A day with... Fuji X-T1 and Fujinon 10-24mm f/4

All of us have certain joys in life.  I'm a fan of the coveted coke float....sure it's a ton of pointless calories...but man oh man...it's so delicious...especially following something spicy.  Always brings a smile to my face.  When Fuji first announced the X-T1 last month just as I was reviewing the X-E2, yet another smile slowly crept up.  I was pretty impressed with the X-E2 and have simply been floored with the products Fuji has been putting out over the past year.  The X-series cameras have changed digital photography.  Their products aren't revolutionary from a technology sense.  Sure the cameras are pretty small and packed with WiFi's, knobs and top of the line auto-focus systems.  Great glass, stunning build quality, and all the features you expect these days in a camera.  All from a company that not only has a long history in the realm of photography, but while on a massive upswing the past year is making a lot of people very happy.  And I for one have not been disappointed.  And most importantly, Fuji has become very relevant in digital photography.

Remember dial up?  Such a different time.  My iPhone gets digital data over cellular towers faster (MUCH FASTER) than my dial up ever did.  Sometimes you'd get a busy signal from your ISP, you'd get disconnected when you were 99% done downloading the 1 megabyte file you've been waiting 20 minutes on.  Files wouldn't resume....you'd have to start over.  I download more data on my cell phone in 30 days that I did in all the years I was on dial-up.

To this day, a common measurement for most people on the quality of a digital camera is the number of megapixels.  We have the Nokia 1020 cell phone with a monstrous 41 megapixels...we have company after company always raising the megapixel bar.  I remember people commenting on how my Canon 1DX had ONLY 18MP.  The $7000 beast and arguably the best sports camera currently on the market.....has less megapixels than a modern point and shoot.  I embrace technology, I love my Sony A7r with it's 36MP amazing full frame sensor.

Then there's Fuji....they go against the entire digital photography industry by rocking their X-Trans CMOS Sensor and recently updating it with the APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor.  Their newest camera....the X-T1 has the CMOS II and all their cameras over the past 12 months all sport 16 megapixels.  But they are simply amazing!  Read my "Day with the X-E2" piece and you'll hopefully understand why I love these things so much.

I received a X-T1 the other day to review and I was ecstatic.  I've been looking forward to seeing this camera in person about as much as a hipster Nikon fanboy was excited about the DF.  When I first saw pictures of it online, I commented on how similar it looked to the Sony A7/A7r.  When I received the call to come pick up the X-T1 I wondered what lens it would come with.  18-55 kit lens?  Nope!  The brand spankin new 10-24mm f/4!  How much better could this day get?!?  I've been waiting for months to get my hands on this lens.  What a treat!

So you're probably tired of my rambling on and on about nothing.  But hey...it's my blog....so I'll do what I want.

Enter the Fuji X-T1

As I mentioned, my first reaction when I saw pictures of the X-T1 online was that it looked very similar to the A7r annnnd....it does.  A LOT!  And being an A7r owner...I'm happy with that.  Here are some side by sides:

A7r/X-T1

A7r/X-T1

So lets have a look...

In typical "me" style, I'd normally start with the negatives.  But I'm going to start with the positives instead.  Lets be real here...just like every modern digital camera, you know it takes damn good pictures.  You know it has a super fast and accurate AF system (like the X-E2).  It's the little things that make a difference between cameras.  Ergonomics, ease of use, function, menu's, size, and slight.....EVER so slight picture quality (contrast, dynamic range, sharpness, etc) differences often depending on shooting conditions and only when viewing images at 100% or higher.  Every new Fuji camera that hits the market seems to be better than the last and this thing is no different.  The build quality is great overall.  Tolerances seem tight.  So what were the first things that stuck out about it?

Tilting screen

Fuji's lovely 3 inch folding screen is great.  It folds 90 degrees up and 45 degrees down.  It would be nice for the screen to fold 180 degrees each way much like we see on dslr's.  But I'll take it!  You never realize how much you miss a folding screen until you don't have one for a while.  For a hardcore rugged
photojournalist camera like the 1DX, there's no need.  But...for everything else....it comes in handy.

