Fuji X-M1 | Hands on Review
Fuji’s highly rated X-Series of CSCs has already made considerable waves in the professional world, and now there’s a new model out there – Hello to the X-M1.
This review was first written for Photo Pro Magazine
On paper, the latest X-Series camera from Fuji, the scaled-down X-M1, is an interesting new product. With a price tag that’s sub-£600 (body only) it’s clearly aimed at the hobbyist market, and yet it still comes with many of the features that have made siblings such as the X-Pro 1 and X-E1 so attractive to professional users. Notably the same 16.3 megapixel APS-C format sensor and unique colour filter array has been employed, which minimises moiré patterning and avoids the need for an optical low-pass filter, thus allowing more detail to be captured.
The new arrival cuts down on some of the features that distinguish the higher-end models, such as traditional shutter speed and exposure compensation dials on the top plate, while the aperture ring is missing from the kit lens, the XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS. Instead the camera uses a conventional exposure mode dial, along with twin electronic control dials on the top and rear to set exposure parameters.
Another change is a direct movie record button on the back of the camera to initiate recording at any time, but perhaps the biggest new feature is the inclusion of Wi-Fi, so that you can send images wirelessly to your smartphone or tablet.
To save on cost and size there’s no viewfinder built in, and instead you compose using the camera’s high resolution LCD 3in LCD screen, which is helpfully mounted on a tilting bracket. It’s meant that the X-M1 is an incredibly scaled-down camera, smaller even than the Fuji X-20, which is a compact camera with a 2/3in sensor. It means that this is a very portable product indeed, one that is easy enough to tuck in a pocket and to take anywhere.
Seeing as the sensor it incorporates is the same as its two bigger brothers, I thought I would set up a shoot to see how it could handle the pressure of a professional job and to get a feel for the quality of the results that it was capable of outputting. I pulled a team together that included Chloe-Jasmine as my model, and decided to restrict my lighting to a couple of speedlights and Orbis ringflash modifiers, since this is the kind of kit that many X-Pro users are likely to be working with.
Right away the need to compose through an LCD screen and the lack of dedicated buttons and heavy use of the menu systems for prime functionality was frustrating. We had the camera set up on a tripod shooting strobist-style portraits, which is something the X-Pro 1 excels at. While the X-M1 did everything we needed it was very clear from the off that the body was not designed with this type of shoot in mind. The X-Trans sensor delivered up a stunning performance as expected, while the lenses now available to those using the X-System are world class: I worked with a Zeiss 32mm. The sensor the X-M1 utilises is already well known, and image quality throughout its ISO range is much talked about for its class leading range, colour and tonal gradation. File to file, quality was exactly the same as that provided by the X-Pro 1, the only difference being the difficulty experienced in getting the shots. In Manual mode, the X-M1 is trickier to work with than expected. However, the Focus peaking software update to the X-Pro 1 was a little less accurate than that offered by the X-M1.
Photography: Dave Kai Piper
Hair & Beauty: Buster Knight @ ARTDECO Make Up
Model: Chloe-Jasmine Whichello @ RMG Models
Lingerie: Fleur Of England
Milliner: Nigel Rayment
Assistant : Lee Jolly
Fuji X-M1 + Orbis Flash / SB900 / Zeiss Touit 32mm f1.8
As with any camera, negatives can be found if you look hard enough for them. In this case too much of the key functionality is hidden away in the menu system, the Q button is a little out the way and the AF button is a disaster waiting to happen as it doubles up as the delete button. The fact that there was no PC sync socket provided meant that I had to use the big TT5 Pocket wizard triggers to get my speedlights to work. It was quite a strange looking set up since the triggers are almost the same size as the camera.
The introduction of the new XC kit lens and the pancake 27mm f/2.8 is perfectly timed, and it means that the power of the 16.3 megapixel X-Trans Sensor can now be considered truly portable. With the 27mm pancake lens attached the X-M1 fitted in my jacket pocket, if you overlook the wireless system. It has been fun carrying the mini X-Pro about for a couple of days and I will be sad to have to send the sample back. In fact, I might just ask to buy this one.
The SR+ (Scene Recognition) mode on the camera is one of the best auto systems I’ve encountered to date. When using the camera as the point and shoot model that Fuji maybe intends it to be, the camera is near faultless, with excellent image quality and class leading performance. If you’re looking for the ultimate wedding or travel camera, this is good option. In fact if you are looking for a non-work camera, it’s hard to find fault with the X-M1. It was just that our shoot was a little too much for the poor little thing, and I have to confess that my stress levels were starting to rise as I tried to wade through menu settings that I was not comfortable with. This camera must have been designed with the idea that it will spend most of its life shooting on one or a few of the auto settings.
