Camera Gear

Gear I Love: Fujifilm X-T1 Camera

This is a new series of posts helping to justify my Gear Acquisition Syndrome. I’m kidding about that part; I’m not justifying my behavior to anyone.

(Unless, of course, the court compels me to do so.)


I do buy and sell a lot of camera gear, though, so when I actually love a piece of gear, I’ve usually tried many things before it. My camera gear love is quite considered, and most certainly overthought and obsessed.

Gear Porn

It’s a very attractive camera in terms of design and finish:


Fuji X-T1

Mar_27_2016_DSCF5310 Mar_27_2016_DSCF5312Mar_27_2016_DSCF5313

Why I love it

Prior to buying the Fuji, I was using a full-frame Canon 6D, with a bunch of L glass, and frequently with a battery grip. That brings us to the first thing I love about the Fuji X-T1: it’s so lightweight.

  • Canon 6D, with grip: 2.8 pounds
  • Fuji X-T1, with grip: 1.43 pounds

That’s nearly 50% lighter! It’s much smaller, too.

The camera is fast, responsive, and has all the shooting modes you could possibly want. Two of my favorite modes are: film simulation bracketing and panorama.

Many people love the Fuji X-series cameras for their stunning JPG colors, and I’m no exception. The film sim bracketing produces three JPG images in the film simulations of your choice, so you have three instant renders of the capture.

When I’m shooting landscape images, I typically use Velvia/Pro Neg Hi/Br so that I have a vivid version with colors that pop, a more balance “normal” look, and a black-and-white version. I don’t keep all three versions when I import, but I frequently keep one of the color versions and the b&w version. Here’s two versions of the same image from a trip to Table Rock State Park in November (remember, this is produced in-camera as you capture the image, so it’s easy to do):


Fujifilm X-T1, 23mm, f8, 1/480, ISO 400, Velvia Fim Simulation


Fujifilm X-T1, 23mm, f8, 1/480, ISO 400, Br Fim Simulation

The in-camera panorama functionality produces JPG files – no RAW in this shooting mode. It’s incredibly easy to use and difficult to make a bad image – if you move too slow, too fast, or off-axis, the camera says “whoa, man” and doesn’t let you make the image. That said, I have only shot these handheld and that works.

I don’t use this mode very often, but it’s nice to be able to easily produce these when a stunning vista presents itself. The images actually turn out very well; here’s an example from DuPont State Park:

Fujifim X-T1, Panorama Mode, 24mm, f11, 1/220, ISO 400

Fujifim X-T1, Panorama Mode, 24mm, f11, 1/220, ISO 400

I also love the autofocus system and its options – the system makes it very easy to get a high rate of keepers. I tend to use focus zones, mostly in AF-single or AF-continuous. I love the ability to change the size of a focus zone (a focus zone is simply a set of focus points). If you’re using a single point, you can actually change the size of a single focus point to ensure the camera is grabbing just the right area in a busy frame.

In manual focus mode, which I use more with my Fuji than I did with my Canons, focus assists are automatically enabled when you spin the focus ring. I use focus peaking most of the time as my focus assist. You can also use the back button focus (AF-L) button to instantly auto-focus when you’re in manual mode.

The stunning electronic viewfinder makes all of this functionality very easy to use. Unlike a DLSR, you’re seeing what the sensor sees, and you can even see things like the film simulation mode as you compose your shot – what you see in the viewfinder is what you’ll get. It makes composing shots in very low light a snap, and the display is customizable, and also adjusts when you rotate from landscape to portrait orientation. Since it’s an electronic viewfinder, I also like reviewing images in the viewfinder as well, particularly outdoors on bright days.

I almost never shot live view (meaning using the back LCD screen) on either of my Canon cameras. It was too slow and finicky, and it made focusing a challenge. On the X-T1, shooting with the high-resolution rear LCD is something I do all the time. I keep the view setting in eye sensor mode always, so that I get LCD when I’m not up to the viewfinder, then it automatically switches off the LCD and turns on the viewfinder when I put my face up to the camera.

One of the biggest benefits of Fuji cameras (not just the X-T1, but it certainly gets the most of the lenses) is buying into the Fuji lens system. As I upgraded my Canon lenses, I found I had more ability to “make” pictures instead of “take” pictures – I used that first Rebel with some pretty expensive Canon glass, so learned to appreciate the power of great lenses to improve my photography.

