Bye-bye Canon, hello Fuji (longterm X-T1 & X-system review)

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Yes, it’s farewell to Canon and hello to Fuji. Yes, really.

And, funnily enough, everyone keeps asking me – WHY?

It’s a fair question, and like most big decisions like this, it has a lot of factors feeding into the final answer.

2014-08-20_untitled-XT1B7066-Edit

And a disclaimer for the not-too-bright – this is MY opinion, and it’s what I am doing. I’m not suggesting that you do the same. I don’t actually CARE if you do this or not, it’s entirely up to you.

But I think it’d be smart 🙂

Bill Clinton. You may remember him. (Speaking at the UNAIDS 2014 conference)

 

Sections:

TLDR

Overview and history

Why I wrote this

When is professional not professional?

What I love about this system

Things that need fixing/improving

 

TLDR

I love this camera,  but with some caveats. Easily usable for most things by professionals or serious hobbyists, though.

 

Executive Director UNAIDS Michel Sidibé meets with the President of Fiji at the AIDS2014 conference in Melbourne Australia, July 20 2014

Executive Director UNAIDS Michel Sidibé meets with the President of Fiji at the AIDS2014 conference in Melbourne Australia, July 20 2014

Overview and history

As I said, it was the veritable perfect storm of reasons that led to the decision.

Body replacement time – I had a couple of body replacements due (well, at least one) as my 1DsmkIII and the 1DmkIV were both getting a bit long in the tooth.

And buying two bodies – or even one, even a 5DmkIII rather than a 1D-X – would be a significant commitment to the Canon DSLR ecosystem. Years’ worth, or a chunk of cash thrown down the drain if I decided to depart anyway.

And I decided I didn’t want to do that.

Yes, I have reasons. You KNOW I have reasons. You know I will analyse it to DEATH.

Lemur @ Melbourne Zoo

Lemur @ Melbourne Zoo

The main reason is that I don’t see the general DSLR market being around in the long term. Yes, I know it’s always been there. Yes, I know that millions upon millions of people own them. Yes, I know lenses are forever (despite the fact that I’ve just sold all of mine 🙂

But still, I have no faith in the DSLR market. And when you have several lenses worth around the $5K mark (used) each, and bodies that need replacing for several thousand dollars each, it’s a serious consideration/bet that you’re making.

(Don’t get me wrong – the DSLR as an entity will be around for a while yet. But the market is shrinking, and that shrinkage is speeding up as the DSLR market becomes more and more specialised (ie will stop buying the consumer and prosumer models). Really, if you’re buying a camera today and have no compelling reason (sports with long lenses, etc.) for a DSLR, you’re just not buying one (if you have a clue).

Side note: Canon and Nikon are FAST ASLEEP at the wheel on this. Just as Kodak sold off the digital camera patent “because it would cannibalise film sales,” so these two are (effectively) ignoring the mirrorless market because they think it’ll hurt DSLR sales. And indeed, it is. But they’re stupidly choosing to not get any of it. #geniusatwork

Night hats

Night hats

So I jumped ship. The timing was right, as well – a year ago, I wouldn’t have considered it, let alone actually done it. But then the X-T1 came out. And I also decided that if I was going to be smart, then I would stop shooting motorsport (less than no money in it for me), much as I loved it and the friends I had there. And I would rationalise my lens line-up (way too many expensive specialty lenses worth WAY too much).

So I sold it all 🙂

Just FYI, this is what I sold (Canon unless otherwise specified):

  • 1DsmkIII
  • 1DmkIV
  • 400/2.8
  • 200/2
  • 85/1.2mkII
  • 70-200/2.8mkII
  • 24-70/2.8
  • 35/1.4
  • 500/4
  • 300/2.8
  • TS-E90
  • 15/2.8FE
  • Sigma 120-300/2.8

And I can’t be accused of listing it all to big-note myself, because they’re all gone 🙂 I also sold my Elinchrom Quadras and a Ranger and went to Jinbei, but that’s another post 🙂

Street-shooting. Nice dynamic range, I think

Street-shooting. Nice dynamic range, I think

Why I wrote this

To give people an idea of how the system goes over a long period of time in a variety of professional and enthusiast uses. As you read through this, you may think I’m whacking Fuji too much. I’m not, I’m just calling it as I see it. And it’s like a parent telling off a child – it looks bad, but because you want longer term gain, you’ll accept some short-term pain 🙂

It’s about the things I’ve found I liked, and the stuff that needs improvement, over a period of months. Real world stuff, not a “I used this for three days and wow, it’s awesome!” puff piece.

