The new Fuji X-A1 – Minus X-Trans Sensor. Good or Bad?

The new Fuji X-A1 – Minus X-Trans Sensor. Good or Bad?

My thoughts, though you may not like them 🙂

Fujifilm-X-A1_front

So yes, I am aware this camera was announced days ago but I had to sit down and think about this one for a couple of days because my 1st impression of it was “Man, Fuji are pumping out lower end bodies pretty quickly, and they are all lacking in something compared to the original X bodies..THE EVF and OVF”!

I tried out an X-M1 a couple of weeks back. I liked it for what it is, a TINY “X20 sized” APS-C Fuji X  body that delivered that Fuji look and image quality. The issue I had was that I found with most lenses attached it was awfully unbalanced and odd to shoot with. Bottom line: For me, it was too small to be an IC camera with larger lenses. Yep, it was sort of point and shoot style with big lenses. It also offered the usual X-Trans look to the images that so many love and adore but at the price, and after using it, I realized it was nothing I would buy for my own use. Just too many other options out there that I like better. I would take an X-E1 before the X-M1 but I am one of the few who are not 100% on the X-Trans sensor. I have been hoping for a year that Fuji would release something with a sensor that is NOT an X-Trans sensor.

Well, now they have in the new X-A1. Yippee! 

Fujifilm-X-A1_top

The X-A1: It look small-ish, it looks nice and modern, and for me, this would be the Fuji IC camera I would buy..if it had an EVF or OVF or even the X100 combo VF! Hey, it even comes in my all time favorite color! BLUE. So what is the deal? Fuji became popular and made headlines DUE TO THE FACT that they were making cool looking and beautiful cameras WITH built-in viewfinders that delivered superb IQ. They do not sell or even offer a wonky external VF because their X cameras always had one in it!

Now they are releasing bodies MINUS the VF when so many of us PREFER using one! I understand they want to offer a basic camera but adding in an EVF would increase sales regardless. It would NEVER hurt.

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I can only guess that an X-Pro 2 or X-E1 is on the way and that those will have an EVF, but I am sure those will use X-Trans. I am interested to test this X-A1 just to see how the sensor performs. My guess is that I will prefer it to the other X bodies in that area. I am also hoping the AF is quicker than the previous X bodies.

My fave Fuji currently is the X100s though I prefer the IQ of the X100 the speed and refinements in the X100s put it up at #1 for me in the Fuji world. 

When I see the blue body of the X-A1  it reminds me so much of the early Sony NEX cameras when they offered them in all sorts of cool colors. It’s a gimmick really, to appeal to those who like a splash of color in their camera. When looking at the X-A1 I am not a fan of the new finish of the body, to me it looks a bit “carbon fiber” but in a fake sort of way. But this guy comes in at $599 WITH kit lens, so it is priced right. It is a sweet spot price.

So the good news is that Fuji released an APS-C for those of us who dislike the X-Trans. Me, I am a fan of the original sensor in the X100. I found it to be lacking in no area whatsoever. Rich beautiful ORGANIC files. To me, the X-Trans lacks the “Organic” and I have tried and tried and tried to love them but unless you have perfect light, for me, they always fall flat in comparison to other cameras and sensors. If you have magical light, they are tough to beat by anything.  Anytime I say this I get attacked, but I will never quiet my thoughts here, as I always say what I feel. My opinion my not be yours, remember that.

If this X-A1 had an EVF or VF of some sort, I would be pretty excited about it. Fuji is pumping out some nice glass and are gaining big time steam in the mirrorless battles going on between Sony, Olympus and Fuji (the three main players in Mirrorless).

When I look at a camera like the Olympus E-M1 I say “Wow, Olympus nailed it. This has everything I could have ever wanted in a small mirrorless body, and all the glass I could ever need”. Olympus has the build, the speed, the accuracy and the lenses. The E-M1 feels like a pro camera but it is the size of the OM-D with grip. It is a serious tool, and some of those M 4/3 lenses are GORGEOUS. Next to full frame, I am a Micro 4/3 fan no question about it. I have seen files from Micro 4/3 that look, feel and appear better than many APS-C images from any manufacturer. Add in the amazing usability, speed, performance and the fact that the E-M1 is like an extension of your hand and brain when in use and you have a combo that is quite special.

