The evolution of the Fujifilm X-range of cameras has been particularly impressive with the power and versatility of the flagship X-Pro1 being made available in even more affordable and portable packages. The latest release, the X-M1, harnesses all the image quality from the same X-trans sensor that features in the X-Pro1 (X-E1 & X100s) but is packaged in an ultra fine, high-end plastic body. When it comes to travel photography the X-M1 will be particularly hard to beat. Freedom Through Photography Personally photography has always been a therapeutic endeavor, a vent for everyday life and an exploration in creativity. A day meandering along the coastlines and mountains of Northern Ireland can offer as much rest as a holiday. Freedom through Photography is a joint venture by Fujifilm and Millican (bags) encapsulating the escape of the great out doors with the portability and freedom of the X-range of cameras. Fujifilm are renowned for the quality of the X-range of cameras and this quality is mirrored in two great bags by Millican that offer exceptional camera protection when out in the wild. I had the opportunity to team up with fantastic group of photographers in the stunning Lake District to put the X-M1, the Millican bag and ‘Freedom Through Photography’ philosophy to the test. The Location I had a full day shooting with the X-M1 and it was quickly evident that the Lake District was an area I was going to revisit again in the future. To ensure I got the most from the day I headed out to Newlands Hawes at 4.30am to catch the run rising over Keswick. I had arrived from Northern Ireland in complete darkness so this was my first opportunity to see the location in its full glory. It was a spectacular experience; the breathtaking visual of the sunrise was set to the soundtrack of a trickling waterfall. It doesn’t get much better than this. (This Photo was captured on the Fujifilm X20 while the X-M1 was capturing some long exposure images). As we journeyed alongside the meandering streams that fed the lakes it felt like a different world or at very least a different century. Untouched by modernization I went two days without a phone signal and I have to say I didn’t miss it. Every corner revealed a new vista; old trees gnarled their way around the corner of peaks creating a remarkable points of focus and a sense of scale against the backdrop of some of the nicest mountain ranges I have seen. The Camera When I first heard about the Fujifilm X-M1 I assumed incorrectly it was a bare basic entry-level X camera with minimal control. It is far from minimal it is a little powerhouse and a credit to Fujifilm’s dedication to bringing quality photography technology to the masses. The company has worked hard to reduce the cost of this X camera but at the same time was determined not to undermine either the image quality or functionality of the camera. The controls are a little more consumer friendly and more akin to the menu system seen on the X-20 and X-F1. Matching the professional level sensor with an easy to use interface is brilliant combination for those learning the skill of photography. For the more confident, fear not, this doesn’t limit the capabilities of the camera in any way. Throughout the day I was able to switch shooting styles and captured a number of long exposure photos on manual mode. I was also pleasantly surprised I was able to shoot for a full day and fill a 16GB memory card on a single battery charge. I captured a number of long exposure photographs on a little shore line near Buttermere. It was a breath taking view across the mountain line, fishermen fished from a boat to the left and a farmer herded his sheep on the hills to the right, it was like a scene from a film. I was using my usual filter kit with the 14mm Fujinon lens with 25 and 30 second exposures at f/16. The X-M1 doesn’t offer a cable release connection but this is easily resolved by pressing the Q button and setting a 2 second timed delay for each image. The adjustable LCD screen also came in very handy when shooting low to the ground. I was able to pull the LCD out horizontal to the camera body and look down on the screen to see what was being captured. The ability to adjust the screen also meant I could tilt the screen to ensure I was able to see clearly what I was shooting. (This Photo was captured on the Fujifilm X20 while the X-M1 was capturing some long exposure images). Geotagging The X-M1 introduces a new feature to the X range of cameras in the form of Wi-Fi support. It isn’t that you can add the camera to your Wi-Fi network but actually it offers is the ability to connect the camera to your portable device for both image transfer and to access the GPS features on your mobile device. Fujifilm have released a camera app for the iOS platform (free) that interfaces nicely with the camera. I don’t expect to use the photo transfer function very often as I like to view images on a large screen before they are published but the Geotagging feature will come in very useful. The process of establishing a location is relatively straightforward and takes around 30-60 seconds from start to finish. The camera grabs the GPS location from your device and adds it to the photos automatically. On this trip I located the general area rather than each individual micro location and I suspect this will be how I use the technology in the future. Back at the computer Lightroom identified the GPS information and asked if I want to add the image location to the maps module. Once approved I had a world map highlighting the location tagged at 5am on the Saturday morning. Batteries The X-M1 uses the same battery pack as both the X-E1 and X-Pro1. It may be a small point but I feel it is an important one to make. If you have used a two-camera setup in the past I don’t have to tell you how beneficial it is to be able to use the same batteries in both cameras. [box] The Christopher bag photographed with the F350 Protector (Small).[/box] The Bag Millican was set up by husband and wife team Jorrit and Nicky and is based on the philosophy of famous Lake District local Millican Dalton. The team is dedicated to communicating the perfect tranquility of the Lake District area through quality and equally perfect designs. Each of the Millican bags is named after a local character and personal friends of Nicky and Jorrit, the Fujifilm collaboration bags are no exception aptly named Robert and Christopher. On this trip I was putting Christopher through its paces. A stunning little bag with a wrapped round lid and more pockets and pouches than you can fill. The bag comes with a little inner case to protect your camera and two lenses. I have tried my X-Pro1 in there and it is perfect. Rain Covers and Keyrings The Christopher bag oozes quality from the little internal key ring through to the built in rain cover for those walks in heavier rain showers. The little locking clips at the front of the bag are also innovative, holding the bag securely locked when walking yet are easily opened and closed with one hand. The Philosophy The Freedom through Photography concept sees two parallel ideals coming together. The X camera system is taking us back to the traditional approach to photography; it is methodical, considered with a large amount of attention to detail. The same applies at Millican, Nicky and Jorrit’s approach is equally methodical and it is clear a considerable amount of thought and time is invested into both the design and production of the Millican range of bags. Their mindset is aligned to the great Millican Daltons approach to life and this ultimately gives birth to a remarkable range of bags for every daily purpose. I left the Lake District with less sleep than any other weekend I have experienced yet I left it refresh, re-energised, inspired and longing for a return visit. I hadn’t scratched the surface of what the Lake District has to offer but what I saw was visually stunning. In all honesty I don’t think these photos really do the Lake District any justice; they will niggle at me and remain unresolved until I get back there again for a more in-depth study of what has to be one of the most beautiful parts of the UK I have visited. Links: Fujifilm Millican Donald Paterson Inspirational. Frank Larsen in some of your pics there are lighter areas in the front, have you lightened them yourself or is it natural? Very beautiful indeed. I’m going for the x m1, using some of the saved cash for lenses and maybe upgrade for x t1 later. Russell hawker Great article, a very enjoyable read. Superb photos that accompany the article. I use the X-A1, which is identical to the X-M1 except for the sensor (plenty of online debate as to whether X-trans beats the CMOS in the X-A1). Only bought the X-A1 to grab the two lenses in the deal, with the intention of selling the body. Well that was 7 months ago and the X-A1 is going nowhere. I use it more than my beloved X-E1. As you say, its a powerhouse, will do anything you want and the IQ will match anything a Canon 70D or Nikon D7100 can do. Just one thing to pick up on from your review. Fuji offer a remote that uses the USB port. And to save money you can buy one of the many Chinese clones for £8 or so.