Fujifilm X-T1 Review

Introduction

The Fujifilm X-T1, initially released in spring 2014, was the first release in the Fuji flagship X series lineup. At first glance, you may think that it lacks the show-stopping flare of a traditional digital SLR. But, upon further inspection, you’ll quickly realize this is a camera that means business. It packs a significant punch in a compact size. It delivers a 16.7-megapixel X-Trans CMOS II sensor with a removed antialiasing filter. Not only that, it eliminates any scene selection or automatic modes. This is truly a photographers camera, no questions. 

Photo enthusiasts have praised Fuji for their classically designed camera, with superior imaging performance. This camera surely doesn’t disappoint. Fuji marked this camera to compete with Canon’s 70D, and Sony a6000. Tough competition. Reviewers claimed this was the best mirrorless camera during its original release cycle and the photographer’s dream camera. Do those rumors hold up today? Today, we take a look and see how this vintage powerhouse is holding up years and years later. 

Fujifilm-X-T1-specs

 

What are some of the goods, bads, and the uglies of the Fujifilm X-T1?

Pros:

Image Quality

The X-Trans CMOS II sensor in this camera is equally impressive as in later iterations in the X series lineup. It draws on Fuji’s long-standing history of producing film and produces excellent color reproduction with natural color rendition, especially in skin tones. Image quality and sharpness are excellent, even to today’s standards.

Dynamic range is also excellent. It delivered upwards to 2 and a half stops of correction in post-production without loss of detail. 

Low Light Performance

Fuji’s X series camera supply low light performance that is among the best in class among APS-C cameras. The low light performance in this camera was what ultimately initiated this legacy. It has a native ISO range from ISO 200 to ISO 6,400 and delivered classic high-end Fuji image quality across nearly the entirety of its range. Even at ISO 12,600, images are usable with minimal softness and noise.

Focusing Performance

This camera was the first to feature Fuji’s predictable AF, a feature that detects movement of the subject for better AF-C and subject tracking performance. Focusing performance overall is excellent and the camera can even maintain consistent tracking when shooting at its maximum frame rate. 

Display & Viewfinder

This camera features an electronic viewfinder that is among the largest in its class by far and delivers incredibly low latency as well. It’s the one that initially convinced die-hard optical viewfinder users that EVF is not only a viable option but a better one. Overall, the EVF provides a bright, crisp, and unobstructed view of the sensor, even in direct sunlight. It’s both cleverly implemented and undoubtedly a show stopper. 

The EVF  rotates based on the orientation of the camera, enabled via the settings menu and a feature exclusively offered by Fujifilm. Thank god, no more awkwardly interpreting settings when shooting through the viewfinder in portrait orientation. Overall, this addition makes this camera superbly optimized for portrait shooting. 

The EVF  has an auto gain feature that automatically compensates for changes in ambient light to better assist users during composition. 

There is a dedicated button that functions to change the view mode, which enables or disables the EVF and LCD. Users can choose between the following: EVF, LCD, EVF motion-activated only, or both on with motion-activated EVF. 

The display planes of both the EVF and LCD can be customized, which allows users to display the information relevant to their shooting styles. Here is a shortlist of some of the available options: battery life, frame remaining, histogram, digital level, and much more. In all, the customization delivered here makes this more than sufficient for a vast range of photographic needs. 

Physical Layout and ergonomics

The physical layout of this camera is fantastic and highly optimized with the photographer in mind. It has a total of 5  logically placed control dials with the essential purpose of keeping users out of onscreen menus and focused on composition. These dials provide quick and immediate access to the critical settings required to adjust exposure. Having access to shutter speed, aperture, and ISO ultimately simplifies and removes the need for painstakingly hunting through menus to make these adjustments. The combination of these physical controls, coupled with the manual controls found on Fuji lenses delivers full manual control without ever having to look into a menu. It offers a much more intuitive layout than previous Fuji releases, and this design is thoroughly appreciated. 

Build quality is excellent. The camera is made primarily of cast magnesium and high-quality finishes. It’s far from ugly and doesn’t feel plasticky like them competition.  

Physical feel and ergonomics are akin to retro 35 mm film SLR cameras, particularly the Nikon Fe film camera. This camera continues Fuji’s reputation for retro-styled designs. It’s the first of its kind of break the mold and offers more of an SLR inspired body instead of rangefinder design.  Overall, the physical layout provided is a particular strength of this camera. Its buttons are traditionally laid out and logical. It’s a camera that makes shooting style, function, and tactile which are all lacking in today’s age. 

It offers six function buttons, all of which are fully customizable. The submenu dedicated to mapping these buttons is well set up, and, overall, makes identifying the appropriate button easy. This camera also now provides the ability to custom map the AF point selection as well; this was a gripe many users had with previous Fuji releases. 

Weight is also a definite strength here. The camera weighs 440 grams body only.

Fujifilm-X-T1-specs

Niche features offered/Extras

It has a microphone input jack.

It has a built-in panorama mode. 

