Living With The Fuji X-T1
by Kevin Raber
The New Fuji X-t1 Graphite With 56mm 1.2 Lens
A Short Introduction (5:35)
Back in October I published an article about my experience with the Olympus E-M1. As you learned from the article, I really liked the Olympus, my experience with it but even more so the images I made with it. At the end of that article, I mentioned I was going to take the Fuji XT-1 on my next trips and work with it. So, I was off and running. First stop was Chicago, followed by a trip to Scotland and then Amsterdam. I felt this was a good opportunity to put the X-T1 through its paces. Wow, did I have fun with this camera.
Fuji X-T1 Black 18-55mm Lens
The Fuji X-T1 made its debut earlier this year, and it was received extremely well by photographers. I jumped on the Fuji band wagon with the introduction of the X100 and then quickly migrated to a full Fuji X-1Pro system with three lenses. I loved the X-1Pro as it brought back the nostalgia of shooting with a rangefinder, but with all the modern day features of auto-focus, auto-exposure, and a very clever hybrid viewfinder. While the X-1 Pro had its shortcomings, the image quality and the lens line-up that was announced by Fuji, convinced me to sell my Leica M gear and I have never looked back. I am just getting too old to focus manually, and the value that the Fuji offered cost-wise, made it an easy decision. Yes, there are days I miss the feel of the Leica, but those days quickly pass once I pick up the Fuji and remember how many out-of-focus images I used to have.
The Fuji X-T1 Did Well In Wet Weather (just had to keep lens dry)
I have invested in two Fuji X-T1 bodies—one Black and one Graphite. I have a 10-24mm wide angle zoom, 18-55mm, 55-200mm zoom, a NEW 50-140mm zoom, a 56mm 1.2, 18mm, 35mm and 60mm lenses.
I retreated to the LuLa Man Cave and began the packing process. I was able to easily pack all this gear into the Gura Gear - Uinta Backpack with the large Insert . This is an amazingly versatile back pack and works well for these smaller mirrorless systems. It is a comfortable pack and so lightweight compared to the days I carried a full system of DSLR cameras and lenses on my back. In addition to the camera gear, I also packed the Lee Seven-5 filter system made especially for the mirrorless cameras. I’ll be reporting on this in a future article.
My Two Body, Five Lens Kit
I really like the Fuji X-T1. There must be a reason this camera has received so much attention and fanfare from the media and users. The simple reason? It is a camera done right. Fuji is a camera company that has listened to its customers. The X system has evolved over the years and with each iteration the system has incrementally improved to the benefit of the enduser - the photographer.
The Front of the Camera (note the small knobs under the shutter release, shutter speed and ISO dials)
This camera is a natural for anyone to use, especially those of us that were part of the film generation and are accustomed to dials and rings. What Fuji has done is blended together the technology of today with the intuitiveness of yesterday. This camera is fun to use. If you are somewhat familiar with a digital camera, you could take this camera out of the box, go through the menu settings, format the card, choose the type of file you want and start shooting.
The Rear Of The Camera (You can see the sub-dials under the ISO, Shutter Speed and Shutter Release)
Unlike other digital cameras there is no P,A,S or M settings. Instead, there are dials and rings and depending on the way you use and set these dials and rings you can set the camera up for Aperture priority, Shutter priority, P program (fully auto) and manual.
On the top of the camera is a dial on the left side of the camera that determines ISO, and in a sub-dial (for lack of better words) that is below this main dial, you set the camera's drive functions - single, high and low sequence, HDR, pano and multi-exposure.
The Button Layout Is Very Simple (Note the metering selection under the shutter speed dial)
The "Q" Button Accesses A Special Menu
On the right-hand side is a shutter speed dial with a lock unlock center button and on the same dial to the side, are the metering selection choices: spot, average and center weighted. A simple on-off switch that is easy to operate with your finger surrounds the shutter release button. On the right side of the viewfinder housing is a button that sets up the type of view mode available. And the big dial in reach of your thumb is the exposure compensation dial.
Oh, did I mention that the screen articulates? This makes it a breeze to work with on a tripod or when doing low and high angle shots.
