The Fujifilm X-T1 for Street Photography

The Fujifilm X-T1 for Street Photography

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Fujifilm X-T1

Introduction

A few weeks ago our friends at Fujifilm Hellas sent us the Fujifilm X-T1 over for a review. I posted this on my personal facebook page and I got many reactions. The X-T1 was the Fujifilm flagship camera for nearly 3 years until the new X-Pro2 made its appearance. Now, in anticipation of the brand new XT-2 we decided that it would be a great time to review one of Fujifilm’s greatest modern success stories.

Before we dive into one of the most exciting reviews that we have presented on Streethunters.net we would like to remind you of our previous camera reviews. In February of 2015 we reviewed the amazing Ricoh GR, a wonderful pocket sized APS-C camera that every Street Photographer should use at least once in their life. Following that, in April of 2015 we reviewed a DSLR and in particular the Canon EOS 6D for Street Photography, a full frame monster with amazing capabilities. Last but not least, in May of 2015 we reviewed the legendary Fujifilm X-Pro1 a camera that is still used by many Street Photographers, even if it is a 4 year old model and lacks many bells and whistles that more recent cameras have.

All camera reviews we perform here are from a Street Photographer’s perspective only. We are not interested in pixels, in focus points or fancy specs. What we are interested in is how good a camera can be for a Street Photographer.

But enough with this long introduction. Let’s get to the interesting part of this post which is the review of the Fujifilm X-T1.

Fujifilm X-T1 LCD screen

The Fujifilm X-T1 For Street Photography

Before we start we would like to mention that this review is like all previous reviews from a completely personal point of view. As I have mentioned in the past, I am no camera expert, I am not a pro camera guru or have any affiliation with any particular camera brand. All cameras I have reviewed I have used extensively in the streets. You will be reading my personal opinion about the Fujifilm X-T1, so if you are interested read on.

ATTENTION: This is going to be a review about the camera body only, not the camera body and the XF27mm F2.8 lens that you see attached in the photos. I plan to write separate reviews about X-Mount lenses in the future.

Again at this point I would like to note that if you feel there is something I missed during this post that you would like me to add later, please feel free to make suggestions in the comments at the bottom of the page. During this review I will discuss the X-T1’s size & weight (portability), build quality, handling, performance, features, low light performance, image quality and value.

Size & Weight = Portability

Fujifilm X-T1 size & portability

The size of the Fujifilm X-T1 is 129.0 x 89.8 x 46.7 mm (5.1 x 3.5 x 1.8″.) and its weight is 440 gr. (15.52 oz.) with the battery and memory card. No need to share the weight of the camera when it is empty, because you will not be using it without a batter will you? So, for a modern camera, the X-T1 is small enough to be portable and big enough to fit nicely into the hand of a person with an average sized hand. Its weight is fine and can be tolerated for long periods or time, either in the hand or around the neck, depending on how you prefer to carry your camera. Of course depending on the glass you use the total weight will vary, but all in all it is a light / medium weight camera. So, attach a nice prime lens and go shooting in the streets for hours, you will hardly notice the camera and have a nice experience.

The X-T1 from a DSLR User’s Perspective (Digby Fullam): Compared to a DSLR, the X-T1 really is fantastically tiny! Given it is so packed full of features its size is very impressive, and much more convenient for street photography than a DSLR.

Rating: 8

Build quality

Fujifilm X-T1 build quality

Fujifilm X-T1 build quality

I have come across many cameras in my time and I have to say that all the Fujifilm cameras I have ever tried all have a feeling of being nicely built. The same goes for the Fujifilm X-T1. It has a sturdy, magnesium-alloy body accented by a rubberized texture on the front of the camera. All three dials on the top of the camera are made of aluminum with good build quality. The body is weather sealed protecting the camera from dust, cold and rain. So you can take it out for a spin even in bad weather conditions, as long as your lens is weather sealed too. Fujifilm has paid attention to every detail on the body and personally I can’t find anything that feels cheap on it. As with the X-Pro1 the X-T1 dials on the top feel great. They moved nicely. The buttons and dials on the back work for me, even though I have to agree about the spongey feeling I have read about concerning the directional keys. The X-Mount is metallic and feels solid. Lenses don’t budge once snapped on. The EVF is large and kind of bright. Not the brightest I have seen, but it is good, but certainly it is the largest EVF I have ever used. The LCD is a non touch, 3.0″ 1,040k-dot LCD monitor that offers 100% coverage. The LCD screen is of good quality and is also tilting. Overall, the Fujifilm X-T1 has a pro build quality and looks sturdy enough to withstand some intense usage.

