• Price: £333 plus VAT

  • Company: Fujifilm

  • Pros: Stylish retro appearance and lightweight aluminium build. Fast and bright f/1.4 maximum aperture lens with manual operation. High ISO12800 light sensitivity. Fair pricing

  • Cons: Turning on the camera is awkward

  • Our Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

With camera-incorporating smartphones eviscerating the market for simpler snapshots, Fuji is another manufacturer reacting by going high-end. The XF1 is the latest in its gorgeously retro styled ‘X’ series of premium-build compacts.

Unlike the previously reviewed X-Pro1 and X-E1, the XF1 omits both a dash in its name plus the ability to swap its optically stabilised 25-100mm equivalent lens. But, as with rivals here, the 12 megapixel, 2/3-inch sensor camera boasts a bright and fast maximum f/1.8 aperture and – more unusually – a manually controlled 4x optical zoom, maintaining its appeal for those who like to get hands on.

The XF1 isn’t just about such semi-pro features though, as its cool styling with leather-effect finish attempts to broaden the X-series appeal beyond high-end amateurs, being narrower if slightly more elongated than Canon’s G15. It resembles something you might see in a spy thriller set in Cold War era Berlin (though it's available in warmer colours too, below).

To turn on the aluminium-bodied camera, and seemingly to highlight that zooming in or out is wholly by hand rather than via mechanics, users have to go through a slightly eccentric process of unlocking the lens then pulling it slightly proud of the body and rotating it before the XF1 will power up.  Surely the usual on/off button would have been simpler and faster.

There is certainly room for one on the spare-looking top plate that does thankfully include a dime-sized shooting mode dial plus a small pop up flash that, like the Canon, also requires manual activation. Like that model maximum light sensitivity is ISO12800.

There’s no optical or electronic viewfinder here; just the regular 3-inch LCD taking up two thirds of the otherwise leather effect backplate, which in practice seems brighter and clearer than its now relatively modest 460k dot resolution suggests. Also welcome are street price currently almost £100 cheaper than the £399 recommended by its manufacturer on launch. 

This is a snapshot camera that is a cut above the rest, so should draw attention from creatives looking to upgrade as well as owners of bulkier cameras seeking a more pocket-friendly backup.

This review is taken from our group test of the four best pocket-sized cameras for creative pros.