What I Think of the Fujifilm X-T1

What I Think of the Fujifilm X-T1

Last year I decided to put all my stuff for photographers on a different website (www.confessionsxl.com). But lately I’ve been having some problems with that website and to be honest I find it hard to produce regular new content for two websites too. So for now, I’m posting this “photographer’s post” here. 

There are plenty of reviews of the Fujifilm X-T1 out there already so I won’t be bothering you with specs or detailing every single function. In this post, I will just share my own observations after using this camera for a good week. 

Every single photographer I’ve heard talking about this new camera has been crazy positive about it. And to run ahead of myself for a moment, I love it too. However I must admit it wasn’t love at first sight. Back in September when I was invited to visit Fujifilm Japan together with David Hobby, Kevin Mullins and Zack Arias, we were given a peak into the future of the Fujifilm lineup. We saw a lot of strange things from near-production-ready prototypes to creative exercises from mad scientists. 

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When we were presented with an early mock-up of the X-T1, it wasn’t exactly received with loud cheers. I could see it to be a good addition to the Fujifilm line-up but at that time I think none of us considered actually adding that camera to our own camera bag. All the online rumors that preceded the launch of this camera, couldn’t really change my mind. I didn’t doubt this would be a good camera, just not something for me. 

But all that changed when I got to play with a near-production prototype for an hour.

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It just felt surprisingly right. It’s not just one thing that made me instantly like this camera. It’s the whole package. On my recent trip to Japan, I got the chance to test out this camera a bit more.

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ERGONOMICS

Despite its small size and my rather big hands, this camera sits perfectly in my hands. The handgrip is very comfortable and the thumb rest on the back of the camera makes one handed operation a breeze. The surface of the camera offers a nice grip even when wet. Overall this camera feels very sturdy, yet light. Even with the rather big 55-200 lens, it feels very balanced. I also got to try the optional battery grip and when attached it felt like an integral part of the camera. The first day, muscle memory kept forgetting to bring the center of the camera up to my eye. But I got used pretty fast to having the finder in the middle of the camera instead of on the side, like the other X-cameras. 

The buttons are generally placed well and fall under the right fingers. Because of the weather sealing, the buttons are a bit harder to push than I’m used to, but after a week I hardly notice that anymore. With no less than six programable function buttons, you can adapt the camera to your own individual needs. There are however a couple of things that I would like to be changed/added in a future firmware upgrade:
- Make the video recording button programmable too.
- Include the option to disable the function button on the front of the camera. I sometimes accidentally push this button when grabbing the camera.
- Include the option to switch the functions of the AE-L and the AF-L button. The AE-L button is something I almost never use and it’s in a better place than the often used AF-L button. 

The trusty shutter speed and exposure compensation dials are joined by a new dial for ISO. I think this is a welcome addition but I’m not sure about the lock on the dial. This lock prevents accidental ISO changes but at the same time, it’s not very convenient to make a quick change from say ISO 200 to 3200. There are also two new dials to change the drive mode and the metering under the ISO and the shutter speed dials. Despite the limited real estate on the small camera body, these dials are very well implemented. 

I’m very happy that Fujifilm has included a tilt screen on the X-T1. It’s the kind of thing that you are supposed to hate as a “serious” photographer. Since I’ve never been accused of being “serious”, I like it a lot. As a tall guy, it makes it easier to shoot at the eye level of the mere mortals and I’ve found it to really help when you want to be shooting unobtrusively. 

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VIEWFINDER

Unlike many of my colleagues, I don’t necessarily need an optical viewfinder. I use the OVF on my X-Pro1 and X100s regularly but I’m mostly relying on the electronic viewfinder. Until now, the only real downside of an EVF to me was that my eye gets really tired after a long day of shooting through a tiny tv-screen. So far I haven’t experienced that problem with the X-T1. First of all, this viewfinder refreshes really fast which is a lot easier on the eye. And secondly … it’s huge. You can really let your eye move around the viewfinder to check your composition. In some artificial lighting conditions I experienced a bit of a rolling shutter effect (I suppose it has to do something with the electric current of the light source being out of sync with the refresh rate of the EVF) but it’s not a major issue to me. 

The EVF on the X-E2 wasn’t bad at all, but the X-T1′s viewfinder is still a big step up. The good news for X-E2 users is that in a future firmware upgrade, Fujifilm will bring the X-T1′s fast EVF refresh rate to the X-E2 also. 

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OTHER NOTEWORTHY FEATURES

Until now the WiFi functionality of the (WiFi equipped) Fujifilm X-cameras worked well but was pretty basic at best. With a new app (for Android and iOS) you can now not only get pictures from your camera to your phone or tablet, you can also control your camera wirelessly. This opens up a lot of new options and during my limited testing, it all worked perfectly fine. In our discussions with the Fujifilm engineers last week, we’ve suggested some more WiFi functionality and I have no doubt they will add more features in the future. 

Fujifilm has also put a time-lapse function into the X-T1. You can easily set the interval and the number of frames you want to shoot. This is also one of those new features that I think/hope will be implemented in the older cameras.

I haven’t talked about image quality yet simply because this camera has the same excellent sensor as the X-E2. 

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AUTOFOCUS

In the beginning, the X-cameras’ weak point was the autofocus. In a couple of short years a lot of progress has been made through firmware updates and new hardware. And although there are faster systems on the market it came to a point where it was no issue for my kind of photography at all. But faster is always better and it’s nice to see that Fujifilm has made another leap forwards with the X-T1. The AF is even faster and more confident than on the (already pretty good) X-E2. We can now even do continuous (tracking) focus. I’ve only tested the continuous AF briefly and although it isn’t on the same level as a D4S or a 1Dx, it’s actually usable. If you are a sports photographer, there are probably better camera choices but for most other uses this is perfectly fine for me. I’ll try to do some more testing soon. 

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CONCLUSION

Until a couple of weeks ago, I considered the X-E2 to be the best Fujifilm camera. However I still used my X-Pro1 as my main camera, simply because it’s still a great camera, it sits better in my hands and (although I wish I wouldn’t have to take it into account) it gives a better impression towards professional clients. But after only an hour with the X-T1, I knew it would become my new main camera. It’s faster, weather sealed, has more features, and fits my hands perfectly.

I will be buying the optional battery grip as soon as it’s available in Belgium. I will be using the camera mostly without the grip to have a small and light camera that allows to shoot reportage photography without attracting attention and to create an intimate atmosphere during portrait shoots. When shooting in the studio or with bigger lenses, the grip will come in handy. And it might be good to pimp up the camera with the grip when shooting for new corporate clients who were expecting someone with a DSLR ;-)

I still prefer the rangefinder-style bodies over the SLR-shape but until the successor of the X-Pro1 becomes a reality (I suspect in 2015), the X-T1 is in my opinion the best X-camera. 

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Here are some more images made with the X-T1:    20140217_cp+_379 20140217_cp+_352  20140216_cp+_187 20140215_cp+_128

 

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