Fuji’s X-A1 – First impressions of the R7 000 X-cam

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Lookie what just arrived in our office: Fuji’s first X-system camera for the masses. It was only announced the other day, but review samples are already circulating in South Africa and we’re one of the lucky ones. That suggests Fujifilm is very serious about this camera, by the way – it usually takes quite a while to get hold of the company’s wares here.

Like most people with more than a passing interest in photography, I really like Fuji’s X-system. I love the build quaility, the innovative touches it introduces to camera tech and handling, and most of all the retro styling. I don’t like the price, which makes it hard to justify something like the X-Pro 1 over a more flexible D-SLR.

Like others in the series, the X-A1 uses Fuji’s X-mount lens system to pair a quality piece of glass with a mirrorless compact camera – so lenses are interchangeable, but there’s no through-the-lens viewfinder. Like other cameras in the X-series it has a large APS-C sized sensor, which means detailed shots and decent low light performance. Unlike other cameras in the X-series, though, it’s a mostly plastic body and the sensor isn’t one of Fuji’s own X-TRANS chips. And in many ways, X-TRANS is the X-system – it uses a different pixel layout to other cameras and eschews the Bayer filter to provide ludicrously sharp pics with almost no noise at ISO values well above 1 000.

The X-A1, however, does cost less than R7 000. Which is a real first for the range and the reason you’d want to buy it. I’ll post a full review next week, but in the meantime here’s my first impressions.

The X-A1 is small. Very small. That’s fantastic if you want something you can stick in your bag and take everywhere, but it is a bit disappointing that the lack of space on the back means the control layout is much more like a ‘normal’ digital camera than the other X-cameras. There’s no extra manual dials for tweaking settings without going into the on screen – from the back of the camera, it’s a really generic design that could have come from anyone.

The good news, however, is that the X-A1 feels incredibly competent – it’s fast to focus, has an image stabilised kit lens and, best of all, the image below was shot at ISO 2 000 and is almost completely noise free without any loss of detail. Frankly, that’s staggering, and should allay any fears about Fuji’s decision to use a different sensor.

More next week.

iso 2000 test

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