|XF10-24 @ 10mm (slightly cropped). 1/200th sec F/4 @ ISO 1600. Distortion correction in CS5.|
In an ever changing world of technology, it's difficult for manufacturers to balance the desire to innovate versus listening to the demands of a finicky consumer market. It would be foolish for a company to ignore the wants and needs of their loyal customer base or the industry trends in general. However, if all you do is follow trends, you will always be a follower, never a leader. Sometimes it takes vision to foresee a need, or create one. Fuji has been able to balance both sides of this tricky equation very well. Yes, they consistently listen to their customer's needs and wants, but continue to innovate and evolve at the same time. When the first X-series camera came out in 2010 (X-100), there was no demand for a retro designed APS-C sized rangefinder styled, hybrid EVF/OVF non-ILC camera. Fujifilm basically created a category, and as the X-series evolved, the engineers listened to their loyal fans and the industry to find ways to improve their cameras.
4 years later, the Fujifilm X-T1 is the result of this balance, and this is the reason why there's such a buzz around this most recent iteration. There's lots to talk about and lots to comment on. Let's take a full look at this latest (and greatest?) camera from Fujifilm, as well as their newest addition to their ever growing line of XF lenses, the XF 10-24mm F/4 R OIS lens...
What makes this camera body so special? As mentioned in my recently published preview, there's nothing unique or special about the X-T1, or at least no single feature that makes it innovative or outstanding. It's the combination of many different features, functions, and ergonomics that makes the X-T1 special. The closest comparison I would make is if you merged the Olympus OM-D EM1 with the Sony A7 you will output the X-T1 body. It's almost a copy (feature-wise) of the OMD, but has a larger sensor (although smaller than the Sony), and the inner guts of the X-E2. Put it all together, and it's a very special camera. It's so special in fact, that I think it will attract many micro four thirds shooters to "upgrade" to a larger sensor, or an APS-C DSLR shooter to "downgrade" in terms of size and weight.
The camera still appeals to the original concept of the first X-series ILC bodies, but will attract new photographers who were always attracted to the X-series concept (including the super sharp and relatively cheap prime lenses) but never loved any of the available bodies. Yes the X-Pro 1 and X-E2 look retro and the image output is decent, but with average EVF performance, and until recently, underperforming AF speeds, neither M43 customers nor DSLR fans were willing to make the big switch.
|XF10-24 @ 10mm. 1/500th sec F/6.4 @ ISO 400. Light reflecting from glass building behind me.Dramatic wide angle.|
After shooting with the X-T1 for almost 3 weeks, I am confident that from a performance standpoint, the latest X-series body is fast enough to keep up with the top M43 and APS-C DSLR bodies of similar price point. Unlike the Nikon DF's retro inspired design with multiple knobs and dials, the X-T1's dials aren't for show, nor its function duplicated or confusing. The camera is designed for the photographers who depend and rely on these dials. If you don't like dials, don't buy this camera. It's a headache diving into their complicated menus, and the custom functionability is average at best. If you hate EVF's, give this camera a try first before passing judgement. Trust me. I own 9 SLRs/DSLRs and 2 rangefinders and I never liked EVF's. When I reviewed the X-100S and X-Pro1, I shot almost exclusively in OVF mode. I hated the lag, the fake look.... I was not a fan...until the X-T1. Yes, I still believe an OVF or SLR glass pentaprism (not mirrors) looks nicer than any EVF, but Fuji has done a good job integrating the EVF as an effective tool for photographers to use when shooting. Let's break this review down by looking into the main features of the X-T1.
|XF 10-24 @ 10mm. 1/500th sec F/6.4 @ ISO400.|
Shooting straight up: what's possible with an articulating LCD screen.
The next feature that everyone is going crazy over is the EVF. This is something special. Look through it, and it's huge. Move the camera around quickly from left to right and you'll notice that there's almost no lag, including in low light. Yes the EVF on the OMD-EM1 is almost as big, but because of the aspect ratio of 4:3 (based on the sensor shape), it looks more square than the APS-C ratio of 3:2, the same ratio as full-frame. What you get is a more panoramic view, something I always disliked about smaller point and shoot cameras that also have a sensor size ratio of 4:3.