The Left Side Shows The Drive Selection Under The ISO Dial
(the knob on the finder is the diopter setting)
All of this may sound confusing, but it isn’t once you get your hands on the camera. It actually begins to make sense. The right side of the camera has a grip with a wheel, and there is another wheel on the back, not too different from other cameras. The difference is that these wheels aren’t used like other cameras. In other systems, these wheels would be used to set f-stop and shutter speed. On the Fuji, the shutter speed is set with a dial on top of the camera (just like in the old days) and the f-stop is set with an f-stop ring on the lens. Someone in the Fuji design team was thinking, because it is a very natural setup to use. The front of the camera has a lever for determining if you choose AF - single, AF -0 Continuous or MF - Manual Focus.
The Front Of The Camera Showing Focus Slection, Flash PC
(Note Opitcal Image Stabilization and A - Manual F-stop Selector on Lens)
There are a number of buttons spread around the camera, front back and top that can be customized (Fn buttons). The rear of the camera is fairly standard with the usual buttons for AF and AE lock as well as Play and Trash. Also, you’ll find an AF Assist button which is convenient in Manual focus mode and the Q button that gives rapid access to almost all the settings the camera has. There is also a display selector that toggles through the info displays in the viewfinder and rear screen and a multi function set of buttons for navigation as well as custom settings. It’s all pretty straight forward once you get into it.
The "Q" For Quick Menu - Makes It A Snap To Change Settings
I found a cool thumb grip that I have installed on the camera made by Lensmate. It slides into the accessory shoe and allows the thumb to give support to the camera when shooting. They also make some nice soft release buttons, and I have them on my camera too.
I have rigged my cameras with the BlackRapid camera strap system. I use the Compact Sling version and sometimes the Cross Shot versions. And, if I want to be a bit more discreet, they have a great wrist strap. These straps are cross body straps and using them allows the camera to hang to your side and to be adjusted for an easy grab. They quickly attach with a clever snap and twist lock to a screw eye that screws into the tripod screw on the bottom of the camera.
I also use the Dsptch camera strap if I want an over-my-neck strap. Sometimes I use both to have a camera around my neck and one on my side. It all depends on what I am photographing. Both are very fast to change out if needed.
First Stop - Chicago
My first stop of a very busy three week plus travel schedule was Chicago. I took an extended 4-day weekend as one of my sons was graduating from Naval Boot Camp, located close to Chicago. Chicago is one of my all time favorite cities. Especially for photography! Chicago has a giant lake, rivers, bridges, some of the most amazing architecture and great streets to shoot on.
Fun at The Bean
The nice thing about shooting in the late fall is the late sunrise. Makes photography somewhat civil when the sun rises at 7:30. I took to the streets early and have a lot of fun shooting all the sights. Some of my favorites images are below. On the third morning, I met up with one of the site’s readers and enjoyed a morning shoot with Slobodan Blagojevic.
Aqua Towers, An Amazing Building
I used the 55-200mm lens a lot on these mornings trying to limit myself to that lens. I was looking for graphic and abstract designs by isolating the subjects in tight frames. The early morning light contributed well to this. The ease of adjustments on the camera plus excellent image stabilization in the lens made for some great images. A number of these I have enlarged to 17x22 inches and the one of the Aqua Towers is now hanging in my office.
Sword Practice In The Park
Early Morning fun At The Bean
The long zoom lens allowed be to shoot from a distance and not be too noticeable. The image of the man with a sword, the girl walking and the kids having fun at the bean are examples of why I enjoy street photography. The Fuji was so easy to use for this kind of photography. The viewfinder is so good, you have to use it to experience how nice it is. If you switch to manual focus, you get a small preview of the focus area plus peaking (or split image) in a smaller window. (Note these features need to be set in the menu system).
Fuji X-T1 EVF Manual Focus With Focus Window
I found that depending on what I was shooting, I would switch to manual focus and use this enlarged preview and red peaking a lot. The whole manual focus thing was like going back to the golden oldies day of photography when there was no auto-focus. I primarily shot on aperture priority with auto ISO selected and 200 - 3200 as my ISO Range and 1/30th of a second as minimum shutter speed.
Fuji X-T1 Graphite, With Really Right Stuff L Bracket, Options Eye Cup, and LensMate Thumb Rest
Once again, since it was so easy, I was switching many times to spot metering when I came across a backlit subject and then center-weighted for other images. It was also very easy to make compensations with the exposure adjustment dial on top of the camera. Some samples are shown below where I used this ability to make quick selections of metering, f-stop & exposure compensation. What I enjoyed most was the fun I was having shooting images. I didn’t have to get lost in a sea of menu set-ups. Neither did I accidentally hit a dial and change my settings.
