How does the Fujifilm X-A5 works for Travel photography?
Thinking to change your smartphone to a capable photo camera? Then you should read this!
The mirrorless cameras are becoming a big thing in the photography community for the last five years. The competition with the big DSLR-s is huge and a lot of Landscape, Travel and Outdoor photographers changed the gear from the big DSLR systems to smaller, mirrorless cameras. As in the DSLR range, you have different classes of cameras in the mirrorless systems too. Fujifilm is one of the leading manufacturers of the mirrorless gear and has the top flagship class of X-H, X-T and X-Pro models and as well as medium and entry level cameras in which the models X-A line are taking place. The newest one, the X-A5 was with me on the last travel to Iran and thanks to Fujifilm Slovenia, for the opportunity to test this little camera.
The Fujifilm X-A5 is an entry level mirrorless camera with the APS-C sensor of huge resolution of 24,2 MP, which offers you to print images in sizes such as 40-60". The sensor is even slightly bigger by the size from the one in the X-T2, but the resolution is the same. It does not have a viewfinder and all photography and video is done in the live view mode through the screen. It has a big ISO range from 200-12800 and extended to 51000. Electronic shutter can work as fast as 1/32000s and as long as 30 seconds which is a standard in this class of the cameras. It also includes pop-out flash and two knobs on the top, one for the changing of the modes which also include PSAM and classic programs (sport, landscape, night...), and second for adjusting the manual settings. On the top it is also a fn button, which you can manage on your own, I've use it for the ISO settings. On the back it has same system of the buttons as on other Fuji cameras including the button Q to enter in the quick menu. It has a tilting screen with touch screen option of scrolling as well as photographing. It is a very small camera - size is 117mm x 68mm x 40mm (without lens) and it fits in the pocket of the regular cargo pants. The standard package comes with the brand new 15-45mm (zoom 3x) f/3.5-5.6 lens with electrical zoom. All the XC and XF series lenses will work with this camera.
The camera is handy, small and light. The body weights 360 grams. The knobs are classical fuji's, if you are used to them you will not have any problems. Having it in my arms, I maybe miss another wheel in the front of the camera. There is one next to the PSAM knob on the top which slides a lot and is a tool for aperture/shutter time/EV correction on specific mode, and the one above the knobs which has better grip for secondary settings (in manual mode) There is a finger grip just above the buttons to provide better handling with the camera. It has built-in flash, which you can turn on the knob on the left side of the body.
The screen is 3,0 inch, resolution of 1.040.000 dots and has a touchscreen setting. It can be good if you are used to take photographs like on the phone, but personally, after a while, I realised, letting the camera on on my belt, it started to make several candid street shots just banging to my waist, which were not very useful so I turned off. I don't need to have shaky photographs of the floor or street... The rear screen also flips up to 180 degrees to provide the selfie mode. The menu is standard Fuji with all the basic settings. I just find it difficult to find the setting where you can change the function of the front lens ring. Same with switching the Autofocus to Manual focus mode. I know, ego did not allow me to read the manuals. :) But a switch for AF/MF in the front would be appreciated.
The camera is able to capture photographs in Raw mode as well as in different sizes of JPEG. In SP automatic setting, the camera takes care of everything, and you can seperately pick between different modes such as sports, landscape, portrait, and night mode. It includes panoramic mode as well. It has a film simulation of all the best Fujifilm films too - like Provia, Velvia, Classic Chrome, Astia and Acros. You can change them in the camera or later on the computer. You also have an opportunity to pick up different "instagram" simulations on the camera.
Enough about technicals, if not, everybody will start to yawn already. But you know, yawning is a body's silent scream for coffee. Let's go to the experience with the camera.
I visited Iran in May 2018 and being there several times before, this time I decided to leave my workhorse X-T2 at home and just pack the small X-A5 with the 15-45mm lens. I knew already that I will miss some zoom but I just wanted to go light and fast and more focus to the street photography. And I have to say, this camera did a good job and the quality of the images, that I brought home, were very close to my X-T2.
*Important: All photographs below were taken in RAW mode. Post-processing in the images only includes change of the color mode (Fujifilm film simulations) and some exposure correction when needed.
The XC 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS lens is a kit lens for the X-A5. It is Fuji's first electric zoom plastic which offers 3x zoom. It is built of plastic material and unfortunately not weather sealed. The diameter for filter is 52mm. The quality of the image in the kit lenses around the market are always questionable. But not for Fujifilm. The other kit lens 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6, even though it was made of plastic, provided pretty good image quality regarding the sharpness of the image.The 15-45mm is offering the same. The equivalent to 23mm-68mm offers you good wide angle shots as well as nice street or travel shots. It lacks a bit zoom for making a decent close-up portrait and sometimes to shot a candid photo on the street. I did not find any vignetting in the images even on small apertures and the sharpness is noticeable on the corners of the image as well. What I disliked about the lens is an electrical zoom ring. First of all, if it is not weather/dust sealed, this is the first potential trouble on your travels in the dusty countries. I would predict that electric zoom would be first to fail in the desert and I would never take it there. Second thought is that the ring zoom is much more faster and accurate when you want to frame the image. Here you have to zoom and unzoom several times before you get the right focal length to frame the shot perfectly. The subject can move in meantime. I also missed the switch in the front of the camera for AF-MF. You have to go to menu and it is tricky to find.
Autofocus did it job correctly even in the low light, but sometimes it has a miss or two. In low light, I would recommend to have the camera in the burst mode and took several shots to get a sharp image. The autofocus is fine, but nothing exceptional.
The Nasir ol-Molk mosque in Shiraz is a perfect oportunity to use the Velvia color mode to enchance the colors in the mosque.
Because the camera is small, it is also perfect for some candid shots, where people won't notice you.
The camera did the job great. Only time I missed my trusty X-T2 was in the really low light where ISO would have to be over 3200 and for the portraits and work where zoom was needed. For this, I would have to carry another lens with me such as XC 55-230mm with me.
Pros of the camera:
- Light, sturdy, perfect for candid photography
- 180 degrees tilting screen - perfect for selfies :)
- Touch screen and focus functions
- Sharp and clear shots in the low light
- People don't take you as a serious photographer so you can take candid shots
- good backup for the other higher X-series cameras.
Cons of the camera:
- Electrical zoom in the 15-45mm lens - it is hard to be precise
- no viewfinder (not such a big deal)
- slipper knob wheel on the top of the body
- no outside knob for AF/MF
- By specs video is 4K but only with 15fps which is definitely not enough (I didn't test the video, sorry)
This camera is a great camera for all the people that most of the time take photographs with their smartphones, but now they want to either have better (clear and sharp) image or they want to print their images large. The simplicity of the camera, especially using the touch screen settings can be useful for every beginner or occasional photographer no matter of age. It could also be a good step into the mirrorless class of cameras to get used of the quality and capability of this small cameras. I would recommend it a lot for travel photography as is light and small, you can easily carry it in a cargo pocket or in a purse. It has a decent quality of taking the low light images and ISO on 3200 is pretty good too. The younger generation would love it because of the "selfie mode", Fujifilm and Instagram built in simulations and Eye Autofocus.
So great camera for traveling, street, everyday and holiday photography, but also capable for high quality of landscape and other genres of photography if you add proper lenses on the body.