I decided to take my time reviewing the X-T1, time, as I wanted to be sure my initial reactions were sound and not a reaction to the wave of excitement gripping the photography world.
As I slowly opened the box and studied the camera my first impressions of the X-T1 were ecstatically positive, but would my initial reaction have longevity beyond the honeymoon period?
The answer is simply and confidently “yes”. I have enjoyed the upgrade path and technological development of the Fujifilm range ever since I bought my X100 back in 2011. It was initially a labour of love, a change from DSLR that wasn’t without a learning curve but I was hooked. A different approach to photography that gets the photographer thinking and pushing their own skills and craft further.
What I admire most about Fujifilm is the companies commitment to constant improvement; even the X100 continued to see firmware updates long after the release of the near perfect X100s camera.
For me the X-T1 is a remarkable piece of design and engineering. The result of substantial research and development by a company committed to delivering the tools that allow photographers to capture stunning images.
The X-T1 sees all the brilliance of the X100s and interchangeable lens systems pulled together into a single camera. Don’t get me wrong the other X cameras are amazing but the X-T1 is just that bit extra special, everything Fujifilm learned from the X100, X-Pro1, X-E1 fused into one of the best cameras on the market.
The X-T1 is a striking camera and the build quality is exceptional. The camera feels mature as if Fujfilm have been working in secret for years investing in the design, form factor, button location and ergonomics. I could literally rave about the ergonomics for hours, the X-T1 camera is extremely comfortable to hold, solid in the hand and the controls are extremely accessible in use.
One aspect of the X-T1 that stands out has to be is the accessibility of the controls. There are more physical controls that are easily accessible along the top, front and rear of the camera. Better still, many of the buttons on the camera are programmable.
I believe Fujfilm have listened to their customers and delivered the optimum camera yet offering the flexibility of allowing customised control to suit the particular fine needs of the photographer.
It is amazing just how accessible the controls are when shooting. I am still fine-tuning my custom settings but I think it will take a few more weeks of shooting to get everything the way I want it. I should also mention I have been shooting JPGs as I wait for X-T1 support in Adobe Lightroom. I have been shooting RAW for a number of years but the JPG files captured by the X-T1 are very impressive.
The X-T1 LCD screen is stunning; a menu system in high definition and features a similar tilting screen that appears on the Fujfilm X-M1 that is really useful. If you really want to have the ultimate in screen flexibility check out the Fujfilm Remote Camera App review.
I don’t know how common “left-eyed” photographers are but it appeared most manufactures placed their viewfinder to suit right-eyed image-makers. Fujifilm have centered the viewfinder on the X-T1 and I have noticed just how much more confortable it is to use. The screen quality is stunning in the viewfinder as it is on the LCD screen. It is amazing to see the split screen function when using manual model, it is amazing to load up the Q menus in the viewfinder and make adjustments or preview the images previously captured.
X-T1 Weather Sealing
Probably the most exciting aspect of the X-T1 for me is the fact the camera is weather sealed. Given the majority of my photography happens in the great outdoors protection from the elements is important.
Over the last few years I have been employing freezer bags to protect my camera when in the mountains and if I was honest I really stressed about getting my gear even slightly wet. I am unlikely to capture images in the pouring rain but is liberating to have the freedom to know that the camera is protected if it does get a little wet out on the hills. In Northern Ireland we see a fair bit of rain so weather sealing is possibly more about reassurance than shooting in the rain.
The X-T1 in use
Over the first few weeks of use I decided to employ the X-T1 in a range of situations:
The camera, like previous Fujfilm X-range cameras is a reliable performer producing images that are sharp and feature excellent dynamic range. Like the X100s the X-T1 is a head turner, and I found people approaching to ask about the camera and was it an old film model.
For everyday use I have been using the 27mm pancake lens that makes the X-T1 as portable as my already lifetime favourite, X100s camera. The X-T1 and 27mm fit easily in the little felt case that comes with the Millican Christopher bag which adds a nice bit of protection.
It is a really great everyday combination, the power of a great camera partnered with a stunning little pancake lens that produces some excellent bokeh (see Understanding Depth of Field). I think the 27mm is an overlooked lens of the portfolio, which I think it will be a firm favourite for everyday documentary photography. I am also thinking although the 27mm isn’t weather sealed, there is less of it to get wet (I hope I am right).
To be honest I don’t see anything to criticise and all I can mention is change from other X cameras is the size of the control pad on the back of the camera. The buttons feel smaller and slightly more recessed than what I am used to but I assume this is down to the weather sealing feature. It isn’t overtly a negative, they are just different and slightly more recessed that previous models.
Does the X-T1 deserve the hype? Definitely. The X-T1 is a powerhouse that delivers stunning, pin sharp images with the almost breathtaking dynamic range we have grown to associate with the Fujfilm X-Range. I struggle to find fault and I hope you understand what I mean when I say I could look at it for hours, it is a remarkable piece of technology. The controls are extremely accessible on the body of the camera and there isn’t hardly an aspect of the device that isn’t customisable or adjustable. The viewfinder and LCD screens are stunning and if that isn’t enough you can even control the camera via live view on a mobile device.
The X-T1 has all the bells and whistles and underneath is a powerful, remarkable image maker that is as usable in the hands of a new photographer as it is in the hands of a pro. The X-T1 is not only a top performer but it is a joy to use and the ergonomics are excellent.
I am in awe of the Fujifilm X-T1 and don’t have the capacity to see where the company will take the X range from here. I know the lens roadmap is very exciting and I can see the X-T1 making a considerable dent in the digital SLR market. Notable is the fact that every photographer I have spoken to (who has used the X-T1) has nothing but love for what has to be the most desirable camera of 2014.
What do you think?