Side SD card door

Thank you Fuji!  Thank you!  I hated the way the SD card sat in the bottom door on the X-E2.  It sat very awkwardly right against the door and it was difficult to eject and pull out.  Now the battery sits on the bottom and the SD card goes in on the right side of the camera.  The door slides back back and opens up. It does feel a little bit flimsy.  I'd much prefer for it to "lock in" a bit tighter and wiggle a little less up and down when open.  But I love the design!  

Them knobs!

Lots of em!  And unlike the Nikon DF, these actually work and make sense.  The feel of them is a bit different  than previous X-series models.  Some require a button push, some require a button push sometimes and they don't feel as nice as some of the previous models, but only a touch worse.  Nothing that would prevent me from purchasing it.
The new thing is that the left ISO knob and the right shutter speed knob both have selectors under the knob itself.  The ISO knob has your shooting/drive modes and the right has your metering modes.  One less thing to have to dig thru a menu for...but the negative is that you can and probably will accidentally hit them when going in and out of a camera bag.  The left took a bit of getting used to.  I think the Single shooting mode would be easier if it were all the way to the left or the right as it's probably the most common.  Since they don't glow in the dark (and I often shoot in the dark), just know what single shooting mode is three clicks from each extreme end (meaning it's right in the middle for you deduction lacking folks).  This was actually very easy to get used to and came in quite handy, but it is something to be mindful of.  

Viewmode button

Sometimes you just want to switch your back screen off.  What a great place to put a button to do so...right next to the viewfinder.  I really wish Sony did something like this with the A7/A7r.  I can turn off the screen with a custom button, but it's not fully off (still backlit).  

The grip (not gripe....those come later)

A lot of the recent Fuji cameras aren't the most comfortable things to hold in your hand.  The X-T1 changed all that by not only adding the front finger grip you see in some of the above photos, but also adding this thumb.....counter grip?  I don't know what it's technically called, but it's grippy, in the perfect spot and should be included on all x-series cameras, I've seen aftermarket things like this sold for the x100/s.  Really makes a world of difference.  Remember on my X-E2 review I talked about making sure to buy the grip for it....this thing takes it to 11.  While the camera is still short in comparison to most DSLRs, you do have the option for the battery grip as well.  It does make the camera a bit more comfortable to hold as your pinky and possibly ring finger now have a home, but it does get it up to size of a small DSLR.  If small size is a big selling point for you...don't get it.  If you plan on doing work with this camera....get it.
Under the X-T1 is a little rubber cover for the electric contacts for the battery grip.  Don't fret, the little rubber cover stores in the little spot on the grip itself (below right).  Now where you're supposed to put the cover of the contacts on the grip side....just assume you're going to lose it.

As you can see, the grip adds considerable height to the camera and makes it about 30% taller.  


CAMERA PORN INTERMISSION!!!!!!

(really I have a lot of pictures to share with you and I'm not sure I can fit it all between the text so here's a few scrolls worth of photos)


Now if you're a design engineer for Fuji, and you happen to be reading my blog...this next section is for you.  If you are not, feel free to continue reading as if you were in charge of design for Fuji.

The Gripes:

Battery door (UPDATED 18 Feb 2014)

UPDATE (18 Feb 2014):
A reader has pointed me towards the accessories link for the X-T1 on the fujifilm website and the solution is already there for this first rant.  At the time of the original blog post it was not an option.  Now Fuji makes a grip mounting plate that will allow mounting to an Arca-Swiss style head and allows the battery door to be opened.  The Fuji MHG-XT can be found here on Amazon for $129USD.  As always, my links or not sponsored, I don't make any money if you click them.  I'd like to think that someone over at Fuji read my blog and released this grip plate as a result.  As a matter of fact...in my head, that's exactly what happened,
Shigetaka Komori, Fujifilm's CEO, personally came across this blog and made this happen, and with the quickness!  Truth be told, these style grips are available for other Fuji X-Series cameras as well and I HIGHLY recommend getting it if you plan on buying any of the box styled cameras like the X-E2.  The added grip alone is sooooo nice.  For the X-T1, if you're not keen on the grip portion, keep an eye out for ReallyRightStuff coming out with a plate or L-plate soon.  So the below is pretty much moot now.

