Fujifilm X-T1 at a glance:
- 16.3-million-pixel, APS-C-sized X-Trans CMOS sensor
- EXR Processor II
- ISO 200-6400 (extended to ISO 100-51,200)
- Fujifilm X mount
- 2.36-million-dot OLED EVF
- 3in, 1.04-million-dot LCD screen
- Street price £1,049 body only or £1,399 with 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens
Fujifilm X-T1 review – Introduction
Before we cast our eyes over Fujifilm’s latest creation, let’s refresh ourselves with the relatively swift expansion of the firm’s X-series models. In early 2011, Fujifilm launched the X100 with its fixed 23mm f/2 Fujinon lens, followed around a year later by what was considered the game changer, the X-Pro1. As the first interchangeable X-series model with its own XF-mount system of lenses, it marked an evolution that set out to target enthusiasts and professionals craving outstanding image quality from a more conveniently sized system, inspired by the classic styling of long-departed film cameras. Since 2012, Fujifilm’s objective has focused on expanding the X-series with slimmed-down versions of the X-Pro1, such as the X-E1 and the more recent X-E2. Other releases included the X-M1 and X-A1, which have made inroads into the consumer end of the market, rivalling Sony’s Alpha (formerly NEX) range of compact system cameras and Olympus’s Pen series.
It was only a matter of time before Fujifilm refocused on its premium range, and with many expecting the rumoured X-Pro2 to be next off the production line, the launch of the Fujifilm X-T1 has caught some by surprise. Sitting between the X-Pro1 and X-E2, the X-T1 breaks away from the rangefinder design we’re used to seeing and marks the company’s first attempt at an SLR-shaped body within the X series. It’s hard not to be impressed by its styling and panache – and combined with these are a host of features adopted from the company’s stunning X-E2.
Fujifilm X-T1 review – Features
The APS-C-sized, X-Trans CMOS II sensor in the X-T1 has a 16.3-million-pixel effective resolution, and is the same sensor as that used in the recent X-E2. With a structure more akin to film, the X-Trans CMOS II chip is proven at keeping moiré and false colour to a minimum, eliminating the need for an anti-aliasing filter. The dimensions of the sensor (23.6×15.6mm) place it between the micro four thirds sensors used on cameras such as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7, and full-frame sensors like that found in the Sony Alpha 7 and Nikon’s Df DSLR.
The Fujifilm X-T1’s sensor also incorporates more than 100,000 phase-detection pixels to provide it with an ultra-fast hybrid AF system, which switches between phase-detection and contrast-detection AF for optimal focusing speed, quoted as being as fast as 0.08secs. We shouldn’t forget the excellent AF performance on the X-E2, which was the result of a new AF algorithm introduced to improve accuracy in low light, so it’s good to see Fujifilm implementing this latest technology in the X-T1.
Fast and effective processing power is left in the capable hands of Fujifilm’s EXR Processor II. Claimed to be twice as quick as the previous generation, with a reported start-up time of 0.5secs and a shutter time lag of just 0.05secs, it’s another example of the X-T1 being similar to the X-E2.
The Fujifilm X-T1 provides a modest ISO range of 200-6400, and while this might seem more limiting than some of the X-T1’s rivals, it can be expanded to the equivalent of ISO 12,800, 25,600 and 51,200 at the high end, and ISO 100 at the low end. You’ll want to bear in mind, however, that these expanded settings only allow images to be recorded as JPEGs, not as raw files.
When shooting, the X-T1 is no slouch. Capable of 8fps with continuous AF, or 3fps with live view, it shoots 1fps faster than the X-E2 and 2fps faster than the X-Pro1. As with previous Fujifilm models, the X-T1 draws on the company’s heritage to provide a selection of film-simulation modes to mimic old film emulations. These include Astia, Velvia and Provia in addition to four monochrome modes.
The stand-out features are at the rear of the camera, with a large 0.77x electronic viewfinder positioned above a 3:2-aspect, 1.04-million-dot tilt screen. The central positioning of the 2.36-million-dot EVF is more akin to that of a DSLR than other X-series models, and having the option to pull out the screen makes it well suited to those who experience difficulties shooting from high or low angles with a fixed screen.
