in things I think about

Dipping my toes back in Fuji water

Because @daiwei over at asked me nicely, I’ve taken a look at the new X-A5 from Fuji. So here are my 2 cents worth (without having ever held one in my hands).

User experience

One of the appeals of the Fuji X series is the reliance on analog knobs and dials where it makes sense. An excellent example of thoughtful design which seems to apply to the X-A5. Two things bother me though:

  • they’ve replaced the physical focus selector (switch between autofocus and manual) by a … touch screen selector.
  • they’ve replaced a Custom setting on the scene dial by another preset.

This doesn’t need to be a deal breaker, but it’s taking away part of the charm of the Fuji line. I understand why they needed to make adaptation to the X-A’s main market – who probably never leave autofocus and never customize their scene settings, but it’s it still makes me sad.

Importantly, YOU need to try the camera and check if it fits in your hands and your ideas about where things should be…

Form factor

Image processing electronics becomes smaller, but optical quality is still reliant on big pieces of glass: I’m assuming that’s the rationale behind the weird lens-heavy form factor that is cropping up all over the market. I hate it – but mostly because I’m pushing 50 and these things don’t look like a camera should. I find it weird that Fuji  mostly shows head-on shots of the X-A5. It’s almost like they agree: “we made this camera for a certain market, but deep down, wink wink nudge nudge, we think it’s a bit ugly”. Again, handle it and make sure you understand the lens is no pancake (I’m looking at you, X100)


Speaking of which … my Fuji lenses are 5 years old and are very good. I have no reason to doubt that this new one is excellent. But I’m wary of the electrical zoom. Lenses take a beating. Removable lenses doubly so. Electronics and rough handling don’t always work well. No way to know before hand, of course, but Fuji has not always been good at first iterations (they’ve improved).


True to X-A line form, the X-A5 does not get the Fuji special “X-Trans” sensor. It’s not necessarily bad. You still get the “Film modes” (I’m a Classic Chrome fan) that give you a consistent style out of camera, and for the first time a high end focusing system.

The battle between the X-Trans sensor vs traditional Bayer sensors has always been a bit opaque for me. I’m assuming a lot of marketing hype on both sides, because I’ve read so many “definitive” take downs of each sensor that it’s not even funny anymore. My personal take: I really like the quality of images coming out of my Fuji cameras, more than I liked what came out of my Canon 7D. But it is entirely subjective, and I am dead certain that I could not spot the difference in a blind test. I do know that I’ve applied techniques tailored to “X-Trans” sensors for sharpening etc with good results.

Why then NOT give an X-Trans to the X-A series? I think Fuji views it as a marketing differentiator. X-A customers don’t care, so they get the cheaper (as in, same technology as everybody else so easier to produce) sensor. X-T, X-E and X-Pro customers are a little bit snobbish and like saying they have “the real deal”: they get the “better” sensor (and a better margin for Fuji)

What to choose?

The X-A5 is not for me. But I knew that in advance. I need a camera with manual mode, ISO, Speed and Aperture control at the touch of a dial. So I’m squarely in the XE/XT range — which is twice the price.

If you’re looking for a camera that is built by a company with a reputation for excellent products, that has been on an upwards curve in the past 8 or 9 years, and that will be a gateway to semi-serious photography – I think it’s worth it. Buy it with the kit lens, get a 23 mm or a 35 mm next Christmas, and have serious fun.



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