Fuji has been releasing a host of new camera bodies for their X System, with a total of four new cameras in the past year. The latest breaks from the rangefinder-style tradition of the X-Series and brings us a mini-SLR style mirrorless camera in the X-T1. While it shares many of its features and capabilities with the X-E2, there are some exciting new upgrades as well as some control refinement. The Fuji X-T1 is in many ways the culmination of the X-Series to this point; it’s the most feature complete and the most refined, at least on paper. I’ve spent the past week putting the X-T1 through its paces to see how it measures up.
If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective. You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here. There are plenty of other sites that cover those. I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool. I am not a videographer, so my reviews concentrate on the still imaging capabilities of a camera.
Body and Ergonomics
The Fuji X-T1 represents a departure of sorts for the X-Series. All the previous X-Series bodies had a retro rangefinder style to them. The X-Pro 1 and X100/X100s took this all the way to having a corner optical viewfinder (though without rangefinder coupling, of course), though even the X-E and X-M/A body styles continued the low profile rectangular shape, with the X-E1 and X-E2 sporting corner viewfinders.
The X-T1 still has a retro design aesthetic, but it is reminiscent of the solid manual focus SLRs of the 60s and 70s. The X-T1 feels just as solid as those old SLRs as well. Indeed, the Fuji X-T1 is the first Fuji body I’ve handled that truly feels like a professional grade camera. It has a nice heft to it (without being actually heavy), is incredibly solid and feels like it was milled from a single block of magnesium. Gone is the slightly hollow feeling of the X-E1 and X-E2, and in its place is a body with absolutely zero flex, perfectly aligned seams and a high quality finish.The X-T1 is also the first Fuji mirrorless camera to be weather sealed. All the buttons, doors and seams are sealed against intrusion of moisture and dust, though there are currently no weather sealed lenses to pair with the body. Three new weather resistant lenses are due to be released in the next year.
Fuji has also added a sculpted hand grip to the X-T1. While not as deep as other SLR-style mirrorless cameras, I found the X-T1’s grip to be incredibly comfortable. Some with larger hands have wished for a slightly more pronounced grip, though I have absolutely zero complaints. The grip conforms to the contours of my hand, and this continues to the sculpted thumb rest area on the back, which is equally comfortable. The rubber material that surrounds the grip has a great feel and allows for a solid hold without being sticky.
The result is a camera that feels excellent in the hand and is comfortable to use with any of the X-series lenses. An additional hand grip is available for the X-T1 (as well as a vertical grip with additional shutter release) for those who want a deeper hand hold.
The downside to the weathersealing is that the buttons have a less positive feel to them. While most of the buttons still feel just fine to me, the four-way controller buttons are quite mushy and have limited tactile feedback. They also sit somewhat more flush to the camera, which makes them a little harder to operate than on previous X-Series cameras.
There has been some chatter about the SD card door, now located on the side of the camera. While the door doesn’t feel as solid as the rest of the camera, it is easy to open intentionally and hard to open unintentionally, which is just perfect. I never once accidentally opened the SD card door, and while it is simply made of plastic, the mechanism feels pretty solid. This is a total non-issue.
Controls and Operation
One of the things that has drawn me and many others to the Fuji X Series is that it doesn’t settle for simply going ‘retro’ as a design aesthetic, but as a paradigm for the camera as a whole. The controls on all the X-Series cameras are somewhat old-school, but the X-T1 brings it that last little step.
With the X-T1, all of the major exposure parameters have dedicated dials that can be read even when the camera is off. Aperture is controlled by an aperture ring on the lens, shutter speed is controlled by a shutter speed dial on top, ISO has a dedicated ISO dial on the left top of the camera and exposure compensation is located on a dial on the right side of the camera. Switching any of the exposure settings into Auto makes that control automatic, which obviates the need for a mode dial. Simply set the shutter speed to ‘A’ to shoot in aperture priority mode or the aperture to A to shoot in shutter priority mode. The only breakup to this paradigm is that when using manual settings for shutter and aperture along with Auto ISO. In this case the exposure compensation dial doesn’t work, and ISO is set to render metering for middle gray. I’m hoping Fuji eventually allows the EC dial to adjust exposure with Auto ISO.
The new ISO dial has a lock present for all settings. To change ISO, you must first depress the center lock button while turning the dial. When I first got the camera, I found this a little annoying, but very quickly adapted to it. The shutter speed dial only locks while in the ‘A’ setting, and spins without locking for all other settings.
In addition to the ISO dial, Fuji has added some additional direct controls while keeping the overall interface relatively uncluttered. Underneath the ISO dial is a new rotating switch for drive selection which allows quick access to bracketing, continuous shooting, single shot, double exposure, advanced filter effects and the sweep panorama mode. Under the shutter speed dial is a similar switch to change metering modes. In all, this makes six different shooting parameters easily accessible and constantly visible and adjustable even when the camera is off. It’s great to be able to set the camera up in advance without having to turn it on or dive into menus. As a result, the camera fades into the background while shooting, allowing you to focus on capturing the image instead of fiddling with your camera.
In addition to the direct controls, the X-T1 features two command dials (one above the grip, the other on the rear of the camera) which are used in 1/3 step shutter speed adjustments, aperture adjustments (when using the XF 27mm or the XC zoom lenses) and zoom and navigation during image playback.
The buttons on the rear of the camera will be familiar to X-Series shooters, but due to the new direct controls, the rear actually loses a button compared to its brethren. It would have lost two buttons, except that the rear command dial no longer presses in (presumably due to weathersealing concerns), so a new ‘Focus Assist’ button has been added for the same functionality. When pressed, the viewfinder will zoom in on the selected focus area, and in manual focus mode, a long press of this button will switch between the manual focus aids.
Also present on the rear is the familiar ‘Q’ button, which allows for quick settings of the JPEG parameters, image size and quality, self timer and other settings, as well as quick access to your custom setting sets.
The four-way buttons surrounding the menu action are all programmable to a variety of functions, and there is a programmable function button on top of the camera as well as one on the front of the camera between the grip and the lens mount. This allows for a lot of customization for the remainder of the controls, which can be tailored to your shooting style. One odd thing about these customizable buttons is that most every setting in the Q menu is available to be assigned its own button, but other parameters that don’t have any easy way to access, such as Flash Exposure Compensation or Focal Length setting for adapted lenses, can’t be assigned to a button.
The menu system for the X-T1 is the same one found on the X-E2. This system is easy to navigate and use, though with the continued adding of new features, it’s starting to become a little disorganized.
While overall, I find the Fuji X-T1 is easy and enjoyable to operate for daily shooting, there are definitely some things that could be improved.
- The top function button has been moved from its usual place to a new location between the shutter speed and exposure compensation dials, making it harder to access.
- I found the front function button way too easy to accidentally press. I wish it were just about 2-3mm closer to the lens mount. I activated it accidentally so often I eventually reassigned it to a function that made it effectively non-functional. Others I’ve spoken with have not had this issue, however.
- The rear command dial is too recessed, making it harder to use than the command dials on other X-series cameras
Next let’s talk about that big new viewfinder: