The X-T1 is not that good!


OK, cue the hate wagons here is someone who is going to have a go at the Fujifilm X-T1 what a heretic! I wish I could use italics in the WordPress headings because the title would then have been “The X-T1 is not that good!”.

So what am I writing about, what do I mean? Am I not the same guy who has been going on about how this is probably one of the best cameras out there? Well that is all true but there seems to be a reality gap between my X-T1 and the X-T1s used by other people. Now some of this will be because I am not as good a photographer as most of these people are but the X-T1 has won many awards and there are not many bad reviews out there, the only one that comes to mind it Michael Reichmann’s review that I blogged about last week and that was because it didn’t have any custom modes.

The problem for me is that the (positive) hype outweighed the actual product (as hype usually does); this reminds me of Batman! To explain this, way back when I was in my late teens I hadn’t seen the new Batman film when it was first released. This was the first reboot of the series starring Michael Keaton (1989) and was the only decent one of the 4 films they released. This film was hyped so much that by the time I actually saw the film I was quite disappointed as it couldn’t live up to the hype!

As a side note sometimes I have been pleasantly surprised by a product that was much better that largely negative hype but that doesn’t happen very often. 😦

The camera hype also reminds me of when the original iPhone was released; this was christened the “Jesus Phone” by some people (I never liked that name for the phone). The original iPhone was certainly more revolutionary than the new X-T1 but the way the some sites refer to it you could be forgiven.

There were three primary areas of hype as follows:

  1. Viewfinder
  2. Autofocus performance
  3. Direct Control Dials for: Aperture (on applicable XF lenses), Shutter speed, ISO and Exposure compensation as well as control rings for drive mode and metering patterns.

1. Viewfinder
The X-T1 being a mirrorless camera has an Electronic Viewfinder and without a doubt it is one of the best ones out there to date (in the same league as the Olympus OM-D EM-1 and the Sony A7/A7R). It also has some out-of-the-box thinking that has produced 2 new features. The first is of these features enables the text to rotate appropriately when you turn the camera +/- 90 degrees left or right for a portrait aspect ratio photograph. The second is when you use manually focus, in this situation you not only get the full image but to the right a magnified view of the centre of the image to help with precise focus (with a split-view or focus peaking).

However the hype stated that the EVF bests even the top full frame optical viewfinder cameras out there such as Canon’s 5D-III and 1DX or Nikon’s D4/4s and D800/800e. It’s good but not that good.

2. Autofocus Performance
If you believe the hype, the X-T1 is one of the fastest focusing cameras out there. Now I have used the camera in a number of scenarios trying different focusing modes (Single, Continuous and Manual) as well as playing with the various options in the menus and whilst it is pretty good in single shot it is atrocious in continuous focus. If you point the camera at a static subject in this mode the camera will at random focus in and out for no reason at all. This is simply not acceptable and I have used a fair number of DSLR cameras (as well as some mirrorless) that don’t have this focus chattering phenomenon.

I have done some research and it seems that this can be improved by playing with some of the set-up options out there and these although mentioned in the manual do not accurately describe what they do. One of the options is to enable something called performance mode which whilst improving the AF performance it additionally increases the battery drain of the camera.

I remember when I had the 5D-III, I though that the cameras focusing system was complex but at least the AF settings gave you an idea of the effect of adjusting that setting.

3. Direct Controls
Although this is one of the top selling points that was hyped beyond reason I do not see this as a feature that I wanted or didn’t want. If I am honest I prefer menu based control settings like on all of the Canon DSLRs and not so much the direct shutter speed or Aperture changes via setting dials as on the X-T1 (or even quasi-models such as the Nikon Dfail). So I don’t see having dials as a major selling point, I just see these as the way to modify these kind of settings on most Fuji X-system cameras.

So there we have the 3 major areas of hype and my thoughts about them. I would be remiss if I single out the X-T1 as the only camera to be hyped beyond reason but it is a model that I actually (still) own and therefore one I can comment about fairly.
I would also add that some areas that were not hyped as much such as the 9fps drive mode with a reasonable buffer, the UHS-II support and the weather sealing are a few that I am pleased I have.