Fuji has a couple of great lenses, but many lack in AF speed, in build and a few other areas (when compared to others). So while I still think that the Fuji X cameras are still not fully matured I do like that they are offering options like the X-A1 and I look forward to see what they come up with next for the enthusiast or pro. I will give the X-a1 a go soon. So yes, it is a GOOD thing IMO. When these are full matured cameras I expect them to be jaw droppingly amazing because there is much more to a camera besides high ISO or overall IQ. It has to have the entire package.

I will say it again. Any semi serious camera you buy today will give you amazing results. I have been very impressed lately with the Samsung NX300 and 30 f/2 lens. That little camera nails the White Balance every time where my Leica has all kinds of trouble doing the same. If the NX300 had an EVF it would be in my top 2 for APS-C mirrorless. It has a solid nice build, attention to details, is fast, has an OLED touch screen display, swivel LCD and impressive IQ. All at a $650 price point with lens. It does not have the “entire package” because it lacks an EVF but it is still a great camera.

There are so many cameras today, we are all lucky to have such a selection and let me tell you, there is much more on the way in the future and I will be here to write about them and use them ALL.

Steve

You can pre-order the Fuji X-A1 at Amazon HERE.

Fuji Press Release on the X-A1

New X-A1 offers entry into the premium X-Series while delivering outstanding image quality, modern design, sharp 3” tilting LCD screen and wireless image transfer

Valhalla, N.Y., September 17, 2013 – FUJIFILM North America Corporation today announced the new FUJIFILM X-A1 compact system camera (CSC), the fourth interchangeable lens system camera introduced within the award-winning FUJIFILM X-Series. The ultra-light X-A1 gives consumers an affordable entry point into the X-Series line of digital cameras and delivers outstanding image quality using its large 16.3 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, easy operation and wireless image transfer for quick photo sharing.

The FUJIFILM X-A1 kit will ship with the FUJINON XC16-50mm (24-76mm)*1 F3.5-5.6 OIS zoom lens. The XC16-50mm is a versatile lens that is ideal for a wide range of photographic subjects, including clear low-light scenes, beautiful portraits and vivid landscapes. The lens consists of 12 all glass elements in 10 groups including 3 aspherical elements and 1 ED element. The lens features seven round-edged aperture blades, which offer 17 stops in 1/3 EV increments for precise aperture control.

“The lightweight X-A1 and versatile XC16-50mm lens combination gives consumers extraordinary value and the opportunity to experience the outstanding image quality that the X-Series is known for,” said Manny Almeida, senior vice president and general manager, FUJIFILM North America Corporation. “Together with a high definition tilting screen and wireless image transfer, consumers of all skill levels can capture truly memorable images that can also be shared on Facebook and Twitter quickly and easily.”

Large 16.3 Megapixel APS-C sensor and EXR Processor II

The FUJIFILM X-A1 uses an APS-C sensor and powerful EXR Processor II that captures rich tones, breath-taking dynamic range and stunning low-light images using its extended ISO range of up to 25600. With the X-A1, users can set the sensor sensitivity from ISO200 to as high as ISO6400 in 1/3 step increments, to obtain remarkably clear images even when shooting indoors and at night.

Together with the EXR Processor II, the X-A1 also gives customers fantastic speed with a start-up time of 0.5 seconds*2, a shutter time lag of 0.05 seconds and a maximum burst speed of 5.6 frames per second (max. 30 frames*3).

Compact performance and advanced features

The X-A1 CSC combines advanced features in a go-anywhere design. The X-A1 weighs just 11.6oz*4 and is about a third of the size of a traditional DSLR body. With a slim profile of 1.3” at its trimmest point, the X-A1 is easily carried anywhere.

