Fujifilm X-T1 Review

5.0
February 4, 2014 | Mark Goldstein |

Introduction

The Fujifilm X-T1 is a brand new compact system camera that looks, feels and performs very much like a classic DSLR that''s been shrunk in the wash. Is this the best X-series camera that Fujifilm have released, and can it compete with the likes of the Sony A7/A7R and Olympus OM-D E-M1, not to mention DSLRs from Canon and Nikon? Read our in-depth Fujifilm X-T1 review to find out...

The Fujifilm X-T1 is a new compact system camera that looks and feels very much like a miniature DSLR. The X-T1 features a 2.36m dot resolution OLED electronic viewfinder with the world’s highest magnification and a lag-time of just 0.005 sec, hybrid auto-focus system with a fast response time of 0.08sec, a weather-proof body, five mechanical dials and six customisable function buttons, and compatibility with Ultra High Speed UHS-II SDXC memory cards. At the heart of the X-T1 is a 16.3 megapixel APS-C sized X-Trans CMOS II sensor, which has a colour filter array that mimics film grain and no optical low-pass filter for higher resolution images, Fujifilm’s EXR Processor II, and a Lens Modulation Optimiser which automatically corrects diffraction blur. The X-T1 also has a tilting 3-inch LCD screen, 8fps burst shooting, enhanced wi-fi connectivity, interval timer shooting, in-camera raw conversion, a range of film simulation modes, multiple exposure and panoramic shooting modes, Digital Split Image and Focus Peaking for easier manual focusing, and Full HD video recording capabilities at up to 60fps. The Fujifilm X-T1 is available in all-black or silver and black and costs £1099 in the UK and $1299 in the US body-only, or £1449 / $1699 with the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 OIS kit lens.

Ease of Use

In terms of its outward appearance, the new Fujifilm X-T1 is quite a departure from previous X-series cameras, sporting a DSLR-look rather than the classic rangefinder design that the range has become well-known for. Fujifilm claim that this decision has been taken to try and broaden the appeal of the X-series to action photographers armed with longer lenses, but we suspect that the X-T1 has also been designed to appeal to the large number of potential customers that want a DSLR, or at least a camera that looks like one. Whatever the reason, the X-T1 is undoubtedly a good-looking camera, with a classic DSLR profile, just in miniature.

The X-T1 is the first weather-proof X-series camera, with 80 points of weather sealing offering dust-resistance, water-resistance and freeze-resistance down to -10°C. The optional Vertical Battery Grip (VG-XT1) offers the same levels of weather-proof-ness. Curiously, Fujifilm didn't launch a wather-resistant lens at the same time as the X-T1, which means that it won't actually become a fully weather-proof system until you can pair it with one of the three new weather-resistant zoom lenses that are slated for release in 2014 (the first being the XF 18-135mm lens, due out in June).

As with the X-E2, the the X-T1 dispenses with the range-topping X-Pro1's innovative Hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder, replaced instead by a brand new high-resolution OLED electronic viewfinder. Although sharing the same 2.36m dot resolution as the X-E2, Fujifilm have clearly been hard at work on making the X-T1's electronic viewfinder even better. With a magnification of 0.77x, it narrowly beats the Olympus M-D E-M1 to the title of "EVF with the world's highest magnification", while it has a lag-time of just 0.005 sec, in practice answering one of the most common complaints about electronic viewfinders.

Fujfilm's engineers haven't stopped there though. The viewfinder has a stunning new Graphic User Interface that no optical viewfinder could ever hope to emulate. The default Full mode does what its name suggests and displays an uninterrupted view of the scene with all the settings information displayed outside the frame so that you can really concentrate on your subject. Normal provides an optimum view, including the shooting settings. The very clever new Dual mode is unlike anything that we've seen before, taking advantage of the EVF's size to display a split view of the scene before you, with the full frame on the left and a smaller 100% manual focus area on the right, complete with either focus peaking or Fujifilm's digital split image function. Finally, the displayed settings in the Full and Normal modes automatically rotate when the camera is held in a portrait orientation (although sadly not for the Dual view).

All of this - size, magnification, speed, and display - adds up to make the Fujifilm X-T1's EVF the best that we've ever looked through, no mean feat considering the likes of the viewfinders inside the Olympus M-D E-M1 and the Sony A7/A7R. Electronic viewfinder sceptics should definitely take a look through the X-T1's viewfinder - you might never go back to an optical viewfinder again.