Because the view is larger, it's easier to check for focus, and there's more open space for info, such as the exposure value that sits to the left of the view and outside of the image. I do wish the focus and DOF scale was also outside of the image instead of on top, as it's often hard to see in bright light and I often miscalculated the image area down below due to its overlay onto the image area. They have the space to do it, although they would have to shrink the view magnification slightly. Another cool feature of the EVF is turn the camera vertical, and all the superimposed information goes vertical as well. I wonder why nobody else thought of doing this? It's such a small thing, but if you shoot vertical often, it makes sense and a logical design feature of an EVF.
|XF 10-24 @ 10mm. 1/420 sec F/5.6 @ ISO200. Shooting straight on and level|
with a building allows for reasonably straight and undistorted image.
The articulating LCD screen (flip up or down only) on the X-T1 is a cool feature and function, but it's not innovative by any means. It's only really special for current X-series photographers, since it's the first one that's been installed on a higher-end model. I always believed the tilting screen was more for video recording, and I didn't think I would enjoy using it...but I ended up using it more than I thought. More on this in the next section, but I think it's a great feature that helps make the X-T1 an even more desirable camera.
The final feature I'd like to mention is the wifi and wireless control features. Again, this isn't a unique feature to Fuji, but they've simplified the experience (even the mobile app name is just Camera Remote), it's fast (very little lag), and stable. I tried it on numerous occasions just for fun (as a street photographer, I don't really have a need to shoot the camera remotely) and the very simple interface and controls were easy and fast to figure out. When you initially start the app (make sure you're in the settings menu in your mobile device first, then hit wifi on the camera, choose the Fuji camera wifi, exit settings, then open the app) you have 4 choices:Remote Control, Receive, Browse Camera, Geotagging. However, even from within Remote Control, you can still browse or receive images to your mobile device, so I spent most of my time in there.
I enjoyed posting images that I took on the X-T1 onto my Instagram account immediately (see example here), instead of waiting to get home to edit. It would probably be an even more powerful tool if you have a tablet device with a serious photo editing app, especially if you work in a field where immediate image upload and posting is necessary. I even popped my memory cards from my other cameras and used the X-T1 wireless capabilities to transfer those pics immediately into my mobile device!
There's more features on the X-T1, much of it is the same as in the X-E2 (same sensor, same processor, same menu functions, etc.), but really, what makes the X-T1 special isn't a specific feature. Yes it also has the ability to take on a batterypack-vertical control grip, it has a PC terminal to connect to studio flashes, and has the ability to take high speed memory cards. These are cool features, but It's mostly in the shape, design, and function of the camera body that is getting everyone excited. Let's move on to the next section and see how this camera works and shoots.
This is what makes the new X-T1 so special: the ergonomics and the access to functions. When you start shooting with the camera, especially for previous X-series shooters, you realize everything is where it should be and it works exactly how you expect it to work. The AF works brilliantly (better than any X-series camera before it), the EVF is big and beautiful (super fast refresh, meaning there's almost no lag, including in low light), the external dials and buttons are almost perfect (no need to dig into menus to change ISO, drive mode, metering mode, exposure compensation, shutter speed, focus mode, EVF mode, etc.), and the articulating LCD makes shooting high or low much, much easier. Yes, there's no more need for awkward and often weird looking shooting postures to get the shot... come on, you know what I'm talking about (there's an Instagrammer who has an account dedicated to this!).
|XF 10-24 @ 14mm. 1/1000th sec F/5.6 @ ISO2000. Thanks for posing for me Barefoot Steve! Story of our meeting here|
The shutter is also very quiet, and so is the AF (although this has more to do with the lens). When walking around, I felt the slight clicking of the shutter as confirmation, but no shutter sound. Only when shooting in continuous mode could I hear it, but even still, it was only slight. It's a very stealthy camera, something that D-SLR shooters don't experience with the flip-flop of the mirror. Even the Leica M bodies (which are mirrorless) has a loud shutter release, with a weird 2 stage click and gear sound of the shutter opening and closing. The X-T1 is as quiet as my Ricoh GR, so it's as quiet as a point and shoot. That's quite an accomplishment for a mirrorless camera with great shooting performance.
