I recently got my hands on the Fujifilm X-T1 – their latest flagship beauty with a 16.3 megapixel APS-C sensor (1.53x crop factor for you nerds out there), as well as their current 50mm-equivalent lens, the XF 35mm F1.4. I bought this setup as I had deeply been missing street photography, and needed something much lighter than my usual Canon DSLR gear. I had read good things about Fuji’s camera system, and then I became obsessed to the point where I absolutely had to have it in my hands. So, am I impressed? Let’s get into this review!
Fujifilm X-T1 Specifications
• 16MP X-Trans CMOS II APS-C sensor (1.53 crop factor)
• EXR Processor II
• Weather-resistant body
• ISO 200-6400, Expanded – 100 – 51200 (JPEG only)
• 2.36M pixel OLED electronic viewfinder w/ 0.77x (equiv.) magnification
• ‘Dual view’ in EVF – regular view & focus peaking/digital split image
• Top-plate ISO, shutter speed, exposure comp., drive mode & metering controls
• 6 programmable function buttons
• 3.0″ 1.04M pixel 3:2 tilting LCD
• Continuous Shooting – 8fps with Tracking AF
• Built-in Wi-Fi
• Full HD movie recording (1080/60p, 36Mbps bitrate), w/ built-in stereo mic.
• Clip-on external flash (included)
• Optional battery grip
XF 35mm F1.4 Specifications
• Focal length (35mm format equivalent): 53mm (f/2.1)
• 7 Blades
• 8 Elements in 6 Groups (Inc. 1 Asph. Element)
• Angle of view – 44.2 Degrees
• Filter Size 52mm
• Lens Type: Prime lens
• Maximum Aperture: f/1.4
• Minimum Aperture: f/16
• Focus Range: 28cm – Infinity
• Focus Type: Auto-focus
• External Dimensions: 65.0mm x 54.9mm (Diameter)
• Weight: 187g (6.5oz) (excluding caps and hoods)
Some Brief Thoughts
Although before purchasing this Fuji gear I had seen hundreds of various sample images from this body and many XF lenses, I still had my reservations in terms of what to expect for image quality. My Canon 5D Mark II has a Full Frame 35mm sensor, and, as I shoot portraits, I personally love tack-sharp images accompanied by amazing depth of field and beautiful bokeh! How could I get the same look from an APS-C sensor with a 1.53x crop factor? Would it be possible? For now, I’m just testing the normal-lens (50mm) street capabilities, but let me just start by saying that my absolute favorite focal length is the classic 85mm, and I have yet to experiment with Fuji’s XF 56mm f/1.2 (equivalent to 85mm f/1.8) – and, as of this writing, they also have another 56mm f/1.2 launching very soon with an apodization filter; according to Fuji’s press release, this will allow for much smoother out-of-focus areas, as well as more of a “3D pop”. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t SUPER interested in this particular focal length/lens, as… well… to tell the truth… if this lens turns out to be any good, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would switch to Fujifilm and ditch Canon. Yes, I said it.
Again, I really love to shoot as wide open as possible for sharp images and a nice background blur, and Canon’s 85mm lineup just doesn’t sit well with me. Don’t get me wrong… their image quality is quite stunning to say the least, but here are my thoughts on them: Canon’s EF 85mm f/1.8 USM is just a little too soft when shooting wide open for me. Stopped down a bit, it’s really great, but I don’t exactly get the look that I truly want. Canon’s current flagship EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM has mind-blowing quality when shot wide open at the razor-thin aperture of f/1.2. I love everything about this lens except for two things. #1 – This lens is heavy! It’s also quite large, weighing in at 1,025g… but, wow… that glass sure is spectacular! And #2 – perhaps my biggest gripe with it… is that it’s super slow to autofocus! The 85mm f/1.8 is much faster in that respect. If it weren’t for these two things, I would absolutely own that lens and be happy, as far as DSLRs are concerned, that is. Another option would have been the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM. You know, I’ve heard great things about this lens, and the sample images are wonderful. There have been a few people concerned with going through several copies before finding the right one, as there have been reported cases of focusing issues on certain lenses. Whatever the case, the right copies of said lens are amazing as far as I can tell, but again… I’m looking to go smaller. Size & weight aside, if I wanted the absolute best in quality, well… I couldn’t go wrong with the Zeiss Otus lenses, but who wants to pay 4-5k for a manual focusing lens? Okay, well… you got me… I probably would if money weren’t a factor, but I digress.
