I am no pro at photography. An enthusiast perhaps, and an average one at that. But I do have gear acquisition syndrome, which was a compelling force behind my purchase of the much talked about FujiFilm X-T1.
And for the first time, I am totally satisfied with a purchase. I have been a Nikon user for 6 years now. I started photography with a Panasonic FZ-8. That was a nice camera. It introduced me into the world of photography. Sure it had its limitations, but it provided a good starting point. I used it for a year.
I was contemplating purchasing a DSLR and was following heated debates on the Canon vs Nikon dilemma on the numerous Internet forums. Ultimately it was a chance encounter with a friend that led me to buy a used Nikon D7000. My first DSLR. AND A GOOD ONE TOO!
Now the D7000 is almost the stuff of legends. Great shooting speed, all the necessary external controls, good autofocus and excellent metering. I used this for almost 4 years.
But I never loved the Nikon as much as I loved the FZ8. After all the FZ8 was my first camera.
My main problem with the Nikon system was the weight. I like everything about it except for the weight. I hate heavy equipment, which is why I won’t go into full frame.
And then I was hit by the “thunder bolt”!
I found the Fuji X system. I followed all the blogs and Internet forums on the X100 and the X-pro1. It was a system mired in controversy. Here was a system loved and hated in equal proportions.
I went into a local camera shop and held a X-pro1 in my hand, and was immediately charmed by the size. But it was prohibitively expensive.
I saved up for a year for the X-pro1 and bought an X100s instead. It was love at first sight. And I’ve yet to be disappointed with this camera. Small, light, great images and a wonderful hybrid viewfinder. I was hooked into the system now.
It took me 4 months of careful planning and haggling to sell my Nikon kit and pick up an X-t1. The Tamron 90mm f2.8 Macro, a Nikon 50 f1.8D,a Nikon SB-700 and a Yongnou 565 were the only Nikon gear I kept. I planned to use the lenses with adapters on the X-T1.
I had just enough to fund my purchase of the X-T1 kit. I picked up some vintage lenses. A bad economy had a lot to do with my preference on vintage glass.
My first few moments with the X-T1, I was fascinated by it size. So small for all that tech packed into it. I haven’t decided whether I like the X-T1 or X-Pro1, in the cosmetics department. I like them both.
I am not writing a review here, so I will forgo all the features and specification write ups, found all over the web. Instead I will concentrate on what I love and dislike about the camera and why.
First off, the external controls. I enjoy using the shutter speed dial. I usually shoot on Auto ISO and have it configured for a max of 3200. I am at aperture priority most of the time and the shutter dial, helps me go into full manual very quickly when I need. No flicking a mode dial into M and then selecting a suitable shutter speed with a command dial. Just select the shutter speed on the dial and I am done most of the time. Neat!
The viewfinder! Much hyped on the internet and lives upto the hype for the most part. Great refresh rates and very easy on the eye. It does get grainy in low light, but still useable. The manual focusing aids are very good and well implemented. I have no complaints with the EVF and have found I don’t miss the OVF much. I was pretty much used to manual focus on my Nikon especially in dark conditions even with lenses like the Nikkor 50 1.8d and the Nikkor 35 1.8g. True they aren’t great low light autofocus performers. But, compared to the standard kit lenses, they didn’t offer a vastly superior upgrade in autofocus in extremely low light. I used to switch to manual focus and had no problems with that. I accept those challenges and prefer to work over them rather than get disheartened. That’s why I feel manual focusing on the X-T1 with legacy lenses is so much better. The EVF brightens up and the magnified view with focus peaking is stellar.
Again the size. Dismantled it fits neatly into my small IPad bag. I would be lying, if I didn’t say, I wished it were a tad bigger, especially when using it with a Minolta MD 50 1.4. But that’s a minor trade off.
The buttons. The feel of the D-pad sucks and I bought the camera knowing this. So I am not complaining. I read a blog on a sugru fix for this and I did the same. Applied a little sugru on the D pad buttons and it makes a big difference. The buttons are more tactile and easier to find. Almost every button is customisable and I have it customized like my X100s. So I have no fumbling while switching between cameras. Unlike the D7000, there is a dedicated button for both AE-L and AF-L.
Again, I am not writing about the image quality. Any camera at this price range delivers great images. And the fuji doesn’t disappoint here. But out of camera jpegs are better than the D7000 and I spend very little time in front of the PC in post production. Color tones are really good. Dynamic range is good too. But most of all, if focused well, the images are superbly sharp. I don’t know if it’s fuji’s processing or if it’s their sensor. The images are usually very sharp.
One of my large disappointments is the shutter speed tops out at 1/4000 sec. I like shooting wide open and here in sunny Saudi Arabia, I have to stop down or use a neutral density filter. The 1/180 sync and no hss is a definite downgrade from my experience with D7000. I have never tried hss, so I won’t complain about it.
One area where FujiFilm is really lacking is in the lighting department. Almost all bodies have commander flash support, but nothing easy to use and versatile like the Nikon system.
This is the one thing from the Nikon D7000 I really miss. I am planning to buy a Cactus 6 trigger system, which should probably ease my pain. With the Nikon D7000 I didn’t need a trigger system as I shoot flash mainly indoors and everything could be controlled from the camera. But on the X-T1, I can use my Nikon flashes on manual but I have to walk upto the flash to change output settings. Gets real tiring after a few shots. That’s why I decided on the Cactus 6 system after much research.
I have purposefully left autofocus for the last part of this user review. There is so much written about the autofocus on the X-T1. It’s good, it’s slow etc.
Personally I have found it a little slower than my D7000. Since I am not into action or sports photography, I have little reason to complain. I was initially disappointed with the autofocus, while photographing my children, who do not sit still at all. The D7000 itself seemed to struggle getting them into focus. But in life you make compromises. With the X-T1, I had 2 choices. I could manually focus and wait for them (the kids) to align and then shoot. I do have infinite patience. Or I could switch to continuous auto focus and select continuous drive mode and I would get 3 or 4 keepers out of say,20 shots. Not bad for casual use, but won’t cut it for pro use. But like I said, I am no pro. Used carefully with planning and thought, the autofocus works well enough.
But the best part of the autofocus is the accuracy. It might be slow but it’s dead accurate. Even at night, when it’s really really dark. I will post a few shots to show you this. With the D7000 in the dark and a 35mm 1.8g lens or a 50mm 1.8d, I wouldn’t get focus most of the time. The camera would try and give up. If it did find focus, it was not accurate almost every time. That’s how I learned to focus manually. The X-T1 on the other hand takes around 2-3 seconds but nails accurate focus almost very time.
I will conclude this review now. I hope somebody finds this useful.
As for me, I have found my Camera. I thoroughly enjoy using this beast. It has it’s quirks. But I will keep using it for a long time, unless Fuji makes another cam, much better than the X-T1.
Here are a few pics, taken last night at 2 a.m. local time. Very very little ambient light and shot using off camera flash and shutter speeds of 1 second and 2 seconds to mix ambient and flash exposure and aperture set to f4.
I don’t know how good the photographs are technically or compositionally. I just wanted to show how accurately this camera focuses in poor lighting conditions