Fujifilm X-T1 Review – The Fujifilm X-T1 is the manufacturer's latest CSC, arriving to sit at the top of the X-series range with a truly impressive feature-set and all the design hallmarks of its stablemates.
Word has it that it's the best X-series camera yet, so we enlisted Michael Topham to take a closer look…
Ever since the introduction of the first model – the X100 – which arrived in 2011, the series has continued to impress with a string of notable launches.
The X100 was followed a year later by the introduction of the Fujifilm X-Pro 1. This was the first X-series to offer the capacity to change lenses, debuting with the Fujifilm XF-mount and therefore marking the movement of the series towards enthusiasts and professionals.
The following cameras in the series – the X-E1, X-E2 and X-A1 to name but a few – were aimed more at the consumer end of the market thanks to their slimmer design and slightly stripped down specifications in comparison to the X-Pro 1.
The new Fujifilm X-T1, however, signifies an all-singing all-dancing return to the enthusiast and professional end of the market. Although it technically sits below the X-Pro 1 in the line-up, with a more SLR shaped body that retains the characteristic X-series stylings it’s got a lot of X-series fans talking.
Fujifilm X-T1 Review – Features
Fujifilm has pitched the X-T1 to sit between the X-Pro 1 and the X-E2 in terms of its capabilities, and as such it’s no surprise to see that the camera inherits some of its specification from those models.
In terms of the X-T1’s sensor, it inherits the same chip as seen in the X-E2. The sensor concerned is the 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor that, while not quite the same size as that found in Sony’s recent Alpha 7, it’s larger than rival models such as the Panasonic Lumix GX7.
As the name suggests, the sensor features Fujifilm’s X-Trans technology featuring a pixel structure that delivers performance more akin to film than conventional sensors, and as such keeps moiré patterning to a minimum and delivers more pleasing images.
Furthermore, the structure also means that the X-T1 does away with its anti-aliasing filter and therefore should deliver sharper images than those that maintain the technology.
EXR Processor II
The sensor is paired with Fujifilm’s latest EXR Processor II. This processor first debuted in the X-E2 and Fujifilm claims it’s twice as quick as the previous generation chip, delivering start-up speed of as little as 0.5 seconds and a virtually imperceptible shutter lag of 0.05 seconds.
This processor also goes some way towards ensuring some impressive AF performance claims, although the bulk of the AF technology sits upon the X-T1’s sensor.
The sensor features over 100,000 phase-detect pixels which combine with the camera’s standard contrast-detect set-up to form a Hybrid- AF system. The processor then utilises the pair, switching between the two for optimal focusing according to the shooting conditions, with Fujifilm claiming focusing speeds of as little as 0.08 seconds.
Also featuring is the new AF algorithm that debuted on the X-E2 and had a major impression in terms of the camera’s AF performance.
Another area where the processor delivers some impressive figures is in terms of the camera’s continuous shooting speed. Although it might not be designed for speed, the X-T1 still delivers some impressive headline figures. These peak at some 8fps with continuous AF, although this does drop down to a still-impressive 3fps when Live View is active.
Tilt screen and EVF
The rear of the Fujifilm X-T1 features a reasonable 3in LCD tilt screen with a resolution of 1,040k-dots, although unfortunately it doesn’t feature touchscreen technology.
All is not lost, however, as in terms of image framing and composition the real highlight of the camera is the model’s electronic viewfinder (EVF). Fujifilm has moved the viewfinder to a more central position in comparison to other X-series models, while the resolution of 2.36m-dots makes it one of the best-specified going.
Although the X-T1 might look like a retro camera, it features Wi-fi technology that operates in conjunction with Fujifilm’s new app. Thanks to an update the app now supports more advanced remote shooting functionality including the ability to change AF-point positioning. The app also supports previously present functionality, wireless image transfer to either smartphone or tablet.
Fujifilm X-T1 Review – Design
One of the characteristic features of the X-series is the range of dials and manual control that’s located around the cameras’ body, and if you’re a fan of those features then you’ll be pleased to know that it’s the same with the X-T1.
