The New Fuji Your DSLR Will Love To Hate

The New Fuji Your DSLR Will Love To Hate

The new Fuji XT1 is Fuji’s best designed, highest performing X Series camera yet. It's the young buck on the block, a DSLR-styled body that’s turning heads left and right. It’s tiny, packs a huge punch and there is no doubt in my mind that it will be delivering a TKO to more than a few DSLRs. But is it really that good? I pushed this thing hard for a solid month to bring you the review, read on to find out.

So - Is The DSLR Dead?

The answer, on the one hand, is a resounding "no". On the other, its "maybe". Buying this thing might consign your DSLR to the scrap heap. It all depends on what you need from your camera. So much hype has surrounded mirrorless cameras ushering in the death of the DSLR, but I think we still have a little ways to go. What the XT1 will undoubtably do is be the transition camera. More serious, amateur and semi-pro's will probably look at it as a means to get great images without ever buying a DSLR. Professionals will look at it as a seriously good second body or travel/everyday camera.

For many professional photographers, and I include those that shoot events, sports, fashion, lifestyle, weddings, commercials and travel, there is no doubt in my mind you can shoot professional high end, quality work on the XT1.

Before we kick off, while this is a gear review, I don’t really do gear reviews. If you want a traditional gear review, to pore over charts and technical stats, please skip this review and head elsewhere because you won't find that here. I tried to push this camera in different scenarios to see how it performed in the real world, on real shoots and client jobs and while moving quickly around the city. I base my above statement on what I’ve shot with this camera in the last few weeks. To really test this thing, to really understand how much of a "replacement" it could be for a DSLR, I decided to test it across as many different scenarios as I could, including:


-       low light nightlife events

ISO 5000 ISO 5000

ISO 2000 and no noise ISO 2000 and almost no noise


-       available light, day time private events



-       behind the scenes candids (thanks to Lindsay Adler for the letting me test while on set)


fstoppers_davidgeffin_fuji_xt1_review_32 Photobombing Lindsay's shoot



-       studio strobe fashion shots (thanks to Jeff Rojas for sharing his set with me to get these shots)

fstoppers_davidgeffin_fuji_xt1_review_21 copy

More 3 light studio set ups, with Jeff Rojas More 3 light studio set ups, with Jeff Rojas


-       headshots (available light and strobe)




-       street photography and candid portraits


Articulated flip out screen comes in handy for low angle shots Articulated flip out screen comes in handy for low angle shots

fstoppers_davidgeffin_fuji_xt1_review_27 More tilt screen action helps keep you under the radar to grab candid moments like these


fstoppers_davidgeffin_fuji_xt1_review_29 copy



-       urban landscape and buildings








But...It’s Not Even Full Frame!

The fact the X-Series runs on APS-C sensors just doesn’t matter, for me at least. My “day job” camera is a 5D Mk3. If you’re worried about the depth of field and bokeh, low light capability or lack of “full frame look”, then by all means stick to what you have but it’s quite possible to use this camera for your professional work.

I shot low light event work with this thing (ISO sensitivity at 5000 and 6400 was just fine, I was actually adding grain in before delivering files as they looked too clean coming out of camera).

I shot the new 56mm (85mm full frame equivalent) wide open and the bokeh looks gorgeous and the depth of field is razor thin (review coming shortly).

From my experience, clients generally don’t seem to care what you use, as long as we can get the shot (and obviously for certain shots, a high performing DSLR is a necessity, but at others times, it simply isn’t).

Getting The Shot

The XT1 is currently at the top of the Fuji X Series food chain and it’s easy to see why.  While it has a few annoying niggles (we’ll come to those) the XT1 is the best designed X Series camera yet. -       It has a small form factor, almost as small as the XE2, is light but with good weight to it, and feels incredibly natural to hold, much more so than the XE-2 which feels a little too small in comparison. It is a little heavier than the XE2 but for weightier lenses like the 56mm 1.2, this isn’t a bad thing, helping balance the load. I can’t emphasize enough how light it is though, especially in comparison to a full frame DSLR and lens. Working with the 5D and 70-200 on one shoulder and this on the other felt totally bizarre and unbalanced, but it was an interesting experience to see how much smaller and lighter you get with a small mirrorless APS-C camera.

-       The dials are more than just aesthetically pleasing retro styled throw backs to please your inner hipster. By having access to drive, metering modes and a better designed Exposure Comp dial (up to +/- 3EV on the XT1 now, compared to only 2 on the XE2 and XPro 1) you can access what you need to without having to root around in menus or pressing all sorts of buttons. When you see what you want and need to shoot it, the time saved here can mean the difference between getting the shot or not.






