Daniel Groves

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12-Months with Fuji; 12-Months without Nikon

Published: 3 April 2017 · Tags: technology, camera, gear

The good and the bad of a Fuji X-T1 after 12-months using the system

Last December I was pondering what to do. My Sigma 10-20 had broken, and Amazon had just replaced it free of charge; My Nikon D7100 body was showing signs of giving up, and giving me constant issues. The question was what to do about it? Did I stick with Nikon — the system I’ve always been on — or switch to an alternative. A couple of friends has been shooting Fuji for a few months, and I was liking what I saw. After a few weeks of reading up and debating I made up my mind.

I sold nearly all my Nikon gear — although I still have my original D3000 body and 35mm ƒ/1.8 for sentimental value — and made the jump, walking into London Camera Exchange and leaving with a Fuji X-T1 18-55mm kit, and a Samyang 12mm ƒ/2 on backorder.

When I received the camera I wrote about how I felt about it after a few days using it, after 12-months on the system I wanted to put my thoughts down — both the pros and the cons — mostly as somewhere to send those who ask about the system. Many of the cons I’ve listed here have already been rectified with the launch of the X-T2 body during the summer.

Over the last year I’ve put my Fuji X-T1 to a lot of use, from smaller micro-adventures (not all of which have yet been featured on this website), to dedicated landscape shoots, through to cycling across Europe with it. Throughout this the X-T1 has either been my only camera, as shown when I wrote about the equipment I use for landscape and adventure photography. Most of the images published on this website over the last 12-months have been shot on the X-T1.

 alt: The Fuji X-T1 performs up there with the best. This panorama was shot hand-held during Eurovelo and is made up of eight images.
The Fuji X-T1 performs up there with the best. This panorama was shot hand-held during Eurovelo and is made up of eight images.

Throughout my year on the Fuji system I’ve gathered a list of things that I feel could be better on the X-T1, and thing which I feel are exceptionally well executed. Since I bought mine Fuji have released the much anticipated X-T2 which does fix some of the problems. They’re still worth being aware of though as the X-T1 is currently around £700 cheaper on Amazon makes it a compelling alternative that can make the price tag of the X-T2 hard to justify.

Good: Timer Countdowns

One thing that can be frustrating for long-exposure photographer is the lack of insight into progress. When you’re running long exposures it can be frustrating not knowing how much longer you have the wait — and the longer the exposure the bigger the problem. This only gets worse when you’re running a camera on bulb mode, and you’ll soon find yourself using your phone of stop-watch to remind you when to kill an exposure.

Fuji fix this perfectly by showing a countdown timer while you’re shooting — or by counting up when shooting in bulb mode. Despite this forethought to fix a common frustration they only present this information when shooting in ’s’ mode, where it is really required while shooting a bracketed (‘BKT’) set too. The frustrating thing is this has been the case forever as far as I can tell, and a simple software update (which they regularly issue) would fix it.

 alt: The Fuji X-T1 provides an on-screen coutdown timer for exposures over a second
The Fuji X-T1 provides an on-screen coutdown timer for exposures over a second, and counts up for bulb exposures.

Bad: Dual SD Card slots

I miss the security of having the dual SD-card slots that were present on my D7100. Having the ability to save to multiple cards practically eradicates the risks caused by SD cards failing. It almost looks like the space was created under the door; thankfully Fuji have fixed this on the X-T2.

Good: Defaults for Manual Lenses

This is a nice detail. My primary landscape lens is the Samyang 12mm ƒ/2 which is a manual lens with absolutely zero electronics. It’s as simple as they come, so being able to set the lens in the camera settings so it gets added to the EXIF data when attached it a nice detail which improves the search ability of my Lightroom catalogue at later dates.

 alt: The ability to provide manual lens data allows me to keep track of what lens was used when using manual lenses with no eletrical contacts.
The ability to provide manual lens data allows me to keep track of what lens was used when using manual lenses with no eletrical contacts.

Bad: No Weather Sealed Kit

One thing that’s seemed short-sighted to me from day one is the lack of options to buy a weather-sealed Fuji body with a weather-sealed lens. It’s great having cheaper options too — but the Fuji 16-55 ƒ/2.8 WR would make the perfect partner to buy with the XT-1 for all weather shooting. As it stands this lens is almost £1000 on top of the cost of the body, so I’d love to see one available as part of a kit to keep the cost down just a little when switching systems.

 alt: As a frequent shooter in stormy weather it would be nice to have a piece of mind that my entire camera system is weather sealed. If Fuji offered a sealed lens as part of a bundle it could save new users a lot of money.
As a frequent shooter in stormy weather it would be nice to have a piece of mind that my entire camera system is weather sealed. If Fuji offered a sealed lens as part of a bundle it could save new users a lot of money.

Good: Styling

This camera is gorgeous. It takes much inspiration from the films cameras in the days of old while still packing some of the finest camera hardware on the market inside. Walking down the street is often won’t get a second glance thanks to the old-school looks making it feel like a safer and much more subtle option to carry in large cities.

 alt: The Fuji XT-1 is a stunning camera which has taken strong inspiration from the 35mm film cameras of the era past. Good looks are rarely a bad feature for anything.
The Fuji XT-1 is a stunning camera which has taken strong inspiration from the 35mm film cameras of the era past. Good looks are rarely a bad feature for anything.

