Fuji XQ1 Review
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
Choosing a digital camera is all about results: Getting the image quality you need and photographs the way you like them. Compact digital cameras generally have it tough because they suffer from small sensors and limited controls. The Fuji XQ1 is made to address these two concerns while maintaining the size of a compact camera.
The Fuji XQ1 uses a 2/3" X-Trans CMOS II sensor which is slightly larger than most premium compact digital cameras. This sensor forgoes the usual anti-alias filter and is not prone to moire thanks to Fuji's exclusive 6x6 color-grid-array. It is also equipped with built-in Phase-Detect AF to provide quick autofocus without back-and-forth movement needed by Contrast-Detect AF.
With the exception of the Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 II
Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 II, cameras with larger sensors are considerably bigger. This gives the XQ1 an edge in low light which is stretched further because of its ultra-bright F/1.8 lens. The lens quickly dims to F/2.8 at 35mm, F/4 at 50mm and F/4.9 from 62mm onwards.
Image noise is absent from images at ISO 100 and at ISO 200 which we suspect is the native sensitivity of the XQ1. Noise increases slowly and stays unobtrusive until ISO 1600, making 12" x 9" prints clean and crisp. ISO 3200 gets a noticeable jump in noise and the XQ1 starts to ignore the Shadow Tone parameter from then on. This results in noisy-but-usable mid-size prints. Image quality suffers at ISO 6400 which can make noisy-but-usable 4" x 6" prints. Notice this is a full-stop improvement over the XF1 for image-noise.
Noise reduction is reasonable and gradual. There are 5 levels to choose from and we recommend choosing -1 to avoid excessive softness. The XQ1 manages to preserve details even at relatively slow shutter-speeds. The Lens Modulation Optimizer also ensures proper sharpening to minimize the appearance of diffraction.
Sharpness from this digital camera is unusually good for a camera this small, at least when not limited by the lens. Default sharpness is adequate but the +1 setting is notably better and free of artifacts. The lens, however, exhibits strong edge softness, particularly at bright apertures. It must be stopped down to F/5.6 to get some reasonable sharpness across the frame. Maximum sharpness is achieved at F/7.1 just before diffraction takes effect.
Colors of the Fuji XQ1 are good but despite numerous Film Simulation Modes and parameters, they never get very accurate. Astia gives the best results with Color at -1. Image contrast appears natural at the default. It can be fine-tuned independently for highlights and shadows.
Automatic white-balance is below average. It can produce neutral colors but often falls short, leaving scenes with a slight yellowish cast both indoors and outdoors. Presets can correct this easily and Custom WB works perfectly.
Metering of the Fuji XQ1 is incredibly reliable. This camera requires less exposure-compensation than most cameras and manages to produce bright images without clipping major highlights. This produces more print-ready images but small highlights get occasionally clipped.
The dynamic-range of this digital camera is good for its sensor-size. At 200%, which is available at ISO 200+, captures more dynamic-range than most fixed lens cameras. At 400%, available at ISO 400+, the XQ1 does even better yet it does not match the dynamic-range of the XF1.
While optical distortion is high, the camera's EXR II processing engine removes most of it. A slight amount of barrel distortion is left towards wide-angle which almost disappears towards telephoto. Purple fringing is rare with it also being taken care of by image-processing.
The Fuji XQ1 features the latest X-Trans CMOS II sensor, first seen in 2/3" size on the Fuji X20 reviewed here
Fuji X20. This high-speed image-sensor offers full-resolution capture at up to 12 FPS. This speed is available for JPEG images only with a buffer-depth of 10 frames. 9 FPS shooting is available for RAW with up to 8 files. 6 FPS can capture up to 14 images, while 3 FPS gets up to 200 in a single burst.
Speed of the XQ1 is exemplary. This camera is extremely responsive and processes images quickly. It rarely holds back the photographer, unlike the majority of compact cameras. Its performance is characterized by the following measurements:
- Power On: 2 seconds. Good.
- Zoom: 2½s from wide to tele, or vice-versa. Average for a short zoom.
- Autofocus: Under ¼s in good light to 1s in low light towards telephoto end. Usually below ½s. Excellent.
- Image Shutter-Lag: Instant. Excellent.
- Video Shutter-Lag: 2s. Very slow.
- Black Out: About ¼s. Excellent.
- Shot-to-Shot speed: ¾s. Superb for a compact.
- Time-to-first shot: 2½s. Average. Caution, the XQ1 does not wait for AF to complete.
- Playback: Around ½s to enter or exit. Great.
- Power Off: 2 seconds. Good.
The Fuji XQ1 has a very fast shutter-lag and autofocus system. It slows down in low-light but remains faster than most fixed-lens cameras. Video shooters will be disappointed by the glacial 2s it takes to start recording video, plus you cannot even see what you are framing ahead of time.
Battery-life of the XQ1 is quite short at 240 shots-per-charge, according to the CIPA measurement standard. Not using the built-in flash helps a little but a second battery is highly recommended to make it through long days of shooting.
The Fuji XQ1 packs an excellent 12 megapixels X-Trans CMOS II sensor in a conventional premium compact digital camera design. Its dual control-dials, traditional mode-dial and complete manual-controls, make it one capable yet pocketable camera. The ultra-bright F/1.8 paired with on-sensor Phase-Detect AF gives it a speedy performance that very few fixed-lens camera can match.
Image-quality is very good for such a small camera. Noise-levels and rendition of details are close to the best in its class. The ultra-wide lens offers good sharpness towards the center of the frame with noticeable softness all along the edges. Image processing though handles distortion, fringing and vignetting well though.
The most impressive aspect of the XQ1 is its speed. Other than a long lag starting video capture, this camera performs most operations quickly. The autofocus system is top-notch and typically locks just under ½s in low-light and twice as fast in good light. Shot-to-shot speeds are also quite impressive for a fixed-lens camera.
Framing with the XQ1 is done via a large 3" LCD with excellent visibility. The preview is not entirely accurate yet sharp and fluid. An option to make the display Exposure-Priority is available but only for Manual mode. Sunlight mode brightens up the display to the point of clipping highlights but maintains a visible image in the brightest light.
The bottom line is that the Fuji XQ1 delivers an overall performance that few truly compact cameras can match. The larger X20
Fuji X20 offers even more impressive results with a brighter mechanical zoom lens which is a pleasure to use. Otherwise, the most serious competitor is the Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 II
Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 II which sports a larger 1" sensor but relies on slower Contrast-Detect AF.
Fuji XQ1 Facts
|12 Megapixels Fixed Lens||ISO 100-12800|
|4X Ultra-Wide Optical Zoom||Shutter 1/4000-30s|
|Built-in Stabilization||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|Automatic Eye-Start sensor||Custom white-balance|
|1 Axis Digital Level||Spot-Metering|
|12 FPS Drive, 8 Images||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|1920x1080 @ 60 FPS Video Recording||Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
|3" LCD 920K Pixels|
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