What's In My Bag - Part II

In this second part of the article, I'm actually going to talk about what's in my bag, as in right now. No "was" this time, promise. If you haven't read the first part though, here's the link if you're interested, but I won't judge you if you don't. Oh and leave a comment on the other side while you're at it! Anyway, we're here now so let's talk about the goodies. Namely the centerpiece of it all: the camera!

X-T1 with the hand grip and the 35mm f/1.4. A beautiful and very capable combination.

X-T1 with the hand grip and the 35mm f/1.4. A beautiful and very capable combination.

To start, let me tell you that the X-T1 is the best camera Fujifilm has ever built. There's just no room for doubt, it is a fantastic camera, a joy to use and look at. The 16MP files it produces are topnotch, almost indistinguishable from the photos my old Canon 5D Mark III produced, except for the size difference of course. But I actually don't want to go to deep into those details, you can read that everywhere and probably already have. There's so many things to like about this camera but my guess is that you know about all or most of them, else you wouldn't be here to read my opinion on it. What I'd like to tell you is that I really like this camera, but also why I think it won't be a long-term relationship.

The whole Fuji X system in my opinion is on it's way to the top. It's almost there but, well, honestly not quite yet. I jumped ship at a moment where I just felt the urge to do something radical for my photography to evolve. I made the right decision at that point and I do not regret it. That by itself is no small feat considering I came from one of the most used full frame DSLRs and bought a small mirrorless camera. The X-E2 had to be able to manage everything I would throw at it. And it almost succeeded. Almost, which to me just isn't quite enough. So I upgraded to the X-T1 and hoped that the flagship model of Fujifilm's lineup would do the job. And this is where it gets tricky because I do think it does, to some degree, but in some instances we still don't completely harmonize.

The dials on top of the X-T1 are intuitive and engaging. Perhaps just a bit too engaging sometimes.

The dials on top of the X-T1 are intuitive and engaging. Perhaps just a bit too engaging sometimes.

The controls of the camera are engaging in a way I've never known from the Canons. Having dials for your basic settings instead of pushing buttons makes the whole experience so much more tangible. The tactile feedback of dialing in your ISO, shutter speed and also the aperture on the lens itself just feels right. On top of that, the phenomenal viewfinder really helps you to be in the moment, without any noticeable lag and great resolution. To me, it is actually an upgrade compared to the 5D Mark IIIs viewfinder, which in fact feels just as big, but on the downside somehow less informative. The X-T1s electronic viewfinder feels so much more modern and clearly shows how this technology has evolved. There are some clear advantages over an optical viewfinder, like when you're shooting manual focus, with a second frame appearing in there to show you a magnification of your subject. The exposure preview gives you an idea of your final result. The focus peaking is great and it also works in combination with the autofocus since the 3.0 firmware update. Only one small shout-out to Fujifilm here: make this AF+MF functionality work with the AF-Lock button so I can actually us it!

When I'm shooting for myself I absolutely love this camera. It's quick and does what I want. But after having shot several jobs for clients, especially events with occasional low light situations, it's still left a rather bland taste in my mouth. It gets the job done and in some aspects even exceeds the 5D Mark III, which is incredible! Like the colors, they're just plain awesome but you've possibly already heard that this is one of Fujifilm's big strengths. They have an incredible amount of experience in that field because of their history. The dynamic range is great when shooting RAW, which is something I still think you should absolutely do, even though everyone's adoring Fuji's jpegs. Yes, they are that good, don't get me wrong, but you always need to tweak something in a picture. With jpeg, you're just cutting away so much leeway, it's ridiculous. But I digress. The major problem I wanted to talk about is the autofocus. I noticed that it just isn't fast enough for me when it gets a bit darker. It's not awful, by any stretch of the imagination, but it's just not where I need it to be, always hunting around just a bit. I never had that problem with my DSLR. It is one step ahead of the X-E2 and I'm guessing that if they continue to make that much progress, the next flagship camera in the Fuji X system, so either the X-Pro 2 or the X-T2, is going to take away an even greater piece of the professional DSLR market. I'm sure that the firmware update which hits in about a week will improve things quite a bit. So the next camera will without a doubt again be some steps ahead of that. I honestly can't wait to see this happening. For now I'm impatiently waiting for the firmware and will try to post a little update to the review when I've had some time to play with it.

