The Fuji X-T1 is the latest in the lineup of seriously impressive compact system cameras (CSC) Fuji has released over the last 18 months, and as such boasts a fine pedigree. Sitting above the X-A1, X-M1 and X-E2 in the X-Series range, it’s designed for advanced enthusiasts and pros looking for exceptional image quality, features and handling.
Certainly on paper it’s one of the most impressive CSCs ever built. From the outside, the X-T1’s retro SLR styling gives it a considerably different appearance to the other four X-Series models, which all have a rangefinder-style design. On the inside, however, the X-T1 is very similar to the X-E2, sharing many of the same core components, including Fuji’s 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans Sensor II and EXR Processor II. As on the X-E2, Fuji has opted for no optical low-pass filter, which increases the chance of moiré when shooting repeating patterns, but gives a sharper image. Unlike the other X-Series models, this is the first to be weather-sealed, though the kit lens isn’t. Three fully weather-sealed lenses will be released this year.
LCD and EVF
On the back of the X-T1 is a 1040k-dot resolution 3in screen that tilts up and down, making it easier to compose shots from difficult angles. It doesn’t flip-out so won’t tilt side to side, though this isn’t a huge issue as the LCD’s viewing angle is excellent. The screen’s tilt mechanism feels well-built and robust, and colour and contrast are vivid and accurate. The screen isn’t touch-sensitive, in line with all other Fuji CSCs.
Above the screen is an electronic viewfinder (EVF), which sits in the centre of the camera rather than in the top-left corner as on the X-E2. While we prefer to use optical viewfinders, this EVF is quite stunning. Put simply, at the time of publication, it’s the best EVF on the market. Not only does it have a 2360k-dot resolution, but its 0.5in OLED display is considerably larger than on other CSCs, so it feels like you’re using a full-frame DSLR. Its lag time is almost non-existent at 0.005sec, and the colour, contrast and sharpness are excellent. The auto-eye sensor is responsive, and movement is smooth, with only a slight interruption following focusing. Pretty impressive stuff.
As is the X-T1’s maximum continuous shooting speed, being an exceptional 8fps that makes the X-T1 perfect for sport and wildlife fans. It will shoot 47 continuous JPEGs before the buffer fills up, and 23 RAWs and JPEGs at the same time. Once the buffer’s full, shooting speed reduces to 3fps until the card is full. In testing, the X-T1 consistently achieved between 24 and 27 simultaneous RAWs and JPEGs.
The X-T1 has the same impressive 49-area intelligent hybrid focusing system as the X-E2, with both phase and contrast detection. Having a hybrid system means users benefit from the speed of Fuji’s world-beating 0.08sec phase detect focusing and the accuracy of contrast detect. We found focusing to be lightning-fast even in low light, though in continuous focusing mode contrast detect was noticeably slow and often hunted.
Although the X-T1 doesn’t have near-field communication (NFC) built-in, it does have Wi-Fi. Using the free Fujifilm Camera Remote app, users can control their camera wirelessly and transfer images between the camera and a computer without the need for a cable.
The X-T1 shoots Full HD (1080p) video at 50fps for smooth slow mo, though it only records for 14min continuously. In 720p HD it records for 27min. There is a microphone-in port, but no headphone socket for monitoring audio. This means the X-T1 isn’t really suitable for professional video work.
Being a high spec model, the camera boasts a myriad of other features including an interval timer, film simulation modes, auto HDR bracketing, and advanced filters. The camera doesn’t have a built-in flash like the X-E2, but there is a small external flashgun included in the box.
If you like a camera with plenty of external buttons and dials, you’ll love the X-T1. The top-plate boasts a shutter speed dial as well as dedicated ISO (not found on the X-E2) and exposure compensation dials. There are also smaller dials for metering modes and shooting modes, though the shooting mode dial is far too easily turned when adjusting ISO.
On the front and back of the top-plate there are both finger and thumb dials for changing various settings, although the rear dial is set quite deeply into the body making it fiddly to control. On the lens there is a well-designed aperture ring that clicks in third-stop increments, and a switch to disable it should you want an automatic aperture value. This, along with the auto setting on the shutter speed dial, does away with the need for a mode dial, hence saving space on the body for other controls, such as ISO.
Back-of-camera controls are not so slick. The four D-Pad buttons are spongy, with no distinct click, and none are labelled up so you have no idea what they do. The X-T1 is very comfortable to hold though, with a sizeable, tactile handgrip and a small thumb rest on the back. The internal menu system has Fuji’s standard basic layout but is easy to navigate, as is the Q menu.
ISO performance test results
The Fuji X-T1’s ISO range of 200 to 6400 is identical to the other four X-Series cameras, though for what it’s worth, it extends to 51,200 where the others only go to 25,600. In testing, the camera produced virtually noise-free images right up to ISO 3200. At its maximum standard ISO of 6400, there is slight digital noise when zoomed right in, but viewed at 100% neither luminance or colour noise are noticeable. This low light performance is nothing short of outstanding, with the X-T1 producing high ISO images that would rival virtually any DSLR on the market.
The weather-sealed X-T1 is a pretty incredible piece of kit, boasting superb image quality, outstanding build quality and nothing short of stunning low light performance. You’d have to go a long way to find an APS-C CSC that can outperform this. Handling is generally very good too, with plenty of buttons and dials for quick and easy camera operation. But the X-T1 is not without fault. Firstly, £1399 for a CSC is an awful lot of money, especially considering this will easily buy you a full-frame DSLR body. And then there’s the forthcoming Sony 6000, which will rival the X-T1 in most areas, yet is not far off half the cost at £729 with a lens. Other issues are the lack of NFC, no touchscreen, no headphone socket, poorly designed scroll wheels, and a difficult-to-use, unlabelled D-Pad. Overall, a brilliant camera, so definitely recommended, but don’t expect amazing value for money.
- Body price: £805 (As of June 2016)
- Effective resolution: 16.3MP
- Sensor type: 23.6x15.6mm CMOS II
- Image stabilisation: Yes, in-lens
- Autofocus: 49 areas
- ISO: 200-6400 (expands to 100-51,200)
- Metering: TTL 256-zone
- LCD: 3in 1040k-dot tiltable
- EVF: 0.5in 2360k-dot OLED
- Shooting speed: 8fps
- Video: Full HD (1080p)
- Wi-Fi: Yes
- Battery life: 350 shots
- Card type: SD, SDHC, SDXC
- Size (WxHxD): 129x90x47mm
- Weight: 440g
- Visit: www.fujifilm.eu/uk
This review was first published in the Spring 2014 issue of Practical Photography - download back issues here.