Wi-Fi is included for wireless image transfer and remote shooting, which ties in with Fujifilm’s new app that enables more functions to be controlled, including the positioning of AF points. An optional vertical battery grip (VG-XT1) is available, in addition to a slightly smaller optional metal grip that is designed to provide additional support during long periods.
While full HD video is included, an in-built flash is not. However, Fujifilm has provided a clip-on external flash and a standard hotshoe for external flashguns.
Fujifilm X-T1 review – Advanced electronic viewfinder
While the thought of an electronic viewfinder (EVF) might be offputting for many, the X-T1’s EVF is so advanced, and so large when it is held up to the eye, that it’s good enough to change even the most traditionalist photographer’s perception. It’s not too dissimilar to the EVF in the Olympus OM-D E-M1 in that it features a similar 2.36-million-dot resolution, but it has a higher magnification ratio of 0.77x, supported by a newly designed graphic user interface (GUI) that’s designed to relate to the camera’s autofocus and manual focusing options.
The camera’s full mode makes use of the high magnification ratio, displaying a full field of view with shooting information displayed above and below the frame on a black background. I found it to be the best choice for composing expansive landscape scenes. There is also a normal mode that squeezes the image into a tighter area of the EVF with a black border at the sides as well as at the top, and a vertical mode whereby the EVF is intelligent enough to determine when you’re shooting in the portrait orientation, rotating the shooting information fittingly to make it easier to read.
Switching from AF to manual focus instantly applies the viewfinder’s dual mode that cleverly splits the screen in two, offering a view of the full image on the left and a smaller magnified view on the right. What’s more, this dual mode ties in well with the camera’s focus peaking and digital split-image focus options, to ensure that when the camera is used with manual-focus lenses only, optimum sharpness is achieved with every shot.
The dual mode proved to be invaluable when testing the X-T1 with the Leica Summicron-M 50mm f/2 lens that was coupled using an M-mount adapter for X mount. Although the magnified view could be improved by being proportionally larger and making use of the black void above and below it, this is still an excellent feature for pulling focus quickly and accurately when the X-T1 is used with lenses that may not benefit from autofocus functionality.
Image: When used in the portrait orientation, the shooting info that’s viewed through the EVF automatically rotates for easier viewing. The electronic level was also used in this shot to ensure the horizon was perfectly straight
Fujifilm X-T1 review – Build and handling
Fujifilm’s X-series of cameras has gained an excellent reputation for being robust and well made, and the X-T1 is no exception. From the moment the X-T1 is picked up, you instantly realise there’s something very special about the way it feels in the hand. Significantly less cumbersome than the Nikon Df, the size of the body feels refreshingly smaller than a DSLR, but not so small that you can’t wrap your hand around it for a solid grasp.
The size of the X-T1 is not too dissimilar to the Sony Alpha 7 and 7R, and its robust build quality is in part thanks to the magnesium-alloy body that is complemented by beautifully machined aluminium dials on the top-plate. These adjust ISO, shutter speed and exposure compensation, with the latter offering just the right amount of resistance to prevent it being knocked out of place. Added to this is a fairly chunky but comfortable handgrip, which, combined with a sizeable thumb rest at the rear, gives a first-class, premium feel. When you handle the X-T1, the sense that Fujifilm has paid great attention to detail really is apparent.
It gets better too, knowing there are more than 75 weather seals in the construction to keep dust, dirt and moisture at bay. Perhaps more impressive, though, is the fact that the X-T1 can operate in temperatures as low as -10°C. However, while the build quality of the body can’t be faulted and the handling is mightily impressive, it’s a shame that the XF18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS kit lens doesn’t feature the same weather-sealing. That said, neither do any of the optics in the current XF lens range, although looking forward we can expect no fewer than three weather-resistant (WR) lenses to arrive by July, based on Fujifilm’s lens roadmap.
The dials, button layout and interface on the X-T1 can take a little getting used to for those coming to an X-series model for the first time. For example, to use aperture priority you are first required to set the shutter speed dial to ‘A’ before controlling the aperture via the lens aperture ring. Similarly, the lens must be set to its ‘A’ setting before shutter priority mode can be used, whereas if both are set to ‘A’ the camera operates in its auto mode.
