Shortest Ever Fujifilm X-T1 Review

It’s been quite a ride for the Fujifilm X series so far. Launched in March two years ago with the groundbreaking X-Pro1, the family of X cameras seems to grow faster than any of the competitors’ — despite sales being not that strong. The choice is yours, there’s the X-E2, X-A1, X-M1 and the series’ latest incarnation, the flagship X-T1, not to mention the XF1, XQ1, XS1, X100s, X20… That’s a great many cameras within a short time. I think you guess what I’m hinting at. Could less be more? I could easily go on and write that Fujifilm once again really really nails it with this weather-sealed X-T1 in a sturdy compact package, hoping that many of you will hit the order button and get great XF glass along with this promising little stunner. But there is more to a camera than just the specs and marketing behind it. Seems it just didn’t work out between the two of us.

Looking perfect on paper... Fujifilm X-T1, the X series' new flagship.
Looking perfect on paper… Fujifilm X-T1, the X series’ new flagship.
BTW, as always all sample images are straight out of camera JPEGs to show the camera’s real and not post-processed performance.

This post sure doesn’t bring me any new friends. Common sense tells me to not even publish it. If you don’t have an open mind then please don’t bother and better hit an escape button. The following sounds heretic? But why just grin. It goes without saying that every camera maker has something to copy from these thoughtful Fujfilm X series cameras. For instance: choose on the lens between aperture A or M mode, and on the shutter speed and ISO dials whether auto or manual. Nifty, isn’t it.

And yes, an added A value on the prime lenses’ aperture ring sounds like a great idea. Requires some practice though. Why, Fujifilm, not a standard solution? Why do the zoom lenses have the A/M switch I’d prefer? Each lens requires a different shooting approach…

And who doesn’t like the sneaky view mode button on the right side of the X-T1’s EVF. Quickly select between EVF only (saves battery), EVF with eye sensor, eye sensor to switch between EVF and LCD, and finally LCD only. Neat!

Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 35mm F1.4 R | F1.4 1/30 ISO 100
Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 35mm F1.4 R | F1.4 1/30 ISO 100

Now that electronic viewfinder, praised as world’s closest to an old-school optical one, well, while the 2.36m dot EVF has an astonishing refresh rate of 54 fps in normal and low light conditions and it has a claimed response time of 0.005 seconds for a smoother view of moving subjects, it’s still not the real thing.

Especially in difficult light colors quickly turn overly saturated and plasticky, not to mention the glimmering shadows and blacks. Good old OVF vs. next-generation EVF is always a tradeoff. Either you want more superimposed information in the viewfinder. Or you want the closest possible rendition of what the human eye sees. EVFs are certainly the way to go, but let’s be honest, even the X-T1’s highly praised isn’t satisfying not only the discerning eye.

Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18mm F2 R | F13 1/60 ISO 1,600
Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18mm F2 R | F13 1/60 ISO 1,600

You may twist and turn this fact as long as you want. EVFs are still more gadget than accurate tool. I have not the slightest doubt in my mind that once mirrorless system cameras’ overall speed and performance match those of DSLRs we’ll also be able to enjoy the best of two viewfinder worlds: absolute clarity with overlaid shooting information. Each latest viewfinder comes a step closer to the real thing. Give it a year or two and we might be there.

A word on ergonomics: if system cameras get any smaller than the X-T1, then the miniaturization drive is killing its own children. Seriously. There has to be a balance between stable grip, portability and functionality. Ideally we could buy camera sizes according to the size of our hands. Or why doesn’t everyone wear the same size of socks?! That’s something not about to happen in the camera world — even though, at least, there could be a real market for left-handed cameras and no one does it.

Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18mm F2 R | F13 1/60 ISO 1,600
Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18mm F2 R | F13 1/60 ISO 1,600

I have small hands, smaller than my 15-year-old son’s, but the X-T1 is really at the breaking point of what I consider to be a size that’s a wise compromise between operation and functionality. For the sake of usefulness, small is already small enough! Also, as a case in point, the Fujinon pancakes have no aperture ring in order to make them compact and lightweight… Well it’s probably just a matter of getting used to, but for standard wide focal lengths I’d prefer a good old-fashioned aperture ring.

