Fuji X-T1, My Thoughts

There are several articles and videos on the interwebs about the Fuji X-T1, Fuji’s new flagship in its wonderful X-Trans sensor line of cameras. This isn’t going to be a hardcore, pixel-peeping, measurbating, test-bench jockey review like some of the others. I will go through some of the performance aspects of the camera but I’m also going to discuss some of the user-related aspects. I’m more concerned with how the camera operates in actual shooting conditions. At 16 megapixels, the pixel pitch, or size, is the same as on the full-frame Nikon D800.

I’m a Nikon shooter. That’s what I use for my commercial/client work and it’s what I have used for personal shooting. Prior to Nikon I shot Canon. When I got into photography – with film – Canon had the features I wanted at a price point I was happy with so that got me into their system. As my needs evolved and as I moved into digital in 2007 it made logical sense to stay with Canon, but as time went on, Canon wasn’t offering what I needed at a price point I liked. Nikon was, so I made the switch. The point being, that I have some decent basis for comparison when looking at what Fuji is offering. I got into the Fuji X-line in the summer of 2013 with the X100s. I wanted a small, high quality camera for walk-around and street shooting. The X100s fits the bill in that regard and does so admirably. I’m a fan of what Fuji is doing with its X-line of cameras. In terms of innovation, the smaller players: Fuji; Sony; and Panasonic, are leaving Canon and Nikon in the dust. CaNikon’s product strategies, in recent years, have been pretty scattershot.

While Fuji is doing some terrific things with this line of cameras, in my opinion, there are some ‘quirks’. Some of these will relate to being used to other manufacturers’ equipment. But some are, I think, Fuji-specific. As you read through the article, when I want to discuss one of these quirks I’ll introduce it with Quirk. There are also some features/functions that, I feel, could be improved upon and I’ll address those toward the end of the article.

All of the images shown here are made with the Fujinon 10-24 f4 OIS lens, except for the shots of the camera and lens which were taken with the X100s.

First Impressions

My very first impressions of the camera when taking it out of the box were that it’s a solidly built piece of kit. It feels substantial in the hand for such a small package. The body is magnesium alloy and is supposed to be fully weather sealed. At this point there aren’t many lenses which are weather sealed but more are on the way. The 10-24 lens, similarly, feels very solid in the hand. It weighs just under a pound which is not insignificant given how small it is.

One area of concern with regard to build quality is the door/hinge mechanism of the memory card slot. It feels quite flimsy and insubstantial. I’m concerned that it may break with use.

The camera is small. Despite that it handles quite well. I have large hands with long fingers and while it does take a bit of getting used to, the controls do fall pretty easily to touch, so they are laid out fairly well, at least for me. I have, on occasion, had my thumb activate some of the buttons on the back of the camera. A friend who was assessing it one day during an outing found the same thing happening. That just takes a bit of getting used to the button layout. It is also possible to disable all but the Focus Assist button by long-pressing on the Menu button. This will lock out the rear panel buttons to prevent accidentally changing something. Another long press of the Menu button unlocks the other buttons again. I did not have this engaged because I was frequently making changes but may do so going forward. The front control wheel is a little too much inboard for my liking, I’d like to see it right on the front of the grip bulge. The rear control pad buttons are recessed which does make them a little difficult to operate, particularly if you’re trying to do so with the camera up to your eye. These buttons are not recessed on the X100s and, personally, that is a preferable design.

Front view of X-T1 and Nikon D800

Front view of X-T1 and Nikon D800

Top view of X-T1 and D800

Top view of X-T1 and D800

Fuji, of course, has a long history of producing fine cameras, including an excellent series of medium format rangefinders.

Cousins

Cousins

The lens has 3 rings. The front ring is for focus. It is narrow in width and a bit difficult to operate with the lens hood reversed on the lens. The focus ring is very well damped and it’s not easy to nudge it out of place. The middle ring is the zoom ring. It’s a bit wider, also well damped. Despite the damping, both operate very smoothly. The third ring, closest to the camera, was a bit of a mystery. The sales rep in the store couldn’t even tell me what it was. It is the aperture ring. Why is that not obvious, you may ask? Quirk: Because it has no markings. More on this and another quirk of the aperture ring a bit later. Quirk: Some of the X-mount lenses do have markings on the aperture ring. The lens is a fair bit smaller and lighter than the Nikon 17-35 f2.8. Each of these has a similar angle of view range. The Nikon being an f2.8 vs the Fuji being an f4 will account for some of the size difference but even next to, say, a Canon 17-40 f4, the Fuji would look smaller. This is the result of designing a lens with a smaller image circle specifically for the APS-C sensor in the Fuji X-series of cameras.

