Review: Fuji XQ2

Introduction and features

The Fuji XQ2 has been introduced some 18 months after the XQ1 and it shares the same 12-megapixel 2/3‪-‬inch X-Trans CMOS II sensor found in its predecessor, as well as the larger X20 and X30. It has a Fujinon F/1.8-4.9 25-100mm ‪(‬equivalent‪)‬ lens, again shared with the older XQ1. In fact the only notable changes in spec compared to the XQ1 are the addition of the Classic Chrome film simulation mode and its availability in a classic retro black and silver finish.

Features

This very pocketable little camera is capable of shooting in both JPEG and raw formats, as well as offering both simultaneously. It has a maximum image resolution of 4000 x 3000 pixels, when used in its native 4:3 format; however, 3:2, 16:9 and 1:1 ratios are also available. It can also shoot full HD movies at 60 and 30 fps.

Fuji XQ2

Fuji XQ2

The 25-100mm equivalent lens offers a fast (f/1.8) aperture at its widest setting although, by the time you zoom to 35mm, the largest aperture available is f/3.6, finishing at f/4.9 at its longest end. With macro mode enabled, you can focus as close as 3mm, although this is only achieved at the widest focal length. Digital zoom allows further reach in full auto modes.

All the excellent film simulation modes found on the more advanced Fuji cameras are available on the XQ2 along with many of the other features found on its more expensive siblings. Wi-Fi functionality allows connection to both your PC and smartphone/tablet through Fuji’s Camera Remote app – it’s a little clunky in use but a very welcome addition.

The top mode dial offers quick access to a wide range of options: aperture and shutter priority, manual, program, custom and a good variety of automated programs. As well as the usual scene based picture modes, you also have access to panoramas, multiple exposure, pro focus, pro low light and special effect filters.

Fuji XQ2

Sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to 3200 (extendable to ISO 12,800) with Auto ISO offering a range between ISO 100 (default) and ISO 800 and a minimum shutter speed of 1/30 second. Given its 3 stop rated optical image stabilisation and the likely noise at higher sensitivities with a camera such as this, this seems a good, realistic implementation of Auto ISO. The comparatively large 2/3-inch sensor, by compact camera standards, coupled with Fuji’s EXR II processor should, however, ensure better high sensitivity performance than from many rival compact cameras.

Multi, spot and average metering are all available, along with exposure bracketing in 1, 2/3 and 1/3 EV steps over 3 frames. When you add continuous shooting of up to 12 fps, single, continuous and manual focus (including focus peaking), tracking and multi area focus modes, the XQ2 looks very well specified.

Fuji XQ2

Although not offering current XQ1 owners any compelling reason to upgrade, the new XQ2 is competitively priced and represents good value for money when you consider its all-round handling, performance and features. It perhaps falls between two camps, though, with the pricier Sony RX-100 series benefiting from a larger 1-inch sensor and offering class-leading performance for enthusiasts wanting a truly pocketable compact. Alternatively, the likes of the Canon Powershot S120, although older and with smaller sensor, offers touch screen technology and a slightly longer zoom range, in an equally compact package, at a cheaper price.

Build Quality and Handling

Despite measuring only 100 x 59 x 33mm and tipping the scales at just over 200g, the XQ2 feels a remarkably sturdy little camera. The slightly textured matt finish on the body not only looks classy, it also makes it comfortable to hold and allows a confident grip. The inclusion of a small thumb catch in the top right corner also aids grip and makes one handed use of the camera that much easier.

I found the partially recessed on/off button is easy to access, without being prone to accidental pressing, and the camera starts up almost instantaneously. The top mode dial is nice and firm, without being too stiff. The zoom lever, however, can be a little temperamental, sometimes taking a while to engage and being a little jerky in use. A small pop up flash in included to the right and, although lacking in power, it’s quick and easy to access by a slide switch and can do a good job of filling in shadows and providing a little illumination. The multi function lens ring, increasingly popular on compact cameras, aids the simple and intuitive handling of the XQ2.

Fuji XQ2

Fuji XQ2

The rear of the camera is largely taken up by a generous 3-inch LCD screen. To the right of the screen, the control wheel (which doubles as a 4-way switch) and four partially recessed buttons are well placed, within easy reach of your thumb. Although necessarily small, they are remarkably comfortable in use. Those used to using a larger compact or SLR may find the number of buttons a little limiting, although the E-Fn button gives pretty quick access to some of the more useful menu items. This same button can also be used to boost screen brightness in sunny conditions.

The fixed LCD screen is clear and bright and boasts a high resolution of 920,000 dots. Although a tilting screen would be nice to have, it’s hard to see how it could be included in a camera quite this small and the existing screen is easy to use in most conditions, with good viewing angles. In very bright light, areas of shadow can be a little hard to see – however, a simple press of the E-Fn button immediately brightens the screen to the extent that details in the shadows are easily viewed.

Overall the camera feels very responsive and is a pleasure to use, particularly when you consider how small it is. Enthusiasts wanting ultimate control will find plenty of features and functionality to keep them happy, whilst those wanting a simple point and shoot camera are not going to be baffled by a plethora of buttons and an overly complicated menu system.

Performance and Verdict

The Fujinon F/1.8-4.9 25-100mm (equivalent) lens performs pretty well across its range. Its f/1.8 label is slightly misleading as this setting is only available with the lens at its widest focal length of 25mm, decreasing rapidly towards the maximum of f/4.9 available at its longest end. That said, the quality is surprisingly good at f/1.8, with decent central sharpness, if rather mushy edges. Some chromatic aberration was noticeable in out of focus areas against a white sky, towards the edge of the frame, but this was the only situation in which it was evident.

