Wednesday, September 17, 2014

On the Road with the Fujifilm X-T1

Straight from camera at ISO 200, no sharpening or exposure
adjustments applied. Film simulation mode = Velvia.

I recently had a chance to spend almost two weeks with the Fujifilm XT-1 (black edition) and I was impressed with this mirrorless camera’s sharpness, color and speed.

I used the X-T1 on a road trip through Northern Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. In the hand, it felt light but solid, making a perfect travel companion. It was coupled with the Fujinon XF18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS lens. Images were tack sharp - so sharp that my typical Lightroom sharpening settings had to be dialed back.

The sensor delivered excellent dynamic range, easily handling contrasty situations even at its basic setting. Noise was absent at ISO 200, and well within the range of noise reduction post-processing up to ISO 3200. I did not test it at it 6400, or use the extended range, which provides ISO from 100 to 51,200.

Straight monochrome
from camera
at ISO 1600
When shooting landscapes, I set the film simulation mode to Velvia, which delivered nicely saturated colors. I also did a series of shots in monochrome mode (no filter). The black & white images had nicely neutral tones and a full contrast range. All images were shot in RAW. 

I found the electronic viewfinder clear and sharp, responding quickly when brought to the eye. The fold-out LCD screen is useful when shooting at unusual angles, when you want to be more discreet, or when you want to see a larger image for more critical focus.

Shot at 1/500 sec, f/8, ISO 640 in continuous high mode
I was also impressed with the X-T1’s ability to handle motion and continuous shooting. The locomotive was probably moving at 30-35 miles per hour across the frame, and I got a series of truly sharp captures using the camera’s high-speed burst mode, which is rated at up to eight frames per second. The mode wheel beneath the ISO dial allows quick access to various shooting modes, including continuous shooting and bracket modes. 

Fujifilm claims optical image stabilization up to four stops for the XF18-55mm lens, which I found a bit too optimistic. At times, it was allowing me to shoot as low as ⅓ or ⅙ second. I’m pretty steady, but that’s asking a lot. Given the superior low-noise quality of the sensor, I’d suggest bumping the ISO up a notch if you find the shutter speed dropping too low.

Inside the Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff.
Natural light at ISO 1600, no noise reduction used.
My only other issues with the camera were ergonomic and practical. The lens cap, which did not grab well, was easy to lose. I also found that the battery compartment cover could spring open and cause the battery to fall out. On one occasion, that had me crawling around and under my car seat to retrieve the errant battery. One other note of caution: it’s easy for your thumb to move the exposure compensation dial at the top right of the camera body.

Overall, the Fujifilm X-T1 is an excellent mirrorless camera with professional capabilities and picture quality. It’s a good choice for travel, street photography, or any situation where you want a camera that’s reasonably small, light and discrete. I do wish it had a sensor larger than 16.3 megapixels, as I exhibit in galleries and sell prints. Buyers often want large prints.

NOTE: The camera used for this review was paid for by the reviewer and obtained through No compensation was received for this review.