Fujifilm XQ2 review: Solid low-light pocket camera with classic styling

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THE GOOD

The Fujifilm XQ2 is an attractive advanced compact with a fast f1.8 maximum aperture and good low-light photo quality. It has a satisfying mix of manual and automatic shooting options and plenty of things with which to experiment. There’s ample direct control over settings given the camera’s small size.

THE BAD

The XQ2 has limited Wi-Fi functionality; no built-in neutral density filter; it’s essentially the same as its predecessor, the XQ1; and video quality is just OK.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The Fujifilm QX2 doesn’t improve much on its predecessor, but with its larger image sensor, bright lens and fast performance even in low light, this stylish pocket camera is an excellent step-up from your smartphone or average point-and-shoot.

Even higher-end camera lines need an entry-level model.

Fujifilm’s X-series cameras — made up of mirrorless interchangeable lens models and premium compacts — are primarily targeted at enthusiasts and professionals. For compacts, the XQ2 is the current entry point for the line coming in around $400 in the US, £270 in the UK and AU$480 in Australia.

That pricing might not scream “entry level,” especially in a world where many people go for their phones first when they need a camera, but we’re talking about premium compacts that can cost more than $1,000, not basic point-and-shoots.

With the XQ2, you get a nice-looking little camera with a larger sensor than most models competing with it at this price, a 4x f1.8-4.9 25-100mm lens, abundant shooting options and manual controls and fast performance. The combination makes this camera a good step-up from a smartphone or more entry-level point-and-shoots, giving you more control and better photo quality, particularly in low light.

The camera is a minimal update from the XQ1, however, so if you have one of those there is little reason to upgrade or if can find an XQ1 at a lower price, it will likely serve you just as well as the XQ2. For reference, the new features include a Multi-Target AF (autofocus) mode, which selects up to nine focus areas for faster and more precise focusing; movie scene recognition for better automatic settings under a variety of shooting conditions; and Classic Chrome is added to Fujifilm’s film simulation settings, which reproduces the “deep colors and rich shades distinctive of documentary images.”

Though the years-old original Sony Cyber-shot RX100 is still our top choice for an enthusiast compactaround $400, the XQ2 comes close enough to warrant your consideration as it’s a little less expensive and has built-in Wi-Fi for on-the-go sharing.

Comparative specs

Canon Powershot G16 Fujiflm XQ2 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100
Sensor effective resolution 12.1MP CMOS 12MP X-Trans CMOS II 10.1MP MOS 20.2MP Exmor R CMOS
Sensor size 1/1.7-inch
(7.6 x 5.7 mm)
2/3-inch
(8.8 x 6.6 mm)
1/1.7-inch
(7.6 x 5.7 mm)
1-inch
(13.2 x 8.8mm)
OLPF Yes No Yes Yes
Sensitivity range ISO 80 – ISO 12800 ISO 100 – ISO 3200/ISO 12800 (exp) ISO 80- ISO 6400 ISO 100 – ISO 25600
Lens (35mm equivalent) 28-140mm
f1.8-2.8
5x
25-100mm
f1.8-4.9
4x
24-90mm
f1.4-2.3
3.8x
28-100mm
f1.8-4.9
3.6x
Closest focus 0.4 in/1.0 cm 1.1 in/3 cm 0.4 in/1 cm 1.9 in/5 cm
Burst shooting 10fps
unlimited JPEG
3fps
200 JPEG
(12fps for 9 frames or 9fps for 11 frames with focus and exposure fixed at first frame)
5 fps
12 JPEG/ n/a raw
(11fps without tracking AF)
2.5fps
(10fps with fixed exposure)
12 JPEG/13 raw
Viewfinder
(mag/ effective mag)
Optical
Reverse Galilean
None Optional
EVF (DMW-LVF2)
None
Hot shoe Yes No Yes No
Autofocus n/a
Contrast AF
n/a
Hybrid contrast/phase-detection AF
23 area
Contrast AF
25-area
Contrast AF
Shutter speed 30 – 1/4,000 sec 30 – 1/4,000 sec 30 – 1/4,000 sec 30 – 1/2,000 sec; bulb
Metering n/a 256 zones 23 area n/a
Best video H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/60p, 24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/60p, 30p
AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28 Mbps AVCHD
1080/60p, 50p, 25p,
24p
Audio Stereo Stereo Stereo Stereo
Manual aperture and shutter in video No n/a Yes Yes
Maximum best-quality recording time 4GB/29:59 minutes 14 minutes 29:59 minutes 29 minutes
Optical zoom while recording Yes Yes Yes Yes
IS Optical Optical Optical
LCD 3-inch
Fixed
922,000 dots
3 in/7.5cm
Fixed
920,000 dots
3 in/7.5 cm
Fixed
920,000 dots
3-inch
Fixed
921,600 dots
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 1 X SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC
Wireless connection Wi-Fi Wi-Fi None None
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes
Wireless flash No No No No
Battery life (CIPA rating) 360 shots 240 shots 330 shots 330 shots
Size (WHD) 4.4 x 3.0 x 1.6 in
108.8 x 75.9 x 40.3 mm
3.9 x 2.3 x 1.3 in
100 x 58.5 x 33.3 mm
4.4 x 2.6 x 1.8 in
110.5 x 67.1 x 45.6 mm
4.0 x 2.4 x 1.4 inches
101.6 x 58.1 x 35.9 mm
Body operating weight 12.5 oz
354.4 g
7.3 oz (est.)
206 g (est.)
10.5 oz (est.)
298 g (est.)
8.5 oz
241.0 g

