We're a bunch of cynical pessimists, always trying to reveal the worst in the products we test, but it's hard to maintain an air of cynicism when holding the XF1. Decked out in brushed aluminium and synthetic leather, the retro design is incredibly handsome. There's a choice of red and black if the tan finish doesn't appeal.
The lens barely extrudes from the body when switched off, giving a 33mm overall depth that slips easily into a pocket. A small twist unlocks the lens, whereupon it's pulled outwards and then twisted again to power up and adjust the zoom. This three-part action quickly becomes second nature – we measured just 1.8 seconds to release the lens, switch on and take a photo – and the manual mechanism reinforces the retro appeal.
The XF1 is much slimmer than most other premium compacts, and the manual lens mechanism is extremely satisfying
Around the back it looks more modern, with a 3in screen and the usual array of buttons. Having both a command dial and a rear wheel helps to make quick adjustments, although most of the time they duplicate each other's functions. One exception is in manual exposure mode, where they're assigned to shutter speed and aperture. Pressing the command dial swaps their functions, which we found a little disorienting. The two controls work well together when adjusting the autofocus point, with the wheel moving the point and the dial adjusting its size.
There's one small but significant change compared to previous Fujifilm cameras. The old two-tier menu system that we never much liked is gone. Instead, pressing the E-Fn button reveals alternative roles for six other buttons on the back of the camera. These can be customised, and an on-screen prompt makes it easy to see what's assigned to each button. It's a vast improvement on the old list-based quick menu. With another customisable button on the top of the camera, accessing settings is generally very quick.
The buttons have labelled functions as we'd expect, but pressing E-Fn swaps their roles for a customisable set, as shown on the screen
However, there's a caveat we've seen many times before on Fujifilm cameras, whereby most buttons are unresponsive while the camera is saving photos to memory card. It's not much of an issue in normal use, where we had to wait two seconds after taking a photo before we could adjust a setting. It doesn't affect the ability to take another photo either, with just 1.1 seconds between shots. It's more frustrating in continuous mode or when shooting raw, where it took up to six seconds to regain full control of the camera. Continuous mode performed reasonably well, shooting at 6.7fps for six frames before slowing to 1.8fps. There's no option to update the autofocus between shots, though.
The 2/3in sensor set to 8 megapixels gives incredibly low noise, as this ISO 1600 shot taken under a grey sky demonstrates
The best performance comes when the resolution is set to 6 megapixels, giving 9.7fps shooting for 14 frames, slowing to 3.3fps. The XF1 uses Fujifilm's excellent EXR technology, so switching to 6 megapixels also reaps big benefits for noise and dynamic range. It helps that this 2/3in sensor is almost twice the size (by surface area) as the 1/2.3in sensors used in most compact cameras. It's a little bigger than the 1/1.7in sensors used in other brands of premium compact camera too. It appears to be the same sensor as in the Fujifilm X10, which means that noise levels are among the lowest of any compact camera.Prev Next