Review: Fujifilm X-A7 Mirrorless

Back in September last year Fujifilm announced the X-A7.

Now released, it comes with a newly developed image sensor in addition to being equipped with an auto focus system said to be capable of tracking fast moving objects including faces and eyes. Importantly for video makers, it also supports 4K video with, and I quote, “a large bright LCD monitor for excellent operability”.

The X-A7 is a mirrorless digital camera that weighs in at 320g and gets its imagery via a 24.2MP APS-C sensor. The company says the utilisation of copper wiring enables high speed data which gives all sorts of clever technical advantages to enable the high speed AF capabilities and make best use of the proprietary colour reproduction system.

For lovers of Vlogging (which my step daughter tells me is pronounced “Vlogging” as in “flogging” not “Vee-logging” as I used in a recent video), the X-A7 supports 4K / 30 fps video

Fujifilm suggests the X-A7 is the perfect choice for those who want to up the ante from their current smartphone usage for photography and video as it offers a “broad range of applications from casual snapshots of everyday scenes to travel photography and fully fledged photographic creations”.

And now we have had one for a few weeks here is what we think.

Physically

The physical controls on the X-A7 are minimal, with a single rotary on the top of the camera looking after many of the settings as you can see from the photo .

This is allied with a pop up flash on the left and on the right a, shutter release (surrounded by a ring for the front command dial) and a Fn1 button also surrounded by a ring, this time for the rear command dial. There is also an on/off button nestled between all three dials / rings.

 There is a top centrally located hot shoe.

On the rear of the body are buttons for Drive that doubles up as a Delete button and a Playback button. On the top bottom right is a tiny focus stick, a Menu button (doubling as an OK button and a Display button (doubling as a Back button).

On the right hand side under a flap are a USB-C port and min-HDMI ports and on the left, a switch to pop up the flash plus a mic input port.

The 3.5” LCD touch-aware screen angles and rotates and is rated at approximately 1000 candelas – 1 candela is 1 NIT over a square meter if you were wondering. There are a number of smartphones rated this highly, but in the real world, I don’t consider this high enough for outdoor use. By way of example, the OSEE field monitor we reviewed a few months back, and designed for outdoor use is 3000 NITS.

Taking the X-A7 outside on a 32 degree bright and sunny day I could discern an image, but to see any detail to apply a focus say was well-nigh impossible. Ditto using the on-screen command structure to make any changes. So, I am sorry Mr Fuji, despite your web site description stating “Users can clearly check the subject on the screen even on a bright sunny day outside.” I did not find that to be the case. Perhaps the sun is brighter in Australia than the location the unit was tested on for that statement?

This proved to me yet again that a viewfinder is a necessity.

Except the X-A7 doesn’t have one.

Of course, it is unfair to single Fujifilm out on this; it is a recurring issue across many camera / camcorder manufacturers and why we suggest time and again, when buying one, test it under as many conditions as you can before laying down the hard earned shekels, even if it means just taking it outside the shop door – over-hovering and anxious shop assistant besides. It’s also a damn good reason to buy from a, you know, REAL shop and not some dodgy online entity who grey markets from overseas. Cough.

So, let’s imagine it is NOT a bright sunny day, and we can see the LCD screen.

The menu icons displayed on the ouch screen are more than comprehensive. In fact, there are 47 indicators, mode switches and on screen buttons to keep even the most ardent gadget controller happy. Some of the display items are quite tiny having said that and if shooting bright subjects a little hard to see.

There is also a Menu structure system which is very easy to follow and again very comprehensive.

Imagery

Fujifilm lenses are second to none, that is a given. We were sent an 18-55mm and it was a ripper. Not my personal best choice for video due to the nature of things I shoot (I’d prefer a 200m zoom say), but the footage I did shoot was clean and with a lovely saturation and luminance. But again, with Fujifilm lenses and the company’s proven colour technology I would expect nothing less.

Especially good was the new “Bright” mode which automatically selects the optimum shooting settings using HDR. I also liked the “Light Trails” setting (mainly as I have always been jealous of my good friend and V8 Supercar shooter extraordinaire Ross Gibb’s talent in this area!)

Audio Drift and APP Issues

We did notice some drift between video and audio in 4K shooting, a fact that was collaborated by our colleague Chris Oaten, so this might be something to watch for.

There is an APP available for transferring images etc and to operate the camera remotely, but looking at the reviews in the Google Play store, it suggests some work may be needed on this. A number of users are Not Happy to say the least.

Conclusion

Concentrating on the X-A7 as a whole, it is a good camera there is absolutely no question. It comes as a kit swith a 15-45mm lens at between $800 – $900 depending where you shop.

The main drawback is that LCD in my book; it just doesn’t stack up to Australian bright summer conditions in our testing. If Fujifilm can up the quality of that to around the 2000 NITS level, this will be a camera to maybe start to get into the realms with in that marketplace of  between the high-end smartphone and something like the Panasonic GH5 or Sony A7 series

For more info click here.

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