The XQ2’s 12-megapixel 2/3-inch sensor is larger than the 1/1.7-inch sensors typically found in advanced compacts at or below its price and considerably larger than the 1/2.3 or 1/3.2-inch sensors used in smartphones. (The aforementioned RX100 bests the XQ2 with a 1-inch sensor.) Generally speaking, the larger the sensor is, the better the photo quality will be with less noise and improved low-light performance.

That’s certainly the case with the XQ2, which delivered relatively little noise right up to ISO 800 with only a slight increase at ISO 1600. Even shots at ISO 3200 are usable, at least at smaller sizes, as they retain a fair amount of detail without getting overly soft. You do see color desaturation above ISO 800, though.

The sensor is still small compared to a dSLR’s, and dynamic range suffers a bit for it. Highlights still blow out, but if you’re OK shooting in raw, some detail can be rescued in post-processing. (If you want to share straight from the camera, you can edit the raw images right on the XQ2.) Plus, if the light is really challenging, you can take advantage of Fujifilm’s in-camera dynamic range bracketing, which takes three shots at different settings to improve the balance between highlights and shadows. (There are also bracketing options for ISO, exposure compensation and Fujifilm’s film simulations, which reproduces the colors for the company’s film styles.)

Fujifilm XQ2 Camera Daytime Sample

Video quality is less impressive, with a distracting amount of artifacts around subjects and in backgrounds. The XQ2’s clips would be fine for occasional clips, but if you’re looking for something to do double duty regularly, I would definitely step up to the Sony RX100.

Along with its nice photo quality, the XQ2 has pretty fast shooting performance. From off to first shot was 1.8 seconds in my tests with the shot-to-shot lag clocking in at 0.8 second. Shooting in raw bumped that up to only 1 second. When using the flash, that time was a reasonable 2.1 seconds. The time from pressing the shutter release to capture — without prefocusing — was 0.3 second in both bright and low-light conditions.

Burst shooting at full resolution hit a rate of 13 frames per second, which is faster than the 12fps Fujifilm claims. However, it drops off after nine shots are captured and focus and exposure are set with the first shot, so if you’re tracking a moving subject there’s a good chance not all of your photos will be in focus. You can put on continuous autofocus and the camera only slows down to about 9fps, dropping off in speed after 11 shots. Shooting in raw slowed the burst rate down to about 6 shots per seconds.