Now, even the X-T1’s Fujinon XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS kit lens has an aperture ring, albeit unmarked… The mighty XF 10-24mm F4 OIS with its exceptional build quality as well has no aperture ring. You’ll have to check the viewfinder or LCD each time if aperture value ever matters to your shooting… There is hope. The upcoming fast 16-55mm F2.8 and 50-140mm F2.8 zooms have an aperture ring. But again, why no standard approach, Fujifilm?

Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 35mm F1.4 R | F1.4 1/60 ISO 200
Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 35mm F1.4 R | F1.4 1/60 ISO 200

Talking body and ergonomics, the non-existant tactile feedback of the X-T1’s menu buttons as well needs some getting used to. There’s no click response. I like a “click confirmation,” but that’s probably an as unimportant critique as my overall hesitation to blindly praise the X-T1. Fujifilm provides so much good intention in a truly elaborate package that parts from the X series’ initial Leica-lookalike design.

With the X-T1, Fujifilm ventures into Olympus OM-D territory with that prominent “pentaprism” bulk. The Fujifilm looks like more camera and less computer than the OM-D E-M1 which rather reminds me of a joystick with its myriad of buttons and options.

Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18mm F2 R | F2 1/30 ISO 250 -0.33 EV
Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18mm F2 R | F2 1/30 ISO 250 -0.33 EV

But make no mistake. You can laugh off bigger cameras as things of the past, but to many photographers the serious mirrorless cameras don’t feel as solid and comfortable in the hand as “cumbersome” DSLRs — or my current favorite, the Nikon Df.

And one Fujifilm thing I don’t understand, something that made me sell the X100: be it manual focusing or enlarging images for reviewing, Fujifilm wants the user to overly work those dials and rings. To manually focus you have to turn and turn the lens ring, well the shot might already be lost. A bit more fine-tuned operation would certainly be appreciated.

Fujifilm X-T1 with XF 18mm F2 R | F16 1/30 ISO 800 -0.33 EV
Fujifilm X-T1 with XF 18mm F2 R | F16 1/30 ISO 800 -0.33 EV

But the X-T1’s real bummer — for my unimportant self at least: the exposure compensation dial cannot be locked — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it happened again and again over the course of several days that the value was changed accidentally by simply carrying the camera with the neck strap.

Fujifilm told me the X-T1 has no exposure lock button because too many users complained about the compensation dial being locked. It would certainly help things if the dial would be a bit stiffer to operate to avoid accidental under- or overexposure. If you’re getting the X-T1, then repeat again and again your new mantra: CHECK THAT EXPOSURE COMPENSATION DIAL.

Fujifilm X-T1 with XF Fujinon 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS | F14 1/30 ISO 5,000
Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS | F14 1/30 ISO 5,000

If other reviewers don’t stumble over this querulent dial I wonder did they really put the camera through its paces?!

Last but not least, another not really worthwhile nitpicking: once the camera goes into sleep mode and you want to switch it on quickly, you have to officially switch the camera off first and then on again. Guess a firmware update can fix that. For the moment it could mean precious instants lost.

Oh, and at standard setting in sunlight it was not possible to see the LCD screen.

Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS | F14 1/10 ISO 6,400
Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS | F14 1/10 ISO 6,400

Bottom line?

So no, I’m not really sold. And despite the promise of world’s fastest AF system I produced a considerable amount of, well, you get the drift. Roughly every two months Fujifilm’s releasing an X camera. I’m afraid they’re losing their focus and potential buyers are simply overwhelmed by the excess choice of X gear. But there is always hope, not least because of Fujifilm’s phenomenal X-Trans II sensor and the really exceptional build quality and fine finish of the camera bodies and especially the latest lenses. Even in dim light the sensor is perfectly capable to churn out clean, pleasant images with great detail and those unique Fujifilm colors. I guess for many this X-T1 really nails it. Add the simply amazing remote control from a smartphone or tablet. We two, I guess, were just not bonding because of mentioned quirks that might be a non-brainer to most of you.

Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS | F7.1 1/30 ISO 320
Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS | F7.1 1/30 ISO 320

+++ You can nevertheless order the Fujifilm X-T1 from Amazon (body / kit), B&H (body / kit) and Adorama (body / kit).

