Fujifilm X-T1 Review
Conclusion - Pros
- Analogue dials and switches provide engaging shooting experience
- Superb, huge high resolution electronic viewfinder gives generally-accurate preview of image
- Excellent image quality at both Low and High ISOs
- Very attractive JPEG colour rendition
- Consistently well-judged metering and auto white balance
- Extremely accurate single-shot autofocus, even with fast lenses
- Impressive continuous autofocus with moving subjects
- Quiet, discreet shutter noise
- Fast (8 fps) continuous shooting with usefully-large buffer
- Excellent manual focus aids (peaking, split image, dual view in EVF)
- Solid, robust-feeling, dust-and splash-proof
- Well-implemented in-camera Raw conversion
- Built-in Wi-Fi offers straightforward camera remote control and image sharing
- X-mount gives access to Fujifilm's superb XF lens range
Conclusion - Cons
- Rear buttons are small, and almost flush to camera body
- Four-way controller is rather 'spongey' in feel
- Awkwardly positioned, locking ISO dial is inconvenient (especially with large lenses)
- Raw files not recorded when ISO dial set to 'L', 'H1' and 'H2' positions
- Limited manual control during movie recording
- Poor image quality in movie mode
- Need to use third party software (ACR 8.4) to match camera's colour rendition in Raw
- Matching weatherproof lenses not available at launch (due to appear mid-2014)
The X-T1 is Fujifilm's most ambitious camera to date, and we'd have to say, probably its best. Its relatively compact, well-built body is peppered with dials and switches which give direct access to all the key photographic settings, encouraging you to take control of the picture-taking process. The huge high-resolution electronic viewfinder is a joy to use too, offering an excellent preview of how your images will turn out. Autofocus is impressively quick, and the X-T1 is one of the first mirrorless cameras that can properly track focus on subjects moving towards or away from the camera.
Image quality is excellent; we've long been fans of Fujifilm's JPEG colour rendition, and the X-T1 doesn't disappoint. Colours are natural-looking, with consistently well-judged white balance, and skin tones in particular are nicely rendered. High ISO noise is well-controlled too.
Autofocus hasn't always been Fujifilm's forte, but the X-T1 is markedly improved over its predecessors. It may use the same sensor and processor as the X-E2, but new algorithms mean that it can now track focus on a subject moving towards or away from the camera, even when set to shoot at its fastest framerate. We've been quite impressed by how well this works, although you do have to keep your subject in the central region of the frame. Interestingly, even when set to Release Priority, we've found the camera prefers to slow down and deliver more in-focus frames, as opposed to taking more out-of-focus shots, which we think makes perfect sense.
One point we do have to make is that the X-T1 is nowhere near as good a movie camera as it is for shooting stills. Manual control is limited, and video image quality is unusually poor. It's OK for casual use, but if high quality video is high on your list of priorities, you'll probably want to look elsewhere.
The X-T1 follows on in much the same vein as we've become used to from Fujifilm's recent cameras. The X-Trans CMOS sensor and Fujifilm's in-camera processing combine to give really good-looking out-of-camera JPEGs, with well-judged white balance end attractive colour rendition. High ISO image quality is impressive too, with very low noise and good colour retention. The camera's DR modes also help you make the most of the sensor's impressive dynamic range.
One positive point in favour of the X-T1 is that it's now possible to match the camera's lovely JPEG colours when shooting Raw, although only via the latest iterations of Adobe Camera Raw (version 8.4) and Lightroom. Notably. though, you don't get this ability out of the box with the bundled software. Even so it's a step forward for Fujifilm shooters, which we're pleased to see.
The X-T1 has something of a split personality when it comes to handling. We suspect most enthusiast photographers will love all of its physical dials and switches, which make it one of the most approachable and engaging cameras on the market. But the buttons on the back for the camera are small and almost flush to the body, and the four-way controller in particular is rather spongey and imprecise. This means some operations, such as repositioning the AF area, aren't as slick as we'd like.
