Fujifilm X-T1 Review
The X-T1 has a 'Red button' for direct movie recording at any time (on the X-Pro1, X-E1 and X-E2 it was accessed as a drive mode). But video really isn't the camera's strongest suit - it may be easier to start and stop recording than before, but the quality of the footage really isn't great, especially if you view it up close. Manual exposure control is also rather limited; you can set the aperture before you start, and change exposure compensation while you're recording, but you have no control over the shutter speed or ISO. So if video capability is really important to you, the X-T1 is probably not the best camera to buy.
The X-T1 offers HD video capture at choice of 1920x1080 or 1280x720 resolution, which can be recorded at either 60fps or 30 fps. The data is compressed using the H.264 codec, and stored in the easily-shared QuickTime MOV format. Audio is recorded via built-in stereo microphones situated on either side of the viewfinder 'hump', or alternatively you can connect an external microphone to the camera's 2.5mm port. The recording volume can be adjusted in four steps, but there's no option to disable sound altogether. There's no wind-cut filter either.
|Size||• 1920x1080p (Full HD): 60 or 30fps
• 1280x720p (HD): 60 or 30 fps
|Audio||• Internal stereo microphone
• 2.5mm stereo socket for external microphone
• Volume level adjustable in 4 steps
|Running time||• 14 min 30 sec (Full HD)
• 28 min 59 sec (HD)
Studio scene comparison
To give a quick idea of how the X-T1's movie mode image quality measures up to its peers, here we're showing a still of our studio scene. It's painfully obvious that the X-T1 isn't doing very well here - resolution is low, and false color very prevalent indeed. The Pentax K-3 isn't especially outstanding as a movie camera, but it's much better than the X-T1.
In practice, many of the X-T1's artefacts become rather less visible when playing a movie back on a TV, especially if you're not too close to the screen. But even so, its movie quality really isn't very good, by any stretch of the imagination.
Using Movie Mode
Movie recording can be started at any time by simply pressing the top-plate 'red button'. This nestles in between the exposure compensation dial and the power switch, meaning you're unlikely to start recording by accident. But this sheltered location, combined with the button's short travel, does have an impact when you stop recording; a lot of our hand-held movies signed off with obvious downwards camera movement from pressing the button at the end.
Manual exposure control is limited; you can set the aperture before you start, but once the camera has started recording it will ignore any further adjustment of the aperture ring. It will also dynamically adjust the exposure to deal with changes in the scene's brightness, and you can't override this behavior by pressing AE-L before you start. You can change exposure compensation during recording, but only to +/-2 EV; any movement beyond this is ignored. If you're using the camera's internal microphones, rotating the exposure compensation dial will be accompanied by very audible clicking on the soundtrack.
Once you press the record button, the camera ignores both the ISO and shutter speed dials, behaving as if they're set to 'A'. You therefore can't directly specify a slower shutter speed to render motion smoothly - instead have to do this indirectly by using an ND filter or stopping down the aperture. If you're shooting stills using manual exposure and press the record button, the camera will also suddenly recognise the position of the exposure compensation dial, and apply any adjustment that might be set (meaning your movie could be too dark or too light).
You can set the Film Simulation mode and white balance before you start recording, which gives useful control over the color rendition. However the camera won't use the 'Advanced Filter' modes for movies, so if you start recording with the drive mode set to 'ADV', it'll revert to the 'Standard' color mode. The camera ignores the Highlight and Shadow Tone settings too.
One real disadvantage to not having a dedicated video mode comes with framing - there's no way of seeing a 16:9 preview without setting this aspect ratio for stills. You can work around this by setting the 'Framing Guideline' to 'HD Framing' (Set-up Menu 1, Screen Set-up), but then you can't use any other type of framing grid (such as Rule of Thirds). In the example below we framed the scene by setting up the camera, starting a test recording and zooming to the right position.
|1920 x 1080 60 fps, H.264 .MOV file, 38 sec. 174 MB Click here to download original .MOV file|
Relatively unusually, you can start and stop movie recording when controlling the X-T1 remotely over Wi-Fi using a smartphone. Again you can set aperture and exposure compensation before you start recording, along with film simulation and white balance. But you can't change exposure compensation during recording, which would eliminate the dial clicking on the soundtrack. However while the Camera Remote app happily lets you specify the shutter speed and ISO when it's set to movie mode, the camera (again) ignores them completely when recording is started.
