Hands-on with the Fujifilm X-T1: First Impressions

The Fujifilm X-T1 is a mirrorless camera with DSLR features (Image courtesy of Fujifim).
The Fujifilm X-T1 is a mirrorless camera with DSLR features (Image courtesy of Fujifim).

Well, I decided I’d see what the hub-bub was all about with regard to the Fujifilm X-series cameras. I’ve known for some time that these cameras have a great sensor (16MP, APS-C, no AA filter), but the ergonomics and performance made me hesitate. The biggest flaws with the Fujifilm X-system have been related to focusing speed and lag. Now, with the introduction of the Fujifilm X-T1, most of those issues are gone.

The X-T1 is more DSLR-like in design than the other Fujifilm bodies, making it a little less compact than say, the X-E2. However, it’s weather-sealed, has an articulating LCD, and the electronic viewfinder (EVF) is huge. Moreover, the autofocus performance is said to be faster than the X-E2, which was considerably better than the previous generations of Fujifilm cameras (X-E1, X-Pro1). The X-T1 shoots at 8fps, and has a nice built-in grip.

So I put in an order with B&H Photo (I buy all my own gear) and got a nice Fujifilm kit. Here’s me unboxing it with my first impressions:

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Short answer: the build quality of the X-T1 and lenses is nothing short of dreamy. Silky smooth focus ring action and metal barrel construction. It’s really nice to handle! Moreover,  the size of this kit is totally manageable. My ThinkTank bags just swallow this kit up!

Now that the battery has charged, I’ve had a few hours to play with the camera. I had to run firmware updates on most of the lenses. Here’s the link to Fujifilm’s lens firmware page for reference.

Handling

While the menu and control layout of this camera is different from my Nikons, it isn’t all that hard to figure out. To be safe, I have put the PDF version of the manual on my iPhone in case I need a quick reference in the field. The control layout of this camera is kind of cool. Instead of choosing an exposure mode (P, A, S, M), you simply dial in the components of the system that you want automated. For example, if you set shutter speed manually but set the lens aperture to “A,” you’ll be in shutter-priority mode. Set the shutter speed to “A” and the camera moves to Aperture-priority. Set both dials to “A,” and you’re in Program-auto mode. The ISO and shutter-speed dials have a button lock on top which takes some getting used to. There’s also a direct dial for EV compensation (±3EV).

While the camera handles well, I did find that the directional buttons are a bit small and recessed for easy use. I’m sure I’ll get used to it more, though. I also don’t like the placement of the lens release button; it’s too close to the camera grip. Personally, I would have reversed the positions of the image playback button and the delete button on the back of the camera, too.

Viewfinder

I’m still learning what’s in the EVF, but it’s pretty amazing. You get all kinds of interesting information that I’ve never seen in a DSLR. It’s got a virtual horizon overlay, focus points, and a really awesome focus scale with depth of field readout, too. I’m still working my way through all the functions to decide which ones I want to use.

The viewfinder also offers some interesting options for manual-focus. You can view a zoomed image (pretty standard), but also a virtual split-image mode and a “focus-peaking” mode. The “focus-peaking” mode highlights object edges when they are sharp, giving you visual feedback for focusing the lens.

Focus Performance

I’m still testing the focus performance of the X-T1, but so far I’d say it’s perfectly reasonable for most uses. It’s certainly not as fast as my Nikon D4, but it doesn’t feel sluggish, either. My intent is to use this as a street/travel/landscape camera, not as a sports camera. I’ll report back more after I’ve had more time with it.

Lenses

I purchased several lenses with the X-T1 body:

  • 14mm f/2.8 (21mm equivalent)
  • 23mm f/1.4 (35mm equivalent)
  • 18-55m f/2.8-4.0 OIS (27-82mm equivalent)
  • 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 OIS (82-300mm equivalent)
  • 60mm f/2.4 macro (90mm equivalent)

All of these lenses are very solid. Most of the Fujifilm lenses use a 58mm front filter thread. The 23mm uses a 62mm filter, and the 60mm uses a 39mm filter. The 14mm and 23mm lenses have a clutch focus ring. Slide the ring down and you get manual focus override. The 60mm macro lens focuses to 1:2 (0.5x) magnification, and while it has a manual focus ring, it doesn’t have the MF override. That’s too bad because it means I have to switch the camera to MF mode on the body. All of these lenses are sharp, and easy to handle.

