Fujifilm X-T1 Review
Image Quality and Raw
On the whole the X-T1 produces lovely-looking JPEGs, and in many cases we'd be happy to use them without further editing. But the camera does sometimes get things wrong of course, so we'd still usually make a rule of shooting Raw alongside. Like other Fujifilm models the camera includes an excellent in-camera Raw developer, so you don't necessarily even have to move your files to a computer if you just want to make basic tweaks to white balance and tonality etc.
When you do wish to convert Raws on a computer, though, support for the X-T1's X-Trans CMOS sensor is a bit lacking compared to the options available for conventional Bayer-sensor cameras. We're not huge fans of Fujifilm's bundled Raw File Converter EX, which is a customised version of SilkyPix. It doesn't match the camera's own colour output, and its somewhat obtuse menus and controls mean that the learning curve to take advantage of all of its features is pretty steep.
Third party support is provided by most of the usual suspects - Adobe Camera Raw, Lightroom, and Capture One - but DxO Optics Pro notably doesn't support the X-T1. Crucially, Adobe and Fujifilm have worked together to produce colour profiles that closely match the camera's own Film Simulation Profiles. Not all users are happy with Adobe's rendition of fine detail from X-Trans sensors, though, which means that some prefer to use Capture One or less well-known programs such as PictureCode Photo Ninja and Iridient Developer (which is Mac only).
In-camera Raw conversion
As on other Fujifilm models, in-camera Raw conversion is available when browsing your images with a quick press of the 'Q' button. All of the main image-processing parameters are up for grabs, meaning that you can make pretty substantial changes to the look of your images. One small but useful improvement compared to older models is that when you make a new conversion, the camera now goes back to your original image in playback. This is great if you want to do through your shots in-camera and make small adjustments to any that would benefit from tweaking.
Options available for adjustment during in-camera RAW conversion
| • Push/Pull Processing
• Dynamic Range
• Film Simulation
• White Balance
• WB Shift
| • Sharpness
• Highlight Tone
• Shadow Tone
• Noise Reduction
• Lens Modulation Optimizer
• Color Space
The example below illustrates a case where this can be useful. The camera's Auto White Balance has veered drastically towards blue in the original version of the image, but a quick re-conversion with a simple white balance correction has produced a much better result.
|Original image from camera||Reconverted with white balance corrected|
It's perhaps easy to dismiss this as a gimmick that 'serious' photographers would never use. But it helps you quickly make usable versions of shots that you'd otherwise have to fix using a computer, and you can do it during a break in shooting. It's the kind of feature that you won't miss if you've never used it (and some users may genuinely never want to manipulate their images this way). But like in-camera Wi-Fi, we've come to appreciate it more and more as an aid to sharing your images quickly.
ACR 8.4 and Film Simulation Profiles
Until recently, Fujifilm users have had no simple means of matching their camera's attractive colour reproduction using an external Raw Processor. The supplied software (RAW File Converter EX) is based on SilkyPix, and while it's a powerful processor in its own right, it makes no attempt to match the camera's colour output.
With the release of Adobe Camera Raw 8.4 the situation has changed. You now have the option of choosing any of the Film Simulation modes offered by the camera itself, as well as Adobe's own default profile. We're led to believe that these profiles have been developed in a collaboration between Adobe and Fujifilm, meaning they should offer a pretty good match to the camera's JPEG output.
|ACR 7.4 now offers a full set of Film Simulation modes in the Camera Profile drop-down.|
In the rollover below we're looking at how closely the profiles in ACR 8.4 match the X-T1's own Film Simulation modes in practice. On the top row we're showing the camera's JPEG output, which you can compare with the ACR version of each profile by rolling your mouse over the cell immediately below. Here we're mainly looking at colour and contrast, but interestingly there's also a slight difference in distortion correction between the camera and ACR.
|JPEG Provia||JPEG Velvia||JPEG Astia||JPEG Pro Neg High||JPEG Pro Neg Std|
|ACR Provia||ACR Velvia||ACR Astia||ACR Pro Neg High||ACR Pro Neg Std|
What you should be able to see from this is that Adobe's profiles generally match the camera's colour rendition pretty closely. There are a couple of caveats though, most notably that ACR is slightly higher in contrast by default, resulting in even more abrupt clipping to black. However this can be offset by tweaking the 'Shadows' and 'Blacks' settings to reveal as little or much shadow detail as you choose.
Fine detail rendition
One criticism of Adobe's output from X-Trans cameras is its rendition of fine detail; in particular, fine low contrast detail in foliage can look indistinct and mushy (although it's possible to improve this somewhat using the 'Detail' slider). Capture One provides a more convincing conversion if this is important to you, but this does come at the expense of matching the camera's own colour output options. Instead you get one single colour profile, which is a reasonably close approximation to 'Standard / Provia'.
XF 23mm F1.4R, F5.6, ISO200
|Camera JPEG||100% crop|
|Adobe Camera Raw 7.4 default conversion||100% crop|
|Capture One default conversion||100% crop|
One useful characteristic of many modern sensors is their huge low ISO dynamic range. This allows extensive shadow detail to be recovered from Raw files, which means that you can expose to retain highlight detail, then pull up shadows in post-processing.
The X-T1 performs pretty well here. In the image below we're using the same image as above, but extensively manipulated in Adobe Camera Raw 8.4 to recover shadow detail (Exposure +0.15, Highlights -40, Shadows 100, Blacks 100, Clarity +20, Vibrance +20). The resultant file is obviously rather 'flat', which is inevitable when trying to squeeze so much range into a single output file in this way. But it does show that there's plenty of extra detail to play with in the shadows.