The large rubber eyepiece around the viewfinder helps to cushion the camera against the eye during composition, and the Q-menu button is positioned a millimetre away from where your thumb rests, so crucial settings such as white balance, film simulation, dynamic range and AF mode can be instantly pulled up. Although it’s instinctive to use the menu/OK button to access these, it’s actually the front and rear control dials that are used to adjust them.
The four-way controller at the rear lacks icons, but this is because they’re all customisable. Set to default, they control film simulation, macro, white balance and the position of the AF point, but it’s possible to set them so they access image size, image quality, Wi-Fi, face detection, self-timer or depth-of-field preview. As well as these customisable function buttons, an additional two are found on the front and the top-plate.
Fujifilm X-T1 review – Metering
Image: Set to evaluative metering, the X-T1 judged this tricky scene shooting towards the light exceptionally well
The X-T1 determines exposure using the same 256-zone metering system as the X-Pro1, X-E1 and X-E2. It ties in with the camera’s three metering modes – multi, spot and average – which are conveniently positioned on a separate dial below the shutter-speed dial, and adjusted using the index finger. By and large, the metering system delivers pleasingly accurate exposures and, even when the camera is asked to shoot directly towards the light, it isn’t fooled into underexposing or overexposing images.
For day-to-day shooting, users will rarely find themselves having to revert to using the exposure compensation to achieve the best images, unless a particularly bright or dark scene presents itself. In scenes where we shot directly towards the light and the loss of highlight detail was a concern, our first precaution was to make use of the X-T1’s dynamic range settings before dialling in between -0.7 and -1.3EV.
As a way of visually checking exposure, users also have the option to view a histogram on the rear screen. This can be shown when shooting by setting the display mode to custom, or it can be revealed in playback mode by setting the display mode to show detailed information.
Fujifilm X-T1 review – Autofocus
Image: Using the shell as our focus point, this image also reveals the shallow depth of field that can be achieved at f/2.8
The X-T1’s AF system impresses from the start and locks onto subjects more responsively than both the X-Pro1 and X-E1. The speed of autofocus in single AF mode is livelier than that found in the Sony Alpha 7R too, and is particularly noticeable in low light. It is more in keeping with the speed of Panasonic’s Light Speed AF system that is found on the Lumix DMC-GX7.
Where the X-T1 can’t compete with the GX7, though, is in the coverage of AF points across the frame. Although a 49-point AF system doesn’t sound at all bad on paper, the X-T1’s coverage doesn’t meet the far corner of the frame as it does on the GX7. Added to this, the positioning of the AF point is achieved using the four-way control buttons, because the X-T1 doesn’t support a touchscreen. However, users should appreciate the option to alter the size of the AF point to one of five sizes.
However, it is the X-T1’s ability to focus in extremely poor lighting conditions where there is a distinct lack of contrast, without the aid of its AF illuminator lamp, that’s most impressive. It certainly provides a greater sense of confidence when approaching any low-light scenes.
Fujifilm X-T1 review – Dynamic range
At the time of testing, the X-T1’s raw files were not supported by Adobe Camera Raw, so we processed them using Silkypix Raw File Converter EX software. In high-contrast images, it is possible to retrieve highlight detail from bright areas, while it is also promising that a good level of detail can be retrieved from shadow areas. This does come at the expense of extra noise, but no more than could be expected, and it can be taken care of using noise-reduction techniques.
The camera’s dynamic-range function works very effectively, although it’s worth noting that the DR200 mode is only available for use at ISO 400 or above, whereas the DR400 mode can be used at ISO 800 or above. Comparing three shots taken in high-contrast conditions across the dynamic-range settings revealed DR200 and DR400 have the greatest effect on highlights and shadows. In our DR100 shots, we noticed areas where highlight detail had been lost in the sky, but in our DR200 and DR400 images there were no signs of any highlight clipping. The uppermost DR400 setting also impressed by preserving excellent detail in the darkest shadowed areas of an image, without having a detrimental effect on image quality or sharpness. In scenes where there’s high contrast, it is advised to use DR200 and DR400 modes, or for hassle-free dynamic-range control it could be left set to the DRAuto setting.