Fuji 10-24 f4 next to Nikkor 17-35 f2.8

Fuji 10-24 f4 next to Nikkor 17-35 f2.8

The camera has an EVF – Electronic Viewfinder – only. The X100s is the first camera I’ve owned that had an EVF (it also has an Optical Viewfinder option). I have to state, quite clearly, that I’m not a fan of EVFs. While they are generally bright, the refresh rate (the rate at which the picture updates) is too slow and I don’t like the stuttering in the viewfinder when moving the camera to compose the image. The EVF in the X-T1 is much better than in the X100s. It is quite large, for one, and the refresh rate is much better. Despite the improvement, it is still an EVF and I’m still not a convert.

I admit to being drawn to the black/silver of my X100s. And for that camera, it works. The all-black of the X-T1 with the ‘retro’ styling is also very visually appealing. I don’t think a black/silver version of it would look nearly as good. Fuji has embraced the retro look with all of its X-Trans cameras and, for the most part, all are visually attractive and the old-style wheels and knobs work well. This in stark contrast to Nikon’s attempt at the retro look with the Df. A camera which may well be the Pontiac Aztek of photography gear.

A big plus with the X-line is the availability of adapters to allow you to mount lenses from other systems. You’re limited to manual exposure and stop down metering (or using a hand held meter), but it does mean you can get into the Fuji system without as big an investment as when switching between other brands. At this time none of Sigma, Tamron or Tokina are making lenses in the X mount, but I think that’s just a matter of time. Rokinon/Samyang does offer some of its lenses in the X mount and I’d expect more in the not too distant future.

The battery is rated for 350 shots. That isn’t much but in real world conditions, more than that may be possible. I’ve taken about 160 shots, plus done several video clips and used the LCD extensively to make changes to various settings and the battery level is still showing 2/3 full. You can maximise the battery life by turning off the rear LCD – set the View Mode to EVF-only, and by not chimping, er, reviewing shots on the rear LCD. Essentially only using the rear LCD if you need to for live view composing and video. Fuji has put an intervalometer in the camera for timelapse, which is great. If the 350 shot rating does turn out to be accurate, or even fairly accurate, then the inclusion of an intervalometer is rendered less useful by the weak battery. There is an accessory grip available which holds a second battery, giving the user better battery life. It sells for $250. Not an option everyone would be able to afford. Note: I’ll be trying out the timelapse feature in another week or so and will report separately on that with an addendum at the bottom of the article.

There is no onboard flash but the camera ships with a small shoe flash that has about the power of a typical pop-up flash. I don’t do a lot of flash photography so didn’t try it out. The flash doesn’t have batteries, rather it draws power from the camera. This will, obviously, drain the battery more quickly and reduce the number of shots available on a charge. If I wanted to use flash, I’d use my Sigma EF530 in manual mode. The camera does have a PC Sync port, which is a plus. The cover on the port is a small, screw-in affair that is niggly and will very likely get lost in short order. The downside of the flash system, either shoe or via the PC is that flash sync is only 1/180 sec.

As is becoming more commonplace, the X-T1 has an on board WiFi chip. This enables wireless communication with other devices. There are apps available to transfer photos from the camera to a smartphone or tablet for immediate social sharing. There’s also a camera control app that allows you to operate the camera remotely. The Fuji app doesn’t have the functionality of the third-party apps like DSLR Dashboard, Helicon Remote or CamRanger, but it’s certainly better than nothing. Fuji does implement some form of Picture Transfer Protocol (PTP), but does not provide documentation on it. As a result, third-party developers will have difficulty making their apps compatible with the X-line of cameras. You can tap the screen of the phone to focus, but only in still image mode. You do not have access to some of the more advanced camera settings so you can’t, for example, set up and launch a timelapse sequence from the app.

