Cameras

Fujifilm X-A5 Review

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The Fujifilm X-A5 is aimed at a very different market to their high-end X-mount cameras.

With simplified, user-friendly controls, a compact body and kit lens combination, and an affordable price tag, it’s targeted at smartphone upgraders choosing their first interchangeable-lens camera.

It doesn’t have a viewfinder, but what it does have is a new compact 15-45mm retracting power zoom kit zoom lens to help make the X-A5 the kind of camera you can carry anywhere.

Inside is really a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, and there’s the 4K video mode too, although this is restricted to just 15fps. You also get a touch-sensitive rear screen that flips through 180 degrees for quick and simple selfies.

Fujifilm X-A5 Price

Features

  • 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor
  • New compact 15-45mm OIS power zoom
  • 4K video but only at 15fps

Perhaps the first thing to note about the X-A5 is that this is another (yes, another) beginner-friendly mirrorless camera with no electronic viewfinder, just an LCD screen on the rear for composing photos. And while serious photographers might not be impressed, the X-A5 isn’t designed for them – it’s created for smartphone upgraders who are used to touchscreen interfaces and don’t mind that kind of arm’s-length photography.

Inside, the X-A5 has a regular CMOS sensor, not one of Fujifilm’s more advanced X-Trans sensors as found in the likes of the X-T20. We’ve seen this before on Fujifilm’s entry-level models, and we’d be surprised if anyone but a photography expert could spot the difference in image quality.

It’s what’s on the front that’s more interesting. The X-A5 comes with a new retracting 15-45mm power zoom kit lens. That’s equivalent to around 23-68mm in full-frame terms, so it’s a little wider than the average kit lens, and just a little shorter at its longest focal length. The extra angle of view makes it handy for cramped interiors and narrow city streets, and you can always get the Fujinon XC 50-230mm f/4.5-6.7 OIS II telephoto zoom for when you need something a little longer.

The real story here is the kit lens’s size and weight: when fitted to the X-A5, the all-up weight of this camera-zoom lens combination is just 496g. Even better, the retracting design means the X-A5 will take up a lot less space in a bag than with Fujifilm’s previous entry-level 16-50mm lens, which doesn’t retract and is a good deal longer, attached.

The X-A5 with kit lens is now about the same size as the Canon EOS M100 with Canon’s retracting 15-45mm zoom lens, though not quite as small as the Olympus E-PL9 with Olympus’s 14-42mm EZ pancake zoom. Fujifilm’s retracting package lens design might not sound like a particularly big deal, but it suddenly makes the X-A5 a whole lot more appealing as a take-anywhere camera and pitches it right up against the best of its rivals.

Other key features include a rear screen that flips up through 180 degrees to activate a selfie mode (there’s a Portrait Enhancer mode for smoother skin, too), a macro mode for photographing objects as little as 5cm away, and a wide range of exposure modes for different situations and skill levels.

You can select the SR Auto mode to let the camera take care of everything, select a scene mode manually from the 14 available, experiment with Advanced Filters like Fog Remove, CrossScreen, Dynamic Tone, Soft Focus, Low-key, Toy Camera, HDR Art and POP Color, or switch to the regular program AE, aperture priority, shutter priority or manual modes when you want to take control yourself.

You also get to choose from Fujifilm’s highly-regarded Film Simulation modes, including Provia, Velvia, Astia, Classic Chrome, Pro Negative, Monochrome and Sepia (though not the new ACROS black and white mode introduced on Fujifilm cameras further up the range). Fujifilm has a long history of making a film, as well as cameras, and it does trade heavily on the film-like look of these Film Simulation settings.

The X-A5 may not have the X-Trans sensor found in more advanced Fujifilm cameras, but it does have fast phase-detection autofocus, offering a variety of focus patterns including a Wide/Tracking mode, Zone AF over a smaller area and Single-Point AF, all using various combinations of 91 individual AF points that extend almost to the edges of the frame.