-       In principle, the weather sealing is great. Now Fuji needs to provide proper weather sealed primed lenses (current line up for weather sealed zooms includes the 16-55 f/2.8, 50-140 f/2.8 and 18-135 f/3.5-5.6). fstoppers_davidgeffin_fuji_xt1_review_23

Weather sealing is a great addition. Now we just need prime weather sealed lenses Weather sealing is a great addition. Now we just need prime weather sealed lenses

-        The EVF is insanely good. As someone who personally hated the idea of EVF-only cameras 6 months ago, I am can honestly say I’d be happy to shoot with an EVF-only camera like the one on the XT1 full time. The refresh rate, size, magnification and night vision-like capability you get from it is insane. I remember walking down a dark street with it up to my eye not wanting to put it down because this thing sees way more than my eyes could. Very, very impressed with the EVF. -        Other cool design features I liked included the articulating screen (actually came in useful for some shots where I didn’t want to be detected), the quick AF, dual screens for aiding manual focus and focus assist button to quick zoom in to see what you’re focusing on. Choice of color for focus peaking is nice, as is the option to use WiFi for transferring files (when it works – the Fuji app seemed to never want to connect from my phone).


The retro styled design is probably what Nikon seemed to be wanting to capture with their Df. Over the last month, at least half a dozen people asked if it was a film camera. If you care about retro styling, the XT1 gets it right where the Df got it wrong. People like the look of this thing, and I can’t really say I blame them. “Svelte”, is the word I’d use to sum up the styling.


This is where the camera just comes into it’s own. The performance of the camera, the sensor and the ability to shoot what I want when I want also leaves a palpable sense of intense satisfaction. Coupled with some nice Fuji glass and Fuji have knocked it out the park again. Personally I am past the point of being happy to carry a heavy full frame camera with me and a bunch of glass on my back for fun.

This camera, for it’s foibles, allows me to head out with a few lenses, or even just the 18-55mm zoom, and be set for the most part for the day. These are lenses you can just tuck into your pocket. For those of us having to walk, take public transport, get on planes and travel more than to and from their car to their office each day, the XT1 represents quite possibly the ultimate travel camera. The small size, weight count as huge pro’s and doesn’t compromise on image quality. The streets of New York was my testing ground for the last month, where fast reactions, quick wits and a faster eye are what are required.

For many of us, the ability to go unobserved when we travel and shoot is critical and the XT1 does a good job of helping us go undetected to capture candid street shots.fstoppers_davidgeffin_fuji_xt1_review_24




Not All Peaches And Cream

So that’s the good, what about the bad? The D pad has been a cause for concern for some. Apparently some early D pads suffered from light leak issues (none on the unit I tested). The problem I have is that the D pad buttons feel incredibly mushy. No satisfying click of the X Pro 1 or XE2. I’m not sure if this is due to weather sealing but for such a well designed and ergonomically sound camera, these feel like an after thought. I unintentionally hit the up arrow from time to time too. Could just be me but I never seemed to have that issue when testing the XE2. The card slot door is too thin and too easy to open accidentally (happened on one occasion). My data is too precious to have a card slot door like that on this camera that you can accidentally open.


The XT1 is in high demand but you can pick up a body only version for $1299 at B&H, with the kit version (with the 18-55mm lens) available for preorder at $1699.


Final Thoughts

If you are prepared to over look the few minor issues, this thing will knock the socks off of many other cameras on the market right now, DSLR or otherwise.

Fuji’s commitment to expanding the range of lenses it puts out, constant firmware updates to improve focus issues, as well as the great quality of the glass is enough to persuade many to move over entirely. While many of us might consider dropping our Nikon or Canon to move completely to Fuji, there is no denying that both of these manufacturers could learn a thing or two from the design principles and constant updates that Fuji have become known for with the XT1 in particular and their X Series line up as a whole.

If you are not shooting video (we’re still stuck with only 30 and 60fps, come on Fuji, what gives?), I can say the XT1 is more than capable of delivering shots that your clients will be happy with. Of course, it won't be producing billboard sized ads any time soon, but then i doubt you'll be shooting billboards with your DSLR either. This camera is not designed for that, obviously, but as a highly versatile tool, it is excellent.

Personally, I’m definitely picking up either this or the XE2 as a second body/travel/street camera for every day use. When you realize how the whole purpose of the XT1 is for it to just get out of the way, without compromising performance, to let you shoot what you want , when you want, and to allow you to do that in all sorts of weather conditions (weather sealed lenses permitting), you begin to see the possibilities of a new mirrorless world opening up before you.

Zack Arias, long time Fuji fan, spotted depositing checks on 42nd street. Zack Arias, long time Fuji fan, spotted depositing checks on 42nd street.



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Images are soft. Highlights are merged. If this is the output, DSLR is still unmatched. Today, i read lytro light field camera. On and off, the camera makers and reviewers make claims which would seem like next thing is DSLR being dead. NO, DSLRs are forever until the serious photography exists.

Well, I have a Fuji X-E1 and I'm testing an X-T1, and I cannot agree with the statement "Images are soft". I've done a test side to side, and the X-T1 (or the X-E1) with the kit lens, with similar conditions, in terms of sharpness beats my Canon 6D with L glasses.
The real problem I've found with this camera is while is very sharp, the sensor goes bananas when reproducing complex textures, like small stones, grass, leaves, etc... as I pointed out on this article

I read your article. In microstock world, the talk of replacement camera always goes on. Many people tried NEX series and they have limited success. DSLR still rules the commercial market. Experimental vs safe camera for commercial work, the value for money without any failure per say is somewhat assured in DSLR in present circumstances.

