The Fuji X-T1 'Professional' Review - Part 3 of 3 - Just an 'enthusiasts' camera or something more?

Is the Fuji X-T1 just a retro styled 'show pony' for photographers who like playing at 'old-school' or a serious reliable tool for photographers who make a living from their efforts? Well of course. it's neither. It is after all just a camera. Enough 'enthusiasts' use Nikon D4's and a professional camera is any camera that full-time photgraphers earn money with. I use mirrorless cameras exclusively and that includes Fuji a lot of the time. However, since I'm not typical of a working photographic pro, that's probably irrelevant. But I have experience of all kinds of commercial photography with the exception of news and sports photography and I haven't yet encountered a situation that I couldn't handle with the X-T1 and a selection of Fuji lenses.

When I was an 'aspiring amateur' I was desperate to demonstrate my professional 'credentials' with the gear I used, now I make my living from photography, other things are important, such as how photographic gear lets me do what I want without breaking my back or breaking the bank. When I did shoot weddings, social events, industry and products I used Canon and Nikon DSLR's. However, for the rest of the time when I was out shooting stock landscape, travel, location and natural world images, those cameras tended to stay on the shelf while I did what I did with a m4/3, a NEX or Leica camera. I won't deny that for paid and commissioned work I never had the courage (if that's what it was) to use what I really wanted to when clients and money were involved. And would I do it different now?  Well I hope I might, but I'm making no promises.

Because however well intentioned I might be, however committed I am to the idea that big isn't necessarily better and no matter how capable I believe non Canon and Nikon DSLR alternatives to be, I realise that the non-photographic enthusiast general public probably has a good idea of what a 'photographic pro' should be using when they hire me to photograph their wedding, their portrait, their event, their business or their product. And that probably isn't a Panasonic GM1. And this is the dilemma that faces all full-time photographers who are trying to persuade somebody to pay them to take pictures. And it's the battle that companies who aren't Nikon or Canon are constantly waging against perception, prejudice and a kind of 'safety-first' attitude that many of us full-time photographers have about what might be 'appropriate' for our way of making a living.

However, with their lens range and the styling of the X-T1, Fuji have given themselves a chance. 

Take any of the above cameras, Panasonic GH3, Sony A7r or Fuji X-T1, screw on a battery grip and attach a nice big zoom lens and no-one will argue that you don't look the part. And to a large extent it's ourselves we have to convince rather than our clients, that we look like 'professionals.' Because aside from masochists amongst us, we do actually appreciate lighter, smaller cameras. 

However, why is it that I can't shake this feeling that I should be using a 'proper' camera. By that of course I mean a Nikon or Canon DSLR. Now I don't use either of those and maybe never will again, but that attitude is still there. And it is all about perception, what we are used to and more importantly what we are used to seeing. All those news and sports photographers on TV use the big Canon and Nikon DSLR's and that all feeds into the notion that these are 'professional' cameras. And despite the fact that the X-T1 has a great viewfinder, specs. pretty close to 'pro' DSLR's and a terrific lens range, many professionals will still go the DSLR route. 

Now that doesn't mean that I have to or you have to do that, should you have aspirations about making your living as a photographer. And indeed over time those perceptions will change and the advantages that cameras like the X-T1 have over 'pro' DSLR's will become more important than the disadvantages. But regarding the X-T1 specifically, it all comes back to the points that I made in part one of this series. The poor video, the poor battery life and the problems processing raw files in Photoshop are significant. Now for myself I can work round those most of the time, but in many professional situations those become workflow bottlenecks and in the case of the video implementation workflow inhibitors. It's not that they are that hard to fix, but Fuji have to show some willingness to deal with things like this or else be considered an 'enthusiasts' manufacturer only.

And maybe that's what they want, where they see their future. Perhaps they have no aspirations to cut into the Nikon and Canon market. But then they do emphasise the 'Pro' aspect in their advertising. The X-Pro 1. and the marketing for the X100(s) show that. So maybe they do have aspirations in that direction. And it's often the little things like battery life and the provision of a reliable battery meter that make the difference between a good all-round camera that can handle any job and a hobbyist one. And I know I keep banging on about this, but it's vitally important I know exactly how much power I have left in order not to miss a shot and that goes for any photographer on a professional assigment.

Plus the Adobe raw situation is becoming a joke. There are many cases when a professional photographer needs to process a lot of raw files quickly, reliably and optimise the quality for a variety of reproduction needs. Neither Lightroom of Photoshop yet fully optimise the quality and alternatives like Photo Ninja and Iridient Developer both slow down the process. And yes there are situations, portraits, weddings etc. where that soft, noise reduced look can be an advantage. But there are also many situations where it's most decidedly not. 

And if Fuji (or indeed Olympus for that matter) think that good video implementation isn't really important these days in the professional photographic environment, then they need to readjust their market radar, because it is. In fact it's vital and something that Panasonic and Sony (and of course Nikon and Canon) realised some time ago. 

So in terms of my 'professional' review of the Fuji X-T1 I have to come to the conclusion that it doesn't quite make it as a true professional alternative. Now that doesn't mean that I personally won't use it in that way, I will, but as I've indicated I'm not your typical working pro any more. So if someone asked me for advice as to whether I would recommend this camera to someone starting out on the hopeful road to being able to sustain themselves from their photographic income, then I would have to decline. I'm not saying it's a bad camera, it's not, but I couldn't honestly say that I think it's a camera that could handle all situations a professional might encounter in the same way as a current Nikon or Canon DSLR could. 

Now for most of you, and indeed myself, that probably doesn't matter. But since many are advocating that this a camera that can replace a bigger, heavier and more expensive outfit and in many cases close to the holy grail of cameras, then I think it's important to put forward another view, so that balance is achieved. And to be honest, an experienced professional photographer is probably capable of working with any kind of camera system and getting the best results possible. But, in my opinion, if you're not that but are looking to buy into a camera system that will give you the versatility, speed and ruggedness that a professional working environment can often demand then the Fuji X-T1 might not be your best buy.

Finally a few pictures from yesterday taken with the 16-50mm zoom lens. Plastic mounted and cheap it may be, but it's a great lens. 

Finally Finally just as a teaser, I'm off to shoot some pictures with my phone. More on that later.

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