The camera’s continuous shooting speed for full-resolution still images is 6fps, but there’s also a 4K Burst Shooting mode, perhaps inspired by Panasonic’s 4K Photo mode, which can capture 8-megapixel 4K images at 15fps.

On the downside, while the X-A5 does shoot 4K video, it’s only at 15fps That’s a major disappointment and makes its 4K video capability largely useless except for high-speed stills. If you want a smooth movie you have to downsize to Full HD, although here the X-A5 can shoot at up to 60fps for a 2x slow-motion effect.

The X-A5 also has the electronic shutter within other Fujifilm models, with a maximum speed of 1/32,000 sec. Due to the way it works, however, it’s not suitable for fast-moving subjects; instead, it’s designed to allow you to use wide lens apertures for a shallow depth of field even in bright light.

Specifications

  • Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C CMOS
  • Lens mount: Fujifilm X-mount
  • Screen: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
  • Burst shooting: 6fps
  • Autofocus: 91-point AF
  • Video: 4K
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • Battery life: 450 shots
  • Weight: 361g

Build and handling

  • Comprehensive external controls
  • Touch-focus and touch-shot modes
  • Selfie mode with automatic eye detection

The Fujifilm X-A5 is designed with an attractive retro look, combining an aluminium body with leather-appear trim in a choice of three colours: black, brown and pink. The new compact 15-45mm power zoom kit lens makes it more pocketable than previous entry-level Fujifilm mirrorless cameras, although if you put it side by side with the original X-A1 from way back in 2013 it’s clear that not much else has changed externally. In fact, all the major controls are exactly as they were on the X-A1, and the only real changes are some differences in the trim and materials, a few bevelled edges and maybe an extra millimetre or so in height.

That’s fine because the X-A series cameras have been good-looking and ergonomically satisfying right from the start. There’s a good-sized mode dial on the top which lets you quickly choose between auto-everything mode, scene modes, effects filters and manual control, depending on your level of camera know-how and how much time you’ve got to fiddle with the settings.

To the right of the setting dial is an unmarked control dial that can be used to adjust various configurations, but which is best employed for exposure compensation: if your pictures come out too dark or as well light you can simply spin the dial to make an adjustment, shown on the LCD screen as a vertical scale of exposure values – there’s no need to get drawn into technicalities.

Just in front is the combined shutter release and power switch, and just to the right of that is a small function button which you can program to bring up the ISO, self-timer, image size and quality settings, film simulation mode and more.

Round the back of the X-A5 are four directional buttons arranged around a central Menu/OK button. These are used for menu navigation or setting the focus point position, based on what you’re doing at the time, but they also double up as shortcut buttons for the self-timer, AF mode, white balance setting and drive mode (continuous shooting and bracketing modes).

Many more settings are available when you press the ‘Q’ button to talk about the Quick Menu screen. Actually, this has pretty much all the options you might want to change while shooting, and you may not need to dip into the main menu system very often.

And, as if all that isn’t enough, there’s a small clickable control wheel tucked away behind the rear thumb rest. You could easily miss it, but it’s handy for scrolling through menus options and configurations screens.

X-A5’s touchscreen display works very well. You can use it to change the focus setting or Film Simulation mode, but it’s not useful for menu routing and other settings changes – you use the regular control keys and dials for that. Its main function is focusing and capturing – you tap on the display to set the focus point or, in the event that you tap a little icon to enable ‘Shot’ mode, it is possible to both concentrate and take the picture with a single tap. It’s simple, intuitive and effective, although it can be a little tricky to tap precisely on the tiny settings icons at the proper edge of the display screen when you’re in a hurry.

The selfie mode works brilliantly – once you understand what to do. When you first flip the screen up through 180 degrees the display image is upside down and partly obscured by the top of the digital camera. What you have to do then is pull it up just a few even more millimetres on a small sliding cantilever mechanism – if you don’t know it’s there you could easily skip it.

Once you’ve got the screen in the right position the X-A5 activates its eye-focus feature, which automatically focuses on the subject’s eye (in other modes you can even choose which vision). All you have to do is compose your selfie face and press the shutter release, or use the touchscreen’s touch-shot function if you find that easier. One-handed selfies are easy once you know where to place your fingers on the camera, although balancing the digital camera from a high viewpoint requires a strong grip; light as it is, the X-A5 still weighs a lot more than a smartphone.

