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Mar 03

Review: Fujifilm X-T1

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.

Fujifilm X-T1

Fujifilm X-T1

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.

The X-T1 from the front

The X-T1 from the front

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.

All major exposure parameters are directly adjustable and visible at all times

All major exposure parameters are directly adjustable and visible at all times

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 rear controls of the Fuji X-T1

The rear controls of the Fuji X-T1

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:

Continue: Viewfinder and Performance

About the author

Jordan Steele

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Admiring Light; Photographer; Electrical Engineer and Dad

15 comments

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  1. Karl

    Thank you for the review.I am torn about whether to go for the XT-1 and the OM-D EM-1. I think the ergonomics of the two cameras is what will decide it for me as otherwise they seem very comparable. I have a question about the top shutter speed dial since it only changes in full stops. From what I read you have to do fine adjustment using the rear dial. If you want to change shutter speed quickly can you override the top dial using the rear dial? How difficult is it to adjust the shutter speed dial with the camera at your eye. Thanks.

    1. Michael White

      Karl, like you I think the Olympus E-M1 and Fuji X-T1 are comparable cameras. The in-camera processing and output are slightly different. The Fuji RAW files look soft and processed and the Olympus files look noisy but detailed. You can can easily make photos from both systems look the same in post processing. The Micro Four Thirds sensor in the E-M1 is not a miracle, but neither is the Fuji X-Trans sensor (although some people wrongly believe it is).

      I did experience serious shutter shock with the E-M1 combined with the 12-40mm and the Panasonic 25mm. Something to keep in mind and test. Fuji lenses are larger and heavier then the MFT equivalents. If you decide to go for a Micro Four Thirds camera, I can highly recommend the Olympus OM-D E-M10 (with the ECG-1 grip). You get a lot of camera for your money.

      Good luck!

  2. pbass wil

    Wow, extremely different cameras, the X-T1 and the E-M1 — despite body size/shape and the mirrorless thing.

    X-T1:
    Better high ISO and dynamic range — at the _top_ of the APS-C crowd;
    Old school dedicated controls; less need for menu diving
    Not _as_ snappy AF in low light
    Somewhat chunkier lenses — closer to DSLR size; improving selection, but still limited; not all are fast aperture — which slightly detracts from the advantage of an APS-C sensor size.
    Somewhat more control of depth of field (for bokeh lovers), with the right fast lens
    Fuji releases firmware updates regularly — so your X-T1 will get better!

    E-M1:
    The epitome of modern modal control; hugely configurable
    Snappiest mirrorless AF out there
    Fantastic selections of lenses — and very compact ones; range of fast primes
    Respectable high ISO for 2014, though not exceptional
    Best stabilization in the industry — in-body, works on any lens you attach
    The body+lens compactness makes for one of the best image-quality-to-size ratios available

    Both cams make beautiful, professional images!

    I would imagine most people could pick their personal priorities from the points above.
    But you’ll have a blast no matter which you choose!

  3. Karl

    Great points, I think it comes down to the dial vs. modular controls for me.

    I think the Fuji sensor is better (looks like half a stop to a full stop better when you take into account Jordan’s point about the ISO misrepresentation), but honestly I think both are good/acceptable from a technical perspective. If I need bokeh I can borrow my wife’s 5DIII. I just need something small and “good enough”. Honestly a XE-2 or OM10 is probably good enough but I want “the cool” camera too ;-). Lenses appear to be a wash; looking at the 12-40 PRO it looks like it is the same size as the 18-55 kit lens. Maybe the Fuji f/2.8 constant zoom will be bigger, it hard to tell.

    I still use an old fully manual film camera and really dislike the knobs and aperture rings. I mean its good for certain types of shooting (I guess you would say considered shooting) but when you get used to a professional D-SLR it really feels slow. After reading Jordan’s review I basically spent the entire day trawling the internet for nearly every review about the XT-1 camera, the ones that speak the loudest to me are cameralab.com and luminous-landscape.com. They both love the files and manual dials but at the same time they found that it slowed them down from taking a shot.

    That would annoy me. I am worried that after using the XT-1 for a few weeks, I’d get frustrated and put it in a closet. Still thinking about it though.

  4. pbass wil

    If you prefer the Olympus modal controls (and tons of configurable buttons), go for it and don’t look back.

    So long as you make your choice armed with awareness of the different design compromises of each camera, I don’t see how anyone could be disappointed with whichever they pick. These are fantastic, powerful, highly evolved machines!

    Enjoy.

  5. Niel

    From what I’ve read, there is not much to pick between these two cameras, but I mainly decided on the XT-1 based on the fantastic primes that are available, as well as the roadmap on weather sealed lenses and high quality constant aperture lenses that resemble the Nikon trinity.

    Fuji also seems the listen well to their users, so I think is is reasonable to have some trust that they will release fix and enhancement firmware releases down the road as necessary.

    If I however did prefer the Olumpus, I would wait until their next update to this camera unless I was bargain hunting.