Zoe, one of the awesome HMUA from our last studio shoot. Didn

Zoe, one of the awesome HMUA from our last studio shoot. Didn’t want to get in front of the camera because “I’ve never done this before”. Madness.

When is professional not professional?

I would suggest that – while it is a system that some professionals, including myself, can happily use – it is not yet a professional system. The lack of fast longer lenses, the less than snappy (at times) AF, a single SD card, the lack of anything approaching a professional flash system all hold it back. Having said that, I’m loving it. PROFESSIONALS CAN USE IT. DO NOT BE TOLD OTHERWISE.

The AIDS2014 sign on the Princes Bridge in Melbourne Australia, July 18 2014The AIDS2014 sign on the Princes Bridge in Melbourne Australia, July 18 2014

What I love about this system

Oh, so much. (Bad luck if that sounds fanboi, you’ll change your mind in the next section 🙂 The obvious things are obvious – the size and weight. In fact, it’s so small I much prefer it with the vertical grip. It’s almost identical in size to my old OM-2N (which I put a motordrive on).

This is so easy to carry around, even when you’re slinging two bodies/lenses, and you’ve got a bag with several other lenses, filters, batteries, flash, OCF lead, triggers, etc. in it. I did a 100-hour week with these things a while back, and it was a breeze.

The images are fantastic. I shoot RAW and large fine JPG, and very rarely do I go to the RAW files, as the JPGs are so good SOOC. Lovely colours (or B&Ws), lovely detail, great dynamic range, beautiful look.

XT1A1256

The lenses. Man, Fuji make some awesome lenses. (So they should, they’ve been designing and making the Hassleblad MF bodies and lenses for a while now.) I am totally in love with the 56/1.2 and the 23/1.4 lenses, and the 10-24/4 isn’t far behind. I am SO hanging out for the 16-50/2.8 and 55-140/2.8 zooms. The longer one is due in a couple of months, and the shorter one a couple after that. Desperately needed.

The lens roadmap. It’s great to know where we’re heading.

The Electronic View Finder (EVF). This is outstanding – not like any EVF you’ve ever seen before. Try it and believe. It takes a while to get use to the idea that what you see is what you get. Live-view in the EVF, so awesome.

High ISO performance is very good – but deceptive*. I turn the NR down to minimum and am very happy with the output.

*There is no way that they rate this ISO correctly. This doesn’t matter in most instances – it’s just a number, and as long as it’s metering correctly, who cares? But it does when you use a lightmeter and studio strobes/manual flash. My Sekonic L-758 meter is calibrated a stop to the positive to correct this issue, thus meaning that ISO6400 is really only 3200. And 6400 is as high as you can go while still shooting RAW.

Zoe and Justine, super HMUAs at the last studio shoot

Zoe and Justine, super HMUAs at the last studio shoot

Speed (of all but the AF) – turning on, response time of the EVF, etc..

Aperture ring on the lens! (XF lenses, ie almost all of them). So awesomely like my old Olympus OM-2N from 30+ years ago…

The tilting rear screen is excellent – get great angles (low) without having to be a contortionist or 2.2m tall (high). Waist level shooting is kinda medium-format like 🙂

Executive Director UNAIDS Michel Sidibé signs the memorial book in the Dutch booth in the Global Village at the AIDS2014 conference in Melbourne Australia, July 21 2014 This was the tilting screen at its finest - I was able to hold it at waist-level and not disturb Michel in any way as I got this shot.

