Wow, was I surprised by this little camera! It's even smaller than the X-E1, X-E2 and X100, the biggest difference lies with the sensor. From what I have read, the X-A1 has the traditional Bayer sensor, whereas the X-M1 and the models above that, all have the new X-Trans. The fact that you can put any lens from the X-range on this little camera, allows one to really push it to a pro-level, while keeping it simple for beginners and non-photographers.
The camera also has all the manual controls: M, A, S and P, for any photographer to apply their knowledge and it's very easy to use. Personally, I found this camera better than any point-and-shoot I have ever tried to use in manual mode. At the same time, it has all the usual auto features with options like portrait, landscape or sport. There is also an SR mode that auto-detects what you're trying to take a picture of, and lastly there is an ADV mode that allows you to apply some filters like low key, pop colour, miniature and toy camera to name but a few.
This camera is not aimed at pro's or higher level photographers like myself, and they would be pixel peeping and judging it against the higher-end cameras.
I felt that was unjust to the camera. So what I did for this review, was handing it to my cousin. She is not a photographer, but has a good understanding of art and likes to play around with our cameras sometimes. I first gave her the camera with the kit lens, 16-55mm and some basics of the camera. After a week, I gave her the high-end 35mm f/1.4 and a few more lessons on photography and the camera.
I can say that once I gave her the 35mm for the camera, it was game over. She was sold. However, she was still impressed with the camera before I gave her this lens. The very capable kit lens and the camera itself handles high ISO and low light so well.
Personally, I think the original 18-55mm kit lens from Fuji would have been better, but that would push the price up.
Here is what she had to say:
I’ve never been big on photography as an art for myself, always loved seeing the beautiful and impressive photos taken by people who have that talent, people who can spot a great picture and just capture a moment so incredibly real, but never really thought it to be something that I can do. That was until Neill asked me to do this really interesting thing for him, he wanted me to test a camera…
As exciting as that request was, it was very intimidating.
For me, a person who is only used to point-and-shoot cameras with basic settings, always adoring my photos on the small screen of the camera and then being really disappointed with the same photos on the bigger screen of my laptop, this Fuji X-A1 camera was a great experience and I will tell you why.
The size of this camera is impressive, just a slight bit bigger than my usual ‘point -and-shoot’ cameras (if you ignore the lens, as this can differ in size), it holds more power than you can imagine. Thinking of the usual expectations that I have when I am taking photos, be it of a great night out with friends, or of the scenery of a beautiful place, I always wanted the pictures to be as impressive as it was to see the moment happen, I didn’t need them to be photography art, just needed them to be that one memory that will be captured forever - in clarity, and with this camera that actually happened way better than I could have imagined. The photos taken is incredibly sharp, not only do they look great on the camera’s screen, but they also look incredible on the laptop screen, it is beyond impressive, and you don’t even have to understand photography terminology and all the settings on the camera to get an impressive photo, the Auto setting (which is always my first ‘go-to’ setting) does a great job.
Being the ‘instant share-a-moment-with-the-world’ addict that I am, this camera has one of the best features that can help me fuel that addiction.The built in Wi-Fi. By just having the relevant Fuji app on your smart phone you can send all the photos that you have just taken with the Fuji X-A1 camera immediately and instantly to your smartphone, ready to share with the world in the blink of an eye. I had so much fun with this camera, and this function made me want to take even more photos all for the purpose of instant sharing.
Neill was kind enough to take me for an educational stroll, camera-in-hand of course, through the botanical gardens. This educational stroll covered some topics of photography that I never knew about, information that I will most probably never forget. This was a lesson about aperture, the difference a specific lens can make to a photo and some really great tips on taking photos of people. The last couple of days that I got to spend with this camera, and after this photography lesson, I do feel that I have taken the best portrait and nature photos that I have ever taken. All this was due to my mind being taught something that it never knew, a different lens on the camera, and having an incredible user-friendly camera in hand.
Just one thing that I found I need to watch out for is the brightness setting on the screen of the camera, this can be adjusted lighter or darker, and that can actually make it seem like you have taken a perfectly exposed photo while it is actually not, caught me out a couple of times.
I have never taken a photo with a Fuji camera up until now, and after spending time with the X-A1, I can fully understand why Neill prefers this brand of camera. To describe my experience with this camera in one short sentence – Incredible, I loved making art with this camera!
Thanks to my cousin for taking the time to help me with this review!
To round it off, I did a quick, simple test against my brother's Nikon D3200 and 35mm F/1.8 DX lens, I put the Fuji 35mm f/1.4 lens on the X-A1. Both shot at f/1.8. Click on the image to see it bigger .
In closing, this camera is more than capable and I was very impressed by the image quality and the controls. The built-in jpeg controls are very good and allow the person to edit the picture in-camera, as I have seen a lot of beginners avoid the editing part for the first year or so.
The camera has a nice tilt screen, to allow for the really low or over-the-head sort of shots.
I personally would recommend this to the anyone who is looking at the entry level DSLR, and have a point-and-shoot or bridge camera background, as they will not miss the viewfinder. And the one key thing here, besides the image quality and ease of use, is the size that is a huge factor. I've seen too many people buy a DSLR and leave it at home when they should be taking it with them, due to it size.