I just said I like the controls alright, but they still pose a problem in a professional context. Again, the dials-for-everything-scheme is pleasantly engaging and even inspiring to use, but that's also the camera's Achilles' heel. You have to bend thoughts on it, which in a situation where you're shooting for a client can and often will pose a problem. As I said in my last post, a camera may well be one additional source of inspiration, but it should never get in the way of shooting photos. I don't love the thought of pushing buttons to set the exposure, like I would have to do on a Canon. It simply doesn't feel as organic to me as the dials do, but on the other hand it still has the benefit of completely blending into my workflow when my mind needs to be focused on what's happening in front of the lens. And that is, more even than the autofocus problems, the biggest issue the people over at Fujifilm need to work on. Get the button and dial layout to work in a way that blends in. Moreover the little knobs under the dials, which set the metering and shooting modes, tend to often change their position when I'm pulling the X-T1 out of my bag. I often wonder why the camera wants me to review my last frame, to then realize that the damn knob decided to switch to double exposure mode. By that time I've probably missed the shot.

I don't love the knobs under the top dials, they are fiddly and never stay in the position I left them.

I don't love the knobs under the top dials, they are fiddly and never stay in the position I left them.

I absolutely love the fact that the camera is water resistant to some degree. Shooting in bad weather often leads to more interesting photos! But there's one weak spot here: the plastic doors. As you actually see in the photo above, the flap that conceals the USB, HDMI and Mic ports has begun to bulge out a bit. In fact, it's bent enough so it doesn't completely seal the ports anymore. And honestly, I haven't used those ports all that much which makes it the more surprising. I've had no issues because of this so far but I'm guessing that it invalidates the whole water- and dust-proof idea!

The flap on the side of the body is curving out a bit.  And I really didn't use that flap all that much.

The flap on the side of the body is curving out a bit.  And I really didn't use that flap all that much.

Next up: video. Fuji, please. Video isn't useable. In fact I'd say you're better off filming with an iPhone at this point. I've heard some things about this actually being due to the X-Trans sensor that's used in mostly all the Fujis at the moment so this is a thing that's doubtlessly going to improve with the introduction of a new chip. And I guess we all know at this point that a new chip is obviously going to come sooner rather than later. So here's hoping that the video quality is going to skyrocket with that (4K anyone?), along with the controls which, despite a big improvement with firmware 3.0, still seem clunky and unintuitive. 

Though this isn't a fault of the X-T1, there's one more topic that makes the professional use of the Fuji X cameras difficult in certain situations: Flashes. Fujifilm has released a bunch of great zoom lenses (I'll be writing more on those very soon in this series). We now actually have a genuine "holy trinity" with the 10-24mm f/4, the 16-55mm f/2.8 and the 50-140mm f/2.8. This is what many vocational event photographers love to work with. They tend to be the greatest workhorse lenses and the Fuji equivalents are certainly no exception here, being extremely reliable and versatile. In that context though, it's even less understandable or frankly excusable that we still don't have a real professional flash with the whole shebang of the other big guys. I'll go more into detail on that matter in another post in this series but it is a major weak point of the Fuji X system.

The family portrait. And as is the case with every family, though you might have your differences, you stick together. Or you switch out some of them when there's newer models. Something like that.

The family portrait. And as is the case with every family, though you might have your differences, you stick together. Or you switch out some of them when there's newer models. Something like that.

Let me summarize this a bit. I absolutely love the Fuji X system and I actually really, really like this camera. It has been a large stepping stone on my road to transform my photography for the better. Would I recommend buying it? Yes, absolutely! But in the end, I have to say I probably won't look back when I get the chance to replace it with the next flagship camera in the lineup. It is beautiful, discrete and inspiring, feels good in the hand and produces great files. But it's just not quite there yet. You always have to keep in mind that it is at the same time a pleasantly small camera and a workhorse tool. It's just still not truly professional. I will say though that the X-T1, in my opinion more than any other camera at the moment, shows what the future of professional cameras will look like. And so I'll wrap it up with the same statement I've started with: the X-T1 is Fujifilm's best and most versatile camera yet. With a big emphasis on "yet".

Do you own an X-T1 or other X series camera? Or are you a professional who switched to the Fujis as well? Let me now your thoughts in the comments! And don't forget to give me some like-and-share-love on your social networks! Thanks for reading!