Saturday, December 14, 2013

Fuji XQ1 Review – Part 1 – Arrival and First Impressions

It’s here! It’s here!
Let the bells ring and the children sing!
’Cause it’s here!

The XQ1 has a 2/3” X-TRANS sensor, which makes it a sibling of the X20 in a much smaller body.

Yes, the Fuji XQ1 arrived for review on Thursday around noon. Of course, I was working, so all I could do was to charge the battery. Which brings me to my very first impression. Where is the charger?

In fact, all you get is a very small wall wart with a USB port on it and a micro-USB cable, which is identical to that for my Samsung Galaxy S3 and my original Kindle. This is really handy since I can leave that stuff in the box and just plug it into one of the many compatible cables I have hanging off the bricks I already own. In fact, I charge it off of a USB 3.0 switch that I have attached to the motherboard of my main computer and it works great.

The camera looks very nice, being very clean in a bright solver finish. The lens collapses most of the way down, but leaves room for a well damped control ring at its base. This ring controls the aperture in A-prio mode, but it so far seems to track the state of the dial in back, which is not helpful. I will explore that later on, but ideally I would like the dial in back to default to exposure compensation when the lens ring controls the aperture.

Size-wise it is smaller than my old F11 and about the size of the GF3 without a lens. It is quite a bit smaller than my current carry cam, which is the GX1 with the X VARIO PZ 14-42 on it. This is how they look together.

The camera is actually a little smaller than the F770EXR. The battery in this thing is the NP48, which is a bit smaller and a bit thicker than the NP50, and has a wee bit more capacity.

That is a nice surprise. The GX1 uses a much larger battery but it has a much more sophisticated screen and draws more power. I’d see these three cams all get similar numbers of images if you shoot them the same way.

Here are the three with their front elements showing. The smallest element is on the XQ1, despite it being the fastest lens at full wide – f/1.8. Nice design. Note that I did not power on the GX1 here, so the lens is not extended. Oops …

And finally … I shot some macro images against the F770EXR and have normalized them up to 5000px, which is an expansion of native sizes. In fact, it is a slight expansion of the XQ1 but a massive expansion of the F770EXR, which was shot at M size … just over 3200px across. This makes for a very interesting comparison, although I will do a far more detailed review of image quality as the series goes on (I have the camera until at least 6 January and possibly longer than that.)

F770EXR JPEG 5000px 4.6mm 1600ISO f/3.5 1/7

XQ1 JPEG 5000px 6.4mm f/1.8 1/30

While the tone is much nicer (warmer and richer) in this JPEG engine, the sharpness of the lens this close is mitigated by very shallow depth of field (equivalent to f/7.2 on FF while the F770EXR is closer to f/19.)

And for fun, here are the RAW files normalized the same way and made to look quite similar in tone and saturation. F770EXR first, then XQ1.

Expand these to their full (expanded) size and compare the noise. You should be, as I was, shocked at how similar they look. This is the 1/2” sensor – which we know punches way above its weight – against the new X-TRANS sensor. The call is closer than it should be with the ISO and sensor size advantages both in the XQ1’s corner. I will keep an eye on this as I test.

Other Impressions

  • There is a slight high-pitched grinding sound when the lens extends, and it is very reminiscent of the F10 and F11. I don’t mind it at all, I am just remarking on the nostalgic moment when you first open the lens.
  • Despite the complete lack of a grip, the body feel terrific in the hands.
  • The wrist strap is black while the body is silver. The wrist strap on my F770EXR is silver while the body is black. Fuji is very confused about the concept of coordination of colors I think :-)
  • The flash is tiny and close to the lens, and it does not bend backwards for bouncing. I will examine all that in a later post.
  • The battery is hard to get out. It does not fall out and it does not pop out far enough for you to grip it. You need to hook a finger nail under it and pull. Of course, without a charger in the box, this was obviously not a priority.
  • The SD card requires a push deep into the cavity to lock in. This is disconcerting. But the card does pop out to a nice height for easy removal. Much easier than any of the recent F series.

So that’s it. I can tell you that I have really enjoyed carrying it so far and the image quality is excellent at high ISO (it pleasantly surprises me because what I have seen on the forum from this sensor – shared by the X20 – has been underwhelming) … in fact it is so pleasant to shoot that I did not take a single photograph with the GX1 which I carried along with it to a major Christmas craft show that evening.

More on that in part 2 of the series …