TALKING IMAGES 23 – FUJIFILM X-T1 FIELD TEST

 

Calling this a field test is a little presumptuous, but I did take the X-T1 down to the Somerset Levels for a little “serious photography”, and here are some additional thoughts this outing produced.

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Ruby Red Devons, Peacock Farm, Westhay Moor; 3 June 2016.  X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon at 305mm (equivalent); 3200 ISO; Lightroom.

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POSITIVES

Due to not carrying a Nikon and one or two NOT! diminutive Nikkor lenses, my rucksack was pleasantly lighter – there’s no getting away from this aspect of the X-T1.

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Looking at the natural word through the excellent viewfinder was certainly a Technicolor experience – wow, what was I on???! – but the resulting images look fine, so its just a question of realising that, unlike an optical viewfinder, an electronic viewfinder may not always give a totally authentic view of the world.  But, as already stated, the viewfinder is big and bright, and contains lots of useful shooting info – I’m a big fan! – and not least of the very easy to use Virtual Horizon, which really helps if landscape horizons are meant to be horizontal.

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And talking of the viewfinder, well I’ve only ever used optical viewfinders before >>> you pick the camera up, look through the viewfinder and there is, well, your view.  But in order to see through this modern marvel (those words are sincerely meant, btw), you have to switch on the camera first – so I’m forever seeing something with my eyes but then only seeing night through the viewfinder.  Its probably an age thing.

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And I very much like the central, DSLR-style location of this viewfinder – and would certainly not like the siting of the X-Pro2’s viewfinder, which is on the camera’s top left corner.

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And to save on battery juice, and because I’ve never made much use of the Nikons’ rear LCD screens anyway, I mostly have the X-T1’s back screen switched off, and its viewfinder set to spring into life (via a clever sensor) as my eye looks through it (assuming I remember to switch the camera on, that is …).

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I’ve made use of the facility to linking spot metering to the active autofocus point, as the Nikons do – this can be very useful in certain situations eg birds in flight, people backlit, etc, where you want detail rather than just a silhouette.  And while mentioning this, I can also mention that, ever anxious to improve their product, Fujifilm have made so many firmware updates to the X-T1 since it came onto the market that they’ve included a second paper manual “in the box” with the camera, to cover these improvements – of which this spot metering link is one.

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Maize (corn) sprouting in black peat soil, with flowering hawthorn bushes behind, Westhay Moor; 3 June 2016. X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon at 305mm (equivalent); 2500 ISO; Lightroom.

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X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon zoom (“Made in Germany” refers to the filter!).

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Now something else that works (for me at least) >>> really, really well.  Fujifilm lenses are not cheap and they can be weighty, but they are of good quality.  The only one that I’ve bought so far is shown above – the 55-200mm, which in 35mm format equates to 84-305mm >>> that is, very similar to the 70-300 Nikon lens that I’m married to.

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The big, greyish ring on this lens, marked 200-55, is the zoom ring, and when this ring rests on the open palm of my left hand, the balance of this camera+lens combination is and exact and superb, I couldn’t ask for anything better balanced – and this is a most important thing if I’m going to be holding this combination and using it to get shake-free images over extended periods of time.

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And there are two other benefits here.  First, since my palm is under the zoom ring, my fingers can immediately grasp it – and the total zoom range can be achieved in a single, ninety degree twist – very immediate and easy!  The zoom ring is usefully stiff to rotate – which is good, as the zoom does not slip easily.

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And second, the far thinner and more coarsely knurled ring just below the 200-55 numbers is used to alter the lens aperture in Aperture Priority mode, which is the mode that I almost invariably use – I decide the aperture and thus the approximate depth of focus in the image, and the camera automatically gives me the exact shutter speed for that aperture.  Having that ring in that position makes for immediate and very easy access – and the aperture set via this ring is of course visible in the viewfinder – perfect!

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However, bear in mind that I’m only talking about one lens here, others may differ.  And I think that the system’s prime lenses have an aperture ring on the front of the lens, as many lenses had “in days gone by”(!), so that will be something else again.

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As with the Nikons, the X-T1 has AE-L and AF-L buttons on the back of the body (see picture below), just where the right thumb falls when the camera is in use.  And as with the Nikons, I’ve set AE-L up to lock the exposure and AF-L to lock the focus – in each case until these buttons are pressed a second time.  I have always found these buttons extremely quick and useful to use on the Nikons – and I think all cameras should have them.

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Lastly, this is a really beautifully made camera.  In an age of mass-produced plastics and cheapness, this is a really beautiful and functional physical object.  The overall impression that I’m getting here really does remind me of the classic Olympus OM-1 all those years ago  – and that is praise indeed!