Even after a couple of months use, we've never really got to like the ISO dial either. We it find somewhat awkwardly-placed, particularly as it's always locked, which makes it downright impractical if you're already using your left hand to cradle a large lens. Whether this is a problem or not will depend on your shooting habits, but if you like to change ISO frequently with the camera to your eye, it may well be a concern. The camera will also temporarily turn off Raw recording when the ISO dial is set to L, H1 or H2, which has caught us out once or twice.
The X-T1's huge electronic viewfinder is a joy to shoot with, and while it's certainly a different experience to using the optical viewfinder of an SLR, on balance it offers as many advantages as disadvantages. It gives you a pretty accurate preview of how the shot will turn out, which helps you to get your exposure settings right before you press the shutter button. Viewfinder lag is extremely low too, which helps you keep up with fast-moving action. As usual for a mirrorless camera, switching between the viewfinder and rear screen is completely seamless, which is never the case with an SLR.
On balance, the X-T1's wealth of exterior controls make it a joy to shoot with in most situations, and all those dials encourage you to take control of the shooting process. But we think it's less successful as a high-speed, fast reaction replacement for a high-end DSLR than it might perhaps have been. Here the quirks of its control interface can slow it down; you have to take the camera down from your eye to adjust the shutter speed or ISO, which could result in lost shots.
A high-end camera is nothing without optics to match, and while the X-system is little more than 2 years old, the lens line-up is starting to look distinctly mature. Indeed Fujifilm has constructed a particularly coherent line-up that's squarely aimed at serious photographers, and which has most of the key bases covered. So there's a set of image stabilised zooms covering wideangle to telephoto, with weathersealed fast zooms promised by the end of the year. But what really marks the X-system out from the competition is the lovely range of primes on offer.
Pair the X-T1 up with lenses like the stellar XF 23mm F1.4R or the XF 56mm F1.2R and it can produce absolutely wonderful results, aided substantially by its ability to focus them accurately wide open without any fuss. The net result is that the overall image quality it can offer, as a combination of camera and lens, is exceptional. The flipside though is that the lenses are all pretty expensive; as yet Fujifilm doesn't offer anything to match the smaller, slower but cheaper primes you'll find in other systems.
The Final Word
The Fujifilm X-T1 has got a lot of photographers excited, and with good reason. It sits in much the same bracket as the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Sony Alpha 7, being an enthusiast-oriented SLR-style mirrorless model that offers SLR-level image quality in a more-compact overall package. It certainly holds its own in this illustrious company; indeed for many users we think it's likely to offer the most compelling package of the three. We think it offers potentially better image quality than the Olympus (although the difference isn't huge), while being being nicer to shoot with than the Sony (and having a far better range of lenses right now).
The X-T1 also offers extremely strong competition to enthusiast APS-C SLRs like the Canon EOS 70D, Nikon D7100 and Pentax K-3. Here its case is bolstered by its relatively compact size and excellent autofocus - in our experience it's more accurate at focusing fast lenses than any APS-C SLR, and its continuous AF with moving subjects is very competitive too.
Overall, then, the X-T1 combines a hugely engaging control setup with a superb viewfinder, excellent image quality, one of the best AF systems in a mirrorless camera, and a pretty compelling selection of lenses to choose from. Its ergonomic quirks should be taken into account by anyone who wants to change settings quickly with the camera to their eye, but we think most users will be prepared to tolerate its relatively minor foibles in exchange for the results it can offer.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
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Category: Semi-professional Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
The X-T1 is probably Fujifilm's best camera to date, offering a compelling combination of intuitive handling, excellent image quality, and one of best electronic viewfinders we've seen. It also features one of the most impressive autofocus systems on any camera at this price level, both in terms of accuracy with fast lenses and tracking moving subjects. Over all it's a hugely engaging and capable camera, and one that's fundamentally a joy to use.
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