LensVid Exclusive: Fujifilm X-T1 Review
Earlier this year we had a chance to try out the new Fujifilm X-T1 camera. Although this camera was already tested online quite extensively, we believe that our current review will have some very interesting new points to make even for those who already read previous reviews of the camera.
We spent some time with the X-T1, during which we learned quite a few things on this camera – here they are, point by point:
- Construction, ergonomics and operation – in the past we tested both the X-PRO1 and X-M1 (see our review), so we are actually quite familiar with the Fujifilm controls and general functionality. However we were actually quite surprised by what we encountered when we first got our hands on the X-T1.
X-T1 – retro design with lots of user adjustable controls
Typically when we get a new camera we learn and configure it to our liking in a few minutes to a few hours (depending on the camera, how well we are familiar with the manufacturer and how complex it is). When we first got the X-T1 we realized that the learning curve on this camera is steep. On our first shooting day with the camera we realized there were a lot of things we were not sure how to do (one thing we remember is not being able change the camera into aperture mode).
It took us two full readings of the user manual (which we highly recommend you should be doing if you buy the camera) in order to fully understand how to configure the camera to our liking. Don’t get us wrong – at the end of this process the camera was configured better than most cameras we have used – but you have to spend time learning it – more than on any other camera we used.
Moving on from operation to build quality – the X-T1 (like any other X series Fuji camera we used) is very well built. everything feels nice and comfortable, the materials feel good and the camera is nice to hold in your hand (although the buttons are a little bit small (we didn’t have any problem with that but if you have large fingers you might).
No way to control the aperture from the camera in A mode
The camera has 3 dials on the upper side plus one in the back and one in the front. The top dials (shutter speed, exposure compensation and ISO) are pretty useful if you shoot manually and two of them also have a small lever which operate a set of secondary functions (very nice and easy to use).
The only thing which we didn’t really like about the buttons is the joystick. The buttons are too shallow and it makes it a bit hard to feel them when you are not looking (which is most of the time).
The X-T1 has only one memory card slot. The way we see this – its a mistake on Fuji’s side – on this level of camera you should be getting a dual slot SD card configuration. On one of our shooting days our card failed on us – we were able to recover the images with some software help but this only reiterated the need for a dual slot for redundancy. On the other hand its the only camera on the market currently which support the new UHS-II SD card standard.
- Battery Life – Although we had the X-T1 for only about 2 weeks so we didn’t have time to do very intensive and in-depth battery testing in different scenarios (extended screen use, extended EVF use and extended WIFI use), our impression was that the official 350 CIPA specified by Fuji was more or less accurate (we got over 300 images in most of our shoots). The X-T1 actually have an original VG-XT1 Vertical Battery Grip which sells for a bit over $250 that should help you double the battery life of the X-T1 as well as shoot vertical images more comfortably.
O.K. battery life for a mirrorless camera
- Continuous shooting & buffer and memory card – The X-T1 shoots at up to 8 fps with a pretty impressive buffer of 23 RAW+JPEG images. It also supports the new fast UHS-II SD card standard (the first camera to do so to the best of our knowledge). However despite this impressive specs – its far from being a sports camera. We will talk about this in more length on the AF and EVF sections but it has a few annoying limitations the at least for us make it (with the current firmware) less than ideal for shooting fast action sports. As for the memory card – in our view, Fuji made a mistake using only one slot – our Nikon D7100 has a dual slot memory card (and so does many other advanced cameras from other manufacturers) and this should be a standard at above $1000 cameras these days. On one of our shooting days our Sandisk card stopped working properly and we had to use Pirform to salvage the images – if we had an extra card on the camera – this would not have happened.
Only one SD slot – X-T1
- Sensitivity – sensitivity was always a strong point of the Fuji X-TRANS sensors and the one on the X-T1 is no exception. We compared the X-T1 to our Nikon D7100. You can see the results below, but we do want to comment on the test before. As we noted in the video the exposure of the X-T1 was not on the same level as that on the D7100 (with the exact same lighting on our lab and exact same same settings on both cameras – apart from ISO 200 where we were forced to use a slower shutter speed on the X-T1 – and it shows). The button line is this – Fujifilm ISO isn’t comparable to that of Nikon – we are talking about a 1 stop difference at the very least (i.e. in terms of exposure the X-T1 at ISO 1600 is comparable to the Nikon D7100 at ISO 800). Despite this the X-T1 does show very good sensitivity – and better than the Nikon (the lower resolution of the X-T1 also helps here).
ISO 200 – D7100 on the left, X-T1 on the right (@50mm, f/8) – click to enlarge
ISO 800 – D7100 on the left, X-T1 on the right (@50mm, f/8)– click to enlarge
ISO 1600 – D7100 on the left, X-T1 on the right (@50mm, f/8)– click to enlarge
ISO 3200 – D7100 on the left, X-T1 on the right (@50mm, f/8)– click to enlarge
ISO 6400 – D7100 on the left, X-T1 on the right (@50mm, f/8) – click to enlarge
ISO 12,800 – D7100 on the left, X-T1 on the right (@50mm, f/8) – click to enlarge
ISO 25,600 – D7100 on the left, X-T1 on the right (@50mm, f/8) – click to enlarge
- AF system – as we have mentioned before we tested the Fujifilm X-PRO1 and the X-M1 in the past. We have found both cameras to be lacking when it comes to AF speed and so the X-T1 with its new AF capabilities (Fuji made some statements about being “the fastest in the world”) was very interesting to test. The button line here is this – the AF on the X-T1 is significantly faster than what we remembered from both previous models and certainly sufficient for most day-to-day situations (and is also quite sensitive in low light with the excellent XC16-50mmF3.5-5.6 OIS lens we used). It is however not the fastest in the world (and not the fastest the we have used), but it is a big improvement for Fuji and its the first Fuji camera that we feel we can recommend in this respect.
