Adventures with the Fujifilm X-T1
I picked up a Fuji X-T1 last week from the gracious folks at Fujifilm Philippines, and got to play around with it a little bit in Manila, Philippines and Siem Reap, Cambodia. Its my first experience with mirrorless cameras, and overall it was super positive. I’m a little late to the game, and the entire week I was having one of those “oh, so THAT’s what everyone’s talking about” moments.
I won’t go into a full blown review, but here’s a few quick impressions.
1- FUN. This camera is just fun to shoot with. The lens barrel aperture ring, the top dials and stylings aren’t just for show. It makes for a different way of making images, and that’s a good thing. Whether its shooting 4×5 or TLR medium format, a nifty point and shoot or Leica, having a different kind of photographic tool in your hands affects your approach to making pictures. The X-T1 is like that for me, and for a photographer that’s serious fun.
2- SMALL & LIGHT. Yep, newsflash: mirrorless cameras are small and light. But if you haven’t tried one yet, you can’t really know what a huge difference it can be. My main setup is a Canon 5dmkIII with 35 1.4. The Fuji XT-1 and 23 1.4 feels like nothing in comparison. Either on your shoulder or in your hands, its light as a feather in comparison. It also has great ergonomics, and feels wonderful to hold.
3- IMAGE QUALITY. Great files. No scientific inquiry here, but shadow recovery and general dynamic range seemed better than the 5D. I like to shoot for the highlights for really rich colours and contrast, then pull up the shadows for detail. I get a lot of noise this way with the 5D, and I think the Fuji outperformed in this area.
4- THAT ELECTRONIC VIEWFINDER. OK, so this is one of the things on the camera everyone talks about. I suppose for an EVF its pretty great, but to be honest I think its still nowhere near the point where I’d consider giving up using an old school optical viewfinder. As I said earlier, I often shoot scenes for the highlights, and the EVF shows you the exposure in real time, which means I was often looking at a very, very dark scene. When shooting outdoors in contrasty light, that was a problem. I could barely see the scene I was working. But maybe there’s a way to modify this in-camera so it doesn’t show the exposure? Anyone?
5- SHUTTER. Pretty good. But not as responsive as Canon or Nikon’s upper-end DSLRs.
6- BATTERY. Feels like it lasts about 5 minutes. I guess that EVF eats up batteries, but Fuji needs work on this. You’d need at least 5 or 6 fresh batteries to last you a full day of shooting.
6- FOCUS. Mostly very impressive. There were definitely times when I was shooting with the 23 at 1.4 and 56 at 1.2 and the focus was tickity-tack sharp in situations where I know my equivalent Canon setup would have been off for sure. But Canon’s autofocus system is notoriously poor, so not sure that’s a huge win for the Fuji. More interested to hear how the autofocus system compares to Nikon’s. Also, there were times, when shooting something backlit, that the camera completely failed to focus, over and over again. And although the Fuji has an interesting system for manual focusing, its just a slow process that only works for stationary objects, not a quickly moving scene. At least with Canon, when the autofocus fails I can quickly move to manual focus without missing a beat.
8- SPEED. Its pretty quick. Just not quite as responsive as a DSLR in most regards. And those lost milliseconds are crucial when you’re a wedding, news or documentary photographer.
10- EXPOSURE / FOCUS LOCK. I use these features all the time while shooting, and it took me a little while to adapt to the Fuji system. I didn’t love the placement and feel of the AE-L and AF-L buttons on the X-T1. Didn’t hate them, but didn’t love them. I guess it could just take some getting used to.
So hey, that X-T1 is some camera. I don’t see it replacing a DSLR system as a multi-purpose jack-of-all-trades professional camera. But the X-T2 might. And I imagine the X-T3 definitely will. With the advances in camera technology we’ve witnessed lately, I’d guess I’m shooting fully mirrorless in under 5 years time, and that’s pretty exciting.
In the meantime, I’m buying a X100T, so I can have a little piece of Fuji goodness with me at all times.