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Review: Fujifilm X-T1

by Julius Motal on 03/05/2014

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When my Editor-in-Chief asked if I’d like to review the Fujifilm X-T1, I responded with an emphatic, “YES.” Having worked with the X-E2 for several months and the X-A1 and X20 before that, I’ve become the Fuji lover both on staff and around my friends. The X-T1 has something of a traditional SLR design with the the viewfinder in the middle, as opposed to the left side, and all manner of dials along the top. It’s only slight larger than the X-E2, but it’s far more satisfying to use. While the core elements of the X-T1 are the same as the X-E2, there are several important factors that keep it comfortably above the rest of the crop.

Pros and Cons

Pros

-Tilting LCD

-The EVF is bright, crisp and offers an impressive .77x magnification

-Image quality is stunning

-Solid build and a beautiful body

-Fast AF and focus peaking

Cons

-Fairly expensive, $400 more than the X-E2

Gear Used

For this review, I used the Fujifilm X-T1 with the Fujifilm 35mm f1.4, reviewed previously.

Tech Specs

Courtesy of B&H Photo Video’s listing:

  • 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS II Sensor
  • EXR Processor II
  • 0.5″ 2,360k-Dot 0.77x OLED Viewfinder
  • 3.0″ 1,040k-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor
  • Full HD 1080p Video Recording at 60 fps
  • Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity
  • Weather-Resistant Body Construction
  • Continuous Shooting up to 8 fps
  • Includes EF-X8 Shoe-Mount Flash Unit
  • Fujinon XF18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens

Ergonomics

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The front of the X-T1 is a bit busy with the focus mode selector, sync terminal, lens release, Fn 1 button, AF assist lamp and front command dial. There’s also the grip, which is considerably larger than the grips across the X-series line of cameras. The leatherette finish adds a good deal of traction, too.

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The top of the X-T1 is far busier than the front with (moving left to right): the ISO dial sitting above the drive dial, the diopter, the hot shoe, the shutter speed dial sitting above the metering dial, the on/off switch around the shutter, the Fn 2 button, and the exposure compensation dial. On a more conventional camera, most of these functions would be relegated to menu functions and unmarked wheels. Fujifilm, however, is reclaiming an older aesthetic both in the X-T1’s body and button layout. It succeeds where the Nikon Df doesn’t–or at least I feel so.

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The back of the X-T1 sports the trash, playback, autoexposure lock, autofocus lock, focus assist, quick menu, menu, display back, and four-way directional buttons. The big bright viewfinder sits above the tilting LCD, which is a significant boon over its X-series brethren.

The left side of the camera houses the HDMI, mic, and microUSB ports. The bottom has the batter chamber and tripod thread. The right side houses the SD card slot.

All told, Fuji’s engineers did a swell job with the X-T1. The dials and switches up top may seem like sensory overload in the beginning, but it all works seamlessly. The X-T1 packs a sizable punch in such a small body considering that its electronic viewfinder offers .77x magnification to the Nikon D4’s .70x.

Build Quality

The X-T1 is an elegant machine with 80 points of weather sealing and a magnesium alloy body that makes it far more formidable than any X-series camera to date, and it makes a strong case for mirrorless cameras in a crowded DSLR space. The centered viewfinder, topside dials and front grip make it just slightly larger and only three ounces heavier than the X-E2. It won’t wear your neck out.

Autofocus

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Like the X-E2 before it, the X-T1 has 49 autofocus points that can be accessed by pressing the down directional button. Navigate to your desired point and shoot away. Most of the time I used Single AF and it worked very well. When the environment was more dynamic, I switched to manual and relied on focus peaking rather than split-image focusing. The latter has its uses, but focus peaking was easier on my eyes.

Ease of Use

While I’ve had experience with X-series cameras before this one, there was a very slight learning curve with the X-T1, which had to do with the assortment of dials up top. For those moving to the X-system from a DSLR sytesm, the X-T1 will take a bit of to get used to because it has an unconventional design by contemporary standards. That learning curve will quickly fade as you make beautiful images.

Metering

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This was shot at f16, 1/125 sec and ISO 200. It was a fantastically grey day, and the X-T1 seems to soak up a lot of light at a given exposure to be less than a stop off in a lighting situation like this. It’s a quick fix in post if anything.

Image Quality

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This is the X-T1’s bread and butter, as it was for the X-E2. Both cameras share the same X-Trans CMOS II sensor, so much of what’s written here will mirror the X-E2’s review. Unfortunately, the X-T1’s RAW files were incompatible with Lightroom since the camera has yet to be released, so I had to work with JPEGs, which wasn’t a problem necessarily. With the 35mm f1.4 lens, the X-T1 produced beautiful images with bright colors, deep blacks, and crisp sharpness.

High ISO Images

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This was shot with the 35mm f1.4 at 1/30 sec, f2.8 and ISO 1250. The X-T1 does very well at higher ISOs, and works wonderfully in pubs where the above image was taken. Wheres some cameras might lose detail at around ISO 1600, the X-T1 doesn’t lose anything, and when noise starts to creep in, it spreads nicely, creating a film-like quality reminiscent of older generations of cameras.

RAW File Versatility

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As noted above, Lightroom couldn’t accept the X-T1’s RAW files, since the camera still isn’t available to the public at the time of this review. So, I had to work with JPEGs, which tended to hover around 5MB. I shot in RAW + JPEG, and the RAW files are around 33.4 MB, the same as the X-E2’s. I imagine they’ll be just as versatile as the X-E2’s.

Extra Image Samples

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Conclusions

The-Phoblographer-Editor's-Choice-Award-Logo

The Editor’s Choice Award is an obvious one. The photo world has been abuzz with talk about the X-T1. It’s got the right mix of vintage design and contemporary technology. Granted, the sensor is the same as the X-E2’s, but that isn’t a problem. The X-series is a much-lauded system, and the X-T1 is its strongest player. Part of the hubbub surrounding the X-T1 has to do with some of the design similarities to the Nikon Df, which had some ergonomic failings. While they sport nearly the same megapixel count, the Df has the upper hand with a full-frame sensor, tacking $1,000 to the price: $2,700 to the X-T1’s $1,700. That doesn’t mean the X-T1 is any less capable as it produces beautiful images.

What the X-T1 really does is make the case for mirrorless cameras as worthy options for serious photographers. There have been strong mirrorless options before the X-T1, but none have looked so good. Sony’s done well with its NEX-now-alpha line, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Fujifilm in terms of design. Fujifilm pays just as much at to the outside of the camera as it does the inside. It’ll inspire prolonged looks as you make photographs around town. Throughout the review period, I’ve had photographer friends ask to hold it, and I’ve had passersby ask if I’m shooting with a film camera. Both are a testament to how Fujifilm combines the best of past and present.

The X-T1 is a street photographer’s dream. I’ve been using it every day for nearly three weeks for a photo365 project I’m working on, and with the 35mm f1.4 affixed to it, shooting is an absolute breeze. The camera’s inconspicuous enough that I don’t get strange looks. Had I been working with a hulking DSLR, my project, in which I make a photo a day for each day of the year, might not go so smoothly. The X-T1 can bend to nearly any photographic need in my estimation, save for sports and wildlife photography due to Fujifilm’s lack of fast telephoto lenses.

I can only imagine what a full-frame X-series camera would be like. For now, you can preorder your X-T1 at Adorama and Amazon.

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