Do you seriously mean to tell me, that if I'm mounted to a tripod, I have to actually remove the tripod pilate in order to open the battery door?  Hopefully the good folks at ReallyRightStuff make one of their kick ass plates for this camera with the little hold that allows the door to open.  The one in the picture is just a universal small plate that I use on my Sony A7r and x100s and neither of those have an issue.  I understand the size of the battery and the fact that with the battery grip this is a non-issue.  But I don't use battery grips when shooting on tripods for the most part and you have some of the smartest people in the world over there at Fuji.  Not everyone is aware of ReallyRightStuff, nor are they going to pay that much for a plate (but just so you readers know...they are amazing and made specifically for your camera model)

However, thank you for including an external battery charger.  Something that Sony has failed to provide with a $2500 camera targeted at the prosumer.  *shakes fist at Sony*

Button Nipples

Aerodynamics are great for aircraft, cars and downhill skiers.  But is it to much to ask to add a few button nipples on the back of the camera?  No, these are not a deal breaker.  But previous models had them, the X-E2 needed them, just throw them in or raise the buttons a bit more.  All 8 buttons on the back right side of the camera you can barely feel.  AE-L and AF-L are raised just a tad.  Again...some of us shoot at night...it's handy. 

Dial Size and Fn placement

See the two pictures below.  The silver is the x100s.  Notice how the exposure compensation dial is smaller.  This is a good thing.  The feel of the x100s dials is actually better than the X-T1 and because it's smaller it doesn't feel like my trigger finger is having to do a reach over the knob to get to the shutter button.  Ok, it's really not that bad, but it felt a bit awkward for me and could never really get used to the feel.  Depending on your hand size/length and grip type this may or may not bother you.  It just felt in the way for me.

Next, the front function button.  I can't tell you how many times I hit this.  Sure many DSLRs have these front buttons, but they are much bigger cameras and they don't get in the way.  Maybe with smaller hands this isn't a problem...but I did find it a bit annoying.  And I don't mean the function button next to the shutter button....the one on the front of the camera next to the lens.

Anymore good?

Well yeah!  

Custom Functions

I like being able to set custom function buttons.  We all shoot different ways.  We have different size hands, we have different cameras we've shot in the past.  The X-T1 has 6 custom function buttons you can set to a whole bunch of different things.  Except OFF....this would fix the Fn1 issue above if you could just let me select OFF.

Different types of bracketing

Kinda neat.  Exposure as well as ISO bracketing.  Then there's WB brackets and Film Simulation brackets as well as those filter things.  We still only get 3 bracketed shots at .3, .7 and 1 increments.  Dead horse.....however...I'll give it one more shot.  How hard would it be to just let me select x amount of shots from minus whatever I want to plus whatever I want?  Hmmm?  This thing can shoot 8fps, so I know buffers aren't a problem.  I don't even shoot brackets very often and this annoys me.

M-C-S

Meh....to be honest...I like the selector better on the x100s.  I don't think I mentioned it when I reviewed the X-E2, but I'd really prefer the other style on the side of the camera.  I guess I never swapped back and forth enough with the X-E2.  Ah, no wait...I swapped back and forth with the lens itself.

8 FPS with AF Tracking

Sadly I was not able to test out the camera's ability to auto-focus track objects and shoot 8fps.  I did try it out a few times and did not like the feel of it.  I spoke to this in my DSLR lives on article.  Mirrorless cameras not not ready for prime time when it comes to shooting moving objects at high frames per second.  Part of the problem I had was shooting with such a wide lens.  If I could get something in the 100mm range to track an object it would have been a much better (conclusive) test.  But even at 24mm, it just didn't feel right.  The focus point bounces in and out of focus very quickly so I'm not even sure if I'm doing it right.  I even tried mounting the camera to a slider to do some controlled tests, but by then it got too dark and the exposure speeds were below 1/200.  I'm not giving up on this cameras ability.  Some of my dislike was my not being used to shooting moving objects thru an EVF.  Last time I shot moving objects was at 12fps with a Canon 1DX and 300mm/2.8.

