partnership in 2014/15. Will the XPRO2 have one of those?

    But buying a 16MP Sony sensor for the X-A1 is really interesting, this sensor is probably the cheapest APS-C sensor out there and with a pretty good performance. It’s used on Sony, Nikon, Pentax, etc. Offering the X-A1 seems an interesting idea giving that there are supply chain, components and so many other cost advantages when it comes to a product produced in a large scale, things that can indirectly help the X-system as a whole.

    Do you have any idea if Fuji intend to give full manual control and 1080p24 in video mode?

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

      Fuji is using Sony sensors for APS-C and Toshiba sensors for 2/3″. Of course the Toshiba sensors are actually Fujifilm designs, because the sensor production factory was sold to Toshiba after Fuji designed the 2/3″ sensor.

      This is also a reminder not to believe everything that “Fuji people” say. ;)

      Unfortunately, Fuji can’t use new Sony sensor designs right away, they have to wait for a certain period. This is why Fuji is now partnering with Panasonic to produce organic sensors, but I don’t expect real cameras based on such sensors before 2015.

      • David B

        this sensor must be dirt cheap now. Nikon D7000 was using in in 2010 and we are at the end of 2013. Since Sony NEX (the cheapest models) also use this same sensor (or version of) I assume it is a very cheap sensor to buy these days and I am glad Fuji is passing the savings to the consumers. I see the price of XA1 (if it is sold through walmart costco etc) to go down to $399 level pretty quickly!

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

          Nikon is charging almost 900 Euros for a compact camera with this sensor….

          • Renato S.

            Nikon is doing so solely based on their brand power because the Ricoh one seems a better camera for a better price. Until not so long ago Nikon was charging a very high price for their 1″ sensor Nikon1 system and Canon was also charging a lot for a entry-level-type-of-control EOS-M camera. This X-A1 seems to be one of the few – if not the only one – offering fn button and twin dial in this sub-$500 price point ILC. Had Fuji made this camera available before, I’d had considered it for its value while I wait a more expensive X-camera that fits my needs.

          • MJr

            Little to do with the sensor, the Coolpix A has a magnesium alloy body etc. A camera is not just it’s sensor .. Come on, you know this. ;)

            The NEX-3N is €399 now with 16-50, or even €349 at Amazon.de

            ( and you can get the D7000 body for €619 )

          • tim

            Canon EOS M + lens = 415

      • Renato S.

        So, in the end, that little ISO inaccuracy is also a way to boost up X-Trans sensors ISO numbers. Those Fuji people… hahahaha…

        What sensor would Fuji use? The 24MP Toshiba sensor on some Nikon cameras seems pretty good. There is also a new 20MP Sony sensor. Could Fuji design their own sensor and ask somebody else like Sony or Toshiba to produce it or that would cost too much?

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

          I expect Fuji to focus on their Panasonic joint venture for future designs. Sony is about to introduce new sensors soon, but as I said, Fuji can’t get probably their hands on those before Photokina, so I expect them to stick with the 16 MP design and PDAF pixels. 16 MP is also better for making faster cameras with better EVF refresh rates, high burst rates etc. Don’t forget that the most expensive pro DSLRs from Canikon are 16 MP cameras, too.

          I have not the slightest clue what you are trying to imply with your strange ISO inaccuracy remark…?

          • Renato S.

            That there are a lot of tests with different cameras when they set the same ISO and aperture for all the cameras, Fuji X-Trans sensor cameras usually set their shutter slightly slower than others, sometimes by almost one stop. And if you look at NSR, X-Trans sensors has similar results with the 16MP sensor from Sony but it’s like the curve moved a bit.

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

            ISO is down 1/3 – 1/2 a stop with the X-E1 and X-Pro1, measured against an external light meter. Still within ISO specs, Velvia was ISO 40, too, but sold as ISO 50.

  • DonSantos

    I love the smart iso. I feel so sad for the x-e1 users with their unusable auto iso implementation

    • Calking

      No reason to feel sad for me — XE-1 ISO works just fine — don’t need the camera to tell me what to do.

  • DH

    Any news about X100 new firmware?

  • DonSantos

    Is it going to come out in silver?

  • G.

    It Fuji cane out with a xe1 and this sensor( this is a much batter sensor then the x trans sensor) i ll buy one!

    • TThorne

      I agree. I’m not saying one is better than the other, but I’m just not going to do the software dance. I use LR5 and CS6 and that is not going to change. If I was a casual shooter only, then maybe, but when it comes to work stuff, I have less and less interest in some wonky design that throws off my post.

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

      Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.

  • lembo

    mmm iso auto I sony sensor, panny sensor…. just wait a Nex FF and fuji can stop making cameras XD

    • dtb

      Although I am glad Sony is pushing ahead with their soon-to-be-released FF NEX, as it will compel others, particularly Fuji, to introduce FF options too, I highly doubt it will be a great system, as the NEX series has an awful design and imbalanced size, and the lenses are subpar too.

      I am hopefull that Fuji will do something special with the X-Pro 2 – not just the X100s improvements. If not, I will be waiting until at least 2015 to upgrade my x-Pro 1, which is a great camera anyways.

