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  • Writer's pictureBrian Wells

[Gear] Fujifilm X-T1

My Fujifilm X-T1 is definitely showing its age after being used professionally for almost two years.

Mirrorless goes pro?

The X-T1 isn't my first foray into mirrorless. Years ago, I purchased a Canon EOS-M, the first generation of Canon's mirrorless point-and-shoot SLR hybrid. At the time, I was using an ancient Canon 7D that was starting to fail. I wanted a camera that would work well enough for day-to-day assignments, and that would perform relatively decent in low light as I was shooting a lot of live concerts at the time.

Thus entered the Sony a7 (first gen) and the Fujifilm X-T1. Almost everything I read pointed towards the Sony as being the superior camera. I rented it, and to say we didn't get along would be an understatement.

So, after having bad luck with the Sony, I put my camera search aside for several months, until my wife and I decided to take a weekend getaway to Chicago. I figured that was as good of a time as any to try something new, so I rented the X-T1 with the kit Fujinon 18-55 f/2.8-4 lens.

First impressions

I won't bore anyone by getting too deep into all of the technical specifications of the camera because chances are, you've found all of that elsewhere. You're likely reading this review to find out if the camera is right for you.

First off, I love the cosmetics of this camera. The dials and knobs on the top (ISO, shutter speed and AEB) are a nice throwback to the age of the manual film SLR's. The camera is small, and it has great curves and lines. Even though the camera is small, it weighs about 15.5 ounces with a battery installed.

Inside the camera is Fuji's X-Trans CMOS II aPS-C sensor, coming in at 16 megapixels and full HD video recording. On the back of the camera is a tilting 3-inch LCD screen, which accompanies the camera's 2.36-million dot OLED EVF. The camera has an eye sensor that can quickly switch between the two screens, or it can easily be set to use one or the other constantly instead of changing.

As an added bonus, it looks pretty similar to my Minolta film SLR's.

My X-T1 (center) between a Minolta X-GM and X-370, on a trip to NYC Sept. 2018

Field test

I want to start this section by talking about how great the camera actually feels to operate. I have larger hands, so I was nervous about how it would feel when I held it. The X-T1 definitely isn't considered a big camera. The grips are big enough and the controls are spaced enough that I really didn't notice much of a difference between the camera and my 7D. To add a little extra weight and size, I added Fuji's battery grip.

The shutter speed is controlled by a dial on the top, or you can control it with a dial on the body. The aperture is controlled by a ring on the lens, just like most of the film SLR's I've used. There are also quite a few ways to customize the buttons on the top and the back of the camera, but I won't get into all of the specifics.

There was a bit of a learning curve with this camera due to the shutter speed being adjusted by a dial on the top. One trick I did learn fairly quickly though, was that by setting this dial to 'T' it switches control to a dial on the back of the camera that can easily be adjusted with your thumb.

On to the image quality. First off, I started by shooting RAW and JPEG. The JPEG's that this camera produce are fantastic straight out of the camera when properly exposed, but I didn't want to do the injustice of not shooting RAW.

When we returned from our trip and I started sorting through and editing the RAW photos, I was blown away by how well it performed in almost every situation. White balance is fairly accurate, and the colors that the camera produce are amazing. When over/under exposed, the X-T1's files are pretty good at maintaining recoverable shadow and highlight detail.

But, this isn't all to say that the camera doesn't have it's flaws. The camera's biggest drawback is easily the autofocus. The camera uses a hybrid phase and contrast detection system with 77 focus points. There's also the option for continuous autofocus. For slow-moving subjects this works fine, but I've entirely given up trying to shoot any sports with it.

The battery life also isn't great. The Fujifilm NP-W126 battery is only rated for about 400 shots, which can easily be more or less depending on the age of the battery, camera settings, etc. I purchased Fujifilm's VG-XT1 battery grip, which adds a second battery. I also use Watson brand batteries, which seem to have a better life.

I also can't say I've ever been real impressed with the video. The audio quality is acceptable, and video isn't even too terrible, but it also just isn't great. There are tons of YouTube videos that can give you an idea of video quality.

Final thoughts

The X-T1 has been my workhorse since I bought it almost two years ago. I use it for just about everything, from travel and personal work to assignments for the newspaper. The only time it's ever let me down is, like I said, when it comes to photographing sports.

My X-T1 has definitely been through the ringer, and it's pretty obvious when you look at it (note the scuffs and the tape), but it still works just as good as it did the day it was delivered. I plan to use it as long as possible, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't drooling over the new X-T3.

Here's a few sample images I've taken over the years. These photos were all taken by me both on assignment and on my personal time, and they were all lightly edited in Lightroom.

NYC, Sept. 2018. Fujinon 10-24mm F4 R OIS, ISO 200, 15 sec., f/8.

NYC, Sept. 2018. Fujinon XF 10-24mm F4 R OIS, ISO 200, 1/180, f/4

Skillet performing in April 2018. Taken on assignment for the Times Herald. Fuji non XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4, ISO 1600, 1/200, f/4

The Denali 3, right, pulls away from other boats at the starting line the Class A Division 1 race Saturday, July 14, 2018, during the Bell's Beer Bayview Mackinac Race on Lake Huron. Taken on assignment for the Times Herald. Fujinon XF 10-24mm F4 R OIS, ISO 400, 1/400, f/11

Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4, ISO 200, 1/40, f/8. Several off-camera flashes were used.

Times Square, Sept. 2018. Fujinon XF 10-24mm F4 R OIS. ISO 800, 1/180, f/4.5

All images (C) Brian Wells 2018. All rights reserved.

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