Cameras for Christmas, Part 2 / by Brian Surguine

To read Part 1, click here.

Fujifilm X-T1

My curiosity with Fujifilm began with the X100T. At the end of 2014, I realized I was shooting a lot less than I used to - it's just not that convenient to carry a full-frame DSLR around with you. My Nikon was really great for pro work, and I couldn't have asked for a better camera, but it was all the pictures I was missing in between jobs that got me searching for a solution.

After a good amount of research, including reading rave reviews by Zack Arias and David Hobby, I picked up a black X100T and promptly took it to SphinxCon 2015 to see what it could do. One of my goals at the conference was to take a portrait of each speaker, and I ended up doing that with the X100T, not quite knowing what to expect.

SphinxCon_Portraits2.jpg

Wow.

SphinxCon_Portraits29.jpg

Double wow.

I was blown away that this tiny camera was totally holding its own against my Nikon. So I went a little deeper into the Fujifilm rabbit hole, and a few weeks later ended up with an X-T1 and Fuji's 14mm f/2.8 lens, which I immediately brought on a vacation.

Mt. Rigi, Switzerland

Mt. Rigi, Switzerland

Outside Muscat, Oman

Outside Muscat, Oman

The X-T1 has the exact same sensor as the X100T, but in a weather-sealed body. The X-T1 definitely feels more like a "work" camera - the most important settings have dedicated dials, making setting adjustments a breeze. The electronic viewfinder (EVF) in all mirrorless cameras is a real game-changer - you can see your exposure and white balance in the EVF, before you even take a picture. I shoot with three Fuji primes (14mm f/2.8, 35mm f/1.4, and 56mm f/1.2) and they are all amazing lenses with very good sharpness, color, and contrast.

The Holston River, from Surgoinsville

The Holston River, from Surgoinsville

Eleven months later, and I've shot everything from weddings to headshots with the X-T1, and, except a few minor niggles, I am completely happy with it. Colors and contrast out of the camera are beautiful, and I love that Fujifilm gives you the ability to tweak contrast settings with their in-camera RAW converter. I enjoy the compactness of the camera system, and how the three critical controls (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO) are given dedicated dials. Most of the time, I shoot in RAW, convert to Jpeg using the in-camera converter, and use the camera's Wi-Fi to upload the picture straight to my phone, where I can put it up on Instagram or send it in an email. I can do all this in five minutes, and it's made sharing my work so easy. (For comparison, the first generation OM-D EM-5 does not have Wi-Fi, but the Mark II does.)

Ryan, a Plymouth HS Senior (straight out of camera)

Ryan, a Plymouth HS Senior (straight out of camera)

And now, the things I don't like. First: battery life is not good, but I also used to shoot with a camera that could take 1,500 pictures between charges. Poor battery life seems to be par for the course for mirrorless cameras, due to the size restrictions - I just have to carry extra batteries. Second: for some reason Fujifilm's stated ISO values are not quite accurate. Anything up to about ISO1600 seems to be fine - afterward, the camera's ISO values seem to be overrated about a half to two-thirds of a stop. Not the end of the world, but I got so used to anticipating ISO values on my Nikons that it's taking me a long time to recalibrate. Finally, the video out of this camera is not that good - something to do with the way the sensor works. They look fine if you just want to record something for posterity, but I definitely wouldn't do pro-level video work with a Fuji camera until they resolve the video issues. Since I don't really shoot videos, I'm not bothered by this.

Washtenaw Ave. on Friday evening (straight out of camera)

Washtenaw Ave. on Friday evening (straight out of camera)

Ultimately, the X-T1 is, for me, fun. It's a fantastic little camera that looks like something my dad would have shot, but takes amazing images. (Fun fact: my dad took pictures with an old Olympus OM-1 film camera.) I never had this much fun shooting a Canon or a Nikon - they're great cameras that take great images, but they feel more like instruments. The X-T1 feels like a friend.

What about the X-T10?

The X-T10 packs the same sensor and most of the X-T1's internals into a slightly smaller body. However, it loses the dedicated ISO dial. For me, that's a deal breaker, but for casual use, this body is a bit less expensive and is completely adequate.

So which camera is for me?

I think anyone could be happy with either the Olympus or the Fujifilm. However, I think their personalities are very different. Here's how it breaks down for me:

Buy the Olympus if:

  • You want a camera that you can trust to take good images with minimal fuss, and is easy to take with you.
  • You don't want to spend a ton of money on lenses.
  • You like to shoot video. 5-axis in-body stabilization with hand-held video = awesome.

Buy the Fujifilm if:

  • You miss aperture rings and shutter speed dials. (If you don't know what these are, or if you don't know what aperture is, get the Olympus.)
  • You like to shoot with primes. Fujifilm makes a bunch of great lenses, but at the moment their lens lineup is definitely skewed more towards primes. (That 35mm f/1.4... so dreamy.)
  • You want that film look. Fujifilm's decades of expertise in color shows through in the X-T1's film simulations.

If you have any questions about camera or lens selections, comment below. If you don't know what aperture is, but you'd like to learn how to use it to take better photos, I teach practical (and fun) one-on-one lessons!

*Disclaimer: I am not paid for any of these reviews. All that you see is my honest, unbiased opinion, shaped by almost a decade of professional work with different camera systems.