Mentioning the continuous mode, if you're a D-SLR shooter (or have the latest Olympus OM-D EM1) and are worried about the continuous shooting capabilities of the X-T1, have no worries, this camera is fast. As a street photographer, I don't really have a need to have 24 shots (after only 3 seconds) of the same thing at different distances and angles, but I did test the AF with cars and cyclists passing by at 50mm equivalent focal length. It easily stayed in focus and continuously adjusted focus between each shot at 8 FPS. Yes, there are D-SLRs that have higher FPS, but for most shooters, this is more than adequate. It even has continuous hi (CH) and low (CL), depending on what you're shooting.
Fuji also equipped the camera with the ability to use the latest Toshiba EXCERIA PRO SDHC II card, claiming to have the fastest write-speeds for continuous shooting. I don't know if this is true or not, but when shooting full resolution RAW+JPEG in continuous Hi mode, there was no slowing down... it kept shooting until I let go of the shutter button. It was so fast, that I often shot way more than I wanted. I guess that's why they give you 2 continuous shooting speeds!
Let's talk about build quality and ergonomics for a bit. The die-cast metal body and metal dials feel strong and sturdy, but because of the APS-C size sensor form factor, it's still light and compact in the hands. The nice rubbery grip keeps the camera from slipping from your hands, and the top dials clicks into place confidently. There's lots of dials and buttons and switches where you would expect them to be, but it doesn't feel overcrowded at all. I think stacking the dials helps with space, without affecting ergonomics. I know this isn't unique just to Fuji, but I think they have incorporated it the best. It's not just for show.
If you like to shoot with a camera strap and have the X-T1 hanging from your neck, you will absolutely love the top dials. While walking, you can just look down and see all your major settings immediately. The locking ISO dial has the drive dial below it (although it seems to shift easier than the other dials), the partially locking shutter dial has the metering dial below it, and the large exposure compensation dial is right by your thumb, exactly where you want it to be. I know many cameras allow you to custom set the dials, but dedicated dials are nice as they give you visual confirmation of what setting you have on deck. Otherwise, you're still chained to starring at the LCD screen or EVF to figure out what your settings are, which defeats much of the purpose of a physical dial!
|XF 10-24 @ 10mm. 1/2200th sec F/4 @ ISO 800. Flare is well controlled,|
even when shooting directly towards the sun with no lens hood. Impressed.
Another thing with manual dials is that you can do some pretty cool 'tricks'. For instance,if you are in manual mode (chose your own shutter speed and aperture) but put the ISO dial to auto (A-mode), you allow the camera to choose the proper ISO for you. It works similar to the Pentax-Ricoh TAV mode, but with more control of which ISO the camera chooses (A, Hi1, Hi2). This is great for street photographers who want a specific shutter speed (let's say 1/500th to capture people in motion) and a specific aperture ( F/8 and scale focusing for greater depth of field), but don't want to have to fiddle with ISO all the time. I personally don't mind changing ISO quickly, especially when there's a dedicated dial for it anyway, or quickly changing my shutter speeds, but for those who don't want to fiddle, the dials are all laid out in front of you to quickly see and change your settings immediately. This makes shooting very quick and intuitive.
|XF 10-24 @ 10mm with slight crop. 1/180th sec F/4.5 @ ISO200. Flare is well controlled.|
There's also a separation of the AF lock and AE lock buttons (like the X-E2), as well as a dedicated focus assist button. This is great for street photographers who like to shoot manual focus (via a dedicated focus mode dial on the front), but when you need AF right away, you can just press the AF-L button for immediate AF. This is great as it separates AF from the shutter button, making AF quicker when you pre-focus the distance (and you're able to confirm the distance via the focus and DOF scale on screen), and then press the shutter with no lag. When you can't separate focus from the shutter, every time you press the shutter button all the way, it always quickly pre-focuses first, wasting precious time and opens up the opportunity to mis-focus. Also, having a dedicated AE lock button allows you to accurately check and lock exposures in complicated lighting situations.
