Fuji XQ1 Review

This is not meant to be an in-depth review of the Fuji XQ1, because I normally do not like spending time evaluating point and shoot cameras. First, there are too many of them and they recycle every year, sometimes even several times a year. Second, with the rise of the cell phone market with pretty impressive cameras, I just do not see the future of the point and shoot market. And lastly, the XQ1 simply ended up in my hands in error and I did not want to send it back without writing a few words about it.

Fuji XQ1

It has been a while since I have handled a point and shoot camera. Last time I more or less frequently used one was when I owned the Sony Cybershot P50, back when I had no clue how to take pictures. It was a pretty decent camera at the time and I owned it for many years until deciding to finally move up to a DSLR. So my experience with point and shoots has been close to none for a while now. When the XQ1 arrived, I thought it was an accessory to the X-E2 that was sitting in the same container – that’s how small the box was. At first, I thought about putting it back in the box and shipping it back, but then since I was just about to leave to New Mexico and the camera was so tiny, I simply threw it into my pocket and left.

Fuji XQ1 Image Sample (4)

1) Fujifilm XQ1 Specifications

Main Features and Specifications:

  1. Sensor: 12 MP 2/3″ X-Trans CMOS II sensor
  2. Resolution: 4000 x 3000
  3. Native ISO Sensitivity: 100-12,800
  4. Lens: 6.4-25.6 mm (35 mm equivalent: 25-100 mm)
  5. Aperture: f/1.8 (W) – 4.9 (T) to f/11
  6. Storage: 1x SD slot (SD/SDHC/SDXC compatible)
  7. Viewfinder: N/A
  8. Built-in Flash: Yes
  9. Autofocus / Manual Focus: Yes / Yes
  10. LCD Screen: 3.0″, 920,000 dots
  11. Movie Modes: Full 1080p HD @ 60p, 30p
  12. GPS: No
  13. WiFi: Yes
  14. Weight: 206g
  15. Price: $499 MSRP at launch

A detailed list of camera specifications is available at Fujifilm.com.

2) Camera Construction, Handling and Controls

The camera is constructed pretty well and does not feel like cheap point and shoot cameras. While most of it is made of plastic (with the exception of the metal top plate), the XQ1 feels like it would handle typical daily abuse pretty well. Once you turn it on via the tiny On/Off button on the top, the lens extends out by a little over an inch and once fully zoomed in to 25.6mm, it extends to about an inch and a half, becoming front-heavy. The zoom in/out dial that the shutter release buttons sits on is easy to use, although I wish it was an On/Off switch instead. The XQ1 sports a round PASM dial on the top that you normally see on advanced cameras. So you can shoot the camera in a number of automated and manual modes, including panorama and other preset modes.

The back of the camera reminds of other Fuji X-series cameras, with a typical round multi-function dial and other useful buttons like Playback, Video Recording, Function and Display / Back. The most of the back is taken by a large LCD screen, with 920,000 dots to give clear and crisp images. Unfortunately, the camera has no grip and the front is rather slippery for fingers, so it does have its ergonomic weaknesses. There is a tiny rubber grip on the back for the thumb, but it really does not help much with keeping the camera secure in hands.

Fuji XQ1 Image Sample (9)

There is no electronic viewfinder (no option to add one) on the XQ1, no socket for an external flash and no tilt screen for covering different angles. Personally, I would not buy the XQ1 because of this and settle for something like the Sony RX100 II instead (see more in the summary).

As for weather sealing, the XQ1 is obviously not weather sealed, but it seems to handle freezing temperatures fairly well. When I was taking the snow pictures you see in this review, the temperatures in the morning started out at -5F and gradually warmed up to about 10F. The XQ1 worked pretty well without hiccups, although its battery drained fast, as expected.

3) Menu System

The nice thing about the XQ1, is that it comes with a similar menu system as other modern Fuji cameras. If you have been shooting with any of the X-series cameras, you will find the menu system to be very similar, divided to Shooting Menu and Set-Up sections. There are some other graphic guides when choosing between different camera modes and when pressing the E-Fn function button, but those are specifically made for beginners to simplify camera operation.

