Fujifilm X-A1

Categoria: English Pubblicato: Venerdì, 04 Ottobre 2013 Scritto da Max Angeloni

The new entry level camera from Fujifilm is identical to the X-M1, including the new image processor EXR2, with the only difference being in the image sensor and consequently in the image quality. To understand the reasons of this choice it has to be explained how much the sensor impacts the price of a camera. Take the X-M1’s price and subtract the X-A1’s price... that’s the difference between the 16MP X-Trans sensor and the traditional 16MP CMOS sensor.  It looks clear that this move from Fuji is aimed at spreading the X-system by “attacking” the mega-stores buyers rather than the traditional photographers used to specific shops. These potential buyers may be more interested in the price rather than in the pure image quality, they probably don’t care that much about differencies between sensors’ rendition...this is photo enthusiast's stuff.

The X-A1 is going to face a rather turbolent market segment. The bridge or high end compact cameras have seen a sales drop lately, while CSC cameras continue to have good selling numbers and are well received by photo enthusiasts. In fact, the most crowded and hard fought segment is the one around 500€. It’s not going to be an easy battle for the X-A1 especially considering the number of competitors and the well established lines of product available since some years ago.   Market considerations apart, let’s try to find out what are the differences between an X-Trans camera and a traditional one.
After just few days of use I can easily say that in good light conditions it’s easier to find the goodies coming from the new EXR processor rather than anything else. As usual for Fujifilm it’s difficult to notice image quality shortcomings in the X-A1’s files.

Fujifilm X-A1, Fujinon XC 16-50mmF3.5-5.6 OIS, 19,2mm, 1/300, f/5.6, Iso 200 (Velvia Jpg OOC)

We’re talking about “easy” photographic conditions, tha ones that users of such kind of products will face more often. Situations that usually are faced with the standard zoom kit lens, the one that probably will never be replaced by a better or different lens.  Hey, I’m not saying that this kind of tools are rubbish...to be honest it’s the opposite. Never underestimate these products especially because it’s with tools like these that manufacturers make their “big numbers”, and it’s thanks to tools like these that a manufacturer may establish itself as big player, hoping to sell new bodies and lenses to its lovers.

 

Fujifilm X-A1, Fujinon XC 16-50mmF3.5-5.6 OIS, 16mm, 1/350, f/6.4, Iso 200 (Velvia Jpg OOC)

That’s why the X-A1 sensor is a traditional CMOS  rather than an X-Trans. For the potential buyers of this camera the little upsides of the X-Trans technology couldn’t justify the price difference. Of course the differencies are not only with the X-A1 sensor, but with every camera that features a traditional CMOS Bayer sensor. It’s in the image quality at high ISO settings, not only related to the “noise”, it’s in the dynamic range, it’s in the color depth that the X-Trans sensor shines compared to the traditional CMOS Bayer array sensors.

Field test

When the design philosphy is consistent, it’s always easy to talk about cameras from the same manufacturer. That’s what happens with Fujifilm, with its X system. The design is consistent, and the majority of the considerations made for a specific model is still valid for its siblings. In particular the X-A1 shares the same handling and layout of the X-M1 and that’s why we won’t talk about menus, buttons, dials and so on... Just see the link below (Fujifilm X-M1).
The only thing worth focusing on is the sensor.

Fujifilm X-A1, Fujinon XC 16-50mmF3.5-5.6 OIS, 50mm, 1/125, f/5.6, Iso 3200

I have to admit that I had hard times trying to put together all the impressions I got from the time spent with the camera. It’s always like that, one should use the camera for months, take thousands of shots and prints, to really understand the device and its behaviour. One should face all the possible situations in order to really get the best from the camera, hiding the shortcomings and showing the best the camera can do. And...at a first glance, I really considered the possibility that this sensor could be even better than the hyped X-Trans from Fujifilm.
Reality is that I was wrong, and I just started to see this as soon as I started to push the camera to its limits, using it in the most difficult situations.  I always say, as well as Riflessifotografici.com, that a comparison based on a single shot, even if it’s really good, doesn't mean anything. Only the experience based on the use of the camera allows to get a complete idea of what a camera is, and what is not. The reason why I was so excited after the first shots is simple and confirms how Fujifilm is good at making high quality sensors and image processors.