The camera has a GPS function, but it’s not an internal GPS chip. What you can do is connect the camera to a smartphone via WiFi and tag images on the fly with geoinfo. Personally, I wouldn’t bother with this. It will slow down write times and if the WiFi connection between the phone and camera is lost, you miss tagging of some images. If you want to geotag your pictures – which is a good idea – then I’d recommend using your smartphone to create a tracklog then tag them in the Map module of Lightroom or in some other third party application like GPicSync or Photo Pin.

The X-T1 is, apparently, the first camera on the market that is compatible with the newer UHS II class of SD cards. So what, you ask? USH II is a faster card. That means the buffer will clear faster because the images can be written to the card faster. Does it matter in real world use? Arguably not. The camera is capable of 8fps in high speed burst mode with a buffer of 23 shots, or basically 3 seconds. It would be a pretty rare occasion that you would need to be shooting continuously for 3 seconds at 8fps. Even shooting sports, where you will use high speed bursts, it’s typically only for a few frames at at time. That’s my opinion only, yours may differ. Some users have done casual testing with the different cards. One set of results can be found here and another in this Youtube video. Keep in mind these tests were done with the camera in manual focus and full manual exposure on a static subject. If you’re shooting in real world conditions where the high speed burst is desired and using autofocus, the frame rate may be affected (slowed) which will mean less impact on the write times. Other in camera processing settings like noise reduction can also slow write times. In practice, I got about 12 shots, on average, before the camera started to slow down, using a card with a 60MB/s rated write speed.

Given that a lot of my artistic photography involves multiple exposures I’m always happy to see new cameras that offer this feature. The happiness fades quickly when it’s found out that the feature is limited to two exposures and the output is JPEG rather than RAW. One plus is that the camera allows you to use the first frame as a guide for composing the superimposed shot. This is a bit cumbersome to do. You are asked to confirm whether the first shot is OK before taking the second. You are then asked to confirm that the combined shot is OK before the image is saved to the card. The resulting JPEG, even at Large/Fine quality, while the full 16MP in dimensions is only 3MB in size so there’s some pretty serious compression happening even at the best JPEG settings. This is roughly equivalent to a quality setting of 9 (max is 12) in Photoshop. The level of compression makes a big jump going from 10 down to 9, resulting in a significant drop in image quality.

Setting up the Camera

Like all digital cameras today, the X-T1 is a complex piece of computing machinery. And let’s be honest, all digital cameras are just a form of a computer. You will want to read through the manual at least once to figure out what all the various settings and functions do.

Once nice thing about it is that there are several buttons you can customise the function of to suit your needs. So, for example, I have set the small button on the front under the control wheel to activate the focus point selector. I then use the control pad buttons on the back to change the focus point.

The camera also has a few different viewing possibilities with the EVF and the rear LCD. For manual focus there are a couple of choices for focusing aids. You can select a split image or a peaking display. Peaking places a coloured border around areas of high contrast. Areas that are sharply in focus have higher contrast than areas that are out of focus. The display can be set up to magnify the active focus point in manual focus to further assist in focusing on the subject. But, there is a nice feature that lets you set up a dual image. On the left will be the full scene view and on the right will be a magnified section highlighting the active focus point. You engage this dual image view using the DISP/BACK button on the back of the camera.

