Quick Review – Fujifilm X-T1 and 23mm f1.4 R
The Fujifilm X-T1 takes the company to new heights with their retro-inspired camera which delivers impressive image quality and excellent ergonomics. I was given the X-T1 by Fujifilm South Africa to try out. Unfortunately they only had the 23mm f1.4 R to use with it – not a bad option however as I am a huge fan of prime lenses.
I am really enjoying the current photographic trends. The technology and styling is heading towards a less mass-produced feel where most new cameras actually look authentic, have great ergonomics and outstanding image quality. Not everyone likes the retro inspired looks however of many modern cameras (think X100s, Nikon Df and Olympus E-M1) but I certainly do. If anything it means manufacturers are focusing more on what the photographer want, and need, from a camera – especially the build quality. Many cheaper cameras are being built with metal bodies, have clean lines and well placed buttons. On the flipside Nikon got it completely wrong with the Df ergonomics (besides the amazing image quality) so there is definitely a large amount of trial and error going on with the manufacturers. It is as if they are trying to bring back the glory days of film and the emotions that run with the experience of shooting film and using film cameras. I am very happy about this!
Build and Ergonomics
I think Fuji got it spot on with the X-T1. Almost every person I show it to think it is some old fancy antique camera but are then totally blown away when they realise it is a digital workhorse housed in a tough, weather-sealed and gorgeous metal exterior. All the buttons are placed in the right places for my hands and style of shooting. I do have one gripe and that is with the dials. The metering mode dial below the shutterspeed dial feels a bit loose and its very easy to accidentally bump the dial to spot-metering when turning the shutterspeed dial. The dial would need a slightly firmer click action to prevent this. I also feel that the front and back control dials are slightly too small and should protrude out a little more – but that might just be me. Fuji designers have great foresight and their decision to place control rings on their X-lenses from the start means that you can have a dedicated shutterspeed dial and can control P A S and M without ever having to turn a traditional mode dial.
I am not a fan of electronic viewfinders. They always appear to be an afterthought on cameras and are usually plagued by poor resolution, terrible colour-tearing and even worse, noisy images. Until the X-T1 came along that is. The X-T1 EVF is claimed to be bigger than that of the Canon EOS-1 DX optical viewfinder and it certainly appears to be so. Fuji has taken the very best of OLED engineering and developed a 2.3 million dot EVF that is like nothing that has come before it. It is the first time I have picked up a camera and not worried about using the EVF. And that says a lot about how far the technology has come. The display is incredibly sharp and only has the slightest amount of colour-tearing when looking around really fast. Fuji has included some really nifty technologies such as a digital split prism focusing system, great for all your old manual focus lenses, as well as the usual array of information such as real-time histogram, exposure info and focus scale when using the dual focusing mode. One great feature is that all this info automatically rotates when turning the camera on its side.
Ridiculously good image quality is a dime a dozen now days, so what really makes a camera stand out from the crowd? Fuji has developed numerous sensor technologies over the years that delivered class-leading image quality (remember the excellent Super CCD tech in the S5 Pro and recently the fantastic X-Trans sensors in the X-series cameras). Fuji cameras have for some time now also included built-in colour presets to emulate the various types of Fuji film available (Provia, Velvia, Superia etc). This goes to show that Fuji is targeting the enthusiast photography market and especially those people who have a deep and emotional connection to shooting on film.
When shooting in RAW, the X-T1 delivers on all departments with regards to image quality. Images contain loads of fine detail, show excellent tonality and subtle colour gradations, maintain a high amount of dynamic range (even at high ISO), low noise levels (especially in the shadows) and have that authentic Fuji look.
I edited all my RAW photos in the latest copy of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5.4. I don’t think the Adobe RAW-decoding algorithm is perfect yet – some images displayed strange artefacts on fine detail edges. Adobe was clever enough to include proper Fuji camera profiles which emulate the various film presets which Fuji already has built into the camera. I did however find these presets to be more aggressive than the cameras own presets and merely used them as a starting point in my editing workflow. The preset I used the most was the Superia (high contrast and vibrant colours) and the black and white (red filter) preset which turns blue sky a punchy black, perfect for stark landscape photos.
I really enjoyed using the Fuji Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R lens. I am a huge fan of prime lenses and this lens impressed me all day long. As with all recent Fuji lenses, the build quality is excellent. The inclusion of the dedicated aperture control ring on the lens makes shooting in manual an absolute breeze on the X-T1. Optical quality is very high with images displaying excellent center sharpness wide open with sharpness increasing significantly when stopping down to f/4. One problem I do have with the lens is the amount of cyan / magenta chromatic abberation which occurs on high-contrast edges. This is however easily corrected in Lightroom. Bokeh is relatively good – the 7 aperture blades are rounded but bokeh can be quite distracting when shooting against busy backgrounds.
I truly believe that the Fuji X-T1 heralds a new era for mirrorless cameras. Having never been a fan of any mirrorless systems, I would now quite comfortably use the X-T1 on an everyday basis. It is a camera that I can easily see myself using in professional work too (as a second camera for now). I think this all due to the fact that Fuji really thought of the photographers needs first and that they included some excellent engineering feats (the EVF comes to mind).
Verdict: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Please browse through the various images I took with the camera. Please share this article online