“You will test the X-A7 on its large touchscreen, but pay attention to its classic design.”
Large high-resolution touchscreen
Much improved auto focus
4K / 30p and 24p video
Touch surface needs work
No internal stabilization
The Fujifilm X-A7 feels trapped between two worlds. Fujifilm tries to reconcile the old school’s appeal with modern comfort, and it’s a bit difficult. On the one hand, it is a mirrorless camera with a very good 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, good physical control and, of course, compatibility with Fujifilm’s excellent XF lens range.
On the other hand, attempts are being made to win over potential phone photographers with a large 3.5-inch touchscreen and some integrated creative shooting modes.
It doesn’t quite work either. I agree, but it cannot be, depending on what you expect from a camera.
The X-A7 is great as a mirrorless entry-level camera. Thanks to a much better autofocus system and an improved 4K video mode, circles are drawn around the X-A5. If you need a good camera for travel and family photos, this is a good choice.
An excellent screen, OK touch controls
Without a built-in viewfinder, you can rely on the X-A7’s fully movable LCD screen to frame your pictures. Fortunately, it’s one of the best on every camera in this class. Not only is it large, it has a diagonal of 3.5 inches, but it also has a resolution of 2.7 million pixels. That alone is a great feature on a $ 700 camera (and that with the XC 15-45mm f / 3.5-5.6 kit lens, mind you).
But there is a problem with this massive screen. Due to the size limitations of the camera, there is simply no space for a standard 3: 2 screen with 3.5 inches. The X-A7’s screen is therefore 16: 9, which is great for videos, but not so much for still images.
Interestingly, my pre-production test device arrived with a still image ratio of 16: 9, apparently to show the screen without a pillarbox image. I’m not sure if this is the default setting for the final camera, but you should probably change it if it does. The physical aspect ratio of the sensor is 3: 2; Taking everything else just means cutting away pixels.
The touch surface also leaves something to be desired. There are two different levels, a touch-friendly overlay menu and the standard quick menus (Q) and main menus from Fujifilm. Depending on the exposure mode, the overlay menu offers access to slightly different settings, including tap focus control, white balance, film simulations (color profiles), focus mode, aspect ratio and so-called depth control (more on this later).
However, tapping one of these buttons will take you to the standard Fujifilm interface for that setting, not a touch-specific version. For example, the white balance menu is just a vertically oriented list of options, most of which go beyond the screen boundary. At this point, it’s just easier to select one with the joystick. If you try to navigate this list by touching it, you will be very confused. You need to scroll to select a setting. Tap one and you will instead be taken to the White Balance Shift option, which allows you to manually enter a hue on a two-axis color picker.
Did I lose you there? I should. A two-step solution for white balance shift is simply not a function that the target customer of the X-A7 needs, especially if it is accidentally so easily accessible. The salvation here is that absolute beginners who stick to the fully automatic SR Auto mode are not shown with the white balance button at all, but instead receive portrait enhancers (a form of skin smoothing) and a simple exposure correction.
By default, other more basic options like ISO are strangely hidden one level lower in the Q menu. Fortunately, two of the overlay menu’s touch buttons can be customized so you can set one to ISO if you prefer. Since the camera doesn’t have its own ISO button, this is probably something that advanced and advanced photographers want to do.
Let’s go back to this depth control feature. This is a colloquial method of controlling depth of field by opening or closing the aperture. You don’t need to know anything about fades – you just drag the slider for more or less depth. Simple enough.
The strange thing about depth control is that it remains available even in manual exposure mode. Make no mistake, it just changes the aperture. However, since this is not explicitly stated and there are no equivalent touch-friendly controls for shutter speed or ISO, this can lead you to believe that something else is going on. Don’t worry, no depth map processing or simulated blur is used here. In manual mode, depth control is just a redundant iris control with a different name.