The top plate of the camera features a substantial exposure compensation dial, along with a shutter speed dial that can be used to select the camera’s aperture priority settings. Once set to aperture priority, you then change the X-T1’s aperture using the aperture ring located on the lens.
Although this might not be the most intuitive shooting experience for those coming from a more modern photography background, those who hanker for a more nostalgic shooting experience will be pleased.
The rear of the camera also houses a perfectly placed Q-menu button, located right next to where the thumb naturally comes to rest. One press of this button allows for quick adjustment of commonly adjusted settings, such as AF mode and white balance.
If you want to personalise the shooting experience of the X-T1 even more so, the good news is that the model’s four-way d-pad can be set to precisely suit your needs thanks to all four buttons being customisable. Throw in two more customisable buttons on the front and top plates of the camera and you really can set the X-T1 up to your needs.
The dials and buttons on the camera’s top plate, and the rest of the camera for that matter, are all pleasingly put together, with the dials themselves comprised of beautifully machined aluminium. The dials also offer a pleasing amount of resistance, meaning there is very little chance of accidentally knocking them when shooting.
The body on the whole is pleasingly robust, comprised of magnesium alloy that’s sure to impress. In fact, as soon as you pick up the X-T1 you notice the feel of a special camera – more compact than a DSLR yet maintaining a similar feel and build complete with substantial hand grip that allows for a good grip of the camera.
A further sign of the camera’s robustness is the presence of more than 70 weather sealed point that not only keep out moisture and dirt, but also allow the camera to keep working even when you drop down to temperatures as low as -10C.
Unfortunately the camera’s kit lens doesn’t offer the same robustness and weather proofing, although Fujifilm does promise some three ‘WR’ XF lenses will be on the market by the middle of the year.
Fujifilm X-T1 Review – Performance
It would be easy to look at the X-series and make assumptions as to the camera’s performance. However, despite the retro looks and manual control located around the body, the cutting-edge specification means that the X-T1 delivers some impressive all-round performance.
One of the real highlights is the camera’s EVF. While EVFs have sometimes been considered the poorer cousins of the optical variety, that’s not the case with the X-T1.
In terms of physical size, the viewfinder is actually larger than the optical variety found on the pro-level Canon EOS 1DX. Thanks to a reasonable magnification rate of 0.77x, the view is also far from tunnel-like, while thanks to the digital readout the unit also delivers 100% coverage of the scene – a rate in advance of the 95% or 96% found on DSLRs.
The EVF’s high resolution serves to deliver a crisp and clear view of a scene, while there’s very little in terms of lag thanks to an impressive refresh rate.
Although it’s disappointing that the LCD screen found on the rear of the camera isn’t of the touchscreen variety, its 3in size and 1,040k-dot resolution mean that it’s more than in keeping with rival models. Added to that is the vari-angle nature of the screen which is really of use when wanting to shoot at awkward angles, therefore placing it ahead of fixed alternatives.
Another highlight in terms of performance claims with the X-T1 lays with the camera’s AF. Ever since the launch of the X-Pro 1 – which features AF performance as its Achilles heel – Fujifilm has continued to pay attention to AF and constantly strive to improve.
The X-T1 continues these improvements and features some truly class-leading figures. Focus is almost instantly gained, while it also locks on to the subject with very little hassle.
In terms of comparisons, it’s certainly snappier than Sony’s Alpha 7 and probably most similar to Panasonic’s acclaimed Light Speed AF.
One area where it’s behind the Light Speed AF system found in the GX7 – the camera most comparable to it in Panasonic’s range – is in terms of AF coverage. While 49 points do sound comprehensive, unfortunately the coverage doesn’t reach the corner of the frame as it does on the Lumix.
Fujifilm X-T1 Review – Image Quality
Colour and white balance
Colour was one of the areas where Fujifilm has long excelled, ever since the days of its film. The X-T1, as with previous X-series models, features a range of Film Simulation modes to emulate this history, including Provia and Velvia colour modes.
