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Fujifilm X-T1 review: A great, flexible, but occasionally quirky ILC

With a great viewfinder, speedy burst and excellent photo quality, the camera really impresses. But there are some irksome quirks.

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Lori Grunin
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Lori Grunin

Senior Editor / Advice

I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.

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9 min read

This is a trend I can get behind: weather-resistant interchangeable-lens cameras. ILCs have slowly been crossing out items on the list of dSLR advantages, and the sealed-build- quality trend started by Olympus is a key one for advanced photographers. Fujifilm's next in line with its latest X series entry, the X-T1, a more performance-oriented, weather-sealed redesign of the X-E2 with a beautiful new EVF and built from die-cast magnesium that's cold-resistant down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. While there are aspects of the camera I like less than others -- like controls that make me feel clumsy -- overall it's a well executed camera that's enjoyable and streamlined to shoot with most of the time.

Fujifilm X-T1 series
8.2

Fujifilm X-T1

The Good

The stunning viewfinder, comfy grip and plethora of direct controls makes the <b>Fujifilm X-T1</b> a joy to shoot with, plus the image quality is great and the continuous-shooting is among the best in its class.

The Bad

Some of the controls are too hard to manipulate, its general performance doesn't stand out, and the movie quality disappoints.

The Bottom Line

The Fujifilm X-T1 is a great camera for advanced photographers as long as its quirks don't bother you.

Image quality

The X-T1 delivers excellent photo quality. While the innards are similar to the X-E2, there are some differences. New, lower-noise circuitry has allowed Fujifilm to bump the maximum sensitivity to ISO 51200 up from ISO 25600. However, I really didn't see a significant improvement in the X-T1's JPEGs or raw files over the X-E2's at any sensitivity. Interestingly, although I couldn't get better results processing raw with the X-E2, I did find that there were times I could get sharper results and better exposure via the raw files. JPEGs look clean through ISO 800 and remain usable through ISO 3200, and depending upon scene content, ISO 6400. ISO 12800 and ISO 25600 shots might be good scaled down. Unfortunately, beyond ISO 6400 (or for ISO 100) the camera doesn't support raw, so, for example, I couldn't use an ISO 25600 shot which might have been printable had I been able to adjust the good-for-screen-but-not-for-print exposure.

Fujifilm X-T1: A sharp cookie (photo samples)

See all photos

I do find the camera's interface for the expanded high ISO range annoying. You access them via the H1 and H2 options on the ISO dial. But there are three expanded-range options -- ISO 12800, ISO 25600 and ISO 51200 -- which means you have to decide in advance which ones to assign to the slots or periodically dive into the menus to change them. On the bright side, at least the camera switches automatically between raw/raw+JPEG and JPEG when jumping between the expanded options and the "normal" zone.

Click to download ISO 200



ISO 1600

ISO 6400

Fujifilm's default color setting renders relatively accurately. You do need to expose on the dark side to get good skies or clouds clip unrecoverably and the blue can look false and flat in the JPEGs -- raws are better. There isn't an extraordinary amount of highlight data to recover in blown-out areas, and as you'd expect you lose quite a bit of shadow detail in dark shots at high ISO sensitivities, but in the main ISO sensitivity range shadow areas can be brought out with practically no noise.

In JPEGs, the bright highlights on the saturated reds/pinks shift to orange, though the raw files have the correct color data. Lori Grunin/CNET

Unfortunately, the video is loaded with the same artifacts that plague the other X-Trans-sensor cameras, most notably bad moire and aliasing.

Performance

Fujifilm made news when it announced the X-T1 supported high transfer-rate UHS-II SD cards to facilitate longer bursts and faster burst rates. I tested the X-T1 with two UHS-II cards (the SanDisk 64GB Extreme Pro and a 16GB Toshiba Exercia Pro) as well as my standard UHS-I 8GB SanDisk Extreme Pro and got extremely similar, although not identical, results for UHS-I vs. UHS-II. I also tweaked the methodology in a few ways to see if settings like shutter speed affected the results. (Our testing is currently constrained to shutter speeds of no more than 1/125th second because our digital timer updates in hundredths of a second, but I used a workaround.)

While both raw and JPEG bursts are effectively unlimited, the burst slows noticeably after about 28 shots, give or take a few: it runs at 7.9fps, then drops to about 1.5fps. Raw+JPEG runs at about 7.8fps then drops to about 1.4fps. It does vary, however, from about 7.7fps to 8.2fps with the UHS-II cards (and more with the UHS-I). Shooting at a faster shutter speed does seem to perform a little more consistently. And with both cards it saves pretty quickly at the end of the burst; most important, in never held up other operations. Overall, this is excellent continuous-shooting performance for its class.