The Fuji lens landscape is filled with stunning lenses that cost much less than their SLR counterparts. They also weigh much less. The X-T1 is a great camera, but it wouldn’t matter in the least if the lenses weren’t great – and they all are. The Fujinon lenses are a major benefit to the X-T1.


How I use it

Everyday Carry: Fuji X-T1 with Peak Design Anchors for connecting to one of my many straps

Everyday Carry: Fuji X-T1 with Peak Design Anchors for connecting to one of my many straps

Extended Carry/Hiking: Fuji X-T1 with VG-XT1 Battery Grip, Peak Design Capture Clip, and Peak Design Anchors

Extended Carry/Hiking: Fuji X-T1 with VG-XT1 Battery Grip, Peak Design Capture Clip, and Peak Design Anchors

Fuji X-T1 on Really Right Stuff BH-25 Pro ballhead; Sirui T-025X Tripod not pictured

Fuji X-T1 on Really Right Stuff BH-25 Pro ballhead; Sirui T-025X Tripod not pictured

I typically carry my Fuji X-T1 in a Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 or 7, depending how many lenses I've got

I typically carry my Fuji X-T1 in a Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 or 7, depending how many lenses I’ve got

I shoot in Aperture Priority mode much of the time, changing the aperture using the ring itself on the Fuji lenses (and the front command dial on the lenses without an aperture ring). If I’m shooting indoors, I usually have the Auto-ISO mode on, with a max ISO of either 3,200 or 6,400 and a minimum shutter speed 1.5-2x the lens of the lens. I also shoot in manual with Auto-ISO and full manual as well, particularly when working with flash/lighting.

Fuji XF 56mm Aperture Ring

For everyday shooting, I typically have a focus zone in the center section using AF-S single-shot autofocus. It works great and I rarely miss focus. Kids on the trampoline, I switch to continuous autofocus still using the center zone. I’ve used the wide/tracking autofocus mode several times with good results, but this is not my normal style of shooting. I also regularly jump into manual focus, either with a focus ring pull on the lenses that support it, or with the switch on the front of the camera body. The manual focus aids make it easy to become a good manual focuser, something I almost never did with previous cameras.

What I use with the Fuji X-T1

I process RAW files in Capture One Pro 8, and use Lightroom CC as my catalog. When I’m shooting JPG only, files go right into Lightroom CC. Sometimes I shoot RAW+JPG and mostly use the JPGs once I import into Lightroom.

I have most of the MacPhun suite of apps/plugins and Photoshop CC, but I rarely use those with Fuji files. That’s one of the brilliant things about this camera: the straight-out-of-camera JPG files are so good, and the in-camera raw conversion engine lets you “develop” multiple versions of each raw file in camera, making adjustments for shadow, highlights, noise reduction, sharpening, film sim mode, etc.

Lenses I use with it (some of these will get their own posts later):

  1. Rokinon 12mm F2.0
  2. Fuji XF 16-55 F2.8 WR
  3. Fuji XF 56mm F1.2
  4. Fuji XF 50-140mm F2.8 WR
  5. Fuji XC 50-230mm
  6. Fuji MCEX-11 extension tube

I also have a vintage Canon FD 50mm macro lens and several Pentax/Super Takumar lenses that I occasionally use with cheap adapters.

Other accessories I use with the Fuji X-T1:

I’ve also used these other lenses with my X-T1 – but I no longer own them:

  1. Fuji XF 10-24 F4.0
  2. Fuji XF 16mm F1.4 WR
  3. Fuji XF 18-55mm F2.8-F4.0
  4. Fuji XF 18-135mm F3.5-F5.6 WR
  5. Fuji XF 23mm F1.4
  6. Fuji XF 35mm F1.4
  7. Fuji XF 35mm F2.0 WR
  8. Fuji XF 60mm F2.4 Macro
  9. Fuji XF 90mm F2.0 WR

I’ve tried most of the Fujinon lenses in the six months I’ve been using the system. I may have a problem.

What I shoot with it

  1. Landscape – this is a fantastic landscape camera, due to the weather resistance and light weight.
  2. Portrait – with the XF 56mm f1.2 or XF 50-140mm F2.8 lens, it’s easy to make great portraits – I’ve produced corporate headshots with this that are every bit as good as I use to get with my FF Canon and L lenses. The Astia and Pro Neg film simulations make for great portraiture JPGs straight out of camera.
  3. Family/Kids – the high ISO performance is good enough to use all the way up to 6400, so it’s easy to take good indoors shots of the kids (see the ISO 25,600 image below). Outdoors, the electronic shutter means I can shoot wide open in broad daylight, using the fast continuous autofocus to get a high keeper rate while tracking the minions across their swingy, rolly and bouncy things at 8 fps.
Fuji X-T1, 90mm, f2, 1/300, ISO 25,600

Fuji X-T1, 90mm, f2, 1/300, ISO 25,600 – click to embiggen

4. Everyday Life/Travel/Street/etc

Pictures made with the Fuji X-T1

Below are images made with my X-T1. I intentionally picked a variety of images to show the versatility of this camera. These represent seven different Fuji lenses varying in price, and have ISO’s from 200-3200. Click any of the thumbnails to open the gallery.