    1. Karl

      I think you mean constant f-number lenses as the aperture physically gets larger with the focal length (just a quibble).

      I understand your logic. Great lenses will outlast a few generations of bodies. And Fuji’s performance on firmware upgrades has been outstanding (although I previously believed that they were charging people a lot of money for beta products and subsequently developing them to acceptable levels of performance).

      However, there are two issues about the lenses. While I am sure, based on the Fuji primes and the reports of the XT-1 kit zoom, that it will be optically excellent, it doesn’t exist yet. However, right now I can get a Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40 f/2.8 PRO which is, according to reports, optically very good. Maybe the Fuji will be a little better but right now it is an uncertainty. Second, even if it is a little better, its probably not enough to change systems (for example the new Canon 24-70 f/2.8 is better than the current Nikon version but I don’t see Nikon shooters defecting en masse to get access to the lens). Bird in the hand etc…

      Second, I am concerned about the size. According to what I read the Oly 12-40 f/2.8 is 2.75″ in diameter, 3.3″ long and weighs 0.84 lbs. And I thought it was a substantial lens for such a small body. I am assuming that at minimum the Fuji will be similar size to the Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 lens which is 3.3″ in diameter, 4.4″ long and 1.84 lbs. Considering that the EF-S lenses I’ve handled are quite plasticky and that Fuji will probably use metal and wide glass in the front element (for optimal sharpness) plus weather sealing I expect to be a bit heavier and bigger than the Canon version.

      So now I am starting to lose smallness and maybe handling balance (not sure this is true, my Dad has a Canon A-1 with a Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 FD mount and it balances well). But anyway its a concern.

      To my mind, if I go with the Fuji, I’d probably stick with the primes (for indoors) and the kit zoom (for daylight outdoors) because of the weight. Anyway, I am going to test spin an XT-1. Maybe I’ll fall in love ;-)

  6. bousozoku

    I was thinking about the X-T1 with the 50-140mm f/2.8 lens for sports.

    It seemed as though it was on the edge of being good, but I don’t photograph slow sports. When I tried the X-T1 a little over a week ago, I found it about the same size as the E-M1 and the grip was just as uncomfortable, unfortunately. I don’t understand why either camera maker can’t put a decent sized battery in the grip, as Panasonic does with the GH3 and soon, the GH4.

    I think you’ve convinced me that the X-T1 is another great casual mirror-less body…that isn’t for me.

    Thanks!

    1. pbass wil

      Honestly, the X-T1 has many good qualities and a few great ones.
      But it would be just about the last camera I’d consider for fast sports!

      And if you need a grip but find the E-M1 grip to be lacking, why don’t you just get a DSLR? The best of them are taylor-made for sports.

  7. John

    Fuji always tempted me, but I decided for an OMD EM1 and so far never regretted it. The decision was based on, at that time, slower and IMO less capable FUJI models in terms of responsiveness, ergonomics, speed, etc., for me.
    The T1, aside from too small buttons and less direct way to store and change custom settings (not aperture or shutter speed, but I think Reichmann at Luminous-Landscape has it right here) could change that. At least all reviews rave about it.
    But although lenses and cameras are certainly great I still have problems concerning the hype regarding image quality. It looks great, but how are we supposed to deal with the tons of reviews comparing only JPG (every manufacturer has different engines and settings, Fuji probably one of the best, but sharpening, NR etc need to be as close as possible to be able to compare), use different lenses, or looks at RAWs which are still probably not similarly interpreted. I usually like to look at RAWs only, but studying sites explaining interpolation algorithms I have the feeling that Fuji RAWs still show noise reduction since that are not interpreted/processed in a similar fashion as SONYs sensor for example. This means using a NEX7 or the new A6000 or a D7100 should lead to similar maybe slightly worse results when a small amount of noise reduction is applied in post (and FUJIs 2/3 stop overstated ISO value is accounted for). As I follow this site a long time and the reviewer here shows great skill in using cameras, I would value his opinion regarding this issue. Is the high ISO behaviour really up to full-frame level? Maybe all this is just exaggerated as mostly differences show up at 100% only and in the end it is just about ergonomics lens selection… Maybe another problem is that DXOMark is not testing the camera sensor itself, so scientific values are missing.

  8. Lee

    Having been a huge fan of Olympus (PL1, EM5 and EM1) I went hole hog on their setup with their top lenses and flashes. I was pretty content except for one issue that wasn’t going to go away. Ever shoot outdoors with skies in the shot? You’ll notice at ALL ISO’s there is a mottling or noise in the sky as there is in most darker solid colors. This did grate on me after a bit and I longed for that buttery smooth clean sky look once again I had when using DSLR’s like the Nikon D700 and D7000. I took a leap of faith on the X-T1 ordering one with the grip, 18-55, 55-200 and 23mm f1.4 lenses as well as the EF-42 flash.