Fuji XQ1 Image Sample (1)

4) Image Sensor and Image Quality

The Fuji XQ1 comes with the same generation X-Trans CMOS II sensor that is found on the Fuji X100S and X-E2 mirrorless cameras. The big difference is obviously the size of the sensor, which at its 2/3″ size is twice smaller in sensor area than the 1″ sensor found on the Nikon 1 and Sony RX100 series cameras. With such a small sensor, there is obviously the issue of noise appearing in images even at relatively low ISO values.

Another issue for me personally is Fuji’s choice of the 4:3 aspect ratio that is used by Micro Four Thirds format cameras. Not sure why Fuji thought it was a good idea – I personally prefer the 3:2 wide aspect ratio that is found on modern DSLRs and most mirrorless cameras on the market. Considering the fact that the mirrorless Fuji X series cameras have a wider 3:2 aspect ratio, it is certainly an odd choice as far as I am concerned.

Fuji XQ1 Image Sample (8)

The X-Trans sensor has a very different color filter array compared to the bayer pattern and thus allows Fuji to eliminate the anti-aliasing or “blur” filter for sharper images. While the center of the image certainly shows lots of details, the lens on the camera can sometimes be an issue in the far corners due to optical aberrations and other problems. On top of that, you will have to use good RAW processing software like Photo Ninja to get the best out of RAW images, since Adobe still has RAW rendering issues with the X-Trans files, as we have discussed many times on this site before. As always with Fuji cameras, JPEG output looks superb, with Fuji’s excellent rendering of colors.

5) Autofocus Performance and Accuracy

Autofocus performance of the XQ1 seems to be pretty solid – it is fast and snappy for a camera of this class. With such a small sensor though, depth of field is so wide, that the margin for autofocus errors is already diminished to begin with. Although I did not use the XQ1 much, I did not see the same AF accuracy issues that I encountered on the X100S and X-E2. But as I have already said in the beginning of the review, I did not spend much time with the camera to fully evaluate its AF capabilities. I took some pictures of my kids in a park and it seemed to do fairly well for capturing slow-moving subjects.

Fuji XQ1 Image Sample (10)

6) Metering, White Balance and Exposure

Metering and exposure accuracy seemed really good – very similar to what I was getting from the X-E2. I photographed a number of shots against the sun and the camera handled it well without overexposing or underexposing the shots. I rarely had to adjust exposure compensation on the XQ1 and mostly did that when shooting in indoor environments. White balance accuracy was also fairly spot on – none of the snow images that you see in this review had any WB adjustments made in Lightroom. In comparison, Nikon and Olympus cameras added quite a bit of blue tint to images, so I had to fix WB problems in post for those.

Fuji XQ1 Image Sample (6)

7) Video / Movie Recording

All modern cameras now come with HD video recording capabilities and the XQ1 is not an exception. It features full HD resolution of 1920×1080 at two different speeds – 30p and 60p. And thanks to the dedicated video record button on the back, shooting videos is pretty simple and straightforward. There is a separate sub-menu item called “Movie Set-Up”, so you can change the movie mode from the default full HD mode to as low as 320×112 resolution and a whopping 250fps slow-motion mode. The Nikon 1 V1 and V2 cameras, for example, feature a similar slow-motion video recording feature, but they can go much faster to 400 fps and 1200 fps at higher resolutions.

8) Summary

While the Fuji XQ1 is a very small and truly portable camera that fits even in very tight pockets, it has a number of problems. The first one is its small 2/3″ image sensor, which adds noise to images even at relatively low ISOs. For me personally, anything smaller than 1″ in sensor size is not worth the money, since at that point I might just switch to my phone, which can produce decent quality photos. As I have stated in the introduction of this review, the XQ1 is not the camera I planned to review and one of the main reasons is my strong belief that the point and shoot market will disappear in the near future, thanks to the high quality cameras that are found on modern smartphones. I just do not see the reason to carry another small camera, when I always have my phone with me. Another issue with the XQ1 is its high price of $500 (MSRP). For that kind of money, I would much rather buy a Micro Four Thirds camera, a Nikon 1 mirrorless or expand my budget and get something like the Sony RX II (which is an excellent compact camera). It also does not make sense that Fuji wants to sell the XQ1 at $450-500, while the low-end Fuji X-A1 mirrorless kit is currently priced at $499.

