Fujifilm X-T1 Mirrorless Camera Review

Fujifilm X-T1 Mirrorless Camera Review

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Supplied by Fujifilm

The weather resistant Fujifilm X-T1 Mirrorless Camera

I was thrilled when Fujifilm Canada sent me their brand new X-T1 to play with just over a month ago. Along with the camera body itself they sent me three lenses including the XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, the XF 35mm F1.4R and the XF 60mm F2.4 R macro lenses. Upon removing these items from the box I was immediately impressed with the professional fit and finish of the camera body, lenses and lens hoods. Larger companies like Canon could learn a thing about lens hood design from Fujifilm. While the camera body is weather resistant, none of the lenses currently available at the time of this review shard that characteristic.

Electronic viewfinder

Mirrorless cameras seem to be all the rage these days and for good reason. Leaving the mirror out of the light path allows for smaller, lighter, less mechanically complex cameras to be built. But, without a mirror to reflect light into the viewfinder, mirrorless cameras are dependent on providing a viewfinder image via an electronic viewfinder (think of a tiny monitor). Past attempts at electronic viewfinders by Fujifilm and other manufacturers has generally resulted in sub-standard results due to laggy (slow to respond) electronic viewfinders with hard to view results.

Supplied by Fujifilm Canada

Fujifilm Viewfinder Layout

The X-T1’s viewfinder suffers from none of these problems. The viewfinder is large, bright and very responsive. I normally shoot with one of Canon’s pro cameras and the X-T1’s viewfinder was, surprisingly, a tiny bit larger. An advantage of the electronic viewfinder is that extra information can be superimposed over the image, allowing photographers to make real-time adjustments to exposures before the image is made by glancing at a histogram, instead of having to wait until after the photo is made as is the case on a standard digital SLR camera.

Autofocus

Another issue plaguing many mirrorless cameras has been their autofocus performance. Fujifilm has tackled this head-on by providing 49 focus points spread out across the entire image and those focus points are adjustable in size so that you can customize them based on the type of subject you are photographing. Where most mirrorless cameras rely on a type of autofocus system detecting contrast to determine whether the image is in focus or not, the central nine focus points on the X-T1 use the faster, more accurate phase modulation focus system for superior results.

Image quality

I found the images produced by the sensor of the X-T1 to be especially nice; low in noise and more resolution than I was expecting from a 16 megapixel APS-C sized sensor. That could be due to the fact that the X-Trans CMOS II sensor in the X-T1 uses a unique arrangement of colour filters which supposedly eliminate the need for an optical low-pass filter thereby resulting in increased resolution and perceived sharpness.

© Paul Burwell Photography

Students photographing model – ISO 3200 – XF55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS Lens
1/25 at F6.4, ISO 3200, 95mm

WiFi

The X-T1 also has built in WiFi capabilities that allow you to download a free app for your smart device. This app allows you to remotely control your camera from a distance. A nifty application that requires additional hardware on most other current cameras to achieve similar results.

Supplied by Fujifilm

Controls on top of the camera

Camera controls

What I became especially fond of while working with the X-T1 is the controls for aperture, shutter speed, ISO and exposure compensation. Aperture is controlled by rotating a ring on the lens, just next to the body. ISO, shutter speed and exposure compensation are all controlled via dials on the top of the camera. Reminded me of some of my old-school SLR cameras, but it took me virtually no time to adapt from the Canon cameras I’ve used for the last 20 years or so.

Size and weight

The camera body itself is extremely light-weight but fit comfortably in my somewhat gigantor hands. I suspect adding the optional battery grip and/or hand grip would make it even better and of course battery grips always help with the making of vertical photographs. That said, most of the controls were easily accessible and with the body itself weighing in at just 440g (15.4 ounces), it is a camera that I could easily carry and shoot with for extended periods of time with little or no hand/shoulder/arm fatigue setting in. Even with the 55-200mm lens attached, the weight was just 1020g (36 ounces).

