Wait, Fujifilm’s app is good now?: Digital Photography Review

Fujifilm’s new app is functional and feature-rich.

Most remote shooting/viewing camera apps from major camera manufacturers are, well, crappy. And Fujifilm’s old Camera Remote app is no exception. Functional at best, clunky and unreliable at worst, in the two years had it on my phone paired with an X-E4 I’ve rarely used it. And it sure seems like I’m not alone.

But Fujifilm hopes to change all that with the introduction of the new Fujifilm XApp, available now for a wide range of X- and GF-mount cameras. Not only does this refresh offer better reliability over its predecessor, but expanded functionality too. Let’s take a closer look.

Fujifilm XApp: Useful features, faster speeds and better design

It takes about ten seconds to transfer a full-resolution image from the XApp to a smart device.

ISO 320 | 1/125 sec | F2.8 | XF 27mm f/2.8 R WR
Photo: Dan Bracaglia

Fujifilm makes a lot of lofty promises about the new XApp and delivers on most of them. In addition to a cleaner, more straightforward design, the company says it should connect and transfer images with better reliability at faster speeds than the old app. The XApp also includes new features, many of which are quite innovative.

You can now back up and save preferred camera settings within XApp, and recall them with a few taps of the screen. It also lets you record and upload data from shooting sessions in the form of an ‘Activity Log.’ This provides stats about which film simulations, lenses, apertures, etc., you utilize the most. You can also capture location data and use it to create a nifty visual timeline of where and what you shot over days/weeks/months.

And like its predecessor, the new XApp not only alerts you to new firmware updates but downloads and transmits them to your camera in a few steps.

Pairing, browsing & sharing with the Fujifilm XApp

Pairing the camera via Bluetooth takes only a moment. But to get the most out of the app, you’ll need to tap the ‘Image Acquisition/Photography’ button to launch a Wi-Fi connection.

The XApp is quick to download from the Apple App Store (I loaded it up on my iPhone 12 Mini). In a matter of 60 seconds, I had it open and ready to pair with my camera.

Setting up the Bluetooth pairing is simple; just follow the on-screen instructions. I was successful on my first attempt. However, if you’re having a hard time getting the app to recognize your camera, try holding down the ‘Display/Back’ button on the back. On most modern Fujifilm models, doing so will launch the wireless connection menu where you can verify that the Bluetooth pairing function is on.

Setting up the Bluetooth pairing is also surprisingly simple. I was successful on my first attempt.

Once connected, a graphic of your camera model will appear at the center of the screen with a message under it stating the status of the Bluetooth connection (see above, right). Below that’ll you’ll find four core options. The most prominent, ‘Image Acquisition/Photography,’ for transferring images, requires activating a Wi-Fi connection, while the remote shutter release, settings backup/restore feature, and activity log all can function via Bluetooth.

It takes about 20 seconds for the XApp to establish a Wi-Fi connection with my X-E4. Once connected, you can remotely scroll through thumbnails and select and transfer those you wish to share. Image thumbnails load fairly quickly, though, as do individual image previews; however it takes roughly 10 seconds to transfer a single full-resolution JPEG. You can also view image EXIF data from within the app by tapping an info icon at the top of the screen.

Remote photography using the Fujifilm XApp

When connected to the camera via Wi-Fi, you have control over an array of key settings.

Remote photography is no doubt an essential feature for some, and the Wi-Fi-based remote shooting interface on the Fujifilm XApp is nothing short of fantastic. Important information is displayed around the frame similarly to how it appears on your camera screen, with icons for battery life, file size, shots remaining, and more. More crucially, users have total control over key parameters like aperture, exposure compensation, ISO, film simulation, and white balance. You can also tap the screen to set focus anywhere in the frame.

Users have total control over aperture, exposure compensation, ISO, film simulation, and white balance

And remote shooting isn’t limited to still photography. You can easily jump into video mode, where you again have full control over settings. Regardless of whether you’re capturing stills or video, the response time using the app is speedy, with no noticeable lag.

Of course, there’s a second remote photography option that instead uses Bluetooth rather than Wi-Fi to fire the shutter. To access it, you’ll need to jump back to the main screen and tap the ‘Remote Control’ button. You don’t get any control over settings or even a preview of the scene with this feature. But you do get a quick and reliable way to fire the shutter, which could be useful for situations where the camera is tripod-mounted, like group photos, landscapes, or astrophotography. Just be sure your smart device is within Bluetooth range of the camera for proper functionality.

Activity log and backing up settings

Check out your daily photography stats in the Fujifilm XApp via the Activity Log.

The Activity Log is a visually-pleasing way to interpret shooting data, especially if you’re like me and enjoy diving into numbers and stats. On the main screen, tap ‘Upload Activity’ to transfer shooting data from your last outing with the camera, and follow the on-screen prompts to zap it over to the app. Once complete, you get a rundown of how many photos you shot, what lenses you used most, which film simulations you preferred, and much more.

You can also tap the ‘Timeline’ button at the bottom of the screen for a day-by-day view of what you shot and where. I opted to turn off the geotagging setting, however, as I found it a little intrusive and unnecessary for snapping frames around my neighborhood. That said, if I were on vacation, I’d definitely consider turning it back on.

In addition to the Activity Log, users can save their camera’s full suite of settings to be recalled at any time. Tap the ‘Backup/Restore’ button and follow the on-screen instructions to either save a new bank of settings or load an old one. Users can save and name multiple settings and even load pre-banked settings to a new camera, as long it’s the same model. Both backing up and restoring settings happen in just a few seconds.

Updating the firmware via the Fujifilm XApp

It took less than two minutes to update the X-E4’s firmware wirelessly using the XApp.

Wireless firmware updates are nothing new for Fujifilm users. The now-antiquated Camera Remote app has offered the feature for some time. However, I’ve long hesitated to try it for fear of something going wrong, especially given the app’s lackluster reputation for overall stability. And so, up until today, I’ve always done things the old-school way: with a formatted memory card, a computer, and a dream.

But for the sake of this review, dear readers, I decided to update my X-E4 from firmware 2.0 to 2.01 via XApp. Hesitations about ‘bricking’ my personal camera aside, I was delighted when everything went quickly and smoothly. Upon opening the app, I was greeted with a message indicating the availability of the new firmware (see above, left). And I simply followed the on-screen prompts to download and transfer the file over Wi-Fi, at which point the app switched back to a Bluetooth connection, and the camera began the update process automatically.

The whole procedure took about two minutes (though your mileage will vary depending on how large the update is).

Final thoughts on the Fujifilm XApp

Off to a rough start in the Apple App Store, ratings-wise, at least the XApp is more popular than the Camera Remote app. Personally, I’d give it four out of five stars with room for improvement in image transfer speed and overall stability.

While there are still some bugs that likely need to be worked out – I did have the app freeze on me a few times – the Fujifilm XApp is a huge improvement over the much-maligned Camera Remote app. It’s less clunky, easier to navigate, and far more functional. But most significantly, it appears to work with greater reliability, leading to less user frustration.

While periodically opening and closing the app to try features and download shots, I had minimal issues getting the camera to pair via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. And never once did I have to jump into my iPhone’s settings to toggle things off. That alone is a victory. Plus, I now have the confidence to wirelessly update firmware without fear of misfortune.

Ultimately, only time will tell just how good the XApp is. As support for new cameras and additional features are rolled out, it’s imperative the app remains stable and reliable. Which is to say, the ball is in Fujifilm’s court. Give this promising app the attention it deserves, and I can see it becoming very popular. But skimp on maintenance and bug fixes, and XApp will end up doomed to mediocrity, just like its predecessor.

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