In addition, the X-T1 provides highlight and shadow tone options with soft to hard settings offering -2 to +2 adjustment. When used appropriately, these can also make a difference to the overall tonality of an image.
Fujifilm X-T1 review – Noise, resolution and sensitivity
The sensor puts in a solid noise performance, with barely a trace of luminance or colour noise visible between ISO 100 and 800. At ISO 1600, the X-T1’s in-camera processing begins to counteract the introduction of noise in JPEG images and does so without compromising the detail that is recorded. As you push up to ISO 3200 and 6400, a fine grain structure is apparent when images are inspected at 100% magnification, but again the processing that is applied to JPEG images helps to offset colour noise up to ISO 12,800. Users shooting raw can expect to see a minor drop-off in the level of detail that is recorded beyond ISO 1600, but images up to ISO 6400 are more than usable. As for the H1 and H2 settings, users should expect more aggressive noise and a waxier image appearance.
Putting its 16.3-million-pixel sensor to good use, the X-T1 resolves an equally impressive level of detail as the X-E2. At its base sensitivity of ISO 100, 30 lines per millimetre could be recorded, dropping to 24lpmm at ISO 6400. While these results can’t quite match our 32lpmm read-out from Nikon’s D7100 at ISO 100 (28lpmm at ISO 6400), the X-T1 is extremely close to APS-C-format DSLRs in terms of the level of detail its sensor is capable of reproducing.
These images show 72ppi (100% on a computer screen) sections of images of a resolution chart, captured using the XF 35mm f/1.4R lens set to f/5.6 . We show the section of the resolution chart where the camera starts to fail to reproduce the lines separately. The higher the number visible in these images, the better the camera’s detail resolution is at the specified sensitivity setting.
Fujifilm X-T1 review – White balance and colour
Image: The X-T1’s film-simulation modes include four monochrome options for instant black & white results
The X-T1 provides ten white-balance settings, accessible via the main menu or the Q menu. The only slight issue with accessing them via the Q menu is that there’s no associated wording with the icons to describe each setting as there is in the main menu, which could leave less savvy users guessing. Left to its auto setting, the X-T1 delivers naturally pleasing tones under a variety of light sources, meaning warm-up or cool-down filters will rarely need to be used in post-production. In bright and sunny conditions, the X-T1 produces rich colour with plenty of bite, and while in gloomier weather the colour tones aren’t as vibrant, they remain accurate to the scenes photographed.
As mentioned earlier, some users may want to take advantage of the film-simulation modes to boost saturation in relevant scenes. While talking to Fujifilm, its engineers stressed the ability of Provia mode to convey accurate skin tones, as well as the importance of Velvia mode for enriching the colour of landscapes.
Fujifilm X-T1 review – Viewfinder, live view, LCD and video
The viewfinder on the X-T1 is quite something, especially when you consider it is larger than the optical viewfinder on Canon’s flagship DSLR, the EOS-1D X. When you lift the camera to your eye the eye sensor automatically switches the screen feed to the electronic viewfinder in less than 1sec. The view is a pleasing one and it’s far from tunnel-like, thanks to its 0.77x magnification. The high resolution provides a crisp, clear view whether it’s used for compositional purposes or reviewing images, and by offering 100% coverage you see precisely what the sensor sees, which is an advantage over some DSLRs that provide only 95% or 96% coverage. Lag is handled reasonably well too, and shooting information is displayed on a dark background so that visibility isn’t influenced by the scene behind it.
The rear display’s 3in dimensions meet expectations, and thanks to its 1.04-million-dot resolution the sharpness it delivers can’t be faulted. Operationally, the screen is best pulled out from underneath and offers a smooth motion, with a reassuring ‘clunk’ as it is push back flat to the body. Given the choice of the X-T1’s screen over a fixed display such as that on the X-Pro1, I’d settle for the tiltable option every time.
The camera can shoot full HD 1080p (1920×1080-pixel) video at frame rates of 60fps or 30fps for up to 14mins, increasing to 27mins at 1280×720-pixel resolution. The in-built mic did pick up on a very faint whirring sound as the kit lens focused (when set to continuous AF), but in other than near-silent scenes this couldn’t be heard when replaying and listening to the audio footage.