  • Dima

    Thank you Rico!
    Great article with great samples.

    Ordered X-M1 + XF 35 F1.4 :-)

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

      Thanks, always happy to help.

  • Serg

    Rico, whichcolor reproduction and skin tones do you prefer X-M1 or X-A1?

    Thank you!

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

      I am actually not aware of any differences here. Output from both cameras looks very similar. I can’t tell which one is which w/o looking at the EXIFs. Of course, it’s a different story when you go pixel peeping for noise and stuff.

      • Serg

        Rico, thank you for practical answer!

  • Per K

    About noise: Many seems to be “noiseofobics” – accepting nothing about 100% clean. I am not one of them: I prefer detail over noise reduction OOC. Why?:
    1. Perfectly clean can look dead and plastic.
    2. Detail (resolution) is a very important aspect in some of my photography
    3. It is better to apply noise reduction at the end of post processing, balancing it with sharpness and detail.
    4. In the end noise reduction is nothing but intelligent smudging.

    The X-A1 is a very interesting product at a very interesting product an attractive price, may be the perfect carry around camera. With X-trans, currently what’s gained by no AA filter is lost in the processing algorithms. (needs improvement!)

    • MJr

      X-Trans is not noise reduction, it’s noise prevention by hardware. Certainly less destructive than even the best noise reduction you could do afterwards with bayer. But yes, with the X-A1 you do have the option not to.

      I agree that noise is not that evil as people make it out to be, but it also strongly depends on how the noise looks. If it’s too distracting, to the eye the detail is lost anyway whether it’s in there somewhere or not. The key point of x-trans is to make it less distracting, and it works because there is no visible repeating pattern.

    • MJr

      Also bayer noise seems to maybe make the image appear flat sooner than with x-trans.

      • G.

        No more….if you try photo ninja with its superb noise ninja 4….you’ll see how can this program turn shot at iso 3200 or 6400 in really fantastic shot with no noise and great detail…..much batter then LR.this program is much better then any x trans sensor…

        • MJr

          I was making a point about x-trans, not denoising. Feel free to use whatever denoiser you want. :)

      • Per K

        Mjr: Sorry but as I understand it X-trans is a code, not hardware. In the same way Bayer is a code. X-trans produces more noise-free high ISO files compared to Bayer – but at a price.

        • MJr

          You understand wrong. :)

        • MJr

          In the end of course it needs to be translated, as with any data, but those color filters are physically on the sensor, meaning that the light it captures is defined by hardware in a specific way before it even becomes data. Can’t get more real than that.

          Everything comes at a price, so does Bayer.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/nightmareluffy/sets Luffy

    I guess this camera won’t be released as body only option? :3

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

      Doesn’t seem like it here in Germany. This means that those looking for “cheap” kit zooms without a camera body will soon find them on eBay etc. ;)

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/nightmareluffy/sets Luffy

        I wonder how much you will get for those kit zooms… :D

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/dirk23/ dirk

        If you can sell each for 250 on ebay (should be possible easily), you can get the body for 250. ^^
        I wonder if they will introduce the same Kit for the X-M1.

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

          I’d think so. I’d have to ask Fuji on occasion.

  • Paul

    I’m assuming it lacks an electronic level, like the X-M1? That would be a shame, since I really can’t seem to keep a camera straight without it ;).

    I would buy one of these (or an M) as a backup to my X-E1 if it had a level; otherwise I’ll just stick to the RX-100 as a backup (which, not entirely accidental, has an excellent and responsive dual-axis level).

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

      As I said, the cameras are almost identical. If Fujifilm wants my advice (they sometimes do), I’d recommend enhancing the X-M1 firmware with enthusiast features such as additional custom modes (replacing the 3 scene modes on the mode dial), adding Pro Neg and filtered B&W film simulations, enhancing the white balance features (Kelvin setting), bring back Adobe RGB, a customizable video button (serving as a secong Fn button) etc.

      At the same time, they could leave the firmware of the X-A1 “as is”.

      • Dima

        Rico, please make request to Fuji for enhancing the X-M1 firmware :-)

  • Per K

    I made a comment earlier, but forgot one important thing: Excellent job Rico! Your go-through of the X-A1 shows not only how the camera works but also how you can use camera features to get HQ jpg files with a personal touch to it.

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

      Thank you, good to hear that you found what you were looking for!

  • Activia

    Nice review and nice pics, well done!

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

      Thanks. I have just seen that the final LR5.2/ACR8.2 already offer support for the X-A1.

      • donsantos

        Awesome! Rico when you do your iso comparision test please pin aperture and shutter. You can +/- digital gain later to make files comparable. I want to see apples to apples.

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

          A1 and M1 have pretty the same ISO brightness, at least my PP units, I have already tested that. Of course, this is just a matter of the digital gain the RAW converter applies on importing the RAW. It’s also important to note that the cameras have different white balance settings. A1 needs to be set more to green, M1 more to magenta to get matching results in Lightroom (Auto-WB takes care of this, of course). That was to be expected due to the relative dominance of green pixels on the X-Trans CFA.

