So here’s the deal – a camera shouldn’t just take good pictures. It should look good too. And I wouldn’t disagree to this belief either. I mean look at the market – we’re all just too spoilt for choice here. Almost every major manufacturer is packing in good sensors, fun filters, tremendous amounts of new imaging capabilities and even a hoard of funky accessories. So how exactly does your gadget stand out from everyone else’s – by being a sleek little thing, clad in leather.

And that’s what Fujifilm’s done with its new XF1, part of the X series, which, according to the company, has been made for those “passionate about photography”. So I took this compact ‘premium’ point and shoot, to see if it also frames good, apart from being frameworthy.

Design and build

So if I haven’t already gone overboard with the XF1’s styling, then here are the details. It is retro styled, like a range-finder camera of the ‘60s or ‘70s. The aluminium body is clad in synthetic leather, which comes in options of black, light tan and crimson. Since the construction is mostly aluminium, the camera is uber light, just like a compact camera should be, and strong on top of it. It is also small enough to snugly fit into any kind of pockets.

But the attempt to keep a modern digital camera in a retro-styled body might’ve gone a little wrong here. The first quirky feature is the manually operated zoom barrel. Now I would never say no to manual zoom or focus rings, but it would be little bit of a trouble if it is also the power control. That’s right, you have to manually pull out the lens and turn it to the first focal-length stop to turn it on.

I’m not saying that this is a bad feature – it just becomes a bit of a pain after some time, especially when you quickly need to whip out the camera and take a candid shot. ‘No sorry mate, can you keep pulling his hair a little longer, I gotta turn this lens around’. No, not happening.

The flash is quirky too! You have to manually pop it out (relax; you have a button to make it pop out, and not yank it out yourself). The flash menu is activated only if you pop the flash out. In dark conditions, I was hoping that the camera would suggest me to pop out the flash or something like that.

But the camera is adequately equipped with little dials and buttons on the back panel that come very handy when shooting in priority or full manual modes. The buttons have good tactile feedback, and the mode dial also doesn’t have any problems to operate with. I have one complaint, though. The rear LCD panel has a resolution of 460K dots – for its price, I guess a 920K dot screen would’ve been more justified.

Specs and performance

While many camera makers are making their ‘premium’ compacts mirrorless micro Four-thirds or even full-frames (Hat tip, Sony), Fujifilm has decided to go with a 12-million dot standard 2/3-inch sensor. This isn’t bad at all, because the colour reproduction is spot on, in bright to dim daylight or illuminated frames.

What I really loved about the XF1 was the bright, f1.8 lens. I’m glad that this camera has a big aperture, because a small sensor always makes the image very grainy in low light and high ISO levels. At the widest focal length (25mm), pictures taken at low shutter speeds and even f1.8 showed good brightness, and surprisingly good image stabilisation for a compact camera.

The maximum focal length is 100mm, so that’s 4x zoom for you. But this isn’t a reason to be put off, because to be honest, there are hardly many practical applications of a high zoom compact camera in urban or daily photography. It’s the performance that counts.

Because the sensor is a small one, noise starts showing up at ISO levels after 800 (the maximum is 12,800). But again there isn’t really a need to open up the images in many conditions, because the f1.8 lens takes care of it. Also, the pop-up flash is powerful enough to illuminate subjects at close quarters, so darkish pubs and dance floors are sorted.

The AF is decently quick, but sometimes gets lost in multitudes of subjects. Thankfully, a white-LED AF assist lamp comes into play in darker frames.

We say

The leather-clad beauty is decently equipped – there are 6 ‘advanced filters’ with 11 patterns and 5 different filter modes in the movie mode and it can also take 3D pictures, along with panoramas. Apart from looking good, it also takes reasonable sharp and rich images.

The power-ring is definitely a little quirky, but that’s only if you’re in a hurry. You can keep it on stand-by mode (pulled out) and just twist it for switching on and taking pictures. It’s quite compact too, and can fit into your pockets, but with looks like these, would you realy want to keep it inside?

Rs 33,989

Love – Bright f1.8 lens, low-light image stabilisation

Hate - Power-mode, not-too-intelligent Auto mode

sabyasachi.b@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on February 5, 2013)
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