Fujifilm X-T1

Categoria: English Pubblicato: Domenica, 16 Febbraio 2014 Scritto da Max Angeloni

 

Hey, there's nothing wrong with that.
We can't deny that we photographers have a fetishistic attraction towards our photographic gear. This is what allows the existence of everything that concerns photography: manufacturers, shops, magazines and so on. 
It's undeniable however that this attraction may lead many to lose the focus on what should drive our purchase target.
That means few people ask themselves: what should I do with what I buy? What are my photographic interests?
In a parallelism with the engines world we may compare the choice a photographic tool to that of a car or a motorcycle.
Why should I buy a two-seater roadster when I have a four people family? 
Or...What a wonderful sport bike, it has 300Hp...but how should I use it if I live in a place with dirty, damaged roads?".
Even if those comparisons are always used, and sometimes not as properly as they should, they help understanding how many photographers have in their hands equipment that they are not even able to understand, and others use tools that don't allow them the fully show their skills.
As I always say the photographic tools we know are the result of an evolution of over a hundred years. An evolution that combines photographic needs and design choices, an evolution that cut away all the deed branches to converge towards a single road. 
Sure, a road that may have some secondary or alternative route but that at the end lead to the same destination. And if the destination is the same, it is possible that two drifting continents may be destined to meet again.
On one side there is the reflex continent, an old continent, reliable, based on years of history and evolution. On the other side there is the CSC continent, the young one, based on only few years of evolution and still agile and with plenty of room to grow.
Both have their own strengths and weaknesses, both offer some certainties and contradictions.
And it's not coincidence that two of the most important manufacturers came out with two products that are the summary of those contaminations. The Reflex that wants to be a CSC, and the CSC that wants to be a Reflex.
Nikon DF and Fujifilm X-T1.
What camera is going to win the battle? 
Well...to be honest we don't care that much. It would be a non-sense fight. 
As well as a head to head with one other interesting cameras we are going to test soon: the Sony A7r.
Our interest is to "just" focus on this kind of "middle-earth" cameras, in order to give more information to those who are still deciding what camera to buy. We will focus on one at a time to better understand the camera itself.


Fujifilm X-T1: Part One
Part1...Why? Because Donato Chirulli is working on Part2. What else? ☺

Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R, 1/125, f/1.6 Iso 800.

Introduction
Let's start with confessions...The first time I saw the X-T1 was May 2013, during the X-M1 launch event.
Damn...the Fujica! This is what I said as soon as i noticed it. It was just a piece of steel with the lens attached thanks to a magnet. This was enough to let me fall in love with something that wasn't even real at that time.
When I wrote about the evolution that lead to a standard this is what I was talking about. You just take a camera and find what you expect. The right weight, the right buttons placement, the big EVF in the middle, easy-to-use buttons and dials. 
With this CSC camera that looks like a DSLR Fujifilm was able to even improve the button layout and the access to functions and basic parameters compared to the other "rangefinder-style" models.
No randomly placed buttons or dials, everything has its own place and reason to exist.
Every button is dedicated to a single task, there's no mistake, no confusion.
Shutter speed and EV compensation dials on the right, ISO dial on the left. Under the shutter speed dial there's the light metering dial, under the ISO dial there is the shooting mode one.
The overimposed dials have the same diameter, not like the wedding-cake ones we are used to see with the bigger one on the bottom. The top dial has the indications on the top, while the bottom one has the indications on the side. 
It's a nice addition to see the Auto-ISO in the ISO dial, I like it a lot. It is a pain, on the contrary, the blocking mechanism of the ISO dial. It's really annoying to be forced to push the unlock button every time you need to change the ISO. I would rather have the same beaviour of the shuter dial one, that locks itself in the Auto position but is free to rotate when in manual position.
Like many DSLR two additional dials are easily reacheble, one with the index finger on the front of the grip and one with the thumb in the back of the camera.
Also, the back of the X-T1 looks cleaner that the one of the X-Pro1. The left side doesn't show any button, in order to leave space for the tilting LCD monitor while the most important ones have been placed around the thumb position allowing them to be easily reached. It may look like a minor improvement, but trust me, it is really straightforward and allows to change settings without the need to remove the eye from the viewfinder and this isn't something to overlook.

Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R, 1/480, f/1.2, Iso 200.

