Fujifilm X-T1 – is this the ultimate mirrorless camera?
Is the Fujifilm X-T1 camera better than the X-Pro1? I think the answer is a resounding yes. I will leave the technical reviews to others – this is purely about the X-T1 from a user perspective as much technical information is pretty meaningless when it comes to me using a camera in a day to day situation.
As a user I’m interested in only three things – how easy is the camera to use, is it reliable and does it take great photos?
Well earlier this year I got a chance to find out. I had been using a Fujifilm X-Pro1 for about 18 months and mentioned in passing to my brother that I was thinking about the X-T1 as a possible replacement but it was too expensive. Imagine my surprise the following week when a brand new X-T1 arrived in the post completely out of the blue! Having an older brother definitely has its advantages…
I have now had a chance to try out the camera in a lot of different situations and it is everything that the X-Pro1 should have been – certainly the best mirrorless camera I have ever used. One of the real strengths of this camera is the user interface, with the vast majority of settings being dealt with via manual dials rather than having to access a menu system (which inevitably interrupts your photography).
From the top you can see that there is an analogue dial on the left that allows you to change the ISO settings on the hoof. This is a real godsend as you can change the settings without taking your eye away from the viewfinder. In practice for outdoor photography I tend to leave this set to automatic (with the default ISO set to 200, the maximum set to 6400, and the minimum shutter speed set to 1/200). It is possible to set the default parameters for the ISO in the menu so you know exactly what you are getting when you select ‘A’ on this dial. In lower light or when doing long exposure shots a simple turn of the dial and the ISO is changed. Far far better than trawling through a menu.
On the right are dials for shutter speed and a plus or minus three stops exposure compensation wheel. I use this wheel constantly when using this camera – it is the best way to fine tune your exposure on the fly.
Although the back of the camera has a lot of switches and buttons most of the main settings can be changed by simply pressing the ‘Q’ button and using the rear command wheel (above it) to dial in the settings. When you press this button the following menu appears which has the most used functions listed in one place. This allows you to select film simulation modes, adjust white balance, apply presets, use the timer etc. Very handy and much better than selecting from a menu hierarchy.
Q button menu
It is all incredibly intuitive and easy to use. Some reviews I have read have criticised the menu selector buttons as being fiddly and difficult to press. This was absolutely not the case for me – menu buttons work fine and I’ve had no problems with them.
X-T1 menu selector buttons
Drive selection dial
Underneath the dials on the top sit other selector switches such as the drive selection dial (above) that sits beneath the ISO dial. This allows you to switch immediately between single shot, high or low speed speed continuous photos, bracketing or multiple exposure without entering the menu.
The X-T1 is not a single lens reflex and has no mirror box, relying instead on an electronic viewfinder system. This makes it much smaller and lighter than a DSLR and also means that what you see in the viewfinder tends to be what you get when you take the shot (it shows you the image in real time). The viewfinder is very large and very bright although it is prone to noise in a low light situation.
Electronic viewfinder (from Fujifilm website)
You will find that the viewfinder is very immersive and as it shows the image in real-time I tend to then fine tune the shot with the exposure compensation wheel without taking my eye from the viewfinder. This helps to prevent blowing the highlights in a high dynamic range situation. I was not convinced when I first had the camera as I was used to an optical viewfinder but am now totally sold on this.
One of the reasons I wanted to move away from the X-Pro1 was the autofocus – simply put it is not good enough in a camera of that price and this resulted in too many missed shots due to that camera hunting for focus and being too slow. This has been corrected in the X-T1 where the autofocus is very quick (it is claimed to be the world’s fastest) and locks onto the subject accurately time after time. The predictive autofocus allows tracking of moving subjects in real-time as well and this works very well – a real boon when using the camera for street or sports photography where subjects are moving quickly.
I have put some sample images at the end of the post – click on them to get the full-size image. In terms of overall quality of the photographs the camera is about the same as the X-Pro1 – easily capable of taking world-class images in the right hands.
It is worth noting that this is not a full-frame camera so you need to do some adjustments when considering issues such as the focal length of the lenses etc. Simply put you should multiply the focal length of the lenses as quoted by 1.5 to get the equivalent focal length for a 35mm camera. So the XF 14mm lens is really equivalent to a normal 21mm lens when it comes to the area being captured.
Overall there are a number of very positive aspects to this camera including:
- User interface – very intuitive and easy to use. Does not interrupt the flow when taking photos
- Electronic viewfinder – astonishingly clear and bright
- Analogue dials (wonderful to use – I hate menus)
- Light and small (very unobtrusive and easy to carry)
- Excellent autofocus
- Excellent image quality
- Fast start up – very few missed shots
- Remote control via the iPhone app
- Wireless image transfer – quirky but useable
- Tough and weather sealed for use in the rain (a real boon)
Improvements could be made to the cover on the ports (very flimsy) and the exposure compensation wheel needs a lock button to avoid turning it accidentally but overall this is an outstanding camera with no significant weaknesses and is now my main camera for all conditions.
The more I have used this camera the better it becomes. Does it take better photos than the X-Pro1? No it doesn’t but the improvements in design and autofocus etc mean you are far less likely to miss a shot. Would I recommend buying this camera? Yes without hesitation.
The photographs of the camera are from the Fujifilm website and the copyright sits with them. I am not connected to Fujifilm in any way.
For the techies among you who want to know the specification of the X-T1 it can be found on the Fujifilm website here http://www.fujifilm.eu/uk/products/digital-cameras/interchangeable-lens-cameras/model/x-t1/specifications/
There is also an excellent review of the camera by Steve Huff which you can find here http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/03/10/the-fuji-x-t1-review-fuji-creates-the-best-x-to-date/
Fuji X-T1 Sample images – click to see full size
Pride in London with XF 55-200mm zoom lens
Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin
Memorial – Unter den Linden with XF 14mm lens
Kew Gardens with Fujifilm XF 60mm macro lens
Pride London 2014 with XF 55-200mm zoom lens
Spooky Doll – Fuji XF 18-55mm zoom lens
Low light shot of Tempelhofer Ufer in Berlin with XF 14mm lens.