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X-Gene: A Love and Hate Story | Fujifilm X-PRO1 & X-T1

I am happily married to my Nikon gear.

But there’s always room for lovers. Right?

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So before I tried out the Sony stuff, I’ve also found myself buying a X-Pro1 from Fuji. For about 4 months I used the Fuji for everyday snaps and of course occasional usage in portrait sessions; however, I have to say my experiences were… Let’s just say I was puzzled, and I’ll elaborate on that later. I ended up selling the X-Pro1 in mid-2015.

When I eventually sold the A7 II, I decided to give Fujifilm another chance. This time with their flagship X-T1. Two months into my purchase, all I have to say is: WOW.

I would like to share my thoughts on both the X-Pro1 and X-T1 with you. But first, let’s take a look at the size comparison of the X-T1 with my D800. 

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I understand it might not be fair to judge a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens on a DSLR with a crop-mirroless paired with a kit-prime, but hey, I dare you to try putting a 50-equiv. on the Nikon body and see for yourself. It’s pointless to compare, guys. Let’s just get over it.

 

Image Quality & Dynamic Range:

There isn’t a significant difference between in the IQ department between my X-T1 and the X-Pro1. Now, I do realize they use different sensors (yet both owning a X-Trans 16mp identity) and processors, with the X-T1 clearly being more advanced and matured. But both share perfectly acceptable high-iso capabilities and killer JPEG engines. What’s more on the X-T1, safe to say, is just better at high-iso, but only just a smidge.

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I am NOT a JPEG guy when I can shoot in RAW. Typically because I do like to take time in post to adjust my pictures to my liking. With that being said, Fujifilm does offer a killer JPEG engine in these X-series cameras.

Apart from the well-documented film simulations (my favorite being Classic Chrome), the ability to play with Highlight Tone and Shadow Tone provides a good range of tools for JPEG lovers to play-around in the camera.

Dynamic Range in the RAW files is fine, not great. There are some good chunks of detail one can recover from the shadows, but the highlights will be blown-out for good. In my experiences, Fuji cameras also tend to expose about 1/3 stop brighter than Sony cameras in auto-exposure settings, so it will be better to shoot in full-manual if dead-on exposure is necessary.

I found Auto White Balance way more “accurate” and consistent than older Nikon bodies and Sony’s mirrorless cameras. In comparison though, Fuji’s AWB generally detects cooler temperatures. Colors are great, with greens healthily rich but not overwhelming to the shadow tones like in the older Nikon bodies. Blues are also clean and wonderful to look at in-camera.

Finally, skins tones. Game over, Nikon. Game over.

Ease of Use

X-T1 excels beyond the X-Pro1 mainly in the technical department. Little should be said of how the X-T1 has much less quirkiness in comparison to the X-Pro1, for the X-Pro1 was the first interchangeable lens X-series camera from Fuji.

After since Firmware 4.00, or “Kaizen”, even the slowest-focusing XF35mm F1.4 R became quite usable in good light on the X-T1.

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What Fuji really had me sold better than the Sony are the ability to select focus points directly from the D-Pad, and the capability to link metering to focus points (On the X-T1, that is). Even better, Fujifilm lets you choose between either to use these features or turn them off. So why can’t Sony do this? Urgh.

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The X-series of cameras in general, in my humble opinion, is more complete, in software, than the Sony. You can see your focus areas when selecting focus points on the Fuji, the Sony can’t. You can choose either to set the D-Pad as function keys or focus-choosing nobs, the Sony can’t.

On the X-T1 you can even see information flip according to orientation in the EVF when in portrait/landscape orientation, again, the Sony can’t. Honestly, I found Fuji X, especially the X-T1, easier to use than the Sony A7, the A7R, and the A7 II, all of which I have had extensive experiences with.

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With the above being said, I do have some gripes with the Fuji. First off, some lenses just don’t balance well with the X-Pro1. It suffers mainly from a bad grip-design, and buying an accessory grip will only help so much before one gets irritated and just decide not to use it anymore.

