Fuji X-A2 Review
The Fuji X-A2 is the second generation beginner Fuji mirrorless, featuring a standard 16 megapixels APS-C CMOS sensor paired with an EXR II processor. Unlike other X-mount series digital cameras, the X-A2 has an Bayer color-filter-array and uses a typical anti-alias filter to avoid moire at the expense of sharpness.
The 1.5X crop sensor of the X-A2 can capture full-resolution images at 5.6 FPS and full 1080p HD video at 30 FPS. It has a broad ISO 100-25600 sensitivity range with full manual-controls and a hot-shoe for additional lighting. There is a 3" LCD with 920K pixels that tilts for framing but no EVF, nor provision for an add-on one.
This mirrorless supports all Fujinon X-mount lenses, plus third-party ones. It can use the rear control-dial to set aperture for those lenses without an aperture-ring. Manual focus is performed via a fly-by-wire ring on all Fuji lenses. Uniquely for a somewhat entry-level offering, the X-A2 features dual control-dials.
Fuji's own X lens mount has a rather short flange distance. This makes it easier to design high-quality lenses and lens-mount adapters, including one made by Fuji for the Leica M-mount. Fuji launched a total of twelve lenses so far, mostly bright prime lenses and some zooms. XF lenses have their own aperture-rings while XC ones do not.
The built-in WiFi function on the X-A2 makes sharing of images right from the camera a breeze while a built-in flash is included in place of where the EVF is on the X-E2.
This digital camera review analyses the usability, performance and image quality of the Fuji X-A2.
Fuji X-A2 Features
- 16 Megapixels CMOS sensor
- Standard Bayer Color-Filter-Array
- 1.5X Crop factor (APS-C)
- 3:2 Aspect ratio
- Fuji XF lens mount
- ISO 200 to 6400 sensitivity range, 1/3 EV steps
- ISO 100, 12800 and 25600 expansion, JPEG only
- Auto ISO, Selectable maximum from 400 to 6400
- ISO Bracketing, 3 frames, 1/3-1 EV steps
- PASM Exposure modes, plus Bulb up to 1h
- 1/4000-30s Shutter-speeds, 1/3 EV steps
- Multi-Segment, Spot and Average metering
- Exposure-Compensation, ±3, 1/3 EV increments
- AEB, 3 frames, 1/3-1 EV increments
- 100%, 200% or 400% Dynamic-Range
- Dynamic-Range Bracketing, 3 frames
- Flash-Compensation, ±2, 1.3 EV steps
- Auto, Forced, Slow-Sync, Rear-Sync, Wireless and Off Flash modes
- Automatic, 7 presetsSunny, Shade, 3 Fluorescents, Incandescent, Underwater, Kelvin and Custom WB
- WB fine-tuning along 2 axis in 19 steps
- Film Simulation: Provia, Velvia, Astia, Classic Chrome, B&W, Sepia
- Film Simulation Bracketing, 3 frames
- Adjustable Color, Sharpness, Highlight Tone, Shadow Tone and Noise reduction, 5 steps each
- Optional Long-Shutter noise reduction
- Focus Drive: AF-S, AF-C, Tracking AF-C
- Focus Selection: Automatic, Single-Area
- Manual-focus (MF), Electronic Magnification
- Optional Face-Detection with Eye-Detection
- Optional Focus-Peaking
- Optional MF-Assist view
- Optional AF-Assist lamp
- Fly-By-Wire focus-ring on lenses
- 5.6 FPS Continuous Drive
- 30 JPEG or 10 RAW Buffer
- Self-timer, 2s or 10s
- 1920x1080 @ 30 FPS Video
- 1280x720 @ 30 FPS Video
- AF-S, AF-C or MF
- Quicktime H.264 format
- Stereo sound
Display & Viewfinder
- 3" Tilting LCD, 920K Pixels
- Optional Live-Histogram
- Optional Framing-Guides, 3 types
- 3:2 Native aspect ratio
- 16:9 and 1:1 cropped aspect ratios
- 16, 8 and 4 megapixels modes
- JPEG, RAW, RAW+JPEG capture
- 2 JPEG Compression levels
- Dual control-dials
- Traditional mode-dial
- Customizable Fn button
- Standard Hot-Shoe
- Built-In popup flash
- Lithium-Ion battery
- SDXC memory
- Built-in WiFi
- HDMI (1080i) output
- USB 2.0 connectivity
The Fuji X-A2 is externally identical to the X-M1 which shares their feature-set. The difference is that the latter uses Fuji's unique X-Trans CMOS II sensor which uses a randomized 6x6 color-filter-array and needs no anti-alias filter. Those already familiar with the X-M1 can just skip to the Performance section below.
