Hello all! So I’ve finally got home to the X-T1 and had a chance for some hands-on time with it. My review will be a little while away as I like to get to use the camera properly before making any final decisions on it either way, and often certain things seem so much of an issue when you first start using a camera but fade away after use, and other things rear their heads up.
These really are my very first thoughts from literally 2 days with the camera, and most of those two days trying to fit in using it around other things!
Let me start with the form factor. I have no interest in dSLR cameras any more, I love the form factor of the X-Pro1/X100S/XE cameras, this camera takes me back to the dSLR and it isn’t what I would choose personally. It certainly isn’t as good looking as the others in the X-Series range. My own feeling on this is that Fujifilm are trying to draw in dSLR/A7/OM-D users with this more familiar looking camera to that type of user, and they probably will achieve that here. The X-T1 is still a little small feeling in my hands, where the X-Pro1 is just about the perfect size for me. It is larger than the OM-D, which I just found felt like a toy in my (not that big) hands and I found it just way too awkward to use, instead of being able to use the buttons from the positions my hands were in, because the body was so small I was finding myself almost having to let go to move my fingers into the right position. The X-T1 is certainly easier to grip and get your hands around it without fiddling around too much. Out of the box, it feels more secure in the hand than any other X-Series camera. It is significantly smaller than any pro-level dSLR, but larger (although slimmer) than the smallest dSLR bodies around. It is a very similar in size to the X-E1/2, just with a hump on the top and a grip on the side!
Build. I still think the X-Pro1 and X100/X100S are in a different class to the rest of the range of X-Series cameras, but of all of the others this definitely feels the most solid. The cold metal of the top and bottom plate feels good in your hands and reminds you that it is substantially built and not plastic. The larger grip definitely makes the camera feel more secure. Until you attach something like the XF 23mm lens, it isn’t a heavy camera, but that’s not a bad thing!
The EVF, well it’s big that’s for sure! Put that aside for one minute. I happen to have an X-E1 on my desk right now. I’m indoors on a bright, but totally overcast day with no lights on, and waving the camera from side to side there is a significant lag that I hadn’t noticed before. Switch to the X-E2 and that lag is almost gone but can still be detected. Now try the X-T1 and it really is as close as you’ll get to an OVF from any EVF I’ve seen so far. Going back to the size, well it’s nice and if you’re going manual focussing the separate size screen for focussing may seem fun, but is actually very practical use of it meaning you can see the composition totally uninterrupted. The rotating information when moving to portrait mode is a really well thought out option and it seems a bit weird that nobody else though of it before as it just seems such an obvious thing to do once you’ve seen it.
Auto focus. It is very good in general, but so was the X-E2 and X100S… in fact I find the X-Pro1 fine for 95% of the things I focus on! It can be a bit ‘jekyll and hyde’ though. Show it a sharp vertical and it will focus as fast as any dSLR I’ve used. I mean like amazingly quick, but something a little less defined and I still get the red indicator, although perhaps a little less often than the X-E2, not hugely significantly so. Having said that, I never believed the hype of the “game-changing AF”. This camera has been released a relatively short time after the X-E2, if Fujifilm had a super wonderful new AF system up it’s sleeve then I don’t think they would have excluded the X-E2 from that. The AF tracking is supposed to be good, but I’ve yet to really try that out much so far. Since the sensor and processor are the same I don’t see why the identical AF algorithm cannot be transplanted into the X-E2. Shooting an X-Series body in CH burst mode and just keeping your finger pressed on the button is a weird experience. Not weird bad, just not what I’m used to doing with an X-Series camera! This is where the X-T1 gains an advantage because of the new UHS-II card slot, it can write to that card quicker than ever and let you just keep on firing.
Top dials & buttons. What’s not to like?! Huge exposure comp. dial to +/- 3, ISO dial (not in the wrong place in my opinion!) and two stacked mode changing options means that you can do almost all you need to on a day to day basis without having to enter the menu system. The same cannot be said for the buttons though. They are just far too stiff and recessed. Probably because of the weather sealing, but I find myself pressing them repeatedly to get them to do anything, and if you’re using this camera in an environment you might truly need weather sealing then you’re probably wearing gloves, which then makes using the buttons near on impossible. This is particularly true of the d-pad buttons. To compound the issue, all of the buttons are smaller than on previous X-Series bodies. This also means that in most cases they have had to print the button function next to it rather than on the button. Not sure why! Surely on an ‘action’ camera you want things big and easy to access quickly under those action circumstances?
