Fujifilm X-T1 review: 18 months on

Fuji XT1 review

Wait, this is a car blog, why am I posting a review of the Fuji X-T1 digital camera? Well, it’s one of my favourite bits of kit, for the last 18 months it has rarely left my side and it makes shooting images for this website an absolute joy.

Also, those folk who are into their photography will often find it difficult to find decent impartial advice from people who haven’t simply been handed cameras in exchange for a good review. I’ve never had any contact with Fujifilm, have purchased my camera and kit all off my own back and therefore can be as brutally honest as necessary!

“The Fuji X-T1 is a genuine SLR alternative for those who aren’t shooting sports or video. Its intuitive controls are like that of a camera from another era, while the impressive build quality and wide range of lenses mean it’ll be great choice for a long time yet”

★★★★☆

+ Light and compact, genuinely useful WiFi functionality, fantastic lenses, great build quality

 Battery life is good rather than great, issues with reds, manual flash only, not great for sports or video

What’s the X-T1?

Up until late last year when the XT-1 was superseded by the lust worthy XT-2, it was the company’s range-topping mirrorless camera.

Within the XT-1’s retro-styled, weather resistant alloy body is Fuji’s APS-C sized, 16MP X-Trans CMOS II sensor. Upon its launch the electronic multi-mode viewfinder of the X-T1 was supposed to be the fastest around and offered the highest magnification ratio too. Similar best in class claims were made about the camera’s 49-point autofocus system.

A big selling point of the X-T1 is the camera’s large external controls with three large dials and various switches beneath them being used to control everything from ISO and shutter speed to shooting modes, metering and exposure compensation.

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The X-T1’s dials mean you rarely have to enter the camera menu

The X-T1 has been built to except an ever-growing range of proprietary Fujinon X mount lenses. Despite being in no way optimised for it, the X-T1 can also shoot video at full 1080p at up to 60fps. The X-T1 also has WiFi, which when paired with Fuji’s Cam Remote app means useful remote operation functions as well as quick jpeg transfers direct to mobile devices.

Upon its release the X-T1 body alone retailed for £1,049.99/US$1,699.

Here’s what I love about the X-T1

It’s fast (enough for what I need)

Those coming from an SLR will likely be spoiled when it comes to autofocus speed, but luckily the X-T1 doesn’t disappoint in this respect. At least not compared to most mirrorless cameras that is. Although performance will of course vary from lens to lens, there’s a massive improvement over previous generation Fujifilm cameras such as the X-Pro1.

That being said, the X-T1 is far from a natural when it comes to sports photography, and although the continuous AF works nicely for bicycles or skateboarders it simply can’t keep up with motorsports.

It’s small and light

The X-T1 is reassuringly weighty on its own and feels more solid than any Canon or Nikon SLR I’ve held. Still, even with my MHG-XT handgrip and the weightiest bit of glass on the front, it never feels excessively heavy.

The size of the camera also hits a sweet spot for me, meaning I can happily travel around for a day at a show or an event without feeling the need to ever lift it off my shoulder.

The Jpegs really are stunning

Yes, people will always complain that you should never shoot straight out of the camera – these guys tend to be the people that haven’t tried a Fuji camera!

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Quite simply, if you get the focus and exposure correct on your shot then the JPEG the camera will make, will be a banger.

 

The subtle, almost mystical sharpening and colour enhancements that happen inside the XT1’s body are ridiculous. You can quite easily end up spending 20 minutes tweaking and farting about with a raw file in Lightroom only to find that it sucks in comparison to the sharpened, cropped JPEG the camera has already saved alongside it.

Saying that, I tend to try and process most of my files through Lightroom unless I’m in a hurry – mostly because I’m a faffer and enjoy using the program!

It’s hardy

My X-T1 has shot in everything from 35-degree Italian heat to chilling Icelandic winds that caused multiple other devices to turn off. Careful lens switching and the camera’s own sensor cleaning means I’ve not yet had to clean the sensor either.

Although I take much care with my kit, inevitable spills have seen the camera and some of its lenses take a bashing though I’ve not managed to break anything yet.

Its impressive low light performance

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Pair the X-T1’s sensitive internals with any of Fujinon’s prime lenses and you’ll be hard pushed to find a scenario so dark that you’ll need anything other than steady hands.

Fuji’s X-series lenses are first class

I’ve got a bit of a problem with Fuji lenses, and it’s the fact that they make me poor. Now holding a vast collection of primes (35mm f1.4/ 23mm f/1.4/ 60mm f2.8 macro, 14mm f2.8 and 56mm f1.2, if you were wondering.)

 

The real problem though, is that they’re all bloody brilliant, meaning you’ll get hooked like me. I absolutely love the aperture rings on Fuji lenses, which combined with the camera’s numerous external controls means that you rarely have to ever access the camera menu.

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Now, the last thing I want to do is sound like Ken Rockwell here but the fact is they’re all metal, they’re all built to last and they’re all crisp with staggering image quality. Those who beast out on the bokeh will love the XF56, just don’t expect that f1.2 figure to translate to the shallow depth of field you’ll get from a fast prime on a full frame camera.

WiFi functionality

The WiFi function built into the X-T1 means I can get access to the sorted jpeg images I mentioned earlier within seconds of shooting them. For my career as a journalist where speed is often key this has proven invaluable.

Here’s what I really do not like about the X-T1

It’s not ideal for those with larger hands

If like me you have larger hands then you may struggle to get on with the X-T1 in its standard form. Though the cheap and readily available MHG-XT handgrip makes a huge difference in this respect.

The battery life

Well, the battery life itself isn’t a huge issue. Not once you’ve purchased a second battery, I can thoroughly recommend this (non-oe) battery from Amazon, which is a fraction of the price of OE Fuji battery and, as far as I can tell, performs in exactly the same way.

I’d say I get around 250 shots per charge.

The way it renders reds

Here’s where the X-T1 can really suck at times. I’ve always struggled to get accurate colour reproduction when it comes to reds. Now I know that most cameras can struggle with this but sometimes the X-T1 can be spectacularly bad.

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My X-T1 has real issues with reds 

Shooting a red Ferrari, for example, can mean a lot of editing and I find that underexposing is often necessary in order to get something that even loosely resembles the colour. A patchy pink Ferrari is not a good look.

No TTL Flash

Should you want to shoot with a flash then you’ll have a couple of issues with the X-T1. Firstly, there’s no TTL flash, so you’ll be going full manual – which is fine but sometimes a little time consuming.

Secondly, the flash sync speed is 1/180 sec. or slower, I believe there may now be ways to get around that but you may well have to study a few geeky YouTube vids and gets prepared to spend extra money..

Some of my favourite X-T1 images