Bad: Strap Position

I really can’t see how you could fix this, I hate using a traditional strap on my X-T1. They get in the way for the shutter, or are otherwise uncomfortable to hold. This as been fixed to some extent now buy using the Peak Design strap system which as much thinner attachments which sit comfortably between the middle and forefinger.

 alt: I found the strap mounts to get in the way when a traditional strap is fitting
I found the strap mounts to get in the way when a traditional strap is fitting, making the shutter uncomfortable to use. The Peak Design strap system help get around this by being fast to remove and having a low profile near the body.

Good: X-Trans II Sensor

The colour reproduction from the X-Trans II sensor is incredible. Many photographers don’t even feel the need to shoot raw anymore — while I’ll regularly shoot RAW + JPEG so I can quickly use the built-in WiFi features to share images straight to Instagram.

 alt: The colour reproduction and image quality from the X-Trans II sensor is right up there with cameras that cost far more.
The colour reproduction and image quality from the X-Trans II sensor is right up there with cameras that cost far more.

Bad: Tripod Mount Position

This is probably the thing that bugs me the most about the Fuji X-T1 — and as far as I’m aware this has not been fixed on other models, either. The tripod screw is set to one side: this is stupid. It doesn’t sit central on the lens which makes panning shots harder, and more to the point it means an standard ARCA tripod plate — as used by most tripods — will cover the battery door. This leaves me having to remove the tripod plate to change a battery which is massively inconvenient and sometimes simply just not practical, such as in the high mountains or when wearing gloves. You can by a L-Plate from Sunwayfoto or Really Right Stuff, or a grip from Fuji which moves the tripod mount and maintains access to the battery door, but this does add bulk to a system which is supposed to be small, and even more so by the time I’ve added my Peak Design ARCA plate with the special attachments for the Capture Pro clip which I use constantly to keep the camera quickly available.

 alt: This cheap adapter moves the tripod-plate to the left
This cheap adapter moves the tripod-plate to the left, allowing it to clear the cameras battery compartment.

Good: Physical Knobs!

I love the aesthetics of the old-school physical knobs and dials atop the X-T1. They are a little shallow though, which can make them difficult to turn with gloves on. This has been fixed on the X-T2 by increasing the depth of the primary controls which makes them easier to grip without changing the secondary controls (which each feature a tab to control them independently). The X-T2 also features locking dials to further secure you against accidental changes, something that would be a welcome addition to the X-T1.

 alt: The physical knobs on the X-T1 make for a great way to quickly reference settings
The physical knobs on the X-T1 make for a great way to quickly reference settings, and are a pleasure to use.

General Observation: Display Quality

Camera displays — and not just those from Fuji — are appalling. We’re in a world of carrying a retina-quality displays on our phones, watches and laptops; why not on our cameras? I want to see the best possible image quality on the back of my camera to review pictures in detail. It’ll make it easier to see more detailed histograms, and make for a much nicer experience reviewing images.

That said: the screen on the Fuji X-T1 is much nicer than that on my old Nikon system, so I really shouldn’t complain too much; I just feel like this is an area where all camera manufactures could improve.

Another improvement that would be nice to see is automatic display brightness controls, much like Apple has put on all it’s devices for years now. It’s unpleasant to turn a camera on in the dark and loose your night-vision to an over-bright screen, and it would be a neat way to save some power by adjusting it to your conditions on the fly.

 alt: It would be easier to have confidence in images like this if we could pick out more details on the back of a camera.
It would be easier to have confidence in images like this if we could pick out more details on the back of a camera.

General Observation: Battery Life

This one isn’t really an issue with the X-T1 — for the most part it’s fine — but more an issue with mirrorless cameras in general: the battery life needs to improve. Anyone who shoots a lot or who finds themselves doing a lot of long-exposures will soon find that they have a desire for a longer battery life. This is in part because the mirrorless systems consume more power than their DSLR counterparts (a side effect of electronic view finders), and in part because the batteries have to be smaller to keep the physical size of the body down.

One advantage to shooting Fuji (and possibly some other brands) is a cheap USB charger from Amazon — or the slightly higher quality one from Solar Technology International — allows you to charge your camera batteries from USB battery banks. This means that my four batteries for my Fuji will easily last for extended trips as I can top them off in my rucksack of tent should they run out I charge from a much cheaper Anker battery bank (mines the discontinued Astro E4).

 alt: I use my Anker Astro E4 and Solar Technology Internal CamCaddy 2 to charge camera batteries on the go.
I use my Anker Astro E4 and Solar Technology Internal CamCaddy 2 to charge camera batteries on the go.

Summary

I love this camera. I feel like it’s the perfect blend between high-performance, price and physical size. It’s beautiful to use, and just feels ‘right’ when you hold it. The controls just make sense, there’s no more hunting for that button to change the ISO or figuring out which modifying to press to change the metering. I really think Fuji are close to perfect on this one. I certainly haven’t found myself looking lustfully at anything from Nikon, Canon, or Sony over the last year which really does show how well the Fuji suits me given how strong a field of competition there is out there now.

Saying all of this — I won’t be upgrading to the X-T2. At least, not right away. It’s simply too much money for too few gains over my X-T1 which has years of life left in it yet.

Got any questions? I’d be happy to help, just drop me a line.