We like to consider ourselves experts in our chosen fields around here. However, when someone like Zack Arias steps into the room, we all take notice. Zack is widely recognized as one of the top commercial and editorial photographers of our time. His travels have taken him around the world several times over to places such as; India, Dubai, Italy, Hong Kong and Turkey. When not working, he and his wife Meghan have a full house of four boys and we can’t forget to mention their pet, Carl. You’ll meet him below.
We’ve gone back and forth with Zack on Twitter a number of times discussing new photography goods and asked him if he’d like to share one of his thorough reviews with our readers. He reviews as we do, with bold honesty. Wanting to know more about the latest release from the Fuji guys, and knowing the X-T1 had already been traveling with Zack, his review dropped with perfect timing.
Fuji X-T1 Review – Yep, It’s A Fuji
Words & Photos: Zack Arias
I have now had the Fuji X-T1 since February of this year. I have traveled to Dubai, Morocco, Cuba, and numerous places through the US with the XT and the new 10-24 f4, the 56mm f1.2, and the 27mm f2.8 pancake lenses. I’ve shot street, portraits, personal work, and paid work with this camera and these lenses. Fuji sent the camera and lenses to me and then I picked up a second body because these are now my small camera work horses. I no longer own a single piece of DSLR gear. I shoot my PhaseOne on some jobs and I shoot Fuji’s for the rest. I do not foresee going back to DSLR’s any time soon.
“They have soul. They are sharp. They are a joy to work with. They are conversation starters on set.”
What can I say about Fuji cameras that I haven’t said before? They have soul. They are sharp. They are a joy to work with. They are conversation starters on set. They are small. They are quiet. They are a constant companion. I never said any thing like this about my Nikon or Canon gear. Not even my Phase One. The only reason I love my Phase is because of the image quality it produces. Otherwise, the Phase One camera body is a piece of crap and I hate it. It’s an old Mamiya 645 body with a few tweaks and a new badge slapped on the front. It’s a crap camera really. Oh how I hope and wish and pray and desire for the day Fuji gets back in the medium format game. I have begged and pleaded with them to make an X series medium format game changer. PLEASE!!!
Anyway. This is about the the X-T1.
My story with the X-T1 starts last year when I was invited, by Fuji, to travel to Japan and meet with their different teams working on X cameras. They wanted honest, no holds barred feedback on their current lineup of cameras and feedback on some ideas they were working on at the time. I was shown a plastic model of the X-T1 at that time. I didn’t know what the name would be or what the final specs were but it was the basic size and shape and look. My thought was it looked like an X-E1 turned into a baby DSLR.
“So no optical viewfinder?”
“No optical viewfinder.”
“Hmmmm. I don’t know y’all. I love your hybrid viewfinders.”
They went on to say that this was not going to be an EVF that I’m used to.
Fast forward to January of this year and I got my hands on a working X-T1 at CES in Vegas. As soon as I put my eye up to that EVF I was a believer. It’s the best EVF I’ve seen. Hands down. I received my own X-T1 in February and it was off to the races for testing it.
Here is what I honestly love about the X-T1.
• The dedicated ISO dial. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate having an ISO dial right on top of the camera. I use it all the time. It beats jumping into a menu for it.
• WIFI. Ummm. Yes. I want this on all my cameras. Every camera I’ve ever used WIFI on I have found it can be buggy and the X-T1 is no different. There are times it flakes out but it is reliable enough. Since everyone from Canon to Sony to Panasonic to Eye-Fi has some issues I figure the technology still has room to progress. The Fuji bug is getting everything to connect at first. Once that connection is made it’s solid from there on out. I use it for remote shooting but most of the time I use it for transferring images to my phone or iPad.
• That EVF. It’s big. It’s fast. It’s beautiful. I thought this was going to be the X-T1 killer but I have found that it’s just killer on the X-T1. When I saw the plastic mockup of the camera I figured that if it ever came out, it wasn’t going to kick my X-Pro1 out of my bag. I haven’t shot my X-Pro1 since getting the X-T1.
• AF and overall speed and performance. This isn’t the X100 they we all loved and hated so much. Fuji isn’t changing the game with this camera. They’re just improving the game now. The camera is snappy and focuses where I want it to focus when I want it to focus. It’s a huge step forward from the X-Pro1 that I’ve been using for so long. I’m really surprised how well the continuous AF tracking works as well. When you are shooting it seems that the focus isn’t locking when you are looking through the EVF but when you review the images you’ll see it was keeping track really well. It’s not a Nikon D4 sports monster yet but for your kids running around in the backyard? You’re good to go.