The Fujifilm X-T1 is another amazingly well-built X-series camera, with absolutely no flex or movement in its chassis thanks to the die-cast magnesium alloy body and machined control dials. At the same time, it's actually a little lighter than a first glance might suggest, weighing in at 440g body only with the battery and memory card fitted, about the same as the X-Pro1. Measuring 129.0mm (W) x 89.8mm (H) x 46.7mm, it's slightly taller and deeper than the X-E2.

Fujifilm X-T1 Fujifilm X-T1
Front Rear

The X-T1 has a pronounced hand-grip at the front and a prominent rest at the rear for your thumb, with your grip helped in no small part by the textured faux-leather surface that runs around the full width of the camera. Two small metal eyelets on either side of the body are used for connecting the supplied shoulder strap. A metal tripod mount is positioned slightly off-centre from the lens and next to the battery compartment, so you'll have to remove the camera from the tripod to change the battery. The memory card is located on the right-hand flank of the camera when viewed from the rear. The X-T1 is the first ever camera to offer compatibility with Ultra High Speed UHS-II SDXC memory cards, which has the main benefit of increasing the data writing speed in continuous mode to about twice that of a conventional UHS-1 card. The X-T1 offers a continuous shooting rate of 8fps for 47 JPEGs if you use a UHS-II SDXC card, certainly up there with the fastest compact system cameras, although not as fast as the Olympus O-MD E-M1 which can shoot up to 50 RAW files at 10fps (even with a non-UHS II card).

At the heart of the X-T1 is the 16.3 megapixel APS-C sized X-Trans CMOS sensor, which is also used by the X-E2 camera. APS-C is a sensor size that's more commonly used by the majority of DSLR cameras, rather than by compact system cameras - Sony's NEX range and Samsung's NX series are the others. Fujifilm actually claim that the X-T1's sensor will deliver image quality that surpasses most APS-C DSLRs and even some full-frame ones, and as our test photos and sample images on the next two pages show , the X-T1 actually does live up to those claims. We won't say any more at this point other than to recommend that you take a look at our Sample Images for yourself.

Helping to keep the image quality high is the 18-55mm standard zoom kit lens that we tested the X-T1 with. This offers fast maximum apertures of F/2.8 at 18mm and F/4 at 55mm, with the added benefit of built-in optical image stabilisation to help keep your images sharp. There are aperture and manual focus rings on the lens barrel, which in conjunction with the shutter speed and exposure compensation dials on top of the camera body makes it straight-forward to set the exposure. We did find though that the aperture ring is easily moved, particularly when taking the lens on and off the camera, so watch out for an incorrectly set aperture. The 18-55mm f/2.8-4 OIS is a really nice standard zoom that's certainly a cut above the kit lenses that ship with most interchangeable lens cameras.

The 18-55mm lens' fast maximum apertures in conjunction with the large APS-C sensor make it easy to throw the background out of focus and achieve some really nice bokeh effects. The combination of the fast apertures and the extensive ISO range of 100-51200 makes the X-T1 very well suited to low-light shooting, allowing you to hand-hold the camera in places where you'd usually be reaching for a tripod (if allowed) or other support. The clever ISO Auto Control setting allows you to set a maximum sensitivity (up to 6400) and a minimum shutter speed (1/30th is a good starting point), with the camera over-riding your ISO choice if it thinks you're being too ambitious whilst maintaining a shutter speed that won't introduce camera shake.

With its focal-plane shutter, the X-T1 has a very adaptable top shutter-speed limit of 1/4000th second in all shooting modes. Consequently there's no built-in ND filter as on the X100/S, so if you want to use the 35mm lens at F/1.4 in very bright sunlight, for example, then it's a good idea to buy an actual glass ND filter. The X-T1 utilises a focal-plane shutter rather than the leaf shutter that the X100/S cameras have, much like a regular DSLR camera. This results in slightly noisier operation than on those very quiet cameras, although the shutter on the X-T1 is pretty stealthy by DSLR standards, and a much slower flash-sync speed of 1/180th second (versus the X100/S's 1/400th second). To make the camera less obtrusive there's a Silent menu option which turns off the speaker, flash, AF-assist lamp and most importantly the shutter-release sound, instantly making the X-T1 perfectly suited to candid photography.