Customization

Another pro-camera feature I was thrilled to find on the X-T1 was a total of six different completely configurable multi-function buttons. This allowed me to fine-tune access to features like selecting focus points, depth-of-field preview, macro mode, autofocus mode and white balance so that I could program the buttons most convenient for me to the functions I use most.

© Paul Burwell Photography

Studio Tulips – XF60mm F2.4 R Macro Lens
5.3 Seconds at F8.0, ISO 200, 60mm

Dislikes

If you’re wondering if there is anything I didn’t like about the camera, there is. I strongly dislike the four-way controller on the back of the camera. Where the other buttons on the camera offer tactile feedback when pressed, that feedback is absent on the four-way controller. Since I needed to use the four-way controller to select different focus points, I was constantly using (or trying to) the four-way controller. I found it virtually impossible to use without glancing towards it (thus removing my eye from the viewfinder and missing a chance at retiring via a photo of a brief appearance by Sasquatch if that circumstance had occurred) and continually frustrated by it. Living where I live in Canada and therefore in cooler temperatures, it is absolutely impossible to use with any sort of gloves in conjunction with the four-way controller, and on a mostly professional-feel camera like this, it was a bad design or manufacturing decision.

Another quality issue on the camera body is the door that slides opens to allow for the removal of the SD memory card. It feels ridiculously flimsy and I felt lucky to be able to send the camera back to Fujifilm with the door intact because it always felt like it was about to break off.

© Paul Burwell Photography

Red-breasted Nuthatch – XF55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS Lens
1/800 at f4.8, ISO 800, 200mm

Overall

Overall though, this camera is a gigantic win for Fujifilm in my opinion. I’m a wildlife photographer by nature and for the most part, that’s the type of shooting I did with the camera. I was suitably impressed with the autofocus, and was thrilled with the quality of the lenses and sort of images that the sensor produced. Regardless of the situation (high or low ISO), the images were always impressive and the camera did a great job at judging the white balance although I always shot in RAW mode just to give me that extra flexibility in case the camera got in terribly wrong.

Need for longer lenses

For a wildlife photographer though, Fujifilm’s biggest weakness is the lack of larger lenses. The biggest lens I could get my hands on was the 55-200mm (84-305mm equivalent on a full-frame camera). While that’s okay for casual wildlife photography, it stops well short of “real” telephoto focal lengths. For instance, just a couple of days ago I was out at my favourite marsh with my camera, 500mm lens with two teleconverters attached (2.0x and 1.4x) for a grand total of 1400mm of image magnification. However, Fujifilm representatives tell me they have plans for bigger glass in the future and if that comes to be, I know that it would make a tempting package for me to have in my kit.

Snowshoe Hare - XF55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS Lens 1/200 at f 4.8, ISO 400, 200mm

Snowshoe Hare – XF55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS Lens
1/200 at f 4.8, ISO 400, 200mm

Room for improvement in some areas

Another area that still needs some work is the autofocus system. While the X-T1 is a great improvement over other mirrorless systems I’ve tried, it still suffers from performance issues with moving subjects rapidly changing distances between shots. Theoretically, the X-T1 can shoot 8 frames-per-second in continuous drive and focus modes. However, if the subject you’re focused on is rapidly moving towards you, the camera’s processing slows down and I was lucky to get 2 or 3 frames per second.

An additional improvement I’d like to see is an expansion in the number of phase-detect autofocus points. Nine out of forty-nine isn’t a bad ratio, but more would be better. I love the control over the size of focus points, but having more of the high-performance phase-detect points would help a lot too for composition on moving subjects.

For accurate exposures, I love having a live histogram overlaid on my image in the viewfinder. However, it was frustrating to have that histogram disappear when I half-pressed the shutter button to focus on my subject. While in continuous focus mode, having the histogram remain visible would help me make better exposures overall.