 

NEGATIVES

The only way to change the ISO is via the knob on the top left of the camera’s top plate, as shown above.  This is a fiddly operation and, to make matters worse, this knob has a central locking button, to prevent ISO being changed inadvertently – and this makes matters worse still!  And, to make matters even worse, the camera’s drive selector (single shot, high speed motordrive, etc) is underneath the ISO button and, several times, when wrestling with the ISO button, I’ve changed the drive selector by mistake.  Bad design, quite unlike the rest of the camera.

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(Over to the right, the shutter speed button has a similar central lock button, but I find this easier to use >>> although its rarely used, because I leave the shutter speed button set on “A” for Aperture Priority.  Further right again is the exposure compensation dial – in the position its in on many cameras.  It has no central lock and it works wonderfully – including being used while my eye is to the viewfinder.)

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The Focus Mode selector, with its F, C and M options, is just visible on the far left of the picture, low down on the front of the camera body.  It works differently from Nikon’s version.  M is for manual in both systems, but the Nikons won’t fire if S is set and the image is out of focus >>> and since having any camera deciding for itself if it’ll fire or not is simply not something I’m going to sign up to, the Nikons are always on C – which fires the shutter under any conditions whatsoever!  Fujifilm tells me to use “their” S for stationary subjects and “their” C for those that are in motion >>> and S on the X-T1 fires whether the image is in focus or not.

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I’m sure that the tilting screen on the back of the camera must be a useful thing, but so far I just can’t make it sing for me – time will tell.  I’m thinking of getting a wide angle zoom, 15mm-36mm equivalent, and the tilting screen may have more use with this, eg for low down / ground level shots.

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POST-CAPTURE PROCESSING

The X-T1 has its own in-camera processing effects filters but I never use them, preferring to do all my processing post-capture in separate software.  Basically, as with the Nikons, I use the RAW files as digital negatives, that is as starting points for my images,  rather than as end points.  Lightroom can save the X-T1’s RAW files as 16-bit TIFFs which, if I want to, I can further process in Nikon’s Capture NX2 and/or Nik’s Silver Efex Pro2 and Color Efex Pro4.

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Lightroom is a very powerful processing tool, but I’m not a total convert.  In particular, I get the feeling that Lightroom, with its wealth of sliders, is an easy path to overdoing things.  I would never think of having it apply bulk settings to a collection of photos, because to me each image is an individual entity, needing individual thought and processing.  And I’m not totally comfortable with Lightroom’s ever enlarging and critically important Catalogue file.  Capture NX2, now certainly obsolete, does the job of preserving temporary changes to image files with far less fuss.

 

SOME CONCLUSIONS

In my notes, I have written “I’m getting a feeling about the X-T1” and, more than once now, I’ve compared it to the classic Olympus OM-1 film SLR.  I’ll be surprised if these favourable impressions change much, I can see that this camera is going to be a very handy and versatile creative tool.

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However, that said, the X-T1 is not (yet???) the camera I would use for all occasions – and especially for those where things might get a little difficult photographically.  Two examples come to mind.  If I were going to photograph our friends’ two young daughters – who seem to spend a lot of time standing on their heads, running across ceilings and generally visually bewildering this old man – I’d use the Nikon D700 and the very fast and nippy autofocus of the 105mm Nikkor lens.  And were I going again to shoot captive birds of prey in a collection, it would again be the D700 with the love of my life, the 70-300 Nikkor zoom.

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But, for less challenging situations, I’m sure the X-T1 is going to do very well indeed.  And there is always the point of course, that these initial opinions of mine may be to some extent a product of my inexperience with the X-T1 – time will tell.  But the X-T2 will appear soon, and my bet is that, amongst other improvements, it will feature snappier autofocusing.

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About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.

13 Responses to TALKING IMAGES 23 – FUJIFILM X-T1 FIELD TEST

  1. jlmphotography says:

    A very interesting perspective on LR. I use it. Extensively, with over 200,000 images as a travel and stock photographer. I use the X-T1 with lenses ranging from the 12mm Zeiss, to the 55-200. And I love each and every one of them. Though, even after selling off all my Nikon gear in 2015 I did keep my Capture NX2 software! I use it, plus I also use Iridient Developer 3.0.8 to process my RAF files that need some tender loving care but mostly, I have a preset in LR that I apply upon import that Pete Bridgwood created a couple of years ago. This seems to work fine for 99% of my X-T1 files. Anyway, great job! And thanks for posting.