What about that lens?

Ah yes...the long awaited 10-24mm f/4.  This thing is great.  It's a big large and heavy for a camera this size, but that's the price you pay for a zoom f/4 lens.  Distortion is low, but evident and since no lens profiles have been released yet in Lightroom I had to manually adjust a few of the shots, especially when shooting at 10mm and when buildings were involved.  The lens is stabilized.  The rings (focus, aperture and zoom) all feel great.  Smooth, tight, but not too tight.  Minimal focus distance is like 6 inches...amazing.  As someone who shoots a lot of wide angle stuff I was really REALLY happy with this lens.  Paired with Fuji's super fast and accurate AF system, even when shooting at night I always kept it in auto-focus.  I did feel a bit let down when using manual focus at night.  I love the focus check button on the back of the camera, I really wish the others had this feature, but what you see on the screen at night is pretty much unusable (I'm talking 2am cityscapes here).  However, every press of the AF-L button the camera snapped right into focus.  The stunning performance of Fuji's AF system really makes this a non-issue for 99.9% of people out there.  Land/City scape shooters that are used to zooming in on the screen and getting that exact focus spot that want will be disappointed in what's presented on the screen here.  Even wide open it's disappointing.  I'd be interested to see how good/bad it looks on a fast 1.4 or 1.8 lens where ISO isn't sky high in the simulated view.  

That all being said....lets have a look at some photos from our day with this thing?
 

Disclaimer:  There is nothing that supports RAW files from this camera.  I shot everything at Fine+RAW, all jpg settings set to 0, no noise reduction and then processed the photos in Lightroom.  If you're looking for straight out of camera pictures....you've come to the wrong place.  SOOC is pointless for me to show you as I can simply change the in camera settings so it doesn't really prove anything.  I haven't processed jpeg's in quite some time so these took a little work.  I will probably re-process some of these at a later date once LR and Adobe Camera RAW support the X-T1.  

Enjoy and thanks for visiting.  I'd appreciate any feedback and a like or share on some social media site.  I am not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned in this blog.  I do not receive money from any of the links or companies nor do I ask you for donations.  Take care and remember...get out there and shoot!!!

Feel free to contact me directly via email at sebastian@sebimagery.com

This was actually three bracketed shots at -3, 0, +3 as the rocks were in total darkness and the sights were so damn bright.  This was digitally blended manually in Photoshop.

The focus here was the tab of the can.  This was shot at f/8 and the sharpness of this lens/body combo is simply amazing.  The minimal focusing distance of the lens is crazy close

I mainly shoot primes and haven't done one of these in years so give me a break...

Conclusion

You've made it this far.  I hope this wasn't too boring for you.  I am very impressed with the X-T1 and am really sad to have to return it.  With the availability of lenses out there from Fuji and Zeiss and others from the x-series, there is no other cameras that I recommend to people.  You simply can't go wrong.  Sure they have their quirks, and the pixel peepers will always find some flaw, but you can not honestly look at any of the recent Fujifilm x-series cameras and lenses and not be impressed.  And what's most important, is that they just keep getting better.  The improvements from the x100 to the x100s were exactly what you thought the x100 needed improving.  Same goes from X-E1 to X-E2.  And some of the "problems" I mention above are just quirks and specific to me.    I would love to see some of them fixed in the X-T2, but none of them would prevent me from buying this camera tomorrow (well...March 7th) as well as the Fujinon 10-20mm f/4.  But don't take my word for it...just go to your local camera store and check out what Fuji has to offer.  I really hope there is someone at Canon or Nikon that got fired for not thinking of this first.  Hats off Fuji!!!  I'm looking forward to your next product.