Similar gear I’ve used/tried/considered

When I got more serious about taking pictures, I bought two cameras: a Sony DSC-N1 to be my everyday carry, and a Canon Rebel t3i to be my interchangeable lens camera. Both served me well, but I quickly gravitated to the Rebel so I could cultivate my ability to get better pictures. I have more than 13,000 images from the t3i in my photo library, and around 2,700 from the Sony. These were my primary cameras for seven years.

After acquiring some nice lenses for the Rebel, I decided it was time to make the move to full frame and bought a Canon 6D. This got even more out of the L-lenses and helped me take my pictures to another level. I have more than 5,700 images from the 6D, which was my primary camera for around 18 months.

Intrigued by stories and photos from Zack Arias and Kevin Mullins, I bought a Fuji X100T in early 2015, amid a desire to simplify and lighten my camera gear. Part of this was maturing as a photographer and developing the belief that I could make great pictures with just about any camera – so why not try something small, light, and with a great reputation? I shot the X100T alongside my 6D for 8 months, enjoying both.

I use my photo library (well, the 22,000 2+ star-rated photos, anyway) as the screensaver on my Mac and my Apple TV. After a while, I realized that my attention was always caught when a Fuji image scrolled by – the colors, man, the colors (the same reason I use Capture One for RAW over Lightroom after extensively trying both – better images scrolling by). In August of 2015, I sold all my Canon gear and moved completely to Fuji. This meant a move to smaller camera bags, smaller backpack, and a lighter tripod/head combo.

Right now I’m drooling over the performance increases of the X-Pro2, but as much as I’d love the responsiveness and ISO performance increase, I’m not sure the rangefinder style works for me. As mentioned above, the amazing electronic viewfinder in the X-T1 works perfectly for me and my style, and I don’t miss having an optical viewfinder at all.

So I’ll probably hold out for the X-T2. Hopefully it has the joystick for choosing focus points.

Could it be better?

Of course. I don’t consider any of these serious defects, or I would be using some other camera. This is more like a wishlist for future firmware improvements or the next generation Fuji X-T camera.

As mentioned above, I previously owned the Fuji X100T camera, which I adored. The quick menu (“Q”) system on this camera has something which the X-T1 does not, and I miss that feature: the ability to have multiple Auto-ISO settings, selectable right from the Q menu. For example, you can set up three different Auto-ISO ranges, with their own low ISO value, high ISO value, and minimum shutter speed. Since I’m frequently changing lenses, the minimum shutter speed thing becomes important. And I change the high-end of the Auto-ISO setting all the time, which means diving into the menu system.

I love eye sensor mode, but I wish it were disabled when the tilting LCD screen is angled up or down. Holding the camera overhead frequently causes the eye sensor to see one of my hands near the viewfinder and shut off the LCD screen, and waist-level shots have the same problem as the camera nears the body.

Imagine you’re driving along the road, and your gas gauge goes from full to 2/3 tank, to empty, in the span of two minutes. That’s pretty much what happens with the X-T1 battery indicator. If it goes red, you’re about dead. I carry several batteries with me, which is no big deal, because the batteries are very lightweight, but a more representative battery indicator would be great. Just such an improvement has been implemented for the X-Pro2, so I’m sure that will also make its way to future X-T bodies.

The Bottom Line

The Fujifilm X-T1 is a great great camera (not a proofing error). Many people who make the move to Fuji over the past few years state something along the lines of “recapturing the joy of taking pictures”, but that’s not true for me. Being that I only came to photography in the last decade or so, I had never lost the magic in taking pictures.

Somehow, though, this camera and the lenses of the Fujinon ecosystem have made taking pictures even more fun and more magical, so I completely understand why people say that.

It’s not the best camera for a beginner, because there are many dials and controls that could be confusing, but it’s exactly what I need at this stage in my photography adventures. Thanks Fuji, for making great cameras and great lenses for photographers.

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