Touch aside, the experience is sublime
As critical as I am for the touch surface of the X-A7, I still enjoyed taking pictures with this camera, and I think that all medium to advanced photographers will think the same. This is mainly because such users are likely to bypass touch controls almost entirely, and the X-A7 makes this relatively easy.
With two dials you have direct access to the shutter speed and aperture. Many cameras on this level usually have only one dial. You also get an autofocus selection joystick. Even if you turn off the touchscreen completely (which is an option), you still have one-button control over the focus point.
The camera only weighs 11.3 ounces, but feels solid and well made. All dials are firm and offer good tactile feedback. Nothing looks cheap or feels cheap. The color “dark silver” of my test device exudes class and sophistication, while other available colors – especially the “mint green” – offer a little more fun.
The X-A7 is also a good performer. It benefits significantly from a new hybrid phase and contrast detection autofocus system with 117 selectable points. It’s a big step forward over the X-A5 in terms of speed, with a significantly reduced focus hunt. Face and eye detection are also available and work in both still and video modes. The autofocus was the biggest factor preventing the X-A5 (and its sibling, the X-T100) from being a simple recommendation, and it’s great to see Fujifilm take that feedback to heart.
I wish it had internal image stabilization, but that’s a pretty rare feature in this class – and even rarer from Fujifilm, which still only offers it in an X-series camera, the flagship X-H1. At least the kit lens is stabilized, but many of the best Fujifilm lenses are not.
Image and video quality
As this is a pre-production model, the sample images shown here may not give any indication of the final image quality. So I will hold the judgment back until we have a production camera in hand. (No RAW support was available at the time of this review, so I could only view JPEGs.) Still, I have no major complaints about image quality.
However, high ISO noise reduction was too persistent for my taste, even when turned all the way down. This was interesting for me because Fujifilm advertised this new sensor as better in low light conditions. The X-A7 should have improved noise performance thanks to new copper cables, but the camera still seems to rely heavily on noise reduction at ISO values of 3,200 and higher. Once I can open the RAW files, I have a better idea of the actual noise performance.
The biggest quality improvements have probably been made to videos. Technically, the X-A5 could record 4K, but was limited to only 15 frames per second. In other words, it was useless. The X-A7 now records 4K at up to 30 frames per second and across the entire width of the sensor. 24 frames per second are also offered for the cinematic look. A microphone jack is included, but has a smaller size of 2.5 mm. An adapter is therefore required to use an external standard microphone.
These are good specs for a $ 700 camera. In combination with the flip screen and auto focus for eye detection, the X-A7 would not be a bad video camera.
Even more than with the still images, however, I have to make a judgment about the video quality. There was a behavior with continuous autofocus and / or auto exposure that could potentially ruin a shot, and I hope this will be fixed in the production camera. At the moment I will be cautiously optimistic
Then there’s the lens. The XC 15-45mm f / 3.5-5.6 kit lens that comes with the X-A7 is anything but the best. It’s small and light, which is great. However, if you consider the X-A7 your first Fujifilm camera, you know that there are much better lenses. I wish Fujifilm had offered a kit with the XF 18-55mm f / 2.8-4, which is a far superior lens, but that would likely add several hundred dollars to the cost.
Still an X series camera
The X-A7 may be charged as a replacement for a phone camera, but the truth is it is a classic Fujifilm X-series camera. The stylish design, large articulation screen, solid physical control and greatly improved auto focus make it a strong competitor among the mirrorless low-end cameras, even if the touch surface is not as good as I would have liked.
The closest competitor is the Sony A6100, but it costs $ 50 more than the X-A7 – without a lens. If you add a lens, you will see a difference of $ 150. The X-A7 cannot keep up with Sony’s extended real-time autofocus functions or its burst rate of 11 frames per second, but should otherwise be able to hold its own.
As your first interchangeable camera or your first immersion in the Fujifilm X ecosystem, the X-A7 is not a bad choice. It offers good all-round performance – and no one can argue with its sharp looks.