Fujifilm has recently announced a new addition to its X-series of interchangeable lens compact camera system. Fujifilm X-A1 positions itself right below the previous entry-level model in the range, X-M1. At the same time, it is a camera many Fujifilm fans will likely not appreciate all that much. A lot of the initial skepticism may be due to the fact it is not very different from the recently announced X-M1. But more importantly, a difference these two cameras have is also a major one. Because Fujifilm X-A1 has a traditional Bayer color filter array rather than the rightly praised X-Trans. A recipe for failure? Not quite. Before we dive into an overview, though, let’s take a quick look at the specs.
1) Fujifilm X-A1 Key Specifications
As I’ve mentioned before, X-A1 takes the place of an entry-level interchangeable lens camera in the Fujifilm mirrorless lineup. Fortunately, unlike with entry-level cameras of old, this does not mean poor specs. On the contrary, features X-A1 can offer will be more than enough for its intended audience. The heart of the camera is its 16 megapixel CMOS sensor. It is not the same as those used in the rest of the mirrorless Fujifilm cameras, because it incorporates the traditional Bayer color filter, but has the exact same resolution at 4896×3264. Photographers that have already bought into Fujifilm system and looking for the smallest and cheapest camera currently on offer for easy carry-around will surely appreciate that. On the back of the camera there is a 3:2 aspect ratio tiltable LCD screen with 920k dots, which is more than Fujifilm’s higher-end and more expensive X-E1. There is Wi-Fi on board for smartphone connectivity, FullHD 1080p30 video and standard ISO sensitivity range of 200-6400. If any of the previous Fujifilm X series cameras are to go by, starting with the original X100, the camera should be able to handle even high sensitivities very well indeed.
All of the above specifications are virtually identical to those of the more expensive X-M1 save for the sensor, and the same is true with pretty much the rest of the camera, really. Continuous shooting speed is a generous 5.6 frames per second while the shutter speed range is 30-1/4000s. Fujifilm has used a familiar 49-point contrast-detect autofocus system. The two cameras even share the same basic body, weight and dimensions, as well as rated battery life of around 350 shots. In real world, this may vary depending on how you use your camera, of course. Here is a short list of key specifications:
- Price: $799 with 16-50mm lens, $699.95 body only
- 16.3 megapixel APS-C CMOS X-Trans sensor
- ISO range of 200-6400 expandable from 100 to 25600
- Tiltable 3″, 920k dot LCD with Live View
- Shutter speed range of 30-1/4000 sec
- Built-in pop-up flash
- Wi-Fi connectivity
- 5.6 frames per second
- Video: 1080p 30fps H.264
- Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC
- Battery Life (CIPA): 350
- Weight (inc. batteries): 330 g (0.73 lb / 11.64 oz)
- Dimensions: 117 x 66.5 x 39 mm (4.6 x 2.62 x 1.54″)
In short, the X-A1 seems to be just as capable as the X-M1 on paper. Coupled to a standard XC 16-50mm kit zoom lens, however, it costs just $599 (the X-M1 retailed at $799 with the kit lens at introduction). It’s just as gorgeous-looking, too, although does not offer X-M1’s stylish silver-brown color option.
2) Overview – Is There Something Wrong With It?
What made Fujifilm X-series cameras so popular over the relatively short period of time they are available are the same basic elements that differentiate them from the competition. First of all, it is the hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder that allowed one to switch between rangefinder-style OVF and the traditional EVF associated with mirrorless cameras. Such an innovative viewfinder was first introduced in the Fujifilm X100 which, although without the ability to switch lenses, arguably gave birth to Fujifilm’s compact camera system. The next element was the equally as innovative X-Trans sensor sporting a different color filter array than traditional Bayer-type sensor found in most (not all) digital cameras that came out in the last decade and more. Last but definitely not least, it is Fujifilm’s unapologetically photography-focused ergonomics and styling choice which resulted in cameras that are not only great as photographic tools, but prove that such tools can also look and feel just as good. Although all Fujifilm cameras sport a video mode, it is not the best in the market nor the simplest to use. You can do it, it is just that you are not overly encouraged to. The analogue-ish shutter speed, exposure compensation and aperture dials, on the other hand, remind us of cameras of old. In a good way, at that.