Talking about the viewfinder it's undeniable that one of the main features of the X-T1 is the new viewfinder itself.
While the CSC camera usually tend to be used looking at the monitor, due to the peculiar ergonomics, the X-T1 is studied to push the user to use the viewfinder.
Trust me, I can guarantee you that as soon as you get the camera you will be pushed to take it and bring it to your eye. I can't explain why, but it's like I said.
This is why I think that the most important innovation introduced with this camera is this optical...ehm, sorry, electronic viewfinder.
Numbers and technical sheets don't matter when talking about the X-T1 viewfinder, it is just revolutionary. The first time I brought the camera to my eye I was shocked. I was used to see high contrast, saturated viewfinders, something that is not pleasant in the long term. This viewfinder instead is capable of producing smooth and natural images at least in natural lighting conditions. With artificial lights the white balance of the viewfinder shows you that this is electronic rather than optical. 
I must admit that this a big step forward and the difference with an optical viewfinder is far less pronounced than before. Sure, it's not perfect and there room to improve but I can tell you that thank to this viewfinder I was able to shoot for hours without any tiring out and without the need to use the rear LCD monitor.
Like I said, there is room to improve and tweak it.
For instance, it is normal that some artificial lighting frequencies (i.e. neon) can lead the electronic monitor to flicker based on the selected shutter speed. As well as it's natural that in poor and variable lighting conditions the monitors adapt to the lighting conditions in rough way.

Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R, 1/280, f/1.2, Iso 200.

This is due to the feature that allows to preview the scene exposure. It is really useful sometimes but it can also be annoying at times.
Those who usually shoot in manual mode, for instance, may experience a viewfinder that becomes too dark or too bright in an unexpected way.
Things like this are not so critical on a rear LCD, but in a viewfinder things become really annoying. Of course, this happens in all the LCDs and electronic viewfinders.
Like I said, this is due to the exposure preview feature that tries to adapt what we see in the viewfinder based on the selected exposure.
Once you turn off this option things become better but it's not pleasant to be forced to dig in the menu system to turn on and off this feature. I already suggested Fujifilm to allow this function to be placed in one of the customizable Fn buttons.
But without any further ado, let's focus on the field impressions.

Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R, 1/250, f/1.4, Iso 5000.
The X-T1 AF system is efficient even when the light is almost gone.


In the Field
As I said before, I knew the X-T1 even before the beginning of its definitive design. With my friend and photographer Amedeo Novelli we attended a meeting with japanese engineers and designers in which we discussed about two different cameras that Fuji wanted to introduce. One of them didn't impress us at all (I'm not going to reveal anything, so don't ask) and clearly said it. But when the mockup of a "digital Fujica" came out we were all impressed and excited and shocked at the same time. I'm happy to see that our three suggestions were actually accepted and incorporated in the X-T1: a proper grip for the right hand, the tilting LCD and the ISO dial on the top of the camera. Well..."probably" the same things were suggested by thousands of persons but I like to think that this new Fujifilm has an Italian soul in it.
Why do I say all of that? 
Because it was funny to see how we started to fight to have that piece of steel in our hands, to bring it to our eye, and to imagine how would have been to shoot with it.
Well, when things are well thought and you like them it is natural to feel the need to touch them, to use them.
Sure, this doesn't ensure the product success but at least you can say that it is a good start.
What did decide the success of some photographic tools?
I would say the fact that the first thing you want to do when you get it is to bring it to your eye and shoot.
Sure you have the rear LCD screen, even a tilting LCD, but the viewfinder is whole different thing.
It's not coincidence that the four cameras that represent the mix of many different systems show a common "approach".
Fujifilm X-T1, Nikon Df, Sony A7 and Olympus OM-D EM1 are far more similar than you would say. 
One of the similarities is the big centered viewfinder, electronic or optical.
Why do I bother you with all of this rather than focusing on the field impressions I got from the camera?
Because this is coming from what I felt in the field, using the X-T1.
Well...it's time insert the battery (the same used for all the X-Mount cameras) and the memory card (this time in a separate slot) and go to shoot!

Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R, 1/160, f/1.2, Iso 800.

 

This is a weather sealed camera and I can tell you that mother nature did its best to test this out. Rain, wind, mud, dust were all around me during my new project with Gruppo Storico Romano. We all know that there is no weather sealed lens available right now but the X-T1 let you feel like nothing wrong can happen when it rains or it's windy. Also, I had the new 56mm F1.2 with me, and this helped a lot forgetting the weather sealing of the lenses.
Look, I know what you're all waiting to know...How is the new AF system? How good is the image quality?
Well, we will get to that, but before we go any further it has to be clear that Fuji's approach of providing little improvements over a reliable base is still there. The X-T1 is, electronically speaking, a refined X-E2, while the X-E2 is an evolution over the previous generation (namely X-E1 and X-Pro1).
Also, we all know the X-Trans sensor image quality, as well as we all know the Fuji engineers will to always provide a step forward as far as image quality is concerned. Nothing shocking, but little improvements over an already reliable starting point.
This means there isn't much to say about image quality, if you have already read our previous reviews. This is the best APSC size sensor, at least for us.

The AF is another story and it's worth talking about it.

Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R, 1/180 f/1.2 Iso 1000.

