The most attractive points of a Fuji X series camera are:
1. The lack of anti-aliasing filter which causes the images to be sharper and more detailed
2. The beautiful smooth bokeh of the Fujinon lenses, and of course it’s sharpness
3. The natural skin tone, natural realistic colors, good-enough micro-contrast for black and white conversions
4. Fine and clean high ISO performance in low light
5. Impressively intelligent pop-up flash. I have not encountered another pop-up flash as accurate as the Fuji X-series cameras
6. Beautiful old school classic camera design, it’s a fashion statement!
I bought the X10 as soon as it was available in Malaysia and have since produced quite a number of shots I love with it. Now, I have in hand is a similar size camera called the X-M1, which is lens-interchangeable, but lack of an optical/electronic viewfinder. I have always loved small (capable) cameras.
Before you think I am going to go on praising the X-M1, I have to state some major difficulties I faced while using the X-M1. After re-confirming with Fuji Malaysia, it is confirmed that the X-M1 I have in my hands is a pre-production copy.
These are the pretty annoying issues I faced when using the pre-production Fuji X-M1:
1. The LCD screen was too reflective to be used under bright daylight. I had difficulty composing shots from angles other than right in front of my face. You probably gotta tilt the tiltable screen to help, but in my case, my subjects would have been gone by the time I tilt the screen. I tried brightening the LCD screen using the Q(quick) Menu, it did help a little but honestly, not much…
2. The camera was supposed to have a minimum focus distance of 0.1m, but it only managed to focus at a minimum of 0.2m roughly. This can be achieved with or without the Macro mode activated, meaning the Macro button is redundant. It could be… the firmware not being updated yet.
3. AF wasn’t fast. It hunted quite a bit and had problem achieving focus at times. The multiple point auto focus mode wasn’t as intelligent as the X-10 I have, meaning it often selected the “wrong” subjects. I believe that most cameras’ multiple point auto focusing mode today have been programmed to understand that we often frame our subjects using the 1/3rd-2/3rd rule… meaning we often frame our subjects off-centre. But as for this X-M1 pre-production unit I had, unfortunately it wasn’t the case.
4. The LCD refresh rate was also pretty slow. It took quite a while to adjust when I pointed it indoors, then outdoors. The duration of the “blackout” was enough to make me miss my shots.
5. Even though I personally do not fancy “Art Filters” anymore, I had to test it. And the results are pretty disappointing too. First, I couldn’t find any shortcut button to change the type of Art Filters when I was using it. I had to press a minimum 4 times on the buttons to change the type of Art filter while using the Art Filter mode. Second, some of the “spot-color art filters” were too fussy. For example, the “Green Only” art filter only picked up a certain type of green and not the other types of green. Same goes for the “purple”. I have not tested the art filters more extensively to conclude, but my first impression was: it’s too fussy. The “toy camera”, “miniature effect”, “pop color” were fine, but they are not new anymore in the current market to stir any new interest. These are just added bonus for those who love in-camera art filters.
6. A minor issue: the battery charger shows GREEN while charging, which really confused me at first, because my X-10 and all the other brands of camera battery chargers I use only shows GREEN or not lighted up at all when the battery is fully charged.
7. A personal issue: as I am beginning to have long-sightedness due to my age, I find difficulty in using the LCD manual focus peaking when I mount the m-mount lenses on the X-M1. I will go for the X-E1 with the built-in EVF which is more useable to me for manual focusing.
Now, let’s look at some of the Fuji X-M1 images I shot:
These 3 are some of the Art Filters I tested:
From the next image onwards, you can scrutinize the performance of the camera at ISO6400 and ISO12800.
I should have set to at least F5.6 for the following shot. I forgot the APS-C sensor has shallower depth of field than my X-10. Or I kinda expected the multi-point AF mode to be more intelligent. The focus was on the car doors instead.
The following shot, I tested the AF speed on these 2 masseuses who do not wished to be photographed.
The following 2 images are for you to scrutinize the camera and lens’ handling when shooting into bright light source and also the clean high ISO12,800. There are no ugly flares, unwanted red dots/circles like the Olympus E-PL2′s kit lens. Flare is smooth. At ISO12800, there is acceptable loss of details to me. This is very individual. I believe I have reasonable expectation for ISO12800′s performance from a MYR2988 APS-C camera.
This is just the beginning of my experience with the Fuji X-M1. Fuji Malaysia has promised that they will furnish me with an updated production unit for further reviews. I certainly hope the major glitches I stated in this review will not be repeated again in the production unit.
In my opinion, the Fuji X-M1 can potentially be a camera for the more enthusiastic beginners in photography, for those who are tired of lugging a APS-C DSLR around for travel, and for the low light extremists who love to continue to challenge themselves shooting in the dark.
I have always wanted a camera with fine and detailed high ISO for night street photography, something which allows me to achieve deeper depth of field (smaller apertures) combined with a fast shutter speed, to capture fleeting moments I see on the streets at night. Yes, I am an extremist. The Fuji X-M1 is potentially one camera which can do what I want.