Top dials – X-T1
- LCD and viewfinder – The X-T1 has a good 3″ display (around 1 million dots) with tilting capability – we found it to be pretty useful even in sunlight although you would probably prefer to use the viewfinder.
The X-T1 tilting screen in action
The viewfinder on the X-T1 is probably one of the most eye catching parts of the camera (pun intended). It really huge, by any standards – 0.77x magnification, 2.36 megapixels. Just to get a basic understanding of how big it is – the image of the OLED display inside the viewfinder is larger than what you get when using the optical viewfinder on the pro level Canon 1D-X which has the largest OVF on the DSLR market .
A (partial) look through the huge EVF of the X-T1
Its not just large though, the EVF has some very cool tricks including the ability to rotate the image and the info on the screen when you turn the camera to shoot in portrait mode – something no other camera we tested does (pretty cool and pretty useful). It also has a side by side image option – so you can see a 100% magnification of the focus zone and know if you are in focus while still looking at the framing (we could only wish we had this on our own Nikon). Focus peeking in general has always been super strong point of Fuji and the X-T1 does an amazing job in this respect in both manual focus and AF modes.
The different modes of the X-T1 EVF
Despite the clear advantages of the X-T1 EVF (and there are many of them). There were two things that we didn’t really like about it: 1. its pretty noisy in low light (all EVF are – at least from our experience – but this one seems particularly noisy). 2. We discovered that the EVF is not fast enough to respond when shooting in single mode (which is what we shot most of the time). If you want a fast sequence of shots in single mode you will see only the first image and after quite a bit of time you will see the rest – this is not a real way to shoot moving subjects even if you have 8 fps. The way we see it – the Fuji engineers didn’t think we would like to shoot moving objects on single – they are wrong – in our opinion they are wrong and should find a way to have fast image display on the viewfinder in single mode as well (this thread was an interesting read in this respect if you are interested in this topic).
- WIFI and Video – We really like the implementation of the WIFI on the X-T1. You can see a quick demo on our video above (starting at 22:23). Fuji created a new free app for the X-T1 called camera remote (Andorid / iOS). We tested the Android version which functioned well and provided some nice controlling features including setting changes (something we didn’t find on the Nikon app for example when we tested the new D5300).
The dedicated video button on the X-T1 – not a main feature
As for video – Fuji X series was never strong when it comes to video and the X-T1 did not change that. It has always seemed to us as if the video was a V Fuji had to make in the spec list of the camera. Yes it works and you can use it (1080p 30 fps), but if video is really your thing – we suggest you look elsewhere (the Pansonic GH4 and Canon EOS 70D could be viable options at close to the price of the X-T1). We also have to mention the non standard 2.5mm mic jack on the X-T1 – we really see no excuse for this, and Fuji should have integrated a proper full 3.5mm jack in the camera (we would also add a headphone out and level monitoring on the screen for video which are also absent from the X-T1).
A short sample video we took with the X-T1 (notice the strange flickering when we changed the zoom)
The X-T1 is the third X camera from Fujifilm that we have tested in the past 2 and a half yeas and there is no debut in our minds that the company progressed considerably over this time period. The most important point in this respect is that Fuji finally created an AF system which good enough that we can recommend (its not the fastest in the world – but its adequate for most day-to-day shooting situations).
If we combine this new AF system with the great image quality you will be getting from the X-TRANS sensor (and the new image processor), huge EVF, different focus peeking options, fast shooting speed, cool WIFI (and app), a large number of options to customize the controls, good build quality and retro design (for those who love it – we actually don’t) – you get a very attractive offering (that is, if the pricing, currently – $1400 body only, will not scare you off).
The X-T1 with the surprisingly good 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS
Of course, the X-T1 isn’t perfect (no camera is). The one thing which we notice immediately was the steep learning curve (and yes, this isn’t our first X camera). You will need to sit down with the user manual and read it cover to cover (like we did – twice), if you really want to use this camera properly (Fuji got quite a few default settings wrong in our view), but at the end of the day apart from controlling the aperture from the camera in A mode – we were able to set everything to our liking – eventually.
We have a few other small things which we wish were different – the noisy screen (in low light), the joystick buttons which are too shallow, the non standard mic input (and very basic video capabilities), and the annoying viewfinder lag in single mode. But if you can live with those you will definitely get a serious camera on your hands.
So who is the X-T1 intended for in our view? well, we would say this camera would appeal to Retro lovers, who like full control over their camera with lots of tweakings, are willing to spend the time with the camera (and the user manual) and at the end of the day are looking for very good image quality, decent AF, and high quality optics (at least in the case of the lenses we used in this review – see below).
What we liked
- Very good image quality (even in high ISO).
- Good build quality and comfortable to hold.
- Decent focus speed and high shooting speed.
- WIFI with a useful app.
- Lots of manual and personal options to configure the camera.
- Very large viewfinder with advanced focus peeking options.
What we didn’t like
- Pretty steep learning curve when first getting the camera (read the manual).
- Can’t use the back control wheel to change aperture (only the lens ring).
- Long black out time (when shooting in single mode).
- Limited video options and non standard 2.5mm mic connection.
A gallery we shoot with the Fuji X-T1 the XC16-50mmF3.5-5.6 OIS and the 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS.
Image gallery shot with the X-T1 – click to enlarge
We would like to thank Shimoni group for landing us the camera for review.