Rating: 9

Handling

Fujifilm X-T1 Handling

Fujifilm X-T1 Handling

When I first held the Fujifilm X-T1 in my hands I felt right at home. The reason for this was that I was used to the Fujifilm X-Pro1 handling. But even though I found many similarities amongst the two cameras I also found many differences, some of which annoyed me to a point where I missed using my X-Pro1. I will remind you at this point that this is a review based on my personal opinion, so if you disagree with what I am about to share with you, I will totally understand and I get it. A camera’s handling is something that each one of us gets used too, but there are some things that need changing in the X-T1 in my opinion. But let us start with the pros first.

Pros

The good old vintage style, external classic camera dials are what have made the Fujifilm cameras so popular. If you haven’t used a Fujifilm camera you can’t really understand what I am talking about without experiencing this for yourself unless you used to use older film cameras with similar functionality. Having the power of control at your fingertips without having to even turn the LCD screen on, is very important to a Street Photographer like me and I would say very important to any photographer for that matter. So, the X-T1 handles well and offers the photographer a freedom of choices that make the photography experience enjoyable. But what are the cons you might wonder?

Cons

That drive button on the top left side of the camera literally drove me nuts! I had to train myself very carefully not to touch it because it moved at first contact. It was truly annoying. I found myself keep nudging the drive button and I missed many shots because I had the wrong drive selection, e.g. panorama. Has this happened to anyone else using the X-T1? Also, I found that the position of the playback and delete buttons was inconvenient. It felt like I wasn’t using the camera naturally when I reached for the playback button, as if I stretched my left thumb more than I wanted too. The third annoying thing for me was the ISO dial. I love the idea of the dial being there, don’t get me wrong, but why on earth does it have a lock on it? I am a street shooter and that means that I want to change ISO in order to maintain my shutter speed and my aperture in order to get the results I wish and to have the ease of use to switch ISO. With the lock this is not possible. I can’t switch easily. So in my honest opinion I think that the dial lock should have been on the drive button, not the ISO button. The handling experience would have been much better.

The X-T1 from a DSLR User’s Perspective (Digby Fullam): I must admit I found the X-T1 a bit fiddly to operate in some places, especially if I compare it to my Canon 6D. I suppose that is part of the trade-off you accept in making a camera so small but giving it so many DSLR-rivalling features. You would probably get used to position of the X-T1 buttons and dials after some extended use too.

Rating: 8

Performance

Fujifilm X-T1 Performance
“The Street Professor” by Spyros Papaspyropoulos

The X-T1 sports the large X-Trans II 16MB CMOS sensor. The image quality that it produces is amazing, but we will look into that in detail a bit later. During this part of the review we will examine the Camera responsiveness, Battery life, the Autofocus speed and accuracy and the EVF’s performance.

Camera responsiveness

I don’t have much to say about the X-T1’s responsiveness other than it performs great and takes photos the instant I press the shutter button without any delay whatsoever. So, I was very pleased with how it performed in my hands. It was a fast camera and quirks aside (ISO and Drive dial) it performed very well!

Battery life

Just like any other MILC the Fujifilm X-T1 sucks up power much faster than any DSLR would, but will still give you a decent amount of shots. As far as I am concerned this is totally normal for a mirrorless system camera. Until science advances more, and / or new power sources are invented, you better carry around at least one more battery with you.

Auto Focus

The X-T1 has a decent AF system. Although it isn’t fast it is good enough for Street Photography. Of course you will get your odd miss due to lack of auto focusing speed, but that will not be often. If you shoot in bright light, AF speeds are very fast and feel almost instantaneous but in any other light, the AF speed drops to normal levels. Compared to the X-Pro1 and the Ricoh GR that I have reviewed in the past, it is much faster, but not what I would call lightning fast. I remember my 2013 SONY NEX-6 had a much, much faster and more accurate AF that the X-T1 has. But then again SONY was always better at AF than Fujifilm was. I will make a mental note to return to this remark I made once I try out the Fujifilm X-Pro2 and the XT-2 and let you know if this is still the case. As far as accuracy is concerned, again it is all up to the light. The brighter the day, the more accurate the AF. In low light situations even though it didn’t hunt, it was slow if I had the AF Illuminator turned off, but that is normal behaviour for a mirrorless camera. About a couple of weeks after I tried the Fujifilm X-T1 I had the chance to try out the Fujifilm X-T10 in the streets and that was fast! But more about that by Digby Fullam who was lucky enough to test the X-T10 thoroughly. The Fujifilm X-T10 review is going to be published sometime within August, so stay tuned!