Usability - How easy is it to use?
The Fuji X-A2 has a relatively compact and conventional design, at least for a mirrorless camera. It offers an unusual mix of entry-level and advanced features. Like other entry-level models, it lacks any kind of viewfinder, yet it includes dual control-dials and a hot-shoe. There is no provision to add an EVF either, as it is possible with some competitors.
The largely rectangular body of this camera curves slightly outwards to provide a small grip on its textured front which help hold the camera steady. Using the provided neck-strap or, at least a wrist-strap, is highly recommended though, to avoid accidentally dropping it. Overall, the Fuji X-A2 feels solid but light. Even the LCD hinge which is made of metal is quite sturdy.
The front of this mirrorless is almost bare. Besides the requisite lens-mount and corresponding release button, there is an AF-assist lamp and lettering for the camera model. The top plate is fully-used. Starting at the left, there is a small popup flash, next a hot-shoe and the built-in stereo microphone.
As the top-plate curves downwards, its surface gets busy with a number of controls. A traditional mode-dial with 12 positions, including the usual PASM modes, has strong detents and will not move accidentally. To its right, and aligned with the front-edge of the camera, there is a smallish two-stage shutter-release surrounded by a rotating power-switch. The release has a moderate amount of travel with a soft halfway point. Since the X-A2 is not focus-priority, this makes it possible to take a shot before autofocus has locked.
At the front-right corner of the top-plate is the only customizable button on this mirrorless. In Playback mode, it initiates the WiFi function, while in Capture mode it can be assigned to one of 15 functions. A logical choice is ISO. However, this is the only place to access Depth-of-Field Preview. At least Fuji makes it easy to change the assigned function. Just keep the Fn button pressed for 3 seconds and a menu of options appears.
The upper control-dial is found just behind the small Fn button. This one controls EC outside of Manual mode. Unfortunately, this dial is unmarked and its detents are too soft. This is probably the only troublesome design-flaw of the X-A2 and makes it easy to accidentally affect exposure without noticing. In Manual mode, it controls shutter-speed, with Bulb as the last option. Helpfully, the camera counts time during Bulb exposures, so a stop-watch is not needed.
All the remaining action is found on the back of this camera. A large 3" LCD with 920K pixels dominates the view. It is mounted on a hinge so that it can tilt up 180° or down 45°. It also slides about 1cm (0.4') along the hinge to make it easier to see in selfie position. Part of it is still blocked by the top of the camera but it does help.
The LCD is nice and sharp with an excellent viewing angle. This display has a good refresh-rate and maintains a bright view even in low-light. It is unfortunately not Exposure-Priority so the preview is frequently misleading. There is an optional Live-Histogram which is based on the shown preview and therefore of little use. In Manual mode though, exposure is previewed when the shutter-release is pressed halfway, which is better than nothing.
Above the display there is a mechanical release for the built-in flash. It never pops up automatically which is exactly how it should work on any camera as flash-use should be decided upon by the photographer. That flash is rather small with a Guide Number of 7. A standard hot-shoe is available to accommodate an a more powerful and independently-powered unit.
To the right of the LCD, there are a good number of buttons for an entry-level mirrorless. High up on the body, there is a clickable control-dial which is vertically mounted. Turning it controls the main exposure-parameter in A, S or M mode. Clicking it activates MF-Assist during Manual Focus. It does nothing otherwise. A small textured area below the dial serves as a thumb-rest.
A Playback and Video-Record buttons are found just below the thumb-rest. The former toggles Playback mode while the camera is powered on. The latter starts and stops video capture. This button is recessed to prevent accidental use. It is worth noting that there is no Video mode on the X-A2. Recording starts a full second after pressing the button.
The 4-way controller with central OK/Menu is made of 5 separate buttons. Each button is assigned a function in Capture mode:
- Up: AF point selection. Only works if the manual AF-point mode is active.
- Right: Presents a vertical menu of WB options. Pressing Right again from there enters the WB Fine-Tuning interface with a step to measure Custom WB.
- Down: Brings up a two-level menu to select Drive modes: Single, Continuous High at 5.6 FPS or Low at 3 FPS., AEB, ISO Bracketing±1, 1/3 EV steps, Film Simulation Bracketing or Dynamic-Range Bracketing.
