In June us Canadian Fuji X-Photographers were shown the yet released X-M1.. I was asked "Is this something you would use?".. I told them "I don't think so". Fast forward to the end of July.. Fuji asked me "Do you want to try the X-M1?".. I told them "Yes, please!" Never pass up a free trial of anything. That is a lesson for the kids out there.
First things first. The X-M1 has the awesome X-Trans 16mp sensor inside. I am going to be going more into the handling of this camera because we all know by now how capable the X-Trans sensor is.
I was initially surprised how small the X-M1 was. I have girl hands and found it was a little bit small. On the rear there is a spot for a thumb that has 9 little plastic nipples with a dial above. I hold it with 2 fingers on the front, my thumb on the nipples and a third finger underneath. Definitely not the solid grip I have on my X-Pro1 or X100s which both fit perfectly in my hand.
The top dial is like that of the other X's but instead of shutter speed it is a mode selector. C, M, A, S, P and some scene modes. The scene modes are for if you're shooting a mountain, people's side profiles or a guy doing jazzercise. I would recommend using Manual, Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority. Especially if taking photos of the side profile of a guy doing jazzercise on a mountain because I don't think the scene modes could handle that.
The second dial changes depending what mode you're in. In Aperture Priority it is exposure compensation. It has really tight clicks when turning it and it is difficult to bump out of place by mistake which is great. As it is a jack of all trades dial there are no markings on it. I prefer being able to look at my dials and knowing what is where.
I did not do any scientific tests but the battery life seems to be worst than the X100s & X-Pro1. It uses the same battery as the X-Pro1. Likely having to always use the LCD is what eats the batteries much quicker. And like all other Fuji cameras the battery life indicator goes from 2/3rds to empty.. no in between.
No viewfinder. That is what made my mind up in the discussion with Fuji back in June. I really feel I need to have a viewfinder. And the X-M1 does not have a viewfinder. Instead it has a really nice tilty screen. It was different and it took some getting used to but composing a photo from a strange angle while I could still be standing upright was nice. I ended up tilting the screen so it looked upwards and ended up holding the camera at waist level and looking into it like I would a twin lens reflex camera like an Ikoflex or a Rolleiflex. I did steal the idea from fellow X-Photographer, J R Bernstein on Twitter.
To wrap up the handling I want to mention there is no switch for Focus modes.. it is in the menu. And that is a pain in my ass. While composing a photo I wanted to switch to manual to fine tune it. I had to go into the menu and change it to manual focus. Then I had to recompose while my subject stood there wondering what I was doing.
XC 16-50mm Lens
I am going to be pretty honest about this new lens. I don't like it. I knew almost immediately that I did not like it. It is a cheaper alternative to the Fuji XF lenses for this new consumer branch but if I was to buy a X-M1 I would opt for an XF lens.
The body is plastic, the mount is plastic, the zoom is kind of smooth until it got to 48mm and then it seemed to need more force to go to 50mm (this could just be a problem with the lens I was sent). It also might be this lens on the X-M1 that made me not like it. Zooming a lens while holding the camera away from my body to see the screen was not pleasant. It feels awkward and I hated doing it. I mostly ended up using the X-M1 with my XF 35mm or XF 14mm. Both have aperture rings and my feet as the zoom.
Optically the lens is good. Probably on par with other camera systems' kit lens. But no where near the XF 18-55.
The OIS (Image stabilization) worked well. So it has that going for it. Also it is inexpensive. Do those two things make me want to plunk money down for it? No. I would rather plunk more money down for the 18-55 because it is a superstar. A nice surprise was the focus was fast, accurate and silent. With being a less expensive lens I would of expected some sounds when focusing. It is as quiet at the 18-55.
Will this lens work for the segment of people that would be buying a X-M1? I think they would be drawn to it because it is a zoom. I think people delving into the Fuji X-System would be better served if they got the XF 27mm pancake. I have not used it but it is a prime, a good focal length and faster than the 16-50mm.
Where does this leave us? I like some things about it. I don't like other things about it. Would I recommend it to people? Yes. I have friends and family ask me all the time about my Fujis as they want a smaller camera to take with them travelling that isn't a point & shoot. They go cross eyed when I talk about aperture rings and shutter dials and exposure compensation. I think they would benefit from the X-M1 as it gives them the chance to wade into the X-Series waters. It has auto and scene modes they are familiar with from their p&s or canon rebel.. but it is small, lightweight and has one of the best APS-C sensors ever. As they progress into photography they will be able to transition to the more manual modes and eventually graduate to a X100s, X-E1 or X-Pro1.
To advanced shooters and those who already have another X-Series camera I would not recommend it. You'll be frustrated. I hope it's targeted segment of buyers find it and take the plunge. Why? Because I am selfish and I want the X-Series line to do well so that Fuji can take that money and use it to develop more amazing XF lenses and eventually a X-Pro2.
- Small and lightweight (A fraction of the size of a Canon 5Dmk3 & 85 1.2 lens)
- Has the awesome X-Trans APS-C sensor inside
- X-Mount to use XF lenses or adapted lenses
- Articulating Screen
- Built-in Flash
- No viewfinder
- Having to dig through menus to change some settings
- Battery Life
- Plastic build quality
- Too small to grip properly