It has a built-in timelapse feature which provides sufficient customization as well. 

It has a continuous burst rate of 8 FPS, providing 30 JPEGs in a burst before slowing to 3 FPS until the SD card is full. 

It has a built-in flash. 

It is entirely weather, and dust sealed, making it Fuji’s first X series camera to provide this feature.

It has a feature called “Interlock spot AE & focus area” which makes the selected AF point the spot meter point when shot in the spot meter mode. 

It provides several helpful manual focusing aids. It has both manual focus peaking, focus magnification, and image split. Image split is a unique feature that splits the display into two separate screens, where the second screen functions to magnify the display to 100%.  The combination of these features combine to make achieving critical focus during manual shooting second nature. 

It has built-in Wi-Fi which allows users full remote control in both stills and videos via the Fuji Camera Remote app. The camera also has a dedicated Wi-Fi button, mappable to any number of its function keys, and provides users immediate access to this functionality.  Once paired to a device, the app delivers a live feed of what the camera sees directly to the device. The app itself is intuitively designed, though a bit complicated to set up initially. Nonetheless, it is fast, responsive, and has low latency between the two devices. Users can tap to change focus, fully adjust exposure, filters, and even film simulations. Overall, it is a fully-featured and welcomed addition. 

It has 11 film simulation options that deliver excellent and unique images. Overall, it’s one highlight of a Fuji camera and one that genuinely convinces strict RAW shooters to shoot JPEG or RAW + JPEG. These simulations are distinguishable amongst the competition and provide a unique visual flair. Each film simulation mode can also be customized as well. Users can adjust shadows, highlights, and even color, which are also stored as presets for continued use. 

Cons:

Image Quality

The camera automatically defaults to shooting JPEG when shooting at extended ISO settings, either H1 or H2.

Video Quality

It lacks both 4K video and high frame rates. It only supplies 1080p and 60 FPS. Video capabilities overall are relatively secondary on this camera. It has very few video recording formats and, overall, this camera is not ideal for video. 

While the video quality provided is sharp, clean, and free of rolling shutter, the amount of adjustable settings, however, is limited. Users do not have full control of exposure during filming. Instead, they must set these settings prior to recording.  And the camera cannot be adjusted from AF-C, it automatically focuses itself and has no controls. The only other alternative is manual focusing. 

While the camera has a microphone input, the input is a 2.5mm which requires an adapter or dongle, making the video setup unnecessarily cumbersome.

Video recording is also limited it 14.5 minutes in 1080p recording and 28 minutes in 720p. 

Focusing Performance

While this camera using a combination of both contrast & phase-detection AF systems providing 49 points that cover nearly the entirety of its image area. Focusing performance during filming is significantly lacking. When shooting stills, the performance remains adequate to today’s standards. However, during filming, focus overall is slow and is found to hunt even when subjects are relatively still continually. The camera also cannot be adjusted from AF-C to other focusing modes as mentioned previously. Thus it focuses itself automatically and leaves users little control over the focusing. The better alternative here is to use manual focus instead. 

Battery Performance

Fuji rates the battery life at 350 still images on a single charge. While comparable to other mirrorless cameras, it’s still low overall. This figure is on par with the battery life expected from mirrorless cameras but still means users will inevitably need additional batteries during all-day shooting. 

User Interface

While the user interface of this camera is very minimal, it is incredibly complicated. The design itself will surely confuse users during their initial familiarization of the camera and remembering where specific settings lie in the vastness of the menu will be challenging. The menus here are an improvement over the menus found on Sony cameras. But, be prepared nonetheless to spend a considerable amount of time delving into the sub-menus on this camera.  

Display & Viewfinder

Under low light, the EVF is unusable in both manual focus peaking and split-image. The main reason is that it has an automatic gain feature that compensations for changes in ambient light. While helpful in most cases, this feature creates significant amounts of noise as light decreases. While it’s hard to view through both optical and electronic viewfinders in low light, optical viewfinders lack the added noise that occurs. If the gain gets too high, the amount of noise renders both of these features useless and makes precise manual focusing futile. When using AF, however, it works perfectly fine. Keep this in mind if you plan on using manual focusing lenses with this camera. If you don’t intend on manual focusing in low light, this will not be an issue for you.

Layout and ergonomics

The standard eyecup surrounding the EVF is shallow and leaks light while viewing outdoors. If this is a problem for you, consider purchasing a deeper eyecup to reduce or eliminate this light spill that occurs. 

The four-way d-pad is small, and if you have large hands, accidental changes will become problematic for you. 

The placement of the dials makes the camera awkward during one-handed use. While shooting through the EVF, if you need to adjust settings, you will have to use a free hand to both unlock the specific dial then make the change. The dial locks become particularly challenging when quick adjustments are needed, and they undoubtedly will slow down your workflow. 

Due to the cameras overall size, hand cramping will occur during prolonged use. A way to reduce or prevent this entirely is to purchase a thumb or battery grip to increase gripping surface and comfort. 

