Fujifilm X-A1 review

The X-A1 is Fujifilm’s handsome-looking entry-level interchangeable lens X-series compact, a range noted for reviving the critical fortunes of the brand with its classic styling and a feature set more geared to enthusiasts and pros than the happy-snappy brigade.

Although it's the model pitched at those new to the series, the X-A1 still comes with a large 16-megapixel APS-C-sized sensor, a physical match for those found in digital SLRs and higher-priced Fujifilm X cameras, such as the X-E2 and X-T1.

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A further bonus is a tilting 3-inch, 920 k dot LCD, built-in flash and a vacant hotshoe for accessory attachment. Its light sensitivity stretches to a whopping ISO 25,600, as on a semi-pro camera. Wi-Fi connectivity is included. The handgrip provided may be small, but on a practical note the whole faceplate of our review sample was covered in a non-slip rubber coating, not just the grip itself.

As with the rest of the Fuji camera range, including its FinePix super zooms, an Advanced mode provides access to digital filter effects. There are eight options here, including the corner shading Toy Camera and the tilt and shift lens ape-ing Miniature mode. Naturally we also get Fuji’s USP of Film Simulation modes, which simulate the effects of using certain old Fuji film stock, including Velvia (for vivid colours), Astia (for a soft focus effect most suited to portraiture) and Provia (the X-A1’s standard, neutral default setting).

On standard setting this Fuji produced clean, crisp and clear-looking noise-free images that better those from your average snapshot, or even a premium point-and-shoot camera with a smaller sensor, such as the manufacturer’s own XQ1. Put simply, image quality was excellent in terms of colour, detail and contrast.

Fuji supplied our sample with a 16–50 mm zoom lens as a jack of all trades option. When fully extended this did make the camera both look and feel front heavy, as the camera itself is relatively compact and lightweight. We would have preferred a slightly larger handgrip for a firmer hold. As it was, we found ourselves curling our left hand around the lens barrel while gripping the X-A1 in the right in order for it to sit comfortably in the hands.

What this model lacks, if compared with those higher up the X series, is an eye-level viewfinder, though naturally the vacant hotshoe allows for the possibility of attaching one. We’re totally reliant out of the box on the tilting rear LCD, which fortunately offers a crystal-clear image that was sufficient for us to tell whether the camera had our subject in focus or not.

Previous Fujis have been criticised for a  slightly sluggish auto focus, but we didn’t find that the case here. The camera delivered a solid performance and with lens attached feels rugged enough to withstand years of service.

OUR VERDICT

Controls are both sufficiently large to allow easy activation and reassuringly stiff to the touch so as to avoid accidentally jogging the camera from one setting to another whilst reaching for it out of a bag. Incidentally, with lens attached the combo is too big to transport even in a jacket pocket; so this is one that you’ll want to hang around your neck and show off. If you’ve been seduced by the premium look and feel of previous ‘X’ cameras but haven’t been able to justify the expense until now, the X-A1 suggests a great value-added place to start.

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