Throughout its line-up, Fujifilm managed to incorporate at least some or all of the above. The X-Pro1 and X100s, which can be considered a sibling in many ways, both have handsome looks, appropriate dials and ergonomics, X-Trans sensors and hybrid viewfinders. Taking one step lower (or, perhaps, sideways) brings us to Fujifilm X-E1, which trades the optical viewfinder to a higher resolution (versus that of X-Pro1) EVF-only and more compact dimensions, but retains the rest of the values. The shutter speed and exposure dials are all there and it comes kited with a lens that has an aperture dial, too. Yet another step further down the line-up brings us to Fujifilm X-M1 – this camera has no viewfinder at all and users must rely on its large, tiltable LCD screen. The innovative sensor – Fujifilm’s trademark piece of technology – is still at its heart delivering sharp, noise-free images comparable (in certain regards) to some full-frame DSLR cameras out there. Although missing some of the important bits you would expect to find in a Fujifilm (the shutter speed/exposure compensation dials and any sort of viewfinder), it is still enough an X-series camera to tempt as the take-anywhere choice. Somewhere between a “proper” Fujifilm mirrorless camera and a “regular” one, if you like, but a good, likeable one. And then we reach the new X-A1, which, basically, has none of the traits associated with Fuji’s mirrorless range, not even the heart – X-Trans sensor. And that is where one could be easily disappointed. But is it justified?
Let’s take a look at this camera from a different perspective. Who is it for? Though a lot of different photographers might find it interesting and tempting, the majority of the group are people stepping up from a compact point-and-shoot or a smartphone. Such buyers do not care about Bayer or X-Trans – both definitions are gibberish for someone who was not really into photography seriously. Such buyers also can not or will not buy a mirrorless camera with an EVF because of their budget, needs or both. They will walk into a retail store and ask for a mirrorless camera. A small one that’s also cheap, one you can take lenses off. What do they see in an X-A1? Everything they can understand. It has 16 megapixels. That’s a lot. Plenty for just about everyone’s family pictures. It has a big, sharp screen and it’s tiltable. Very convenient. It is small and light and will not take up that much more space than a point-and-shoot, also a big plus. It is easy to use, because it has the usual modes on its top dial, but also offers room to learn. There’s RAW file format, which they hear is a good thing for highest quality. Traditionally, Fujifilm gives great JPEG look, so the first test samples taken at the store will impress. The sensor is large and, thus, will give great image quality. How can I assume that it will? Based on the simple fact that, today, there are no mirrorless cameras that are technically poor in the image quality department. Further on, the X-A1 looks good, does an impressive 5.6 frames per second to capture a laughing daughter, and has lenses that come off. An added bonus? Price of $599 with a lens. Sold.
This camera is not meant to represent what Fujifilm X-series is about. No, it is not a proper Fujifilm X. But then, so what? It does not matter what type of sensor this camera has. Even though X-Trans is so impressive, Bayer sensors are no worse for it and preferred by some. Instead of being an outright, modern Fujifilm mirrorless camera with its innovative technology, it’s competitive. An invitation to the system of sorts – “look, we have a small, pretty camera. You like it? Come in, then, learn what else we’ve got. It gets better.” It is supposed to tempt new buyers with impressive specs, low-ish price, good looks and nice size. Tempt them and keep interested, intrigued, in love. Most importantly, it is $200 cheaper than its X-Trans brother, the X-M1. I’d be surprised if X-A1 didn’t work out.
3) Official Press Release
Here is the official press release by Fujifilm. There is also information about the new budget telephoto lens introduced along with the camera, the XC 50-230mm f/4.5-6.7 OIS:
FUJIFILM LAUNCHES THE X-A1, AN ENTRY-LEVEL CSC FEATURING A 16.3 MP APS-C CMOS SENSOR AND POWERFUL EXR PROCESSOR II
New X-A1 offers entry into the premium X-Series while delivering outstanding image quality, modern design, sharp 3” tilting LCD screen and wireless image transfer
Valhalla, N.Y., September 17, 2013 – FUJIFILM North America Corporation today announced the new FUJIFILM X-A1 compact system camera (CSC), the fourth interchangeable lens system camera introduced within the award-winning FUJIFILM X-Series. The ultra-light X-A1 gives consumers an affordable entry point into the X-Series line of digital cameras and delivers outstanding image quality using its large 16.3 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, easy operation and wireless image transfer for quick photo sharing.