EVF performance

I had heard so many amazing comments about the Fujifilm X-T1 EVF. It is large, it is bright, it is fast, blah, blah, blah. I was expecting to be blown away by the experience. I think that this hype was the reason why I felt that the EVF wasn’t what I expected. Sure, it is large and it is responsive with no visible delays, but when I tried it out in the bright light of Greece, I found that it held me back and I missed a lot of shots. Remember, I am examining this camera from a Street Photographer’s point of view and I am a fast paced, hyped up, adrenaline junkie type of a Street Photographer which means I need immediate responsiveness. I have 2 things I would like to say about the EVF which annoyed me, actually 3 things.

Firstly the sensor on the EVF that detects the eye approaching the camera and switched from LCD to EVF was very slow to respond. I missed so many shots, I just turned the LCD off completely in the end and kept the EVF permanently on. This is a feature that might be ok for slower types of photography such as landscape or studio work, but for street it is a nightmare.

Secondly the EVF wasn’t bright enough for the bright Greek sun. As soon as I brought the camera to my eyes, I needed a second for my eye to adjust to the EVF brightness before I could see anything. The EVF’s brightness wasn’t as bright as the sun’s (naturally) so this disparity  caused me to miss many shots. I ended up walking around with the camera to my eye because I wasn’t only wasting time waiting for my eyes to adjust, but I was also beginning to get a headache. Also, I noticed that the EVF kept on re-focusing. This was annoying. I admit, that this might have been a setting which I needed to switch off, but I didn’t have the luxury to research this while in the street, I just wanted to shoot.

Thirdly and most importantly I am a Flash Street Photographer. That means that I use my camera set on a particular exposure and create the intensity of the light I need with my flash. By default the X-T1 EVF and LCD both display a real time preview of what the current exposure. So you can imagine my utter frustration when I was in Athens, on location trying to shoot Flash Street Photography and all I could see through my EVF and LCD was black!!! I wasn’t in a position to just stop and sit on the sidewalk and fire up my iPhone and start searching the web for a solution. Well, even if I was, that isn’t the ideal User Experience is it?!? I was in a place called Metaxourgeio interviewing a heroin addict in the middle of the night firing away in complete blindness. Imagine me saying, “oh please wait while I search the web for this thing thing that is bugging me and you can tell me your tragic story later”. Man, I was very upset and most of the shots didn’t come out the way I wanted them too. When I finished my job I went to a bar and spent 15 minutes searching for a solution. Apparently the camera lets you dive into the deep end of the menus and you can set the Fujifilm X-T1 up to not preview exposure. My X-Pro1 also has this feature too, but of course I haven’t needed to use it because I use my X-Pro1’s OVF. Why hasn’t Fujifilm got a flash autodetect feature that turns this preview exposure feature off when a flash is connected to the camera? Or at least why isn’t there a shortcut? People do use flash after all. This was by far the most annoying feature of the EVF and the camera in general.

X-T1 from a DSLR User’s Perspective (Digby Fullam): Compared a nice big OVF like that found in the Canon 6D, the X-T1’s EVF is disappointing. As Spyros said, the eye sensor lag is very annoying, and the motion sickness feeling from the constant refocusing is horrible. I found the X-T1 EVF it a little more tiring on the eyes than an OVF, but perhaps that is personal thing. I look at too many screens already! I also forgot how convenient it is to ‘frame’ using an OVF when the camera is switched off. With the X-T1 all you get is a blank screen.

Rating: 7

Features

Fujifilm X-T1 Features

It is no surprise that the Fujifilm X-T1 is jam packed with features. The reason why Fujifilm made and released this camera in the first place was to give the market a mirrorless DSLR replacement. Ever since mirrorless cameras first began showing up, it has always been the goal of MILC camera manufacturers to create a camera that could replace the ever-reliable but big and heavy DSLR. Well, the X-T1 has many, many features that even the most expensive DSLRs would be jealous of. It can be used as a professional camera for studio work, sports, events, landscape, you name it. Like all Fujifilm Cameras it has the option of setting up custom presets that can be setup in any way you like. This is a fantastic feature, especially for Street Photographers that also practice other kinds of photography or have more than one styles. For example I like getting dark shadows and controlled highlight results with a specific film preset in daylight and have other settings for when I shoot at night and others when I shoot with a flash. So, instead of jumping into the menus all the time, I just change my quick setting and I am ready. Super practical. Another cool feature, even though it has its quirks is the EVF. As I mentioned before Fujifilm hasn’t thought about flash photographers as much as it should have, and that sometimes is a pain, but as an EVF, especially in overcast weather and indoors, it is pretty amazing. All information one might need is displayed neatly on the EVF and the responsiveness is great, which is the main thing one would need from an EVF. Tech specs if you are interested are a high-resolution 2.36million dot OLED display with a magnification ratio of 0.77x*. Pretty impressive numbers.