XF 23mm F1.4R, F5.6, ISO200
|ACR with shadow recovery||ACR default conversion|
|100% crop||100% crop|
DR Modes and Raw processing
Like other Fujifilm models the X-T1 offers extended Dynamic Range settings to capture additional highlight detail, known as DR200 and DR400. However it's worth knowing that neither Capture One nor ACR will render the extra range that's available in DR200 and DR400 Raw files by default. Instead you'll have to use their highlight recovery controls to make use of all this extra information. In the example below, ACR's default conversion of a DR400 file has no more highlight detail than a DR100 JPEG. To fix this we've set the Highlights slider to -70, and balanced the local contrast by setting the Clarity slider to 20. This reveals plenty of extra detail in the sky.
|DR400, ACR default conversion||DR400, Highlights -70, Clarity +20|
High ISO Image quality and Noise Reduction
The X-T1's high ISO image quality is excellent, with rich colours and low noise. This is something of a characteristic of Fujifilm's X-Trans CMOS sensor and associated image processing, although it's also important to understand that Fujifilm's extremely conservative sensitivity ratings mean that ISO6400 on the X-T1 is closer to ISO4000 on most other cameras. Even taking this into account, though, the X-T1 produces very good results.
|ISO 6400, camera JPEG||ISO 6400, Raw + ACR|
|JPEG, 100% crop||ACR, 100% crop|
Here we're comparing the camera's JPEG output at ISO6400 (the highest sensitivity it'll record a RAW file) with a default ACR conversion of the same shot. The ACR version has no luminance noise reduction applied, which gives a grittier look, and the impression of more fine detail in the woodwork.
Lens Modulation Optimizer
The X-T1 includes Fujifilm's latest processing wizardry called 'Lens Modulation Optimizer', which claims to improve image quality by using knowledge of the each lens's aberrations to optimize the processing. So, for example, if a lens has soft corners, the camera can selectively sharpen to compensate; or when shooting at small apertures, the camera can likewise adjust the sharpening to compensate for the softening effects of diffraction.
Fujifilm isn't the only manufacturer to do this; indeed Olympus and Sony implement similar concepts on the OM-D E-M1 and Alpha 7 (arguably the X-T1's closest competitors). And just as we've seen before, Fujifilm's version certainly does something, but generally the effects are quite subtle. It can't do much with either extremely soft corners (as on the 14mm F2.8 wide open) or severe diffraction softening at F22, but in less extreme situations it can have a visibly-positive impact.
The Lens Modulation Optimizer can be enabled or disabled in the menu as you see fit. It's also an option available in the camera's internal Raw processor, which means that you can choose to apply (or remove) its effects after the event. This is a nice touch that's not available from other brands (we've used it to make the comparison examples below).
Corner corrections: XF 18mm-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS
The XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS zoom is a cut above the average 'kit' zoom, and has a price to match. But it's not entirely immune to optical defects, showing somewhat soft corners at wideangle (due in part to software correction of barrel distortion, a process shared with most modern camera systems). Here Fujifilm's Lens Modulation Optimizer can do quite a nice job of sharpening things up. This is shown in the example below.
Fujinon XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS, 18mm F5.6
|Lens Modulation Optimizer On||Lens Modulation Optimizer Off|
|LMO On, 100% crop||LMO Off, 100% crop|
The Lens Modulation Optimizer also promises to improve image quality when you want to shoot at small apertures for increased depth of field. In the example below we're looking at the XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS telezoom shot at F16. Here again there's a subtle, but visible increase in sharpness with LMO turned on.
Fujinon XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, 172mm F16
|Lens Modulation Optimizer On||Lens Modulation Optimizer Off|
|LMO On, 100% crop||LMO Off, 100% crop|
Overall, we think that while LMO's effects are rather subtle, they do seem to be pretty much always advantageous. They are of course entirely lens-dependent; for example LMO doesn't really seem to do very much with the XF 23mm F1.4R, simply because there's so little to correct. On balance though we'd probably leave it turned on and forget about it most of the time.
Overall image quality / Specifics
In terms of image quality, there's not a huge amount to say about the X-T1, aside from the fact that it's excellent in almost every situation you can throw at it. We've shot many hundreds of frames with the camera across a wide range of lighting conditions, and it delivers fine results time after time. White balance is well-judged, and colour rendition is excellent. High ISO image quality is extremely impressive too, even under artificial light where many cameras can struggle.
It's worth reiterating here that the optical quality of the lenses, along with Fujifilm's integration of software corrections into the system design, obviously plays a large part in the system's overall image quality. Indeed Fujifilm's best primes - the XF14mm F2.8 R, XF23mm F1.4 R, XF35mm F1.4R, and perhaps most of all the latest XF 56mm F1.2R - count as some of the very best lenses we've had the pleasure of using over the past few years. The XF zooms are exceptional too, offering faster-than-usual maximum apertures for their size. They're not cheap, but if you're prepared to pay for the quality, you're unlikely to be disappointed.
RAW files for download
Don't just take our word for it - take a look at the Fujifilm X-Pro1's RAW files for yourself, and run them through your preferred software and conversion settings. Here, we provide you with a selection of raw files of 'real world' scenes, and if you want to take a closer look at the X-Pro1's studio scene shots you can download original raw files from our 'Compared to (Raw)' page.
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