However, the rest of the performance isn't quite as stellar -- it's similar overall to the X-E2 -- which leaves the X-T1 lagging the Olympus OM-D E-M1 in many respects. (Though the E-M1's burst speed is pretty good, its processing throughput isn't.) It takes the X-T1 a middling 1.5 seconds to power on and shoot, and around 0.4 to 0.5 second to focus and shoot; that seems more the slightly sluggish response of the lens rather than the autofocus system, though. Two sequential shots run about 0.8 second, which is significantly better than the X-E2.

In practice, the single-shot autofocus is pretty responsive, with only the occasional lock failure; continuous autofocus gets confused and pulses during video shooting. And while the battery isn't rated for a terribly long period, I didn't find it running down as fast as those in many display-heavy ILCs.

The X-T1 has an extra-large EVF that the company really takes advantage of, especially for manual focus (all imperfections and distortions are the fault of the lens used to photograph the EVF). Lori Grunin/CNET

The huge, bright EVF is great. It refreshes quickly and its 0.77x effective magnification is higher than any 35mm or smaller sensored camera I can find, optical or electronic. Fujifilm puts the extra area to good use with a new dual display; during manual focus, you can see the full scene plus a magnified detail. It also supports the digital split image and peaking views of the X-E2.

Design and features

The X-T1 shares the same aesthetic as the rest of the X series, with a sturdy feeling body covered in rubberized, textured material and metal. Thankfully, it has a larger, more comfortable grip than its siblings with a pronounced thumb rest. It ups the X-E2 on the dial quotient, with five: ISO sensitivity, shutter speed, exposure compensation, drive-mode and metering. A focus-mode switch sits on the front. Although unlabeled -- they're programmable -- the navigation buttons on the back default to macro, white balance, AF area and film simulation mode. You can access all other frequently needed settings using the Q button, and there are two programmable function buttons, one on top and one on the front right.

Though they don't look it, the navigation buttons are really flat with little travel, making it hard to feel them and press them precisely and quickly. Sarah Tew/CNET

As with the X-E2, you select the 1/3-stop shutter speeds between the full stops by using the back dial. The camera is designed to be used with lenses that have manual aperture rings like the 18-55mm lens that comes in the kit, but it's compatible with the newer (cheaper) no-aperture-ring lenses. If you have the higher-end lenses, you choose between manual or automatic aperture modes by flipping a switch on the lens. All in all, quite the power shooters dream.

The ISO sensitivity dial locks but the drive mode switch doesn't, and it's really easy to accidentally switch settings. Sarah Tew/CNET

There are some improvements over the X-E2, such as the dedicated movie record button and the placement of the SD card slot on the side rather than in the battery compartment, and the large, comfortable eyecup for the EVF, the X-T1 does sacrifice an on-camera flash and the threaded release socket in the shutter button.

