Text and photos by Max Angeloni (Translation by Luca Petralia)
It's really hard to write an article or a review of a photographic tool even after trying it for a long time.
It's even harder trying to summarize in words the first impression on a camera or a lens after just few weeks with it.
So when Fuji gave me the hard task to test their brand new X-M1 with the intention to bring some fresh opinion to the press conference organized for the release of the camera, i thought it was almost impossible with the short time I had to test it.
È molto complesso scrivere un articolo o una recensione su uno strumento fotografico, anche dopo averlo provato intensamente per tanto tempo.
È ancora più arduo sintetizzare a parole le prime impressioni ricevute da una macchina fotografica o un obiettivo dopo poche settimane di utilizzo.
Pertanto, quando Fujifilm Italia mi ha incaricato di testare in anteprima la nuovissima X-M1, alfine di riportare le mie impressioni in occasione della conferenza stampa indetta per il lancio ufficiale del nuovo prodotto di Fujifilm, pensavo fosse impossibile visto il breve periodo che avevo a disposizione.
(Italian version Here)
To be honest all my doubts vanished as soon as I took the camera in my hand for the first time. The X-M1 is in all respects a Fujifilm X-camera. As I already stated at the times of the review of its "middle" sister, the X-E1 when the electronic and the sensor are shared the only differences you may note are just side aspects, details, but the image quality is the same.
That's why handling and knowing the X-M1 was so easy. It's like going back to the film era, when the "sensor" was the same and the differences weren't focused on 100% crops or silly comparisons using bottles as a subject.
Fujifilm X-M1 Fujinon 27mm 1/4000, f/2.8, Iso 200
But first things first.
The X-M1 is designed to broaden the user's base of Fujifilm Cameras. Basically, once created the tools for professional or enthusiast photographers Fuji decided to design a more affordable camera and at the same time an easier camera to use.
Personally I do not like these distinctions, especially when it comes to Pro or Beginners cameras. Reality is different from what you can hear or read about.
A Pro choses its camera based on its personal needs.
It is true that sometimes the needs of a PRO photographer may be wider than the pure hobbist. But it's not a dial or some additional items in the menu system that make the difference. It all comes down on what you want from a photographic tool.
For example For me is crucial to have the same color match between the first body and the backup or second one. This is why, back in times, I decided to go with Nikon rather than with Canon.
Nikon cameras since 2007 all share the same picture controls. That means that regardless the price tag of the camera the color rendition it's basically the same.
That's the way Fujifilm's philosphy goes, at least for now. That's why trying to assign the X-M1 to a specific market segment it's not so easy. This little camera may be considered at the same time a camera for beginners with an interchangeable lens system as well as a second camera, or a backup one, for professionals that don't want to have another X-pro as a backup.
Fujifilm X-M1 Fujinon 18-55mm 1/125, f/2.8, Iso 3200 (JPG OOC)
On the field
The Fujifilm X-M1, while being similar in size to the X20, shares the same thickness with its bigger sisters.This ensures excellent ergonomics especially when using zoom lenses.
The construction quality is, of course, a compromise especially for what concerns materials and finishes. There's more plastic and the dials and buttons don't feel as smooth as my X-Pro1.
The most obvious thing is the lack of the viewfinder balanced with the addition of a tilting LCD screen, something I would really love to see in the next generation of the X-Pro and X-E sereies.
The tilting LCd is a convenience in not to be overlooked for several reasons. It allows you to frame your shot with the camera on the ground, or over your head, allowing you to be more stealthy when you shoot street photography or similar.
The top plate of the camera doesn't have a shutter speed dial or a exposure compensation dial anymore. To be honest this is just a visual feel because thanks to the new dials at thumb and index reach all the functions are still there. If you come from other Fujifilm bodies you may be confused by the new layout while, coming from a DSRL you will feel right at home. The two dials, control the shutter speed and the aperture in Manual mode while, with Semi-Auto mode (A or S) the thumb dial controls the aperture or the shutter speed and the front one controls the exposure compensation.
Simple, isn't it? As in the DSLR.
Fujifilm X-M1 Fujinon 27mm 1/400, f/11, Iso 200 (Velvia Jpg OOC)
In lieu of the shutter speed dial there's the new mode dial that includes some auto modes or scene modes, as most of the camers in this segment do.
In the menu system some of the options and settings have been simplified, as you may notice with the lack of coloured filters in the BW option, or the lack of custom modes you can call up via the Q button. It is present, and it's good, a minimum shutter speed setting for the Auto ISO, an option long awaited from Fujifilm's users around the world.
If this is just a software trick or an update due to the new processor is still to be seen, probably in July when fujifilm will release the new firmware for the X-Pro1 and the X-E1.
Fujifilm X-M1 Fujinon 27mm 1/400, f/9, Iso 400 (DR Auto Jpg OOC)
Who is the real target of this camera? I do not agree with those who say it's dedicated to the low end photographers. Fujifilm has the intention to broaden the base of its users. To increase the number of users means that the camera had to be designed not only for beginners, but also for those who don't want a viewfinder or for those who don't want to spend, or can't spend a lot for a backup body.
This camers is not just an "entry level". The quality is too high and the limitations are so few to consider this camera as an entry level. Everything is reacheable with a phisical button, the dimensions are tiny, but not so small to sacrifice the useability.
The tecnology is shared with the bigger sisters. I think there is still a lot of room to bring the level down, there room enough to have a real entry level camera. Tiny, in so many colours, but also with a less advanced tecnology.
But wait...is this a rumor?
No...this is just the open secret...and there no need to wait that long.
Fujifilm X-M1 Fujinon 14mm 1/1100, f/5.6, Iso 200 (Jpg OOC)
Fujifilm X-M1 Fujinon 18-55mm 1/420, f/11, Iso 200 (Jpg OOC)
Fujifilm X-M1 Fujinon 18-55mm 1/450, f/10, Iso 200 (Jpg OOC)
Fujifilm X-M1 Fujinon 18-55mm 1/400, f/6.4, Iso 200
Fujifilm X-M1 Fujinon 14mm 1/400, f/11, Iso 200 (Jpg OOC)
Fujifilm X-M1 Fujinon 27mm 1/250, f/2.8, Iso 2000 (Jpg OOC)
Fujifilm X-M1 Fujinon 27mm 1/200, f/2.8, Iso 6400 (Jpg OOC)
Fujifilm X-M1 Fujinon 18-55mm 1/50, f/18, Iso 200
Fujifilm X-M1 Fujinon 18-55mm 1/20, f/22, Iso 200
Fujifilm X-M1 Fujinon 55-200 1/320, f/4.2, Iso 500