In terms of the camera’s Auto setting, you can expect pleasingly natural tones with accurate colours in both brighter shooting conditions and when the weather is more overcast.
The X-T1 also features some ten various white balance settings, although if you’re not looking to play around with the various permutations you can be safe in the knowledge that the auto setting will deliver consistent results.
This system delivers reliable exposures in a host of different conditions, including when shooting directly in to a light source or in a particularly dark setting. In regular shooting conditions however it can be necessary to dial in the exposure compensation setting to underexpose a little, although not in any major way.
The camera’s dynamic range is another area that impresses, with it possible to retrive detail from both shadow and highlight areas if you’re happy to shoot Raw files and then post-process.
Also, there are a selection of Canon expanded Dynamic Range settings which can bring out even more detail in the scene.
The X-T1’s 16.3MP sensor is capable of resolving an impressive amount of detail, much as it was on the X-E2. At the lowest ISO of 100 the camera resolves 30 lines per milimetre, only dropping to 24lpmm at ISO 6400.
Although this figure isn’t quite up to the standards of the Nikon D7100 (32lpmm at ISO 100), it’s not far behind the very best APS-C enabled DSLRs.
Between ISO 100 and 800, there’s very little luminance or colour noise visible. In-camera processing manages noise well in JPEG files at the next ISO setting of 1600, and when you move to ISO 3200 and 6400 a fine grain appears as a result of the JPEG processing handling colour noise.
It’s also worth noting that this fine grain certainly isn’t to the overall detriment of image quality, as both fine detail and general image integrity is maintained.
Raw vs. JPEG
Those shooting Raw files will notice a slight drop off in terms of detail resolved beyond ISO 1600, although this can be tended to in post production and in that instance the higher ISO settings remain usable.
As mentioned, Raw files also maintain a higher level of detail in both shadows and highlights in darker and brighter scenes, and with that in mind as ever to get the very best if you’re prepared to do some work on your images you should shoot Raw.
The X-T1 captures video at full HD 1080p resolution and at a frame rate of 60fps for up to 14 minutes.
Although the in-built mic does capture a slight whirring of the camera’s kit lens when set to continuous AF, that was only in the quietest of scenes and on the whole the model’s video performance is impressive.
Fujifilm X-T1 Review – Verdict
With the X-T1, Fujifilm has continued to improve upon what is already one of the most successful ranges in photography of late. The camera’s X-Trans sensor once again delivers some fantastic results, recording high levels of detail throughout the ISO range and in difficult lighting conditions where you’d expect a camera of its pedigree to excel.
In terms of build quality and design, the X-T1 is a camera which impresses at first look and continues to do so when in the hand. There has been a fair amount of discussion about how the X-T1 is the camera the Nikon Df should have been – in terms of its design and more compact nature – and it’s really difficult to disagree with such critics.
Although you are sacrificing a little in terms of real high ISO work, on the whole the X-T1 is certainly a more appealing package, especially when you take into consideration you could buy two X-T1’s, both with the 18-55mm kit lens, for practically the same price as the Nikon Df with the 50mm with which it’s sold.
The X-T1 isn’t entirely without flaw – it would have been nice to see Fujifilm add a touchscreen to the camera, while the option to have the camera in a silver finish would also be appealing.
That being said, there’s no denying the X-T1’s quality and on the whole it’s one of the best premium CSC’s on the market, reflected in its Gold Award status and a well deserved 93% overall score.
Fujifilm X-T1 Review – Sample Image Gallery
One of the first Fujifilm X-T1 samples for review has arrived in the What Digital Camera office and is currently being put through its paces by Technical Editor Michael Topham.
These are a few of his first sample images, and for a full collection head on over to the Fujifilm X-T1 review sample image gallery.
Stay tuned to the site to find out what he makes of the camera later on in the week.