When I attempted to set up the dual image display, I did so using the LCD on the back of the camera. I expected that this would then transfer to the EVF when I put the camera up to my eye (the camera has an eye sensor option that cuts out the LCD when the camera is placed to the eye and engages the EVF). Wrong. The manual says nothing about this; at least not that I could find. Quirk: The rear LCD display does not transfer from the rear LCD to the EVF. In order to set up the dual image display in the EVF, you have to do so with the camera up to your eye. Given the small size of the camera, this is a bit difficult but it is what it is. To me, this doesn’t make sense. It makes sense that the LCD image should transfer automatically to the EVF. When I asked a question about this on a Fuji discussion board then noted it as an interesting quirk when provided with the answer, I was summarily chastised by a Fuji X fanboy, so maybe my logic isn’t overly logical after all. The problem with any of the manual focusing aids is the problem with EVFs. They work great in bright light but less well in lower light. The digital split image imparts a two-toned grey box over a portion of the image. In bright light, it works OK – not great, but OK. In lower light, it’s largely ineffective. Similarly the peaking display works well in bright light but not well in lower light. Why? In lower light the camera boosts the gain of the EVF to allow you to see what you’re trying to take a picture of. When the gain is boosted in this way, it gets noisy. Noise robs resolution. With the lower resolution in subdued light, the digital split image focusing aid becomes ineffective because the two tones of grey are too similar and there isn’t sufficient contrast to see what is covered by the grey box. With the peaking feature, the noise in the EVF competes with the coloured border, making it difficult to truly see when focus is achieved. My Nikons have a little rangefinder display in the viewfinder that works extremely well for manual focusing. Arrows point to which direction the focus ring needs to be turned and when the object is in focus, a dot shows up between the two arrows. A focusing aid like this in the Fuji would be terrific. In autofocus, there is a small green dot in the bottom left of the viewfinder that confirms focus. This dot is not available in manual focus mode. Simply having this confirmation dot available in manual focus mode would be a big improvement. I should note one really nice feature is the Instant AF in manual focus mode. Pressing the AF-L button will quickly autofocus on the active focus point. This is useful in situations where you may not have time to switch back to autofocus but still need to focus and shoot quickly.

There’s much talk on the web about the enhanced dynamic range functionality of the Fuji cameras. The user is able to choose from the default DR100 or two ‘enhanced’ settings of DR200 and DR400.  These are similar in effect to Nikon’s Active D-Lighting and Canon’s Highlight Protection. What they, essentially, do is reduce exposure to protect highlights then apply a different tone curve to boost midtones and shadows. The effect is generally unappealing and of dubious benefit. Reducing exposure and ‘pushing’ up shadows/mids is not an optimal way of exposing for digital. In order to use DR200 you have to have the camera set to ISO 400 at least. DR400 requires a minimum ISO setting of 800. That is the underexposure I referred to above. You’re shooting at less than optimal ISO settings, introducing more noise than necessary into the image and, by boosting shadows/mids, creating reduced contrast which means a flat, dull looking image. Personally I would avoid these settings and stick to DR100. If you need additional dynamic range – true dynamic range – bracket and blend exposures after the fact.

With the camera set up the way I’d like, it’s time to go out and shoot. I had occasion to be in Calgary, AB for a few days so took the opportunity to wander around the streets in the evenings looking for some interesting shots. I was staying in the downtown area, and there weren’t a lot as the streets of downtown Calgary pretty much get rolled up at 5:00. I didn’t have a car so wasn’t able to head out into some of the more interesting areas of town. All of the images in the article can be clicked to get a larger version.

The Calgary skyline at sunset as seen from the pedestrian bridge on the north side of Prince's Island Park.

The Calgary skyline at sunset as seen from the pedestrian bridge on the north side of Prince’s Island Park.

Old & new. One of the newer office towers rises above one of the older buildings in the downtown.

Old & new. One of the newer office towers rises above one of the older buildings in the downtown.

The 10-24 lens is quite a good performer as well. While I’d like the extra stop of a 2.8, f4 is certainly usable. I haven’t tested it on a grid chart for distortion, but based on what I can see in the shots I’ve taken so far, distortion appears to be well controlled. Even the typical wide-angle perspective distortion you see with so many wide lenses is kept in check with this one as the shot below helps illustrate. This was shot at 10mm and while there is the expected sloping of the sidewalk and ceiling, it’s not as extreme as with some other lenses and the keystones in the arches closest to the camera really show little in the way of exaggerated shape distortion. The stones further toward the edge are stretched a bit but, again, not as much as with some other lenses. Quite a good result, really.

