The Under-rated Fuji X-M1

The little Fuji X-M1 tends to be overshadowed by its ‘big’ brothers – particularly the X-T1 and X-Pro1 and the iconic X100S. It’s relatively inexpensive (I picked mine up used for £160), and only has an LCD screen on the back, no electronic or optical viewfinder. The construction is a little more ‘plasticky’ and the controls with the PASM and mode dial are somewhat reminiscent of cheaper compact cameras.  However, the heart of the camera is the same 16Mp sensor used in the X-T1 etc and it takes the same fabulous XF lenses, so in the right hands, and with a few caveats, is capable of the same results.  I picked mine up to keep as a backup to my main camera body and didn’t really envisage using it on a regular basis. However, pair it with the diminutive 27mm lens, and it’s a cracker! Its just 12 x 6.5 x 6cm so actually smaller (and lighter) than the X100S! It really does fit easily in a jacket pocket, and I took it into a concert without security even noticing it…DX141123-2

So given that it is smaller than my X100S and I felt I needed to get to know the camera better, I took it out with me last night, just on the off-chance of some photos. What a revelation! Used wide open at f2.8, and with auto ISO set to 3200 max, it performed brilliantly in what seemed like near darkness.

Walking around Centenary Square in Birmingham, the AF locked on perfectly on the Giant Wheel and the new Library of Birmingham, and propped against a wall a 1/20th sec photo of the canal was adequately sharp. Inside the NIA Arena, I even managed some decent concert photos. What is incredible about all these Fuji cameras, and the X-M1 is no different, is the high ISO performance – it retains an amazing amount of shadow detail, with very little noise.  I’ve had some far more sophisticated cameras in the past, but none can equal this low light performance. It almost doesn’t matter how dark it is, just shoot away and the camera sorts it out. The only ‘tweak’ I made was to the concert photos where it was burning out the highlights, so I dialled in one stop of under exposure and that fixed it.

DX141123-5Don’t forget also that the tilting LCD screen is great for low level or overhead shots, and it even has a decent little pop up flash built in. It’s wifi enabled too, so photos can be uploaded directly to a smartphone, or printed on the new Fuji Instax printer. It may not have the faster AF that the X-E2 and X-T1 have, but when it does find focus is generally locks on accurately; unless you are capturing sport or other fast moving subjects, it isn’t really an issue. It’s a credit to Fuji that they have managed to pack the image quality of their more expensive models into what is a very affordable entry level camera that is fully compatible with the whole XF lens range.

I’m really happy with my little ‘pocket-rocket’ – it’s a great combination with the 27mm lens, and there’s always the option to pair it with any of the other Fuji XF lenses – even with the 18-55mm zoom lens it is still very handy for travelling light.

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EDIT: Although I really liked the compact form of the X-M1, ultimately I struggled without a viewfinder, so sold the X-M1 in favour of its bigger brother – the X-E2. Only slightly larger, it has a better build quality, great viewfinder, and much faster AF, so a winner alround. Thanks to eBay, I sold the X-M1 for virtually what I paid for it, so a win:win there.

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