Image Quality

Again, I’m still testing this, but the initial results are very good. The Fuji sensor uses a different color pattern arrangement (non-Bayer) and does not use an anti-aliasing (low-pass) filter. This sensor delivers sharp results with excellent color. I need some more time to test it, but I’m very happy so far. Definitely DSLR quality!

As of now, the only way to process RAW files from the X-T1 is with Fuji’s included software, or by downloading the beta version of Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) 8.4. ACR 8.4 includes calibration settings for all the Fuji film modes. Since ACR 8.4 is already in release candidate phase, I imagine the update to it (and Lightroom) will be coming very soon.

I’ll do more tests once the weather here improves. Here’s a grab shot of Archie captured with the 23mm f/1.4 lens, wide-open:

Archie, captured with a Fujifilm X-T1 and 23mm f/1.4 lens, 1/680s @f/1.4, ISO 200.
Archie, captured with a Fujifilm X-T1 and 23mm f/1.4 lens, 1/680s @f/1.4, ISO 200.

WiFi

The X-T1 has built-in WiFi. I downloaded Fujifilm’s free iPhone App (Android App available, too) and with a little fooling around, I got the camera to connect to both my iPhone 5s and my iPad. There’s a full remote system in there that lets you control the camera and get live image previews through the lens. That’s really cool! You can also use the app to transfer photos from the camera directly to your smartphone. I can see that being very useful when traveling for quick uploads on the road.

Initial Thoughts

The Fujifilm X-T1 is a very responsive, solidly-built camera. There are enough direct controls to make manual shooting fun. The lenses are exceptionally sharp, especially the primes. The autofocus speed is responsive enough for most situations. I look forward to using this camera on trips where I don’t want a large kit but don’t want to compromise image quality.

What I like about the Fujifilm X-T1

  • Build quality
  • Viewfinder
  • Size and weight
  • Lens selection
  • 8 fps shooting for up to 47 frames RAW
  • Image quality and color/tone options reminiscent of Fuji film emulsions
  • Built-in WiFi and smartphone remote app

What needs improvement

  • D-pad ergonomics and button size (too small)
  • Control knob locks take some getting used to
  • Better exposure bracketing options (currently only 3 frames, 1EV apart)
  • 1/180s flash sync is fairly slow for studio work
  • No electronic shutter mode (to enable very fast shutter speeds beyond 1/4000s)
  • Expanded ISO settings (Hi-1, Hi-2, Lo) not usable with RAW capture (JPEG only)
  • Unable to zoom to 100% when shooting RAW only due to small embedded JPEG previews (shoot RAW + JPEG and you can zoom in all the way).

Where to order

If you’re interested in the Fujifilm system, I’ve put together a public wish list at B&H Photo which includes the X-T1, lenses and accessories. Many of these lenses are on sale with instant rebates though March 22nd, 2014.

7 thoughts on “Hands-on with the Fujifilm X-T1: First Impressions”

  1. Can you, or have you yet, been able to decouple the trigger from AF? Ie; can you set it up for AF-ON (only) for focusing like we can with our Nikons?

    I realize you haven’t had it for very long and are still figuring it out… sorry! 🙂 (( I’m really, really thinking about placing an order for one …. have yet to read or see anything on the web here that has really negative feedback on it ))

    -=- jd -=-

  2. Hi Jim-
    I just looked into this. It doesn’t work the same as the Nikon system, but you have the ability to initiate/lock focus with the AF-L button while using the camera in continuous servo focus mode. The shutter focus activation is disabled when you use the AF-L button. You can set the AF-L button to hold focus, but you can’t set it to simply activate AF continuously.

    So you use the shutter to activate focus when tracking, or you use the AF-L button to activate/lock focus when recomposing. Not quite the same as Nikon’s AF-ON, but it works.

  3. Right on — thanks. It may likely not be such a big deal for me as I don’t intend to use (abuse?) this camera in the same way that I do my Nikons (sports shooting — mostly off road motorcycle racing, and football when in season). I’m just ~so~ used to parking my thumb up on the af-on button … I do it without even thinking about it. It feels alien when I use someone else’s camera – esp if that camera doesn’t have the button…

  4. Jason:
    A lot of enthusiasm so far for this camera. I know some are looking for the ideal mirrorless camera to replace their DSLR system, and others are looking to supplement. As a Nikon shooter would you consider taking this along with your D800E for a landscape shoot, or even in place of sometimes?
    Thanks, Fred

  5. Fred-
    My initial plan is to use this camera as a small system for travel, family, and street photography. The one thing it doesn’t have is a 36MP sensor; something I really like for landscape work. I’ll continue to use my D4/600mm combo for birding and wildlife.

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