The X-A1 also features a 3” tilting high resolution LCD screen with 920,000 dots for easy image viewing and framing at various angles. The 3” LCD monitor tilts at variable vertical angles, facilitating both low-angle and high-angle shots whether on or off a tripod.

The X-A1 uses a built-in high precision flash, with the guide number 7*5, and Super Intelligent Flash technology that uses scene recognition and automatically controls flash strength to reduce highlight clipping.

Easy Image Transfer with WiFi® button

The X-A1 includes a WiFi button that lets users transfer high quality photos and movies*6 to social media sites for easy sharing from the camera to smartphones, tablets and computers.

To connect the X-A1 to a smartphone or tablet, users can download the free dedicated “FUJIFILM Camera Application” to their iPhone™ / iPad™ or Android™ smartphone or tablet device to transfer up to 30 pictures at a time from the X-A1. The app also lets users download movies, expanding the range of options available for enjoying pictures taken with the camera.

Intuitive design and easy operation

The X-A1 has its key operation buttons and dials positioned on the right side of the camera’s rear panel for easy use and quick picture taking. The Mode Dial for selecting the optimum setting for each scene gives access to the Advanced SR Auto function, which automatically recognizes each scene and selects the best settings for sharp and clear images.

The Advanced Filter function and Film Simulation modes give users a range of creative filters and film effects to apply and achieve unique and artistic looks.

FUJINON XC50-230mm (76-350mm) F4.5-6.7 OIS

 

55 Comments

  1. “Fuji has a couple of great lenses, but many lack in AF speed, in build and a few other areas (when compared to others). So while I still think that the Fuji X cameras are still not fully matured…”

    I think the Leica digital system cameras haven’t fully matured. I also think that when the Olympus system grows up it will select a serious sensor size.

    Shall we all devolve into nebulous subjectivity?

  2. Hi Steve. Now that fuji have some amazing rebates across the x line cameras and lenses any chance you will be reviewing the x-a1 anytime soon? I do prefer the look of the traditional bayer to the x trans filter. The x-a1 paired with the 2.8/27 looks like a great combo for under $700.00!

  3. I have both x-a1 and nex-5n. Agree with Steve, x-a1 has beautiful colors, very good lens, but the body/lens is very unbalanced, very uncomfortable to hold. Focusing is pretty bad, much worse than sony’s. During video focus is constantly hunting making unusable unless the subject and camera are static. Have not tried manual focus for video yet.

  4. Meh. I think this is a misstep. Too much like an nex.
    The x-trans continually amazes me with it’s very unique look. Yes, there are occasional oddities,
    but it has the most film like output of an mirrorless camera. (short of the leica M digitals, that is)
    Combined with the lower quality lens….I just don’t get the point.

  5. I am not convinced by the x trans sensor. Processing raw files in LR from the 100S needs a lot more work than the Nikon I have. There is a strange look to the greens in the shadows that I don’t like. B&W images at f2 in square format can be really special but I was hoping for a camera to take everywhere, and for me the X100s doesn’t quite make it unless I can figure an easy workaround. The XA 1 sensor in the 100S is probably just dream-ville.

  6. Hei Steve, what if just attached the Hoodman style loupe to the LCD like video filmers do? Instead of EVF.. Camera would look even cooler. Only take more space..

  7. I agree Steve, with all the new models coming out and all the systems starting to mature, you can capture great images with almost any mid-range camera and higher, so to me what matters most are features, ergonomics, and built quality. Full frame has its place and I can’t that I won’t be a little intrigued by a FF NEX, but with full frame sensor comes larger full frame glass. While every manufacturer is getting better, each system has its compromises, so it comes down to which you can tolerate and overcome. In my opinion

    Canon (EOS-M) – Very nice IQ, 22 f/2 is a great lens, but AF is still slow, forget about moving subjects. No VF is a no-no, no real manual controls is bad. Lack of native glass.