The FUJIFILM X-A1 kit will ship with the FUJINON XC16-50mm (24-76mm)*1 F3.5-5.6 OIS zoom lens. The XC16-50mm is a versatile lens that is ideal for a wide range of photographic subjects, including clear low-light scenes, beautiful portraits and vivid landscapes. The lens consists of 12 all glass elements in 10 groups including 3 aspherical elements and 1 ED element. The lens features seven round-edged aperture blades, which offer 17 stops in 1/3 EV increments for precise aperture control.
“The lightweight X-A1 and versatile XC16-50mm lens combination gives consumers extraordinary value and the opportunity to experience the outstanding image quality that the X-Series is known for,” said Manny Almeida, senior vice president and general manager, FUJIFILM North America Corporation. “Together with a high definition tilting screen and wireless image transfer, consumers of all skill levels can capture truly memorable images that can also be shared on Facebook and Twitter quickly and easily.”
Large 16.3 Megapixel APS-C sensor and EXR Processor II
The FUJIFILM X-A1 uses an APS-C sensor and powerful EXR Processor II that captures rich tones, breath-taking dynamic range and stunning low-light images using its extended ISO range of up to 25600. With the X-A1, users can set the sensor sensitivity from ISO200 to as high as ISO6400 in 1/3 step increments, to obtain remarkably clear images even when shooting indoors and at night.
Together with the EXR Processor II, the X-A1 also gives customers fantastic speed with a start-up time of 0.5 seconds*2, a shutter time lag of 0.05 seconds and a maximum burst speed of 5.6 frames per second (max. 30 frames*3).
Compact performance and advanced features
The X-A1 CSC combines advanced features in a go-anywhere design. The X-A1 weighs just 11.6oz*4 and is about a third of the size of a traditional DSLR body. With a slim profile of 1.3” at its trimmest point, the X-A1 is easily carried anywhere.
The X-A1 also features a 3” tilting high resolution LCD screen with 920,000 dots for easy image viewing and framing at various angles. The 3” LCD monitor tilts at variable vertical angles, facilitating both low-angle and high-angle shots whether on or off a tripod.
The X-A1 uses a built-in high precision flash, with the guide number 7*5, and Super Intelligent Flash technology that uses scene recognition and automatically controls flash strength to reduce highlight clipping.
Easy Image Transfer with WiFi® button
The X-A1 includes a WiFi button that lets users transfer high quality photos and movies*6 to social media sites for easy sharing from the camera to smartphones, tablets and computers.
To connect the X-A1 to a smartphone or tablet, users can download the free dedicated “FUJIFILM Camera Application” to their iPhone™ / iPad™ or Android™ smartphone or tablet device to transfer up to 30 pictures at a time from the X-A1. The app also lets users download movies, expanding the range of options available for enjoying pictures taken with the camera.
Intuitive design and easy operation
The X-A1 has its key operation buttons and dials positioned on the right side of the camera’s rear panel for easy use and quick picture taking. The Mode Dial for selecting the optimum setting for each scene gives access to the Advanced SR Auto function, which automatically recognizes each scene and selects the best settings for sharp and clear images.
The Advanced Filter function and Film Simulation modes give users a range of creative filters and film effects to apply and achieve unique and artistic looks.
FUJINON XC50-230mm (76-350mm) F4.5-6.7 OIS
The all new FUJINON XC50-230mm (76-350mm) F4.5-6.7 OIS lens adds even more versatility to the X-Series line of compact system cameras by offering an expanded zoom range that delivers consistently outstanding optical performance throughout. The XC50-230mm uses optical image stabilization to ensure superb performance and effectively reduces blur when shooting at longer focal lengths and in low light.