Saturday, 19 October 2013

fujifilm, the fuji guys, an X-M1, and me

Fujifilm Canada did a very cool thing today for some of us lucky enough to "win the lottery" so to speak and come out to hang with the Fuji Guys on a bus and tour about taking pictures with the new X-M1. Lunch, coffee (yay), and snacks provided.

Olympus OMD E-M5 - 75mm f1.8

We boarded the bus at the Mississauga Fujifilm offices and headed out for a bit of a tour, ending up, after much winding about the countryside taking pictures, at Mono Mills Provincial Park.

Fujifilm X-M1 - 16-50mm f3.5-5.6

Olympus OMD E-M5 - 75mm f1.8
Her boyfriend was taking her picture - I snuck this in - and got totally busted!! What a good sport :)

Along the way, we stopped and looked at wondrous things.

It was fun.

Fujifilm contacted me about a week and a half ago, give or take, and invited me and a guest to come out for a day of photography with like minded souls, the Fuji Guys, and some Fuji cameras. It did not take more than a couple of minutes for me to decide that yes, this was a good way to spend a Saturday.

They made available for use two cameras to use - we could pick. The X-M1 and the newly released X-A1 were what was offered. They are very similar cameras, differing mainly in the sensor.

The X-A1 has a bayer layer sensor, while the X-M1 has an x-trans one. Both are aps-c, and both are of that class of interchangeable lens cameras referred to as mirrorless. I chose the X-M1. Information about the X-A1 and X-M1 can be found on the Fujifilm webpage. I won't bore you will the details. Those interested are invited to move on over to the company page and read up on the tech specs.

What I will tell you is what I thought of the camera. I will be totally honest, and list what I liked about it, and what I was not so keen on.

Fujifilm X-M1 - 16-50mm f3.5-5.6

Let's start with the stuff that drove me nuts. Let's get it out of the way because really, the list is not that long.

Firstly, I do NOT like cameras with no viewfinder. I do not care how good it is, if there is no viewfinder, I am not interested. This is why, when Olympus first brought out a decent m4/3 camera (the E-P3 for those who care) I had no interest in buying it even though I am an Olympus shooter. There was no viewfinder but for a tack on job which slotted into the hotshoe. The Fujifilm X-M1 does not have a viewfinder, and there is no provision for one.

Many (many) photographers today would not care about this at all. In the days of cellphoneography, people are used to using a camera at arms length to create pictures. Using a proper camera - like the X-M1 - in a similar manner would be for them a no brainer. To be fair to Fuji, this would be their target market for this camera. Shooting styles are a matter of personal choice and it is good that offerings exist that cater to different approaches to photography.

Why am I so opposed to this style of shooting? I think an explanation might be in order. The answer is my eyes. I wear bifocals, and find that my long distance lens portion in my glasses is not good for viewing the screen on the back of the camera. It is too blurry. The short distance bit is no good - it is set up for reading books, and the transition zone gives me eyestrain. So, I need to look under my glasses to see the screen properly when I hold the camera in a position where it is stable. This gives me a headache, and is not optimal for me to use when actually taking pictures.

So please and thanks, a proper viewfinder or at least a way to add one on. Oddly, optical and electronic viewfinders give me no grief at all when I use them.

Fujifilm X-M1 - 16-50mm f3.5-5.6

The screen itself though is nice and easy to use and is quite clear for reviewing pictures. Not an issue. That said, I have gotten spoilt by the screen on my Olympus E-M5. That screen allows you to seriously pixel peep which is nice since both sharpness and critical focus can be easily assessed. The X-M1 does not allow you to zoom in much past (or even past) 100% which is kind of annoying. Please fix Fuji.

The build quality of the camera is good (the kit lens less so) but is very plasticy. Fit and finish are good, but the quality of the plastics is not up to what I consider to be good enough. The on/off switch (a surround around the shutter button) felt particularly cheap. That said, the camera did not creak, and seemed well put together.

Build quality on their higher end offerings is not an issue though. I have an X-10 at home, and it is wonderfully well made - lots of metal, and the plastics are top notch. The X-Pro1 that I have handled in the past is very well made with high quality materials and is much lighter than it looks. Today, we got lucky and were able to handle a preproduction X-E2 which was very very tight and well made. I instantly liked it, and would have loved to have been able to use it for the day. It is the one I would purchase should I be in the market for such a camera right now.

