Viewfinder and Rear Screen
One of the biggest feature upgrades on the X-T1 is the new electronic viewfinder (EVF). There’s been a lot of hype around this EVF, and in my opinion, it’s with very good reason. The new EVF is simply enormous. The 0.77x magnification of the viewfinder provides a view larger than any 35mm format or smaller camera on the market today. That big view provides excellent connection to the scene and makes manual focusing a breeze, even without the outstanding focus aids Fuji provides. While the new viewfinder didn’t gain any pixels compared to the X-E2, the view simply looks clearer and easier to see everything in the frame. Dynamic range of the finder is pretty darn good, and it’s a brighter EVF as well, which aids in composing outdoors.
The X-T1 has good refresh in low light (though it does slow down in extremely low light situations where hand-held photography is essentially useless) and provides a nice viewing experience throughout. There is essentially zero lag in the viewfinder as well. Other EVFs I’ve used show a slight lag between reality and the EVF, but the X-T1’s lag is completely imperceptible. The refresh rate stays high in low light as well, though at the expense of some added noise compared to earlier X-Series cameras. Still, I’d rather have the slightly noisier view with a high refresh in low light.
While a full frame optical viewfinder will still look better and brighter outdoors, I prefer the X-T1’s finder to an optical viewfinder in lower light and for manual focusing. In fact, I’d say the X-T1 has the best EVF currently on the market, just edging out the also outstanding EVFs on the Olympus E-M1 and the Sony A7.
One feature of the EVF that I haven’t seen on another camera is the rotating display in the EVF. When shooting in portrait orientation, all the EVF information rotates with it. It’s so simple and so useful that I’m amazed it hasn’t been done before.
The X-T1 also features a 1 million dot tilting rear LCD that is crisp and clear. It also has one of the very best tilting mechanisms of any I’ve used. When in its closed position, the rear screen sits nearly flush with the rest of the body. It actually blends in so well that you could almost mistake it for a fixed screen. When tilted out, it can tilt upwards at 90 degrees (allowing for perfect viewing of ground level shots), or down at 45 degrees for overhead shooting. The screen feels extremely sturdy and rigid when in its tilted position. The rear screen isn’t touch sensitive, which is something I’d like to see added eventually to the Fuji lineup, but I hardly missed it with all the direct controls available.
In addition to the excellent hardware, Fuji has been adding outstanding focus aids to their cameras over the past year. While the viewfinder and rear screen are big and detailed enough to allow for accurate manual focus in most situations, even with large aperture lenses, Fuji has two different focus aids and a great new feature to help with both of them.
Fuji added focus peaking to the X lineup last summer, and it sees further refinement in the X-T1. In addition to the white outline that has always been present, you can now choose to outline the in-focus areas of your image with blue or red highlights as well. Focus peaking is a little more visible this time around. I actually prefer the slightly less visible peaking found in the X-E2, however. The reason for this is that the peaking in the X-E2 is slightly more precise…only the absolutely focused areas are highlighted. The X-T1’s peaking is now extremely similar to the algorithm Sony uses…it’s easier to see but a little less precise.
The X-T1 also has Fuji’s outstanding digital split-image focusing aid, which creates four bands that align when the image is in focus, much like a split prism aid on SLRs. This continues to work quite well on subjects with vertical lines, though it’s a little less effective for focusing on people or smooth subjects.
To make these focus aids even more helpful, Fuji takes advantage of the big screen real estate and the large viewfinder to provide a unique new feature: Dual View. Dual view shrinks the main view a bit and places a second magnified view to the right. The enlarged view can also utilize any of the manual focus aids. It’s really a brilliant idea, and it’s executed very well. You can see the dual view implementation (on the rear screen) in the image above.
As good as these focus aids are, I found I honestly rarely needed them with the big bright viewfinder. I shot the majority of my manual focus shots simply using the viewfinder in its standard mode.
Autofocus and Performance
The X-T1, like nearly every camera released nowadays, proclaims it has the ‘World’s Fastest Autofocus.” I’m not sure about that, but the AF performance is quite decent. Largely, the performance is similar to the X-E2. The 9 center points utilize a hybrid phase detection (PDAF) and contrast detection algorithm, while the remaining 40 outer points use contrast-detect autofocus (CDAF) only. When phase detection is used, the Fuji lenses focus extremely quickly…indeed as fast as any other camera I’ve used. When using contrast detection, the speed is still reasonably fast, though a step behind the fastest Micro 4/3 and Sony cameras.
Overall, I found single shot performance to be plenty fast enough for my uses. I did find the X-T1 seemed to use the ultra-fast phase detection focusing a bit more often than the X-E2, and in more lighting situations. As a result, the camera does feel a little snappier than the X-E2 in daily use, though it isn’t a huge difference.
The X-T1 does make strides in the continuous AF department. I found the X-E2 relatively capable when using continuous AF outside, though that capability was limited to the 3 frame per second burst mode. The X-T1 allows for predictive continuous autofocus at a full 8 frames per second. In my testing, the X-T1 does an excellent job tracking typical moving people or animals when outdoors. I did several tests with my daughter walking and running at me, and the X-T1 handled these situations with ease. One issue to be aware of, is that the viewfinder blackout in burst mode is a little longer than with a pro-grade SLR. As such, it can be challenging to keep your focus point on the subject when rattling off long bursts at 8 fps.
Indoors, I found the continuous autofocus to be a little less capable, and it also wasn’t as successful when shooting cars going 50 mph right at me. So while I wouldn’t recommend the X-T1 for shooting motorsports or something like high school basketball, it should do fine for outdoor sports or shots of your kids running around the back yard.
Like the X-E2 before it, the X-T1 is also a very responsive camera. The camera turns on quickly (especially with high performance mode on), there is short shutter delay, and there’s no waiting on the camera when changing settings or reviewing images. When used with a fast SD card, file writing times are extremely fast. In fact, the X-T1 is the first camera to support the new UHS-II cards, with write speeds up to 250 MB/sec. The fast write times coupled with a larger buffer allow some expanded shooting when firing a burst as well. The X-T1 can rattle off 21 frames in RAW mode before slowing down when used with my PNY 90MB/sec UHS-I card. A 22nd frame comes very shortly after before the camera slows down to around 1.5 frames per second. In large fine JPEG, about 35 frames can be fired before it slows down to around 3-4 frames per second. That’s simply excellent, and a big improvement over the 8 frames in RAW that the X-E2 can manage.