Size & Weight – Compact System Camera (CSC)
I must say that I didn’t quite fathom just how small the Fujifilm X-T1 would be in person, especially coming from full-time DSLR gear. I had read many articles and seen several videos, however I was still blown away as I unboxed this mirrorless delight. Size and weight was the key reason for my interest in a compact system camera. I can name countless times in which I had the desire to head out into Los Angeles on a beautiful day and do something that I really love – street photography. I’m a Canon shooter, and, over time, I had just begun to tire of the weight of my EOS 5D Mark II & 5Dc (classic), as well as walk-around lenses such as the EF 24-105mm f/4. Sure, my typical street lens of choice – of the 50mm focal length variety (I much prefer primes) – really isn’t that cumbersome, but in conjunction with the Canon body, I would soon enough get neck and/or back pains after a period of time. So what did I do? Well, I just used my gear exclusively in a studio environment for portraits & headshots; that’s it. Another thing about a DSLR’s bulkiness is the attention that one easily acquires in the presence of people. It’s hard to go stealth with such gear. On the other hand, I had been following compact cameras for a while with great interest, but it wasn’t until I became infatuated with the Fujifilm X-T1 that I decided to take the plunge; it was everything that I had been looking for – the retro design, the size, the ergonomics, and most importantly… the astounding files! The Fujifilm X-T1 comes in at 440g vs the 5D Mark II’s body weight of 810g. Wow, what a difference! The Fujinon XF lenses are all rather small, as well, with the exception of a few longer tele zooms. I don’t particularly have a use for them anyways, as I don’t shoot sports or wildlife. I’m a girl who loves and prefers her fairly small, sharp, and fast primes over a zoom any day. I feel like I could take this camera anywhere… really… and I probably will. But what’s the image quality like from this setup?
Image Quality – Fujifilm X-T1 + XF 35mm f/1.4
To put it lightly, the Fujifilm X-T1 in conjunction with the XF 35mm f/1.4 is bloody brilliant for what it is. I had obviously seen samples online previously, but I guess I just didn’t really know what to expect until I snapped that shutter. I’m able to shoot wide open at f/1.4 on this lens and still get sharp focus nearly every time. That’s unbelievable to me. For a normal lens, the bokeh is very nice. No complaints there. What truly blew me away was the depth and color. My jaw dropped when I saw those first several shots, and what can I say? It just popped! The XT-1 really shines in natural light. The auto white balance is beyond amazing. Also, I’m able to shoot usable images at upwards of 3200 ISO. This, for me, is a huge benefit. Anyone who knows me knows that I always shoot raw images. I never shoot JPEG unless for a very specific reason, but the JPEGs coming from the Fuji X-T1 are stunning. It honestly doesn’t make sense how good they look. This camera has several “film simulation” modes – Provia, Velvia, and Astia to name a few… and they have only recently announced the Classic Chrome simulation which I am indeed curious to try. So far, I like what I’m seeing. Though, for my professional work, I will continue to shoot raw for maximum control. It’s still great to be able to shoot in JPEG for smaller file sizes and get something that looks great right out of the camera. File sizes are kind of a big deal with these .RAF raw files. I’ve been getting roughly 33MB file sizes per raw file; that’s just insane for a sensor of this size… but I know that the latest Fuji system produces uncompressed, 14-bit RAW files. Ah, well. One can’t complain about the quality… that’s for sure. Loving it, so far.
I absolutely love that the Fujifilm X-T1 has dedicated dials on the body for ISO, Drive Mode, Shutter Speed, Metering, and even Exposure Compensation. This is a dream camera for photography purists who like the most basic of features at the touch of your fingertips. With the X-T1, over are the days of cycling through obnoxious menus just to get a basic exposure. There’s lots of control to be had. This camera makes a photographer think in that it doesn’t have a dial just for switching from Aperture Priority to Shutter Priority to Program, etc. For instance, if you want Aperture Priority, you must simply select your aperture (a ring on the lens!) and turn the shutter dial to ‘A’ for automatic, and visa versa. I like this a lot, though coming from Canon, I must say that I spent a few minutes searching for those modes on any dial, to no avail; it now seems second nature.
