Fuji X-M1 - Extreme ISO's

Fuji X-M1 ISO 25600 (jpg.) Nikon 85mm f/1.8 @ f/8 (approx.)

The things we take for granted these days in terms of the quality of the digital cameras we can buy, are what we could only dream about a few years ago. The Fuji X-M1 is a small light camera that looks not that different to lots of other compact cameras. A bit classier, a bit bigger but certainly nothing that would attract much attention in a row of parents photographing their kids at a school play. However the parent shooting with the X-M1 should have a smug smile on their face. Since flash would probably be banned at such an event (and in many cases photography itself but that's another issue and it doesn't fit in with my example anyway!) the Fuji user would be confident that they would be returning home with a very decent image even at the previously ridiculous setting of ISO 25600. 

Now I wrote in a previous post that the X-M1 produces usable images at ISO 6400 and from the above OOC jpg. at the X-M1's upper limit (which allows for ISO 25600 but only in jpg.) you can see why. Like many other cameras raw is disabled at these settings and I imagine there is some serious processing going on. But to my eyes it's actually rather good. For web use, iPad use, emailing to people, uploading to social media etc. it's a perfectly usable image. It would also print pretty well too. A4 is probably stretching it a bit, but I don't think many newspapers or magazines would have a problem with it at A5.

And when you think about it this is actually quite remarkable. Of course not every camera can match this, in fact there are very few. From what I've seen a Nikon D4, Nikon Df and of course the rest of the Fuji X range are the only ones. The X-M1 has a competitor for this type of camera in the Panasonic GM1, which gets a lot of attention (much more than the X-M1) and of course rave reviews. (What m4/3 offering doesn't these days?) But can the GM1 come anywhere close to the high ISO performance of the X-M1? Well I don't have one to shoot comparisons with and I'm not buying one so that situation won't change. But then I don't need to get my hands on one because Imaging Resource, with their comparometer, have compared them already.

The above are 100% blow ups from the IR test shot.
Both examples at ISO 25600.

As if you needed me to tell you the Fuji image is on the left. And that is a 'grainy' and noisy shot certainly but it's still a picture that you could show to the subject without fear of retribution. What reaction you'd get from the GM1 version I couldn't say!

The problem Fuji have of course is getting this message across to potential buyers of the camera. The message that Fuji X cameras shoot images at high ISO's that are only equalled or bettered by two very expensive Nikons costing a minimum of £2700 is not that hard to sell to internet savvy photo enthusiasts but to those who walk into a store looking for the best camera for their budget who don't live on the internet, that might not be so easy. Particularly since many stores get more commission from other brands and may not even stock Fuji cameras. 

The X-M1 is pretty good at the other extreme too. It has a jpg. only setting at ISO 100.

Fuji X-M1 ISO 100 (jpg.) Nikon 85mm f/1.8 @ f/11 (approx.) 

For situations where the highest quality possible is required then the X-M1 certainly isn't lacking in superb image quality either, but then at this ISO setting there's an awful lot of competition. However it's important to state that the X-M1 doesn't suffer in terms of these settings because of how good it is at high ISO's.

So in terms of all-round ISO performance a superb camera and it's difficult to think of anything in the same class of camera that comes anywhere close to it for the range of excellent ISO results it can produce. Plus when you factor in that it's an interchangeable lens camera, it's difficult to beat as far as I can see. But then I doubt it will sell more than the GM1. I also doubt it will sell more than smaller sensor cameras by other more well-known manufacturers. And if we go back to those parents at the school play, the fact that the X-M1 produces results that are way better than smartphone images doesn't seem to matter. If people were only ever looking for the best image quality they could get in a small compact camera then the Fuji would sell in the millions, but they aren't so it won't.

However, for those who are looking for versatility in a small camera and the option to shoot high quality images in virtually any light then the X-M1 is surely one of the leading contenders. If not top of the heap. I'm very impressed by it, as I am by all the Fuji X cameras, but whether it proves a fruitful direction for Fuji to explore, I must admit I have my doubts. If they keep on doing deals then they may do well (The latest UK deal is buy the X-M1 + 16-50mm kit and get a free 55-230mm lens) but the fact that they continually keep doing these deals surely means that people aren't stampeding to get their hands on the camera. And that's a shame, since people who buy other more talked up equivalents are actually loosing out on some of the best image quality you can get. 

For my ongoing owner assessment of the Fuji X-M1 
CLICK HERE

For my ongoing owner assessment of the Fuji 16-50mm lens CLICK HERE 

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