Fujifilm XQ1 review

The Fujifilm XQ1 is the smallest member of Fuji's premium styled X range

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Manual control ring

  • +

    Good low-light performance

  • +

    Digital effects

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    No handgrip

  • -

    Tiny buttons and scrollwheel

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Want a premium, pint-sized digital compact camera that takes excellent photos and fits in a pocket? Check out our Fujifilm XQ1 review

Compact cameras are getting more feature-packed than ever in order to offer an effective alternative to the smartphone. The Fujifilm XQ1, which is the brand's smallest retro designed X series camera to date and falls into the category of premium compact camera, is no exception.

A pocket-sized thing of diminutive beauty in either black or silver body, it's a near identical size match for competing devices, including the Canon PowerShot S120 and Panasonic LF1, even if it does omit the latter's teeny eye-level viewfinder. It is, however, cheaper than the Canon, with the Fuji retailing for a manufacturer's suggested £349.99.

The Fuji XQ1 featurest a 12-megapixel resolution from a 2/3-inch CMOS sensor, double the size of the chips in your standard £150 point-and-shoot. Lens spec is also a cut above the norm - though a match for its rivals - in offering a bright/fast f/1.8 maximum aperture (the lower the number, the greater the amount of light allowed in by the lens).

Indeed this camera lets more light in than most; the majority of pocket zoom cameras offer a maximum f/3.5 aperture. This partly ensures that the image stabilised Fuji can cope with handheld shots in failing light, as well as providing shallow depth of field effects at its widest setting for more interesting portraiture.

In short we can do a bit more with the XQ1 than your standard credit card-sized snapper, and it looks good too. Focal range in 35mm equivalent terms stretches from a wide 25mm to 100mm at maximum zoom, and the camera comes with the failsafe of a manually activated pop-up flash neatly incorporated into its chassis.

Attendant features of note are a blink and you'll miss it 0.06-second auto focus, up to 12fps continuous shooting, Light sensitivity settings ranging from ISO100-12800, plus a Wi-Fi button for sharing pictures with a smartphone via Fuji's Camera Application app.

Even though this is one of the more affordable options in its premium class, we still have the ability to shoot maximum quality Raw files plus regular JPEGs, and, naturally Full HD video clips.

Fast, well built, and with a bright lens and a bigger than average sensor the XQ1 looks good on paper. So how does it fare in practice?

Fujifilm XQ1: Controls

As on the competing Canon S120, the Fuji XQ1 comes with a very useful lens ring - here referred to as a control ring- that once again provides a manual means of zooming.

The alternative is to simply toggle the zoom lever that ergonomically encircles the shutter release button. But more than that, a spin of Fuji's ring provides a short cut to key functions, and, for example, allows users to select white balance, ISO and continuous shooting settings, as well as Fuji's classic wet film simulation modes, including Astia, Provia and Velvia.

The latter is another means of differentiating this from the competition. We also get digital filter effects thrown in, like with just about every smartphone and camera these days, here including the popular toy camera mode.

Adding this intuitive control ring almost compensates for the fact that the XQ1's backplate buttons are pretty tiny and a bit fiddly. They require finger-tip precision to make selections.

But otherwise this Fuji offers an almost mirror image control layout to that of Canon's competing PowerShot S120 at £100 more, complete with its top-plate shooting mode wheel, raised shutter released button and zoom lever, plus aforementioned manual catch for raising the flash.

There's much about this Fuji that feels familiar, so it doesn't take long to get to grips with. However, despite a slightly roughened surface to help prevent our fingers slipping around on its faceplate, this Fuji lacks any handgrip; a trade off for maintaining its pocket-sized proportions.

Fujifilm XQ1: Screen

With the Fuji XQ1 we get a fixed 3-inch, 920K-dot resolution LCD for controlling our shots and reviewing them in lieu of any optical finder. If anything is left wanting here it's that the screen itself isn't a touch screen, but we can more than live with that.

We weren't much troubled with sunshine during the dull January days we were testing the camera so we can't comment on how the screen might fare in bright light.

But in the dim the LCD is bright enough to both accurately compose your shot and check that your subject is actually in focus, while that bright aperture lens helps prevent blur resulting from camera shake in such circumstances.

Fujifilm XQ1: Battery

With an NP-48 rechargeable lithium-ion cell slotted into the camera's base, the XQ1 is good for a performance of up to 240 shots from a full charge. That matches the performance of competing premium pocket models such as the Canon PowerShot S120, Panasonic LF1 and Olympus Stylus 1.

So, while we can't quite match the prolonged shooting performance of the better CSC or DSLR cameras, we have no complaints in that department, neither have we at this price.

Fujifilm XQ1: Picture quality

Marking it out as offering something a bit extra from your standard point-and-shoot, the bright f/1.8 maximum lens aperture here at its widest 25mm equivalent setting provides the ability to achieve DSLR-like effects, yet from a camera no bigger than a humble snapshot.

This runs up to f/4.9 at maximum 100mm equivalent zoom. Colours look bright and well saturated from this Fuji too.
The 12 megapixel resolution may be modest and if you need more from your compact you'll want to look elsewhere - such as at Sony's almost peerless RX100 II at nearly double the price - but at least a conservative pixel count doesn't overburden the sensor and produce noisy images as a result.

In terms of shooting video, the Fuji has noisier lens mechanics than we would like, particularly when shooting video in quieter environments. But then, despite the teeny video record button on the back plate, shooting movies here feels of secondary consideration to getting the best out of your stills.

Fujifilm XQ1: Verdict

We loved the Fuji's classic design yet snapshot-like approachability, and it comes at a value added price. Reassuringly weighty in the palm and with a subtly roughened surface to the front preventing fingers from slipping, the XQ1 feels the part as well as looking it.

While it's not quite best in class for someone wanting a sharp-shooting compact that punches above its compact size and weight - that honour goes to Sony's RX100 II, which costs circa £600, or the Canon S120 if you can't stretch quite that far - the XQ1 is accessible as a basic Fuji Finepix point-and-shoot compact; yet with a better build, a better lens and a better sensor for not much more money than your humble snapper.

Fujifilm XQ1 release date: Out now

Fujifilm XQ1 price: £349.99

Gavin Stoker

Gavin Stoker has been writing about photography and technology for the past 20 years. He currently edits the trade magazine British Photographic Industry News - BPI News for short - which is a member of TIPA, the international Technical Imaging Press Association.