tirsdag 15. april 2014

Field test of the Fujifilm X-T1

Shooting into the light
It's no secret that I have been a big fan of the Fujifilm X-T1 since the sneak peek I was lucky enough to get before it was launched. So it was almost like a birthday gift when I shortly after the launch, actually got to borrow an X-T1 house from Fujifilm Nordic with the 14mm, 35mm and 56mm lenses. Very cool, and needless to say, my expectations were sky high...

Practical use - not a labtest...
This is no clinical and theoretical labtest. No, this is real life stuff, and I have simply just used the camera a lot the last 4 weeks. Haven't shot a graph. Only real stuff. Both on photo assignments
Low light and low noise
and for personal pictures. And I expect to use it a lot in the future, including on large commercial jobs.  But here's my first 4 weeks with some thoughts on how the X-T1 performs as a tool for creating images, and some thoughts on what can be done to improve the camera and X system even further.

The most important thing for me, is that a camera doesn't get in the way of making good pictures. The camera doesn't create any pictures, it's just a tool for me to do exactly that. Even though I look for different things in a working camera than in a holiday camera, both must perform and "work". A camera, no matter the use, has to fit well in my hand, be quick, easy and good to use. It also have to have excellent image quality, files with good colors, and have a variety of great lenses.

There is so much I like about this camera.

And perhaps what I like best, is that the Fujifilm X-T1 is an inspiring camera! Not because it is a technical device with lots of advanced features, but because it makes me want to get out and make pictures. Good pictures! Very few cameras give me such good energy. Although cameras and lenses are just tools, the X-T1 has loads of charm and character.

The little things
Right from the start there are these small but thoughtful things
that impresses me. Like the small plastic thing that you use to open and attach the "key rings" that attaches the camera strap to the camera body. A tiny detail, but I like it. And very cool that Fujifilm has thought of it so you shouldn't struggle with unnecessary stuff. But!! Speaking of camera strap. Do not attach the camera strap like the X-T1 tells you to. The best way to attach a camerastrap is described in this blog post!


The X-T1 oozes of quality! Both the camera itself and the lenses. The X-T1 is sturdy, feels solid and obviously made with good materials. The camera is very comfortable and feels great in the hand. I haven't got the vertical grip on the one I borrowed (a grip with room for extra battery), and although it works fine without, I really would have preferred it with a grip. I have tried it, and improves both the balance, size and design vastly. Without the grip, there’s no support for the pinky.

This camera has "only" got an electronic viewfinder ( EVF), and no optical viewfinder like I’m used to from DSLRs, and spoiled with from medium format cameras. I’m a self declared EVF-hater... But Fujifilm really makes life miserable for us EVF haters when they make such good electronic viewfinders like this...! It's not perfect, but it is extremely good. A big and beautiful viewfinder. Very big indeed! It's also quick and almost without any delay.
Details #1
When taking pictures in the dark, the viewfinder image gets a bit grainy due to electronic gain (the image signal is amplified ), but this is still extremely much better than staring into the darkness like you do with an optical viewfinder.

There are several display modes for EVF image. Full screen gives you
Details #2
a very large viewfinder image, and it actually feels a bit luxurious! And when you focus manually, the X-T1 has a brilliant dual image function! With the dual image you get a smaller main image of the entire scene (but still large enough that it works well ), and an even smaller image next to it showing a close-up of the focus area. Really brilliant, especially in combination with focus peaking, which shows exactly what parts of the subject is in focus. Some might think "Why manual focus in 2014??". Sometimes manual focusing is simply the only thing that’s good enough in order to work quickly and accurately.

Another advantage of the EVF is that you see how bright or dark the image is
Barcode #1
actually before you take it, because you see it live in the viewfinder. So you really don't have to check the picture after you've taken it to see if the exposure is spot on, since you already saw that before pressing the shutter button. I'm trying to unlearn this old habit of checkin, but old habits die hard...

I's simply stunning how much has happened since the last generation of EVFs, and even the EVF hater in me has started to love this viewfinder. I'm thrilled to see the next generation EVF from Fujifilm!

Fujifilm has quite similar menus in several of their cameras, and
Barcode #2
the X-T1 feels almost identical to the X20 and X100S. That doesn't mean I like the menus. I think they're a bit messy, and things I feel naturally belong together are scattered around in different submenus. I sincerely hope Fujifilm is working on changing this in future cameras, or for that matter in existing cameras via firmware updates. I'll be happy to help with that!

A quick look at some lenses
I feel the X system already has a good selection of quality lenses, and there are more to come. Fujifilm/Fujinon has in a relatively short time come up with a range of quality lenses that feels just right for me as a photographer. There are also some gems there that I think will go down in history as classics. I work a lot with fashion, portraits, interiors, exteriors, industrial and corporate pictures. And with the 14mm, 23mm, 35mm and 56mm, I can cover a very large number of my commercial jobs. But I also hope they will come out with a longer fixed lens. And there are also some good zoom lenses in their lineup for those who prefer that.

