Fuji's latest compact system camera takes a slight departure from the other CSCs in its range, as, rather than the flatter design of the Fuji X-E2 and Fuji X-Pro1, the X-T1 goes all-out DSLR-like in its appearance.
It's packed with dials and buttons, while its gorgeous retro look will surely have a wide range of photographers drooling to get their hands on one.
One of the biggest impacts the change in design has is that the electronic viewfinder has shifted into the centre of the camera from its rangefinder-like corner position.
We've seen lots of buttons before - and liked it - on Fuji X series cameras, so it's unsurprising that Fuji has continued that tradition with the XT1.Much of the XT1's specification is shared with the X-E2, in terms of internal design at least. Most importantly, perhaps, it shares the same excellent APS-C format 16.3 million-pixel X Trans CMOS II sensor and EXR Processor (you'll also find these in the Fuji X100S).
Despite using the same processor as the X-E2 and X100S, the X-T1 is compatible with UHS-II SD format cards, meaning it can shoot continuously at a maximum rate of 8fps (frames per second) for up to 47 fine JPEG files or 23 simultaneous raw and JPEG files. Rather than stopping after the buffer becomes full, the X-T1 can still continue to shoot at 3fps until the card fills up – slower SD cards are also compatible.
The previous Fuji cameras claimed some impressive operation speeds, and as with the X-E2, the X-T1's start-up time is claimed at 0.5 seconds, while it has a shutter lag of 0.05 seconds. However, the 2.36 million-dot EVF has a refresh rate of 54fps in normal and low light conditions and it has a claimed response time of 0.005 seconds for a smoother view of moving subjects. This compares favourably with the X-E2 and Olympus E-M1, which Fuji claims have response times of 0.05 and 0.029 seconds respectively.
Although the X-T1's viewfinder has the same dot-count as the X-E2's, it is bigger and has a magnification factor of 0.77x – according to Fuji the highest of any digital camera. This makes it possible for a dual image to be shown to help with manual focusing. The whole image can be displayed on the left in the finder while a magnified section on the right shows Fuji's Focus Peak Highlight or Digital Split Image view.
Like the X-E2, the X-T1 has a three-inch 1,040,000-dot screen, but is mounted on a tilting bracket for easier viewing when shooting landscape orientation images from high or low angles. This screen can also display the split image view mentioned above.
The LCD also has a tempered glass cover for additional outdoor protection.
Lens Modulation Optimiser technology is included in the X-T1. This tailors the processing of each image depending upon the specific lens, focal length and aperture used. It corrects diffraction blur for sharper images from edge to edge, and it's compatible with Fuji's whole XF lens line-up.
One of the key benefits introduced with the X-Trans CMOS II sensor is its dedicated phase detection pixels that are used by the camera's hybrid autofocus (AF) system. Consequently, the X-T1 can use either contrast or phase detection depending upon situation – it makes the selection.
When the X-E2 was launched Fuji claimed that at 0.08 seconds it had the world's fastest phase detection autofocus speed amongst digital cameras, with a 4/3-inch or larger sensor. This honour is now shared with the X-T1.
The X-E2's AF system improved dramatically upon the X-E1's and the X-T1 has the same technology, including the ability to select points around the frame when shooting in a continuous AF mode – something not possible in the first X-series CSCs.
As is starting to become increasingly popular, the X-T1 has Wi-Fi connectivity built-in. In addition, there's a new Fujifilm Camera Remote app for iOS and Android devices that allows the camera to be controlled remotely by a smartphone.
Other specification highlights include a native sensitivity range of ISO 200-6400, with JPEG only expansion settings taking it to ISO 100-25,600; full HD movie recording at 60 and 30fps and the usual collection of Fuji Film Simulation modes and Advanced Filter options.
In addition, an external microphone may be connected for better sound recording during video, but the X-T1 has a 2.5mm port rather than the standard 3.5mm port.
Whereas both the Fuji X-Pro1 and the X-E2 have a rectangular rangefinder-like shape, the X-T1 is closer to a DSLR in styling. Instead of the flat top, there's a pretty pronounced hump when the EVF sits. The fingergrip is also more prominent and rounded.
Aimed squarely at the traditionalist, there are more direct control dials on the top plate of the XT1 than on other X series cameras too.
Fuji has used cast magnesium alloy for the X-T1's body shell, giving it a solid – and weighty – feel. In addition, 80 seals are in place to keep out dust and moisture, which makes it weatherproof when a weatherproof lens is attached.