- Left: Shows a vertical menu for the Self-Timer with positions for 2s, 10s or Off. This makes it easier than on the X-M1 to access this crucial function.
The last two buttons are DISP/BACK and Q right below the 4-way controller. The display buttons cycles over display modes with one being customizable. This mode offers a choice of grid lines, including those to mark the HD 16:9 video-recording area which is the only way to frame before filming.
Q brings up a status grid of 15 editable items among 16. This offers a relatively quick way to control the Self-Timer, Stabilization and Flash mode. Note that enabling stabilization only works if the mounted lens is optically stabilized.
The bottom of the Fuji X-A2 has a metal tripod mount which is neither in-line with the optical axis nor with the center of gravity of the camera. There is also a single compartment door which gives access to both the SDXC card and the Lithium-Ion battery. Since the door is really close to the tripod mount, it is not possible to change memory or battery while the camera is on a tripod or even just fitted with a quick-release plate.
Overall, the Fuji X-A2 handles nicely while offering more controls than other entry-level mirrorless cameras. Having dual control-dials is rare in this camera category yet the upper-dial often results in unwanted exposure-compensation because its detents are too soft and it is unmarked. The other let-down is the display which does not preview exposure correctly. Regardless of these two issues, the X-A2 is easy and relatively efficient to use.
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
Performance starts with image quality, which is the criteria used as the foundation of our digital camera ratings. Ergonomic issues may get in the way, but in the end, image quality counts the most. For an ILC, image quality greatly depends on the lens used. While color, noise, exposure and dynamic-range are properties of a camera, distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberrations are properties of the lens. Sharpness and contrast depend on the weakest link. That is, a camera cannot capture more details than a lens lets through. Conversely, it is quite possible for a lens to transmit more details than a sensor can capture.
Image Noise & Details
Image-quality from the Fuji X-A2 is very good. With virtually the same sensor at those used on cropped-sensor DSLRs, it unsurprisingly produces highly comparable images. The powerful EXR II processor in this mirrorless renders some excellent images with virtually no noise all the way to ISO 1600. It becomes barely detectable at ISO 3200 which where noise-reduction introduces a jump in softness.
ISO 6400 shows more signs of luminance noise and another increase in softness from noise-reduction. Image quality goes down progressively from there with ISO 12800 and even 25600 surprisingly both usable for small prints. The anti-alias filter gives the X-A2 a minor disadvantage when compared with other Fuji mirrorless cameras which means it cannot achieve prints quite as large.
Sharpness is controllable in 5 levels. Things start from a very soft to over-sharp, so each step is quite coarse. The default level unfortunately already over-sharpens, so it is best to dial Sharpness down to -1. For medium sized prints though, the default is usually acceptable though. Noise-reduction also adds its own softness but very little. The default setting of 0 is just fine. When shooting above ISO 1600 though, one could turn it down to -1 to maintain slightly more details.
Color & White Balance
Color accuracy of the X-A2 is very good. Hues are realistic with different Film Simulation modes mostly affecting saturation. The standard Provia mode slightly exaggerates saturation without making colors unrealistic. The default tone-curve gives punchy results straight out of the camera. One can reduce the amount of clipping by adjusting Highlight Tone and Shadow Tone down. Setting both to -1 conserves more dynamic-range without making images to look flat.
Automatic White-Balance is dependable under typical conditions. It handles natural light relatively well yet struggles more than usual under artificial lighting, leaving a yellow cast. It really depends on the exact situation but that cast can get particularly strong in low-light. A Custom White-Balance option is there for difficult situations and is more accurate.
The Multi-Segment metering system of the X-A2 is tuned to produce bright exposures. This causes more clipping of highlights than usual. Most time it only misses by 1/3 or 2/3 EV which is easy to correct. Keep in mind though that the LCD shows an even brighter image at the default brightness. So, some scenes may be exposed correctly although they appear over-exposed on-screen. Dial down display brightness and review images often is all we can say.
Dynamic-Range of the X-A2 is impressive when increased to 200% starting at ISO 400 or to 400% starting at ISO 800 which is possible all the way to all the way to 6400. It is too bad that metering is skewed to clip highlights because this digital camera can otherwise capture a huge dynamic-range.
The Fuji X-A2 exclusively uses Contrast-Detect AF, contrarily to second generation Fuji mirrorless with X-Trans CMOS II sensors. This system is quite sensitive and extremely accurate, rarely confirming focus incorrectly expect when shooting around reflective surfaces. It is, however, a good deal slower than its peers. The output of the 16 MP APS-C CMOS sensor in the X-A2 appears to be insufficiently faster to form a quick autofocus feedback loop.