14mm f/2.8

Hard light works well
A lovely wide angle lens, with a view that matches a 21mm on a full frame camera. It's small and light, but very solid. It delivers great sharpness, contrast and details, and I really like the files made with this lens. The lens is also very quiet in use, and you hardly hear anything when it's focusing.

35mm f/1.4
This is equivalent to a 50mm on full frame, and it's a focal length I use a lot. Unlike Nikon's 50mm f/1.4 G (which I use often), the Fujifilm lens is actually sharp at full aperture (f/1.4). The Nikon is not even close to beeing sharp at f/1.4. Unfortunately... In the f/1.4 - f/2.8 range, the Nikon lens has halos around contrasting areas, and even areas that are in focus aren't quite sharp. You need to stop down to at least f/4 before it is acceptable. The Fujifilm lens on the other hand has none of these issues.

56mm f/1.2
Statoil Fornebu #1
This I think is going to be a classic, and I love this lens! Even at f/1.2 it is absolutely razor sharp, while out of focus areas are rendered beautifully soft and delicate. And it's just as important for a lens to deliver nice blur as well as good sharpness. This lens is equivalent to about a 85mm on full frame. In my opinion this lens is way better than both Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lenses (yes, I have used them a lot). Like the 14mm, this lens has very good sharpness, contrast and details, and I like the image files from it incredibly well. The only negative thing about it, is that it has some strange sounds during focusing. A little bit annoying, and some people have actually asked what the sound is and if anything is wrong with the lens. Two of my colleagues say exactly the same thing about their lenses, so it's not only the one Iæve got. But apart from the sound, this is one of the best lenses I've ever used!

The Fuji colors
Statoil Fornebu #2
Great color is almost synonymous with the name Fuji. And it really shows that Fujifilm has an 80 year old legacy from making film, because the colors of the X-T1 is a delight! Just like other X cameras. Particularly the skin tones which are beautiful straight out of the camera. The X-T1 also has a very good auto white balance.

The image files
Well what can I say... The files are great! I'm extremely pleased with the image quality coming out of the X-T1. Even the JPG files. All the photos in this blog post is JPG files straight out of the camera (except one), just scaled down to a smaller size, and some are cropped a bit. 
But nothing has been done to the color, contrast or anything else. The pictures shown here are just pictures I've taken for fun while playing around with the camera. I don't have any pictures from commercial work I can show yet, but that's coming soon too.
Statoil Fornebu #3
Statoil Fornebu #4

Adobe have also come out with support for the X-T1 raw files just a week ago, and that's great in more than one way. You see, Fujifilm has the different types of profiles you can choose in camera to mimic the feel of various classic Fuji films, like Velvia, Provia and Astia. The great thing is that Adobe has added support for them in Adobe Camera Raw 8.4 and Lightroom 5.4, so you can use those profiles on the raw files as well.

The X -Files

I don't think Fujifilm understand the importance of what they have created with the X series. Everyone knows that this is good, and both the users and people from the industry understand that this is great stuff. But I don't think we will see how important this was until 5-6 years from now. I think we're going to see some major changes in the map and terrain of camera brands and models in future years, and Fujifilm is going to be one of the main players. I think. And of the key elements that can lead to this, is one simple thing that is totally unknown to many of the major manufacturers. It's something called customer service. I know this sounds absolutely shocking and bordering on what should be legal, but Fujifilm actually listen to their users...! And not only do they listen, they act upon what they have heard.

Enjoying some reflections
This is very close to a perfect camera for me! Small and lightweight, but not too small and lightweight. The X-T1 is mostly a pleasure to use, with very good colors and picture quality, and a nice selection of high quality lenses.

Hva can be improved upon?
The perfect camera doesn't exist, and probably never will. Because we photographers just raise our demands for more and better even though we keep on getting more and better all the time. So what can be improved upon with the X-T1 and the X system in general?
Aker Brygge Oslo

I have been using this camera with a "no mercy" attitude the last 4 weeks, to really find all the things I think must and should be fixed or changed. I have used the camera on challenging commercial shoots, as well as for my personal pictures, and this is my list of 24 things I believe could make an already fantastic camera and a great camera system even better.

Priority 1 - I think these things must be fixed

1) The selector buttons around the OK/menu button are a bit 
Just couldn't walk away from this one...
small and fiddly, they're lowered to much into the camera, and they're not responsive enough to be sure if you've pushed them or not. They're very difficult to use without taking the eye away from the EVF to check what you're really pressing.

2) All functions buttons (Fn) must be possible to assign "No function" to, so you can disable those buttons you don't want to use.

3) The command dials are lowered a little bit too much into the camera, especially the rear one, and that makes them a bit fiddly to use without taking the camera from the eye to see what you're doing.

4) The command dials should be made user programmable to control the AF point selector, so you could use one dial to move the active AF point horizontally, and the other dial to move the AF point vertically.

5) The movie-record button is way to easy to activate. This button
Patterns and reflections
should be made programmable, and also possible to assign "No function" to (like described in #2). I've probably made 50 movies so far, accidentally, and none of them would have gotten a good review at IMDb...