One week down the line from the teaser image and we have official word of the new Fujifilm X-T1. That word is: it’s not an X-Pro2, but an entirely new beast that liberally borrows from the rest of the series as well as bringing new features to the table.
Chief among the additions to the new X-T1 is a reworked DSLR-style 2.36million-dot OLED EVF, which sports 0.77x full-dram equivalent magnification and an essentially imperceptible lag of 0.005 seconds.
In a new move for the X-series, the magnesium alloy build of the X-T1 is extensively weatherproofed: not only dust and water resistant, but also freeze-resistant to -10°C. Using the X-T1 with the VG-XT1 battery grip and one of three compatible X-mount lenses – the XF18-135mm F3.5-5.6 R OIS, XF16-55mm F2.8 R OIS WR, XF50-140mm F2.8 R OIS WR – makes it fully weather sealed.
The X-T1 slots above the X-E2 and below the still much-loved X-Pro1 in the X-series lineup. It borrows its 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans II CMOS sensor and EXR Processor II from the X-E2.
This means it retains the X-Trans-related features that have made the X-series so popular, such as the Fast Hybrid AF that combines phase-detect and contrast-detect AF thanks to phase-detect pixels built right onto the sensor, and the X-Trans pixel array that reduces moiré.
This means that the X-T1 will enjoy the lightning-fast focusing of the X-E2, which Fujifilm claims is capable of acquisition times as lean as 0.08sec.
Because the X-T1 is also newly compatible with SDXC UHS-II SD cards, which have twice the writing speed of standard cards, it can manage a continuous shooting speed of 8fps over the X-E2’s 7.
Design-wise, the X-T1 boasts six customisable function buttons and two command dials on the front and rear. Five aluminium dials control five main control settings – ISO, EV, Metering, Shooting Modes, Shutter Speeds. Aperture can also be controlled via the lens aperture ring.
Image: Some of the top dial controls of the Fujifilm X-T1: the exposure compensation dial and the shutter speed dial
The ISO performance of the X-T1 has also been improved with a redesigned circuit board that makes it now extendable to 51,200. As well as the EVF, the X-T1 sports a 1.04million-dot tilting LCD screen for composing images.
The XT1 is, of course, equipped with Wi-fi, but it also appears that Fuji is making extensive improvements to its Wi-fi app to coincide with the new camera’s release. As this slightly clunky app was one of our criticisms of the X-E2, this is welcome news. Hooking your phone up to the X-T1 allows for remote shooting with touchscreen AF, and you can also use the GPS on your phone or tablet to geotag images.
The XC-T1 is due out later this month and will cost £1,099.99 body only, or £1,449.99 as a kit with an 18-55mm lens.
The Fujifilm X-T1 is honestly hard to fault. The weather sealing is a great touch, the lightning fast AF makes a welcome return, but what really sells it is the electronic viewfinder, which has to be one of the most impressive on any digital camera. Super-fast, super-crisp – it seems to us like the EVF that’s going to start winning over optical die-hards.
The manual controls are well thought-out, and as a consequence the Fujifilm X-T1 handles exceptionally well. The general look of the X-T1 makes it hard not to draw comparisons to the Nikon Df, but what accentuates this even more is the feel of it, with the intuitive top dials for each function. For our money, this is much closer to being a film experience in a digital body than the Df ever was. It feels as though Fujifilm has really thoroughly thought through the placement of the controls, and it adds up to a satisfying user experience. In particular the placement of the exposure compensation dial on the right hand side feels very natural when shooting.
The build of the camera is excellent – it’s compact but feels robust in the hand, thanks in no small part to the new weather sealing. It’s not heavy, but the magnesium build feels pleasingly solid.
As we mentioned, the X-T1 slots into Fujifilm’s lineup above the X-E2 and below the X-Pro1, rather than being a replacement for either. Fujifilm has suggested it as a possible second body for DSLR owners, though the price point is rather high for those who might want to go down this road. We’ve only so far had our hands on a pre-production version, so will have to wait until we get hold of a review sample before delivering a definitive verdict.