Review: Fujifilm XF1

A Quick Tour

Given its slimness and compact size, the XF1 is a pocketable delight. It’s the kind of camera you’d have no trouble popping in your pocket or in your tiny bag. The XF1 is not only sleek, but also stylish. Its aluminum body is wrapped in an attractive leather coat that comes in red, tan and black. The XF1’s old-fashioned design is something that both analog rangefinder enthusiasts and retro fashion aficionados will adore.

For cameras geared towards enthusiasts, a viewfinder is sort of a must. Alas, the XF1 doesn’t have one, but it does carry a 921,000-dot 3-inch LCD monitor out back with which you can compose your photos. Rear controls include a dial in the area for your right thumb, another dial that doubles as a five-way directional pad, a display button, a playback button, a dedicated video recording button, and an E-Fn button that gives users quick access to frequently used settings.

On top are the shutter button, mode dial, and function (Fn) button. It has a little pop-up flash on the top left area, triggered by a little switch on the upper left of the screen. Flanked on its right are the microUSB and miniHDMI ports, and below the deviceare the battery and the SD card slot.

The camera has no protruding grip up front, but I doubt the device will slide through even the most slippery fingers as the leather coating pretty much gives you a solid grasp.

Mounted on the XF1 is a 25mm-100mm (on a 35mm format) Fujinon lens that, as I mentioned, is operated manually with a zoom ring. This allows users to have full manual control over what part of the scene goes into the frame. This makes the composition more precise. Casual users may find it difficult to use with one hand since they’d need to use the other to operate the zoom. Digital zoom is also on hand, but can only be used when shooting in RAW mode. This produces passable results, but it’s best not to use it if you intend to use your photos for medium-scale printing.

Twisting the zoom ring enables you to not only zoom in or out of a scene—it is also the only mechanism by which the camera is switched on. Simply pull the lens out, twist, and the screen lights up. When you need to put it away, you can just pop the lens back into the body and twist it again to keep it locked. This procedure may seem puzzling at first. The first few tries, I ended up turning the barrel quite over-enthusiastically whenever I wanted to zoom out to the widest end, thus repeatedly switching the device off. You have to learn to be careful when handling the lens. Once you get the hang of it, starting the device up and putting it away is quick and easy.

The manually operated zoom barrel is not the only thing that’s hot about the XF1’s lens. With its f/1.8 maximum aperture, more light is permitted to enter the camera each time you hit the shutter button, making the XF1 incredibly handy in low-light conditions. In fact, I used it to capture a gig in a small bar, and it worked terrifically with the dimness of the venue. The wide aperture also allows a very shallow depth of field that you can use to get creative, especially in macro shooting.