First review FujiFilm XT-1

I’m not really a brand person, we use a lot of Apple but I’ve always said that if I found something better I would switch, well up until now we never did so I guess Apple still fits my needs. Cameras the same thing, I’ve used Canon many many years (and loved it) but switched to Sony for the sheer dynamic range of the cameras, but let’s be honest sometimes you want something a bit smaller, so the search began for the perfect small camera… and I gave up….. to say they were all junk was well…. actually the truth, of course there were some nice ones but in the end I never used them…… that was until I first got to know FujiFilm, wow amazing cameras with a small form factor and finally the image quality we are used from a DSLR, but the X100 only had one lens so… not my thing.

 

When FujiFilm introduced the X-Pro1 and later the X-E1 I was sold.
FujiFilm not only knows how to build a camera that brings the joy back into photography but they also know how to build lenses, good grieves those babies are sharp and good, the kitlens gives a new meaning to the word kitlens (normally not that good but this one rocks), and FujiFilm knows how to keep us photographers happy, if you want faster AF don’t worry you don’t have to buy a new lens… they just upgrade the lens COOL.

 

When released the A7r I was triggered, a FujiFilm like camera with 36MP, Sony dynamic range AND no AA filter wow.
And Sony delivered, an amazing camera which I actually got for street and travel but at the moment keeps my A99 in the safe, I’m using the A7r almost exclusivly.
So why test the new FujiFilm X-T1 when I’m so happy with my Sony?
Well there are always things to improve of course, for example size. If you use the A7r with A glass (to get the fast AF and use my standard glass) it’s still a big camera (ok big lens small camera), the AF from the A7r is very good but only when coupled with the convertor for the A/Minolta mount on the A7r and not so with the standard lenses, in that case the A7 is the better choice. So you see my dilemma, sometimes I just want a small camera and although the A7r is a huge difference compared to the A99 the FujiFilm X-T1 is…. well even better, or is it?

 

Let’s not make this a Sony vs FujiFilm review, yeah I know you want it but I won’t.
Ok very quickly, but after that it’s all FujiFilm I promise.

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Let’s first look at resolution
The FujiFilm uses a 16MP sensor, the A7r an EE less 36MP sensor, wow no competition right?
Well not quite…..
Although the 16MP FujiFilm sensor is “just” 16MP is puts out some amazing detail and I always said if I compare it to a normal DSLR I would rate it to be as detailed as a 22MP DSLR, sounds weird right? Well that’s because most people judge their images by the amount they can zoom in on their screens…. wrong. I always judge from a print and that’s actually how you should judge a camera, zooming in is cool and makes your heart pump but in essence it’s useless, you’re cropping your images and only looking at one part, as soon as you print you see the WHOLE image and you can stand closer to see the detail, and this my friends is where the FujiFilm shines, the detail is stunning.

 

But in all honestly the Sony A7r has no AA filter and 36MP and yeah indeed it gives a LOAD more detail, but…. you have to wonder, do you ever need to print THAT large? I think not.

Let’s look at full frame vs crop
Big issue, also for me, but also depending on the lenses you use and the stuff you shoot.
Yeah a full frame sensor gives less DOF when shooting a portrait, but…… FujiFilm delivered some very fast glass, it’s still not full frame but if you want that shallow DOF you can also with the FujiFilm. Then we have the group that says “what you see is what you get with a full frame and the lens, or in other words a 50mm is a real 50mm” well….. I might have said that also a few years ago but let’s be honest it’s 2014 and as long as I look through the viewfinder and I see my image and I press the shutter and I get what I saw…. I don’t really care if there is 35mm printed on the lens or 50mm.

 

Now d0n’t get me wrong, and I really mean this, don’t 😀
I LOVE shooting medium format cameras and I’m very picky about them being full frame, I will not rule out I will never shoot a crop MF system, but on my 645 and RZ67ProII I want a full frame digital back (on the RZ this means already a severe crop). The reason for this is more that the lenses and cameras are all build for full frame, meaning with a crop back you see crop marks in your viewfinder and what ever you do there is no lens that gives you the same DOF on a crop as opposite to a full frame, but there is more…. if a system is build for Full Frame you will run into problems with wide angles, simply put there is often a problem going wide. But the FujiFilm system is BUILD around the crop sensor so in this case I have to be honest I don’t really care it’s a crop sensor, let’s just not call it crop, it’s just a FujiFilm Sensor ok?

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The look of the files
Now this is where it get’s interesting.
Medium format is awesome, I kid you not those files are amazing, there is a level of realness and detail you will not find in other cameras, the Sony sensors are very very good and I love my A7r and A99, in fact they made it possible for me to leave my MF kit at home when traveling because the “sacrifice” I do in image quality is doable, when I was using my 5D series cameras I always travelled with both systems. FujiFilm has something in their sensor that’s very hard to explain for people who never shot film (I still shoot film a lot) but let me try…. it looks like film…. got it?

 

Told you it would sound weird.
But really the images have a certain quality that is really close to what I expect from a top film camera, but than with all the benefits from digital, there is a certain “organic” feel to the images, a certain blending of the pixels, it sounds weird but I think a lot of film shooters will say “yeah I got it” and a lot of the FujiFilm users will probably say “I knew there was something different”. I think FujiFilm combined the look of film with the benefits from digital the best.

 

Dynamic range is still a bit better on the Sony sensor for my work, but the Fuji is no bad performer, in fact I hardly use the HDR method anymore.

 

So this was my small Sony vs FujiFilm talk (sorry it’s a bit more than small).
Let’s look at the X-T1.