Fuji XQ1 Image Sample (2)

The XQ1 is a good camera, but I believe that Fuji went completely off board with its pricing. All those bells and whistles like X-Trans and Lens Modulation Optimizer do not matter at the end of the day, if a low-end product is priced so high. If the XQ1 was in the $250 range, then it would be a different story. And even then, would it make sense to invest in a point and shoot camera with a small sensor when your camera can produce decent images? The point and shoot market will soon be dead. What’s the point?

9) Where to buy and availability

B&H is currently selling the Fuji XQ1 for $450.

10) More image samples

Fuji XQ1 Image Sample (3)

Fuji XQ1 Image Sample (5)

Fuji XQ1 Image Sample (7)

All Images Copyright © Nasim Mansurov, All Rights Reserved. Copying or reproduction is not permitted without written permission from the author.

Fuji XQ1 Review3.1363636363636Nasim Mansurov2013-12-31 18:13:12Read this review of the Fuji XQ1, the latest version of the point and shoot camera from Fuji with the X-Trans sensor
Build Quality
Focus Speed and Accuracy
Handling
Value
Features
Image Quality
High ISO Performance
Size and Weight
Metering and Exposure
Movie Recording Features
Dynamic Range
Photography Life Overall Rating

Comments

  1. January 2, 2014 at 3:01 am

    There’s an obvious problem with your reviews: you’re too good, and you would still take great pictures even with shitty cameras :D

  2. 3
    ) Raghul Nandagopal
    January 2, 2014 at 6:09 am

    Nasim,
    ‘thanks to the high quality cameras that are found on modern cameras’

    I think you meant ‘thanks to the high quality cameras that are found on modern smartphones’

    Thanks…

    • January 2, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      Raghul, thank you for letting me know, that’s exactly what I meant :)

  3. 5
    ) John
    January 2, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    I don’t like how manufacturers design pocket cameras with just a smooth front and no grip at all. Even a rubber strip less than the height of the retracted lens would help out a lot. But perhaps they’re tiny enough that people are holding these cameras by the tops and bottoms, like a smartphone?

    • January 3, 2014 at 1:47 am

      Agreed – a small grip would certainly help. Yes, one could hold the camera like a smartphone, but then there are those like me that like to hold it like a regular camera…

  4. 6
    ) Ben
    January 3, 2014 at 1:03 am

    I don’t think the P&S market is soon to be dead, I reckon that P&S cameras will get smarter and incorporate more to mimic what our smartphones do. As you mentioned in your review about small sensor sizes, there is a limit to what you can cram into a mobile phone. The images from a smartphone will get better but still be rubbish compared to a ‘larger sensor’ P&S. Happy to be proved wrong when an FX sensor ig glued into the back of an Apple iPhone 16 with a 10-200mm f/2.8 lens.

    I would respectfully suggest that the 2/3″ sensor is larger than the norm with the majority being 1/2.3″ and a handful being 1/1.7″. Yes the Sony and Nikon are 1″ but the Nikon wont slip in a pocket and for me AU$700 is a bit much to fork out for the Sony.

    If I’m going for a walk, I wont take a P&S and yes if I have my phone its a handy camera. If I’m going on a holiday, a family function or somewhere that I believe might be an opportunity to take a nice pic or three (like yours above) then out comes my capable X20, knowing full well it won’t come close to my well lubricated D600, but also knowing that it will kill my HTC camera phone should I want to print it on something bigger than a 6×4 bit of paper.

    Most P&S struggle in low light and I think it’s the norm rather than an exception & I think Fuji have done a good job in cramming a 2/3″ sensor into a small, pocketable camera with a handy zoom, but I agree the AU$550 is almost theft, but like the Nikon Df, if people pay, why not charge it, if they don’t, then drop the price.

    I just get the ‘vibe’ that the little XQ1 was facing an uphill review because it wasn;t the camera you expected and the review was a bit sqewed towards the negative.

    Just an observation, otherwise I love your site, reviews and content. It is often my go to site for Nikon gear reviews as I believe you have a more ‘normal and relevant’ perspective on gear that other sites.

    Regards

    Ben

    • January 3, 2014 at 1:56 am

      Ben, I disagree with some of what you’ve said. I don’t think P&S cameras will get smarter like our smartphones. If one offers a camera with a full fledged OS (like some of the new Samsung devices), then it makes sense to offer a phone with it. Then you end up with a camera that has a phone instead of the other way around. Your phone comes with an antenna that can handle data traffic – that’s what you use to send and receive photos. P&S cameras do not have that capability and if they did, they would require a data plan on their own. Makes no sense. The reason why smartphones have gotten so popular, is because people can take pictures and immediately send them to their friends and family. You cannot do that with a P&S device, unless you start messing with WiFi business and a connection to your smartphone, which is often too painful to set up, especially when on the road. Yes, smartphones do not offer as good of image quality, but they are often good enough for most people out there. Take a look at what people bring to concerts and events nowadays – it is certainly not a P&S camera anymore.