The Wireless transfer and the PC sync settings are interesting additions, and it appears to be very much the way that camera technology is going. However, the set up is tricky, the software is awful and the functionality needs much improving. If the technology that’s being incorporated is starting to impact on the primary functionality of the camera, then you maybe have to question why it’s included in the first place.
The fact is that you can’t transfer files and use the camera at the same time. You’ll also find that RAW transfer is not an option, while wireless transmission of JPEG files is slow and clumsy at best. It’s a shame to have to sound sp negative about something that is not a primary function of the camera, but these things should be tested in beta and only added to a camera once they are working flawlessly. Hopefully this will be a function that improves in the future, and meanwhile details of how to set up the system are online, while Fuji also runs a helpline.
I consider that the X-Pro sensor is potentially one of the best ever made, and ISO performance is amazing, usable well up to 2000 and onwards. While the files will exhibit some data loss at the higher ISO speeds it’s not bad looking and quite film-esque in appearance. Tonal range at ISO 200 is pretty amazing, while colour rendition is very nice and highly accurate. Auto White Balance works well at reducing casts in-camera, and the film simulation modes are all lovely and provide edit-free shooting if you wish to use them. It’s still a shame, however, that you can’t shoot RAW and preserve the film simulation modes into Lightroom.
Despite my reservations I’ve decided that I’ll be buying one, my brother is buying one and I’m sure that many other people, including a number of professionals, will do as well. This is a sub-£600 camera that gives you entry into one of best and rapidly expanding lens ranges on the market today. Fuji seems to be right on top of software updates and I’m sure that the X-M1 will only get better with time as tweaks continue to be made. Getting used to not having a viewfinder was interesting, but it’s something I’ll be happy to do considering the price of the camera. This would make an excellent second camera choice if you were packing light.
The only real major reason why you might choose not to buy this camera would be if you needed a trusted wireless system. To say the one supplied is just about adequate would be being very generous indeed. I did raise this point with Fuji and I was happy with the response and the help given to set up and work with the system. However, the fact remains: is wireless transfer for RAW files asking too much?
I also think that, in hindsight, I perhaps did expect too much of the camera on the day of the test. I took the camera out the box, placed it on the tripod and expected it to work, with the added pressure of a full team of people, including model, hair, make up, hat designer and lingerie designer behind me, along with the need to shoot some worthwhile images for this feature. I had never used the camera before, and the pressure was on. Having used all the other models in the X-range did help me to ultimately come to terms with the settings and to get the shots I needed, but even so I was very tempted to shoot the minimum number of pictures with the X-M1 and then switch to the X-Pro 1 to finish the rest of the shot.
I had real world pressure to get files, to get them right and to deliver, and at the start of proceedings things didn’t go too well because I wasn’t wholly comfortable with my gear. I lost a few great images because I didn’t know how the camera was going to react. Once I had that sorted, however, the rest of the day was so much fun, a real blast. It was a major relief to get home and find that the images had indeed been saved, and they were sharp and pretty good. It’s worth noting that we had to use Fuji’s software to convert the .RAF files before we could view them, but Adobe’s on the case and the next update will support the X-M1.
All in all, this camera offers an amazing sensor packed into a great body with very little compromise. It stands to reason that if you can work with an X-Pro 1, you can work with an X-M1, with the only problems I can foresee being perhaps build quality, the syncing issues and the lack of a viewfinder. And, oh yes, the slight issue that the X-Pro 1 looks about a million times cooler too…
Sitting in the premium compact range, the X-M1 is going to be attractive to many people as the perfect travel camera or as a back up to an X-Pro 1 or an X-E1. Using the same battery for all the cameras is a nice little touch if this is going to be a second body.
Price: £599.00 (body only) /Body with kit lens £679.00
Sensor: 16.3 Million pixels 3.6mm×15.6mm（APS-C
X-Trans CMOS with primary colour filter
Sensor Size: APS-C
Processor: EXR Processor II
White Balance Presets: 7
Image Stabilisation: No
Manual Focus: Yes
Number of Focus Points: 49
Lens Mount: Fujifilm X
Focal length multiplier: 1.5x
ISO Speeds: 200 – 6400
LCD Screen: 3in articulating
Live View: Yes
Minimum Shutter Speed: 30 secs
Maximum shutter speed: 1/4000sec
Flash X-Speed: 1/180sec
Continuous Drive: 5.6 fps
Wireless: Built In