Executive Director UNAIDS Michel Sidibé signs the memorial book in the Dutch booth in the Global Village at the AIDS2014 conference in Melbourne Australia, July 21 2014
This was the tilting screen at its finest – I was able to hold it at waist-level and not disturb Michel in any way as I got this shot.

It feels great in the hand. Pretty much everything you NEED to adjust on the fly is there as a dial on the top-plate or on the lens.

Awesome firmware support from Fuji – my X100 (since sold) got a new firmware release WELL after the release of the X100s, which no company in its right mind would do.

Panorama mode is great.

The film emulations are excellent – allows great JPGs straight out of camera, especially if you setup bracketing to make three different film emulations from each shot. (The exposure bracketing sucks – one stop either way? Might as well not bother.)

The Android (and I believe the iOS) app is excellent. Very useful. Saved my bacon a few weeks ago when I had to get a couple of images to the wire service immediately and I was unable to get back to the media centre – WIFI to the phone, email them off. Beautiful. Also good for immediate uploads to FB, etc..

"A conversation with Sir Bob Geldof: HIV and poverty – the challenges ahead" at the AIDS2014 conference in Melbourne Australia, July 23 2014.

“A conversation with Sir Bob Geldof: HIV and poverty – the challenges ahead” at the AIDS2014 conference in Melbourne Australia, July 23 2014.

UNAIDS2014-MELB-XT1B5068

Things that need fixing/improving

This is a list and a half. You may not need some of this stuff (and I may not) but it would improve the system overall. Remember I’m coming from years of using 1-series Canons, so if you haven’t used pro-level cameras for an extended period of time, the lack of these may not worry you. But if you’ve used them, you miss them.

BETTER AF. When it works, which is most of the time, it’s great. But it’s certainly not as snappy as my 1-series bodies were, and that’s frustrating. It goes hunting too often, especially with some strong backlighting. It also loves grabbing the background if the subject is close to it, which is incredibly annoying (and it does it irrespective of the AF size selected).

DUAL CARDS. Writing to two cards gives you a nice warm protected feeling. PLEASE, the next model has to have this. #weddingprosreallyneedthis

METERING TO FOLLOW AF POINT. Spot metering becomes utterly useless when you’re not using the centre point (ie a lot of the time), as the spot-metering is always straight down the middle. Defines useless.

Ed X is where the spot meter was (pre crop) v where the AF point was (green tick). Utterly useless, as you can see. (I exposed it manually.)

Where the spot meter was (pre crop) v where the AF point was. Utterly useless, as you can see. (I exposed it manually.)

Blackout time between frames is way too long. That it’s fine in CL/CH modes (AFTER the second frame) makes it all the more frustrating.

Blinkies! We need blinkies if any part of the frame is overexposed! Seriously, this has been a standard for donkey’s years, and this camera doesn’t have it? Even on playback would be good, but there’s ZERO reason for it not to be in the display when shooting.

Q-menu (quick menu). Currently, it really doesn’t add much. A non-customisable Q-menu is pretty much a contradiction in terms. It’s how Apple would do it, not Fuji: “THESE are the settings you want to change most frequently! Even if they’re not!” (And, frankly, they’re really stupid choices. Engineers should not be allowed to make UX decisions.)

Specular highlights from Georgie

Specular highlights from Georgie’s green sequin dress are nicely controlled

A dual battery charger. Canon does it at the top end, Nikon does it, and those batteries take 4K shots each. When you’re at a tenth of that, this seems like a no-brainer. (That’s the price you pay for cameras getting smaller, batteries do likewise. I’m not complaining about the battery life, just the crappy charger decisions.)

AF point selection – currently it’s cumbersome. Being able to set a button for AF point selection (say, the vide button) and then use the front and rear roller wheels to move it around the frame would be a massive improvement.

Remembering selected AF point per orientation – ie a different point in portrait and landscape modes. Sounds minor, is phenomenally useful.

Setting a default AF point that can be quickly accessed via a button double tap. Again, very useful.

Annoyingly placed video button – you should be able to reassign it (why is this button not assignable? The others are) or just disable it.