Abstracts In Chicago
There are two weaknesses with the Fuji X-T1 that boggle my mind. Why these are excluded from the Fuji Cameras when they are standard on so many other cameras is beyond me.
The first is the lack of a choice to show the histogram right after shooting an exposure. Like so many well-heeled photographers, I shoot and adjust based on the histogram. Once you understand what you see in a histogram, you quickly learn how to make adjustments to get the best exposure. To see a histogram on a Fuji you need to press the playback button and also make sure you have the histogram selection chosen. It’s an unnecessary step that one would think could be addressed with a simple firmware update.
The second weakness is the completely useless HDR bracketing. The Fuji sensor is very good and has good dynamic range. The most you can select on the camera is a 3 - single stop exposure adjustment: 1 over, 1 under & normal. Other mirrorless cameras like the Olympus and Sony that I own, allow 5 - 7 exposure bracketing with two stop differences between exposures. Now, that is useful HDR.
Are you listening Fuji?
Mora Aqua Tower Images
Shooting many of the images of Chicago especially those of the Aqua Towers, I used the exposure compensation dial and dialed the exposure back so I could expose for highlights.
Shooting in Chicago was fun, easy, rewarding and the X-T1 performed really well. As a street camera, it was excellent. I carried two extra lenses and a bottle of water and spare batteries in a shoulder bag. The system is lightweight and truly delivers the goods.
My Shoulder Bag. Nearly 10 years Old
This Bag Has Been Everywhere And Served Me Well
The Fuji X-T1 has a selection on the Drive Sub-Dial for doing Panoramas. I couldn't shoot in Chicago without trying a couple of Panos. The image above is one of several I did. Normally I shoot exposures as RAW and stitch in Photoshop. The Fuji X-T1's internal Pano option is quite impressive. I'll use this feature more often in the future. The other option I tried is the Multi-exposure (double-exposure) feature. I was unsuccessful at obtaining an image I liked. The feature works great but you need to be able to take the second expsoure in order. I can see where this feature could be fun.
All images in the article made with the Fuji X-T1 were shot in RAW and processed in Capture One 8.1. Where needed, I used the perspective correction tool. In my experience Capture One 8 handles the Fuji files nicely and provides excellent quality output.
After a few days home, I was on my way to Scotland to run a workshop there. At this workshop, I used the Phase One IQ260 back on an Alpa system and the Fuji X-T1. I carried the same pack as I did in Chicago. The weather was typical Scotland, gray, rainy, windy and unpredictable. This trip provided a great opportunity to try the Fuji for landscape photography. I had used the camera for some images when shooting in the Palouse this past August. The images were excellent. So how did it do in Scotland?
The 55-200mm With Lee Seven / 5 Filter (Little Stopper) 32 second expsoure
Sun, Rain, Wind and Rainbows All At The Same Time, This Is Scotland
I was able to make some good images in Scotland, the dynamic range allowed me to recover details in shadows on the heavily back-lit lighthouse image. The images easily converted to B&W using Capture One 8. Dynamic range was excellent and allowed recovery of highlights and shadows well in the landscape images.
As you can see from the images above, I had the chance to put the X-T1 through its paces. It was a pure joy to shoot with the Fuji. I was able to make on-the-fly adjustments for the scenes and shoot for the light. In some shots I exposed for the highlights and in doing so moved the histogram to the left. This added drama to the image and allowed me to capture the scene more the way it was. I shot most of the time with Aperture Priority and started out at f/8. For the most part I used the exposure compensation dial to adjust exposure for the scene. This camera makes you think about your technique and makes it fun to use the dials to adjust for the look you desire.
I used primarily the 18-55mm lens. The sharpness and contrast worked well for the majority of the landscape images. On a few occasions I used the 55-200mm lens and for a very few shots I relied on the 10-24mm wide angle zoom. All in all it was easy to capture the image I wanted.
The Lee Seven / 5 filter system allowed me to go for really long exposures. The lowest ISO in RAW format with the X-T1 is 200. Thus if you want to keep the RAW, you need to use ND filters to allow you to capture the long exposure. On the rocks and waves image above I did 30 plus second exposures using the Big Stopper and for some exposures the Little Stopper filters.