It has an awkwardly placed tripod mount that becomes cumbersome when trying to remove the quick plate to change batteries.

Features removed

While the Fuji Camera Remote app works well, it limits users to only portrait orientation. Not only that, you cannot transfer RAW images; you must transfer JPEGs. 

It lacks in-body stabilization. 

It lacks GPS, with that there’s no built-in geotagging. Geotagging is done through the paired smartphone instead.

It lacks live HDMI out for use with an external monitor or recorder. The HDMI only works during playback of either still or movies. 

While the burst mode on this camera is respectable, its buffer does fill relatively quickly. For RAW image it fills after approximately 20 photos and 30 photos for JPEG. This limitation will present itself immediately when shooting sports and action. In all, this is not the ideal action camera. 

While it has a microphone input port, it’s 2.5mm not the more traditional 3.5 mm which means adapters are a requirement for use. Users are now forced to get yet another accessory which increases both inconvenience and cost. 

It only has a single SD card slot. If this is a deal-breaker for you, consider the Fujifilm X-T2 instead as it fixes this specific issue. Thankfully, it uses faster UHS-II cards. 

The bracketing function is limited. It only provides a maximum of 3 shots in a bracket and has a range from -1 to +1 EV. For those needing a greater range, this will be a deal-break unless you’re willing to perform this manually. 

The built-in timelapse feature does create an in-camera movie file from the resulting lapse. 

It lacks USB charging. 

Is the a good starting camera?

Yes. Granted, this is a camera that is geared significantly towards professional photographers and serious enthusiasts desiring to master the fundamentals of digital photography. In all, it’s a superb camera for those who are unflinching by its inadequacies when it comes to video capabilities. It’s small, light, compact and maintains this profile even with a lens attached. It provides all the controls users need directly at hand and produces beautiful images with excellent color rendition as result of Fuji’s internal profiles. Not only that, but it also receives long-standing support from Fuji’s continued dedication to firmware updates. The only real drawbacks to this camera are manual focusing through the viewfinder in low light, average buffer, and mediocre video. While not a camera for action or video shooters, it is, however, an excellent choice for the demanding photographer.  

What are the best lenses for the Fujifilm X-T1? 

General Photography: 

Fujinon XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR
Fujinon XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS

Specifically for Macro Photography:

XF60mmF2.4 R Macro

Specifically for Landscape Photography:

Fujinon XF14mmF2.8 R
XF27mmF2.8

Specifically for Portrait Photography:

XF35mmF2 R WR
Fujinon XF50mmF2 R WR
XF90mmF2 R LM WR

Is the Fujifilm X-T1 a good camera for you?

Maybe. Keep in mind this is a photography centric camera that places video in the backseat. Thus, it is not a camera for everybody. It is a focused tool, ideally, for seasoned photographers who have mastered the principles of digital photography. Fuji listened to the feedback of its users and delivered a camera specifically tailored to their needs. It’s compact, well featured and provides superb image quality. While it lacks the wow factor of a full-frame camera, it produces a better shooting experience coupled with the performance demanding photographers yearn. Yes, it lacks both performance and versatility in options for video. Not only that, the actual video quality is undoubtedly not astonishing or groundbreaking. This, coupled with the fact this camera has a 2.5 mm microphone input jack means, in all, this is not a viable video camera. But, let’s not forget this is a classically designed camera that offers competitive imaging performance even to today’s standards. It was Fuji’s first real attempt to convince conventional digital SLR users and one that did so quite well. Overall, it is an excellent value for those who look for an entry-point into the Fuji ecosystem, especially with a camera that has a winning combination of top taste and performance. Fujifilm is a master at making attractive cameras, and this camera is no different in that regard. They have created a camera we believe serious photographers can enjoy. Fuji taking the time to analyze their user’s feedback, then implementing that feedback has resulted in an excellent camera. One that is mature and competitive among a wide range of photographic needs. Anyone looking for a compact system camera should seriously consider taking a hard look at this camera.

Overview
  • Image Quality
  • Video Quality
  • Focusing Performance
  • Low Light Performance
  • Dynamic Range
  • Battery Performance
  • Display & Viewfinder
  • User Interface
  • Physical Layout & Ergonomics
3.3

Summary

The Fujifilm X-T1 is a camera that is geared significantly towards professional photographers and serious enthusiasts desiring to master the fundamentals of digital photography. In all, it’s a superb camera for those who are unflinching by its inadequacies when it comes to video capabilities. The only real drawbacks to this camera are manual focusing through the viewfinder in low light, average buffer, and mediocre video. While not a camera for action or video shooters, it is, however, an excellent choice for the demanding photographer. While it lacks the wow factor of a full-frame camera, it produces a better shooting experience coupled with the performance demanding photographers yearn.  It was Fuji’s first real attempt to convince conventional digital SLR users and one that did so quite well. Overall, it is an excellent value for those who look for an entry-point into the Fuji ecosystem, and still one to watch in 2019.