Color and Dynamic Range
Unlike most cameras, the image quality on the X-T1 is actually one of the least interesting things about it. Of course, I’m not saying that as a bad thing necessarily, just that the X-Trans II sensor is the same one found in the X-E2 and only slightly different from the one found in all the rest of the X-Series cameras. If you like the image quality from those cameras, you’ll like the X-T1 just as much. If you don’t like it, there’s nothing new to see here.
The 16 megapixel sensor in the Fuji X-T1 has a very wide dynamic range, allowing you to capture plenty of detail in the highlights and shadows even in high contrast situations. It’s rare that a situation arises that will truly exceed the dynamic range of the sensor.
Likewise, Fuji has always excelled at color, with accurate white balance and excellent color response. RAW files tend to be muted upon import, but take adjustment extremely well. JPEG files have among the best color of any JPEG engine in the business. Currently, the RAW conversion situation is limited for the X-T1. Iridiant Developer on the Mac and Photo Ninja (Mac and PC) both have support for the X-T1 as of this writing. Adobe has released a release candidate of ACR 8.4, and in the color department, they’ve given a big boost to Fuji shooters. Adobe’s color profiles for the X-Series have always been lacking a bit…making reds orange and such (which is why I’ve always used a custom color profile from X-Rite’s Color Checker Passport). With ACR 8.4 (and presumably Lightroom 5.4), Adobe now includes camera profiles that mimic the film simulations on Fuji cameras. These help the color in ACR quite a bit.
The X-T1 has very good noise control, with JPEG images showing very low noise up to ISO 3200 and even somewhat usable images up to ISO 25,600. The X-T1 includes support for ISO 51,200 for the first time, but it needs to be enabled from the menu and assigned to one of the H settings on the ISO dial. In my opinion: don’t bother. ISO 51,200 is frankly just a checkmark on the spec sheet, as it’s definitely a step too far on the X-T1. Files at that ISO show visible banding and blotchy noise throughout.
RAW files show a little more noise than the JPEGs but also much more detail. Noise remains quite low up to ISO 1600 and very usable at ISO 3200 and 6400. I rarely worry about the ISO I’m shooting with any of these cameras, as quality shots can be had at any of the native ISOs.
It is worth noting that like all the X-Trans camera, the X-T1 does overstate ISO by about 1/3 to 1/2 stop.
Overall image quality on the X-T1 is right in line with the other X-Series cameras, and even though this sensor and its variations are around two years old, it still compares very favorably with any other APS-C sensor. As I’ve stated before about other X-Series cameras, I feel the low noise, great color and excellent dynamic range as well as an excellent tonal response really give the images from the X-T1 an intangible depth.
As I mentioned already, Fuji has some of the best JPEGs in the industry. X-T1 JPEG output is low in artifacts and has good detail and excellent dynamic range, especially when using more gentle highlight and shadow settings.
Fuji has unique ‘film simulations’ that seek to emulate some of their more popular films, such as Velvia, Provia, Astia and so on. I generally shoot with the Pro Neg High film simulation (though generally in RAW), and change as needed when processing JPEGs in camera. There are also multiple black and white settings with color filter effects. In all, it’s quite easy to get the look you are after out of camera.
Fuji is still the only camera company where I will sometimes prefer a JPEG I’ve made in camera to a processed RAW image, and that’s a nice thing to fall back on. While I still prefer the flexibility and added benefits of shooting RAW, if you are a JPEG shooter, the X-T1, as well as any other Fuji camera, should be on your short list.
As I noted at the beginning of the review, I am not a videographer and don’t feel fully qualified to discuss the ins and outs of video shooting and video quality. However, I know enough to tell you this: While video quality appears to be quite nice to my eye, if you are buying a camera and plan to use video often for serious work, don’t buy the X-T1. As I mentioned, quality is fine for general shooting, but there are woefully inadequate video settings and controls. You have the choice of shooting 1080p 60 or 30 fps and 720p 60 or 30fps, and beyond that, there’s not much else to choose. Manual control of video doesn’t really exist. Fuji has added a 1/8″ mic input jack that can be used for audio recording but make no mistake: This is a stills camera that can shoot some nice video if you have a need to capture a moment, but don’t expect professional video production work out of the X-T1.
The X-T1 does not have an integrated pop-up flash like the X-E1 and X-E2, but rather opts to provide a clip-on flash unit. The supplied flash is actually pretty nice. When not in use, it folds down, keeping a low profile on the camera, and when raised into operational range, the flash sits significantly higher than other pop-up or clip on flashes, providing a little more flattering light than flashes that are closer to the lens.
It’s not a crazy powerful lens, but it does a good job in a pinch and works really well for very close up work with the 60mm Macro lens. It’s nice to have in your bag when you need it.
Other Items of Note:
- Fuji continues to put the tripod mount off-axis and very close to the battery door, so unless you are shooting with the MHG-XT battery grip or a custom tripod plate, you won’t be able to access the battery door when the camera is mounted on a tripod. At least the SD card is now on the side.
- The X-Trans sensor can have some odd painterly artifacts from time to time depending on the RAW converter you use. This has been minimized considerably as RAW conversion has matured with the X-Trans demosaicing algorithms, but Adobe ACR still shows these artifacts in certain circumstances. Many of the RAW files for the images you see in this review were done in Photo Ninja 1.2.3, which does an absolutely outstanding job with the X-T1 RAW files. I did not see these watercolor artifacts using Photo Ninja at all, even in situations that were prime for it in other converters. Photo Ninja does a great job extracting tons of detail while suppressing any artifacts. Adobe take note!
- The viewfinder diopter adjustment, which is located on the left side of the viewfinder, is a little too easy to knock. I accidentally changed the diopter setting two or three times in the week I shot with the camera.
- Speaking of the viewfinder, Fuji has added back the View Mode button, after removing it in the X-E2. There is also a new setting that allows you to shoot with the EVF only and uses the eye sensor so that it only turns on when in use, thus saving battery. This mode exists on the X-E2, but unlike the X-E2, the X-T1 will still play back on the rear LCD if you press the play button.
- The ISOs outside the native range are still JPEG only, including the new ISO 100 (L) setting. I don’t understand why Fuji can’t simply provide extended ISOs for RAW like every other manufacturer.