Sometimes I do use the Wifi capability in the X-T1 to send pictures to my iPhone and edit them with VSCOcam or Instagram, yet I found Fujifilm’s Wifi transfer unfriendly to RAW shooters. In Sony cameras, even if one shoot pictures in RAW, the Wifi app will decode these picutres into JPEGs when transferring to an iPhone. The Fuji doesn’t, so that means one would have to take an extra step of using the in-camera processor to decode RAW files one-by-one before transferring them to an iPhone. This is a pain.

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The Fujinon Lenses:

Ok, I’ll try not to piss-off fellow X-shooters here, but I’m not entirely satisfied with these highly acclaimed Fuji glass. I’m not a believer of DxO scores (quite frankly Fujinon XF lenses aren’t even tested by DxO for some reason), and most of my thoughts come only from experiences shooting them.

I’ve bought the XF18mm, XF35mm F1.4, XF23mm, XF56mm, and the XF18-55mm kit zoom. Honestly, I don’t think most of them are as technically-complete as their competitors.

Let me explain.

I don’t know if I got a bad copy or what, the XF35mm F1.4 at wide-open just isn’t as sharp as my trusty Sigma 50mm F1.4 [ART] and Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA. Additionally, there are some severe spherical aberration when shot at close distances. I do appreciate this lens’s close-focusing capability, though.

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The XF23mm F1.4 is also perplexing to me. The close-focusing capability is only average among 35-equiv. lenses on the market, and it suffers from a low maximum reproduction ratio at only 0.1x. Sharpness is alright, but it doesn’t balance very well on the X-Pro1, so I tend to use it less than other lenses.

XF18mm F2 is soft as warm jello wide-open. Corners only get to an acceptable level of sharpness once pushed to F8, and that’s about as sharp as it can go.

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I do recommend the XF56mm F1.2 Although, again, it doesn’t balance well with the X-Pro1, it is a gem of a lens with good sharpness wide-open and good close-focusing capability. With an aperture as bright as F1.2, shooters can get really creative with it. Also, I prefer the non-APD’s bokeh rendition over the APD version’s.

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These Fujinon lenses, with Fujifilm’s Super EBC coating, can get some weird-looking multi-bladed ghosting wide-open.

One will only have to shoot it against strong light to understand it. Moreover, Contrast won’t be great, in comparison to Nikon’s lenses with Nano Crystal Coating, when shooting back-lit subjects. I don’t know if this is why Fujifilm recently developed and implemented the Nano-GI coating on some of their premium lenses. I hope their coating technology improves.

New Fujinon XF lenses do look very promising. I am intrigued by the XF90mm F2’s close focusing capability and XF50-140mm F2.8’s versatility. I can’t wait to try them out.

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My Verdict:

Obviously there is still room for improvement on these X-series cameras. Even with firmware 4.00, X-T1’s AF performance can only get as fast as the limiting PDAF area and lens motors allow it to. Lenses such as the XF18mm and XF35mm F1.4 just don’t get lightning fast even with the advent of firmware 4.00.

If I read it right in Fujifilm’s interview with Digital Camera Watch (jp), they have improved their lens motors and have been implementing them into the XF90mm and the XF50-140mm. I’ve tried out the new XF35mm F2 lens in camera stores, but I still find it not as fast as lenses with Fuji’s new linear motors. Let’s hope they’ll eventually get better.

When it comes to AF, even in single-point, I still think Sony has the upper-hand in technology now. The new A7R II is a beast in offering a wide variety of focusing options. But of course, that is a newer camera than the X-T1.

I enjoyed shooting the Fujifilm cameras. Colors are nice, controls are nice, EVF in the X-T1 is really nice, and I am confident to use it as my backup-cam for my DSLR. Maybe it’s when I buy the newly announced X-Pro2 will I become a fully X-shooter.

I give Fuji X a two-thumbs up, and I’ll see you guys in my next review, which will probably be the X100T I’ve been using for a while now.

 

Cheers.

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