If you are an amateur photographer or use a camera for work and want a compact model as a back-up, consider the Fujifilm XQ1.
Slightly bigger than a regular deck of cards, the XQ1 uses a 2/3-inch X-Trans CMOS II image sensor. This is larger than those of many digital compact cameras which have 1/1.7-inch or 1/2.3-inch sensors.
While pocketable, the XQ1 is slightly thick at 33mm and will create a noticeable bump in your pocket.
The all-silver review unit is sleek and smooth. It is also available in black, with a body that has a more textured feel.
Despite its plastic build and the absence of a grip, the XQ1 does not feel plasticky and is surprisingly comfortable to hold. A rubberised rear thumb rest, though small, helps to keep the camera balanced.
The top plate has a Mode dial on the extreme right. The shutter release button and lens zoom lever sit just beside the Mode dial.
You can quickly adjust the shutter speed with the rear wheel dial; and aperture settings, using the front control ring in Manual mode.
The clickable wheel dial allows quick access to settings such as Macro mode or exposure compensation. Overall, the well-placed buttons and dials are a boon to handling.
My main peeve is the lack of a hotshoe, like those found in prosumer compact cameras such as Sony's Cyber-shot RX100 II. So you cannot mount a flash or an external electronic viewfinder on the XQ1.
In operation, the XQ1 is slightly faster than its competition. It starts up and shuts down in about 1.5sec versus about 2sec for comparable cameras. Shutter lag is about 0.5sec.
Autofocusing (AF) is fast and accurate in bright light. In dim light. AF performance is mixed. At times, it locks on to a focus in just under 1sec, while at other times, it will just give up after that time frame.
Using an SD card (45MB per second write speed), the XQ1 is able to capture nine RAW images in 1.1sec before the buffer runs out.
Images are sharp and smooth. Textures and details are so clearly defined you may think it came from a mirrorless camera at first glance.
But image noise performance is certainly not as good as that of a mirrorless camera. At ISO 800, noise artefacts and slight loss of details are evident. I would not recommend shooting above ISO 3,200.
Battery life is slightly below par. It managed only 240 frames on a full charge, while comparable cameras can capture about 300 frames.
At only $649, the Fujifilm XQ1 is great value for money given its compact size, good image quality and great handling. Just keep an extra battery on hand.