Fujifilm X-T1 review – The competition
With a hugely saturated compact system camera market and new DSLRs such as the Nikon Df tempting photographers with retro-inspired designs, the Fujifilm X-T1 has its work cut out to stand out against a busy crowd. The Olympus OM-D E-M1 offers a similarly impressive electronic viewfinder with a 0.74x magnification, but its 16.3-million-pixel sensor is physically smaller, which means its photosites (pixels) are crammed into a smaller area.
It’s a similar story for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7, but with both Panasonic and Olympus claiming impressive light-gathering capabilities, the only way to find out which sensor performs best in low light is in a comparison test, which we plan for a future issue. Unlike the X-T1 and E-M1, the GX7 features a tilting EVF in addition to its tilting screen and is around £360 less than the X-T1. The E-M1 costs around £250 more than the X-T1 body only.
Fujifilm X-T1 review – Our verdict
It’s hard not to fall in love with the chic look of the Fujifilm X-T1. Much has been said about it being the camera the Nikon Df should have been, and when you take the X-T1’s size, portability and build quality into consideration, it’s hard to disagree. The Df’s unique selling point is its low-light performance, but the X-T1 does a better job of capturing the spirit of 35mm SLR photography that the Df was trying to achieve. The X-Trans sensor has once again delivered the goods for the X-T1, and while it would have its work cut out to match the low-light performance of the Nikon Df, the sensor’s ability to record high levels of detail through the sensitivity range make it a more than capable alternative for those who find a DSLR too cumbersome. The viewfinder is good enough to change photographers’ perceptions of the EVF, while the AF performance is swift enough to raise interest from professionals looking at a smaller system.
There are some additions that could enhance the operation of the camera – a touchscreen being one – but all things considered, the X-T1 is one of the best (if not the best) premium compact system cameras tested by AP.
Fujifilm X-T1 review – Key features
The camera allows panoramic images to be taken in a single sweep with its dedicated panorama mode, which is accessed from the shooting-mode dial beneath the ISO dial.
The metering mode is adjusted using the dial beneath the shutter-speed dial. The TTL 256-zone metering system provides multi, spot and average modes.
Exposure compensation dial
Positioned above where the thumb rests for ease of access, it provides compensation over a -3 to +3EV range.
The X-T1’s focus-assist button instantly previews a 100% magnified view, helping to ensure pin-sharp results when manually focusing in live view.
The four-way directional buttons at the rear double as customisable function buttons. Two further custom function buttons are found at the front and on the top-plate.
The X-T1 shoots full HD 1920×1080-pixel video at 60p/30p for up to 14mins continuously. For longer clips (up to 27mins), users should shoot at 1280×720 pixels at 60p/30p.
Classic design is the first thing that you’ll notice when you see the Fujifilm X-T1. Its DSLR-style viewfinder gives it a distinctly film-like silhouette reminiscent of the Nikon FM2 – a move away from the rangefinder style of the other X-series cameras such as the X-Pro1 and the X-E2.
Squarely aimed at the advanced enthusiast and prosumer photographer, the Fujifilm X-T1 enters the market with a large 2.36-million-dot OLED EVF that delivers class-leading 0.77x full-frame equivalent magnification, which is immediately pleasing to the eye and boasts an almost imperceptible lag of 0.005 seconds, closely imitating an optical viewfinder.
Fuji has created an entirely new line in its range with the X-T1, slotting it in above the X-E2 and below the X-Pro1, but would like to believe that some photographers will adopt the X-T1 as a second body, particularly if they’re shooting potentially fast-moving subjects such as animals or athletes.
AP Technical Writer, Jon Devo, with the new Fujiflm X-T1
While it does share the same 16.3-million-pixel, APS-C X-Trans II CMOS sensor and EXR Processor II as the X-E2, the X-T1 is compatible with SDXC UHS-II SD cards, which have twice the data writing speed of standard cards in continuous mode. Compared to the 7 frames-per-second burst mode of the X-E2, Fuji’s latest camera can put out 8fps with tracking AF and improved buffering. Although I only saw a pre-production model, I was able to fire off 47 frames of JPEG for six seconds and 23 frames in three seconds of raw.