The zoom lens goes from 25mm to 100mm (35mm equivalent). The camera’s bright f1.8 aperture is only available at the 25mm position, however, shrinking to f4.9 when zoomed in. It slows down relatively fast, too, with f3.6 being the maximum aperture at the lens’ 35mm position, and f4.2 at 50mm. Basically, while it’s great to have the f1.8 aperture available for low-light shooting, you’re stuck with the 25mm focal length in order to use it. On top of that, there’s no built-in ND (neutral density) filter or an easy way to add one, which would allow you to use the f1.8 aperture in lighting conditions that would otherwise result in overexposure.

Overall, I like the control layout for the XQ2, though the small, flat buttons on back as well as the power button on top can be difficult to press for bigger fingers. A control ring around the lens changes its function depending on the camera mode. For example, in Aperture-priority mode it will adjust aperture, while in Auto it will zoom the lens in and out, or in Scene it will let you quickly select the appropriate setting for your shooting conditions such as Portrait, Landscape, Sunset or Night. It can also be set to change things like ISO, white balance or exposure compensation.

There’s also an E-fn button that basically lets you map the buttons on back to other settings. It’s a great setup for quickly accessing settings that are important to you. If you don’t like to do a lot of menu diving to do things like switch between JPEG and raw capture or change autofocus modes, it’s an excellent setup given the limited space for controls.

Battery life isn’t particularly great, getting about 240 shots on a single charge. The battery is charged in the camera via its Micro-USB port, so you’ll just need to pack a USB cable when traveling. It also means you’ll have to really plan ahead if you want to have multiple batteries charged before a trip or event or buy an external charger.

The screen is big and bright, but it can still be difficult to see in the sun. A long press on the E-fn button does boost the brightness, but it will cut into your battery life and without an option to add an optical or electronic viewfinder, you’ll have to make do. The same goes for the flash; the tiny manual pop-up one is OK, but if you regularly need to use a flash, there’s no hot shoe to add an external one. If a hot shoe and viewfinder are must-haves for you, check out Fujifilm’s X30, which has both those features and more but costs an additional $100.

There is no shortage of shooting modes on the XQ2, including two Auto modes (with or without scene recognition) right up to semimanual and manual controls (as well as a Custom spot where you can save your own setups). In manual mode, available shutter speeds start at 30 seconds and go down to 1/4,000 second (though at f1.8 it stops at 1/1,000 second); selectable apertures go from f1.8 to f11 at wide end, and f4.9 to f11 at the telephoto end. If you don’t mind the small buttons, using this camera outside of Auto is a pleasure; if you want good access to settings, this is your point-and-shoot.

The Advanced mode gives you a few more tools to work with that take advantage of the camera’s speed: Pro Low-light and Pro Focus. The Low-light mode snaps off several photos and then combines them into one lower-noise photo, while the Pro Focus creates a shallow depth of field by digitally blurring the background. (The former works better than the latter.) In this mode you’ll also find a 360-degree panorama option and a cool multiple-exposure option that lets you layer one shot on top of another. There is a Filter mode, too, with eight options: Toy, Miniature, Pop Color, Dynamic Tone, Partial Color, High Key, Low Key and Soft Focus.

fujifilm-xq2-02
fujifilm-xq2-03
fujifilm-xq2-04
fujifilm-xq2-05
fujifilm-xq2-06

When you’re done shooting, you can press the E-fn button in Playback mode to turn on the camera’s Wi-Fi. Using the Fujifilm Camera App for iOS or Android, you can wirelessly connect to your phone ortablet to view your photos and videos and transfer them to your device up to 30 at a time. You can also use it to geotag your photos with location data from your phone while you’re shooting. If you have aFujifilm Instax Share printer, you can send photos from the camera directly to the printer for instant Polaroid-like, 2×3-inch prints and a desktop application lets you wirelessly back up photos and movies to a PC.

What’s missing is the capability to remotely control the camera with a mobile device, which is something commonly supported by other Wi-Fi-enabled cameras including other X-series models.

Conclusion

The Fujifilm QX2 doesn’t improve much on its predecessor, but with its larger image sensor and bright f1.8 lens, this pocket camera is an excellent step-up from your smartphone or average point-and-shoot.

(cnet.com)

 

 

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