Sorry I'm late, but my dayjob is getting very demanding lately, as it does every June and July (hey, I'm not complaining at all!). After three months of intensive (to my standards) use, I'm now ready to tell my final opinion on the Fujifilm X-T1. And I'll do it the usual way, in the form of a list of what I like and what I don't. Ready? Go.
- Size and weight couldn't be better. The unit is perfectly balanced and sits in your hand in the most natural way. The grip is big enough to ensure a strong hold of the camera-lens outfit (with a little help from the clever thumbrest), and small enough to keep the bulk within an acceptable limit.
- The interface is the most photographer-oriented I have ever experienced. Like in the classic film reflex cameras from the Sixties and Seventies there is one physical dial for all the essential functions: speed, aperture (on lenses), ISO, drive mode, auto/manual focus, depth-of-field.
- Unfortunately the interface is also, albeit shily, DSLR-user oriented, thus featuring a seriously misplaced video-button (too close to the release-button) along with some unuseful additional buttons and a couple of wheels that look nonsense to me.
- By the way, why such a stills-photographer-oriented camera has been implemented with a video mode (not of the best quality, according to experts' reviews) is something I don't understand. I'd pay extra money to have a video-less version of the X-T1, and a further extra for a simplified buttons-wheels layout.
- The electronic viewfinder is a masterwork: huge, bright, sharp... In a word, gorgeous. The essential informations are there, cleverly organized and readable. They even change layout when in portrait mode: brilliant, Fuji! The rubber eyepiece is wide enough to allow the use of glasses, and feels confortable and rugged in the meantime. Although, as in most current cameras, the diopter-tuning little knob feels slightly flimsy. Anyway manual focusing is easy even without the use of focus-assist loupe.
- The eye sensor, when activated with the rear display switched off, effectively extends battery life. Unfortunately, when the EVF is activated, playback and menu behave differently: while the former is properly performed by the rear display, the latter can only be seen through the eyepiece, which is simply crazy. I don't now any photographer who surfs into menus peeping in his camera's viewfinder. And notwithstanding the reduntant menu system (see below), this can not be changed: there is no option allowing the menu to be shown on the rear display when in EVF mode. Similarly, there is no way to select one, two or three favorite view modes. You must cycle through all four of them in order to get to the desired one. This drives me nuts!
- The rear display deserves to be praised as well. It's wide, bright and sharp. Color rendition is reliable and readability in strong daylight is more than acceptable. It's not of the touch type, but we are talking about cameras here, not bloody smartphones. Plus, its tiltability does not add bulk to the unit. Well done.
- The menu system is too complicated. When holding such a camera, one would expect a simple, no-frills Leica-style menu. No way. After forking out 1,300 $ you must sit down and work hard on the camera settings (with the user manual at hand) in order to make choices that Fuji technicians didn't bother to make when designing the camera.
- Overall build quality is over the current average. The X-T1 is a goodlooking camera with an accurate finishing and well sought-after details. It feels positive in your hands, although not as solid as a Leica M, of course, nor an Olympus OM-D. All the top-plate's dials and levers feel firm and positive. Moreover speed and ISO knobs are provided with a convenient lock button, so that they can't be inadvertedly turned.
- Alas, front and back buttons lack top dials' quality. But what I find shamefully unacceptable is the four-way controller on the back. Its buttons, besides being too small (unbeliavebly small) are level whith the outer shell, which makes it simply impossible to operate them. This is even crazier if you think that Fujifilm X-1 Pro has one of the best four-way controllers on the market. This is not a minor fault. Don't underrate it, if you are considering the purchase of an X-T1.
- Turning the X-T1 upside-down you will find the battery compartment: as in most cameras its door is unreassuringly flimsy, while its lock is too small and clunky. Bad job, Fuji. But worse is to follow...
- Under a thin, loose, crappy and plasticky door on body's right side lies the SD card slot. I hope that Fuji's repair centers are ready and supplied with a lot of spare SD doors, because I'm sure they will be heavily in demand. Apparently it should be kept closed by simply sliding it in place. Too bad its locking system (a microscopic detent of the same shitty plastic) does not lock a damn. So much so that it occurred to me several times to open it inadvertedly by simply taking the camera out of my shoulder bag. Should an heavier lens be mounted on the body, I would hold it tighter, thus risking to brake the ridiculous door's hinge. Shame on you, Fuji!
As for image quality, the Fuji X-T1 delivers awesome color files, rich in detail and resolution (even richer when using prime lenses), perfectly white-balanced (it's definitely the best camera I have ever used in this regard), with the most natural and pleasant skin tones. Out-of-camera JPGs are so finely tuned that obtaining the same results from RAWs is a very difficult (if not impossible) task. As I suggested in a previous instalment of this review, the best color in-camera setting is "Pro-Neg-std". Avoid "Velvia", "Astia" and "Provia" crappy modes: they just oversaturate colors and/or clip highlights and shadow detail by unappropriately pushing image contrast. Oh, and forget the in-camera black&white modes: they are unusable.
If you are mostly monochrome photographers, there are caveats. As I decribed in a previous post, tweaking the blue channel in order to obtain a darker sky can end up with some posterization. And, worst of all, a white border can appear around trees or buildings contours silhouetted against the sky. This is probably caused by the peculiar X-Trans sensor's color-filter matrix: 36 pixels instead of the traditional four found in Bayer sensors. I tried several ways to avoid this issue, but always failed. See the photograph below (and 100% crops) as an example.
THE FINAL WORD
Buy this camera if:
- you are a film-generation photographer and need physical dials allowing you to know aperture, speed, ISO and exposure compensation even when your camera is switched-off;
- you are into portraiture, street photography and, generally speaking, "literal" depiction of the world around you;
- you don't need the performance of a super-fast autofocus;
- you enjoy mating legacy lenses and modern digital bodies (more on this in an upcoming post);
- you don't mind spending hours fiddling with menus;
- you don't consider "full" frame as a dogma;
- you like an unobtrusive yet usable camera.
Don't buy this camera if:
- you mostly convert your photographs into monochrome;
- you usually tweak your files beyond "normal" adjustments;
- you hate flimsy details and design flaws even in an overall well-built camera;
- you need a super-fast autofocus;
- your ideal imaging device is a smartphone;
- you need a huge DSLR to humiliate your brother-in-law.