© Paul Burwell Photography

Red-breasted Nuthatch – XF55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS Lens
1/800 at f5.6, ISO 400, 200mm

Final word

Overall, I highly recommend this camera. I teach hundreds of photography students each year the basics of operating their interchangeable lens cameras. I can confidently state that a student with this camera system would probably find learning the basics a bit easier than with a standard digital SLR camera system if for no other reason than the live histogram available in the electronic viewfinder and the easy to access, logically laid out controls. Further, for the seasoned user, the X-T1 body and lenses make a great combination for producing high-quality professional results.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Fujifilm X-T1 Mirrorless Camera
Author Rating
4

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Paul Burwell is a professional photographer, writer, educator and enthusiastic naturalist with over twenty years experience working with and educating adults. In addition to being the owner of the Burwell School of Photography, he is a contributing editor and regular columnist with Outdoor Photography Canada Magazine. Paul has been a finalist in the Veolia 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year' worldwide competition in 2009, 2010 and 2013 and was named a 'Top Wildlife Shooter' by Popular Photography Magazine in 2010.

  • JayDub

    I just wish Amazon had them in stock! I can’t wait to order!

  • echomrg

    i think a review should at least give an idea of the price of the camera, even a ball-park estimation would be useful if the official price is still unannounced.

    i know i could easily google it but why would you send a reader away from your site looking for something that you could have easily included in the post?

  • walwit

    I have give to this camera a lot of tought because It appears to be fantastic and I have an old Canon 40D, but nevertheless I haven’t find enough reasons to make the purchase ($1699 USD).
    Canon 40D has better autofocus (according to what I’ve found on the Internet) and I have three great lenses (for enthusiasts), and when I think of weight and bulk I just put my 50mm f/1.8 on my Canon and there is no significant difference (I think).
    I appreciate some toughts on how this two cameras compare.

  • Paul Burwell

    I’d say that the X-T1 is quite a bit lighter and easier to carry around.

    I’d also suggest that the images the sensor produces are of significantly higher quality (in my opinion).

  • walwit

    Thank you Paul for your response, I think those two advantages you mention should be enough to make a decision.

  • manuel perez

    In my opinion the fujifilm camera gives picture quality the canon can not touch . It is a way superior camera in image quality . I use to have a 40D .

  • Paul Burwell

    The detail and sharpness out of the camera is quite stunning. I was pleasantly surprised, no doubt about it.

  • Geoff

    One point that should be on the dislikes list is the terrible video button. It’s too close to the shutter speed and exposure compensation buttons. You can barely reach the button to press it down.

  • echomrg

    thanks!

  • Jonavin

    I have a 40D. The battery grip alone weighs more than the X-T1 with 35mm lens attached. That was enough to convince me to get it. Picture quality are light years apart, but you can say that about any newer sensor since the 40Ds sensor is many generations older. Don’t forget that the sensor on the X-T1 is actually larger than the 40D (1.5 crop vs 1.6).

    Finally, the clincher is that those Fujifilm lenses are just great and IMO better than any of the non-L Canon lenses.

  • walwit

    Thank you Jonavin and all of you who were so kind to answer my request.
    I am already looking forward to the first opportunity to buy the X-T1 and very excite to feel and see the difference.

  • resa

    Well, it’s the perfect example of why a good camera bag is a necessity. You never know what will happen to your gear!
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  • Jiri

    Which camera to buy ? (SONY or FujiFilm)?
    I would like to buy small and portable camera with the set of professional lenses (I will keep them afterwards, when upgrading the camera body in the future). Up to now I was considering SONY Alpha 7R (very noisy shutter!), OLYMPUS OMD EM1 (looks nice, but after my bad experience with Olympus, I am a little bit sceptical), Fujifilm X-T1 (looks interesting, but it has quite small control buttons). Which line would you recommend ? Jiri

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    my Aunty Ava just got a stunning green Honda Crosstour Hatchback by working parttime off of a macbook air… website here MAKE WEALTH ONLINE

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