Moreover, this is the best dial-button layout of any camera I've used recently, although there is room for improvement. If I may recommend to Fuji, why not put the flash exposure compensation dial below the exposure comp dial? Why? Because it's a headache to find this feature!! You have to dig into the main control dial to find it, and it buried deep! Another suggestion is to have the exposure compensation dial go just half stops, so you can get +/- 4 stops instead of +/- 3 stops. There is so much exposure latitude in digital photography that 1/3 stops are unnecessary. Even in the film days, only slide film was sensitive to 1/3 stops!
|XF 10-24 @ 10mm. 1/450th sec F/8 @ ISO400.|
Again, I'm not against weather-sealing, I think its a great feature, but not everyone wants it or needs it. I would rather have better functioning buttons (less flush, bigger, and more travel) like on the X-E2 versus weather-sealing. How about a non-WS version of the X-T1? I also found that some of the doors and seals on the WS body felt a bit flimsy, like the memory card door and the bottom control grip cover. The memory card door on the side is a great idea, but it doesn't feel solid when closed, and you can actually continue to shoot with the door left open, which is a security feature oversight (the camera should automatically lock up if the door is left open while shooting). Also the flimsy rubber seal on the bottom of the camera to cover the contact points for the vertical control grip/batter pack feels like it can easily fall off. Maybe it should have been a sliding door instead.
|XF 10-24 @ 24mm. 1/280th sec F/4 @ ISO1600. Donald enjoying his morning coffee and paper.|
The camera also has 6 customizable buttons (front, top, 4 way controller), although the top button is labelled and pre-set to wifi control. Setting each button is easy from the menu, as there's a camera map displaying the button you're customizing (no need to remember which is button 1 through 6). You have access to 17 basic functions, but nothing too fancy. For instance, if you want to be able to access specific advanced filters or other advanced custom functions (drive modes or bracketing modes), you can't use these custom buttons. It makes some sense since they have a dedicated dial to access these functions, but sometimes you use specific functions more than others and you want quicker access (that's what the custom function button is for!).
You also get 7 custom settings, but it's very basic. You can't custom name your settings (you just have to remember that #3 is b&w street mode and #6 is outdoor high dynamic range), and the choices of your settings is even more limited (7 custom settings). You can access these settings via the 6 customizable buttons, but you can't add any drive dial features (Advance filters, bracketing modes) to these custom settings. This limits its use for quick access to a very customized set-up (my Ricoh GR allows for 40+ custom settings) and its mostly for JPEG customization (WB, film simulation, noise reduction, tone, color, sharpness, etc.). Nothing special here, but it's there for those who want to use it.
The Q-button is also great to avoid digging into the menu system, but you have no control over what is displayed (there's 16 quick access icons) and the order and placement of each icon. Fuji isn't known for their customization ability, but maybe this is where Fuji engineers can learn from a company like Ricoh and really allow more customization. If I may suggest to Fuji to allow users to custom choose the 16 quick button icons to use, as well as the order in which it appears. I don't think it's that hard to program that into a firmware update.
XF 10-24mm F/4 R OIS Lens
|Notice size difference between XF 18-55 (left) and|
XF 10-24mm (right) with hood. Remember that
XF 10-24 doesn't telescope when zooming.
As lenses go, it's a notch above the standard kit lens. The kit lens telescopes as you zoom from wide to telephoto, while the new 10-24mm is all internal zoom, no telescope. This is a very complex lens: constant aperture, 4 aspherical (or non-spherical shaped element to help reduce aberrations), 3 ED element (extra low dispersion elements, again to help with aberrations), 14 elements in 10 groups. It has a 72mm filter diameter, and a huge flower-shaped lens hood. It's so big and heavy that it felt out of place on the X-T1. I chose not to shoot with the hood unless it was rainy (it handled flare very well without the hood) to reduce the protrusion of the lens (I shoot mirrorless to be compact and small). It's heavy, and it balances front heavy on the X-T1, although if you shoot with the vertical control grip, I'm sure it'll balance out fine. It's a big and heavy lens, but it's well constructed and the quality is very obvious.
|XF 10-24 @ 10mm. 1/250th sec F/8 @ ISO 800. Be careful|
framing people at full wide. Keep them in the centre.
Walking around with this lens and using the LCD screen flipped down, I was blown away at how surreal the world looked. I attempted to shoot some artsy architectural images, but I think I was only partially successful at it. I'm not use to such a wide lens. I was comfortable at 14mm wide (21mm equivalent), but 10mm wide was just visually breath-taking. I couldn't believe how much was fitting into the image. If shooting vertically, it was very easy to shoot your own feet into the image. With the articulating LCD screen and shooting at 10mm straight up, I was amazed at this new perspective of looking up at buildings and trees. The only other way I could do it before was to lay down on the ground, or shoot up without looking.