Focusing in movie mode
The X-T1's implementation of autofocus in video mode is improved a little over previous X-system cameras, but is still rather eccentric. Not surprisingly it depends on the position of the focus mode switch, with the X-T1 finally treating Single AF mode roughly as it should, autofocusing once at the start of recording but keeping the focus locked thereafter. What it won't trust you to do, though, is lock autofocus with the AF-L button before you start recording; this means every movie starts with an AF cycle, which is more or less distracting depending on the lens you're using.
When the focus switch is set to C-AF, the camera continually adjusts focus in an attempt to keep the subject sharp. However it uses the 'Area' mode only, with the camera focusing wherever it thinks best within the scene: you can't choose a specific point. This means that even with a completely static subject, it will hunt to reconfirm focus every few seconds (and quite possibly refocus in the wrong place). One further quirk is that if Face Detection is enabled, then the camera will operate in continuous autofocus even when the focus mode switch is set to S-AF.
If you want to set and lock the focus before starting recording, you'll therefore have to switch to manual focus. At this point you can either press the AF-L button to perform an autofocus acquisition, or use any of the manual focus aids as normal. However once you start recording the focus aids disappear, so while you can still refocus manually, it becomes mainly a matter of guesswork. Despite this, we'd still recommend switching to MF for movie shooting - it generally works best.
Video quality comments
The X-T1's video quality is, sadly, not all that good. As when shooting stills, color is natural and appealing, and exposure well-judged. However while the footage looks fine viewed on a TV from a longer viewing distance, it really doesn't stand up to to scrutiny when viewed up-close on a computer monitor. The resolution is low, and moiré and false color tend to be very pronounced, while low-contrast detail tends to get smoothed-away. This is seen in the example below.
|1920 x 1080 60 fps, H.264 .MOV file, 16 sec. 74 MB Click here to download original .MOV file|
Because you have no direct control over the shutter speed (and naturally the camera uses fast speeds in bright light), any movement can appear disconcertingly 'jittery', whether it's subject motion or hand-shake. Again this can be seen in the example above; the moving water looks like a series of high-speed stills rather smoothly-blurred, simply because that's what it is. You can get around this to an extent by setting a small aperture before you start recording.
If you're going to shoot movies hand-held, you'll likely want to use one of Fujifilm's zoom lenses, simply because they have optical stabilization to smooth away hand shake. If you want to take advantage of those lovely Fujinon primes, you'll need to use a tripod to eliminate shake.
Sound quality is acceptable for casual use, but the small internal microphones can't work miracles and are quite prone to wind noise under the wrong conditions (there's no wind-cut function either). The mic can also pick up operational sounds from the camera while recording, for example from the lens's focus motor or any movement of the distinctly clicky exposure compensation dial.
|1920 x 1080 60 fps, H.264 .MOV file, 21 sec. 97 MB Click here to download original .MOV file|
The example above was shot hand-held, relying on the image stabilization of the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS kit zoom. This smooths out the worst of any hand-shake, but can't deal with any side-to-side rolling motion of the camera. The microphones have done a decent job of picking up the ambient noise, but as you'd expect the soundtrack can get overwhelmed by wind noise at times.
Playback over HDMI
It's worth noting that the X-T1 is a rare example of a modern camera that doesn't support CEC, the communication standard that allows external devices to be operated using a TV's remote control when connected via HDMI. As a result you have to play back movies using the camera's own buttons. This is an annoyance rather than anything else - it mainly means that you have to buy an HDMI cable long enough to stretch from your TV to your sofa.
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