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Fujifilm X-T1 Review

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The X-T1 is a compact system camera that looks and handles like a DSLR. It’s a departure from the flatter design of the Fuji X-E2 and Fuji X-Pro1 before it, but it will make photographers used to a regular DSLR feel right at home.

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Build and Handling

Whereas both the Fuji X-Pro1 and the X-E2 have a rectangular rangefinder-like shape, the X-T1 is closer to the DSLR in styling. Instead of the flat top, there’s a pretty pronounced hump when the EVF sits. The finger grip is also more prominent and rounded.

Aimed squarely at the traditionalist, there are more direct control dials on the top plate of the XT1 than on other X series cameras too.

Fuji has used cast magnesium alloy for the X-T1’s body shell, giving it a solid – and weighty – feel. Also, 80 seals are in place to keep out dust and moisture, which makes it weatherproof when a weatherproof lens is attached.

The Graphite version looks and feels particularly smart. It’s more of a mid-grey tone than the ‘silver’ finish offered with some digital cameras (for example the Olympus OM-D E-M1 ‘Silver’). This does add a small price premium, which explains why the Graphite version still costs more than the Black edition, even though the specifications and features are now identical.

Rugged credentials are boosted further by the tempered glass over its LCD and its ability to function in temperatures as low as -10C, the same as the Olympus OM-D E-M1. This is a camera designed to be heavily used in a variety of different conditions, which shows Fuji is actively chasing the “prosumer” market.

Landscape photographers should also particularly benefit from this camera, especially those that like to go out in all conditions.

Fuji has also produced an optional battery-grip (Vertical Battery Grip VG-XT1) which is also weatherproof. This takes one battery and there’s no need to remove the camera electric battery or take away the battery-bay cover to connect it.

Both the finger grip and the thumb-rest on the back of the X-T1 have a textured, rubber-like coating, which not only has a high-quality premium feel but gives it a great purchase. Due to the weight of the digital camera, it’s fairly unlikely you’d be using it one-handed for long periods, but if you do, the chunky hold makes it feel secure in the hand.

Some people will prefer the rangefinder-like design of some other X series cameras, but some would argue that the fatter grip here helps it be better suited for use with longer lenses. Fuji says that even more telephoto optics will be introduced in the not too distant future.

There will be those that still don’t trust the idea of an electronic viewfinder, but the XT1’s 2.36 million-dot device is very good – and it’s huge. It doesn’t suffer from lag in the majority of problems, although we did find that on a couple of occasions when locking onto focus and recomposing, the viewfinder momentarily lagged.

We think the benefits of an electric viewfinder outweigh this tiny criticism though. Using an EVF allows you to see how changes made to settings will affect the image in real-time, while the fact that a preview picture pops up (if you set it so) helps you to determine whether or not you’ve nailed the shot without having to constantly remove the camera from your eye all the time. You also have a 100% field of view, so you can be sure that there won’t be any stray artefacts creeping into the chance that you didn’t notice in composition.

Helpfully, the exposure information and shooting data displayed around the image in the EVF rotates to remain readable once the camera will be turned for shooting upright images. It’s a simple thing, but it’s very helpful in practice. There’s furthermore the option to turn off info display altogether so that the image fills the EVF screen.

Alternatively, there’s the dual view which enables Fuji’s Focus Peak Highlight or Digital Split Image to be seen on the right of the screen when focusing manually. This works well, making it clear which areas are sharp while allowing the full scene to be observed on the left of the EVF.

Performance

As the XT-1 uses the same sensor and processor as the X-E2, we had pretty high hopes for this camera, given that the X-E2 was one of our favourites of last year.

True to expectations, the X-T1 has put in an excellent performance. Images are full of detail, especially at the lower end of the sensitivity run. The lack of anti-aliasing filter helps to facilitate this level of detail, and happily, it doesn’t bring with it moire patterning, thanks to the design of the sensor.

Colours are reproduced beautifully. Fuji’s film simulation modes are useful for changing the look of your images. Shooting in Provia mode is generally recommended for everyday shooting, but if you want to boost the saturation and contrast touch for deeper colours, switching to Velvia is also a good choice. If you need tones to be a little more neutral, Astia is useful. It’s also nice to use the Monochrome modes – shooting in raw format means you have a colour version of the image should you need it later down the line.

The camera’s all-purpose metering mode occasionally tends to underexpose slightly, so you need to dial in some positive exposure compensation to get a more balanced image. We found that JPEG images also tend to have quite a limited dynamic range, meaning that highlights can be a little blown out at times although the contrast straight from the camera is generally good. This is the kind of camera which is aimed at experienced enthusiasts, so that sort of user will likely be working with raw files in post-production to rectify these problems.

There is a dynamic range expansion mode, however, which can be applied in fixed values or set to automatic. It uses extra ISO ‘headroom’ (up to 2EV), and it’s very effective. You can also reduce the highlight and shadow comparison settings to bring back even more detail.

Generally, the X-T1’s automatic white balance system is very impressive, helping the camera to produce very accurate colours, even under artificial lighting conditions. We tested the camera in Chinatown, London, where lots of neon lights and unusual colours were a good test for colour accuracy, and we were very pleased with the results (see the sample images page to take a look).

We discovered that out of focus areas of JPEG pictures taken with the X-E2 could be a little painterly when viewed at 100% – probably as a result of the camera attempting to sharpen areas that shouldn’t be sharp. Thankfully, we’ve struggled to find evidence of this happening with the X-T1 JPEG images, so perhaps Fuji has tweaked an algorithm to reduce this problem. As such it generally does not worry us too much.

Out-of-focus areas are usually rendered beautifully, with some lovely bokeh on display. We were using the 23mm f/1.4 lens for the majority of this test, which is a delightful lens, providing a 34.5mm field of view (35mm equivalent), so it is a great classic focal length. Fuji produces some excellent prime lenses, and we also used the 60mm f/2.8 macro optic. We have used the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 “kit” zoom lens with the X-E2 before, that is a good option for a more versatile lens.

At the time of its release, Fuji claimed that the XT-1 offered the world’s quickest autofocusing speeds for cameras with an APS-C sized sensor. That accolade offers since been claimed by the Sony A6000, but focusing speeds are still quick – specifically in a good light.

Focusing speeds drop in lower light conditions, and if you’re taking pictures of something likely to change position between shots – such as a person – in lower light conditions, the camera can be quite slow to refocus. In this case, switching to continuous autofocusing mode is a good option as it performs a little better in low light.

We don’t think that this camera is as fast to focus as DSLR when shooting through the viewfinder, but it is certainly faster than a DSLR shooting in live view mode, something which this camera is essentially always doing.

Speaking of lower light problems, noise in images is very well controlled at higher sensitivity settings. At ISO 800, noise is virtually nonexistent. There is some small degree of picture smoothing in JPEG documents, but on the whole, the detail is retained very well. Examining images shot at ISO 1600 reveals more noise is present, but it’s not problematic at normal printing and web sizes.

Check Out: Best Fujifilm X-T1 Lenses 

Verdict

Well, Fuji has done it again: produced a camera that is not only beautiful but is capable of producing some superb images. We can see this being top of many a photographer’s lust list, and for good reason – it’s top of ours too.

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