It looks like it was centuries ago, but the X-Pro1 was introduced in Italy only 20 months ago.
We all remember all the initial doubts, concerns and problems of this camera, as well as the need to adapt to its AF system.
Firmware after firmware things got better and better, model after model things improved also and now there is no reason to concern about the X-cameras AF system. We are to the point that fuji claims the X-T1 is the fastest AF system among CSC cameras.
Well...don't count on it...almost every new CSC camera comes with such bold statements. It is still hard to judge CSC cameras AF, there are too many thing to take into consideration. 
The X-T1 uses the same technology already seen in the X-E2. The hybrid AF, thanks to the presence of phase detection sensors incorporated inside the image sensor itself. This allows to have both contrast AF and Phase detection AF. 
It's not as simple as it seems though.
The AF efficiency is also affected by many dead times. What makes you feel you have a responsive camera is the entire time frame that starts from the moment you half-press the shutter button and finishes with the write time on your memory card.

Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R, 1/125, f/1.2, Iso 1000.

 

This is where Fuji's Engineers focused the most during the last years.
The X-T1 is a lightning fast and responsive camera in the most common shooting conditions. Also, the possibility to modify the AF area dimensions allows you to decide how precise you want it to be, and this something not to be overlooked.
Let's say we use a wide angle lens and a slow aperture...just set the area to its maximum dimension and shoot. 
What if we need to shoot a closeup with a wide open 56mm F1.2? Set the area to its minimum dimension for a better precision and have fun!
Of course the bigger is the area, the faster is the AF, the smaller is the area, the slowest is the AF. It takes time to get used to this logic but once you do, everything is going to be pretty straightforward.
The same approach is available even for the continuous AF. It's not a new option, it's always been there, but it looks like for the first time Fuji really focused on this AF mode. I didn't use it that much with other cameras, probably because the shape, the nature of the X-series camera was more suitable for single AF shooters.

Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R, 1/420, f/7.1, Iso 200.

 

The X-T1 changes all of this and pushes to a more all-around use of the camera, a use you would usually consider allowed only by reflex cameras.
From this weather sealed camera, with its big central viewfinder, is ergonomics that will easily allow a massive use with big zoom lenses we all expected a good alternative to a medium range Reflex camera.
In the field the continuous AF showed more than acceptable performances, it also exceeded our best expectations eve if it's not as polite as other AF systems around. We're talking about the possibility to tweak your AF settings in order to better face the various situations you may find around. Many high level reflex camers let you decide how responsive the C-AF has to be, based on what you think you're going to shoot.
Let's say you need to quickly focus on many different subjects...you can decide to set your Af responsiveness to "fast". If you need to stay on the same subject for a long time you can set your responsiveness to "medium" in order to better face those situations when you just lose the subject for a moment. You can also set the responsiveness to "slow" if you want to avoid your camera to lose the focus from your subject if something falls in between you and the subject, or behind the subject.
I'm pretty sure many don't even know anything about this, and there's nothing wrong in that. The situations in which a setting like that can come in handy are not so frequent. 
Also, it's not only the camera. The lens has its own part in the AF performances of a camera, and this is true for DSLR, CSC and any other camera in the market.
Price, build quality, design are all elements that affect the AF preformances of a lens as well as sensor size, brightness and focal lenght.
The moving parts of an APSC kit lens (18-55 F3.5-5.6) are way lighter than those of a 70-200 F2.8 Full Frame lens. This is why it's easier to have the best performances and weights on a smaller sensor system rather than on the bigger ones.
Take a Full frame 24-70mm, and APS 16-52.5, a four thirds 14-35mm with the same aperture...which one has the heaviest moving parts?


Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R, 1/250, f/1.2, Iso 2500

 

Also the Fuji system adopts different solutions based on focal lenght and type of lens.
The first three lenses (18, 35, 60mm) are the worst of the entire line in this regard. The new line of prime lenses have an inner focusing system that dramaticaly improves performances. The zoom lenses have an additional motor that allows them to be even faster.
Hey wait...why the prime lenses don't use the same technology used in the zoom lenses? 
It's because the trade off to have this motor is a bigger size and since those lenses are still fast, there was no need to make them bigger to make room for the new motor.
Anyway I can guarantee you that regardless the used lens, the X-T1 AF system will allow to easily shoot models, weddings, even those sport activities that don't require to have tens of perfect pictures of the same action. You only need to set the proper AF area dimension.
This camera will not suit for those who live of action and sport photography, they already have their reliable gear and they know what to do with that.
Now, let us recap...great image quality, lightning fast single Af , good continuous AF...is there anything else to add?
Not that much. The menu system is basically the same of the other Fuji cameras.
As a Fuji user I didn't have to adapt to it...I just kept shooting with no worries.
My only concern was related to the RAW files, since there's no RAW support available right now from the usual softwares. Luckily "Irident Digital" came in to help me, allowing me to use a preview version of its brand new powerful software. I will never stop thanking them and I would like to point out that their 2.3.3 version of the software is so powerful that I used it for all the images of this review and for my latest work called "La Via Dolorosa" (The painful road) which will be presented March 5 at the beginning of Lent.

Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R, 1/125 f/2.5, Iso 800.


Conclusions

We are at the end...at the end of part 1, waiting for Donatu Chirulli's impressions on this camera.
I want to point out that the X-T1 coverage doesn't end here. After Nikon Df, Sony A7r and Olympus OM-D reviews we will write a little summary that will show the good and the bad of all of these cameras.
I can tell you that all four cameras are pretty good ones, and the X-T1 is by far the best APSC CSC camera I have ever used.
It is a new evolution of the CSC world, a world that is now moving towards a more traditional approach to photography.

It's not over yet...
Probably you already noticed that the most used lens for this review is the brand new Fuji 56mm F1.2 R, so I decided to attach my first impression to this review.


Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R

Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R, 1/125 f/1.2 Iso 6400.
What happens if we use a fast camera with fast AF and a bright lens? Well, it just happens that we're able to shoot in almost any shooting condition and a street illumination can be enough to start shooting.

I have always said the focal lenghts I love the most are the 35mm and 85mm.
With Fujinon Xf 23mm F1.4 and Xf 56mm 1.2 Fujifilm finally closed this gap in its lens lineup. The reasons for the long time needed to introduce these lenses are explained in Fuji's 23mm review. In the same review I highlighted how good is this 23mm that wants to be a 35mm.
The 56mm shares basically the same conclusions. Great build quality, great image quality and sharpness, good Af thanks to the new AF motor.
However there is something different between the two lenses, especially considering the focal lenghts.
Let's start with how it's built. 
The focusing distance on the barrel is gone, and this a good thing since it wouldn't have had sense in this lens.

Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R, 1/160, f/1.2 Iso200 (jpg OOC).

Talking about size, the 56mm is a bit longer but considerably "fatter", but it's an extremely bright lens and this is unavoidable.
The metal built not only gives a premium look, but also feels good in the hands.
It's not a lightweight lens but it doesn't feel front loaded when attached to the X-T1 or the X-Pro1. 
Talking about image quality it's clear that Fuji is keeping the focus on quality. There's no poor lenses in Fuji's lineup, and the 56mm is in the flagship lineup with the 14mm and the 23mm.
So we can easily say the Fujinon XF 56mm F1.2 R is a great portrait lens, right?
Well...Yes and No.

Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R, 1/250, f/1.2 Iso 640.

 

 

Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R, 1/125, f/1.2, Iso 1000.
Great flare resistance and backlit illumination rendering here.

It's a sharp lens and it has a buttery bokeh, this is undeniable.
The thing here is that it is still a 56mm, not an 85mm or a 105mm.
The 56mm is an extremely bright lens, but it is still a "normal" focal lenght.
The "atmosphere" created by a lens like a Nikon 85mm F1.4D is, for instance, far more pronounced.
Don't get me wrong, this is not a criticism to the lens, which I'm sure will receive high praise on reviews, Mtf and user reports. What I'm saying is that this is a great lens but it doesn't have the usual rendering a proper 75-85mm can produce. And there's no way out, it is something related to it's real focal lenght.

Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R, 1/250 f/1.2 Iso 1600 (Jpg OOC).
With such a bright lens it is needed to pay the maximum attention when selecting the focusing area, especially with closeup images like this. It easy to focus on the wrong eye, like the picture above shows. In a situation like this it's a good idea to set the AF area to its minimum area.

Sure you can use the lens and the focal lenght you want for portraits. A portrait isn't always a closeup filled with the face of the subject. 
I love to shoot portraits with a 35 to 50mm equivalent focal lenght, but this is another story.
You can do a portrait with the lens you want, but when you take a portrait lens you want a special lens, a dreamy one.
Also, but this is a personal thought, I love this kind of lenses even for their flaws that give them a peculiar rendering.
The Fujinon XF 56mm F1.2 R is...is just too perfect. 
It may look like a paradox, but this is how I feel.
This perfection is there to shout out loud that this lens is an excellent "general purpose" lens...even if not a portrait lens.
It's the same philosophy of the Zeiss Otus 55mm F1.4 or the Nikon AF-s 58mm F1.4 G. Great general purpose lenses that may cover all of your needs if you want.

Conclusions

The Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R is an excellent lens and as shown by the attached pictures it is good to face almost every photographic condition without problems. The fact that it's not a longer focal lenght is probably a personal interpretation of what a portrait lens should provide but, other than that, we have to give credit to Fujifilm for this great, sharp lens.