This Image Was Shot at 1/8th Of A Second and Is Very Sharp
On the way home from Scotland I had to do an overnight in Amsterdam. This is one of the coolest cities to do photography in. I arrived there late and thus once I was checked in, I grabbed my camera gear and headed out. I chose to shoot with the 18-55mm lens; I had the 10-24mm lens in a pocket of my jacket and 2 extra batteries that I never needed in my pants pocket.
This Couple Was So Sweet, The Guy Was A Charmer
I couldn't resist this cute couple above. He was so in love and she was so cool. When I wander the streets in any city I visit, I love finding shots like this. So many times we are afraid to approach people because quite simply we are shy by nature. Anyone who knows me, knows I am not the shy type. If I see a good shot, I go for it but I also talk to the subject. Sometimes the back story is really interesting. For the most part people like to know what you are doing. They love to see the shot you made and are willing to let you take more. Of course once in a while you'll get the mean person, but don't let that stop you. In my travels I have some great stories about just how nice people are all over the world. They far out-number the mean ones.
I enjoyed being unencumbered and being able to to move quickly. If I needed to change a lens it was breeze to reach in my pocket and grab the wide-angle. The image above just begged to made into B&W.
As the light was quickly faded, I found I was shooting at very low shutter speeds. I pushed the ISO up to 3200 and shot anywhere from wide open to f/8. I was not very confident I was going to get anything useful because of the exposure times. What was amazing though is that once I loaded them into Capture One I was shocked at how good the images were. In some cases I was shooting at 1/8th of a second handheld and had tack sharp images.
I also used the light and exposure times to my advantage doing some long motion blur images as well as some zooming while exposing images. A few of these I converted to B&W because they just worked better in B&W under these conditions.
After Adjustment, Shadow Recovery and Crop
Impressive Dynamic Range
The images above demonstrate a surprisingly good Dynamic Range. I took an exposure of a store from across the street with a woman in the doorway. I was able to recover detail in her face using Capture One and Shadow Recovery. As I got familiar with the camera and learned more about its capabilities, I trusted it more in really tough scenes.
Auto-Focus with a minus 1 stop exposure compensation was right on target
Notice the subtle shadow detail and nice highlight areas
These exposures were shot at f/4.5 around 1/40th of a sec. ISO 3200
The images above were made in a leather shop I stumbled upon. I entered the shop and what I saw just caught my eye. The light was very directional adding drama. And, there was this leather craftsman sitting there working on sewing a leather purse. I asked if he would mind if I would take pictures and he was thrilled. I spent a while there shooting while he worked. I pushed the ISO to 3200 and dialed back the exposure almost a stop and a half on exposure compensation. Basically I was exposing for the highlights. I was able to obtain great dramatic images with shallow depth of field. The auto focus worked great. The high ISO capability was excellent. I made some 17x22 inch prints form these and they are just gorgeous. Throw in good dynamic range and I was able to get the details in the highlights and bring out the subtle details in the shadow.
I can’t tell you how much fun it is to shoot images with this camera. The EVF allowed me to see the image I was shooting the way it was being shot. Being able to shoot clean noise free exposures at high ISOs with such a small camera was thrilling. Using this camera puts fun into photography especially doing these type of images.
Two days after arriving home I was asked to do some portraits of one of my friends and her son and daughter. I have done a ton of portraits in my lifetime and a while back I migrated to doing landscapes and street photography. I looked forward to something different and agreed to do the portraits. Plus, I was also anxious try out the 56mm 1.2 lens in a portrait situation. The building in which I have a gallery is quite unique and filled with its own charm, thus it made the perfect place to do the shoot. It's an old car factory converted into artist studios and offices. I planned to shoot the portraits with the 56mm at the widest aperture possible using nothing but available light. Below are some of the images from the shoot.
The 56mm Lens Delivers Elegant Images
Highlights And Shadows Balance So Well
Let me say this about the 56mm lens, “It’s stunningly Incredible”. The X-T1, auto-focus, manual focus with peaking (when needed), and image stabilization all added up to the magic ingredients for a great portrait shoot. And, just like in Amsterdam, I found I was tweaking the exposures based on the light with the exposure compensation dial. I loved the skin tone and unique look of sharpness, yet a softness at the same time. Once you get the hang of the X-T1 it is a super fun camera to shoot with.