Arches at Hudson's Bay flagship store in Calgary

Arches at Hudson’s Bay flagship store in Calgary

In Use

I generally like to shoot either in Aperture Priority mode or all manual. On my X100s, the aperture is set via an aperture ring on the lens. Remember what I said earlier about the aperture ring on the 10-24 lens? As mentioned, it has no aperture markings on it. It also has no stop points. It has very soft detentes and rotates very easily. Too easily, in fact, as it is not difficult to nudge it out of position. Quirk: Setting the camera to aperture priority is done on the lens, not on the camera body. There is a switch on the lens that is marked A or with a lens iris graphic. A is not Aperture Priority. A is Automatic. Setting the lens to this value will put you either in Shutter Priority or in full auto mode. To use Aperture Priority mode, position the switch to the diagram of the lens iris. Then, to set the aperture, turn the aperture ring to the desired setting. Since there are no markings, you’ll have to look either on the rear LCD or in the EVF to verify your setting. If you’re walking around, I’d suggest verifying your setting each time you want to take a shot because of how easy the ring is to turn. Fuji needs to improve this.

In the field, the camera operates well. The grip is beefy enough that I can carry the camera by the grip in my hand with my arm at my side (the camera is essentially hanging in my fingers) without any trouble. And unlike with a heavier camera, my fingers don’t get sore or start to have the circulation cut off from the weight. Autofocus is much faster than on my X100s. Fuji claims it is the fastest AF system on the market. I don’t have the equipment to verify this but I’d tend to say it’s fast but not the fastest. It’s no faster than, and may be slightly slower than, the AF on my D800. Speed of an AF system is going to be dependent on different things, including the lens being used. But all else being equal, I don’t think I’d say the X-T1 is faster than my Nikons. Maybe I’ll get nasty letters from Fuji or the fanboy on the user forum for saying that. Like other cameras in the X-line, there is a Q button on the back panel. Pressing it opens the user into a quick selection of many of the basic camera controls and bypassing the menu system. This is a good feature and very useful. The automated exposure bracketing function of the camera is quite weak. It only allows for three shots at up to one stop variation. This is something that Fuji could and should address in a firmware update because that’s simply insufficient.

Unsurprisingly, the images coming off the X-Trans sensor are excellent. Up to ISO 1600 noise is very well controlled in RAW files. Beyond that, noise does start to become an issue, beginning to blur details and smear colours. The normal ISO range for the camera is 200 to 6,400. I’m not a fan of the ISO range starting at 200. I didn’t like it on my D700 and was happy when I found the D800 would have a 100 setting. Creatively, it can make a difference. The expanded ISO range is 100 to 51,200. Quirk: Beyond the normal ISO max. of 6,400; also at the Low ISO 100 setting, the camera will not shoot RAW, only JPEG. Fuji has not, as far as I’ve seen, provided a reasonable, rational explanation for this. Maybe because there isn’t one. Give the user RAW capability at all ISO settings!

The first image below is at ISO 6400 with no noise reduction. The noise does appear to be mainly luminance noise with the Adobe Camera Raw default of 25/50/50 for chroma noise. In other words, the chroma noise is basically eliminated with the default ACR setting. Using a setting of 25/50/50 for the Luminance Noise reduction settings also does a good job of cleaning up the luminance noise as can be seen in the second image. There is still a loss of detail in the image at this ISO setting resulting from the noise. Personally, I would consider ISO settings above 3200 to be ’emergency only’ and wouldn’t even consider using the expanded levels.

ISO 6400, no noise reduction

ISO 6400, default chroma, no luminance noise reduction

ISO 6400, Luminance noise reduction settings of 25/50/50

ISO 6400, Luminance noise reduction settings of 25/50/50

The sensor has no anti-aliasing filter on it. Fuji claims this is possible because of the design of the color filter array on top of the sensor. In most cameras with a Bayer filter array, the lack of an AA filter can tend to cause ‘stair-stepping’ on non-horizontal and non-vertical edges. This doesn’t seem to be the case with the Fuji so the lack of an AA filter doesn’t look to be a problem.

Lack of an AA filter doesn't seem to cause aliasing on slanted edges.

Lack of an AA filter doesn’t seem to cause aliasing on slanted edges.

The rear LCD will tilt in or out which is helpful for composing when shooting with the camera held above the head or with a subject that is down low. L-finders can still be a pain to use for shooting low down. I think a tilting LCD should be standard fare on all cameras. On the X-T1, like most cameras, the LCD does get difficult to see in sunlight. Turning the brightness up to the maximum does help.