    What I can say after several weeks of working with a Canon 6D, EM1 and X-T1 side by side and shooting all manner of subjects from landscapes to low light the X-T1 won out in several areas. 1st by far the finest color rendition, 2nd the lowest noise (yep even better than the 6D as it retains more detail). I actually like the interface and the buttons suit me just fine. I am not one that goes crazy changing settings all the time. I stick to Aperture priority and on occasion make a small change in EV which is right there on top with the T1. Solid as a rock and that gorgeous viewfinder is hard not to like. Shutter lag is non existent. I can, in single shot mode, nail the shutter and get nearly 100% success rate on moving subjects where the EM1 didn’t cut it there, as fast as it’s focus is supposed to be. Focus tracking on the X-T1 is simply superior in every manner. The Fuji lenses are reassuringly solid and butter smooth, where the mft lenses other than the expensive 12-40 f2.8 are less robust. I’m finding I’m getting virtually the same slow shutter performance with the OIS lenses as the IBIS of the Olympus. So in the end if ultimate IQ is your quest I’d say the X-T1 is the one that really delivers the goods.

  9. Karl

    Just wanted to update after making my choice.

    I just bought an E-M1 and 12-40 F/2.8 kit from Korea at price of $1858 and basically the next day picked up an XT-1 with 16-55 F/2.8-4 in the store to play around with around (at a price ~$150 cheaper here in the UAE). The Fuji is a very nice camera and if you like old-style controls then you should go for it.

    I was very concerned about the Fuji lens size but having looked at the primes I would have to say that they are very small when compared to Canon/Nikon full frame equivalents. (For some reason, I remembered them being quite large on a X-Pro1 but I think it had the long zoom mounted). They may be bigger than the m43 lenses (I’m not sure as I didn’t have any m43 primes to compare) but the difference appears minimal in the real world. Based on real hands on with the current lenses, the WR lenses are probably not going to be as large as I feared.

    Both cameras need grip extenders in my hand to be really comfortable one-handed (I’m 6’3″ and can palm a basketball). The Fuji really feels like an old 1980′s SLR (like an A-1). The E-M1 has slightly better shooting ergonomics from a button falling naturally in the right place perspective and the profiled grip. The Fuji felt very familiar to me (I still use an FD mount camera on occasion) and very easy to get to grips with. The Oly is very intimidating from a user interface perspective.

    To be frank I was surprised how much I liked the Fuji XT-1. Not sure if I had been buying them side by side which one I would have taken on first impression – I really, really under-estimated the familiarity/nostalgia factor. OTH the shutter sound is much nicer on the Olympus and the autofocus is silent. The Fuji is not such an aural pleasure (if such things matter to you).

    But I personally do not think the XT-1 is aimed at the E-M1. To me it is better compared to the OM-D E-M5 from a build quality perspective (the M1 is built like a jeweled tank and the XT-1 doesn’t *feel* as solid). Further, when you compare the flash sync speed, 1/4000 shutter and the RAW ISO limitations it more closely lines up as a “better” M5.

    Still it is a great camera and probably more than I needed. Again, I am kind of glad I bought M-1 first before I had a hands on with the XT-1 because I probably would have dithered between the 2 for another 6 months!

  10. John Wright

    Very nicely written review, thank you. I’ve been thinking about this camera since it came out, due to the retro control design and apparent robustness. I currently use Canon, which I like very much, but I am getting tired of bulk and weight. I upgraded to the 5D mark III for the AF system, which is great for keeping up with my kids as they get faster. My older 50D missed focus much of the time. Now it sounds like the AF of the mirrorless systems is catching up (or has it caught up?).

    As a serious hobbyist, I do a bit of everything. Canon has a very robust lens system, good image quality, good AF. But it is big and gets heavy, even with a great hiking pack. I recently paired down my gear to essentials (3 lenses) but I would still like to go smaller and lighter.

    I have not pulled the trigger on Fuji yet due to the lens lineup. I’d like to see them add a 100-400 (not equivalent, I’d like the reach from the actual 400mm length. There is no getting around weight for that one, I realize). I can use my old Kiron 100mm macro (I value the working distance). Otherwise, the lenses available look solid.

    Focus peaking intrigues me. I have never used an EVF. Is it accurate enough in the X-T1 to easily get good focus in portraits and in closeups?

    1. Jordan Steele

      Autofocus is catching up, though not quite on the level of the top DSLRs at the moment. It’s good for certain things, but doesn’t do the more challenging stuff as well in the continuous AF department just yet.

      The EVF is briliant. Coming from a 5D III, the X-T1′s finder is larger. It’ll be dimmer in bright light, but much easier to see in dim light. In my opinion, even without focus peaking, manually focusing with the X-T1 is way easier than with a DSLR. Super clear, able to see at actual lens aperture instead of being limited to f/2.8 depth of field due to the focus screen…you can magnify the view for absolutely critical focus (and on the X-T1, you can do it simultaneously to viewing the full image with the dual-view. ) I don’t tend to use focus peaking on the X-T1 because the viewfinder is so big and clear that it’s easier without it. Peaking is generally accurate, but not pixel level accurate with really fast glass.

      1. John Wright

        Thank you Jordan. The nostalgia factor is strong here. ;-)

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