The button layout on the rear of the camera is fairly simple and clean. Granted, the directional pad could be a bit larger and a little less flush with the body, but it’s nothing that prevents me from controlling it. The ‘Q’ button launches the Quick Menu for easy access to up to 7 custom settings. Also, there are 6 customizable function buttons on the camera. I have everything programmed to my specific needs, and couldn’t be happier. One thing that I really like is the Focus Assist button. Pushing it allows one to preview an image taken at 100%. It’s very quick to see the full resolution to check for proper focus. Very helpful.
The XF 35mm f/1.4, as previously-stated, has a dedicated aperture focus ring. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy this! It’s so easy to switch aperture on the fly for preferred DOF, ranging from f/1.4 to f/16… and then ‘A’ for Auto. It also has a fairly-adequate focus ring.
The 3.0″ 1.04M pixel 3:2 LCD is perfectly bright and clear. I have no trouble discerning anything, and images look really crisp. It is also a tilting LCD, which is great for getting those otherwise hard-to-obtain angles, and is especially good for street photography when one simply wants to mask the fact that they’re snapping a shot of someone. This LCD makes it very easy to shoot from the hip. My only complaint here is that it would have been awesome had the LCD been designed as a touchscreen, such as Olympus’ micro four thirds option, the OM-D E-M1, but it isn’t a deal breaker for me, personally.
Holy donuts, Batman! The Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) is godly. Coming from traditional optical viewfinders, again, I was a little hesitant at first, but let me tell you… the first look through this EVF will surely put a smile on your face. It is large… I repeat, large. I told my girlfriend that I felt as if I were looking through an IMAX-like viewfinder. I love it. There’s plenty of room for not only the live image, but a smaller, second screen for getting perfect manual focus. What a great addition! One problem, in particular, with EVFs has been the lag… but the X-T1 is really quick and enjoyable. It may struggle a bit in lower light, though.
The autofocus of the X series of Fuji cameras has been somewhat up in the air for many users, but the X-T1 with the latest firmware is pretty snappy. I seem to get every shot focused the way that I intended with no problem. It should be noted that there are several focus box sizes to choose from, and the camera struggles to focus accurately (and quickly) on the smallest setting. Enlarge the focus area, and the results speak for themselves.
In terms of burst mode, we’re looking at 8fps on the highest setting. That’s pretty damn good for this sort of camera. The focus tracking is also decent, though I wouldn’t take this camera to shoot a football game. For that, you’d be better off with a DSLR.
The Fujifilm X-T1 currently offers movie mode in both 30fps and 60fps at both 720p and 1080p. In an upcoming firmware update, Fuji has announced that it will soon benefit from 24fps, 25fps, as well as 50fps and 25fps for PAL regions. Honestly, the X-T1 isn’t much of a capable video camera. It does its job, but you’re better off with the most-impressive Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4 for your video needs.
The Fujifilm X-T1 has a dedicated button for Wi-Fi, and Fuji offers an app for both iOS and Android, which allows the user to use their phone as a remote. You have mostly full control over the exposure. I love this feature, and it works a lot better than some other brands are capable of. If you’re ever in a situation where you need to control your camera from a distance, this is the way to go. I noticed another app from Fuji in the Google Play store that allows for a transfer of up to 30 images from the camera to one’s cell phone, though I have yet to try this feature.
Unfortunately, due to its size, the battery life offered only allows for up to 350 shots on average, depending also on the amount of time the user has the LCD and/or EVF burning up the battery. I hope Fuji can find a way around this. For what it’s worth, they also offer an optional battery grip for the X-T1 for extra life and – as standard – an extra shutter button when in portrait mode.
Despite its minor flaws, I am falling in love with this camera system, and as soon as I get my hands on the XF 56mm f/1.2 (the 85mm-equivalent), I will give some serious thought as to whether or not I will ditch Canon and use the Fujifilm CSC and XF lens lineup for my professional work. I love Canon… I really do, but one has to keep up with the times, and smaller form factors is where everything is headed. There’s only so many more shoots that I want to do with such a heavy and cumbersome system. Like Rome, the great empire(s) of Canon and Nikon will eventually fall… mark my words.