The Fuji X-T1

Fuji have pulled off something quite special here. With a few exceptions the X-T1 has the feature set, options and flexibility of a Pro spec. DSLR combined with the advantages of mirrorless, in a package that simulates the handling, size, weight and style of a 35mm film SLR of a few decades ago. And it is in fact lighter and handles better than those as well.

I've always had a nostalgic memory of those old cameras, but the reality is that what we have now is far superior in almost every way. Those retro film SLR's may look great, but in actual fact they weren't anywhere near as nice to use as they looked and of cause are significantly inferior in terms of image quality, durability, creative options and possibilities. While it's certainly true that film SLR's towards the end of their reign and many of the professional top end DSLR's we have these days were / are bloated monstrosities, Fuji and other companies have looked backwards and used the styling of a much more compact and usable style of camera. 

But that is all is it, styling. The X-T1 is in every way a modern camera. There are a few dials and retro trimmings to give the illusion that somehow this is an old-school camera with what are assumed to be old-school virtues that are beneficial and good for our souls. But I've resolved that pining for the past is actually pretty pointless, because it wasn't anywhere near as wonderful as many of us, myself included, have made it out to be. 

The X-T1 is a 2014 camera and has 2014 values and virtues. As far as I'm concerned it's time to embrace what modern cameras actually do rather that what they represent or stylistically copy. The bottom line is that this is a great camera and lets me create images quicker, easier and more creatively than any metal dialed film camera and a roll of Kodachrome ever did. The X-T1 is a great camera in it's own right and is far far superior in almost every way to any mis-remembered brute of a film SLR that I / we pretend somehow gave us the illusion that we were truer to the spirit of photography. It's time to get real.

The greatest complement I can pay the X-T1 is that after only a few minutes I'd completely forgotten that it was a new (to me) camera. By then I pretty much knew what was where and how to work it. I'd got used to the body and grip (smaller and lighter than I thought it was going to be from the pictures on the internet but very comfortable in practice) I'd sampled the EVF (very good but not quite the 'window into the soul' combined with an IMax cinema screen that many have described) and tried out the AF. (Very impressive, even with the sluggish 60mm Macro) I was, as I like to be, concentrating on making pictures. It is fast, it is very well built, it is, like the Fuji lookaleicas, VERY comfortable in the hand. 

It's also, when fitted with the grip as big as I would want a camera to be. I hung it off my shoulder, hung it round my neck, carried it by the strap and walked about 2 miles in a strong wind and hardly noticed I was carrying anything. It responded quickly, accurately and it WILL improve my photography because it doesn't get in the way. I understand the 'psyche' of Fuji cameras now. I know what makes them tick and I know how to get the best out of them. All I have to do now is use this one to get the best out of myself.  
Some people buy into the Fuji philosophy, some don't. If you are looking for the best image quality at low ISO's, look elsewhere, if you are looking for gadgetry and anything other than a perfunctory attempt to include networking options, look elsewhere. If however you want a go anywhere, shoot anything camera designed to put ease of operation at a premium and prioritise core values over headline grabbing geekery then this might be the camera for you. And there is nothing old-school about that. At least there shouldn't be. 

The X-T1 is designed first and foremost to make creating still images as painless as possible. You can customise (or not) if you want to, you can use dials or the menu to select your options. Your choice. Somebody once wrote they they liked my no-nonsense approach to photographic gear and since the X-T1 is most definitely a no-nonsense camera, then you'll be unsurprised that I like it a lot. And if you like shooting in low light or hand-held with fast shutter speeds and narrow apertures then you'll probably like it too. You could sell an organ and buy a Nikon D4 and sell another one for the team of sherpas to carry your gear around. You could buy a Nikon Df and a brown paper bag to put the camera in so that people don't burst out laughing when they walk past you and then again you could buy an X-T1.

There really wasn't much chance that I wouldn't like this camera and I'm almost completely unsurprised by it and what it can do. And that is far from a bad thing. I doubt that it will sell in huge quantities but it will, I'm sure, be admired by people more concerned with the process of image creation than fiddling for fun. It is nothing less than professional mirrorless in my book. Professional because it is designed to let the photographer control it rather than it control the photographer. It offers choices and simplicity and is well-thought out and well implemented. Time to get real? I just did.

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