Fujifilm X-T1 Fujifilm X-T1
Front Top

The Fujifilm X-T1's auto-focusing speed is very similar to the X-E2, with a quoted fastest auto-focus time of just 0.08 seconds when using the 18-55mm zoom. The X-T1 has the same ultra-fast hybrid AF system with both a conventional contrast-detection system and built-in Phase Detection pixels which enables the camera to achieve a focus lock so quickly and accurately. The X-T1 has 49 individual AF points laid out in a 7 x 7 grid, with the ability to change the size of the focus point via the rear command dial to achieve more precise focusing.

Manual focusing is activated by setting the focusing switch on the front of the camera to Manual and using the ring that encircles the lens to focus. The X-series lenses have an electronically coupled focus-by-wire manual focusing ring, rather than a physical one. We criticised some older X-series bodies for taking a lot of turns to change the focus from 0.1m to infinity, commenting that it was a much better idea to use the AEL button on the rear of the camera to set the focus automatically, then use the focusing ring to micro-adjust the focus manually, if required. This is still a viable technique, but is perhaps no longer required as Fujifilm have cleverly made the focusing ring more sensitive to how you use it - turn it slowly and the focusing distance changes slowly, but turn it more quickly and the camera quickly moves through the distance scale. It now only takes less than 2 full turns and a couple of seconds to jump from the closest focus distance to infinity.

The X-T1 offers not one, not two, but three ways of manually focusing. Firstly, there's a handy blue distance scale along the bottom of the viewfinder (both the OVF and EVF) and on the LCD screen if you're using that for composition, with a red bar indicating the the focusing distance and a white bar showing the depth of field, which actually changes in line with the current aperture - very clever. In addition to the AEL button, the X-T1 has another trick up its manual focusing sleeve in the shape of the new Focus Assist. As its name suggests, you can press this in to magnify the view in the electronic viewfinder. Furthermore, if you hold down the Focus Assist button, the manual focusing aid then switches to Digital Split Image, and then to Focus Peaking - a very neat way to change between the three modes.

The second manual focusing method is the Digital Split Image feature. Harking back to film cameras of the past, this displays dual images on the left and right which then need to be lined up together for accurate manual focusing, enabling accurate focusing especially when shooting wide-open or for macro shooting. It's much easier to understand in practice than written down. The third and final method is the Focus Peak Highlight function, which displays a white line around the subject when it's in focus, something that Sony NEX users in particular have been enjoying for a while. Both of these functions make manual focusing on the X-T1 more of a pleasure than a chore, although the revised fly-by-wire manual focusing ring operation is arguably more important.

Fujifilm X-T1 Fujifilm X-T1
Flash Attached Tilting LCD Screen

In addition to the class-leading electronic viewfinder, the X-T1 has a higher-resolution 3 inch LCD monitor on the back, which offers 100% scene coverage and 1.04 million dots, and can be usefully tilted up and down by about 90 degrees. The LCD screen has a handy Info view which presents all of the key settings at once, or you can switch to the Standard or Custom Live View modes, with the latter offering 14 customisable options (these are also used for the electronic viewfinder). The X-T1 has a built-in eye sensor so that you only have to hold the camera up to eye-level to switch between the rear LCD and the electronic viewfinder (or you can press the View Mode button on the side of the pentaprism).

In terms of operational speed, the Fujifilm X-T1 is very satisfying to use. Shutter lag is virtually non-existent on this camera (0.05 second), so once you have set the focus, you'll never miss the moment because the camera can't fire the shutter quickly enough. The shot-to-shot time is just 0.5 second, and it starts-up in only 0.5 second too. The write speeds from pressing the shutter button to recording to the SD / SDHC / SDXC memory card are fast too. Shooting a single RAW + Fine JPEG takes less than a second to record to a UHS-II card, a big improvement on the already speedy X-E2. Continuous shooting speeds have been slightly improved, with a faster top rate of 8fps for up to 47 JPEGs or 23 RAW files if using a UHS-II card, with a slower 3fps speed with AF tracking up to the capacity of the card also available. Thankfully the camera doesn't lock up completely for a long time if you shoot the maximum number of images in a burst, allowing you to continue shooting after just a few seconds. The X-T1 also offers interval timer shooting for time lapses, with intervals of 1 second to 24 hours and up to 999 frames.