David Geffin's picture

nice test and nice images in that review Alessio, thanks for sharing

Thanks Dave, in the next weeks I'm going to publish the one for the X-T1 as well!

That is a closed minded point of view if I ever saw one...

Intelligent comment.

Intelligent comment attracks intelligent responses...

David Vaughn's picture

Hey, you're the one who said "NO, DSLRs are forever until the serious photography exists."


Oh that was funny. Not to be taken seriously. I did not even read complete meaning of "closed minded". :-)

David Vaughn's picture

You realize that this is a DSLR sensor in a mirrorless body, right?

Are you trying to justify your purchase of a big, fancy DSLR? ;)

No, All I am saying is, if you do commercial work, better trust DSLR. Mainly when agencies are involved to examine your work and you are trying to sell your images as commercial products.

I so agree. Real clients look at quality stuff. Stuff that only D800/ 800e and Medium format con produce. I wonder why are we trying to convince all these people.... Let's save our time here...

You are right. I click nothing for my own web pages. I don't look for arty aspects in bad images.

I shoot primarily with a D800 and a bag of primes, and I've been working almost primarily with the X-T1 for nearly the past two months. Does it have the same image quality of the D800? Of course not. Is it more than good enough for my work? Definitely. As a NYC photographer who is more than likely walking and taking the subway to bookings instead of driving, the X-T1 is perfect. I don't plan on ditching my D3 or D800... they have their place, but the X-T1 is going to be carrying a large bulk of the work this year.

35mm f/1.4 shot wide open (I actually turned DOWN the sharpness):

David Geffin's picture

nice shots, maybe see you on the subway Jon :)

Tony Carter's picture

I can't tell if the images are soft or if they're just missed-focused...or both. Not knocking the photog but almost all of the examples lack a "tack-sharp"-ness about them :/

David Geffin's picture

I might be off on some - i tend to shoot fast on the street :)

Also as per previous comment somewhere above - no sharpening added to these.

David Geffin's picture

The images might appear soft because I didn't add sharpening in and shot flat. We are so used to seeing sharpened images in post that something straight out of camera without a ton of post to sharpen, contrast and "fix" an image might appear sharp. The XT1 at times produces better images straight out of camera than my 5D, it's insane.

Scott Krebs's picture

I've not felt that there is an issue with softness. I've retired my D700 and I shoot side by side with Kristen's D800, the X-T1 is holding it's own as far as IQ goes. Here's an image shot @F1.8 with the 56mm... Standard Lightroom settings, no adjustment (other than Provia film simulation).


In the end these are just tools... the Fuji X-T1 is an excellent one and I'm not missing a DSLR a bit.

David Geffin's picture

nice shot Scott - the IQ and color rendition from that shot is something that i find so insane about what Fuji are doing. Color and IQ straight out of camera often looks nicer than my 5D Mk3, and that 56 is wonderful (review of that is inbound...)

Scott Krebs's picture

Thanks Dave! Great article and images... Look forward to the next one. That 56mm is a great little lens and I really like shooting 85mm. I'm still carrying my Nikon 85 1.4 and mounting it on the Fuji with a 35$ adapter... The new manual focus assists are really something and make it super easy to use and having a bright 127mn with my kit is nice. But of the two lenses I have to say I like the 56mm on the X-T1 more than the 85mm on my Nikon D700.

David Geffin's picture

thanks Scott. Yeah the manual focus assist is nice, particularly he dual focus screen that a friend demonstrated to me while i was testing and having trouble. The focus assist button is great and focus peaking color indicators really are a nice touch. Sometimes in low light that 56mm would hunt like crazy so all of those were useful little additions.

what do you mean images are soft? sorry but i can't agree with you. after recently working with hundreds of x-t1 files, i just notice that i am not using unsharp mask anymore. i am using the kit 18-55. i
shot with RAF (fuji's raw) & converted to DNG for post processing. i
don't even see that water color effect that they're complaining about.
though i'm with you with your DSLR are not dead statement.

There is enough discussion on this topic in the thread itself. Can you please share your results here for us to see sharp images which might pass the scrutiny of stock agencies. Honestly, Large number of images from batch, going to see rejection, if used this camera. Waiting to see your results.

It has the same crop sensor size like DSLR. what do you want to compare? in studio with the same lightings the result must be similar, if not better. have you used this camera? & submitted images that stock agencies largely rejected? can you show us any source?

Good as a street camera. Doesn't replace the DSLR that are used commercially entirely.

I certainly use an X-Pro1 commercially.

cool. Care to share which magazine it's published? Or is it online?

Which magazine/print publishes your pictures? I like to learn from you. Whats your homepage url?