  • Trackback

    Shortest Ever Fujifilm X-T1 Review | Theme | Fu…

    […] It’s been quite a ride for the Fujifilm X series so far. Launched in March two years ago with the groundbreaking X-Pro1, the family of X cameras seems to grow faster than any of the competitors’ — despite sales being not that strong. The choice is yours, there’s the X-E2, X-A1, X-M1 and the series’ latest incarnation, the flagship X-T1, not to mention the XF1, XQ1, XS1, X100s, X20… That’s a great many cameras within a short time. I think you guess what I’m hinting at. Could less be more? I could easily go on and write that Fujifilm once again really really nails it with this weather-sealed X-T1 in a sturdy compact package, hoping that many of you will hit the order button and get great XF glass along with this promising little stunner. But there is more to a camera than just the specs and marketing behind it. Seems it just didn’t work out between the two of us…….  […]

    http://www.scoop.it/t/fuji-x-pro1/p/4017929084/2014/03/19/shortest-ever-fujifilm-x-t1-review-theme

  • Trackback

    Shortest Ever Fujifilm X-T1 Review | Fujifilm X…

    […] But there is more to a camera than just the specs and marketing behind it. Seems it just didn’t work out between the two of us.  […]

    http://www.scoop.it/t/fujifilm-x-pro1-x-e1-x100s/p/4017947056/2014/03/19/shortest-ever-fujifilm-x-t1-review

  • David Holliday

    I feel the same way and this article sums up most of what I think about the XT1. I also have a DF. The only advantage some people may see the XT1 has over the DF is the smaller but not pocket able size. But I do not mind the size of the DF. Oh and also the Fuji colours which I do like but that is covered with X100S and XE1.

  • Nicholas Dunning

    If you ignore the xm1 and xa1 as they were designed by accountants then there is only the xe2, xpro1 and xt1 which is 3 semi distinct camera lines but the xe3 could be better served by taking everything good from the xt1 into the xe2 body style to keep things simple.

  • fauxtojournalist

    Regarding the aforementioned zooms, those have variable apertures so an aperture ring doesn’t make sense. However, those with constant apertures *should* have an aperture ring. Moral of the story: get zooms with constant apertures.

  • Drazen B

    Pretty much same sentiment here Dan…had the XT1 to ‘play with’ for few days, courtesy of the very nice sales rep from Fuji, returned and commented on things I disliked (and still tend to dislike to this day with Fuji X-cameras as a Nikon DSLR owner).

    He actually agreed, especially on the size of buttons, button push-feedback and some other quirky things they do at the moment. He said I wasn’t alone and that they’ve been looking to address some of them soon. That’s all I have at the moment, sorry.

    • Sam Douglas

      It appears the XT1 V2 could be the one to go with…as someone who’s into software development I never tend to go with the V1 of any techno product these days :-)

  • David Holliday

    I posted this review on a Fuji Forum and it was not very popular. Can’t seem to link it here

  • Dooglie

    Actually the 18-55 DOES have an aperture ring – it’s just not marked because of the variable aperture, as do all of the variable aperture zooms. All the constant aperture zooms will have a clearly marked aperture ring. The very small pancake 27mm does away with it all together due to keeping the size down.

    I’ve got a D800 and the X-T1. I love them both for different reasons, and frankly the Nikon has quirks too. They’ve just had them longer and people are used to them. I don’t find FujiFilms to be really any worse or better. Just different. What has me sold are the Fujinon lens quality…amazing.

    • Colin Mathura-Jeffree

      I am also a D800 owner coming from long line of Nikon SLRs in the past…I tried the XT1 just to have a ‘small camera’ option, sorry but no, couldn’t get over the fiddliness, small size, body-lens balance and overall uncomfortable handling. And I don’t have large hands.

      But this stuff is very subjective and to each his own.

      • kevski2001

        As one who has moved from FF SLR to fuji xt1, I feel the complete opposite, and I have big hands. Now when I hold a FF SLR it feels like what it is. Big and bloated,heavy and cumbersome. Sony have shown that FF cameras do not have to have this bloated design. Infact,the oversized,chubby camera design probably came in in the mid 80’s, which was a bad time for design in general, before this, SLR cameras were neat, simple, trim designs. That was the 60’s and 70’s when obesity was unheard of and we we nearly all slim.