  • MJr

    Well this is interesting ..

    The original looks like FujiFilm SUPERIA,
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/25805910@N05/9566938488/in/set-72157635090917991

    The LR version looks, well, just completely green.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/25805910@N05/9788953314/in/set-72157635090917991

    Seems more than just a difference in WB/Tint as Fuji shows brown in the trees where LR doesn’t at all. I like Superia, always try to simulate it a little in LR by making the tiniest adjustments in the RGB Curves, and sometimes also manage to reveal such shades that you wouldn’t think were even there, which i believe is how film (or film simulations) manages to give that character to the images that people love so much. Because film is just full of such inaccuracies. :) But in this case, which one’s more realistic of the two i wonder?

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

      Yep, I used a different color grading on the JPEG in Aperture, but not Superia, though. For the Lightroom version, I didn’t use any film presets, it’s rather basic.

  • john

    are there any difference in terms of the color for the film simulations (i.e. astia) in x-a1 and x-m1?

  • juw

    Hi Rico, you are probably working on this one but, during your initial testing under lightroom 5.2, how does the XA1 compare with the XM1 in terms of RAW detail and ISO performance?

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

      I have already posted several RAW samples. As was to be expected, overall noise levels are higher with Bayer, but detail is still very good. I will post direct comparisons once I have received cameras for a shootout.

  • Telefunk

    On DPReview Rico’s answer and two of mine got deleted. Censorship is getting pretty bad in the USA. (see below)

    Rico, two of your pictures caught my attention because they show some dynamic range problems. I thought it might be inherent in the Xtrans sensor, but these pictures were made by the X-A1 which has a normal sensor. It’s the picture of the house covered by ivy: the white shutters are completely blown: very strange. Another, of a field with a forest in the background, shows completely black shadows, just a dark blob. DigitalKamera.de state that the X-M1 only has 9 EV of dynamic range. That would explain why a lot of pictures look too contrasty, with blown highlights or black shadows…

    I saw some of the same weird behaviour in DPR X-M1 sample pictures (DSCF6996). Can this be somewhat corrected by adjusting both levels to -2?

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

      Yes, censorship is alive and kicking there, you obviously have to wear things like that as a badge of honor.

      Regarding your remarks about the “ivy” image: I recommend that you check your monitor’s calibration. The DR of this image is perfectly okay, and the shutters you mention look clearly light gray/blue on my screen. The histogram is on the mark, as well, and there are (almost) no highlight and shadow warnings in Apple Aperture.

      As for statements regarding DR: My recommendation is to ignore them. For example, dpreview only measures the DR of default JPEG output. This means that changing the dafult settings has a profound impact of those measurements. You can always lift the shadow tones, if you like. But make sure to calibrate your screen at first. I fear the problem isn’t the camera, it’s your PC.

      Here’s a link to a screenshot of this SOOC JPEG on my Mac, displaying exposure warnings (almost none, and not in relevant areas) and the full histogram: http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5329/9835756486_d7b02fce23_o.png

      • Telefunk

        It could be my screen, but strangely enough, only the X-M1 / A1 sample pictures published by all the test sites have this behaviour. I mean, no other 16MP (NEX or 4/3) camera sample picture has this kind of high contrast effect on my screen. And don’t get me wrong, I really want to buy the Fuji X-M1/A1 after hating the Nex 7 interface ;-)

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

          Since the correct histogram and the lack of exposure warnings are proven facts, and since I can see all shadow and highlight tones on my calibrated MacBook screen, I really don’t know what to add to the discussion. From a technical standpoint, the SOOC JPEG is right on the mark, even at DR100%.

          If you don’t like the look of an image, simply develop the RAW differently in Lightroom, the internal converter or any other converter.

  • Alice

    How do you think the images produced by the X-A1 would compare to those from an Olympus E-PL5? I’m having trouble deciding which to get, but I’m very impressed by the photos you took with the X-A1

  • Dan

    Your article was very helpful. Since I haven’t been able to get my hands on one of these cameras yet, I’m wondering how loud the shutter is. I assume it’s quieter than a DSLR?

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

      Assuming that not all DSLRs sound exactly the same, any actual sound difference would depend on the DSLR model, and also on what lend is attached on each camera, forming a different body of resonance and also serving as a silencer.

      Of course, mirrorless cameras lack the sound of the retracting mirror, and sensor size plays a role, too, as it is proportional to the size of the shutter.

  • Stephen Scharf

    My Fuji X-A1 arrives tomorrow! Purchased this while I was visiting B&H Photo in NYC last week. Looking forward to adding this little camera as a supplement to my X-Pro1-based system.

    This camera will replace and supplant my Sony RX100, a camera I bought as a “compact” that I am not particularly enamored of (the image quality just doesn’t match up to Fuji image quality).

    Bought it it with the 16-50 kit lens and the 27mm pancake. This should be a nice versatile combo that is very compact and will make for a compact “travel” system.

    Thanks for the nice review and photos.