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1. Image quality
Stunning, very sharp and nice colors.
I’m very pleased with the image quality from the Fuji series and the XT-1 looks as nice as expected, I can’t really say it’s a huge step forward from the X-E1 but that’s not a bad thing because I really liked the X-E1 already and to be honest there is nothing in the image that I wanted to improve, expect the obvious that we can always use more dynamic range and less noise.



2. AF
Very fast, locks on fast enough for street work.
Face recognition is a tad slower than my A7r but it’s more than usable.
And this is in fact one of the reasons I LOVE the X-T1, for studio work it’s not my choice (also due to the tethering “problems”) but for street photography it gave me some images where I’m sure the Sony A7r would have struggled with focus and in those cases would have missed the shot. For example this shot, we were standing in front of the traffic lights and I had to take this shot within seconds, meaning a camera I can just point and click and gets me the shot is needed. I don’t know IF the A7r would have taken the correct shot but I was impressed that the X-T1 did it so good as it did, the windows are not very clean to say the least and it did lock on to face of the person perfectly. wow.

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But also shooting from the hip worked very very well.
You probably understand why I don’t shoot this any other way.

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3. EVF
STUNNING, this is the best EVF I’ve worked with, it’s large, razor sharp and …. well it just rocks. If people are still thinking EVF’s suck… well look at this one.
It’s one the best viewfinder experiences I ever experienced, except of course the view through the RZ67ProII (but that’s awesome).

 



4. Build quality
You know that feeling when you hold a camera for the first time and you go like “yeah they got it” well that’s the feeling I get from the XT-1 (with the grip that is).
I need the grip for balance and feel but if you have smaller hands I think that you would also be happy without it.
The camera itself feels like a tank, you could hit a nail in the wall with it (don’t do it) that kind of feeling, or in other words… it feels like a camera that can travel the world with you.



5. Ergonomics
 Great, I love having everything under dials.
Why go into a menu to change something that’s so….. oooooops.
In this case we are actually going back in time to the time where cameras did not have the instant polaroid on the back, the time where everything had to be under dials, and when working with the FujiFilm X-T1 you really start to wonder, why the heck we are diving into menus every time when it can be this easy….. love it.

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6. Video
Nah, skip that part, it’s ok but it’s not that good also.
You can capture something let’s call it that.

 



7. JPG camera.
The sensor has a range of 200-6400 this is why there is only RAW support for that range, JPG supports 100-hi 2 which will confuse some users because they would like to see ISO100 in RAW. Same goes for bracketing, in RAW only support for shutter times in JPG there are a lot more options.


The JPG output is awesome that’s not the problem but especially with bracketing I would love to see RAW support.
This is rather limiting to be honest for me personally, with the kitlens I often hit the ISO6400 barrier in the more darker areas where I shoot and where the A7r just goes up and I can use the new DxO prime noise reduction to get something that is cool the FujiFilm just switches to JPG, or when using autoISO like I do, just gives you a blurry shot. I think this is a missed opportunity and would like to see that autoISO would be implemented over the entire range with the remark that ISO6400+ will be JPG, it’s not perfect but at least you can shoot it if needed.

 


8. Resolution
16MP is a sweetspot, and coupling that with the sensor technique it gives the XT-1 (and other Fujis) more then enough resolution for larger prints, cropping will be a problem when you print REALLY large, but most people won’t. As mentioned in the start of the review MPs are highly overrated, it’s cool to have them but in essence you don’t need too much. That being said, I do feel that maybe a little bump would be nice if you want to crop.

 

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9. Sound
Very quiet machine compared to the Sony A7r, so nice for those “silent” moments.

 



10. Noise performance
very good and usable ISO6400 quality

 



11. Dynamic range
I still wonder why we still shoot HDR sometimes, with both my Sonys and Fuji I rather shoot one carefully lit frame and use lightroom to enhance the shadows and highlights. In old car city Atlanta I shot almost everything on HDR but found myself using one of the shots and playing with lightroom and DxO a lot more. This shot for example was taken in our hotel and as you can see a raise of the shadows gave me more then enough detail to show the chains and dirt of this escalator, I know for sure that with my 5DMKIII I would have needed to shoot this with at least 2 exposures.

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12. Tethering
To my iPhone it’s awesome, even better than my Sony A7r except on one vital point. With the Sony I can send over RAWs (the camera makes them into jpgs) with the Fuji it took me a while to figure out that I needed to convert the files to jpg before I could browse the files via my phone. As remote control everything works fine. The software is fast and has all the options you need. And although at first I thought that it was more of a gimmick I have to be honest that I use it much more than I expected, it’s just very cool to shoot some images on the street, “beam” them to your iPhone (or android) run them through for example snap seed and upload them straight away.


The thing I really (and I mean REALLY) miss is however the tethering to a PC or Mac. This is actually something I would really like to see because during demos it’s now impossible for me to show the XT-1 in action, wifi during a tradeshow is highly unreliable and will actually hurt the cameras reputation because in real life wifi does work pretty good.



Overall conclusion for the moment
AWESOME camera, gives me a lot of fun in shooting with it and that’s what’s very important. The dynamic range and image quality are stunning.
At the moment I only used the camera on our trip to Atlanta, but soon we will be in New York and I will run the FujiFilm X-T1 there through all the loops during the street photography we will be doing there.



A great camera for the street and travel photographer.
I hope Fuji will release a f2.8 zoom lens a bit sooner because with a crop sensor the “kitlens” is razor sharp but can be a little bit challenging in darker areas and with DOF, now one could choose one of the primes that are very good and fast but sometimes you just want a zoom.

 

Highly recommended.

A small collection of FujiFilm X-T1 shots I took in Atlanta.
Click on the tumbnails to open the gallery.