Fujifilm X-E2 Fujifilm X-T1 Nikon 1 AW1 Olympus OM-D E-M1 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3
Sensor (effective resolution) 16.3MP X-Trans CMOS II 16.3MP X-Trans CMOS II 14.2MP CMOS
12-bit
16.3MP Live MOS
12 bits
16.1MP Live MOS
12 bits
16.1mp Live MOS
12 bits
23.6 x 15.8mm 23.6 x 15.8mm 13.2 x 8.8mm 17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm
Focal- length multiplier 1.5x 1.5x 2.7x 2.0x 2.0x 2.0x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 (exp)/200 - ISO 6400/25600 (exp) ISO 100 (exp)/200 - ISO 6400/51200 (exp) ISO 160 - ISO 6400 ISO 100 (exp)/200 - ISO 25600 ISO 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 180 (exp)/ 200 - ISO 3200/ 12800 (exp)
Burst shooting 3fps
unlimited JPEG/8 raw
(7fps with fixed AF)
8fps
unlimited
47 JPEG/n/a raw
15fps
n/a
(60fps with fixed focus)
6.5fps (with IS off)
unlimited JPEG/60 raw
(10fps with fixed focus and exposure, IS off)
9fps
17 JPEG/11 raw
6fps
29 raw + JPEG
Viewfinder EVF
0.5-inch
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
n/a
EVF
0.5-inch
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
1.2x/0.77x
None OLED EVF
n/a-inch
2.36m dots
100% coverage
1.3x - 1.48x/ 0.65x- 0.74x
EVF
n/a-inch
1.44m dots
100% coverage
1.15x/0.58x
OLED EVF
n/a-inch
1.7 million dots
100% coverage
1.42x/0.71x
Autofocus 49-area contrast AF; phase-detection AF 49-area contrast AF; phase-detection AF 73-point phase detection, 135-area Contrast AF 27-point phase detection,
81-point contrast
35-area contrast AF 23-area contrast AF
AF sensitivity range n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Shutter speed 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 60 min; 1/180 x-sync 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 60 min; 1/180 x-sync 30 - 1/16,000 sec; bulb; 1/160 x-sync 60 - 1/8000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/320 sec x-sync (Super FP to 1/8000) 60 - 1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 8 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync (flash-dependent) 60-1/4,000 sec.; bulb
Metering 256 zones 256 zones n/a 324 area 324 area 144 zone
Metering range n/a n/a n/a -2 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV n/a
Flash Yes Included add-on Yes Included add-on Included add-on Yes
Wireless flash No Yes No Yes Yes Yes
IS Optical Optical Optical Sensor shift Sensor shift Optical
Best video 1080/60p H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/60p H.264 QuickTime MOV
(14 minutes)
1080/30p H.264; up to 1200fps slow motion at 320 x 120 1080/30p QuickTime MOV @ 24 Mbps 1080/60i QuickTime MOV @ 20, 17Mbps H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/60p/ 50p @ 50Mbps; 1080/30p/ 25p/24p @ 80, 50Mbps
AVCHD
1080/60p/ 50p @ 28Mbps; 1080/24p @ 24Mbps
Audio Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input Stereo Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input; headphone jack
LCD size 3-inch fixed LCD
1.04 million dots
3-inch fixed LCD
1.04 million dots
3-inch fixed
920,000 dots
3-inch tilting touch-screen
1.04m dots
3-inch tilting touch-screen OLED
614,000 dots
3-inch tilting touch-screen OLED
610,000 dots
Wireless Wi-Fi Wi-Fi Optional WU-1b
($59.95)
Wi-Fi None Wi-Fi
Battery life (CIPA rating) 350 shots 350 shots 220 shots (est) 350 shots 330 shots 500 shots (est)
Size (inches, WHD) 5.1 x 2.9 x 1.5 5.0 x 3.5 x 1.8 4.0 x 2.4 x 1.1 5.1 x 3.7 x 2.5 4.8 x 3.5 x 1.7 5.2 x 3.7 x 3.2
Body operating weight (ounces) 12.7 15.4 (est) 7.5 (est) 17.5 (est) 15.1 19.4 (est)
Mfr. price $999.95 (body only) $1,299.95 (body only) n/a $1,399 (body only) $949.99 (body only) $1,299.99 (body only)
$1,399.95 (with 18-55mm XF lens) $1,699.95 (with 18-55mm f2.8-4 lens) $749.95 (with 11-27.5mm lens) n/a $1,199.99 (with 12-50mm lens) n/a
n/a n/a $949.95 (with 11-27.5mm and 10mm lenses) n/a $1,099.99 (with 14-42mm lens) n/a
Ship date November 2013 February 2014 October 2013 October 2013 April 2012 September 2012

Except for the missing flash and a wish for NFC -- connecting to my Android phone was more finicky than I'd like, though connecting to my iPad was pretty painless -- I have no complaints about the X-T1's feature set, which also includes an intervalometer mode. Fujifilm's Camera Remote app is one of the more full-featured control and transfer apps available. For a complete accounting of the X-T1's features and operation, download the PDF manual.

The company has three forthcoming weather-resistant lenses on its 2014 roadmap -- the XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 R OIS WR, XF16-55mmF2.8 R OIS WR and the XF50-140mmF2.8 R OIS WR -- and the 18-135mm lens is slated to ship in May. Keep in mind that the 18-55mm kit lens is not sealed, however.

Shooting speed in seconds
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Olympus OM-D E-M1
0.8
0.2
0.2
0.2
0.2

Sony Alpha NEX-6
2
0.2
0.2
0.5
0.2

Sony Alpha ILCE-7R
2.2
0.5
0.4
0.9
0.3

Sony Alpha ILCE-7
2.8
0.2
0.2
0.4
0.4

Fujifilm X-E2
1.4
1.1
1
0.4
0.4

Fujifilm X-T1
1.5
0.8
0.8
0.4
0.5

Typical continuous-shooting speed (frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

*The X-E2 only supports continuous autofocus and exposure in the low-speed 3fps continuous-shooting mode

Conclusion

If you're going to spend $1,700 on a kit, there's a long list of alternatives available, from full-frame dSLRs and ILCs like the Nikon D610, Canon EOS 6D and Sony Alpha ILCE-7 to fast APS-C models like the Nikon D7100 or the Micro Four Thirds Olympus OM-D E-M1. I think the X-T1 offers the nicest shooting experience without sacrifices, but still like optical viewfinders for fast action, and the E-M1 performs generally faster overall. It's a tough call, but the X-T1 does deserve a place on your short list.

Fujifilm X-T1 series
8.2

Fujifilm X-T1

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 8Image quality 8
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