Phase-detection AF has been built into the new X-Trans sensor, achieving focusing times up to 0.08 seconds, equivalent to the X-E2. Moiré is tackled by the same original colour array system also featured in the X-E2, but improvements have been made to the ISO performance thanks to a redesigned circuit board, making it extendable to 100, 12,800, 25,600 and 51,200. Expanded ISO settings can be assigned to H1 an H2 positions on the top deck ISO sensitivity dial.
Six customisable function buttons and two command dials placed around the front and rear of the X-T1 ensure that you can access the features you need, wherever you need them. While some may find the number of physical function options overwhelming, they’re subtle enough to ignore. However, it’s good to see such flexibility in a classically styled camera.
EVF and Viewfinder
When focusing through the EVF, a newly designed graphical user interface displays shooting information that rotates to remain clearly displayed along the bottom of the screen whether you’re holding it in landscape or portrait orientation, it’s a small touch, but it’s this kind of attention to detail that make this camera a joy to use. Digital Split Image assisted focusing in MF has also made its way into the X-T1, with optional focus peak highlighting, allowing you to maintain the composition of your image while a 100% crop of the selected AF-zone displayed beside it shows when the desired focus is achieved. Thanks to the generous size of the EVF, a function that sounds as though it would be cramped in practice, actually works very well.
The 1.04-million-dot reinforced LCD viewfinder can be tilted, which is a feature that won’t be popular with everyone but will make creative shooting options easier for those who choose to use it.
As is the case with most cameras being released these days, the X-T1 also comes with Wi-Fi capability but to coincide with its release, Fuji has also vastly improved the speed and functions of its Wi-Fi app, which is currently in development for Android. Although, we weren’t able to see a final working version, we experimented with its ability to remotely control all of the camera’s functions, including the surprisingly rapid touchscreen AF. A dedicated Wi-Fi connect button and straightforward confirmation process makes it possible to shoot stills and video via the app, as well as viewing and transferring uncompressed files from the camera directly to your linked device. Once linked to a GPS-enabled phone or tablet, the camera will also include geo-tagging information, ideal for travel and landscape photographers.
A small detachable pop-up flash unit that mounts to the camera’s hotshoe is included in the box, and although it’s not particularly powerful, it will still provide some decent fill flash for portraits.
Build and Operation
Weather sealed and built from magnesium alloy, the Fujifilm X-T1 feels as premium in the hand as its looks suggest, it manages to feel solid without being particularly heavy.
Fuji has included all of the necessary manual controls (ISO, EV, Metering, Shooting Modes, Shutter Speed) on five precision-milled aluminium dials. These are sensibly placed and operate with a firm mechanical click. Aperture can also be controlled via the lens aperture ring, saving you from diving into the menu while taking pictures. In short, the design genuinely allows for a film-photography experience in a digital body.
The Fujifilm X-T1 with flash and battery grip
This is a camera I should be able to use confidently in harsh environments, going further than simply being water and dust resistant, the camera will also operate in freezing temperatures as low as -10?C. If used with the compatible VG-XT1 battery grip and X-mount lenses – of which, three have so far been announced – the XF18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R OIS, XF16-55mm f/2.8 R OIS WR, XF50-140mm f/2.8 R OIS WR, the X-T1 will be fully weather sealed.
Fuji has clearly thought carefully about the function of each dial and how it will impact the user experience, for example, the placement of the exposure compensation dial on the right, as opposed to the left, as Nikon did on the Df, seemed more intuitive particularly when making adjustments while holding the camera to my face.
With the addition of possibly the most impressive electronic viewfinder I’ve ever seen on a digital camera, fast AF, weather sealing and intuitively placed manual controls, it’s hard to be anything other than positive about the new Fujifilm X-T1.
Traditional design and handling will make this a very attractive camera to anyone who appreciates the manual control of a film camera, it almost feels like the camera the Nikon Df should have been. Its sturdy but compact build also makes it a great prospect for travel and street photography. Joining the X-E2 and the X-Pro1, the X-T1 fills a gap in Fuji’s already strong line-up, and rather than replacing either of its existing cameras, it’s a decent potential option as a second body, even if you already own a DSLR.
If it delivers what it promises in speed, build and image quality, the Fujifilm X-T1 will warrant serious interest from enthusiast and pro-photographers alike who are looking for a high-quality all-weather CSC.