Imaging Resource rates the sensor at 9.58 stops of dynamic range at its best quality setting and 13.1 stops at it’s low quality setting. The image below is a decent test of the capabilities of the sensor in a real-world example. The scene is backlit and goes from deep, black shadows in the doorways to white clouds in the sky.

Unedited original shot.

Unedited original shot.

After applying perspective correction in Lightroom, lowering the highlight values and opening up the shadows, then some final tweaking in Photoshop, we get the version below. Full detail has been recovered in the sky and there’s also good detail in the shadow areas. Noise in the shadows has not been accentuated by pushing up those values. It’s a good result and shows that the sensor has good range.

Editing shot to show dynamic range.

Editing shot to show dynamic range.

This is also a good shot to look at the quality of the lens. The image of the arches above illustrated fairly low distortion. If we were going to see fringing or chromatic aberration, we would expect to see it here, particularly in the leaves of the tree that are backed by the clouds. I’ve pulled the highlights down to try and show more clearly any faults but, really, there aren’t significant issues. There is some mild green fringing present but it is quite mild, and it is easily rectified with the tools in Lightroom. The settings for Green Hue were Amount 15 and 20/90 for the radius.

Testing for CA and other lens faults.

Testing for CA and other lens faults.

Colour fringing fixed in Lightroom.

Colour fringing fixed in Lightroom.

Most cameras today, even cell phone cameras, do a very good job with White Balance in most situations. Where most cameras fall down at the more extreme ends of the light spectrum; either very warm or very cool. What about the X-T1? In my garage I have both incandescent and fluorescent light sources that I can turn on and off independently. This lets me check out the white balance at both ends of the scale. The first shot in each pair is on Auto and the second shot is with WB set to the appropriate preset.

Incandescent light, Auto White Balance

Incandescent light, Auto White Balance

Incandescent light, Incandescent White Balance.

Incandescent light, Incandescent White Balance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fluorescent light, Auto White Balance.

Fluorescent light, Auto White Balance.

Fluorescent light, Fluorescent White Balance (Setting 2).

Fluorescent light, Fluorescent White Balance (Setting 2).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Auto White Balance has done very well here. In the case of the incandescent light, I think the Auto setting is better than the dedicated setting. For the fluorescent light, I chose the Fluorescent 2 setting which is for daylight balanced fluorescent bulbs which is what these are supposed to be. The image files have had no processing except for resizing. The Auto setting for fluorescent is a tiny bit cool but not as extreme as some cameras. Fuji appears to have done a very good job of calibrating their Auto White Balance setting to read the light colour accurately.

The 10-24 lens I have has OIS – Optical Image Stabilization. The intent of stabilization is to allow for sharper shots at slower shutter speeds where camera shake might normally be an issue. It can also help keep video a bit smoother. Fuji claims a 4 stop benefit to its stabilization system. Using the 1/focal length guideline, the slowest shutter speed to hand hold at 24mm and get sharp results is 1/24 sec. Four stops slower would be about 1/1.5 sec. How’s it do?

The image below is a 100% crop from an image at 24mm with a shutter speed of .3 sec (3 stops slower). There’s some camera movement evident in the shot but it’s not as bad as it would have been with stabilization turned off. Is the image usable? No. While stabilization will provide some benefit, a 4 stop improvement is probably somewhat optimistic.

Checking Fuji's claim of a 4 stop OIS benefit.

Checking Fuji’s claim of a 4 stop OIS benefit.

And in smoothing video? The clip below was shot at 1080/30. In video mode, there’s no manual control of anything except the aperture, so I don’t know what shutter speed the camera chose. The stabilization does help make the footage less shaky, especially so on the clip where I’m walking across the street. There is strong artifacting evident in the first panning clip in the awnings and brickwork.