On that topic, if stuff can be assigned to Q-menu options, why not to buttons? Why have a small subset of things assignable to buttons? Weird.

Staying in that general area, the “custom settings” options are woefully deficient. I’d like to be able to setup the camera in a standard format, then save it. Every function in the camera that isn’t a dial should be able to be set. Then setup C2 as “square B&W” or something, but no, can’t do that, as the custom settings options only remember a small subset of options (not including aspect ratio). But I can change all of that via the Q-menu using separate functions. Crazy stuff. (Also, you should be able to name the custom settings.)

When you push the menu button, the menu should show up on the rear screen irrespective of which view mode you have selected. I usually have “EVF + eye-sensor” selected (saves the battery), and as a result, the menu shows up in the EVF. That’s completely pointless and annoying, as I then have to change the view mode so I can see it on the back screen, make the change, then change the view mode again. Did ANYONE test this before it went out?

Murray is a gorgeous girl. Nearly as gorgeous as the 56/1.2

Murray is a gorgeous girl. Nearly as gorgeous as the 56/1.2 🙂

I really miss CPS (Canon Professional Services), because the Fuji repair process sucks. With CPS, I could take my lens or body down to Canon in Clayton, and they’d not only fix the thing in 2-3 days (and I could get a free sensor clean while I was there), but they would also lend me a replacement and then ship the repaired item back to me. At any point, I could ring them and talk to the wonderful Jodie, but that was rare as she rang me to keep me up to date. When I had to get my Fuji 56/1.2 replaced (it had an intermittent issue which gave weird colour casts, etc.) the process started well enough with constant contact, promises of speedy replacement, etc., but soon I was cast into the pit of oblivion, with no way of contacting them besides email (multiple unanswered), or phoning a generic number (no call back). I had a major conference to shoot and could really have done with the 56 – they knew this weeks out from the event – and I flagged getting them to deliver it to me there (multiple emails, phone call) as time shortened, but again, zero contact. In the end, they sent it to me at home on the day I flew out to the conference, so it sat around for a week unused, whereas if it had been shipped to the hotel I could have used it rather than being pissed off that it was sitting at the local Post Office near home. Totally underwhelming.

Included because I shot it with the 35, which I owned for a whole two weeks. It

Included because I shot it with the 35, which I owned for a whole two weeks. It’s an OK lens – good optics, but noisy and slowish AF, and a boring FOV.

Auto ISO – I like it a lot more than I liked Canon’s go at it, but it would be great if you could set the lowest shutter speed by lens or FL or the like. A ¼’ is fine with the 10-24, but not wonderful with the 200.

Tethering – really needs to be able to be used tethered. Yes, an Eye-Fi cards work. No, it’s not a GOOD fix, it’s pretty bad. Real tethering is required.

The flash is disabled if you are in drive modes CH or CL, bracketing or double exposure. Or silent mode (which I can understand, just pretend it’s called “stealth mode”). But otherwise – weird. And the camera won’t even focus while the flash is recharging! That’s beyond weird.

ISO L, H1 & H2 are also jpg only. Also annoying.

Shutter speed tops out at 1/4000. Not great when combined with the ISO200 lower limit.

Staying with this theme, an ND filter (ala X100(s)) would be great.

 

ILT2014 conference, Greg O

ILT2014 conference, Greg O’Connor. I spent a lot of time shooting at 6400 and above (see story about Fuji and my 56 replacement), and it did very well.

Conclusion

As I said earlier, I love this thing. Great lenses with more coming, lovely engineering, lovely files. It has quirks, it is having teething issues.

But it’s terrific, I’m very glad I switched. I still miss my 85/1.2 and 200/2, and the 1-series AF, but am happy overall. I shot the AIDS2014 conference here in Melbourne for the United Nations a few weeks ago, and worked 100 hours in eight days, covering multiple kilometres a day around the convention centre, shooting in crappy light (as can be seen from the ISO on some of the shots here). Carrying the Fujis rather than a couple of 1-series bodies and big lenses was not just a joy, but it enabled me to do the job FAR BETTER than I would have done otherwise.