Fuji XQ2 sample image

Click here for a full size version.

Fuji XQ2 sample image

Click here for a full size version.

At its widest focal lengths, detail towards the edge of the frame is always a little soft, but acceptable for a camera and lens of this kind. Edge performance at normal and telephoto focal lengths is very good, with the sweet spot at all focal lengths appearing to be between f/3.6 and f/5.6. Ideally, you want to avoid going above f/8.0 at the long end of the lens, though all honesty there’s no need to because the small sensor achieves plenty of depth of field without needing to resort to the smallest apertures.

In fact, achieving a shallow depth of field is more the challenge with compact cameras and their small sensors. This can be readily achieved with the close focussing macro setting of 3cm, although this is again only available at the widest focal length. There is also a Pro Focus setting (jpeg only) which can produce lovely results, with a sharp main subject and blurred background. However, it’s fairly choosy about its subject matter and in many scenes it fails to work, warning you that it ‘cannot create effect’. The miniature, soft focus and toy filters are also worth a little exploration, rendering some interesting, even pleasing, effects. Another setting worth trying is the panorama function – it takes a little practice but does a remarkably good job, even with more challenging subject matter.

Fuji XQ2 sample image

Fuji XQ2 sample image

Click here for a full size version.

There is significant distortion at the wide end of the lens. For JPEG files this is corrected in camera and also on the LCD screen, but raw files remain uncorrected. This means that if you are shooting raw and JPEG files combined, then your preview image will not show you the full frame achievable with the raw file. It also means that you lose a fair bit of width for the JPEG files – auto correction has its benefits, but it’s not necessarily required for subjects without obvious straight lines, like landscapes.

The optical image stabilisation works superbly, with sharp shots at speeds as low as 1/4 second readily achievable in calm conditions for those with steady hands. Should you want to use the camera on a tripod, then you can turn off stabilisation in the shooting menu. Auto focus is remarkably responsive and accurate, rarely failing to lock onto its intended subject. It’s hard to imagine many people using such a camera for tracking a subject, but the functionality is available and also seemed to work reasonably well. The fact that you can choose from 49 individual AF points is a really valuable feature for enthusiasts, as is the inclusion of focus peaking for manual focus.

Fuji XQ2 sample image

Click here for a full size version.

Fuji XQ2 sample image

Click here for a full size version.

Most people are likely to use the XQ2’s standard multi metering mode and overall this produces pretty accurate exposures, although there is a tendency for the highlights to blow in bright conditions. These can be recovered to a degree in the raw files but are quickly lost with JPEG files and, at times, you may want to dial in negative exposure compensation to allow for this. At lower sensitivities there is enough latitude to open up the shadows somewhat to compensate, without causing excessive noise.

The XQ2’s JPEG files have relatively aggressive noise reduction applied at higher ISOs, leaving quite smooth looking photos that start to lack detail at ISO 1600 and above. The raw files still have a reasonable amount of detail even at ISO 1600, although at the cost of considerable noise. ISO 800 still produces pretty clean, detailed files though, if a little noisier in the shadows.

I found the auto white balance setting pretty accurate, perhaps verging on the cool side (and in particular in overcast or shady conditions) but typically warmer than setting the camera to ‘fine’ (daylight) balance. On the other hand, the ‘shade’ WB setting seems excessively warm and is probably best avoided. The choice of film simulation mode is very much down to taste, although the Astia Soft setting seems to give beautifully fresh Spring greens. The default Provia setting gives very natural and pleasing colours.

ISO (sensitivity) comparison

We checked the Fuji XQ2’s ISO/noise performance using our standard test subject under controlled lighting and across the camera’s ISO range. The two close-up images below contrast the performance at the lowest setting, ISO 100, and a high ISO of 6400.

Fuji XQ2 ISO test

Fuji XQ2 ISO test

ISO 100: Click here to see the full size image.

Fuji XQ2 ISO test

ISO 6400: Click here to see the full size image.

We liked

A well made and truly pocketable camera, intuitive, a delight to use, yet with plenty of features and full manual control. A camera that you would happily take everywhere, with a good zoom range, and one that produces very pleasing files.

We disliked

Image quality perhaps not quite there for demanding enthusiasts, at least at the wider end of the lens. F/1.8 is available only at the widest zoom setting, and dynamic range is a little limited with highlights being lost relatively quickly and shadows becoming noisy at higher ISOs.

Verdict

The Fuji XQ2 is undoubtedly a lovely little camera to use. It feels well made, is comfortable in use and is likely to be enjoyed by both enthusiasts and more casual photographers wanting a small and user friendly ‘point and shoot’ camera. Where image quality is concerned, there’s no doubt it lacks the class leading performance of the Sony RX100 series. However, set against that, it is a far more intuitive camera to use, feels more comfortable in the hand, and benefits from Fuji’s excellent film simulation modes and resulting pleasing colours. It is also considerably cheaper.

Fuji XQ2

As well as the fixed screen performs, many of its competitors now enjoy touch screen technology and/or tilting screens. Not having these things will undoubtedly deter some potential buyers.

The XQ2 is certainly a good buy. It performs well in all areas and offers enough features for most users. However, some will be swayed by the extra features available in the competition and, whilst the larger sensor size gives it an edge over many compact cameras, the shadow of the Sony RX100 looms large for those wanting the best possible image quality – both in terms of dynamic range and resolution and detail. Yet one can’t help coming back to the fact that is is such an enjoyable camera to use.

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