This may not be of interest to many people, but I’ve gotten several questions regarding my impressions of the Fuji XT1 and figured that summarizing my thoughts would be potentially interesting. I’ve rather enjoyed the process of choosing, buying, learning and setting up a new camera. It’s a lot like buying a new house or car, just on a much smaller scale. I’ve enjoyed the little bit of customizing that can be done to personalize the camera. There isn’t a lot you can do with a camera other than straps and covers, but that’s enough for me.
The first decision to be made was which lens to buy. When I decided to buy the camera I was figuring that it would be primarily my travel camera until I decided to part with my Canon gear. For travel my choice was between one of the two excellent “kit” lenses, either the 18-55 f2.8-4 or the 18-135 f3.5-5.6. I had rented them both when I was trying out the XT1 earlier in the year and liked them both. The 18-55 is small and compact, and the f2.8-4 aperture range lets in a lot of light. I opted for the 18-135 because of the range of focal length. I really like to have that much “reach” in a single lens, and the slower f3.5-5.6 aperture was less of a concern, because most of the “walking around” photography I do is at f5.6 or smaller in order to have plenty of depth of field.
I probably could have stopped there and would have had a lens to cover 90% of everything I shoot. But once I decided to make the XT1 my only camera, I wanted to be sure and have lenses to cover the other 10%. Once I knew how much I was going to get for the rest of my Canon gear, I realized that I would be able to buy a few more lenses. I was tempted to opt for the 16-55 f2.8 and the 50-140 f2.8 because they are the so-called “pro” lenses in the Fuji lineup. But they are nearly as large as the Canon lenses they would be replacing, the 16-55 lacks the amazing Fuji IS, I hardly ever shoot at f2.8 and with the 18-135 I pretty much already had that range covered. So for about same money as one of those two lenses, I opted for the 55-200 f3.5-4.8 and the 10-24 f4. The best part? My camera and three lenses fit neatly into a little shoulder bag that I can take anywhere. No more backpacks!
I did decide that I “needed” a prime lens to round out my kit and have ordered a 23MM f1.4. It arrives later this week.
My one complaint when I first tried the XT1 with the 18-55 lens was that it was pretty small for my hands. The larger 18-135 helps with that a lot for the left hand, but there still isn’t a lot for the right hand to hold on to. To correct that problem I ordered the Fuji grip, opting for the larger version, and a thumb rest from Lensmate. The thumb rest doesn’t help as much as I thought it would while shooting, but it does give me a comfortable place to rest my thumb while I’m carrying the camera. And the grip is great! It provides a nice gripping surface for my right hand and doubles as a quick release plate to work on my RRS ballheads. The only downside of that grip is that it is not an L-bracket, and I use an L-bracket a lot for landscapes. I don’t much care for the RRS L-bracket and it is pretty pricey, so I have ordered one from Photomadd in the UK. It is currently enroute and I’ll report on that once I have it and have tried it out.
I went round and round about straps. I really like using a wrist strap, but there are times when a shoulder strap is a better option. So I was looking for a system with easily interchangeable straps. I considered a number of options and finally decided on the Peak Design system. It is a very nicely designed system with quick releases that you can actually work one-handed, and they sell a kit that has both a wrist strap and a shoulder strap, along with some extra quick releases so you can use it with more than one camera. It was a little tough to thread the quick releases through the little holes in the strap lugs, but I found that a piece of dental floss helped to thread the needle. I can carry whichever strap I’m not using in a pocket or fanny pack and change it out easily whenever I need to.
The camera comes with a little accessory flash, which is probably OK for occasional fill but is not something I would want to use for paying clients. So I bought Fuji’s EF42 flash but I haven’t used it yet. I’ll definitely get it out and work with it before something important comes along!
Batteries! The only downside I’ve come across so far is that the camera eats batteries. I bought two extra ones when I ordered the camera, and recently added two more for a total of five. Even with the EVF turned to auto and the back screen off, it still eats power like (choose your analogy), and I can get maybe 200 shots on one charge. There are times when I’m not sure 2-3 batteries will be enough, so better to have more than less. I thought about the battery grip, but it’s big and expensive. Plus I don’t think it would eliminate the need to carry extra batteries.
The thing that most attracted me to the XT1 is the quality of the files. I can’t really put a technical finger on it, but I think a lot of it is due to the excellent quality of the lenses. The colors, the contrast and the sharpness are “just right” to me, and have a feel to them a lot like what I saw from my Mamiya 7 using Velvia slide film.
I’ve read a lot about how finicky Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw can be in processing the RAW files, especially sharpening and noise reduction. I’ve found this to be pretty much a non-issue. I have set up a couple of Develop module presets using Adobe’s version of the Fuji film styles with a few of my custom tweaks, and find the files to be excellent. I have been shooting RAW+JPEG in order to have the JPEG files as reference, and am about ready to switch over to RAW only. The good thing is that I could easily shoot in JPEG only and would have very usable files, perhaps with a bit less of the exposure latitude I can get with RAW files. I’ve never had much success with Black & White, and admittedly don’t have much experience with it, but I find that the Fuji B&W profiles are very appealing to my limited aesthetic. The camera’s dynamic range is very good, and I have had very few issues getting what I want out of a file. One thing I have not done yet is make prints, and it will be interesting to see how the Fuji files translate to paper. Soon, I hope!
Controls and Menus
I haven’t had a chance to do much customization, but in general I’ve found the controls to be well laid out and easy to use, and there are a lot of menus but the navigation is not too difficult. The Fuji allows for a lot of options for the functions of various controls. As far as exposure goes, at first I found myself shooting in Auto mode a lot and with Auto ISO, because I was interested in seeing what the camera will do. It works great for outdoor shooting, but indoors or in low light, I find that the camera is biased toward larger apertures before it cranks the ISO, and there are times when I need a smaller aperture. Even though it is a so-called “crop sensor” camera, the APS-C sensor still provides for pretty shallow DOF at larger apertures. I’m looking forward to seeing what the 23MM 1.4 can do!
So while I dipped my toe in the water early, I quickly decided to jump in head first! I have a lot more room in my closet, have several backpacks that I may or may not use, and have a really nice ThinkTank rolling bag that I may have to convert to regular luggage! 😉