Fuji X-T1 First Impressions

The new Fuji X-T1 is a camera  a lot of people have been waiting for. I’ve been a dedicated Nikon SLR user for the past six or seven years, moving from a D300 to a D600 over the years to finally get that full frame quality. But I’ve been practicing photography for over 30 years. My first serious camera was an Olympus OM-2, and my camera before going digital was a Nikon FM-3A. So I remember when SLRs were light, reliable traveling companions, not the bloated burdens they have grown to become.

Four years ago I speculated on what would be my ultimate Nikon camera. Apparently, Nikon didn’t read it, but I’m guessing Fuji did, because the new X-T1 comes pretty close to my definition of a dream camera.

I’d been waiting for my Amazon pre-order to show up, but decided to call my favorite local camera store, Competitive Camera, to see if they had gotten any in stock. As luck would have it, they actually did, so I made the trek down to Dallas to pick up one of the last two they had.

I’ve had an afternoon to shoot with it, so I can give some real world impressions. I’m not a professional photographer. I’m just a dedicated amateur who takes a lot of pictures of my rapidly growing daughter. But I have handled a lot of cameras over the last three decades.

My first impression was “Holy Crap!” The X-T1 feels like a classic SLR. It has a nice heft to it, but not too heavy. It is very reminiscent of the Nikon FM-3A. The dials have a solid, reliable feel to them, and I’m taking a lot of joy in experiencing a real aperture ring again.

I picked up the X-T1 with Fuji’s 23mm f/1.4 lens to serve as my general purpose, walkabout lens. We headed up the Shops at Legacy this evening to walk around the lake and eat at one of the great restaurants, so it was a good chance to try out the camera.

First, a few pictures, and then some deeper thoughts on the X-T1. All these are unedited, other than cropping to 4×5 and shrinking down to size:

DSCF0005
Zoe hamming it up
The budding photographer taking a picture of the turtle
The budding photographer taking a picture of the turtle
Stairs at the lake
Stairs at the lake
ISO 3200 at f/1.4 ambient light
ISO 3200 at f/1.4 ambient light

 

Impressions

  1. The camera feels even smaller than it looks. I found it comfortable to hold for quick shots, but I would not want to be shooting non-stop for an hour with it.
  2. Image quality is great. I’m not printing gallery prints, but I do care about good color depth and pleasing tone. I shot jpeg mostly with the Astia film simulation, with a few shots in Velvia. The light was too flat to get good value of the Velvia mode, so I’m looking forward to trying it again.
  3. Autofocus was extremely fast and the face detection worked really well. I found it comparable to my D600 for speed.
  4. I don’t like the back “joy pad” area. It is slightly inset, making it difficult for my larger fingers to manipulate. There will be zero chance I will accidentally press one of those buttons.
  5. I thought the fold-out LCD screen was going to be gimmicky, but it is actually pretty cool. I can see using it for low-level shots.
  6. I usually want to shoot EVF only, but if you push the Q button in the EVF-only display mode, the Q menu only shows up in the EVF and not on the LCD. If I’m fiddling with the Q menu options, I want it to always show on the LCD, regardless of the display mode. Hopefully Fuji provides this option down the road.

The biggie is the EVF. Yes, it is large, bright and beautiful, but coming from a long history of high-quality optical viewfinders, I call it passable, at best. It has a high-quality camcorder feeling to it, which I personally don’t like, but am willing to tolerate for everything else the X-T1 brings to the table.

The biggest reason the X-T1 is a winner in my book is the size. On my last vacation to San Francisco, I lugged around my D600 with the 24-120mm f/4 lens. Towards the end of each afternoon, I was sore from carrying it around, even with a good Black Rapid sling.  Here’s the X-T1 side-by-side with the D600.

X-T1 with D600
X-T1 with D600

The X-T1 feels like a feather by comparison.  I think the Nikon zoom alone is heavier than the X-T1. I carried the X-T1 around all afternoon and it was barely noticeable.

The X-T1 is about as close to perfection as a classic SLR-lover will find today. It’s not perfect though. I can tell already I’m going to have a love-hate relationship with the EVF. I still hope Nikon awakens from the pathetic slumber and builds the “FM-3D” I’ve been craving, but for the time being, the X-T1 and I are going to have a long and fruitful relationship.

On a side note, I picked up a DSPTCH Sling for the X-T1. It is a really comfortable, well-made sling that works perfect for the X-T1. And it’s even made in the USA. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

DSPTCH Sling on the X-T1
DSPTCH Sling on the X-T1

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