Fujifilm XT1 Review

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Since its announcement and fairly rapid release, the Fujifilm XT1 has been turning heads – and with good reason.  Sporting a solid retro design and cutting-edge technology, this camera has vaulted to the forefront of the mirrorless pantheon.  But how does it perform?

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Shooting with the Fujifilm XT1

First, let me say that I was very hyped to get my mits on a Fujifilm XT1.  Mirrorless has been growing on me as of late, no doubt helped along by the Olympus E-M10 – a stunningly capable camera in a small, lightweight package.  So it stands to reason the that this newcomer from Fuji would have me on tenterhooks, but reason abandoned me when I actually took one out for a test drive.

Truth be told, the Fujifilm is impressive on paper.  The pixelpeepers and gearheads out there know this.  You probably know this.  The full specs are intimidating.  The viewfinder is A-MAZ-ING.  It feels like any camera should.  You get a drive mode dial like on my Nikon D2Xs, complete with a freakin’ double-exposure setting.  There’s two (2!) kinds of focus peaking.  And let’s not forget that mouth-watering APS-C sensor.

But then you might use the Fujifilm XT1, and feel something vanish.

Let me elaborate.

The Lens

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For my review, I used an XT1 with the 18-55 kit lens at f/2.8-4.  I had my misgivings about shooting with the standard kit.  Much more enticing to me was the 27mm f/2.8.  But as most people just getting into Fuji might purchase the whole kit, I decided to review the body and the 18-55 together.

That being said, you’ll be impressed that a camera manufacturer supplies you with a lens that’s reasonably bright when compared to the competition.  Heck, you even get a lens hood.  But when you start to use the kit lens a couple things happen.

First, there’s the finicky fake-feeling “aperture ring” on the barrel of the lens.  It moves when the wind blows.  So you’ll find yourself changing aperture without meaning to, and missing several shots.  I tried putting adjusting aperture with one of the on-body control dials, but despite my menu telling me that’s what the dial was set up for, nothing ever happened.  So, yeah, that sucked.

Having an f/2.8-4 zoom lens is great an all, but with that crappy plastic aperture ring on there, it just sort of ruins the whole experience.  Some people are used to manual aperture rings.  You set the ring, and when you move your lens, the freaking ring should not change.  On this lens, it does.  And it screws you up.  And you just want to use manual lenses again.

Shutter Speed

I talked about control dials.  Now let’s talk about the shutter speed dial.  You set your shutter speed at full stops – 1/250, 1/500, 1/4000 – and then you can use a control dial below on the body to fine-tune that shutter speed to say, 1/300, 1/600, and so on and so forth.  I guess this stems from Nikon’s design faults with the DF, where users could change the top shutter speed dial to 1/250 and then move the control dial on the camera body to a shutter speed of 1/500 (without the top dial registering the change).  That being said, it makes shutter speed clunkier and more annoying to adjust.

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ISO

ISO is great if you’re shooting JPEGs only.  You get a range of 100-51200.  Then if you shoot in RAW, you get a diminished range of 200-6400.  Aside from that, you’ve got your ISO speeds on a dial that locks every time you have to move it.  So it doesn’t change accidentally, but you no longer get to rapidly change your ISO speed, either.

Drive Modes

Here the Fujifilm XT1 has made some nice headway.  You get all the drive modes you would expect, plus a bracketed setting, a double exposure setting, a panorama setting (which stitches quite well), and an “advanced” setting.

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The Viewfinder and LCD

Both of these are phenomenal.  You can get lost in that viewfinder.  It’s big, it’s bright, and it doesn’t let in any extra light.  It makes optical viewfinders look shallow and dark.  The LCD is crisp and bright.  It tilts.  It does everything a good LCD should do these days.

Image Quality

Image quality on the Fujifilm XT1 is what you would expect – sharp and crisp with excellent resolution and astounding color reproduction.  The added film simulator is a joy to play around with – more so than the Olympus art features, which seem aimed at amateurs, not film buffs.

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Film simulation modes include a black and white mode simulating certain filters, like red (used in the two photographs above), blue, green, or yellow.  

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Velvia/vivid film simulation.

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Astia/soft film simulation.  

Menus

Menus are very intuitive, especially for those coming from a Nikon background.

Overall Impressions

The Fujifilm XT1 has some wonderful features going for it – the best EVF on the market, a rather large sensor, and stunning image quality, as well as a love-it-or-hate-it retro design.  For those willing to learn with the camera, and harness the potential of new interfaces for shutter speed and aperture, disappointments will be few and far between.  For the rest of you old codgers out there, you might actually want to go the Olympus or Sony route, when it comes to mirrorless.

Note:  One thing I did not touch upon in this review was low-light performance.  A review specifically aimed at night-shooting with the XT1 will be coming soon.  

UPDATE:  To see how the Fujifilm X-T1 performs with the 10-24 f/4 R OIS, check out this review.

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