The Contrast-Detect AF system presents a choice of 49 areas with 5 area-sizes available. In practice though, it can focus anywhere in the image. The camera can use this to tracking a face or even a eye, with a option to select which eye to follow. While Face-Detect works even with oblique faces, Eye-Detect needs one or more eyes looking towards the camera.
Autofocus speed is below average for a modern mirrorless. It can take anywhere from ½ to 1½s for the X-A2 to lock focus or give up. Most times it locks in about 3/4s which is somewhat slow and certainly will not cut it for moving subjects. Tracking AF is sluggish and tends to lag behind movement.
The Fuji X-A2 is generally responsive. Most buttons and dials get a response quickly with a notable exception for the Video Record button which takes a full second to respond. There is no Video mode on the X-A2, so it could simply be that the camera is simply never ready to film. The X-A2 can shoot continuously at 5.6 FPS which is comparable to mid-range DSLRs but notably slower than a number of mirrorless models. The buffer is capable of accommodating 30 JPEG images or 10 RAW files in one burst when using a fast memory card.
The following measurements characterize the performance of the Fuji X-A2:
- Power-On: About 2s. Slightly below average.
- Power-On to First-Shot: 2½s. One the slow side.
- Autofocus: ½-1½s, depending on the light. Sluggish.
- Shutter-lag: Immediate with slightly under ½s blackout. Good.
- Shot-to-shot: 2½s with AF. Slower than most mirrorless.
- Playback: About 3/4s to enter or exit. On the slow side.
- Power-Off: 1½s, including sensor-cleaning. Good.
- Video: 1s to start. Nearly instant to stop. Below average.
Clearly, the X-A2 is not designed for speed. Its standard CMOS sensor forgoes the Phase-Detect AF system built into sensors of other X-mount cameras. Fuji seems to have come up with this as a weakness to place it below the rest of their mirrorless lineup. This gives it an easy justification of the price difference between the X-A2 and X-M1 which are externally identical.
The Fuji X-A2 is powered by a small proprietary Lithium-Ion battery which provides 410 shots-per-charge. This is slightly better than average. Still, another battery is highly recommended not to run out unexpectedly.
The Fuji X-A2 allows one to join the family of Fuji mirrorless for an entry-level price. Despite its price point, the X-A2 delivers high-quality images from its 16 megapixels APS-C CMOS sensor and it even features dual control-dials in a light and relatively compact body. One gets access to the entire family of X-mount lenses with an ultra-light color-matched Fuji Fujinon XC16-50mm F/3.5-5.6 OIS II
Fuji Fujinon XC16-50mm F/3.5-5.6 OIS II included as kit-lens.
Image-quality is very good and comparable to more costly cropped-sensor DSLRs. Noise levels are extremely low and the entire range of ISO sensitivities is usable, albeit at reduced print sizes as ISO increases. Details are relatively good but certainly do not match the X-Trans CMOS II sensor used in other Fuji mirrorless. Noise-reduction is slightly overdone and sharpening just misses the mark. One can obtain very nice images from the X-A2 as long as exposure is kept in check. As mentioned above, the multi-segment metering of this digital camera clips highlights more often than usual, despite the sensor having an exceptionally wide dynamic-range.
The second area where the X-A2 falls behind its more expensive siblings is speed. While generally not slow, the X-A2 turns in a decidedly below average performance. The Contrast-Detect AF is rather slow and the delay at the start of video recording is frustrating. It is easy to guess, this is not a camera for action photography.
Ergonomics of the X-A2 are above what is expected of an entry-level model. The dual control-dials and traditional mode-dial make controller the Fuji X-A2 very efficient. With the programmable Fn button, ISO can be made easily accessible and the Quick menu puts other important functions within easy reach.
In the end, the price-point is the justification for the Fuji X-A2. It would be a challenge to get such high image-quality for the same price. Budget permitting though, one will certainly get better performance from a Fuji X-T1
Fuji X-T1 or the recently released Fuji X-T10
Fuji X-A2 Facts
|16 Megapixels Mirrorless||ISO 100-25600|
|Fuji X Mount|
Sensor-Size: 24 x 16mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|Built-in Dust Reduction||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|5.6 FPS Drive, 30 Images||Custom white-balance|
|1920x1080 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Spot-Metering|
|3" LCD 920K Pixels||Hot-Shoe|
|Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
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