Is it for you? Dunno, but I do suggest you go and have a good long play with one and see if you can resist buying it 🙂

Here’s some more images – street shooting, conferences, etc. All with EXIF 🙂

2014-08-09_untitled-XT1B68452014-08-20_untitled-XT1B7144UNAIDS2014-MELB-XT1A4528UNAIDS2014-MELB-XT1B3834UNAIDS2014-MELB-XT1B3839UNAIDS2014-MELB-XT1B4097UNAIDS2014-MELB-XT1B4524UNAIDS2014-MELB-XT1B4553UNAIDS2014-MELB-XT1B6151XT1A1210XT1A1278XT1A1280XT1A1282XT1A2294XT1B04482014-03-30_untitled-XT1A14992014-04-18_untitled-XT1A19052014-04-27_untitled-XT1B01362014-04-27_untitled-XT1B0215UNAIDS2014 conference - preparation shots2014-07-23_untitled-XT1B44612014-07-24_untitled-XT1A49082014-07-29_untitled-XT1B6634-Edit-Edit-2

 

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  • September 3, 2014 - 22:50

    Simon Revill - Great write up Mic …. yes it has its quirks but it is fantastic once you learn to live with them ! No system is perfect and I think we conveniently forgot that as long time Nikon or Canon users …. Can’t wait to get the new 2.8 zooms when they land 🙂 ReplyCancel

  • September 4, 2014 - 02:03

    Mick Servodio - Great Article. And great set of images. 😉ReplyCancel

  • September 4, 2014 - 15:21

    Steven Potter - Thanks very much for this. I’m new to the X-T1 and have a lot of Nikon bodies & lenses on hand. Your professional take on the Fuji helps a lot in deciding how to move ahead. Love your photos; clear, sharp, everyone a multi-layered message. ReplyCancel

  • September 5, 2014 - 11:36

    Jay Farrell - Great article and I enjoyed the humor too! I’m in the same boat…I was shooting Canon 1D’s and was time to upgrade from my 7 year old 1D Mark III, but I didn’t like my upgrade options or price of the 1DX, and was so impressed with the optics of the Fuji, I too saw an opportunity to make the switch almost 4 months ago….now I’m selling my second Canon lens, then the rest of it 🙂ReplyCancel

    • September 5, 2014 - 17:49

      juice - Thanks Jay, I’ve been VERY happy I switchedReplyCancel

  • September 7, 2014 - 18:50
  • September 8, 2014 - 02:18

    Chris - Hi Mic,
    thanks for the interesting article! But more importantly: I want to meet Zoe and possibly marry her. 😉 Seriously: One of the most beautiful faces I’ve seen a long time. Get her in front of a camera more often. And please tell her I share your opinion: “Madness.” 🙂
    ChrisReplyCancel

  • September 8, 2014 - 10:16

    Anonymous - Hi Mic, how did you sell your gears in Melbourne? I use Nikon and about to move to Fuji too.ReplyCancel

  • September 8, 2014 - 14:38

    Anonymous - I agree with your points here (not that you care) but the one I disagree with vehemently is the one about Fuji service. At least here in the US, I’ve driven my cameras to Fuji in Edison NJ and had them completely repaired, free of charge, in two days — and these cameras (dSLR’s) were out of warranty. They replaced the sensor at no charge. Also, while learning about my X-e1, and the X-T1 I called them and a tech spent over an hour on the telephone with me walking me through my questions.
    At least in the Edison NJ facility they are truly amazing. ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2014 - 02:01

    miXed zone: more 56 APD samples, X-E2 or X-T1, switch to the X… and a little bit of everything. | Fuji Rumors - […] buy a Fuji? at dougchinnery / Bye-bye Canon, hello Fuji (longterm X-T1 & X-system review) at juiceimaging […]ReplyCancel

  • September 28, 2014 - 22:27

    Nat. - Anche io bye bye Canon,vendo 7d ,17-40 3 100-400m,mi ha dato tanto,ma quando ho provato fuji,change for awesome Fuji XT1!ReplyCancel

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