    Like

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Thanks very much for this very interesting input. Part of my lukewarm response to LR may of course derive from my lack of experience with it, which is something to work on at some stage – but, at the moment, I do find NX2 and the Nik programmes snappier / easier to use. I can well see that with the vast number of images that you have, LR’s organising and developing abilities are just the thing. Interesting to hear of Iridient Developer too.

      I’m getting the Fujifilm 10-24 lens tomorrow, and this and the 55-200 may well be my ongoing kit – I’m very much looking forward to the experience! But for the moment at least, my Nikon gear stays with me. Thanks again for your thoughts. Adrian

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      • The 10-24 is a fantastic lens. I “almost” went for it but having the Zeiss 12, and the 23 1.4 I opted instead for the 16 1.4. I found the 10-24 a tad larger than I wanted to carry around. The 16 also performs as a mini-macro as the close-focusing ability is incredibly close! But, I will say the 10-24 is STILL very tempting especially with the ongoing sales… Yes, with the amount of images, it is critically important that I not only manage them all, but that I never, ever send an image I have at one stock agency, to another. I made that mistake once and it cost me, literally, 29,000 in lost sales, PLUS they cancelled my contract! Very costly, humiliating, and painful experience that was. So now I’m much more careful. Best of Luck.

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        • Adrian Lewis says:

          The 10-24 is excellent to use, and especially so when used with the X-T1’s tilting screen, which makes it easy to get the lens down to ground level – something to think about when you’re “no longer young” like me! I agree that its not overly compact, but using just this lens and the 55-200 to cover all my needs, the total weight could be far, far worse.

          An amazing story about the stock photos. Thankfully I’m not into such things at all – I’m aiming at, and more or less achieving, “the simple life”! Thanks very much for your input. Adrian

          Like

  2. bluebrightly says:

    It’s fun to hear about your journey with the X-T1, and I’m sure that I too would admire the build, the quality of “object-ness.” Funny about the viewfinder – good idea to turn off the LCD and save battery. i should try that, because what you see in those LCD’s can be so misleading! I loved the first tilting screen I had and used it a lot for odd angles, but I’m finding now that when/if I want to use it, I often am in a situation where I still can’t see it very well, because of glare or because I need glasses to see that distance. Still, I’m glad it’s there.
    With the LR sliders, you know you don’t HAVE to do much! You don’t have to be tempted. But maybe it’s true that much of the overdone processing out there can be blamed on the ease with which one can make big changes. I feel the same way you do about batch processing, too. I love the composition and colors of the cow photo – that shows such a practiced eye and great skill at choosing how to photograph those guys. The filed photo is one I’d want to play with more, but I think you’re trying to show more what the camera does than anything else?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Lynn, thank you very much for all this feedback, its very interesting to read. Yes, I’m having trouble with glare on the tilting screen too >>> the only solution I can think of is to get my eyes very close to the screen, to try and cut out unwanted glare. Time will tell!

      And I agree, I’m not a fan on LCDs either – and one reason for liking the X-T1 so much is the quality of its viewfinder.

      No, you’re ABSOLUTELY right about the LR sliders, I certainly don’t HAVE to use them, and I’m making that a very core part of my thinking.

      Glad you like the shot of the beefstock!!! Yes, the field photo is more to show the camera’s abilities, I’m not sure how that photo will end up yet, but it was something half-done and handy to put into this informal review. Thanks again for all your thoughts, Lynn! Adrian 🙂

      Like

      • bluebrightly says:

        Just one thing – the more you play with the sliders, the more you find their usefulness, and I didn’t mean to suggest not using them at all. A little brightness, a little less saturation, a little fill light or blacks, and it goes on and on – all can be so helpful. Sometimes I get used to making slight changes and have to shake myself up by sliding the clarity WAY down (or something), just to get another perspective. Some pictures benefit from playing with the tone curve, some don’t. Sometimes noise reduction used at 100% can smooth out a photo in a nice way, usually not. It’s endless!

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        • Adrian Lewis says:

          Lynn, yes, I hear what you’re saying, I can quite see what you mean – and I do very much value your input. I shall have to experiment with Lightroom, though I must admit to not being wildly inclined to spend a lot of time doing that! Adrian 🙂

          Like

  3. thanks for sharing your tips though I can’t afford any more cameras!! Love the maize field!

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  4. paula graham says:

    Hmmmm, interesting stuff, thank you for writing this.

    Like

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Getting to grips with this camera has brought me a lot of interest too – I’m glad you find my thoughts useful. The more time I spend with this camera, the more engaging I find it. Any specific queries, just fire away.

      What about meeting again for lunch when you’re back down here, and I’ll bring it along? A

      Like

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