  • SDar

    “Sweating over minor details” – a hallmark of small time thinking. Sure buttons are small, sure its not a full frame, sure there are lots of new cameras from Fuji (a company really working hard to survive… like others). All that said, what is this obsession you folks have about everything needing to be perfect? You expect a camera that you are going to use for a couple years to be perfectly flawless? Like life, friends, family and spouse, nothing or no one is perfect. No camera EVER will be perfect in every facet (this is true for any manmade product), isn’t it?. Why is it in this American culture, everything has to be perfect and yet America itself is a nation filled with people and societies that are completely imperfect (… coming from a world traveler). Americans need to leave America and go live in a few other countries to fully comprehend the concept of acceptance and compromise, and learning how to create best results with limited resources.

    Furthermore, I didn’t exactly find this to be the “shortest” ever review of X-T1. Obviously the author seems to take his opinion quite seriously, so I will not refute the brevity issue. Hopefully, you (the author) get what I am saying. Buy a camera that you like, use it, pass it on, move to the next camera. Please just stop obsessing over MINOR DETAILS.

    • Don’t get me wrong, am not criticizing for the sake of criticizing. As a loyal Fujifilm user since many years it’s beyond my understanding how such a “minor detail” as the exposure compensation dial can slip through QC. I write again and again on THEME that Fujifilm’s are cameras made by photographers for photographers. The X-T1 points into a new direction. Fujifilm’s clearly struggling to find the “essence” of the X lineup. A lot is about old wine in new skins. And where I sense a digital trap I feel obliged to throttle enthusiasm, it’s as simple as that.

      • SDar

        I agree the “essence” of the X line-up is somewhat muddled. I think we all have to deal with bottom-line driven bosses and accountants at work. And Fuji and Leica especially are in that same boat with many of us. Its a business… and money has to be made to cover payroll and R&D. But you know, some companies are conscientiously trying to invest the right way… the way of innovation. Majority are on mission to dig deeper into the income inequality chasm and lining the pockets of the very same bosses/accountant (thank you, Wall St.). So thats why I think Fuji deserves some credit… more credit than others perhaps just because they are trailblazing away from the norm. While none of these cameras have it just right, we are definitely spoilt for choices. Really, all you need in terms of a tool to take fabulous pictures is an above average camera with stellar glass.

        PS: I appreciate you not taking my comments negatively. Cheers!

    • One More Thought

      I so agree with you that we are getting so spoiled. We have never had it so good yet never felt so disatisfied.

      We are trained to obsess over minor details and find faults, as opposed to just enjoying what we have. I’m all for being detail oriented, but there’s something wrong when we have this quixotic search for the perfect camera, or the perfect anything.

      It’s been said that the job of advertising and marketing is to breed constant discontent, so that people will always want to buy more, and if so, then the marketing people have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

      I enjoy reading Lloyd Chambers, but I laughed when I read this on the public portion of his website today….he labeled as “decidedly unexciting” the Leica M 240, the Canon 5d mark iii, and the Nikon D800. Now these are 3 of the best, most desired cameras today. They are 3 of the most capable cameras ever. Most photographers would be thrilled to have one of these, and find them anything but unexciting. Yet here they are summarily dismissed and taken for granted.

  • jon

    Hi, seldom will one camera be perfect for everyone. I have used many different cameras from compact, dslr, mirrorless etc, they all have their place and are useful in their chosen area. I personally find the nikon df to be a slow, cumbersome, heavy camera and one which I would not carry around on a regular basis, this doesn’t make it a bad camera, its just not the right tool for me. I do not have an xt1 and probably wont get one either as many of my quibbles over handling are borne out in your report.

  • B. D. Colen

    I’ll preface this by saying I don’t have, haven’t touched, an X-T1, thought I shoot with an X-Pro1and X100s. But complaints about the exposure compensation dial? Really? I literally can’t think of when I last – if ever – used one; set the lens and shutter manually, based on the meter reading, and go shoot. ;-)

    • Same here B. D., hardly ever use it, so I reckon you’d be in trouble as well when it easily moves by itself and “accidentally” changes values…

      • B. D. Colen

        Actually not, Dan. If the camera is set manually, the exposure compensation dial doesn’t do a thing. And if I have a camera on AE, which is extremely rare for me, I reflexively glance at the compensation dial as I raise the camera to my eye.