During 2014, Fuji is set to launch three weather-resistant zoom lenses to complement the X-T1. At the moment, the Fuji lens range is good, but a little limited, so it's nice to see the company expanding this line-up. These will be the XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R OIS WR, XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R OIS WE and the XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R OIS WR. The XF 18-135mm will be the first lens to market and is expected to go on sale in June.
Rugged credentials are boosted further by the tempered glass over its LCD and its ability to function in temperatures as low as -10C, the same as the Olympus OM-D E-M1. This is a camera designed to be heavily used in a variety of different conditions, which shows Fuji is actively chasing the "prosumer" market.
Landscape photographers should also particularly benefit from this camera, especially those that like to go out in all conditions.
Fuji has also produced an optional battery-grip (Vertical Battery Grip VG-XT1) which is also weatherproof. This takes one battery and there's no need to remove the camera battery or remove the battery-bay cover to connect it.
Both the fingergrip and the thumb-rest on the back of the X-T1 have a textured, rubber-like coating, which not only has a high-quality premium feel, but gives it great purchase. Due to the weight of the camera, it's fairly unlikely you'd be using it one-handed for long stretches of time, but if you do, the chunky grip makes it feel secure in the hand.
Some people will prefer the rangefinder-like design of other X series cameras, but some would argue that the fatter grip here makes it better suited for use with longer lenses. Fuji says that more telephoto optics will be introduced in the not too distant future.
There will be those that still don't trust the idea of an electronic viewfinder, but the XT1's 2.36 million-dot device is very good - and it's huge. It doesn't suffer from lag in the majority of conditions, although we did find that on a couple of occasions, when locking onto focus and recomposing, the viewfinder momentarily lagged behind.
We think the benefits of an electronic viewfinder outweigh this tiny criticism though. Using an EVF allows you to see how changes made to settings will affect the image in real-time, while the fact that a preview image pops up (if you set it so) helps you to determine whether or not you've nailed the shot without having to constantly remove the camera from your eye all the time. You also have a 100% field of view, so you can be sure that there won't be any stray artefacts creeping into the shot that you didn't notice in composition.
Helpfully, the exposure information and shooting data displayed around the image in the EVF rotates to remain readable when the camera is turned for shooting upright images. It's a simple thing, but it's very helpful in practice. There's also the option to turn off information display altogether so that the image fills the EVF screen.
Alternatively, there's the dual view which enables Fuji's Focus Peak Highlight or Digital Split Image to be seen on the right of the screen when focusing manually. This works well, making it clear which areas are sharp while allowing the full scene to be seen on the left of the EVF.
The XT1's tilting screen feels pretty sturdily built. It's not quite as helpful as an articulating or vari-angle screen, but it keeps the camera's overall size down and it's better than having a fixed screen – most high-end DSLRs have fixed screens. When shooting landscape format images from low or high angles it's very useful, but not quite as handy for portrait format images.
The screen itself has 1.04 million dots which give it a nice clear image. It doesn't suffer particularly badly from glare or reflections, but of course having the viewfinder to use in such situations is particularly useful.
As we would expect with a camera in Fuji's X-series, the X-T1 has traditional-style exposure controls and the top-plate has dials aplenty. On the left as you hold the camera for use, there's a sensitivity dial that runs from L1 to H2 with numerical settings labelled from 200-6400, plus an A for automatic option. There are marks for the 1/3-stop points between the whole stops.
There's a lock button at the centre of the sensitivity dial which must be pressed before it can be rotated to prevent accidental changes to the exposure settings. Directly underneath this dial, a second dial allows the drive mode to be selected. As well as single and continuous (high and low) shooting, this gives access to the bracketing, self-time and Advanced Filter options, plus Motion Panorama mode. It can be fairly easy to accidentally knock this dial when changing the ISO speed via the dial above it, but it's something you'll probably get used to with time.
On the right of the camera's top plate, there are two chunky dials. Nearest the EVF is the shutter speed dial. Like the sensitivity dial, this has a central lock button, but it only comes into play when the dial is rotated to A for automatic. If you have this dial set to automatic, but control the aperture, then you're shooting in shutter priority mode.
The dial can be rotated unfettered between the numeric values (1-1/4000 sec with whole stop-markings but 1/3 stop settings) and T (Time) and B (Bulb settings). Another dial under the Shutter speed dial allows the photometry (metering) mode (multi, spot and centre-weighted average) to be selected. This seems to be stiffer than the drive mode dial, and because of the positioning, we didn't find this was accidentally changed along with shutter speed.
