By Gavin Stoker | on October 16, 2013
Price When Reviewed: £567 plus VAT (with 16-50mm zoom lens)
Pros: Large APS-C image sensor and competent kit zoom lens, solid-feel build without being prohibitively weighty, beautifully natural colours and attractive soft focus effects achieveable, plus advantage of pop-up flashgun and tilting rear panel LCD.
Cons: No built-in electronic or optical viewfinder
This beautifully retro camera is infused with both a classic design and modern digital tech to let you capture stunning images.
Fuji seems to have hit something of a rich product vein in its vintage-styled X series compacts.
The squarish X-M1 doesn’t fx what isn’t broken in previous models – incorporating a large 16.3 megapixel APS-C sized sensor; the same as the flagship X-Pro1 and E-M1 models that came before it. What it does offer that's new is a choice of colour schemes: black, silver, or our favourite ‘tan’ (below), as well as a tilting LCD screen – which I'll come onto later.
Powering up in just over a second, though the camera’s design could be described as ‘classic’, this serious yet approachable Fuji incorporates the latest must haves nonetheless, such as Wi-Fi connectivity, and is launched alongside a free downloadable Fujifilm Camera App that allows interaction with the latest smartphones and tablets.
The essentials are here too in that the X-M1 offers both a built-in flash and a vacant hotshoe for the addition of accessories. Plus support for Fuji’s standalone ‘X’-mount camera format is growing; with 12 own brand lenses promised by the start of 2014 to add to three produced independently by Zeiss as part of its ‘Touit’ range.
Also worth mentioning is the fact that the latest Fuji boasts a higher than average 350-frame battery life. It's not a patch on a semi-pro DSLR at this price perhaps, but a decent showing for its camera class.
The detail is undoubtedly down to the combination of a good quality lens and large APS-C sized sensor, of the same surface area as those found in actual digital SLRs. If you want punchy in-your-face colours as a default setting then look elsewhere, with the Fuji favouring subtlety and thus naturalism that will win converts in those who admired its old Provia and Astia film in days gone by.
Thankfully as with its fixed and interchangebale lens ‘X’ series predecessors, this camera is not just a pretty fascia either. The X-M1 when equipped with 16-50mm kit zoom is capable of delivering some creamily smooth colour tones and some lovely shallow depth of field effects, even though the maximum f/3.5 lens aperture (running up to f/5.6 at the telephoto end) isn’t especially bright nor fast.
One new feature the XM-1 features over its predecessors is a 3-inch, 920k dot resolution tilting LCD screen to achieve more creative or otherwise awkward framing. It delivers this whilst being roughly half the size of a traditional SLR at 66.5mm high and 39mm in depth – so of similar dimensions and feel to both the Olympus E-P5 and Panasonic GX7. Yet unlike that Panasonic, the X-M1 disappointingly doesn’t feature a built in eye-level viewfinder at all.
Those keen photographers who up until now had been considering an Olympus Pen for its ‘old fashioned’ levers and dials, or even a Leica at a push, will perhaps now want to take a closer look at what Fuji is offering these days, and in the case of the XM-1 for a fair amount less.