Fuji X-T1 - where does it fit in?

So where does the Fuji X-T1 fit in to the overall photographic marketplace? Well pretty much anywhere I would suggest. It is a great all-rounder having added a few nice features to the X-Trans systems headline high ISO performance. The AF is now pretty solid and quick. Fast enough for a skilled and experienced photographer to shoot in any situation, including sports. For a spec. bragging gadgeteer, who knows. The viewfinder is very nice, but don't believe the hyperbole that some are writing about it. It's nice and big and it has a fast refresh rate, but that's it. Lets just say it makes composition pretty easy and as you might expect it's very good indeed for focusing lenses manually.

The dials on the top of the camera are useful. Yesterday I found myself making most adjustments manually without going into the menus. Now I don't make that many but I was changing ISO in the top plate of the camera and adjusting apertures with the dials on the 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses I was using.

I would mention here the latest lens firmware updates from Fuji have improved the already impressive OIS performance from the lenses. I believe the Fuji lens stabilisation is the best I've used. This is the exif data for the couple with dogs shot above. 

As you can see, sharp at 1/10th. sec. handheld with the telephoto lens is undeniably impressive. Though of course you will get motion blur with moving subjects as above. Pretty good though. I shot a whole series of images like this as tests and they were all equally sharp. Add this in to that high ISO performance and you have a great low light and indoor camera. Which, for me, makes it pretty much the best all-round mirrorless sysyem. m4/3 can't compete with this, and neither can anything Sony have available. 

Low ISO outdoor performance in good light does suffer by comparison. And this is where the other systems show their worth. Having said that, it is possible to get a very decent high-resolution low-noise file from the X-T1 at ISO 200-640. And no it doesn't compare with the wonders of the Sony A7r + 55mm lens, but then not much else does that anyway. 

Now I'm not your average jobbing pro. any more, but if I ever shoot another wedding or indoor event then this would be my camera of choice. And back in the days when I ran my own portrait studio and worked at a model agency shooting portfolios, I would have loved to have the X-T1 at my disposal. And the nice thing is that there is now a decent system in place from Fuji. True, there is no worldwide support and dealer network that Canon and Nikon can offer, but the lens range is getting pretty serious. By the end of this year we should have 3 standard zooms, including a f/2.8 throughout version, 3 telephoto zooms, again including that f/2.8 option and a W/A zoom with OIS. Plus a selection of fast primes from 14mm to 56mm. This is a pretty impressive line up particularly when you take account of the build and optical quality and the mostly reasonable pricing of those lenses. 

And though many disagree with me, I like the improved Photoshop support. I'll leave aside the fact that I think the latest ACR update is the latest to exhibit incremental improvements, but the addition of the lens and film simulation profiles is nice to have. This makes workflow much faster and easier. Plus those ongoing firmware updates mean that constantly buying and selling cameras to get the latest features doesn't have to happen. Now Fuji might not get more sales by doing it this way, but they are certainly building up a lot of customer loyalty, which in the long run may prove more important.

Now we have lots of dire predictions about the future for mirrorless, brought about by some disappointing sales figures for those cameras. And it seems DSLR sales, while also dropping, are holding up better. There is of course a lot of discounting going on and as many observers have written, many looking to buy a new 'serious' camera can't fail to be impressed by deals on twin-lens Nikon and Canon outfits, which can be had for a few hundred pounds / dollars / euros these days. But mirrorless isn't going away anytime soon and as I've argued constantly neither is the DSLR. To a certain extent Mirrorless is becoming the more advanced option these days. High-resolution images, ultra-fast AF, 4k video etc. haven't made it to low-end DSLR's yet and when they do the mirrorless engineers will be offering something equally spectacular anyway. The simple truth is that you can offer more with a camera that doesn't have a movable mirror. What we also see happening is the re-styling of mirrorless cameras making them visually indistinguishable from DSLR's. And I can see that continuing. The X-T1 being a prime example of this.

And it does bear out what I and others have been writing and saying for years. Many mirrorless cameras are just too small, too lowest common denominator and too gadget and gimmick ridden to gain anything other than a small audience. If it wasn't obvious before it surely is now, that many people are pretty much happy to use their phones for snapshots but when they want a 'better', more serious camera they want something that looks the part. And the vast majority of those people who want that serious camera really don't care whether it's mirrorless or not, how much it costs is still the overiding factor.

The X-T1 fits into a somewhat specialised market. Mostly hobbyists, enthusiasts and those who generate all or some of their income from photography. None of the X-Trans sensor interchangeable lens cameras are going to go mass-market. According to figures I saw recently Fuji have yet to sell a million of their entire X range. Considering that Canon are about to make their 70 millionth EOS camera alone gives an idea of just where Fuji are in this marketplace. But that doesn't mean that they can't exploit their own unique niche. They make classy stuff that looks good and now, after some hiccups, pretty much deliver high-class performance and image quality. And if they choose to position themselves in that 'Leica values on a budget' area then they may well, if not prosper, at least survive. Certainly the X-T1 is one of the most 'chattered' about cameras I can remember and there don't seem to me many who haven't reviewed it in glowing terms. And those plaudits are well deserved in my opinion.

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