Shooting at 10mm is addictive, but you do have to be careful how much we're allowing into the image, and its harder to check for level. After playing with the lens, I got use to it and did my best not to always shoot wide. Again, I found I was most comfortable at 14mm, and used 10mm and 18mm when I needed to. Just a quick note about using the clip-on flash with this lens: it works perfectly fine, even at 10mm. Because the flash flips up when you use it, it's way above the lens and so no shadowing.
|XF 10-24mm @ 10mm. 1/250th sec F/9 @ ISO400. Wide angle and articulating LCD screen allows for unique perspective images.|
Overall a great lens for those who want a superwide lens, especially for landscape photographers (I'm thinking the Grand Canyon!) and those who do tight interior shots. For me, I would rather have the compactness of the 14mm lens, but I'm sure many X-series shooters are happy that they now have a choice of a wide zoom or wide prime. Options are good, and Fuji is doing a great job in adding more and more diversity to their lens line-up. I know M43 shooters have greater choice due to the collaboration between 2 manufacturers, but Fuji is doing a great job with lens choice, especially in the area of prime and pro lenses. The XF 10-24mm R OIS lens is the perfect wide angle zoom lens for the APS-C format, with reasonably fast aperture, optically image stabilized (I really didn't notice a huge advantage having optical image stabilization for street photography, but its there for those who need it), non telescoping, quiet focus, and most importantly reasonably priced!! Go get it if you need it. You will have no regrets with this lens!
When Fujifilm first announced the X-T1, I was busy reviewing the X-E2. I had it for almost 2 months, and I got to really know the camera. I looked at the specs of the X-T1, and thought it wasn't such a big deal. Since most of the inner workings of the X-T1 and X-E2 were similar, why pay the extra $400 for weather-sealing, a larger EVF, and articulating LCD screen? It's the same sensor, same processor, same operating system. I liked the balanced look of the X-T1 (looks a lot like the Contax RTS), but would it be worth the extra cost? At the time, I thought no, not for me.
However after reviewing the camera, I've changed my mind, with a few reservations. The $400 price difference isn't just about specific features, but the overall ergonomics and function of the camera. When you shoot with it, the camera just works. It feels good in the hand, it shoots quickly, the EVF and LCD is very powerful and functional, the build quality is excellent, and the design is just beautiful. I think the camera would be just as special without weather-sealing, and with better working buttons (especially the rear 4-way control dial), perhaps it would be even more beloved by owners of previous X-series bodies.
|XF 18-55 @ 22mm. 1/320th sec F/3.6 @ ISO800. The standard XF lens is still a great overall lens.|
If I had to choose right now between the two, I would choose the X-T1 over the X-E2. The main reasons for this is because of the improved and larger EVF, the articulating screen, and the dedicated ISO dial. It's not because it's 1 FPS faster in continuous shooting, or because of the weather-sealing. Both cameras are great, and the inner guts are basically the same. Whatever internal improvements the X-T1 has over the X-E2 (wireless remote control, improved AF, etc.), Fuji can do a firmware update to balance out the difference in performance. At the same time, if you need to be as compact and discrete as possible, the X-E2 is the better choice. Yes the X-E2 is slightly wider, but the X-T1 is taller, heavier and more square-ish. It doesn't come in and out of your camera bag as quickly or stealthily as the X-E2. For those who need weather-sealing, I think it would be cool to come out with a special edition X-E2 WS edition. At the same time, I think it would also be just as cool to have a non-WS version of the X-T1 with the same button feel as the X-E2. I know, we can't have it all...