Like most of its rivals, the X-A5 will connect to your smart device via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, although in our tests with an iPhone it wasn’t clear what the Bluetooth connection was achieved, as all the remote app functions seemed to require Wi-Fi, and although the camera should, in theory, be able to transfer pictures automatically, it wasn’t obvious how to actually make that happen unless the Wi-Fi connection was live.

Performance

  • Average autofocus performance
  • Great focus accuracy and image stabilization
  • Excellent image quality

The Fujifilm X-A5 does have an advanced on-sensor phase-detection autofocus system which should deliver faster, better autofocus than the contrast-based systems on older cameras, but a lot will depend on the AF tech in the lens you’re using – how fast its AF motors are, basically. Swapping the 15-45mm kit zoom lens over to an old X-A1 revealed that the new camera does feel a fraction faster, but there isn’t a whole lot in it. The X-A5 is fairly snappy, but it’s not the fastest-focusing mirrorless digital camera we’ve tried.

What it does offer is an AF mode for practically every situation. You can set it to Wide/Tracking mode if you’re happy to let the camera decide what to focus on, Zone AF where you know roughly which area your subject is in, or Single Point AF when you want complete control over the focus point. In the Area and Single Stage modes you can choose not only where to focus, but change the size of the focus zone/stage with the rear control wheel. The eye-recognition AF mode is especially good if you’re photographing people since it’s always the eyes that need to be sharp in successful portrait shots.

The operation of the brand new power-zoom kit lens is a mixed bag. It produces great image quality, but the electrically-operated zoom feels a little unresponsive. Sometimes it failed to react to our first attempt at an adjustment for no obvious reason, and with no external markings, it’s the devil of a job remembering which way to turn it to zoom and out.

Between them, though, the X-A5’s autofocus and the lens’s image stabilization deliver a really high hit rate of sharp shots. If you leave the camera arranged to auto ISO, it is possible to effectively forget about the lighting conditions and just keep shooting; the high ISO performance is good enough that you rarely need to worry about the image quality.

Image Quality

  • Images are sharp and rich in colour
  • Regular P mode does a great job in a variety of conditions
  • Advanced Filter modes are a bit of a damp squib

Indeed, image quality is where this camera excels. It may not have Fujifilm’s top X-Trans sensor technology, but the regular 24.2MP CMOS sensor in the X-A5 still does a great job. Images are sharp, rich in colour and well exposed. You can get great results without having to get embroiled in the technicalities, but more experienced photographers can still dig in and take manual control to pretty much the same degree as with more upmarket enthusiast cameras.

Do you need the scene modes? Probably not, since the regular P mode does an excellent job in a wide variety of conditions, and you get a little more control over the settings.

Likewise, the Advanced Filter modes, which, although they look interesting are a bit of a damp squib. The Partial Color filters give interesting outcomes in black and white, and the Miniature Filter can work well if you can find the right kind of angled overhead view on your subject, however, the Toy Camera filter is very heavy-handed and the HDR filter is actually pretty poor. If you want to experiment with special effects and retro looks you’re better off using a smartphone app, or shooting regular images on the X-A5 and editing them later on a computer.

That’s a pretty minor complaint, though, and while the X-A5’s autofocus and general responsiveness are about average for a mirrorless camera in this class, its image quality and the proportion of sharp, well-exposed shots it can capture are nicely above the norm.

Check Out: Best Fujifilm X-A5 Lenses 

Verdict

Even with its new, compact 15-45mm power-zoom lens, the X-A5 is still bigger than some compact mirrorless rivals, and the autofocus is not quite the fastest either. But the quality of its images and its colour and tonal reproduction is first-rate – and despite having lens-only stabilisation, no in-body stabilisation, it gets sharp shots time after time, in all sorts of conditions.

Check Fujifilm X-A5 Price and Bundles 

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