    Fuji – AF is still slow, some people love Fuji colors, for me X-trans is lacking something that’s hard for me to describe. Quality native glass is both large and expensive ($899 for 35 equivalent, 56 lens wil probably be at least $1,000).

    Sony – menus are bad, native glass has too many QC issues. Had to go through 4 different 35mm lens to find a quality one. Bodies have good features, but it feels like they deliberately leave out just enough features to try and entice you to buy the next one, ala Apple. If they put it all together it would be fantastic. Such as missing touch screen in 6 and 7, no remote shooting, etc. native glass is improving, but reliance on Zeiss name for quality glass means great glass is very expensive.

    For me E-M1 is the one that I can live with. Great build quality, weather sealed, huge comfortable grip, tilt and touch screen, best EVF, are all features that I love. Possibly the only things that I wish it had was better video features (but not that important for me since I shoot 30 second clips at most) and dual card slots. Everything else is great.

  8. Yeah I would love it if fuji would put out a bayer sensor camera with 16mp and. Viewfinder. I really just want a solid camera that does high ISO well to strap my M lenses to when my M9 can’t go there. I also want one decent AF zoom to use for kicking around and parties and such. The X-E1 is right there…almost exactly what I want, but that friggin x trans sensor is a pain and cripples my workflow when I incorporate it with my Leica and Nikon gear. Admittedly it’s more a mixing of the M9 and Fuji since my nikon is used for other things that move quickly.

    • No it is not at all. I do not consider film to look organic at all, in fact quite the opposite. I do find some digital sensors (a select few) do indeed have an organic looking output. So it is actually silly to say what you just said 🙂 Thanks for reading.

  9. I have the XE1 and the EM5. Both fall short compared to my dslr’s. The Fuji however is vastly over rated. It has poor build quality, rubbish focus, bizarre controls, worst viewfinder I have ever used. It also has lots of color noise, moire and the noise reduction of a compact camera. Do Fuji have some kind of reality distortion field like Apple?

    • Completely agree with your comment about the X cameras being overrated, even in the IQ (noise at high ISO) area. As for the build, seeing how their high end X-Pro and XE1 (Made in Japan) cameras handle and what aging issues I have after less than a year of careful use, I certainly don’t want to own a 2,5 times cheaper camera from Fuji.

  10. Fuji could be a leader in this game if they could just get the AF right. Too bad actually… I used the X100 for 1 year and the image quality and the hybrid EVF/OVF was just awesome. But even after x firmware upgrades the AF remained an issue at least for me. M4/3 has much snappier cameras and lenses to offer.
    This new ‘low end’ Fuji line looks actually very interesting. Not every user wants or needs a VF and paired with a fast prime lens this new Fuji could be seen as a high end point and shoot.

  11. Fuji’s leading X-Trans sensor was its claim to fame, but I’m not sure they can *continue* to win the sensor war, so I understand them placing emphases on their lenses (which are excellent!) as a strategy in maintaining a competitive edge.

    The Fuji aside though, I agree that some micro 4/3 cameras offer absolutely superb results and that’s why I’m really looking forward to the rumored X100-like fixed lens micro four thirds cameras to come.

    The ‘marriage’ of the sensor to the lens should provide even better IQ, in an even small package!
    I want, I want, I want…. 🙂