6) EVF / LCD with menus. When the camera is in EVF or EVF Eye Sensor mode, and you press the playback button to view pictures, the pictures are displayed in the EVF if you have the camera to the eye, and on the LCD monitor if you remove the eye. That's perfect! I want the same thing with the menus. But if you press the menu button, and do the same thing, the menus stay in the EVF no matter if you have the camera to your eye or not.

7) Shutter release button. On DSLRs, you can half press the shutter release to focus, and then take as many shots as you like in quick succession with the same focus distance, as long as you don't raise the shutter button higher than half pressed. The X-T1 refocuses when you try to take a new shot, even if the the shutter release hasn't been released higher than the half press position. That makes it difficult to take several shots in quick succession with the same focus distance. I use this way of shooting almost exclusively.

8) Autofocus. I want to be able to unlink the autofocus from the shutter
Spring is coming
release button, and have what is called back button AF on DSLRs. That way the shutter button don't activate the AF, and you could use for instance the AF-L button or program an Fn button to do autofocusing instead.

9) Camera Remote App. A good app, but it only displays in portrait mode. It should rotate when you turn the iPad, so you could use it horizontally as well.

10) Camera Remote App. It should connect to the camera WiFi when you open the app, not when you go into one of the four modules inside the app. Like it is now, you have to reconnect the camera if you switch functions inside the app, and that's a bit clumsy and time consuming.

11) WiFi transferring of pictures. I want an easier and more integrated
solution for transferring pictures wireless from the X-T1 to a laptop (PC/MAC) on location. The way it is now, you can either use MyFinePix Studio, men there you have to connect with cable or memory card reader, or you could use the program Fujifilm PC Autosave, but then you need a router.

12) The diopter adjustment button must be lockable! It is way too easy to knock out of position, and it's already become quite a nuisance to me.

13) AE bracketing only takes 3 shots. It should be possible to choose
I'm no nature photographer, but I really
enjoy seeing the sharpness against the
blurry areas, and the colors of the
Velvia profile
between 3, 5 and 7 exposures.

14) Memory card slot. I would really like to have 2 slots for memory cards, to be able to have overflow or backup to card number two.

Priority 2 - I think these things would be nice to be fixed or to have

15) Menus. The menus are still messy, and things I feel belong together are located in different submenus. I'm almost tempted to re-structure the menus and send it to Fujifilm as a suggestion...

16) Locking buttons. The X-T1 has locking buttons on both the ISO and shutterspeed dial, but not on the exposure compensation dial. I know these locking buttons are a debated issue, but I like having them, and I would actually prefer having a locking button on the exposure compensation dial too.

17) Batterylife. I'm hoping for even better battery life in future X cameras.

18) Instax SP-1 support. I really hope there will be a firmware update that adds direct WiFi support from the X-T1 to the upcoming Instax SP-1 printer, so you can print directly from the camera without having to use the iPhone/iPad app. It should be possible to add text (like a photographers name and webadress) on the pictures, and this should be saveable in the cameras or printers preferences, so you don't have to enter the info more than once.

19) ND filter. A built in high quality ND filter like on the X100S would
Cool to see how pictures taken with the
56mm at f/1.2 is razor sharp where
things are in focus, and how the rest just
fades out into a beautiful blur
be a real elegant solution for long exposure photography, and two would have been even better. That way you could have varied the number of steps with two filters. For instance one 4 stop ND filter, and one 10 stop, so you could get 14 stops combined (or something like that).

20) Flash sync. I really wish that the X-T1 would sync at faster shutter speeds than 1/180 second. I even find 1/250 second that many DSLRs have too slow, and I really love Hasselblad and their lenses that syncs all the way to 1/800 second.

21) Extended profiles for camera setup. It's nice with the 7 custom settings, but I also would like to have the opportunity to save for instance 3 camera setup profiles, that would contain all the settings that's not saved with the custom settings. Like image size and quality, autofocus settings, flash settings, display/viewfinder settings, filenaming etc.

New lenses and cameras

22) New lenses #1. Fujifilm/Fujinon should definetely come out with a fixed lens in the 90-120mm range, preferably f/2 or better. For me, that would be the perfect dream lens for fashion, lifestyle and industrial subjects that I do a lot of.

23) New lenses #2. It would be interesting with a tilt/shift lens, maybe something around 14-23mm.

24) Future cameras. For me, the dream camera would be a mirrorless Fujifilm camera with a fullframe sensor, built around the same philosophy as the X-T1, with next generation EVF; even better than the one on the X-T1. Preferably with a 36MP sensor like the Nikon D800 and Sony A7r. It should match the great dynamic range of the D800, and have the fantastic Fujifilm files and colors. Good high-ISO performance, and the same high quality lenses as the existing X camera lenses. With integrated vertical grip . I would dare to claim that Fujifilm wouldn't have need for more than 3 lenses ready for launch time, like a 21mm f/2.8 (or better), 50mm f/1.4 and an 85mm f/14. to shock the world of professional photographers, and make a major impact on a market with other manufacturers that are stuck in old habits.

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