 

The X-T1 does have continuous tracking autofocus with a predictive feature. It works somewhat well. Below are a couple of high speed bursts and the acceptance rate for the frames is good. What the AF system cannot do; however, is track across focus points. You have to keep the same focus point on the subject in order for the continuous, predictive AF to work. When shooting in the CH 8fps mode, the focus points are limited to the central portion of the frame. This is where the faster phase detection focus points are located. The X-T1 has two autofocus modes: Area; and Multi. In the Multi setting, the camera will choose which AF point to use. I would recommend using the Area setting so that you control where the camera is focusing. Quirk: The Face Detection ‘feature’ is automatic. If the camera detects a face, it will focus on the face and there’s nothing you can do to change the AF point. Face Detection can be turned off in the menus, fortunately. I noted above that the focus tracking worked somewhat well. It works best for subjects that are not overly close to the camera and that are at a relatively constant aspect to the camera. Once the subjects come closer and the aspect relative to the camera begins to change, the AF system will have problems and the frame rate will slow down. The second sequence shows this quite clearly. There is a large jump in the position of the car and the last couple shots aren’t in focus. These vehicles were travelling between 50 km/h and 65 km/h (30 to 40 mph). For higher speed activities like hockey or motor racing, I’d question the ability of the X-T1 to keep up with the action, even if Fuji had the lenses for those endeavours.

Continuous AF burst mode focus testing.

Continuous AF burst mode focus testing.

CAF_1-1

CAF_1-2

 

 

 

 

CAF_1-3

CAF_1-4

 

 

 

 

 

CAF_1-5

CAF_1-6

 

 

 

 

 

CAF_1-7

CAF_1-8

 

 

 

 

 

Sequence 2

CAF_2-1

CAF_2-2

 

 

 

 

 

CAF_2-3

CAF_2-4

 

 

 

 

 

CAF_2-5

CAF_2-6

 

 

 

 

 

CAF_2-7

CAF_2-8

 

 

 

 

 

You are able to transfer images from the camera to the computer via USB which means that the camera does implement some form of PTP. It does not appear to be a full implementation; however. The Android app DSLR Dashboard, which is a third-party camera control app, is supposed to work with any camera that implements PTP. When I plug the X-T1 into my tablet, it is recognised immediately by the tablet and the camera recongises it is connected via USB. I am able to transfer images from the camera to the tablet but DSLR Dashboard does not ‘see’ the camera as available when the app is launched. I have confirmed with the app developer that if full PTP is implemented, the app should recognise the camera. He also told me that the manner in which PTP is implemented may prevent the app from recognising the camera.

Fuji has developed a feature called Lems Modulation Optimization. It can be turned on or off in the menus. With it turned on, it will help correct for some of the typical lens flaws in camera. I didn’t test out this feature because it only works when shooting JPEG.

Video is an area where Fuji is lagging other manufacturers. The video out of the X-T1 has an overly ‘crunchy’ look, as if oversharpened. There is moiré evident as well, which will also be exacerbated by the extent of the sharpening. You are able to change the default camera profile for video. I set up a profile that used Astia as the film simulation then turned contrast to -1 and sharpening parameters down to -1 and -2. This does help. The ‘crunchy’ look is reduced and moire is less visible but not nearly eliminated. The first clip is at the base settings. The next two clips have sharpness turned down to -1 and -2 respectively. The fourth clip is demonstrating the auto-exposure variation during video capture. The last clip is to show the autofocus adjustment during video.

 

 

 

 

 

When you being recording video, you lose the focus point on the LCD. This makes it difficult to determine accurately where you are focused. I focused initially on the metal fence post then moved over to my car and back. When moving back, I couldn’t be sure that I had the focus point properly back on the metal fence post. I didn’t see anything in the manual that would allow you to retain the focus point during video capture.

Audio quality is reasonable, if not great. The camera has two microphones, one on each side of the viewfinder for ‘stereo’ sound. There is an audible background hiss but the sound is not thin or reedy like with some other cameras.

The bigger issue is the lack of control over the exposure parameters. You are able to set the aperture before beginning recording. But even if you’re in full manual exposure mode, those settings are effectively turned off when you begin recording video and the entire process is on auto. The camera will apply an auto gain, via ISO or shutter speed as lighting conditions change to keep exposure somewhat consistent. Going from dark to light, or vice versa, it’s like watching a low end compact or smartphone capture video as the exposure adjustment takes place. I think by fine-tuning the camera profile, it is possible to get decent and usable video out of the X-T1, provided you’re shooting in consistent light for a particular clip, but’s still not going to be up to the level of the competition. Aperture can’t be changed while recording video but exposure compensation of +/-2 stops is available. Unfortunately it’s only available via the dial on the top of the camera, you can’t adjust it via the mobile app. This means there will be evident stutters in your film as you adjust the exposure. Can you close down the aperture or use ND filters to help control the shutter speed? It’s unclear. The camera may just crank up the ISO gain to compensate.