  12. I also have never been thrilled with the idea of buying a Fuji because of the X_trans sensor, even though the XE1 body and the lens lineup are very intriguing. (I shoot raw only and while I’m aware that improvements have been made to LR, I’m still not sold on it).
    My view of the relatively sluggish sales of mirrorless cameras in the US is that the mythical “point and shoot upgrader” that all the manufacturers are so desperately trying to find doesn’t want a bigger point & shoot … he/she wants a cameras that’s a little more; something you can hold onto, that responds quickly, and that you can hold up to your eye. Whether it’s due to using LCDs in bright sunlight or aging eyes that have to hold the camera out at arms length, a lot of camera buyers will look at a $500 Nikon or Canon kit and see nothing remotely appealing about the entry level ILCs.
    I think Sony has the right idea with the A3000, though I have to wonder if it would be better as a $500 kit with a better LCD & VF.
    Anyway, just my long-winded way of saying I think that this camera might not be a very big seller at all. Fuji sold to enthusiasts because it was like nothing else. Now it’s like other cameras that don’t sell in droves, but now it’s trying to appeal to a market that isn’t going to see it in stores to begin with.
    (The other thing I dislike about Fuji’s attempt to go cheap is that there are now two different ways to set aperture on different lenses).
    I was a lot more impressed with the X system when it was the X-Pro1 and X-E1 before they tried to go mainstream, though I do like the idea of the more standard sensor.

  13. Yeah I wish they would put a touchscreen on the xm xa1 since they have a tilting screen on them. It would great to give a evf option also and I really like the face detection feature instead of always manually changing the auto focus point. Would love to see a non Tran xtrans crazy compare with the 27mm pancake !!

  14. Well, like everything in life, we are all entitled to our opinions. I am comfortable with the X-Trans sensor and have both the X-E1 and X100S. But I am coming from the days of ISO1600 being the top usable speed (Nikon D2H owner for 10 years!). The Fujis fit my needs but, that being said, if the X-M1 or X-A1 were the only ones available, I would still be looking for the replacement to my DSLR gear.

  15. I also like the original X100 look better than the look of a X100s sensor.
    ANd I have seen a lot of beautiful photos from both cameras.
    Was thinking the same, could they make a Fujifilm X-E1 a like, but with X100 original sensor?
    Looking forward to see what You get out of the X-A1.

  16. I found the x100, and also the xpro1 sensor works very well if you like to manipulate the colors etc. I Love shooting film and do cross processing. The Fuji sensor works a little bit like that (for me).

  17. How fast do these mirrorless cameras actually focus? The only one I’ve used is the Sony Rx1 (in the Sony store) and it did not seem like it would be good for motion.
    The new OMD has been described by some as blazing fast, but places like Dpreview mention it is no where near as fast as a top tier DSLR.

    • for me, Olympus OMD Em5, static object, no practical difference any more from DSLR. Game of rugby; DSLR required.

      But; 2 years ago the first statement wasn’t true, so give it time….

  18. I think there is quite a good chance that we’ll see more fuji cameras with conventional sensor design. Nearly all major brands get along without an anti aliasing filter these days so there might be no more need for the Xtrans-Technology.
    Still I do not agree with your thoughts on the lacking evf. Fujifilm put up FOUR versions of their x-systemcameras. So there is need for some criteria to differenciate between the lot. An A1 with an evf could hardly be cheaper than the M1. But for me it’s logical that they need a real entry level model.

  19. Steve,

    Thanks for being the voice of reason. I pre-ordered the x-a1 and the 23mm 1.4. If I had follow through with the order I surely would of had buyers remorse. After reading your article I decided to cancel both orders.

    Now my only hope for a good mirrorless camera is the rx10

  20. It’s a nice touch from Fuji to give something else beside the X-Trans a go..I was surprised they have not developed and used the same sensor in X100 actually.
    It’ll never happen I believe yet gathering the IQ from X100 and the performance from X100S in one camera is simply fantastic.

    • That’s funny, I find it the opposite. I find it has a lot more texture and tone to the colors, compared to the NEX (just as an example – could be nikon in APS-C also), which to me has a more pure and digital look. I seem to be able to call out the Fuji X pictures while when I see most others photos (good, great, bad or average), I sort of cannot tell which camera they came from. It’s not to say better or worse, it’s just I find that the fuji seems to give me more texture.

    • Mmm… going from XE-1 with 35/1.4 to X100 for some reasons, my first reaction was that X100 had some problems and need service looking at the files

  21. I am convinced Fuji has no idea where it is going and is throwing everything against the wall. I bought into the X and have a XPRO1 a camera trying to find itself. Since then Fuji keeps dumping new cameras with pieces in each of them from another one with no one solidified as a giant killer. Disappointing and costly for the consumer attempting to tell Fuji what camera fits right. Not impressed and moved on.