These images were processed in Capture One. I added some vignetting, did a small amount of cropping and used the clarity slider and pushed it to the left just a little which added just a tad of softness while still maintaining a sharp image. Minus clarity does a fantastic job on skin tones.
Summing It All Up
Watching and being part of Fuji’s evolution of the X series camera has been a great experience. Fuji continually improves upon previous generations of cameras and along the way introduces whole new systems. They were very smart early on to show a road-map of the lenses they planned to introduce and when to expect them. So far, they have kept their promises. They also have done something that has surprised a lot us by continually upgrading all their camera with new firmware. The firmware they introduce is not just bug fixes but true new feature rich firmware releases. The Fuji X-T1 just received a major firmware upgrade giving the camera all sorts of new capabilities. The coolest is an electronic shutter that is completely noiseless with 1/32,000 of a second capability. Now you can shoot wide open with the fastest lens in the brightest light.
As you can probably tell my experience with the Fuji X-T1 was nothing but positive. I had fun shooting with this camera. There is a lot to like with this camera. The ergonomics of the camera and layout feels just right. I have big hands and use the optional vertical grip, and I like this because there is a shutter release button on the grip that makes vertical shooting comfortable. (No more elbow in the air awkwardness). The whole idea of dials and knobs is well thought out. Unlike on the Olympus, I never had an instance where I accidentally changed a setting.
The multi-function buttons have received a number of complaints from other reviewers and even users. I find it a bit humorous as in the past on other cameras many users and reviews would comment that the multi-function buttons were to easy to hit accidentally with fingers and even with your face when the camera was put up to eye level. It seems that Fuji listened and made these buttons a bit more recessed - thus preventing accidental pushes. However, in doing so they made them so you would have to intentionally push the button to make it work. I like it just the way it is.
Once you get a feel for this camera, using it is a breeze. There are not ton of menu items with sub menus and things that need to be changed. Buttons and choices are clearly laid out. You can be up and shooting in no time at all. You’ll find yourself making adjustments with the knobs and dials as you shoot. You hear the word retro thrown out a lot when talking about the Fuji X cameras, and that is what it is like. For some not having A,S,M,P dial selections may seem a bit strange, but once you get the hang of the f/stop ring, shutter speed dial and ISO dial operations and how they all work together you will see the brilliant logic of Fuji’s design.
This camera is also the first in my opinion that truly gives us a glimpse of the future with the capabilities of its electronic viewfinder (EVF). Their implementation of the EVF is simply brilliant. It is bright, sharp, big and allows all shooting data to be displayed. When manual focusing, you have the smaller magnified window that appears. Using that in combination with focus peaking, makes getting sharp manually focused images a breeze. And, when you rotate the camera to vertical, the data in the viewfinder changes to vertical orientation too. There's a lot to like about EVFs.
There are lots of websites doing test reports and doing scientific calculations of lenses and displaying MTF charts etc.. At Luminous-Landscape, we are all about the experience and whether the camera and lenses deliver the goods. The goods being, of course, the final image. We are about the feel of the camera, what it is like to use in real circumstances and whether, in combination with the right lenses, we get the image that makes us happy.
I have invested in Fuji glass: a number of primes and four zooms. The Fuji zooms are just great. With few exceptions, I get superior results with the kit I have. The 10-24mm zoom is excellent. It redefines the debate of need for primes. As I have mentioned in the article above, I use Capture One and any perspective issues that appear in my images, are easily fixed for the most part in Capture One. Lightroom also has the Upright feature to do the same thing.
The 18-55mm lens is a perfect everyday lens. The 55-200mm is also excellent. The NEW 50-140mm 2.8 lens is a real performer. We’ll have a separate report on this lens after the New Year. It’s a bit bigger than the other lenses, but the image quality from this lens is fantastic. My other favorite lens and one I use more and more each day is the 56mm 1.2 lens. This lens is super sharp, offers an 85mm Full frame equivalent view and when shooting wide open, offers a shallow focus range and fine out of focus background (see images above). Doing what we do here at LuLa, we have invested heavily in a number of camera systems, and lately all our investments seem to be in mirrorless. Michael started the ball rolling by selling his Nikon gear and moving into the Sony A7r and A7s camera lines. I Started out with Fuji X-Pro 1 and then migrated to Olympus and then to the Fuji X-T1 and now the Sony A7 II. These are all fine cameras. I love the Olympus (see my previous reports on the camera and NEW zoom lens). The NEW Sony A 7 II is quite good, but not intuitive like the Fuji. The main difference between the Olympus and Fuji is that the Sony is full frame. The Olympus is Micro 4/3rds. The word Micro scares me a bit, but the performance is excellent, and the capabilities of the camera are super.
