I’ve not been using my Fuji camera over the last year as much as I might have. There have been quite a number of occasions I’ve left it at home and used my iPhone instead. And why not? The iPhone easily fits in my pocket, which makes it a lot easier to carry around. And it takes a reasonable photo too. Nothing that matches the Fuji’s capabilities, but the Continue reading “The Wrong Camera”
Good to their word, Fuji shipped my new telephoto lens to my doorstep a couple of weeks ago. It’s a freebie, courtesy of a promotion running at the time I bought my Fuji X-M1, with a range of 50mm to 230mm. It’s plastic and one of their budget line of lenses. It’s not a terribly fast lens, opening at f4.0. But it was free, so I really can’t grumble.
The lens seems to produce some reasonably sharp images in good light from the middle of and towards the end of its telephoto range. Which is a relief, because quite frankly, if it didn’t, then what use would it be? It does struggle in low light though, no two which ways about it. And it’s not the sort of lens that will catch the greatest moon shot. To be fair, it was a hazy night and I was shooting through quite a bit of light pollution.
Moon shots do always remind me of the value of a decent bridge camera. The lenses that come with the top of the line Panasonic and Sony bridge cameras are really something. Still, those days are behind me now. To see some more samples of what the XC50-230mm lens can do, click here and have a looky see on Flickr.
The Bournemouth Gardens Fire Show seems to be an annual event now. I missed it last year. But I was there this year, armed with my Fuji X-M1 to test its ability to shoot a little video. It’s not the most entertaining video you’ll ever see. I wanted to see how the camera performed in very low light. Fuji doesn’t really shout about the X-M1s video capabilities too much. It’s not its strongest suit. But I think it did ok.
The fire show itself is a rather bizarre event. Surreal even. It comes under the umbrella of the Bournemouth Arts Week something or other. I took a few photos too. You can have a look at those on Flickr by clicking here.
Ok, so I have a camera that I like the look and fell of, admire the sensible menu layout and enjoy using. But the proof in is the pudding. What sort of image quality have I gotten for my money? It must be said, this review is not solely about the camera but also the 16mm – 50mm kit lens that comes with it. I would expect better results from the X-M1 when I have a better and more expensive lens attached to it.
I won’t lie. Some of the images below have been through post processing in Lightroom. But I have selected images which have had minimal work done on the them. Perhaps a little sharpening, cropping or contrast adjustment. No filters or presets.
This isn’t meant to be a full review. There are many websites and blogs on the internet with experts who have the time and knowledge to do a far better job of that than I could. This are just some of my observations, with a few samples to demonstrate my point. You can see all the images below in full size on Flickr, although with a load more photos in an album titled First Impressions.
The camera has a big fat APS-C sensor, so low light shouldn’t be a barrier to good photographs. The sensor has gotten rave reviews in the photography press, with favourable comparisons to full frame DSLRs. I’ve been quite impressed so far. It’s nice to see a decent level of detail from a handheld shot with some very contrasty scenes.
It’s perfectly possible to get some great quality photos at night from even the cheapest of cameras. Mount it on a tripod, set the ISO to 100, give it a decently long exposure and hope that nothing, absolutely nothing, moves. Not a millimetre. The real trick is getting a good shot when things are moving and when you have the camera betwixt your fingers.
The kit lens supplied with the camera is not a macro lens. Nor does it attempt to perform like one. So the results do reflect that. However, it finds it easier to focus on nearby subjects that the Olumpus E-PL1. And like the Olympus, I find the best way to get a shot is to move the lens back and zoom in, rather than get the lens as close to the subject as possible. Alas, there is some colour smearing to be seen.
Fuji are famous for producing great colours and the X-M1 is no exception. It must be said that I’ve not been fortunate with the weather in the last month, and most of my shots have been underneath grey, wet skies. Which doesn’t help. But still. I’m pleased with the vibrant hues and well managed saturation. Although I have yet to explore the various colour settings, such as Velvia, which produce nicely balanced shots in daylight.
That big sensor makes it much easier to throw the background out of focus. Of course, the closer you are to the subject, the easier it is. But I no longer need to be inches away. What I really want for some creative bokeh photography though, is the XF 35mm f1.4 lens. One day, one day…
This is an area where the Fuji has really excelled. I’ve had an awful lot of cameras come through my hands that left me disappointed when the shot was a difficult scene with a lot of contrasting light. No details in the shadows. Any light areas blown out. The photo below isn’t a great photo by any stretch of the imagination. But you can see details in the shadows and blue in the skies. Which is neat.
I’ve had my Fuji X-M1 for about a month now. That’s been plenty of time to get out and about shooting with it. Enough time that I can start spouting off what I think of my new possession. Let’s start at the beginning. First impressions.
Build and Feel
The XM-1 is largely constructed from plastic. It looks like a traditional, metal camera from a distance but don’t think anyone would be fooled upon taking it in their hands. I don’t think anyone would be too bothered, either. It feels robust. It doesn’t rattle when you wave it about. It feels like it could survive a few bumps too. Although I don’t intend putting it to that sort of test.