    • I have the same thought ever since the XE-1 came out just a couple of months after the very pricy but then unique X-Pro1. The same could be said about them releasing a 23mm only now, just to keep sales of the x100(s) going, and at the same time releasing zoom after zoom.
      As for Steve’s opinion about the disappointing results of the X-Trans sensor in other than dramatic/excellent light, I am glad someone writes this so clearly, as most websites and users keep raving about its image quality, and make me wonder if I got bad bodies of the XPro and XE-1.

    • So is Sony. Look at the A3000 and the bolt on phone lenses. So is Leica. Look at the spate of latest Panasonic OEMs. There is alot of chuck it all in the mix and see what sells going on.

    • “Any semi serious camera you buy today will give you amazing results”

      Like the just released Zeiss 16-70 on nex7? I was going to get that combo until seeing the results I could get with my phone. Now I’m here.

  22. waiting to see some head to head image comparisons between this Bayer camera and it’s X-trans brothers, so far no one seems to have posted any.

  23. I agree with you on this Steve. I really love my x100 despite some quirks that it has (AF speed and accuracy, lags, etc). Then I bought x-e1 hoping ‘better’ or ‘more refined’ x100 with IL. To this day, I rarely use it. I love the way the camera works, changing aperture, exposure comp dial, etc, but somehow it gave me inconsistent results (IMHO). Sometimes excellent, but more often HUH? That’s why I don’t intend to upgrade to x100s anytime soon. Now I’m thorn between selling it or to keep it 🙁

  24. I am confused. You didn’t like the X-M1 because it was too small/toylike for an IC camera but you like the X-A1? Isn’t the A1 an even cheaper version of the X-M1?

    • Why confused? I said I would not buy either as they do not have an EVF/OV. I also said I prefer the NON X-Tran sensor, but I was clear to say I would not buy either. I said if the X-A1 had an EVF, then it would be something I would get into due to the sensor.

  25. I agree that to meet my expectations today, a camera needs to have, as you put it, “the whole package”. I want that to include the ability to control both the Aperture and the Shutter Speed while having both Auto ISO and Exposure Compensation active because then you really have control and can shoot fast.

  26. In my opinion, this camera has no style. That´s what i really like about Sony cam´s – they look stylish. Sure you can do brilliant picturers with most other cameras, but i really don´t want one without a good design. Maybe the manufacuters focus more on image quality, but the design of the camera/the image of the brand is more important to me. Because of that reason, i´ll never buy a nikon, fuji nor a canon at this time. Maybe they spent more time to create good looking camera´s in future.

    • Interesting that you see it that way. I also like the modern nex-design. But for me (at least in the begnning) sony ruined it by not supplying lenses of the right (body matching) colour.
      Second, I always wondered why Sony didn’t include the steady shot tech into the nex bodies. Even if it had pumped up he total volume a bit, it would have saved volume for every lens. Instead they insisted on making the bodies as small as possible with the effect that they look almost ridiculous whenever you mount something bigger than a kit lens.
      Third: i know there’s no use to argue over tastes. And yes, I like the Nex-design (ditched a Canon Rebel to get one). But for me the X-E1 looks even cooler. So does the Oly EP 5, so does the EM-5…..alright, alright. tastes……

        • That´s what i meant. I couldn´t go for a camera which takes brilliant photos, but has an exterior design, which i dislike. For me it is about the “Full-Package” – IQ and Camera Design, not that the Design is more important than the IQ. I own the RX100 because of that reasons, the RX1 or most of the NEXes are looking good in both ways.

    • The Sony RX-100’s are “stylish’?……..haha……
      They look like small square metal bricks with a lens stuck on them.
      And if there is a worse recent camera right out of the box, “Auto”, in mildly difficult light, …..

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