One area in which the Fujifilm X-T1 excels is its handling, thanks in no small part to the numerous external controls that make changing the key settings a breeze, especially when holding the camera at eye-level. Surrounding the 18-55m lens is a circular aperture ring, although it has no markings due to the variable aperture. This dial also allows you to choose third-stop apertures. On top of the X-T1 is a large, tactile, lockable control dial for setting the shutter speed, with settings ranging from 1 second to 1/4000th second, an Auto option, a T setting for longer exposures (2 to 30 seconds, set via the circular command wheel) and a Bulb mode for exposures up to a whopping 60 minutes in length. Alongside the shutter speed dial is another tactile dial for changing the exposure compensation, with a range of +-3EV, and on the left-hand side is a third, lockable dial for setting the ISO speed, with settings ranging from Auto to H2. Together these three controls make it extremely easy to set the exposure.

Underneath the ISO Speed and Shutter Speed dials are two more dials, the first for setting bracketing, burst, multiple exposure, advanced and panorama functions, and the second for setting the metering mode. Cleverly, unlike the dials that sit on top of the them, these two dials are not locked in place.

Fujifilm X-T1 Fujifilm X-T1
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

Four other controls complete the X-T1's top-plate. The small but responsive shutter release button is encircled by the On/Off switch, although sadly there's no thread for a traditional mechanical cable release, as on the X-E2. Alongside are the one-touch Movie Record and-the Fn/Wi-Fi buttons, which by default provides quick access to the Wi-Fi options, but can be customised to suit your own needs from 12 different settings. Further customisation is available via the 7 Custom Menu options, which let you create, save and recall up to 7 sets of user-defined settings, and no less than 6 configurable function buttons. Finally there's an external flash hotshoe for suitable dedicated external units, into which fits the new EF-X8 flash that ships in the box. This small but handy flash unit has a guide number of 11 at ISO 200, more powerful than the X-E2's flash, which goes some way to compensating for the fact that it's not built-in to the camera.

The X-T1 features enhanced built-in wi-fi connectivity. Install the new FUJIFILM Camera Remote App and you can transfer your pictures immediately to a smartphone or tablet PC and then edit and share them as you wish, transfer stills and video onto the camera, and embed GPS information in your shots from your smartphone. You can also now control the camera remotely, the first time on an X-series camera, with the list of available functions including Touch AF, shutter release for stills and movies, shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity, Film Simulation modes, White Balance, macro, timer and flash. The built-in wi-fi also provides a simple means to backup your photos to your home PC.

The Fujifilm X-T1 can record full HD 1080p movies at 60/30fps with stereo sound and a high bitrate (36Mbps), with the option for turning this mode on curiously buried at the bottom of the Drive menu, although at least Fujifilm have finally added a one-touch record button. It's fair to say that the X-T1's movie mode isn't overly advanced. You can set the aperture and shutter speed before recording begins, but not during, and you can also set the Film Simulation mode, so black and white footage is possible, and the exposure compensation. Continuous auto-focusing is possible, although it still tends to hunt around before locking onto the subject, and manual focusing is also available (with the same caveats as for stills). There is a HDMI port for connecting the X-T1 to a high-definition TV, although as usual there's no cable supplied in the box. Also missing is a paper copy of the otherwise helpful manual, which is supplied on CD-ROM instead, along with the consumer MyFinepix software the slow and rather unintuitive RAW convertor (essentially a specially customised version of the commercial Silkypix application).

The X-T1 has a logical enough rear control layout, although it's not quite as streamlined as the X-E2 thanks to the inclusion of the tilting screen. Above the LCD screen and to the left of the viewfinder are two buttons for choosing image deletion or playback, while on the right is the AE-L button, rear control dial and the AF-L button. Beneath those is the Focus Assist button, then the Quick Menu button. This provides quick access to lots of frequently used shooting settings including the ISO speed, White Balance, File Size and File Quality, with the 4-way controller and command dial used to quickly change them. A 4-way controller is used to change the shutter speed and aperture, toggle the macro mode on and off, and set the AF point. In the middle of the controller is the Menu button, which accesses the eight Shooting and Set-up menus. Underneath is the Disp/Back button which is used for changing the LCD display or going back.

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3 inch LCD, 1080p, samples, 16 megapixel, lens, compact system camera, test, jpeg, camera, full hd, wi-fi, mirrorless, csc, wireless, sample images, dslr, wifi, raw, digital slr, EVF, sample, retro, 60fps, 18mm, rangefinder, 55mm, slr, 18-55mm, videos, remote, electronic viewfinder, 50-230mm, fujifilm x-t1, xt1, x-t1, x-t1 review, fujifilm x-t1 review, interval timer

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