Towards the far right end of the top-plate, within easy reach of the thumb, is the exposure compensation dial. This has settings running from -3 to +3EV. It doesn't have a lock, but it's fairly stiff so reasonably likely to stay in position.
Like Fuji's other X-series cameras, pressing the Q button on the back of the X-T1 activates the Quick Menu. This provides a speedy route to key features such as the Film Simulation and white balance modes. You simply navigate to the option you want and then use the rear command dial to adjust the setting.
Naturally, this is backed up by a full menu which has the usual Fuji X-series design and is fairly straightforward.
The camera isn't NFC enabled, but it does have Wi-Fi connectivity. After initial set-up, the camera connects quickly and easily with an iPhone. Fuji's new Camera Remote app (also available for Android) can be used to adjust a pretty extensive array of camera settings including shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, sensitivity, Film Simulation mode, white balance and Macro (closer focusing), as well as the flash and self-timer options. The AF point is set with a tap of a finger on the phone's screen.
Once the app is in control of the camera, the dials are over-ridden. It's also possible to switch the camera to shooting video via the phone.
You can also use the app to transfer images you've already taken straight over to your phone ready for sharing to social networks and so on. We found this to be a very straightforward process, and a nice touch when shooting out in the field and wanting to share quickly.
As the XT-1 uses the same sensor and processor as the X-E2, we had pretty high hopes for this camera, given that the X-E2 was one of our favourites of last year.
True to expectations, the X-T1 has put in an excellent performance. Images are full of detail, especially at the lower end of the sensitivity run. The lack of anti-aliasing filter helps to facilitate this level of detail, and happily it doesn't bring with it moire patterning, thanks to the design of the sensor.
Colours are reproduced beautifully. Fuji's film simulation modes are useful for changing the look of your images. Shooting in Provia mode is generally recommended for everyday shooting, but if you want to boost the saturation and contrast a touch for deeper colours, switching to Velvia is also a good choice. If you need tones to be a little more neutral, Astia is useful. It's also nice to use the Monochrome modes – shooting in raw format means you have a colour version of the image should you need it later down the line.
The camera's all-purpose metering mode occasionally has the tendency to underexpose slightly, so you need to dial in some positive exposure compensation to get a more balanced image. We found that JPEG images also tend to have quite a limited dynamic range, meaning that highlights can be a little blown out at times although the contrast straight from the camera is generally good. This is the kind of camera which is aimed at experienced enthusiasts, so it's likely that kind of user will be working with raw files in post-production to rectify these problems.
Generally, the X-T1's automatic white balance system is very impressive, helping the camera to produce very accurate colours, even under artificial lighting conditions. We tested the camera in Chinatown, London, where lots of neon lights and unusual colours were a good test for colour accuracy, and we were very pleased with the results (see the sample images page to take a look).
We found that out of focus areas of JPEG images taken with the X-E2 could be a little painterly when viewed at 100% – probably as a result of the camera attempting to sharpen areas that shouldn't be sharp. Thankfully, we've struggled to find evidence of this happening with the X-T1 JPEG images, so perhaps Fuji has tweaked an algorithm to reduce this problem. As such it doesn't worry us too much.
Out-of-focus areas are rendered beautifully, with some lovely bokeh on display. We were using the 23mm f/1.4 lens for the majority of this test, which is a delightful lens, providing a 34.5mm field of view (35mm equivalent), so it's a great classic focal length. Fuji produces some excellent prime lenses, and we also used the 60mm f/2.8 macro optic. We have used the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 "kit" lens with the X-E2 before, which is a good choice for a more versatile lens.
At the time of its release, Fuji claimed that the XT-1 offered the world's quickest autofocusing speeds for cameras with an APS-C sized sensor. That accolade has since been claimed by the Sony A6000, but focusing speeds are still quick – especially in good light.
Focusing speeds drop in lower light conditions, and if you're taking pictures of something which is likely to change position between shots – such as a person – in lower light conditions, the camera can be quite slow to refocus. In this case, switching to continuous autofocusing mode is a good option as it performs a little better in low light.
We don't think that this camera is as fast to focus as DSLR when shooting through the viewfinder, but it is certainly faster than a DSLR shooting in live view mode, something which this camera is essentially always doing.
Speaking of lower light conditions, noise in images is very well controlled at higher sensitivity settings. At ISO 800, noise is virtually non-existent. There is some small degree of image smoothing in JPEG files, but on the whole, detail is retained very well. Examining images shot at ISO 1600 reveals more noise is present, but it's not problematic at normal printing and web sizes.