 

Fujifilm X-A1, Fujinon XC 16-50mmF3.5-5.6 OIS, 26mm, 1/320, f/8, Iso 200 (Velvia Jpg OOC)

The target of this camera is the mega store audience, you may call it mass market. It’s unlikely that this kind of user knows what Raw files are. This kind of users, likely coming from compact cameras, are used to vivid Jpegs, with little to no noise (it doesn’t matter if it’s washed out with a noise reduction algorithm) with high contrast and sharpened files.    And that’s what people that don’t want to mess around with post production want from a camera.   Fuji was smart enough to take advantage of this and designed two sisters, almost twins. The X-M1 is dedicated to people who appreciates the X-Trans approach but don’t have the possibility to buy the big sisters (X-E1 or X-Pro1), or just want a little camera. It is also dedicated to those wanting a small and “cheap” backup body. The X-A1 on the contrary is for those wanting high quality with the greatest ease of use and without the need to sit in front of a computer to post process the pictures.    Of course the situation it’s not so clearly defined, and you may find enthusiasts with an X-A1, but again the two cameras are aimed to different users with different priorities. 
The quality is high, very high, in both cases.

 

Fujifilm X-A1, Fujinon XC 16-50mmF3.5-5.6 OIS, 32mm, 1/200, f/5.6, Iso 200 (Raw Adobe LR5.2)

 

Conclusions:

The first samples from the X-A1 generated a very good feedback and this confirms how well Fujifilm worked on this camera. Someone says that the X-A1 files are even better than the ones from the X-Trans cameras. This may drive potential buyers to think that a 500€ camera is better than the ones priced two or three times more. It’s ok, it happens. People working or just shooting enough with one of the X-Trans cameras will recognize the differencies between the sensors. It’s what happens with entrly level reflex compared to the professional ones. Just shoot at insane ISO settings, to useless subjects far from any kind of photographic interest, to bring out quick conclusions based on nothing without even taking into consideration what really are the quality of a sensor. Probably the X-A1 users won’t care about dynamic range, color depth, and so on...the camera has to provide sharp, vivid and popping jpeg, and that’s pretty much it...it doesn't matter what it’s behind the lens, what’s inside the camera.  That’s why the X-A1 has all the potential to be a best-seller in its segment. A best-seller that may “accidentally” be found even in an enthusiast’s pouch.

 

Fujifilm X-A1, Fujinon XC 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OIS, 16mm, 1/180, f/3.5, Iso 6400 (Raw Adobe LR5.2)


Fujifilm X-A1, Fujinon XC 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OIS, 16mm, 1/500, f/3.5, Iso 4000 (Raw Adobe LR5.2)


Fujifilm X-A1, Fujinon XC 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OIS, 16mm, 1/500 f/3.5, Iso 640 (Raw Adobe LR5.2)

 

Fujifilm X-A1, Fujinon XC 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OIS, 50mm, 1/125, f/5.6, Iso 1250 (Jpg OOC)


Fujifilm X-A1, Fujinon XC 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OIS, 16mm, 1/340, f/6.4, Iso 200 (Velvia Jpg OOC)


Fujifilm X-A1, Fujinon XC 16-50mmF3.5-5.6 OIS, 32mm, 1/800, f/6.4, Iso 200 (Velvia Jpg OOC)


Fujifilm X-A1, Fujinon XC 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OIS, 34mm, 1/125 f/5, Iso 200 (Raw Adobe LR5.2)

 

Fujifilm X-A1, Fujinon XC 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OIS, 16mm, 1/500 f/3.5, Iso 6400 (Raw Adobe LR5.2)


Fujifilm X-A1, Fujinon XC 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OIS, 16mm, 1/100 f/3.5, Iso 640 (Raw Adobe LR5.2)