Fujifilm seems to have managed the transition from film to digital better in the long run than their major rival, Kodak, has. Kodak was an early pioneer of digital but somewhere along the line got off on the wrong track. FujiFilm was fashionably late to the party, but in the past few years they’ve been putting out some superb and innovative mirrorless cameras. Sure, they could be a little quirky at times. But they’re also very, very good.
The FujiFilm X-Pro3, X100S, and others in the FujiFilm X-series are damn good cameras, period. They’re rapidly closing the gap in image quality with a full-featured DSLR while becoming much smaller, lighter, and in some cases offering much better climate proofing. And it doesn’t hurt that look great with their retro styling.
The latest addition to the X-series is the FujiFilm X-T1. I recently had the chance to put it through its paces by shooting with it for about a week. I tested it with the 18-55mm Fujinon kit lens. It’s also obtainable as a camera body only and as a kit with an 18-135mm lens.
What I was most interested in was how it performed in real-world shooting. I’m much more interested in performance and handling than bells and whistles. Sure, the X-T1 has a lot of fun bells and whistles-built-in wifi with an official smartphone remote control and access app, in-camera RAW processing, multiple exposure mode, panorama mode, and dynamic range bracketing. Those are all nice, however, in real-globe shooting, I don’t tend to use those much.
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I’m much more interested in whether a camera helps me get the shot, and if it does, that the picture quality is as high as I want it to be.
I was also interested to see whether it was something I could use as a backup to my main DSLR when on location. And I wanted to see whether it might actually serve as a primary camera on some shoots where gear had to be kept to a bare minimum.
If poring overtone curve graphs, histograms, and technical lab tests are your thing, head over to DPReview’s exhaustive technical exams. This review doesn’t cover any of those things. But hopefully, it gives you some idea of what it’s like to shoot with.
Fujifilm X-T1: Handling
My main issue with the X-T1 has to do with its focusing. It’s a bit slower than I like, and I found myself fighting the shutter delay to get the shots I needed when the subject was just sitting still. There are several different options you can use to affect the focusing mode, including prefocusing, but I didn’t find some of them to be mainly because snappy as I’d like. The X-T1 has a hybrid of phase detection in the center of the frame and contrast-detection across the frame, but it still has a way to come before it gets as snappy and accurate as traditional phase recognition that uses the mirror as in DSLRs.
In placing it through the toddler test (ie. a moving toddler), the X-T1 struggled. But then most cameras struggle-it’s one of the hardest focusing jobs for a camera to do. But when the focus locked on it locked on tight. It was sharp where I wanted it to be sharpened. And there’s an assisted manual focus mode for when you need finer control and have the time to accomplish it.
The shutter itself is very responsive, as you’d hope. To the degree whatever minimal lag there is can be measured, it’s apparently 0.05 of a second.
And I was particularly impressed with some of the manual settings that are right at your fingertips on the top of the camera, and that means you don’t have to proceed fiddling with menu options just to change the shooting settings. My favorite may be the Exposure Compensation dial right next to the shutter. I use exposure compensation a lot when I shoot, and I came across the way it’s laid out here to be extremely convenient.
Fujifilm X-T1: Viewfinder
I’m not a fan of electronic viewfinders. They’re too much like trying to use an old CRT television to compose the shot while on a slight delay. They’re still a long way from the kind of quality you obtain from direct-vision optical viewfinders. But I’d much prefer a viewfinder to an LCD screen most of the time.
And as far as electronic viewfinders go, the one of X-T1 is a great one. It’s bright, contrasty, clear, and the FujiFilm engineers possess found a way to reduce the annoying lag most digital viewfinders have to essentially none. Some camera feels as though you’re watching the world as it was half a second ago, but there’s a negligible lag with the X-T1.
There are also benefits to an electronic viewfinder. When it comes to composition, what you see is everything you get. With optical viewfinders, many of them don’t cover 100 percent of the scene. And often, even on the best digital cameras, the viewfinder and mirror are ever-so-slightly off-kilter, making getting flawlessly aligned photos tricky.
The electronic viewfinder on the X-T1 has a number of useful overlays. One of the most useful I found was the horizon indicator. It shows you clearly how far off horizontal your framing is usually and lights up in green when you get it to spot on. I want that was an option when using the LCD display, but it’s apparently just limited to the viewfinder.
Using the viewfinder is definitely optional. You can arrange it so that it instantly detects when you place your eyes up to it but otherwise uses the LCD display screen.
Fujifilm X-T1: Image Quality
The X-T1 uses an APS-C sensor. That’s not the largest sensor crammed into a mirrorless camera-Sony offers that distinction with its Alpha A7R III, but it’s a big sensor by the standards of even a few years ago. APS-C is more regular in DSLRs, and it’s bigger than the one used in the MicroFourThirds system. It’s not full-frame, but it’s the next step down. If you’re used to the classic 35mm equivalent focal lengths on lenses, the APS-C sensor includes a multiplier of about 1.5. So a classic 50mm lens becomes about 75mm.
The image quality that comes out from the X-T1 is excellent. I shot almost entirely RAW-as I would under normal shooting conditions-and the images had good powerful range, were sharp, and had great color fidelity.
A bigger sensor means better low light overall performance and it helps with overall sharpness. Actually pictures shot at up to ISO 6400 are impressive. They’re not as good as those that come out of something fancier and more expensive, just like a Nikon D800 or Nikon D4S, but the high-ISO images from the X-T1 are very usable in most cases.
Fujifilm X-T1: Summary
The X-T1 is another winner camera from Fuji. Armed with the same sensor technology as earlier generation X-series cameras, it adds quite a bit more to the table, using its fully weather-sealed building, fast continuous autofocus (which actually works for capturing moving subjects), a large and beautiful digital viewfinder, a long list of customization and ergonomic improvements, as well as brand new features never before seen on additional Fuji X cameras. Thanks to the amazing zoom lens line-up featuring such superb performers as the XF 23mm f/1.4, XF 35mm f/1.4, and XF 56mm f/1.2, the Fuji X program has matured into probably one of the most attractive mirrorless systems on the market today, with the X-T1 leading the camera line-up inefficiency, picture quality, and features. It is pretty obvious that Fuji provides been listening to its customers and taking care of all the bugs and problems one by one. In just two years, Fuji transformed its product line from quirky to brilliant, with a total of five different camera lines, from entry-level to professional.