The Fuji X-T1 - quite simply a superb camera - XF 23mm f/1.4 first impressions.

Any notion that the Fuji X-T1 in particular and the Fuji X system in general is some kind of alternative or replacement for a DSLR misses the point as far as I'm concerned. This is a camera / system that occupies a unique and separate position from virtually everything else and deserves to be assessed as such. For me the fact that it's mirrorless is meaningless in determining it's worth. There are a distinct set of properties, some bad, mostly good, that set it apart from all other camera systems. I think it's time we saw it for what it is, probably the best all-round system with the most consistent quality in terms of camera bodies and lenses that we can currently buy into. One that offers much, in it's own right, and one that has moved on from being simply a copycat to something that others struggle to emulate. 

The reason from this sudden change in tone in my Fuji posts (you may have noticed that there is a tad more enthusiasm) is pretty much down to the X-T1. It really is a superb camera. For once all the hype has some justification to back it up. I'm not going to go down the 'This is a great alternative to a DSLR' route as I've indicated, because in some ways that belittles what the X-T1 can do. Under any circumstances, making comparisons or not, it is a great performing camera. In terms of still photography it's incredibly versatile. Made possible mostly by that sensor.

Sports photography.

Candid street photography.


Wildlife and Nature Photography.

And yes the above 'examples' are somewhat tongue in cheek but there is a serious point here. I like the X-T1 because it doesn't restrict me. I went out yesterday with the 55-200mm zoom and my new (to me) 23mm f/1.4, of which more later. And I felt that I could handle anything that I wanted to shoot and anything that came along. With the cameras high ISO performance and AF speed, combined with the body layout that makes adjustments easy, simple and quick the X-T1 expands what I can shoot. If I wanted to shoot indoors - no problem, stop the action - no problem, quick grab shots - no problem, high-quality images with considered compositions and lots of DOF - no problem. And I can't think of another camera that lets me do all that while still remaining relatively inconspicuous and that doesn't break my back or break the bank.

The XF 23mm f/1.4.

The first thing that struck me about this lens was it's size. Normally these fast 35mm f/1.4 (or equivalents / approximations) lenses aren't small. 

Even allowing for the extra adapter, as you can see it's somewhat less bulky than my a-mount Sigma 35mm f/1.4 on my A7r. And of course there is a substantial weight difference. Another good reason for Fuji staying with APS-C in my opinion.

So is it as good as the Sigma? Well no it's not, but it is a very fine lens. Sharp across the frame, sharp wide open and with it's lens profile applied it has minimal distortion and virtually no CA or fringing. And certainly for the price you would of course expect that. I should also mention that it has very fast AF with the X-T1.

Now I'm not going to go into great detail about this lens because there are lots of tests and reviews of it already. There will of course be lots of posts to come showing it in use, but I'm not sure me doing lots of comparison sharpness tests really adds anything significant to what's available elsewhere.

However, I would say that this is just another example of why I find the Fuji X system so appealing. The first serious fast lens I ever bought was a Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 for my Contax 139 many years ago, and I've always had a soft spot for lenses like this. So this is yet another example of Fuji taking regard of photographic history and the kind of lenses that photographers want and use and providing them. The fast 35mm and it's equivalents / approximations for other formats is pretty much a classic and of course an incredibly useful lens in a variety of situations. 

It goes without saying that the lens is beautifully made up to Fuji's usual standard. Now as well as having a camera history that not everyone is aware of, Fuji also have a lens history. Indeed, when I was working for a company shooting T.V. ads. back in the late 1980's, the Pro Sony Betamax Video cameras they used all had Fuji lenses fitted. 

Now you have to have been around for a while to remember one of these.

It's a Fuji GX 680 film camera shooting 6x8cm. images and with a selection of Fujinon lenses was a studio workhorse outfit way back when. So in many ways we shouldn't be surprised that Fuji have the capacity to produce top class gear. Nor should we think that they are newly arrived to this class of photography. They certainly have more of a history and photographic pedigree than companies like Sony or Panasonic for example. I was also surprised to discover that you can still buy Fuji Medium-Format film rangefinder cameras new - LINK

So the point is essentially, Fuji know what they are doing in terms of cameras and lenses. This wasn't some electronics giant deciding to dip their toes into the camera market. Of course those of us who used film know all about Velvia, Provia, Sensia, Astia and the like and as you are aware I'm still scanning lots of images shot on Fuji film. And all this engages me with Fuji even more. 

On Google+ yesterday somebody wrote this.
'I picked up an X-T1 five days ago. Never even held a Fuji before that. I think I'm in love, I've never held a camera that just felt and worked so right.' And I would very much agree with that. Plus the great thing about what they come up with is also that it seems to appeal across the age range. I remember when the X100 first came out. When I went to the Focus on Imaging show the year it was announced to check it out I think I expected the stand to be flanked with males of a certain age, but it fact it was the complete opposite, young men and women. I sold my X100 to a twenty something fashion and lifestyle photographer who shot for a very young audience, at consequent photo shows I saw a lot of people using X100's and they were all young plus there is of course my story in my previous post about the young assistants at Calumet who were raving about the cameras and lenses.

And that is good to see. Too often anyone under 30 is portrayed as some smartphone wielding, facebook obsessed airhead to whom the idea of a camera that you actually have to learn to use is anathema. I think the Fuji X range appeals to those who like to be control of their camera, who have some knowledge and experience of creating images, who have little desire to upload the banalities of their lives to the internet at every possible opportunity, who are aware that cameras were invented and around before last Tuesday and who value good design and appreciate that cutting edge modern minimalist design technological gadgetry and something that is actually useful for creating photographs aren't necessarily compatible. 

And no Fuji aren't the only company that are doing that. It's just that they are the best. (In my humble opinion of course!!)

For my ongoing owner assessment of the Fuji X-T1 - CLICK HERE

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N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) at the bottom of this post.


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