It feels like a camera should. It doesn’t have the solidity of a Sony Nex6. When picking up the Sony you can tell straight away that one is made of metal and one is not. There’s extra heft to the Sony, although neither camera weighs enough to cause anyone back ache.
I have seen reviews suggesting Fuji designed the camera with the intention of making one handed operation easy. If that was their intention, then they got it spot on. It fits in a single hand easily and all the key buttons are placed ‘just so’.
WiFi and GPS
I was pleased to see that the Fuji incorporated WiFi, with a GPS solution built in. I say ‘solution’ because the GPS isn’t itself built in. I also have to say that the WiFi/GPS is the biggest – actually, the only – disappointment I have had with the X-M1. You can connect the camera to your smartphone, once you’ve downloaded the Fuji app, although this in itself is a fiddly and slow affair. NFC would have been a nicer solution.
Once you’ve made the connection, you can use the GPS on your smartphone to embed your location directly into the photos. However, if you’re off on a long walk or trip, the Fuji app on the phone will stop recording location data after just 99 minutes. Which could prove annoying. It’s safer and simpler to just record my location through Google Tracking and then embed the data into the photos in Lightroom later.
I do like the ability to send photos from my camera to my smartphone though. It’s a nice way to kill a long journey home – editing a few shots and posting them to Instagram. This is the one WiFi feature that I will use. I do hope that Fuji revisit the WiFi capability of the X-M1 though. I’m sure it has potential for better GPS tagging . It would also be nice to be able to use the smartphone as a remote for the camera too.
Fuji have excelled in their menu systems. One of the biggest pains I’ve experienced in digital photography is having to sift through menus trying to get at the setting I want. There’s nothing more frustrating that an important setting being buried five deep in the menu system.
The X-M1 has most of the key settings on the dial. But for those you need to access through the LCD, its just one button to a smart layout that reveals all the key settings. Each setting can be changed by moving to it via the arrow buttons and then scrolling the thumb wheel. Sure, a touch screen would have made it easier still, but in reality the menu as it is works so sweetly that there’s no reason at all for any serious grumbling.
I really wanted an electronic viewfinder with my next camera. But when I chose the X-M1, I did so knowing that this was a feature I’d have to sacrifice. So the quality of the LCD really is important. The LCD on my old Olympus Pen E-PL1 was a major weakness with that camera. One of the delights of digital photography is the ability to see if you’ve got a good shot there and then. Instant gratification.
The screen on the back of the Pen was so poor that I really could not tell if the shot was any good or not. As a result, I’d often take a batch of shots, each exposed differently. And yet I’d get home to find that the lot of them were either under or over exposed or out of focus. I don;t like having to put in extra effort and still not get a result.
The screen on the Fuji is, happily, a good one. With more than 900 million pixels you can see what you’re shooting. Sometimes, light areas look as though they’re over exposed, but are actually fine when viewed on the computer. This isn’t a problem then, as the results are consistent from shot to shot. This means that I can trust the camera. Which is rather important.
Ideally, I try not to use the flash. Sometimes it’s necessary. I tried to use it on the X-M1, but for neither love nor money could I get it to work. Sure, I could press the button and get the flash to physically pop up. Sure, I could find it in the menu. But could I turn it on or off in the menu? Nope. I scratched my head plenty. Then I ventured online to see if there’s a reason for the non functioning flash.
There was. You can put the X-M1 into Silent Mode for some stealth photography. Which I had done. The flash will not operate in stealth mode. Problem solved. But it was a kinda weird problem. This should be fixed. If I have popped the flash up, it’s clear I want to use it. The camera should recognise this and switch out of stealth mode.
Other than the LCD, my old Olympus Pen had another issue. It wasn’t the quickest out of the blocks as far as focussing is concerned. In fact, it was often downright slow. The Fuji is such a huge leap forward compared the the Pen. Sure, it is not on a par with Sony or the modern Olympus and Panasonic compact system cameras. But it’s quick enough.
How big a difference is this? It’s like a race between Usain Bolt, Johann Blake and little old me. With me being the E-PL1 Pen. I’ve now been upgraded to Blake. So, ok, I still might not win, but at least nowadays when I cross the line, my competitors are still catching their breath as opposed to being showered, dressed, interviewed and half way home.
I love the Fuji X-M1. That’s for sure. It’s a lot more complex than the Pen and I’ll have to study the camera and its manual a little more and use it in a smarter way to get the best out of it, I also really want to get a couple of new lenses for it at some stage. They are key to maximising this cameras full potential. The pancake-ish 27mm f2.8 would be a nice addition. But I’m really craving the XF 35mm f1.4 prime lens.
But the 16mm-50mm kit lens is a decent piece of kit, an I’m looking forward to the free telephoto lens when it finally arrives. They will be good enough to keep me going for now. Can I recommend the X-M1. Sure, why not? It has to be said though, that it depends on your budget. It was the promise of that free telephoto lens, worth more than £300 in its own right, which swung the deal for me. Without that offer? I may well have held out for an XE-1 or looked harder at a Sony Nex6/a6000.
