I probably should start with the camera system I have been using for many years. That would be Canon, they have served me well, they have never broken down, never a fault, so you may ask why Fuji has come on to my radar, well the answer to that is image quality vs size, lens quality vs size. To be totally honest I’ve tried a few small system cameras over the past few months, Olympus Em-1, Sony A7r, both were ok and had their plus points, but didn’t float my boat. What I mean by that is I have to like what I use and I am incredibly picky, my camera has to be an extension of my mind, corny I know but its how I am. Before we start I’m no writer, not a review writer either, but thought others may like to read my views on the Fuji X system.
Where do I start? My time as a fuji shooter is quite short although I did try the Xpro1 when it was 1st launched and we didn’t get along at all, but since the latest firmware I have learned to love it, quirks and all, its not perfect and can be quite slow to use, but image quality is not far off my Canon 1dx, so when i heard next generation, matured Fuji X system camera was to be launched I got quite excited, sad old fool I hear you say, its just a black box that takes pictures, no its not, its a black box full of hocus pocus magic tricks that takes amazing images.
So how did we get along when it 1st arrived at my door last week.
I have to say I do like a slightly larger camera than the Xpro1, even with its accessory grip, so the 1st thing I did was attach the X-T1’s dedicated full size grip, I found this made a big difference to the way it handles, for me anyway. On the day it arrived we had a shoot scheduled at the studio so it was thrown in at the deep end, didn’t do much with it as that would be foolish having only just arrived, but just enough to evaluate what it could do and it was very impressive, an image from shoot below.
The images have a great tonal range, shadow to mid tone and to highlight gradations are handled very well, this is a big issue for me as I do push the boundaries of what a camera can cope with before banding occurs in the transition areas, so this was one of the 1st tests I did. On a camera handling front it was quite a steep learning curve to start, although the menus are similar to previous X series bodies, but I soon got used to it.
Only having spent a little time with the X-T1 this is only a quick review based on less than a week together and my thoughts are just that, my thoughts, and many may agree or disagree, but I’m a pro shooter, I use a camera day in and day out so we have to get along or we will fall out, so here we go with a few goods and a few tiny not so goods.
What I like is quite a lot and I mean that, especially the inception of a real working back button focus option that still allows the main shutter to remain active as well so you don’t have to jump back into the menu to change this, or only works if camera is in manual focus mode like the Xpro1. The AF-L button is replicated on the grip and although a little small they are in a good position so Yay to Fuji. The rear screen is great, the articulation of the screen is fluid and smooth, some will say its not touch screen but that does not bother me. Most of the buttons and dials are in the right place but some will take a little getting used to for quick adjustments on the fly. 1st of these is the newly designed multi controller compared to the Xpro1 which was raised slightly, it is now recessed, not a biggy but does need a more definite press and has a tendency to hit the menu/ok button at the same time if doing it quickly. I use this mostly for focus point movement which can now be activated with the new func button on the front near the grip section, this is very welcome but with the recessed multi pad it’s not as quick as the old system of the Xpro1 which had it programmed to the down button, so a quick tap of that while at your eye and then feel your way around the raised multi, it’s not so easy now the multi is recessed but I’m sure I will get used to it. While on the subject of changes that make things a little slower, the Xpro1 had the FN button assigned to go to the ISO menu, which could be done whilst at your eye. The XT-1 has had this option removed it seems, it now needs a press of the finger on the top button and a turn of the dial, this takes a little getting used to so maybe on a firmware we could have an FN button assigned to ISO change to make it quick and allows it to be altered while at your eye.
Wifi is amazing and just worked 1st time connecting to my iPhone, unlike the Olympus Em1 which can be a pain.
The main two dials have a second function for both, metering pattern or frame speed/bkt etc, this is very slick and easy to use.
playback of the image is very quick and easy with zoom to 100% to check focus, it is there in an instant unlike the Sony A7r. What I also like and if this is how I think it works, when you shoot just raw, the preview is a raw, if you shoot a jpeg its a jpeg, if you shoot raw and jpeg its the jpeg, unlike all other cameras I’ve used where if you shoot raw you will see a jpeg proxy image as the review.
Probably the biggest thing I’ve noticed is the EVF and how Darn good it is, its big and I mean big, its like looking into the Tardis and needed a 2nd look. Is the world really that big? It also has many awesome functions that make it your best friend very quickly. I really like the rotation of the information especially when its in full screen mode. Im not a big manual focus shooter but tried out the new options for doing this and it is very very nice indeed and will be a massive plus for macro shooters and for those who use this method a lot.
The Full size Grip is great, button’s in the right place, can be used quickly and easily, unlike needing ET length fingers on the sony A7r grip. I think a chimpanzee designed that, although I would have preferred both batteries in the grip so you wouldn’t have to take off to replace or charge the 2nd battery. They have moved the SD card slot to the side for ease of in /out so why not dual batteries in the grip? but it is great none the less.
AF is a must for me to be quick and accurate and although I’m not sure if the AF points are cross or just horizontal points or a combination of these it seems very quick and accurate, the points are nicely spread out across the sensor / screen and the ability to shrink the focus point is a handy feature, it also works well in dim lighting conditions and was ok in the studio when it was just lit with modelling lights, when I had to turn these off I did have to lift one of the blackout blinds at times, to be fair we also have to do that with the Canon and Hasselblad. like I mentioned before though the AF point movement takes a bit of getting used to from the Xpro1, but its fluid and quick and can jump back to centre point with the press of a button. If you programme the bottom button on the multi controller to be able to jump into AF point movement you can still use this function while in portrait mode as the new FN button on the front is hard to reach when in portrait mode.
One thing I’m hoping will get a little easier to move is the Exp Comp dial, it is very stiff and it has been moved into the camera body slightly from the Xpro1 and Xe2 and this makes it harder to move with the thumb while camera is at your eye, as its quite stiff my wife said “spray some WD40 on it”… ok dear of course I will do that… NOT, this dial now has 3 stops of movement which is nice. While we are talking of dials that can be a little awkward, the X-T1 now has front and rear dials to alter various functions, the front one is fine and easy to use, the rear is a little too recessed and the thumb tends to hit the body and rubber grip before it gets to the dial, I’ve gotten used to it but winter shooters with even the thinest of gloves may struggle, however the inception of two dials front and rear is a good move.
What i would like to see is a facility where the quick menu button screen can be pressed and the menu can be overlaid on top of the image so when you are shooting and the camera is at your eye you can go into quick menu and still see your image, make a quick alteration and off you go, I’m sure this can be done in a firmware update by altering the opacity of the quick menu screen.
There is so much more to explore on this camera, there are some negative’s but its only tiny weeny niggles and no major problems, I’m just saying how it is.
To sum up this is a superb camera with a superb line up of some of the best quality glass available, all in a neat package that has now matured into a fully usable pro system camera. The Fuji X system has always had great image quality, but now it has a body that a pro can use day in and day out. Fuji are quick to listen to photographers and alter things if needed, this is a brand new camera and yes its not perfect buts it NOT far off…
Next instalment will be delving into what the X-T1 can do, which flash system works best for off camera work and which trigger system is most reliable for using with the Fuji X camera system.