I get a lot of emails asking what camera would I recommend for purchase. I wish the answer were simple. There are so many good cameras these days. But my answers are these:
- If you want full frame mirrorless and understand that there may be some learning curves, then Sony is good. Sony has yet to round out the offerings of lenses for the A7 series, but it is getting better and if you are Ok with using adapters, you can adapt a good number of lenses to it. The glass though is heavy in most cases. The camera capabilities are real good though, but learning the button functions as well as the menus on the camera is a bit tricky.
- If you are a casual shooter and want a real good compact camera and print no larger than 13x19 inches then you should look at the Olympus. The new Pro lens series, in body camera stabilization and phase and contrast detection auto focus, make this a super great camera in a prefect size package.
- In the end though, I reach for the Fuji X-T1 more often. The fact that I now have two Fuji X-T1 bodies should say something about how much I like this camera.
Fuji has proven that they do not abandon their users as the company moves forward. They are continually offering firmware upgrades that increase the capabilities of all cameras in the X line. Fuji also took a chance by introducing a new chip for their cameras. They must have known what they were doing, because the images coming off the 16 MP chip rival those of the 20-24 mp Bayer Pattern systems. The prints I have been making form the Fuji X-T1 are just beautiful. It’s hard to describe in words, but the prints have a feel especially in images with shadows and such. The subtle details that come out of the shadows combined with the details in the bright highlight areas produce very nice prints. I find myself exploring the prints admiring the details and amazed that I see this from a mirrorless 16 mp camera. The only time I have seen prints like this with this kind of feel are ones made with my Phase One and 60-80 mp sensors. Granted nothing can beat the Phase IQ cameras especially in resolution, but the Fuji holds it own for sure in image quality.
Processing images from the X-Tran chips camera is rather tricky. Because it is not a standard Bayer Pattern sensor, Adobe as well as Phase One and others had to go back and reinvent the math to develop the RAW files. There has been a lot of online debate about how the RAW files are processed and who is the best. I have made it clear that I use Capture One. I consider myself an expert with each program. Maybe it’s my history but I use Capture One for most of my work. If you are moving to the Fuji X cameras though. I suggest you give both programs a try with some side-by-side comparisons. Do a test with no correction output to a 16 bit tiff file and then pick some challenging images and make corrections and then process those out and do a comparison. See what you think. Go with a RAW processor that works for you. There are some other choices that are not so main stream but could also be worth a try. You need to find the workflow that that gives you what you want.
The Final Word . . .
As far an investment goes, I would not hesitate to recommend the Fuji X-T1. You’ll get a very good camera with great performance, and it produces excellent images. I believe that 2015 will be another fun year for us as photographers. I would not be surprised to see Fuji offer a 24 MP version X-T2. The APS-C size chip they use can certainly support that resolution mega-pixel size wise. Of course, we’ll probably see new systems from Sony and most likely from Olympus. But I question just how many more pixels can be squeezed onto an MFT chip.
I have all my systems stored in a room on shelves with what I call Go Bags. I can go into the room and pull a bag off the shelf with a system in and head out to do shooting. The bottomline is that I am pulling the Fuji X-T1 out more often. So much more often, that it often never makes it back to the shelf. I feel bad for my Nikon System. I haven’t sold it yet—with the hope that Nikon surprises us with something spectacular in 2015. For now though, I am have a blast shooting with the Fuji X-T1.
I love this camera. I am taking it to Antarctica in a few weeks and look forward to shooting with it there. I talked about this camera so much in discussions with Michael that he has gone out and purchased one. He’s currently in Hawaii using it right now, and he too will take it to Antarctica. I’m sure this is not the last you’ll read and hear about the Fuji X-T1 on this site.
Kevin Raber - Self Portrait In The Bean