But regardless of the competition, I’ve gotten myself a superb little camera with the same fantastic sensor that’s fitted in Fuji’s more illustrious and substantially more expensive big brothers.
I have a new camera. I’ve been looking for a while, I’ve been tormented and teased but I have finally taken the plunge. And it’s not one of the cameras I was directly looking at. But it was the sensible choice. I’m sure I’ll be uploading a ton of photos soon and will have more to write about my new purchase. But for today, I’ll just explain why I bought the X-M1, which becomes the 10th digital camera I’ve ever owned after an unknown Sanyo, a Nikon Coolpix 880 and 8800, a Fuji V10, a Panasonic TZ5 and FZ35, a Fuji HS10, an Olympus E-PL1 and a Fuji X-S1.
The Check List
Any new camera I bought had to meet a few essential requirements. It was going to be a Compact System Camera. I don’t want the bulk of a DSLR, or a bridge camera for that matter. I want my camera to do more than a compact is capable of. It also had to have an APS sized sensor. The Micros Four Thirds cameras are very good. Some argue there’s little between them. But bigger is better in this case, and that narrowed my choices down to Fuji, Sony and Samsung. I’m not a Samsung camera fan. So, really, it was down to Fuji and Sony.
I want a small body. This time, it’s the smaller the better. No one does small as well as Sony. But the X-M1 is pretty diminutive. I wanted GPS geo tagging. The X-M1 does this. Sort of. You need to do it with a smartphone, via a special Fuji app. It’s not the perfect solution, and I’d prefer a built in GPS unit. But it works. I also wanted an electronic viewfinder. Alas, this is where the Fuji fails. But sometimes you have to compromise, and this is where I do just that. I can live with the pretty decent tilt-able LCD monitor. Finally – image quality. It has to be fantastic at taking photos.
I do my research before I buy I camera. I know what I want it to do, how much I have to spend and what models are in the market place. I use Flickr’s camera finder (see the X-M1 by clicking here) and photography review sites. Not every photography blog ‘gets’ the X-M1. Most bemoan its missing viewfinder. But some harp on about filters, features and fancy bits and pieces as deal breakers.They are not. Not for me. Camera Labs is an example. Others, such as Photography Blog focuses more on the image quality. Many will point out that it offers a noise free experience comparable to, if not better than, some full frame DSLR models.
The X-M1 delivers the same excellent image quality as its big and more expensive brothers. Noise is noticeable only by its almost complete absence throughout the ISO range of 100-25,600, while the Dynamic Range function helps to boost contrast and detail. The new 16-50mm lens is also worthy of mention, as although it has a cheaper build quality, it still offers sharp results throughout the focal range. The X-M1 is certainly right up there with the best APS-C sensor cameras on the market, and some full-frame models too, so if image quality at an affordable price is paramount, the X-M1 certainly fits the bill.
I’ve owned nine camera previously, and enjoyed them all. But some, of course, more than others. There is that hard to measure sense of satisfaction that things can give you. Truth be told, the Fuji HS10 and the Fuji X-s1 are the two most satisfying cameras I’ve ever owned. They were a joy to use, both of them. The features, the image quality, the ease of use. It counts. A lot. They’ve both played a big part in my plumping for another Fuji.
I also like how this Fuji looks. It is, on paper, the least important specification of them all. But the design of the camera is hugely important. If it looks good, you’re pleased to be seen with it, to take it out and to get shooting. Fuji has also got a good track record in putting out software updates to fix older models and get them working properly, rather than simply replacing them with new models. Again, that counts.As does the fact that Fuji now has a fairly mature and high quality range of lenses available.
There’s one more key factor in any purchase. The deal. Not necessarily the price. Most of us would pay more for the right package. Value for money is key. This is where I would answer the question, why not a Sony a6000? The Sony has a better feature set, for sure. It’s also a couple of hundred pounds more. Why not the XE-2? It’s beautiful camera and if I was a little richer, that’s the one I’d have gone for. But then, for a two lens deal I’d have shelled out a stonking £1,200. Albeit for two really top quality lenses. There’s the older Fuji XE-1 too. If you could actually buy that model anymore from the dealers I’d buy from, it would have been a candidate. But stocks are running out.
The Fuji X-M1’s price has tumbled. I picked it up for a paltry £386. And to sweeten the deal, I get a free zoom lens too, that would normally set you back about £300 plus. How does one say no to that? Well…I didn’t. I said yes please.
I will tell you more about my shiny new Fuji over the next few weeks, months and years. I’ll let you know what my first impressions of the camera are, and compare it to my outgoing friend the Olympus E-PL1. And there’s be plenty of photos. Hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands. Hopefully. Till then, I’ll leave you with Photo Number One. The first shot taken with the X-M1 and uploaded to Flickr. It’s a very appropriate welcoming shot for my new friend…