Fuji X-T1 (fw 4.0) – First Impressions

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[Disclaimers]

I originally wrote this months ago for some photographers I knew who were interested in my thoughts on the Fuji X-T1. I have updated it a little, but for the most part it hasn’t changed. In general, I affirm what other photographers have found (Spoiler alert – it is great!) and, more importantly, I added a few observations that I did not see in the other reviews. For speed, do a text search to see if I add any info to an aspect of the camera you want to know about.

First impressions

This camera is indeed a camera made for photographers based on feedback from photographers. (Many reviewers have noticed this.) Every other camera that I have ever used was like going to shoot with someone who was not a photographer or who was not remotely like-minded. After only a few hours with the Fuji, I already feel like I’m photographing with a competent photo assistant.

As many other photographers have pointed out, there are oddities (which photographers are happy to post about), but livable like the oddities you notice on a car or other piece of equipment that you love – more odd than irritating. My Canon, Nikon and Sony gear were all just plain irritating lots of the time. I spent so much time fighting them despite knowing them very well.

Starting

  • It is nice to have settings that change the camera to behave the way I want it to, but…
    • Menus do take a bit getting use to (but it does get better with use)
    • The manual is difficult to use (thank goodness there is the Internet)

Image quality

  • Noise does look like film grain*
  • Noise is very free of chromatic (color) noise up to ISO6400*
  • White balance is more pleasing than on my Canons especially with people shots*
  • I can get more level photos thanks to the viewfinder virtual level* (the on in the 7D has to be turned on after each time you push the shutter button) (but don’t forget to take perceived horizon of the photo into account)

*Yeah! Less post processing!

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Handling

  • Performance:
    • Focus is very fast (would give my 7D a run for its money) and pretty accurate (even mashing down the shutter button didn’t phase it).
    • Continuous focus does, indeed, look like it is searching which can be annoying to watch, but the actual photo taken is sharp. (I mostly prefer single focus to avoid this searching.)
    • (Shutter lag is difficult to gauge – I will need to shoot more people to tell, but it feels like my 7D.)
    • It is indeed quieter, and you can make it silent thanks to the electronic shutter option added in firmware v3. This is going to be great at my daughter’s next orchestra concert or when I find them asleep often with a book.
    • I usually don’t like the exposure setting that cameras use in program mode, but after telling it that I would like minimum shutter to be 1/125, it has avoided too slow shutter speeds, but also shoots faster when the light was available. Nice!
    • The reversed zoom direction from a Canon wasn’t that hard to get use to *update* for slow, thoughtful photography. I am finding it a little harder to get use to when shooting soccer.
  • Viewfinder:
    • It takes a split second to focus your eyes looking through the EVF, but so far, not a problem.
    • If you set the EVF to Normal size instead of Full screen, it works great for people like me who wear glasses, and all the information is off the photo in the margins. (Nice!)
    • Reviewing photos in the EVF is amazing! It’s gigantic!
    • Shooting in low light is easier thanks to the WYSIWYG EVF (some of the shots were nearly black in my Canon viewfinder even through a 50mm f/1.8)
    • Because it is an EVF (instead of an optical viewfinder), you can see what your b/w photo looks like, too, before you shoot.
    • If you review photos on the camera against what they look like on a computer and iPad (I checked multiple devices), the images on the camera appear brighter (but my Canon’s have this same problem)
    • EVF is bright enough to use outdoors, but keep in mind that the image appear brighter on a computer. (EVF image is darker.)
  • Size
    • Shifting from holding it like a heavy DSLR to a lightweight mirrorless took about a day. (Less reliance on the right hand.)
    • At first, I thought I would need to get the expensive hand grip, but now I don’t think so.
  • Customization
    • The multiple knobs makes exposure adjustments a breeze, but since Program mode has worked so well (once I have adjusted minimum target shutter speed in the ISO settings), I think I will keep it there and use the exposure adjustment knob unless I’m shooting moving subjects or want deeper depth of field. Time for me to relax a little and enjoy photography.
    • Reassigning multiple buttons to whatever you want is very nice. I have already reassigned one to select between mechanical to electronic shutter when I have to shoot silently.
  • Black and white
    • The camera has 4 black and white film simulator settings (akin to Canon’s picture styles which has 1 b/w setting)
    • You get 7 additional custom modes (customization of the film simulator settings)
    • Black and white with red filter, highlight +1, shadow +1 has some nice personality – reminds me of the black and white prints I use to make in the darkroom.
  • In-camera RAW
    • Shoot however you want, process it with a Velvia or b/w film simulation with shadow, highlight, noise reduction etc as many times as you want (in camera!). (*Update* I recommend shooting Previa/Standard first for most photographers not shooting commercial or fine art.)

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Addressing the online complaints

  • There have been many complaints that it wakes up erratically and slower than just turning it on and off. Turns out if you hold the button for a full 1/2 second, it wakes up just fine (every time) – this was probably to prevent accidental wake up.
  • Batteries do indeed drain very fast, but all mirrorless have this problem since the image sensor is always active instead of for just a split second like on a DSLR. If you ran a DSLR in live view, you would probably get a similar battery drain.
  • I have not found the back buttons to be hard to push (I read that they were recessed as requested by photographers to avoid accidental pushing), but that is probably because I did not start off with another Fuji camera. Since I started out with an X-T1, I might find the back buttons on other Fuji’s too easy to push.
  • Reports of waxy skin are probably due to leaving the noise reduction at zero (standard noise reduction). Moving it to -2 (low noise reduction) should reduce the too-smooth skin effect (and the added noise isn’t bad).

*Update* I have noticed that Windows Picture Viewer and other programs render Fuji images differently. Some look waxy to deal with the “grain” while others are more faithful. Don’t blame Fuji for this. Blaming Fuji would be like blaming Fuji for bad print quality at Costco.

  • Not like
    • My Peak Design plate blocks the battery door (but this is a problem on most mirrorless cameras due to their smaller sizes). (*Update* I added the base plate and now the PD plate works great.)
    • I wish the charger had some kind of indicator how far the battery was charged (but I want this for all chargers after getting this on my 7D charger (which is the same charger for the 6D and 7D). I am going to have to get one of these 3rd party chargers with the percentage displays. (*Update* I got a Watson duo charger and it works great.)
    • Very, very low light focus is difficult (same as on my Canons), but Fuji does not have the subtle focus assist that my Canon 430ex II flash has, so I will need to hang onto this to do very low light focus like the pre-awards ceremony at the annual meeting (which are nearly in the dark). (The Fuji EF-42 lists an AF assist light, but is currently incompatible with all X cameras.)
    • Minor:
      • Good external TTL flash options are limited.
      • I miss the focus point joystick on my 7D. It is going to take a while to adapt to using the recessed pad, but I don’t think this isn’t going to be hard. (*Update* using the recessed pad to move the focus point has been easy – with practice, I don’t even have to take my eye off the viewfinder.)
      • Connecting the camera to the app is less smooth than I would like. Moving out of viewing photos also turns off the wifi function on the camera. If I was moving from seeing photos to controlling the camera, why would I want to reactivate wifi on the camera? This would cause the smartphone or tablet switch to another wifi so you would have to select the camera wifi again and then go back to the app.
      • I wish that the photos created with in-camera raw processing showed up after the original photo (instead of at the end), but this is probably hard to avoid since the file naming system is sequential (but the EXIF is correct so automatic renamers like the one I use works great (as long as you keep the file name as part of the name since they all have the exact same datestamp – this is important for photos shot at 8 frames per second since file renaming only goes down to the second).
      • I wish there was an option to add copyright info into the EXIF on the camera like I can on my Canons (including my G15).
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