There is also a panoramic mode on the X-T1. In this mode, you move the camera along a plane and the processor grabs shots and stitches them together. Ignore it! If you want to do panoramics, shoot your own individual panels and stitch them yourself in a dedicated application. I’ve made about a dozen attempts to get an in-camera pano stitched and been successful once. There are two ‘distances’ to choose from and even on the short one you have to pan about 180 degrees and maintain a set speed.  Too fast, too slow, don’t pan far enough, pan too far…. breathe wrong and the pano will fail. It’s a waste of time. It also only outputs a low quality JPEG.

What Would I Like to See?

 

  • Better video, including a clean HDMI-out stream for uncompressed capture to an external recorder and a 24fps option. Video is an area where Fuji is seriously trailing Canon, Nikon, Sony and Panasonic. The current implementation of video simply isn’t acceptable for anything moderately serious. Quirk: 24fps is possible on both the X-Pro1 and X-E1. Since this is just a bit of firmware coding, the exclusion of it on the X-T1 is puzzling.
  • Improved AEB functionality. 3 shots at a maximum 1 stop apart just doesn’t cut it.
  • Markings on the lens for the aperture settings. I know why the markings aren’t there, because it’s a completely dial-by-wire system, but it would be easier to have the markings on the lens, set it quickly and forget about it. That some lenses have markings and some don’t is a mysterious inconsistency.
  • A tighter turning aperture ring that isn’t so easy to nudge.
  • An option to carry LCD settings through to the EVF (e.g., the image view). I understand the idea behind giving the user flexibility, but…. it’s more futzing around and, as far as I can see, isn’t covered in the user manual.
  • A true ISO 100 setting.
  • RAW capture available at all ISO settings.
  • A better battery/better battery life.
  • A more robust hinge on the memory card door. The door/hinge mechanism have a pretty flimsy feel.
  • A different cover on the PC Sync port. One that is tethered to the body would be good.
  • A flash sync of 1/250 sec.
  • A true predictive AF system that can track across focus points.
  • The ability for the user to disable the Face Detection algorithm.
  • Better multiple exposure functionality (7 to 9 exposures would be good) with RAW output (if Nikon can do it, so can Fuji).
  • An improved mobile app with access to more of the camera functions and the ability to adjust focus by tapping the screen while shooting video.
  • Better manual focusing aids that work better in low light.
  • An SDK or other documentation of the PTP implementation to allow for use with third-party mobile camera control apps.
  • Fuji X-system acolytes will undoubtedly tell me how wrong I am in all of these things.

    Bottom Line

    Despite the quirks and shortcomings mentioned above, the X-T1 is a very nice camera. It operates well and the picture quality is wonderful. For stills it is a very serious camera. The inclusion of things like the Instagrammy picture filters lower the serious level a notch or two, but those can always be ignored. I’ll be ordering an adapter to let me use my Nikon lenses on it. My initial thought was that if the camera were good enough, I’d sell my D700 and use thie X-T1 as a backup to my D800. I’m not sure I’m there. I’ll likely order the grip as well for the extra battery life and improved handling. I use a grip on my Nikons and did with my Canons so prefer that configuration.

    I mentioned up top that I’ve found CaNikon’s product strategy to be disjointed in the past few years. I also have concern that Fuji may be heading down the same path. In a relatively short period of time, the company has broadly expanded its X-line of cameras and, at least for me, there’s some difficulty in determining what camera lies where in the chain. I’m not the only one who thinks so either. Nasim Mansurov also has similar concerns. My hope is that Fuji will consolidate and clarify its model lineup in the next year or so and target continued product innovation and improvement in features/functions rather than attempting to fill every tiny hole that it feels may exist in the marketplace. It is a strategy that is, arguably, not working for CaNikon and Fuji would do well to heed the cautionary tale those manufacturers tell.

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