The menus on the X-M1 are easy to navigate and make a lot of sense once you learn to "speak Fuji". Having an X-10 at home, navigating the menus and setting the camera up as I like it was a task which took minutes to accomplish. Bravo to Fuji for remaining consistent and not messing with what was not broken. People new to the menus might find them a bit off, but remember, ANY menu system will cause confusion when it is first being learned. Take the time. Play with it. It is worth it.

I found that the camera carried over some idiosyncrasies from the X-10. It under exposes about a full stop. Here is a sample of a picture, straight out of the camera, shot with no exposure compensation:

Fujifilm X-M1 - 16-50mm f3.5-5.6

This is right out of the camera with no adjustments made at all except to crop to 5x7.

To fix this, I upped the exposure a full stop giving this:

Fujifilm X-M1 - 16-50mm f3.5-5.6

This processed quite nicely to this in Lightroom 5:

Fujifilm X-M1 - 16-50mm f3.5-5.6

Speaking of Lightroom 5, it was very good to discover that the raws from the x-trans sensor processed up quite nicely Lightroom. I was happy to make this discovery. Previously, the x-trans sensor and any software but silkypix did not speak well together. This is a pity because silkypix is a seriously annoying piece of software to use. Thankfully, Fujifilm and Adobe got together and exchanged enough information to make the thing work in ARC and Lightroom. Yay. My workflow calls for moving files off of the memory card, converting them to DNG, and then processing. This worked very well with the RAF files from the X-M1.

Back to the pictures though, since it is there that this camera really shines (most of the "good stuff" about this camera are not going to be stated here in words but can be summed up by the pictures - I liked the output). Lightroom had no problem with adjusting levels from the slightly overexposed files and produced a much more natural picture. I suggest over exposing with this camera.

Fujifilm X-M1 - 16-50mm f3.5-5.6

After we got to the Provincial Park, we ate lunch, took a couple of pictures, posed for a group shot, and went for a walk.

Fujifilm X-M1 - 16-50mm f3.5-5.6
Olympus OMD E-M5 - 75mm f1.8
Fujifilm X-M1 - 16-50mm f3.5-5.6

One of the Fuji people with us (sorry, I forget your name!!) had a bag of lenses and I was able to swap out the slightly mushy kit lens (a stabilized 16-50mm f3.5-5.6) for a 23mm f1.4 lens. This lens was much much nicer and about on par with the 45mm that I have from Olympus. I do not recommend the kit lens. Get the body only if this camera interests you and purchase a better quality lens. Their primes are really good.

Our walk took us up to the top of the Niagara Escarpment with lots of opportunities for pictures along the way.

Olympus OMD E-M5 - 45mm f1.8

Fujifilm X-M1 - 23mm f1.4
 As you can see, the 23mm f1.4 is a delightful lens. Obviously, the 45 and 23 do not offer the same field of view (90mm vs 35mm approx equiv in full frame speak as far as field of view is concerned).

Fujifilm X-M1 - 23mm f1.4
Fujifilm X-M1 - 23mm f1.4
One thing that really pleased me was how well the Fujifilm camera handled colour. I know from previous Fujifilm cameras that colour is something they do well, and this trend continues with the new cameras. Colour is nice and punchy, and not over saturated.

Fujifilm X-M1 - 23mm f1.4

Fujifilm X-M1 - 23mm f1.4
So, would I buy this camera? No. Would I recommend it? Yes.

This is not a contradiction but merely a statement of truth. Given the good glass - spend the money, you won't regret it - this camera is great and will help a person create wonderful images. It is just not for me. I would prefer either of the two top tier cameras from Fujifilm over this one for reasons which have little to do with image quality. The better build quality, and electronic viewfinder are must haves in my book.

So there you have it. Some thoughts about the camera I was fortunate enough to play with and some pictures from the day. A big thanks to Fujifilm Canada for putting on the trip and showing us a good time.


  1. I am glad you enjoyed the trip. Thanks for your honest review. Billy.

    1. Welcome. This trip was a great idea and much appreciated by all concerned.