As far as the LCD goes, it is pretty cool. It is a 3.0″ 1,040k-dot LCD with great visibility and brightness, but again you can’t really see anything in bright sunlight. However for any other situation it is perfect. The fact that it tilts is also pretty cool. I remembered how convenient my SONY NEX-6 was when I tried out the X-T1. I used to shoot with the tilting LCD many times because it was so convenient. People would think I was shooting video or just being a camera geek, but they wouldn’t suspect me taking their photograph. The other thing is that low angle and high angle shots are much easier to make. A great feature indeed. In addition to the many other features, it also has WiFi for sharing photos to a mobile device. I don’t have an Android device and I have heard that the Android version of the Fujifilm app is pretty good, however I have an iPhone and the iOS app is mildly put, terrible. In the 10 days I had the camera I tried more than 20 times to transfer photos and my connection kept on getting interrupted. I only managed to see some photos on my iPhone screen but I never actually achieved any image transferring. In the end I just removed the app and decided to transfer photos like I do with my X-Pro1, via my MacBook and then the cloud.

Another fantastic feature of the X-T1 that is worth talking about is that it is a weather sealed camera. If you equip it with a weather sealed lens you can take it for a spin in the snow and in the rain. It will be ok in dusty situations too. This is very handy especially for Street Photographers living in countries where it usually rains, such as the United Kingdom. If the WiFi / iOS correlation was better and the EVF didn’t have its quirks I would have rated the X-T1 with the highest mark possible, but because of those it gets an 8.

Rating: 8

Low light performance

Fujifilm X-T1 Low Light Performance
“Absorbed” by Spyros Papaspyropoulos

Like all Fujifilm cameras the X-T1 is a great performer in low light situations. I used it in the streets with ambient light available from street lamps and I was very impressed. The results were what I expected them to be. Fujifilm’s X-Trans II 16MP CMOS sensor handled low light nicely. I never go above 6400 ISO since I am a RAW shooter and at that level I was very happy with what I got. I should mention here that the camera only allows RAW shooting up to 6400 ISO. If I could shoot at 12800 ISO and RAW I probably would. However for JPGs it shoots at higher ISOs. Compared to the X-Pro1 the differences were insignificant, compared to the Ricoh GR and the SONY NEX-6 the differences were clear. The X-T1 is a great low light performer and I highly recommend it if that is the type of Street Photography you like. Just remember to shoot wide open. Anything wider than f2.8 should do the trick. Many of you might ask why I am only giving it an 8 even though I am praising its low light capabilities. The reason is that lots of full frame cameras are even better in low light. I need to leave some room for when I get to review the SONY A7s or a NIKON D4. Even though I haven’t tested those cameras, everyone knows they are low light monsters.

Rating: 8

Image quality

Fujifilm X-T1 Image Quality
“Beer gut” by Spyros Papaspyropoulos

Fujifilm shines in this department. The Image Quality of all Fujifilm X-mount cameras is amazing and the Fujifilm X-T1 isn’t any different. It produces amazing files, great colours and simply awesome details. There is no anti-aliasing filter so images are very sharp. The X-Trans II 16MP CMOS APS-C sensor is a marvellous engineering achievement. The only thing I could say about the images it produces is that in comparison to the X-Trans 16MP CMOS first gen sensor, it produces less filmic results in my opinion. So, the Fujifilm X-T1 passes this part of the review with a top score!

Ranking:10

Value

Fujifilm X-T1 Value

Here things start to seem a bit rocky for the Fujifilm X-T1. Even though it is a great camera and has awesome features, it isn’t perfect and it is already 3 years old. The cheapest price I could find for the X-T1 at the time of this writing was €685.99 on www.eglobalcentral.eu and this price was for the body only. In most cases the body still costs over €1000 which in my opinion is very expensive for a 3 year old camera. I was expecting a bundle packaged deal similar to the X-Pro1’s to be found somewhere on the market but I couldn’t find one. Unless you missed it the X-Pro1 has been sold in a package deal with 2 amazing prime lenses for as low as €650 completely new. The body can be found for as low as €450, new. Even though the X-T1 is a fantastic camera, paying over €1000 just for the body and then an additional €300+ for lenses is a little too steep in my opinion. The X-Pro2 is already on the market and the XT-2 is around the corner so if I were Fujifilm I would start selling X-T1 package deals or I would reduce the price.