Overall, the ergonomics and functionality of the X-T1 is top notch and is the main selling point of this camera. People won't switch from M43 or D-SLR because of any one function or feature, but after holding it and shooting with it, most will realize it's the sum value of all features and functions that makes this camera great. When I shoot with any Fujifilm camera, you can tell it was designed and engineered by photographers. The X-T1 is a photographer's camera, and the lenses are geared towards pros and enthusiasts. When I walk around with the X-T1 around my neck, I can look down and look at and adjust all my major settings without digging into menus or using the Q-button (quick button). The articulating screen is great, allowing you to shoot low (like a view camera) or high (like a periscope), or straight up (like a super spy). You can also use the "INFO" display mode on the LCD to quickly scan your major settings and exposure value while shooting blind (I wish it included the focus and DOF scale too for those who scale focus), but as soon as you put the camera to your eye using the EVF, the camera is immediately ready to shoot. The auto LCD to EVF switch sensor is a bit too sensitive for me as the LCD often blanks out as I walk with the camera around my neck. I wish there was a way to adjust sensitivity, although you can turn off the auto sensor feature quickly via the dedicated EVF/LCD button next to the EVF bulge.
|XF 10-24 @ 24mm. 1/250th sec F/4.5 @ ISO800. Cropped to 16:9 aspect ratio.|
My conclusion is that the X-T1 is definitely the highest performing X-series camera to date. Is it the best X-series camera so far? Yes, unless you really are bent on having the hybrid OVF/EVF on the X-Pro1. Although the inner guts are very similar to the X-E2, the ergonomics and functionality makes it shoot closer to a D-SLR, attracting many new customers wishing to migrate over to Fuji's X-series cameras and lenses. Full-frame is the ideological dream for many digital photographers, but most really only need M43, and APS-C at most. The Fujifilm X-T1 is good enough for most working pros, and its definitely the most that a hobby-enthusiast really needs. The luxury of shooting digital full-frame is no different than the luxury of shooting medium format in the old film days. Many wedding photographers felt that unless you shot medium format, you weren't a real pro, although most working pros shot with 35mm film cameras, including myself.
The same is true today with APS-C versus full-frame. You don't need full-frame, and for most, APS-C is more than adequate. In terms of cost-performance, the APS-C format is the best value for a serious photographer (for both DSLR and mirrorless photographers). Who makes the best APS-C system camera? If we're talking mirrorless, I say it's the Fujifilm X-series with the XF lenses. If you already shoot with a D-SLR and want to switch to mirrorless to save on space and weight, Fuji should be your first choice. The X-T1 is a great start, as it feels and operates much like your D-SLR, only smaller and lighter. For those with M43 who wish to upgrade to a larger sensor, again the Fuji X-series and the X-T1 should be your first choice. Like M43's premium prime lenses, Fujifilm has enough premium primes to satisfy your primal optical needs. If you are already a Fujifilm fan and are thinking of upgrading from your X-E1 or X-Pro1, I think the performance and functionality improvements is worth it. How about if you already bought the X-E2, is it worth spending an extra $400? I don't think it's worth the $400 upgrade (plus the extra you will lose on the trade-in or selling used) unless you really need any of the new features (WS, articulating screen, larger EVF, PC terminal, control grip, top dials, etc.).
For myself, I am conflicted between the X-E2 and X-T1 as a strict street photography camera. Because I mostly scale focus, shoot blind, and I want to shoot as compact as possible, which is the better street camera? I want to do a head-to-head review between the X-T1 and X-E2, and I will probably do so in the near future. The same goes for the XF10-24 lens versus the more compact primes (XF 14mm, XF 23mm, XF 35mm). Which is the better street photography lens? My guess is the XF 14mm. This doesn't take away from the beautiful XF 10-24mm lens, but it's not a typical mirrorless lens. It's a large diameter (72mm), heavy (at 410g, it's heavier than the X-E2 and almost the same weight as X-T1), but professional build lens. Do you need one, or do you just want one? I think most are fine with the standard 18-55mm, but I'm sure there are those who truly need this lens for work or for other creative pursuits. Wide is beautiful, but it's trickier to shoot with.
I thank Fujifilm Canada for loaning me the camera for almost 3 weeks. I appreciate spending enough time to figure out all the ins and outs of this camera. The images are identical to the X-E2, but the way you shoot with it is very different. If Fuji keeps up their healthy balance of innovation and incremental improvements to function and ergonomics on the X-series line, many will migrate over from D-SLRs and M43. Follow me on Instagram for daily images, or Twitter for my quirky thoughts on photography and other random things. Please leave questions or comments below and I'll answer back as soon as I can.
Check out my First Impressions and Preview of the X-T1.
Check out my Full Review of the Fujifilm X-E2 posted here.