      In terms of quality, I believe that one should either get something good with a larger sensor (say 1″ and higher), or just use a cell phone. I just don’t see the point of having something in between. The Sony RX100, along with a number of other compact cameras out there can easily fit into pockets and they have much bigger sensors. Given the small price difference, I just don’t see much value for the XQ1 and similar sensor cameras. Like I said in the summary, if the XQ1 was priced in the 250 USD range, then it would make much more sense…

  5. 9
    ) Oliver
    January 3, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    Thank you for the review. I agree with your points regarding the bleak future of the P&S market. The last year or two saw m4/3, APS-C, and Full Frame make an effort at being more compact. The smart phones are also getting better along with their increasing sensor sizes; the P&S segment is likely feeling the squeeze now from above and below. If they don’t find a reason to exist soon, market share will continue to nose dive.

    Having said that, I do request you to still review P&S and other small sensor formats just to show people what can be done to make the most of these cams — the thought process to use it’s strengths to get the shot right on cam; or how to process for small sensors (their jpegs and raw files are obviously not as malleable) to come up with great images. Your excellent images in this XQ1 review shows us what is achievable as long as we know what we’re doing with a given format.

    Warmest Regards,
    Oliver

  6. 10
    ) Doug
    February 28, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    I have the XQ1 and have found it the ideal size to carry all the time. If it had a big fat grip, it wouldn’t slip in my pocket so easily. I wrap the wrist strap around my hand and have no trouble holding it and composing with it. It’s selling more in the $400 range these days, making it a bargain in my opinion. Yes, some compromises were required to make a camera this small, but the point of this camera is its ability to go everywhere without bulk. Its images are far better than any I take with my Samsung Android phone. I have yet to be disappointed by any photos I’ve taken with it.

  7. 11
    ) Jide
    March 3, 2014 at 4:39 am

    Hi Nasim,
    I agree the P&S market suffers from the huge improvements of smatphones cameras.
    However the features of the XQ1 – which is not a basic camera – cannot be found on smartphones.
    When I travel around – with or without my DSLR -, I always carry a compact P&S camera together. It fits in a pocket and can be used in many situations where the DSLR cannot be used.
    I expect my camera to handle exchangeable SD cards or battery, which all smartphones cannot do, as well as dealing with semi of full manual modes.
    This XQ1 camera does not compete with smatphones, features excellent sensor, and may make some photographers rather happy using it.

  8. 12
    ) Noel Saw
    June 21, 2014 at 12:54 am

    I have the XF1 which is the previous model and relatively similar in many ways. I also have both the Fuji XM1 and Canon Rebel T3 both with good upper mid range $ prime lenses.

    I recently bought the XF1 because I felt I had outgrown my iPhone 5s or hit the limits of what I could do with it. The iPhone 5s is one of the best cameras in a phone but I could see that I wasn’t getting what I wanted from a smaller package that I could carry with me often.

    I think the XF1 photos are definitely better than the iPhone 5s especially under lower light circumstances. I wonder if there’s a relatively small percentage of camera phone users who have “outgrown” the limits of the optics and sensors of their phones and might want to invest into P&S or will they go to m43 or DSLR? I don’t think the P&S market is going away overnight but demographics of those buyers are changing. Thanks for reading ;)

  9. 13
    ) steve brown
    June 29, 2014 at 7:54 am

    Great photos. Personally, I think that there will always be a market for the best possible image capture device that’ll fit in a jeans pocket, and that definitely ain’t a smartphone.

  10. 14
    ) gocchin
    July 22, 2014 at 1:09 am

    Love your reviews but no matter your final word the images you take are always amazing!

    I’ve been shooting a DSLR for years and if I need a quick shot I’ll use my smart phone but based on your pics I don’t know of a mobile that can take as good photos as the XQ1.

    I’m still considering it as street price here in Japan has fallen below 300usd. The Sony would be great but it’s more than double the price.

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