FUJIFILM XQ1 (6.4mm, f/2.2, 1/25 sec, ISO400)
All those programmable buttons are good in some ways, but to be honest I struggled to find enough functions to assign them all to! I just don’t use that many different functions to need them all on a specific button, and because they are no longer marked you then have to remember what each one does when you do happen to want it, an issue that irritated me so much on the Sony A7. As much as I can, I’ve assigned things to the same position as they are on the other X-Series cameras…
…however things don’t work quite a slickly as on the other X-Series cameras and I don’t know why Fujifilm would make things harder to operate. One obvious example is the macro option. On all the other cameras you press the macro button, it pops up an small overlay showing the current setting, you press the button again and it changes that setting to the opposite one. On the X-T1, unless you assign Macro to the ‘up’ button then you have to go searching for the up button to actually change the setting after you’ve pressed the macro button. Not only that, but the overlay covers nearly all of the screen meaning you then can’t see what’s going on until you’re done. Totally incomprehensible change! Why fix something that wasn’t broken?
The movie record button is a first for an X-Series camera and has been sensibly placed where you’re very unlikely to accidentally start recording movies. Although it does take the place of the Fn button from every other camera in the range, so if you’ve been using the Fn button a lot then you might miss not having that button around in that place. You are not likely to press it by mistake though because you almost have to go out of your way to find it.
Rear screen. The screen is great, and feels very solid. It snaps into place very solidly in all positions and feels really nicely made. I have to admit that I do really miss a tilting screen on the X-E2 after spending time with a camera that had one (Sony A7). To everyone who is a doubter, spend some serious time using a camera that has one… I was one of you too once! The only problem comes when you turn the camera into portrait mode and you suddenly wish it tilted in that direction as well.
Weather-sealing. How many of you are spending weeks shooting in the rain forest?! All this has done is made all the buttons harder to press. My non-weather (and dust) sealed X-Pro1 has been soaked more than once and used in an incredibly dusty bakery with the air filled with fine flour. It still works fine. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Remote Camera App. Personally this is probably the biggest reason for me to be using an X-T1. The Remote Camera App not only allows you to fire the shutter, it gives a live preview of the image and allows you to change all the camera settings (unlike the Sony App) right down to even selecting the film simulation mode! When you use a camera on a tripod, being able to do everything hands off is a real bonus. You don’t have to bend over crouch down, reach up high, you just hold the ‘screen’ in your hands and do everything you need. I can see this being a huge thing with so many uses. Imagine the garden birder, no longer does he need to buy a 300 or 400mm lens! Place the camera up close to the bird table and sit indoors away from the birds and just fire the shutter from there, no risk of scaring them, no getting cold! That’s just one tiny example, but I really can see this taking off big time in the future for all cameras.
So, is it any good?
Yes! I think it would be hard to argue that this was a bad camera. It is a very good camera. I’m not convinced that it is the revolution many were billing it as though. I think a lot of people missed out on just how good the X-E2 really is with their bias still in place from the X-Pro1 and X-E1 with the early firmware. The reality is that the X-T1 is an X-E2 bundled up differently to make it look like something else, but same sensor, same processor, with just a few tweaks and natural improvements here and there to give it better dSLR style AF tracking and a faster frame rate.
Simply having the form factor of a dSLR will appeal to many who are looking for something different from what they have, but not all that different!
You know what though, I find this rather sad. For many of us the X100/X-Pro1 revolutionised our photography. I know I’m not the only one as I’ve had many people say the same to me, professionals and amateurs alike. It forced us to slow down and think, it took us back to how many of us remember cameras being with manual controls in the ‘right’ places. The form factor and back to basics design inspired us, it got us excited in photography again. I bought into the X100 and X-Pro1 because they were different. The X100 was created on the fundamentals of photography, viewfinder, aperture ring, shutter speed dial. I hope that the X-T1 is very much just Fujifilm targeting a particular market that have preferred the ‘dSLR form’, because I’d hate to see the rest of the range go down this line of lots of buttons, dials and the central ‘humped’ viewfinder look like Sony A7 and Olympus OM-D. In terms of fundamental underlying technology however, things are looking good for the X-Pro2 as long as Fuji don’t over complicate the design and functionality.