Rating:7

Conclusion

Fujifilm X-T1 for Street Photography

The Fujifilm X-T1 is an all around camera that can be used for anything, from Landscape Photography to Street Photography, to Wedding Photography and more. It is packed with features and fully capable of delivering even under difficult situations, as long as you master its quirks and come to terms with its weaknesses. I am sure that in the hands of any capable user this camera shines. To prove my point there are many examples of amazing work from great Street Photographers using the X-T1 such as Rinzi Ruiz, Andreas Kamoutsis and more.

The build quality is great. It feels sturdy and tough. Battery life is normal for a mirrorless system camera and the EVF and LCD screens work great as long you are not in bright Mediterranean sunlight. You will face issues there.

Would I recommend the Fujifilm X-T1 for Street Photography? Yes I would recommend it as long as you already own one for other work or if you have the money to spare. There are other cheaper options out there from Fujifilm and other camera manufacturers that are just as good for Street.

This time I will not plug any websites with deals because I didn’t really find any. I also checked my older X-Pro1 links and those deals have are currently unavailable also. So, I would recommend searching the web for a good deal and if you manage to find the X-T1 at a good price go for it! But personally I wouldn’t pay over €800 for a 2013 camera body.

If you want to know more about the Fujifilm X-T1, just ask me in the comments. If you would like me to share with you my personal settings, I will gladly do so. All you have to do is ask and I will deliver.

Stay Sharp & Keep Shooting!

Special Thanks

Special thanks to Streethunters.net Editor Digby Fullam for providing the useful X-T1 from a DSLR User’s Perspective comments seen in some sections of the review.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Strange you had issues sending pics from x-t1 to iOS, I have never had an issue and use this feature a lot. Cheers for the review though

    • Oh James man it drove me nuts! I don’t know if it the version of iOS I have or if I am just unlucky, but I have to tell you it was not a nice experience.
      Glad it works for you though and I hope it works as good for others as well.
      Thank you!

  2. Thank you for the nice write up, good read! I had many problems with transferring to iOS with early app versions, however, they’ve appeared to have sorted things out as it has been simple and very reliable the last few months. I would expect to see price drops/sales on the X-T1 as soon as the X-T2 is actually shipping (not to mention the flood of used X-T1’s that will become available). Keep up the good work!

  3. Great article as always. Thank you.

    I have a 5D Mark III which I scotched the 85mm 1.2 II L on it and they only can take it away when they pry it from my cold, dead hands.

    On the other hand I lust for a responsive, silent and with titl screen camera for street and daily life snaps.

    I had a XT1 in the past paired with 56mm and 35mm 1.4 but I wasn’t as happy as I am with canon. Many updates were released since …and I’m planning to go back but with the T2.

    My question: would you buy it new or wait for the prices to drop?
    Probably it will keep its value for the next 2 years isn’t it?
    :-/

    In 2014 I paid 900€ on my xt1 second handed and now I can find it easily for 650€ here where I live.

    Cheers

    • Hello Martin and thanks for your comment. Since you already have the Canon and you are happy with it, I would recommend waiting for the prices of the X-T2 to drop, but that might take some time, as you mention maybe a couple of years or even more. I got my X-Pro1 when it was already 3 years old and I purchased it for a killer price of around €750 including the XF18mm and XF27mm lenses. So, yeah I would wait, but that is just me. What you will do is entirely up to you my friend 😉 .

  4. Hi Spyros and thank you for these great reviews. I read both reviews you have for the X pro 1 and xt1. I’m trying to decide on which of these 2 to invest my money and time as I will want it to do street photography, document my kids growing up, and for ease of use. I owe a canon m2 which is great but too big for every day use. I have a Leica lens which I can’t wait to try with the Fuji camera, also have the Fuji Leica mount adapter. So my question is which camera so you recommend now that the firmwares have been updated? Also I’m liking the idea of the more filmic aspect of the X pro 1, is this something that can be achieved with post anyways? X pro 1 seems cheaper and easier to handle, is it just the speed and autofocus that lets it down against the xt1? Thank you again!

    Mirko

    • Hello Mirko. The X-T1 is a newer camera to the X-Pro1. Also, the AF is faster and it also has more features. That said though, I personally prefer my X-Pro1 with it’s OVF and rangefinder style, but that is a matter of personal preference. In my opinion you should test both cameras out before you buy them and see which one is better suited for your needs. The only person that can give you the best advice in the end, is yourself.
      _Stay Sharp & Keep Shooting!_

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