Let me start off by telling you that I don’t do the scientific reviews. I leave that up for other people. I like to discuss the more practical sides of cameras and systems. I like to use something for awhile and then give you an honest review of my thoughts on it. You won’t ever see 100% crops, ISO comparisons, or anything of that fashion. Nor will I really do photos of the gear. The internet is littered with images of all of these cameras. Just tune in here for my own personal brand of review mixed with some images that I’ve taken with it. Because, as great as cameras are, they are still only a tool to capture an image.
For the last couple of months I’ve been primarily been shooting with a different setup than my Canon or Sony. I decided that I needed to do a little “downgrading.” I bought an APS-C camera built by Fujifilm, the X-T1. Some of you reading this will think, “why on earth would you buy something a two year old crop camera when you have the two most notable full frame cameras of 2015 ready to go?” The answer is multifaceted. Let’s first talk about one of the obvious reasons: size/weight.
When you invest into a full frame setup you’re spending a lot of money on glass more so than cameras. These shiny little objects are what bring the light from the outside world into a condensed area (the sensor). The need to project that light onto a sensor that’s larger means that you need to have more glass to do it with equivalent apertures. Especially once you start looking into crop factors – which is something I’ll discuss more later on. I’m going to use the 85mm focal length (56mm on the fuji) as my main example since I have one for each system and have used them all extensively. Let me predicate this section with the fact that I am not exactly a pixel-peeper and I feel like the quality of an image has more to do with composition, light, and subject matter than how many details you can bring out. On the Canon, I use the 85mm f/1.2L. The Sony has the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8. The Fuji is equipped with the 56mm f/1.2 R. Now, I wish I had a copy of the new Sony GM 85mm f/1.4 as that would be a closer comparison to the amount of light being able to come through. The Fuji is the lightest of the bunch at 14 oz. Next is the Batis at 16.8oz but it’s only an f/1.8. Finally we have the heavy hitter with the Canon f/1.2L rolling in at 36.16oz. That’s over twice the weight of the Batis! Yikes. However, before you jump to conclusions and think, “well, the Sony setup with the 85mm isn’t that much larger than the Fujifilm and it’s full frame,” let me remind you that it doesn’t allow as much light through so it isn’t really an equivalent. That’s where we can talk about the Sony GM 85mm f/1.4; it comes in at 28.9oz. All of a sudden the equivalents seem to give a clear advantage to the crop frame in terms of allowing light through.
This doesn’t seem like all that important if you’re looking for the greatest image quality possible. However, I’d like to pose a question for you: does image quality really matter if you feel encumbered by your gear? Now that we’re on the topic of image quality, let’s take a moment and discuss that. I’m going to say that the best image quality and resolution (from my bag) comes from the Canon 5DS R. Simple as that. I can take an image with that camera and know that I have plenty of latitude to crop or print to insane sizes. This is really evident with quality glass from Sigma’s Art line. So why if I have some of the greatest image quality am I continually reaching for the fuji? Because it’s image quality is absolutely amazing. Coming in at 16 million pixels this little crop sensor achieves some gorgeous results. Forget about the need to see the pores on my kids’ faces, the fuji allows me to focus more on the subject and less on how I’m holding my gear. If you’re worried that 16 million pixels isn’t enough then just remember that 8 million is all that’s needed for a magazine cover. Still think you need more? Then not to worry, Fuji just came out with their latest X Trans sensor with the X Pro 2 and they’re rumored to soon release the X-T2 with the same sensor. This gives you 24 megapixels and the resolving power of the Fujinon lenses which is more than adequate for some beautiful imagery. The megapixel war has just been reignited in the last year or so, but don’t let it make you think you need 42, 51, or even 70 million pixels to get a good image. The quality you get from full frame is unmatched but at which point are we splitting hairs to get details we don’t even care about? The only real difference I see with full frame and ASP C at this point comes down to the depth of field. Which brings me to “the crop advantage.”
Many photographers have fallen in love with nonexistent backgrounds. I’ll admit, I enjoy the aesthetic myself. However, if you haven’t noticed, I’ve personally been incorporating more and more of the background into my images over the last year. There is a problem with this on larger sensor sizes. The bigger the sensor, the shallower the depth of field is at any given aperture for the same framed image. This is where the crop advantage comes into play. With a smaller sensor you’re able to grab more of the background to be in focus while allowing a wider aperture which in turn allows more light to hit the sensor. While I can close my aperture down on the full frame cameras to achieve the same results, I would have to balance out the exposure with a slower shutter speed or up the ISO. On a crop frame I’m allowed to increase my depth of field while allowing for a wider aperture if needed. As for ISO performance, I’ve found that the X-T1 has performed more than adequately. I know that some people see any amount of grain as a problem, however, this obsession with perfect details is not necessary. The beauty of photography is that you don’t need a technically perfect image to portray an emotion. Grain that comes from a boost in ISO can be an advantage if you look at it the right way.
Finally, I’d like to talk a bit about ergonomics. I know that mirrorless cameras have gotten some guff for their lack of ergonomics; especially by those with larger hands. I stand over six feet two inches tall and have large(ish) hands. The fuji feels right at home in my grip. It’s so small that it nearly becomes invisible as a device and becomes more of an extension of my hands. With the X-T1 I have access to all of the controls I change on the fly. Aperture sits nicely on all of my lenses (something that I don’t ever see on a canon EF mount). The ISO, and shutter speeds are set onto of the camera and I can typically place all of my settings to approximately where they should be before I even turn on the camera. Then I make minor adjustments to the exposure I want once it’s on. The camera is also much more responsive than the Sony. It turns on almost immediately when starting from the off mode. This is nice because battery life is an issue with mirrorless cameras. On a DSLR I just leave my systems on all day since they don’t really consume any power unless I’m actively shooting. Mirrorless cameras are always feeding a video to either the EVF or the LCD screen eating up precious battery life.
Now, I don’t shoot in overly complex situations right now. I don’t tether, I don’t use strobes, nor do I really truly need dual SD cards (though I like having the backup on the canon). Therefore, if you do any of these things you may want to read some other reviews of Fuji cameras. From a simplistic standpoint, this camera is top notch. It makes me think of classical photography as opposed to commercial photography.
The X-T1 is nimble, it’s simple, it offers a wide amount of control, and it produces excellent results. I have found that photography is more enjoyable with it and I’m looking forward to seeing what Fuji does with its successor. I am getting my hands on Fuji’s X100T and their newest flagship camera, the X Pro 2 this week. I’ll have reviews for those cameras as well.
Also expect me to do a long overdue review of the Canon 5DS R in the coming weeks (It's taken a long time for this one...)
If you think the X-T1 is up your own personal ally please head over to my affiliate link to grab a copy.