There are camera designs people tolerate in order to get the features and performance they want. Likewise, there are good-looking cameras that aren't necessarily the best performers. The Fujifilm XF1 falls somewhere in the middle, mixing an overall very nice design with solid photo quality and performance for its class.
The smallest of Fujifilm's X-series compacts, the XF1 is certainly styled to appeal to enthusiasts, with things like a fast f1.8 maximum aperture, raw capture, and semimanual and manual shooting modes. However, it's really a better fit for those who appreciate having those things, but will regularly shoot in auto modes and want to do so with a cool-looking, attention-grabbing point-and-shoot.
There's nothing wrong with that and the XF1 can be quite a lot of fun to shoot, especially if you like the idea of turning a camera on by twisting a lens barrel.
The XF1 has the same Fujifilm EXR processor and 12-megapixel 2/3-inch EXR CMOS image sensor as the higher-end (and older) X10 and the 26x megazoom X-S1. The sensor is larger than you would find in a typical point-and-shoot and fractionally larger than the 1/1.7-inch sensors in models like the Canon PowerShot S110.
The slightly bigger sensor buys you some extra flexibility when it comes to using ISO sensitivities above ISO 200. Subjects do lose detail and there are more artifacts visible when photos are viewed at full size, but it isn't until ISO 1600 that things look significantly softer at larger sizes.
On the upside, if you can take advantage of the f1.8 aperture, you can shoot with less light without immediately needing to use higher ISO settings. You can also get better low-light results using modes that take advantage of the EXR sensor technologies, but they are, for the most part, automatic modes.
Colors are bright, vivid, and pleasing, but even in the camera's Standard color mode subjects look oversaturated. It may take a lot of adjusting of settings, shooting in raw (Silkypix software is included for working with the RAF file format, but Adobe Camera Raw supports the XF1), or experimenting with its EXR modes to get the best results. If that's not something you're willing to do, this probably isn't a good choice. Its EXR Auto mode is very good as auto shooting modes go, but even tweaking that mode's settings can get you better shots.
Video quality is good for Web clips or nondiscriminating TV viewing. There are some noticeable aliasing artifacts and colors, as they are with photos, are more pleasing than accurate. Detail is good, though, and the camera is quick to refocus if you use the zoom lens, and audio is clear and loud. If your video needs are just to capture the occasional 30-second clip, the XF1 is more than sufficient.
Fujifilm lists some impressive performance numbers on the XF1 product page. While my lab tests didn't exactly match the listed speeds, they were close enough, which means that, yes, it's a pretty fast camera.
From off to first shot was just less than a second in my tests with the shot-to-shot lag clocking in at 1.2 seconds. Shooting in raw only bumped that up to 1.5 seconds. When using the flash, that time was a reasonable 2.5 seconds. The time from pressing the shutter release to capture -- without prefocusing -- was 0.3 second in both bright and low-light conditions.
Burst shooting at full resolution was 8 frames per second, which is faster than the 7fps Fujifilm claims. However, it noticeably drops off after six shots. Also, Fujifilm lists a burst speed of 10fps, but that's at a reduced 6-megapixel resolution. Shooting in raw slows the burst rate down to 6.3 seconds. Note: as with the burst modes on many compact cameras, focus and exposure are set with the first shot, so if you're tracking a moving subject there's a good chance not all of your photos will be in focus.