  • Ray

    I have an xt1. After 40 years with Nikon and a move to Fuji after an X100. The xt1 is a fine camera and, for me, an excellent system. Lenses are what I need, quality is very good to excellent, price is very good for the quality. However, the xt1 is far from a perfect body. Is any body? Our choice is to purchase the best available for what how we shoot. I travel a lot and, irrespective of my travel, consider small and light a major drawing card. In this respect, compared to my former D800, the xt1 is nirvana.

    My nits with the camera:
    Grip could be vastly improved by extending the thumb rest up, even if it meant relocating the AF-L button.
    My EV button takes skin off my fingers. That appears to be the general consensus on the Fuji boards. The fact your review sample turned accidentally would be a godsend to me. First time I’ve ever read this about the xt1’s EV dial.
    Aperture rings are inconsistent between lenses. I suppose this is a nit to those who swap lenses constantly. For me its a total non-event as I tend to do 90+ percent of my shooting with the 18 and 35, with the 14 filling in the remainder. All consistent.

    Good review. But I will share an observation with a few others. First, in today’s world, there are few ergonomically bad cameras. Sinking to finding a handful of nits, apparently just to be able to say something has become the hallmark of camera reviews and forum participants. If that’s what makes people happy or makes them feel like they’re contributing, fine. I’d rather go take pictures with a camera that is both very capable and small/light enough that I can take it anywhere and hardly know its there until I want to use it.

    • While I’m happy for your overall happiness with the X-T1, your judgement on mine is not really fair Ray. I really was convinced I’ll like this camera and invest in the system, nothing negative here is made up for the sake of negativity. Read my other stuff, I’m usually a pretty forthcoming if not optimistic guy hating to denounce gear. Maybe most people are carefully storing the camera in a bag most of the time. When I move around with a camera and put it through its paces, then I really move around. Fact is, that EV dial changed all the time. Can’t remember another camera with a similar quirk. Maybe it was a very early release model and by now the dial is stiffer. Hope so. Because overall it is a very tempting camera and the X system is only getting better.

      • Ray

        Ray, you take my comment far too personally. Reviewer and user comments have focused on nits because the cameras are so good these days. As such, the pros and cons have been whittled down to highly personalized subjective opinions about some pretty minor issues.

        I don’t doubt your ev dial is loose. My X100’s certainly is, and would be an issue if I did not use only the left lug for straps. Or used a bag, which I don’t. My XT1 has a short cut of bicycle inner tube tire around it to save my fingers and allow a better grip to turn it. I certainly do not pamper my cameras and I am more than secure in the thought my dial will never turn by accident. I’ve had 2 XT1’s so far, both dials were the same.

        I think the selling point of mirrorless is size versus performance. In the case of the XT1, I get a small, light package that delivers an end result I’m satisfied with. Throw in excellent jpegs for when I travel and don’t have the time nor inclination to sit in front of a computer pixel peeping while my group is out having fun. And finally an evf that’s at least useable. That last point is the only reason I bought the camera. Otherwise I’d still be pleased as punch with my XE1 which, with a thumb rest attached, has a better grip than the XT1, is smaller and has better ergonomics (for me). All subjective criteria and opinions. While I could lambast the camera for a host of issues I feel detract from my usage. Its the best alternative available for my criteria. Comparing it to a Nikon is irrelevant for me and, probably the majority of mirror less users. Its not my now departed D800 which reflects years of development. But was way to large for my needs/wants.

        As I said, good review.

      • kevski2001

        Have to say, my dial never turns by accident, not once. Your comments could very misleading

  • jimbox

    One thing fujifilm does very well is listen. I intend to purchase the fancy Graphite XT1 in December, because I fully expect them to have listened to gripes and inputs such as yours and made certain adjustments. I have an XE-1 and have no complaints. It does what it does, and I am glad to operate within its quirks to create great photos. I also have a D600 for those other situations that require a faster response.

  • Willie Jackson

    Really like the image quality from the X-Pro1 but in use it and the X-T1 is just too damn small for my hands. Add in the electronic finder for the X-T1 which is almost vertigo inducing when I view it and I’ll stick with DSLR’s with optical finders. Add in slow focus compared to my DSLR’s which makes them a poor choice for my work. A shame in some ways as the Fuji is an excellent camera in so many ways.