The shot above is ISO 3200 and straight from camera. A JPG from camera. I just sized it down for the web. You can click on any of these photos for a slightly larger view of them. That’s also shot at 1/10th of a second hand held with the stabilized 10-24 lens.
In addition to X-T1 I’ve been using three new lenses. The 10-24 f4, the 56mm f1.2, and the 27mm f2.8 pancake and I’m in love with all of these. Surprisingly… I’m using the pancake so much right now. While the X-T1 hasn’t replaced my first love of the x-100s, I tell you what… the X-T1 with the little pancake on it is a fantastic every day carry camera. It’s a sharp little lens. A bit slow at 2.8 but it’s tiny. It’s almost like a body cap for the X cameras.
The 10-24 has become a workhorse of a lens for me. I’ve never had a lens this wide before and I’m having to make sure I don’t over use it. The 16-35 was always on my Canon wish list but I never bought that lens. I rented it a few times and borrowed one a few other times but never owned it. I’m shooting this 10-24 a lot right now.
And the 56mm?
Here’s a frame from a series I shot with continuous focusing at 8 frames per second with the 56mm at f1.4.
I do have a few issues with the X-T1. My largest gripe with the camera is size of the D pad buttons on the back. They are smaller than the ones on the X-Pro1 and it took some time getting used to that. One request that I still have of Fuji is to find a button layout that can work across the board for their cameras and stick to it. Having the play and Q buttons in different locations than the x100s makes switching back and forth a bit of a pain. I’d love it if every Fuji had a similar layout.
The Fuji can shoot video but it is not a great video camera. Oh how I wish it was. Oh how I wish it was. Oh how I wish. It would have saved me from buying a full Panasonic kit. That post is coming up in my next installment of moving to motion. I know the folks at Fuji have been solely focused on building a great stills camera and they are reaching that goal. It’s an amazing stills camera. Now… I think they should go head hunting over at Panasonic and get the video capabilities strengthened.
Lastly, if a camera is going to have a tilt screen I’d love it to be fully articulating like the Panasonic GH4 screen. I’m using the tilt screen far more than I thought I would but I’d love it if it flipped out from the body and could rotate more than it does. The GH4 screen is awesome in this regard.
That’s about it. I have no issues with the focusing. I have no issues with the image quality. The build is great. The feel in the hand is great. There’s an extra programable function button on the front of the body that I have programed to select AF points and I love that little button. I do not have one of their weather resistant lenses yet so I haven’t put it through that test yet. The battery grip accessory is nice especially when using the larger lenses like the 56mm. It balances the rig out nicely. I tend to only use that on jobs though as I like the camera to be smaller in size when I’m just walking around shooting other stuff for personal work.
Conclusion… I have zero regrets about selling all of my Canon gear and going Fuji. Zero regrets. I do miss the longer telephoto but, lo and behold, what just got announced for the lens lineup? A 90mm f2. I wonder who could have requested that over and over and over again? This camera can hold its own for just about anything but professional sports photography. It’s a fantastic travel camera. It would be great for events and weddings. It is lovely for portraits. Wouldn’t mind a faster sync speed than the 180th that it has but I jump to the x100s or the Phase when I need that fast sync.
If you have any questions please drop them in the comment section below! Have you considered adding a mirrorless camera to your bag or moving to one? Is the crop sensor keeping you back? I have a post coming up in a few days about that specific topic.
Here’s the video we made about my time in Morocco with the X-T1.
Disclosure – I received the X-T1 and the three lenses mentioned in this post as part of a payment for a promotional shoot I completed for Fuji. I was paid by Fuji and given the gear to shoot the job and provide them with images and video they can use for marketing. My responsibilities end with the delivery of said images and video. They are not paying for this review nor do I receive any further compensation in money or gear for posting this. I am not under a contract with Fuji nor do I have to get their approval on anything I say about their products. Some folks think I’m just a Fuji sales rep now. I am not.
EXTRA: There are rules and regulations one must follow when reviewing a camera and one of those rules clearly states that you can not judge the quality of a camera or a lens unless you have a photo of a squirrel to back up your claims. Here you go.
To purchase the Fujifilm X-T1, head on over to B&H Photo here.