Fujifilm X-T1 review

In offering an alternative to a full-sized semi-pro digital SLR, it’s no surprise Fuji’s smaller but no less well-built 16 megapixel X-T1 compact system camera (CSC) closely resembles an SLR in looks and construction. And at £1000 for this body-only camera, more so than any model to have so far graced the ‘X’ series.

It seems Fuji is attempting to expand the brand beyond current converts to its enticing mix of classic styling with cutting-edge technology. It’s a rich seam already successfully mined by Olympus’s OM-D range. Improved high-speed auto focus and compatibility with the latest fast-writing UHS II media cards suggests that the X-T1 will be suited not just to street photography, but to sports and wildlife photographers too. The latter audience will also appreciate the weather-resistant rating. We’re not talking about going diving with the camera here, but rather feeling confident when using it in the rain or where it might get splashed, as with Olympus’ competing OM-D E-M5. Such a feature further confirms its semi pro mettle.

Other selling points include an APS-C-sized CMOS sensor plus a large, immersive eye-level viewfinder, electronic rather than optical, but so highly detailed that the image it relates is virtually indistinguishable from a traditional viewfinder. With a magnesium-alloy build, this camera looks and feels like an expensive investment. It’s one that should deliver years of service.

The majority of the backplate is given over to a bright 3-inch LCD display with over a million dots of resolution that can be tilted up or down to help enable the framing of low- or high-angle shots. Yet the narrow top plate is fairly crammed with chunky rangefinder-like dials and smaller buttons dotted in between, including one for shooting 1920 x 1080-pixel video at 60 fps.

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There are three wheels in total, governing ISO speed, shutter speed and exposure compensation, with two of them encircled by secondary dials for adjusting drive mode or metering. For those who love a more tactile, manual feel, this is one camera that doesn’t involve drilling down into menu screens to tweak the essentials.

The handgrip isn’t as large and comfortable as Samsung’s equally DSLR-like NX30. But the overall weight (around 440 g without lens), particularly after a 60 mm prime lens was attached, meant it didn’t feel like the camera would fly from our grasp at any point. In practice, when pressing our eye to the viewfinder we found our left-hand fingers intuitively grasped the lens barrel, further steadying grip.

As with the majority of digital cameras, busier scenes could confuse the auto focus and it was still not as lightning fast as the blurb would suggest. In truth this is really a camera for those who want to tweak settings and focus manually.

Do so and you’ll be rewarded with – if equipped with the 60 mm portrait lens – creamily smooth ‘bokeh’, whereby a narrow portion of the image is sharp and the rest gradually de-focused, which makes for stunningly artistic close ups.

Colours were realistically rendered whilst being punchy, and for most intents and purposes the results could be said to be of DSLR quality.

OUR VERDICT

Fuji’s deliberately SLR-styled X-T1 is the closest the company has come yet to blending yesteryear styling with bang up-to-date technology. It’s difficult to see how the manufacturer could do any more at this stage, and within the compact system camera format. Unless you’re a pro hankering after a full-frame sensor provided by the likes of Sony’s A7/A7R, then the larger-than-average APS-C sensor here will fit the bill splendidly. Yes we have a few gripes about an AF that occasionally hunts around and could be yet faster still, plus an overly busy control layout due to the smaller physical size when compared to an actual DSLR. But equally, a plethora of buttons and manual dials are part of the X-T1’s enthusiast appeal.

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