Earlier this year – after months of reading, researching and coffee-fuelled debate about my photography – I went ahead and purchased a Fujifilm X-T1. I have wanted a smaller camera for some time, simply because, whilst I love my Nikon D3, I find myself preferring to leave it at home because of its size and weight, leaving me without a camera far too often. I was also hoping that whatever I ended up using as a personal camera might also be good enough to use for some professional work as well. Enter Fujifilm…
The X-T1 has had a huge amount already written about it and having only used the camera for a short while, I don’t really consider myself qualified to add to this ever-growing list of technical reviews and blog posts. Instead, I’ll post some of my recent images taken with this camera, and explore some of its pros and cons.
I’ll start out with some music and nightlife photography, taken here in Bali. All are personal images, as opposed to work produced for a client, and as such I am not looking for technically-perfect images, rather I am hoping to capture some of the atmosphere at events like this. The images below were taken at an album launch, an early-evening music event at a local bar and a couple of different clubs that I have shot at over the last year. None of these locations have decent lighting and I wanted to see how the X-T1 coped in these tricky conditions, without using any flash. The plan was to shoot from f/1.2 upwards with the 23mm and 56mm, and if necessary push up the ISO to keep the speed down – unless I wanted to a bit of motion.
- Weight & size – Rather than humping around my normal heavy camera bag, I can fit everything in a small ThinkTank ‘Hubba Hiney’, a great little bag that can be worn over the shoulder or as a waist pack. The camera itself is very light, unobtrusive and easy to use when you are moving around in a busy crowd.
- Face detection – At first I dismissed face detection as a bit of a gimmick, but after experimenting with this function, I have found it really useful and surprisingly accurate. It is well worth using, IF you have plenty of light. In the really dark clubs however, the face detection software just had too little information to work with.
- JPGs – At low ISOs, straight-out-of-camera JPGs are fantastic and I have shot a couple of events JPG only with the X-T1. They are a little contrasty I think and to counter this, I tend to set the shade tone to +2 in the settings.
- Sharpness of lenses – The 23mm and 56mm lenses are really nice lenses, sharp wide open and with great contrast and bokeh. Their small size is another huge plus point for me.
- EVF – Fantastic to use and I love being able to see the final exposure through the EVF, a huge benefit.
- AF – At low light, I find the AF struggles, particularly with the 56mm. I find myself switching to manual a great deal to get the focus I wanted.
- Raw processing – I am not 100% happy with Lightroom as a RAW processor for the Fuji files, particularly those taken at high ISOs. It might just be a personal feeling about the images, but I think skin often appears a little ‘smeared’ and over-processed. Something I need to work on.
- High ISO JPGs – Like the RAW files, JPGs shot at high ISOs appear a little over-processed in my opinion. To prevent this, I try to use ISO 1600 as a maximum whenever I can.
- Weight & size – Although the small size and low weight is great for me, I often found myself swinging the camera around and banging it into my surroundings! I guess I just need to get used to having such a light camera again after using the D3 for so long. On a more serious note, the small size of the camera can make operating the different buttons a little fiddly in the dark. Given that I have fat hands, I also think the ergonomics could be a little better and will probably buy an accessory grip and eyecup.
- Ease of knocking buttons and aperture – Some of the controls and the aperture rings on the lenses are very easy to knock. For instance, it is too easy to inadvertently change the shutter speed or metering when pulling the camera out of the bag.
- Batteries – Having got used to shooting for an entire day or more on a single battery with my D3, it is a little disappointing to see a flashing, low-battery warning after just a few hours. But given the size of these batteries, it is very easy to just carry plenty of extras.
A couple of notes on my settings.
- NR – Set to -2 to try and control any over-processing.
- Rear control pad buttons – I have all of these set to ‘focus area’ to allow me to quickly and easily switch the focus point using these slightly fiddly buttons.
- Fn1 button – Set to face detection making it easy to select this function.
- Auto-ISO limit – 1600, occasionally 3200. As I mentioned, I am not 100% happy with the look of the high ISO images and so prefer to try and stick to 1600 as a maximum.
- Minimum speed – 1/60. Rather than choosing a higher speed, I prefer to keep the Auto-ISO down to a minimum.
- Shadow tones – +2.
I am still in two minds about the X-T1. I love its size and weight, love the lenses that I have, but am still not convinced by the image quality, especially at higher ISOs. I have come to realise that I need to do a lot more work to get the best out of the images files and need to investigate some alternatives to LR. Will it replace my Nikon gear? Not right now I think, especially since the release of the D750 which looks like a remarkable camera. Having said that, at the end of October I am heading to the UK and Portugal for a few weeks and am leaving my Nikon gear behind – a perfect opportunity for me to really put the X-T1 through its paces.
Edit – I forgot to include in my original post a link to a great article by John Caz on how to set up the X-T1 – have a read here.