Fuji X-T1 - 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses. Better than a DSLR?

OK. Some more delusional ramblings from a Fuji fanboy. Yesterday Fuji X was better than Leica, today better than DSLR's. I've lost the plot, right?

Well maybe. But if I have it really doesn't bother me. One thing seriously bothers me about mirrorless cameras however and that is they aren't referred to as cameras, but 'Mirrorless' cameras. And the grudging praise that they now earn in certain sections of the photographic internet is only ever acknowledged by some phrase such as 'This is almost the equal of a DSLR.' Well firstly I strongly disagree that a camera like the X-T1 is 'almost' the equal of some Canon or Nikon mid range APS-C DSLR, which is what mirrorless cameras usually get compared to and secondly the comparison is almost pointless. It's far more important surely to write about the strengths or weaknesses of a camera rather than what catergory it falls into and how that compares with examples of another catergory of camera.

For me the main reason I use Fuji X cameras is they are just such a pleasure to use. Now I didn't always think that, but they have improved significantly in the short time they have been around. The X-T1 is a fine camera. It's got fast and reliable AF, the EVF is incredibly good, it's light, small, has modular capabilities with the grip(s), is terrific at high ISO's with few to beat it on that score and of course has the Fuji X lens range to attach to it. And there is no way in the world I'm going to buy a Nikon, Canon, Pentax or whatever DSLR APS-C camera in preference to that.

First off, I like cameras with character, something that makes them different to picture making boxes. Canon and Nikon have been making the same 'mid-range' DSLR camera pretty much for years. And yes the D7100 is a fine camera, but God it's boring. I won't even mention the Canon ***D range. Well actually I have, so I might as well continue. If the Nikon's are boring then it's difficult to find a word that describes the Canons that sums up their homogeneity and dullness. The same design, the same sensor, the same features bar some minor addition. They are truly ugly little suckers. Yes they work and they are (mostly) cheap(ish), but don't we deserve better than that? I know I do.

I also have no wish to ever use an optical viewfinder ever again, I expect a decent live view screen and I want my cameras to be high performance without feeling like a plastic brick. I also want a decent set of lenses made specifically for my camera, that are well built, are superb optically and don't cost a fortune. I also don't really want to use lenses designed for film or for larger sensors and while it's occasionally fun to use them I could happily live without manual focus lenses and adapters. It is 2014 after all. 

And of course since I have no love left for OVF's, then I sure as hell don't need some mirror slapping and clunking about. Yes again they work. But why do I get the suspicion that Nikon and Canon keep on making cameras with them in because they can't think of what else to do. 'We've always done it.........so we'll carry on doing it.'  And I guess they'll carry on doing it for a number of years yet, until gradually the DSLR loses it's reputation for being a 'the one true camera' and their owners get fed up with the fact that mirrorless cameras are constantly pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved and have waved goodbye to an only slightly modified version of a film SLR ages ago.

The D4s is a great camera, no dispute about that. And the natural conservative nature of most professional photographers means that we'll be getting a D5 and probably a D6. But ultimately the DSLR will disappear. A lot slower than some think it will, but it will. Nikon and Canon will eventually realise that short-term market share is OK in the.....er.. short term, but ultimately it's restrictive and they will have to respond with something more flexible. To be honest. I'm sure when they do, they will probably come up with something splendid. I can see Nikon getting all the high-speed wonders of the 1 system into a larger camera with a bigger sensor and won't that be something special. Canon will probably have to dragged kicking and screaming into doing something new, but they will probably get there in the end.

Because everybody has one eye looking over their shoulder at Sony. A long way from the worlds best lens maker and their design department really has to come up with something better than the photographic equivalent of a pair of Hush Puppies, but they are the most innovative camera manufacturer out there. God knows what they are cooking up next. Probably the high-speed wonders of the Nikon 1 system in a larger camera with a bigger sensor for all I know. However since for me Sony cameras have all the chic and class of....well a pair of Hush Puppies, I may admire what they come up with technologically, but their cameras don't really stir my blood. Though, to be honest it doesn't stop me using them a lot.

The other thing I like about Fuji is that they go their own way. In the early days they did sometimes take a wrong turn, but at the moment they are certainly motoring along strongly. The X-T1 has been well received and seems to be selling well, the X100s is a classy update. Lenses like the 10-24mm, 23mm f/1.4 and 56mm f/1.2 are terrific additions to an already impressive lens line-up. So that's all good then. 

What's not good are these constant references to an SLR designed copy of a 35mm film camera with that size sensor as somehow being the 'base' design for a camera that everything else has to be compared to. I've written many times about how 'full-frame' is an arbitrary and inaccurate term. And constantly repeating it doesn't make it any more satisfactory. Amongst 'serious' cameras APS-C is by far the most popular sized sensor anyway. Just as 'full-frame' is meaningless in comparing sensor sizes, assuming a DSLR to be the camera design by which all other cameras are judged is also meaningless. I've bought and owned a lot of them and I consider them far from the 'work of the devil' but things have moved on and there are now other non-SLR derivatives that from market share alone deserve to be discussed for what they are, not what they they are supposed to aspire to. 

And Fuji most definitely make cameras that certainly don't aspire to be DSLR's (and despite the SLR 'hump" the X-T1 really is a different animal) and even with the design similarities of many of them they don't aspire to be rangefinders either. It's still a question of picking one up, looking through the viewfinder and pressing the shutter and it's how well they take care of the process of producing a photograph that we should be concerned about, not whether they have an internal mirror or not. 

So is the Fuji X-T1 better than a DSLR? Well it is for me, not for others. And we all make those decisions based on our choices, our preferences and our wallets and purses. And maybe some of these photographic internet pundits and 'reviewers' should be aware that there is now a huge % of the camera owning public that has never used film, that doesn't really understand the difference between an SLR and mirrorless design and most importantly couldn't care less. However the same can't be said to be true for many of those same pundits / 'reviewers' who as far as I'm concerned care about things like that far too much. 

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